Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mike Royko on Guns & Kennesaw, Georgia

During his tenure at the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune, Mike Royko was one of America's most astute writers of op-ed social commentary and criticism. Royko was prolific to say the least, putting out five columns a week for decades. And his keen insight, as well as brilliant acerbic wit, took journalism to a new level. A generally progressive voice, Royko skewered anyone who deserved it, and some of his columns remain as pertinent today as when they were written decades ago. One of my favorites is his satirical attack on the pro-gun lobby via his reporting of a new law in Kennesaw, Georgia which actually "required" all households to own firearms. Royko's response to the law is brilliant.

If We’re Gonna Have Guns, Let’s Get ‘em
Out in the Open – Or Else!

By Mike Royko, Chicago Sun Times, 1980s

            I kinda’ like the gun law that was just passed by the good ol’ boys down in a Georgia town called Kennesaw. In case you missed it, the law requires every household in Kennesaw to have a gun and ammunition.
            Darvin Purdy, the mayor, says that he and the City Council want the 7,000 residents of Kennesaw to be armed so that they can defend themselves against criminals and any other aggressors.
            Although the new law doesn’t go far enough, I’m all for it.
            That might surprise those who have noted that in the past I’ve been in favor of strict handgun controls. But my views on this subject have changed. It’s become obvious to me that we aren’t going to have effective gun laws in this country. By effective, I mean a nationwide ban on all private handgun ownership, and strict regulation of rifles, shotguns, and other larger weapons. And without a national ban on handguns, the existing laws won’t work.
            So if we are going to continue to have guns, the only sensible approach is to require everyone to have them, as the Kennesaw City Council has recognized.
            But even Kennesaw’s new law doesn’t go far enough in providing citizens with protection against killers, thieves, fiends, communists invaders, and suspicious-looking characters.
            My approach goes this way. All present gun-control laws should be abolished. People should be able to buy guns as easily as they buy ball-point pens, and they should be able to carry them wherever they go – in their pockets, shoved into their belts, in purses, up sleeves, concealed or unconcealed.
            In other words, if we’re going to have guns, let’s really have them. Let’s get guns out in the open where they can do some good. As it is now, most people keep their guns in their homes because in most places there are laws against carrying loaded guns in public.
            The fact is that you’re more likely to be the victim of a crime when you are away from home. Except for husbands murdering wives, wives murdering husbands, parents brutalizing children and friends murdering friends, few violent crimes occur in homes. So if guns are going to be useful in preventing crimes as the National Rifle Association (NRA) wants them to be, the gun must come out of the home. A few hypothetical examples:
            We are always reading about crime on public transportation systems in big cities. Muggers grabbing purses or gold chains. Degenerates whispering lewd romantic overtures to defenseless ladies. Idle teenagers leaping about, shouting and throwing French fries at helpless travelers. In almost every case, the victims and bystanders feel powerless to defend themselves.
            Ah, but if everyone on the bus were packing a gun, it would be different. Somebody snatches a purse. A cry: “That man snatched my purse!” Suddenly 30 or 40 guns are whipped out of pockets, purses, holsters, shopping bags, and briefcases, and everyone begins blazing away.
            Or you’re on an airplane, going on vacation, and suddenly a wild-eyed man stands up and shouts: “Take me to Cuba!” In an instant, 100 passengers draw guns, begin firing, and the skyjacker goes to meet his maker.
            Or let’s say it’s late and you’re walking on a dark street and you see someone coming in your direction. You can’t be certain if that person is a potential threat. But you never know, do you? So, just to be on the safe side, you take out your pistol and casually twirl it a few times. That, you can be sure, will let the other person know you aren’t someone to be trifled with.
            Beyond discouraging criminals, the constant presence of guns on everyone’s person would do much to increase civility and courtesy. Motorists would be less likely to cut each other off in traffic, or blow their horns needlessly, if they knew that the other person had a gun on the seat next to him – and might use it.
            Charges of police brutality would be sharply reduced because the police would be afraid to stop cars or approach people, knowing that everyone was armed.
            People who rudely talk in movie theaters would heed the warning to “Shhh!” for fear that they might get a bullet in the back of the head.
            Oh, there might be a few regrettable incidents. A few innocent bystanders would be winged. An occasional hothead might shoot someone without provocation.
            But that’s the price of preserving our liberty. After all, thousands of innocent people die of gun wounds every year as things stand, and the NRA says that’s well worth the price of gun ownership.
            As a wise man once said: “You’ve got to break a few thousand eggs to make an omelet, right?”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Standardized Testing Criticized in Poll - And, Zuckerberg Fails to "Fix Schools"

Edu-reformers who want to standardized test their way to "better schools" have been dealt a few blows with recent news out of Gallup polls and the great state of New Jersey. As opt-numbers shot through the roof last spring, and tens of thousands of kids refused to take the PARCC and Smarter-Balanced CCSS tests, many pro-testing reformers went on the immediate offensive, arguing that standardized tests are an integral part of any plan to "fix schools" and improve achievement because we "have to know how kids are doing." Well, there are plenty of problems with that mindset - too many to list - but it's worth addressing the current status of "test-based accountability" among parents. In a recent Gallup poll, an "overwhelming majority of Americans" oppose school accountability based on standardized tests. The Washington Post is reporting how significantly Americans are souring on the excessive use of standardized tests in public schools.

A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future. Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals. When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities. Regarding academic standards, more than six out of 10 said the expectations for what students should learn is important to school improvement. But a majority — 54 percent — is opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 academic benchmarks adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia that have been under fire by critics on the left and right.

And, in another blow to the billionaires and corporate education reformers, the news can now report that we are five years from Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's big foray into education philanthropy, and New Jersey schools have virtually nothing impressive to show for the $100 million that Marky Mark pledged to "fix Jersey schools" and turn Jersey schools into a "national model for public education." In a fascinating bit of investigative reporting, journalist Dale Rusakoff has released a new book,  The Prize, which recounts the story of the naive efforts of Zucky, Newark mayor Cory Booker, and populist tough guy Governor Chris Christie. The story is just one more example of how corporate education reformers are too removed from the realities of education and the struggles faced by our lowest achieving students. Granted, these kids and their schools need more funding, no doubt. But the reality is that this money needs to provide food and social services and intervention programs and community support, and even then it will do little to alleviate the damaging effects that poverty have on these kids. Rusakoff has recounted much of the story in a great piece for the New Yorker.

In Newark, the solutions may be closer than either side acknowledges. They begin with getting public-education revenue to the children who need it most, so that district teachers can provide the same level of support that SPARK does. And charter schools, given their rapid expansion, need to serve all students equally. Anderson understood this, but she, Cerf, Booker, and the venture philanthropists—despite millions of dollars spent on community engagement—have yet to hold tough, open conversations with the people of Newark about exactly how much money the district has, where it is going, and what students aren’t getting as a result. Nor have they acknowledged how much of the philanthropy went to consultants who came from the inner circle of the education-reform movement.

Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, “education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who’ve been here for decades. It’s very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in co√∂peration with people.” Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: “This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate.” As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, “This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people.” 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Eddie Jackson is the Next Food Network Star

Jay Ducotes, you had us from hello. Alas, it was not meant to be.

By all accounts going into the finale of this year's next Food Network Star competition, all bets were on Louisiana cajun cook Jay Ducotes who was nearly flawless all season, and was, in the words of producer Bob Tuschman, "The only finalist we've ever had who was show ready from the first episode." All the judges found his culinary skills "brilliant," and all agreed that he was absolutely "camera ready" to produce his own show. In fact, his pilot from the Sweet Chick chicken and waffle restaurant in New York was an excellent TV-ready commercial that effectively promoted the locale. As some people noted, "When I'm in New York, I'm going to Sweek Chick." In fact, when the pilots were done, Sweet Chick was the only name I remembered. Bobby said it best in the competition, "I never worry about him in front of the camera. Ever." Clearly, Jay Ducotes was ready to be the next Food Network Star.

But the winner was actually Eddie Jackson.

And, that's OK. In fact, that's great. All three finalists are talented chefs with engaging and charismatic personalities who would all represent the Food Network well. And, that is a great relief after last year's debacle when the FNS viewers voted in the disaster that was Lenny McNab. Thankfully, the Food Network has learned its lesson after the past two seasons, and they realized that turning the decision over to viewers is ... well, there's a reason we have network executives. The masses simply aren't that astute some times. And, former NFL-star-turned-fitness trainer and chef Eddie Jackson is a great choice to helm a show. He is talented and genuine and charismatic. And, most importantly, he is fit. The Food Network could certainly use a strong, healthy, fit athlete in their line-up.  Of course, I hope they actually capitalize on Eddie's health, rather than producing a show on barbeque for him.  I mean, seriously, where did that come from? Eddie's persona all season long was not about BBQ. That was Jay's wheelhouse. Eddie should promote health and wellness through tasty cuisine. I mean, for goodness sakes, his twitter feed is "Fit Chef Eddie." Eddie Jackson is a great choice for the Food Network Star. Let's hope they use him well.

And, Dom? Oh, Dom. It was such a pleasure to see him come back from elimination to make the final three. And, it was great to see him finally find that camera voice. Alas, I don't think network stardom is in Dom's future. That said, Dom is a fabulous chef with a great personality, and someone should bankroll him to open up some new dining establishments in the Big Apple. Dom shouldn't be in a food truck - he should be an executive chef and part owner of a classic new restaurant. While he can't always bring it in front of the camera, Dom could work the room at a classic bistro and have the time of his life. Let's hope that opportunity presents itself.

As far as the disappointment for Jay and his fans? Well, there's no reason that the Food Network Star can't give Jay a show as well. That's something they should have done several years ago when New England chef Michelle Ragussis placed second. The Food Network dropped the ball when they let her go, and the same is true of Nikki Dinki. So, maybe there will be salvation for Jay. But, all in all, it was nice to see a final three of talented chefs, all of whom I would watch on TV. And, let's never let the masses choose the winner again.

Nice job, Bobby, Giada, Susie, and Bob. Great season.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Paleo Headache and Fatigue

I'm not sure if my current gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, caffeine-free approach to eating is considered a true paleo diet, but it seems like it would fit the mold. After a day, I can tell you I noticed a change. And that change came with a dull headache during most of the evening. Was it caffeine-withdrawal or a serious need of a sugar-fix? Who knows. It turned out to be a pretty exhausting day at work, as the days of registration and check in at a large high school can be ... quite a bit of work. So, on top of a long exhausting day during which I consumed far fewer "quick-energy"-producing calories, I was just tired. Slept well though. That said, I am interested in how I will feel when I start working out. The hope is - eventually - that I see some noticeable change in my energy, strength, weight, fitness, and clarity. I'm expecting that there will be at least a few days of feeling different in a lethargic, detoxing, sort of way. That said, my goal is to re-charge, so that maybe someday, I would be motivated enough to do something like this:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Gluten-, Dairy-, Sugar-, Alcohol-, Caffeine-free

So, I'm still not where I want to be. I began the year 2015 - my forty-fifth - with an intent and plan to "live the life I have imagined" in all aspects from work to health to overall well-being. While I am in a good spot professionally and emotionally, there is still so much more that I want to do, and I simply haven't been living the life I want to live. And, so I am looking to re-charge with greater focus and clarity. Yet, it seems that no matter what I do, I am still living the reasonably successful life without any progress in taking that next step. Health is one area where I look to be in pretty good shape without much to worry about. Yet, I don't always feel great, and I know I have about seven pounds that I could greatly benefit from losing. This summer I was determined to lose that weight and amp up my fitness. So, I watched my diet, cut back on snacks and sugar, increased my workouts, and ... nothing. I haven't gained, but haven't lost. And my 5K time is no better than six months ago.

So, I am making a change.

Starting tomorrow, I am going gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free, and (mostly) caffeine-free. While I am not sure of the impact of any of these products on my overall health, I am eliminating them all to see how I feel and what I notice. Truly, I know I'm not gluten-intolerant or a sufferer of Celiac. But I am curious as to whether there is a noticeable impact of grain, notably gluten, on my health and well-being. Are concerns about Wheat Belly and Grain Brain something to worry about. We all know that we don't need grains, even whole grains. So, we'll see how I feel. For I am really seeking clarity and focus and the simple idea of feeling "better." Dairy is another area where I don't think I have an intolerance, though I did grow up off of dairy because of asthma. Now, as an adult I have learned that dairy has no impact on my breathing. But I wonder if I could do without cheese and half and half. I don't need it, just like I don't need the honey in my coffee. In fact, I don't need the coffee. Or, at least, I shouldn't need the coffee. So let's see what life is like without it.

And, despite the heart-healthy value of a little red wine or a bit of bourbon, none of us needs alcohol at all. So, if I am going for a cleanse of sorts, then getting rid of the evening drink is certainly a good idea. Not that I imbibe a lot. But a few times a week I have a drink that I just don't need. So, we will see how clarity and focus - and sleep - are impacted and even improved by going on the wagon for a while. The caffeine is a bit tougher for this life-long coffee drinker. A couple cups in the morning with the daily paper is a nearly sacred ritual with me. But if the cream and sugar are going, the caffeine can go on break, too.

Looking foward to seeing how I feel.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Generation X Hacks Marriage & Divorce

Generation X - those people born during the 1960s and 1970s - were the children of divorce at rates never before seen, and that reality was instrumental in defining the psychology of the group. Being the latch-key kids coming home to single-parent households, all the while watching after-school TV like Leave It to Beaver and the Brady Bunch, the notion of "the Big D" crafted Gen Xers views on marriage and family. Now adults in their mid-thirties to early fifties, Generation X may be re-defining the stigma and connotation of the Big D, as noted in a great bit of insight from writer Susanna Schrobsdorff who published The Rise of the "Good Divorce" for the View in Time Magazine this week.

After being a primary force in "hacking" the traditional concepts of marriage - with the incredibly quick social change that culminated in the Supreme Court's legalization of marriage rights for same-sex couples - Generation X also seems instrumental in redefining what "divorce" looks like. The idea of co-parenting despite a dissolving marital union gained a new term a couple years ago when Gen Xers Gwyneth Paltrow and husband Chris Martin of Coldplay announced a dissolution of their legal marriage by referring to it as "Conscious Uncoupling." It seemed so bizarrely innocuous, and with the manipulation of language that could certainly be appreciated by Gen X author and coiner of phrases Douglas Coupland, Paltrow had changed the nature of divorce.  The idea gained additional hold with the recent announcement from Hollywood super couple Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck who will co-habit, co-parent, and co-exist while living together but apart on their fabulous Pacific Palisades spread.

While not all Gen Xers have the vast financial resources to make such an arrangement work, the idea of co-parenting and peacefully parenting their children while not being legally married is a social innovation that could only have come from children of the divorce generation. It's well-summed up by another child of divorce, Everclear singer Art Alexis, who sang in Father of Mine - "Now I'm a grown man, with a child of my own, and I swear I'm not gonna let her know, all the pain I have known."

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dom & Alex Are Not the next Food Network Star

In the competition for the next Food Network Star, the emphasis has to be on "Network." Being able to bring it in the food department is a no-brainer. Of course a Food Network Star has to be a culinary whiz. But this is Food TV, and that means that comfort and ease in front of the camera is a non-negotiable. And, that's why both Dom and Alex have been eliminated from the competition. This week Eddie had a great performance in the collaborative competition, and Jay is just as easy-going as always. Both these men can cook - though Jay is clearly the better chef - and they both have "It" when it comes to camera presence.

The inability to speak comfortably, tell stories, engage an audience, and "teach" an audience something is the primary reason that Chef Dom - Dominick Tessorio - could never be a Food Network Star, despite being the best chef by a wide margin. It's the same reason that some people who are content-area experts make terrible teachers. Teaching - especially in a public forum in front of an audience -is an indescribable skill, or really talent. You can't teach teaching - despite Bill Gates' naive and pretentious belief that such a talent can be quantified and bottled. On the Food Network Star competition, both Eddie and Jay have that certain je ne sais quoi. They can teach, and they could reasonably be expected to step in front of the camera for a Food Network show.

Monday, July 27, 2015

American Ninja Warriors are LIMITLESS

The NBC obstacle course, personal challenge, parkour reality show American Ninja Warrior has captured the attention of millions of Americans who are inspired by individuals who can push their physical limits in the pursuit of excellence. We've been watching in our house for several seasons now, and I believe there is something impressive and influential in the spirit of this show. All cultures seem to have some reverence for and place great value in the "pursuit of excellence." ANW has the ability to push many people off the couch with the belief that "I want to do that" and, even, "I can do that."

The show brought to mind the idea behind the hit movie thriller Limitless which was based on the (mistaken) belief that people "only use 7% of their brain." While the movie was premised on Bradley Cooper's character using an experimental - and potentially dangerous - drug to maximize his potential, I liked the idea of him supposedly "weaning himself" off the drug and learning how to truly be LIMITLESS. And, isn't that much of what being alive is about? Hasn't humanity progressed and grown by people pushing their limits to be their "best selves."

And, that's been on my mind lately - Being my own best self and reaching my potential ... and beyond.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Michelle Quits the Food Network Star

Can we just cut to the chase and name Jay Ducote as the next Food Network Star?

While no one should have been surprised by the events of last week - when Michelle quit right before she was going to be sent home - it was, as Bobby Flay said, something "we've never seen on this show." Certainly the editing of Giada talking to the bottom four made it appear that Alex was on his way out - and he should definitely be next to fall short of his Food Network Star aspirations. But I think it was as likely Michelle was going to go home anyway. So, she made the decision that "family is more important," which is an easy decision to make when you are clearly outmatched.

Time and again, Jay is the one truly consistent finalist who can both wow judges and the general public with his food and be able to talk comfortably about it in front of the camera. He is in many ways similar to the Sandwich King Jeff Mauro who was always a clear frontrunner on the show. Though Jeff had his share of stumbles and shortcomings in front of the camera. And Jay is just as smooth and consistent as we've seen. So, I know we have a few more episodes - and unfortunately we have to suffer through surprise winner Demaris Phillips from two years ago who will return to host the show this week.

As far as the others?  Well, Arnold still has a shot, I guess. And Dom has shown he can still cook up a storm - and is inching toward some degree of comfort with the camera. Eddie? Well, he's a lot of fun and can cook ... but he's too inconsistent.

So ... Jay Ducote is the next Food Network Star. Anything less would be a bit of a fiasco.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Not a "Well-Regulated" Gun Culture?

With every shooting - from the Aurora theater shooting where the jury just convicted the shooter to the Tennessee military office shooting by a potential ISIS-inspired shooting - the "gun control/gun rights" debate charges back into our national consciousness. And, no progress is made. We're not decreasing gun violence, we're not controlling the shooters, and we're not moving any closer to an agreement. And, yet, the answer seems to be in the original Constitutional language that both sides cite as evidence.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

There is no doubt that regulation of firearms has been deemed Constitutional. No citizen can own a flamethrower or grenade launcher or M-60. Thus, the "right" of the people to keep and bear arms is infringed only in the sense that firearm possession can be regulated for the safety of society. Of course, any understanding of contemporary society and the current debate reveals just how effectively the NRA has been able to manipulate discussion of the 2nd Amendment.

It truly baffles me that in a society where every automobile must be registered and every driver must be licensed that we can't place the same expectation on gun ownership. It seems so simple. Anyone who wants to own a gun should have to pass a test and maintain a license that should be regularly renewed. And, every firearm should require a registration number assigned to a specific person. That same sort of tracking should be implemented for ammunition purchases. Otherwise, it seems unconscionable that a man - mass shooters like Holmes for example - can amass an arsenal of thousands of rounds of semi-automic bullets, and no one knows.

And, I hate to say it, but I am wondering if the ISIS-inspired shooting in Tennessee may finally convince some gun freedom advocates that the potential for terrorism is a justifiable reason to regulate sales and possession. Seriously, at what point do terrorist organizations and individuals seeking to inflict mass carnage realize that America's weakness rests with the reality that individuals can amass un-regulated arsenals with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of rounds of death. What happens when a terrorist organization hatches the plan to unleash massive gunfire on open crowds ... and we realize they bought these weapons and bullets with no one's knowledge.

What happens then? Will that be enough?

Let's just agree that "well regulated" is the key to both freedom and safety.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Clueless Turns 20 - "As if ..."

It was twenty years ago that a clever, but Clueless, Beverly Hills teenager named Cher hit the big screen and revived the teen movie genre that had faded in the post-John Hughes era. The movie was the second teen movie from director Amy Heckerling who helped define the genre in the early 80s with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. While both movies are a significant part of the canon, Clueless has definitely maintained a hold on youth culture, as it contines to garner new fans while still delighting old ones.

As Heckerling, Silverstone, Rudd, and company look back, writers are reflecting on the film that helped define an age with its lexicon and fashion. Pop culture journalist Jen Chaney has captured the definitive oral history of the movie, and the title "As If: The Oral History of Clueless ..."

We learn about the careful crafting of the language, inspired by slang dictionaries, rap lyrics and teen lexicon; the special effects used to create the movie’s golden lighting despite record rainfalls during filming; and the many actors who were passed over for key parts (Angelina Jolie as Cher Horowitz? Hard to imagine, but her name was in the mix). We’re reminded that many of Heckerling’s laugh-worthy moments have become part of life as we know it today. For instance, three family members at the same dinner table, talking on cellphones? Once hilarious, now business as usual. Chaney weaves a glittery web, one that’s hard to walk away from once you’re drawn in. But by far the most compelling sections of “As If!” are the ones in Chaney’s own voice. You can understand why she relies so heavily on the perspectives of the creators of the film — they’re the experts, after all — but her take is so fresh and entertaining that it would have been nice to hear more from her directly. (Jennifer Egan - Washington Post)

The movie was definitely of the zeitgeist with the way it captured a teen culture's shift away from grunge and set a tone in fashion. Vanity Fair's Julie Miller recently took a look at how director Amy Heckerling and costume designer Mona May created the iconic styles that defined the film and influenced teens for years to come.

Heckerling and May visited Los Angeles schools in the mid-1990s to get a sense of what high-school students were actually wearing—flannel and loose-fitting jeans, none of which fit Heckerling’s ideal aesthetic. “It was just dreadful,” May said of grunge fashion. “The plaid shirts and baggy pants, and girls looked so masculine. There was really none of the girliness.” Knowing that Clueless’s central shopaholic would not be caught dead in flannel, Heckerling and May took wardrobe liberties, creating whimsical costumes that were both smart, feminine, and flattering. “I wanted that feel of a fantasy that you would like to live in,” Heckerling explained. Since there was no Internet or Net-a-Porter, May reasoned that Cher and Dionne would look to runway styles to inform their closets, especially since they had the money to fly overseas to European fashion shows. In addition to drawing on designer wear, the two also incorporated their own style preferences into Cher’s and Dionne’s costumes.

Additionally, it's worth noting, as Grantland's Molly Lambert has, how the landscape of LA is perfectly captured by the film.

Clueless is still a perfect movie, and it’s disheartening that in the 20 years since it came out, Hollywood has gotten no more progressive when it comes to female auteurs. Its ’90s progressive optimism is even more admirable now. Clueless is the rare comedy that really cares, not only for its characters but also its audience. It never condescends to anyone. It’s kind-hearted, with an acid bite. And it makes some bold, Californian claims true to its Jane Austen origins: that vanity and kindness are not incompatible. That just because a girl is really, really pretty and privileged doesn’t mean she is automatically a bad person or your enemy. That beauty is only skin-deep until you make over your soul. That stories about girls and women are not stupid and unimportant, but vital — and the more specific, the better. And that Los Angeles is not by its nature a superficial or stupid place, that it has its own sort of emotional intelligence that has to be understood on its own terms. One of those major terms is its geography, and Clueless is a sprawling portrait of L.A.’s unique beauty.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dining out in Breckenridge, CO

The following post is a re-print of a post I did for another blog. It was posted in 2014, but having just spent another glorious Independence Day in Breckenridge, CO, I thought it was worth posting again. I'm loving life in the High Country. And, for your next vacation, you might too.

There is no better place in Colorado to spend the 4th of July than in Breckenridge, the perfect mountain town.  In fact, in my perfect world, I may never leave Summit County. From the historic to the shopping to the cultural to the recreational, Breck has something for everyone, and it has been my family's Independence Day destination for the better part of a decade.  Breck hosts one of the best parades in Colorado, followed by a fun concert on the plaza and a water fight hosted by the fire department.  And, of course, we always follow the festivities with a happy hour trip and some fine dining.  This year we tried a few new places - well, new to us, but standard Breck - and we were not disappointed.  We enjoyed excellent meals at Modis and The Warming Hut.

After a trip down from Peak 7, I left the gondola lot and took Main Street, noticing The Warming Hut for the umpteenth time.  But this time we decided to stop in.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Noticing the website information on "Wine Wednesdays," I was hooked.  The theme was Chilean wines, and even though the promotion wasn't supposed to start for a week, the owner was happy to oblige me with four pours of some excellent South American wines.  For the first round, I sampled the Bodini chardonnay which is their house wine.  It was truly buttery with a great oak and a richness of citrus.  And, then I was in for a treat - the Crios malbec rose literally blew my mind.  Fearing the sweetness of anything called rose, I was impressed with the dry, crisp flavor that was a real twist on malbec.  The carmeniere from Chile was one of the oaky-est wines I've had, and the Chilean cab was rich as well.

For my "fifth" pour, I was offered a full glass of my favorite - which was a tough choice, but I went with the Bodini.  In addition to the wines, I was also treated to the boar's sausage appetizer, and the entire deal was a simple $15.  I can't imagine a better deal in wine in the high country.  For happy hour, my family also enjoyed the trio of sliders, the bison-chorizo chile, another boar's sausage, and two orders of ridiculously tasty sweet potato fries.  The Warming Hut establishment is truly adorable - or elegant if you will - and we enjoyed great Peak 7 views from the patio.

Let's hope The Warming Hut - which just passed its one-year anniversary - garners a following, because it is a great compliment to the town of Breckenridge.