Monthly Archives: September 2015

Have No Fear…Metro Food Lover’s Guide is Here

Metro's Frozen

For those of us who love good food, a reliable source for finding new stuff to try is very valuable.

Oklahoma City metro residents can count on Slice magazine’s Food Lover’s Guide to point them in the right direction for good eats (and drinks), and the current issue is no exception.

From finding the best steak to locating the metro’s yummiest frozen desserts (my contribution to the effort–the above images are just a sampling of the glorious research I did for you all), the Food Guide will be a handy little pal the next time someone asks, “Hey, where should we eat?”

 

Yes, Virginia, Oklahoma Has a Hip Hop Scene…

Hip Hop Image

 

It wasn’t that long ago that I was strolling through one of our city’s street festivals and noticed something that thrilled me to my core; the music wafting through the air was the NOT earnest, white-boy Americana (not that there’s anything wrong with that) usually found at these gatherings…but rap. (I later found out the artist was Frank Black.)

That hardly ever happens. (Trust me, I have to go to a lot of street festivals. I’m a professional.)

I found my way over to the stage, and in my joy, started chatting up a man next to me, who turned out to be Gregory Jerome, the mind behind Elemental Hip Hop, a youth program that utilizes the four elements of hip hop culture (graffiti, dj-ing, mc-ing, and breaking) to develop open-minded explorations, creative problem-solving, self-confidence and positive self-expression in kids.

He’s also the driving force behind Oklahoma City’s first ever Hip Hop Festival, taking place at the Paramount (701 W. Sheridan) this Friday, September 18 (6-11pm) and Saturday, September 19 (9 a.m. to midnight).

Artists from Oklahoma and beyond will come together to celebrate the art form, and spectators can do more than just spectate; interaction will be possible in the form of a graffiti wall and b-boy (and girl) battles among other things.

If you love hip hop, if you’d like to encourage an atmosphere in Oklahoma City that broadens the common culture just a little…then come out and support the effort.

Capitalism on Cruise-Control; Oklahoma City’s Mobile Business Boom

Mama Tried

One of my very favorite t-shirts, from The Struggle Bus. For the record, my Mama did indeed, try.

Encouraging entrepreneurs is a worthwhile endeavor, I think.

Some of us are natural risk-takers and go-getters, and some of us just want to sit back and enjoy the fruits produced by the aforementioned go-getters.

If they’re bringing it right to us, at a place where we already are, so much the better.

The street festival culture that’s popped up in Oklahoma has given all of us a chance to stroll around and enjoy some bang-up food, in the form of all the food trucks that you can find all over our fair city now, but it’s also given rise to another trend…the mobile business.

My recent piece for Slice magazine examines the mobile business boom, and gives a few examples of the types of enterprises brought to life by our fellow Okies.

Take a gander, and make a plan to find something that tickles your fancy at the next street festival, or…start thinking about how YOU can get in on the Bidness on Wheels phenomenon.

“Love Isn’t Something We Invented”: Review of Interstellar, and Thoughts About Why Movies Matter

Watching movies as part of your job isn’t really so bad.

You see, in addition to reviewing movies for this blog, and other various and sundry publications, I also do some freelancing in the publicity world that involves attending screenings of soon-to-be-released movies. I might be helping tally attendees, I might be interviewing members of the press or the public about their impressions, filling out reports…but more often than not, even if it isn’t required, I’m watching the movie in question as well.

Now, granted, there have been times when I’ve been compelled to view certain…films…more than once, and I will admit that occasionally it isn’t pleasant. (I’m thinking in particular of a certain sophomoric offering that I had to view multiple times. A reluctance to be mean–and the desire to continue working for the publicity company that sent me–prevents me from naming it outright, but those are hours of my life that I will never get back, and I mourn them to this day.)

But mostly, I like watching movies.

I even like watching TV, even though I know we aren’t supposed to, unless it’s a documentary about sustainable agriculture or stopping world hunger.

In fact, just to show you how good I am at justifying things I like to do, I have a belief that I’m going to share with you, about movies and how they’re actually important to us, as human beings.

Human culture has always had a storytelling element.

(It also has always had a political and religious element, and although some among us would argue that those aren’t necessarily good things, I would argue that they are to a degree natural for us.)

We’ve transmitted truth via myth and story for eons. (Fact and truth aren’t necessarily synonymous, but they’re always related.) Cave dwellers painted images on walls and the Greeks sat and listened to retelling of the Iliad over and over again for a reason. Jesus even used parables to illustrate principles. (Yes, that’s right, I just referenced Jesus. I told you I had a gift for legitimizing my ideas.)

Granted, some stories are better at this than others. (See above reference to the unnamed movie that made me cry for humanity.) And not every human needs their truth dispensed to them through a tale. I’m sure you know people like this (and perhaps you are one); erudite individuals who eschew the movie theater and say things like, “I don’t know how anyone could watch television.”

It’s admirable, the desire to not let media rule your life. When I think of the people I know who are like this, they’re generally parents who want to limit popular culture’s influence in their home, for their kids’ sake, or they’re individuals who are living life in a way that the majority of the population wouldn’t even consider. My friend Gustavo– the Bad Wine Critic and Cappuccino Snob–for instance, falls into the latter category. He hasn’t owned a television for years (although he’s slightly less superior about it than many of his counterparts), and one of the biggest reasons is…he’s doing a lot of living. He also has a keen understanding that time is not something any of us are guaranteed to have a lot of, and is making the most of what he has in front of him.

Don’t get me wrong–I fall into that camp a little, myself. We’ve spent spates of time without a television–I don’t have one now–and I recommend it, especially if you’re raising kids. I believe there are no guarantees in life, and that time spent outside, or talking to another human being face-to-face will always trump anything you can do on a screen.

If you’re wondering how I make that work with a profession that relies heavily on people consuming culture, all I can tell you is what I tell everyone who is trying to understand how some of my seemingly disparate beliefs/pursuits/philosophies go together; it makes sense to me.

No, seriously; we need to relax and have downtime, and yes, while some aspects of the media consumption in this country have gotten totally out of control, and need to be handled carefully when it comes to kids, especially…I still believe stories have a place.

And even though it is my ongoing life’s work to get people to read a f*cking book for Pete’s sake, sometimes they don’t want to. Sometimes they want to sit around the campfire and have the tribe storyteller spoon feed them something after a long hard day chasing mastodons and keeping children alive.

Or the modern equivalent.

(See, I finally got back to the inherent human trait reference I mentioned way up there.)

No, we don’t sit around the camp fire and listen to someone recite our common myths or histories of our heroes anymore.

But we can go to the movies.

I think something’s lost when you watch a movie on a laptop, or a television. Don’t get me wrong–I love the convenience, and some movies are fine that way, with a few even being better if you can watch them alone. (If you’re popping in Anchorman to lift your mood, for instance, or cuing up Becoming Jane just to watch That One Scene.)

There are just certain movies that are better shared with a tribe, and I think for me, Interstellar was one of those. (I know, it’s no longer in theaters, I’m just rubbing it in, I guess. But it’s still an incredible movie, and one that you would enjoy on DVD. Probably even more so if you bought it through my affiliate link.)

I cried, while sitting next to a woman that also cried. (Yes, I talk about crying at movies a lot. See the Mad Max review where I talk about seeing a man cry, and how important I think it is.) Where else do we cry together, in modern culture? About meaningful things?

And the meaningful things abound in Interstellar. (Of course they do, since it’s a Christopher Nolan film. You know, the genius behind Inception and The Dark Knight Rises).

Here they are, in no particular order…

The Poetry of Dylan Thomas

“Do not go gentle into that good night…” may be one of the most overused lines of significant poetry in existence, but that doesn’t diminish its power. It’s overused for a good reason.

The Insistence That Love Is A Powerful Force

If you can watch Anne Hathaway’s impassioned, tearful speech about how “love isn’t something we invented”, and not be moved, then you may have a little black stone in your chest where a heart should be.

The Idea That Becoming a Parent Doesn’t Negate Your Personhood

This is tricky. And debatable, I know. But in all seriousness; while sacrificing for your children is right and good, if you’re someone with gifts and talents that humanity needs–and that YOU need to express, in order to be fulfilled–it’s important to do that. We don’t–or shouldn’t–become “ghosts” when we have children.

The Image of a Woman as a Hero

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is an overlay of two plot moves that involve a woman doing something heroic.

The Image of a Hero as Flawed

Another powerful image; the fact that the best and strongest among us can be broken by isolation and loneliness, just like the weakest can be galvanized by adversity.

The Music

The soundtrack is close to perfection.

In summation, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by Interstellar if you want an enthralling story that makes you think, and feel. We watch it over and over; it’s become like our family version of the Iliad, repeated and discussed multiple times.

Just like all good stories.

Eat at Roma’s!

Roma's Collage When making plans to review the food at Roma’s Gelato, I decided to invite my buddy “Gustavo” along. (Yes, him. The World’s Worst Wine Critic).

I had two reasons for doing this. First of all, Gustavo is a self-proclaimed “Cappuccino Snob”. (He’s also a self-proclaimed “Beer Snob”, “Liquor Snob”, and “Vinegar Snob”, and probably several other variations that I either haven’t heard him claim or he doesn’t admit out loud. I’m trying to think of a gentle way to suggest that he might be able to just do away with all of the modifiers and simply use the “s” word in isolation.)

Secondly, Gustavo is of Italian extraction, and I knew this would pique the interest of Angelo, Roma’s lively Italian owner, who is usually on site and interacting with patrons. Angelo’s presence is a wonderful thing, because in addition to receiving the benefit of an Italian attitude towards food (simple, fresh, high quality ingredients used in harmony with each other), you also get the benefit of…well, just plain old Italian attitude.

Roma’s main star is gelato, but the food there shouldn’t be ignored. Panini (for pity’s sake, if you order a single sandwich, use the word panino; Angelo has taken great pains to post instructions about terms in his menu) made fresh with only the best ingredients (many imported from Italy), and espresso based beverages are well worth their own trip to Roma’s.

Gustavo termed the cappuccino “good” (which is actually a compliment when coming from a snob), but had serious praise for the panino he had. (It might have been the first food I’ve ever heard him praise. I think I clutched my chest, Fred Sanford-style, thinking I was experiencing “The Big One”).

In addition to the fantastic tasting food, you get great atmosphere at Roma’s. The standard sized espresso beverages are served in real, china cups (larger sizes can be put in paper cups), and Angelo is generally happy to interact with you and explain why his gelato, cappuccino, and panini are so wonderful. (His short answer is that in addition to using excellent ingredients, Italians are just better at most things. Especially love, fashion, and food.)

I love supporting local businesses, but more than that, I love finding local places that hold a unique spot in our city, and make it easy to go back again and again. Roma’s is one of those. So, for a little Italian experience in Oklahoma, go to Roma’s, eat a panino (only say panini if you get two or more), drink a cappuccino, and have some delicious, artisan gelato afterwards.

You’ll thank me. Really.

A Review of Mad Max…and a Rebuttal to the Idea that it Minimizes Men (and Max)

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My two oldest children and I were in line to see Mad Max:Fury Road on the day it premiered.

I’ve been waiting to see it for a long time. (Meaning, for almost a year I obsessively watched the totally dope Comic Con trailer that utilizes engine revs and gun sound effects as a theme. :::Shivers with Delight:::)

If you didn’t see it in the theater, I hate to tell you this, but…you missed out.

However, watching it on DVD or Amazon Instant Video–which is now possible, and which you can kick me a few bucks by doing through the above links–is better than not seeing it at all. And you do need to watch it. In fact, I seldom recommend buying movies, but when I do, you can be sure it’s because I really, really mean it.

It’s always a risk, being an optimistic person, and this truth is never more painfully clear than when it is focused on hopes for movies. (Except for maybe when it’s about romantic relationships. Or expectations about new pizza restaurants. But…this is a post about a movie.)

This is one time I wasn’t disappointed.

If you are sensitive to explosions and fighting and guns, this is not your flick. (As a favor to those who can’t deal with such things, I’ll just tell you that there are no scenes of women being abused. It’s vaguely referenced, but there is nothing explicit.)

If you love simple, brutal truths, and stories that don’t explain as much as they show, then this is your movie.

I was surprised, after seeing this, to learn that some hard core Mad Max fans were upset about this reboot. (I was not surprised, however, that there was somewhat of a fracas that popped up about it being a feminist manifesto.)

Yes,  Max wasn’t the only lead role. But the partnership of Furiosa and Max is one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. And the change in Max from hard-hearted lone wolf to ally and even caring friend is EXACTLY what I always thought the whole point of the Mad Max franchise was…we are all in this together, whether you like it or not. You can’t simply choose to look out for Number One, only, if you’re a human being.

I don’t know how men think about post-apocalyptic situations, but I know that for some women, there’s one nagging, underlying thought, that tugs at the back of our minds when we’re joking about the poles flipping, or whatever End of Days scenario you choose, that would result in a breakdown of society.

Everyone would be worrying about fueling cars, yes. And everyone would be scurrying for food, and toilet paper.

But women would have the additional worry, of “How do I keep from becoming a form of currency?”

Laws can require society to pay women the same amount as men for doing the same job. (Although statistics tell us that gender equality in pay still has a long way to go). They can punish men for victimizing women. (But we all get that it’s a continual struggle to keep that victimization from happening in the first place–our “civilized” world is still one where we have to educate young men explicitly about consent and invent things like nail polish that can detect date rape drugs).)

So, what would happen if our world suddenly ceased to have these laws that keep what we do have in place?

I think we all know.

Fury Road is a good picture of a dystopian future, and a way to explore in our imaginations what we think we would do, or be like, in that sort of mess, but it’s also an allegory about life now, in my opinion. The lessons it holds are ones that I’m glad to show my kids–male and female–and if you’re interested in hearing what I believe they are, I’ll tell you.

Real Men Empower Women

My good friend Jennifer, the President/CEO of She-Jitsu, a women’s jiu jitsu apparel company, has made a t-shirt that expresses this sentiment, which perfectly sums up my thoughts about women’s “rights” and the proper male response.

There’s a scene (don’t worry, I’m not including explicit spoilers) where Max acquiesces to Furiosa’s skill as a good shot when there’s only one bullet left. It’s a great snapshot of letting a woman excel at something she’s obviously good at, without involving ego. Something I’d love for my sons to be secure enough to do.

My Beautiful Sister Billie likes to say that a man should know when to stand behind a woman, when to stand beside her, and when to stand in front of her. That kind of discernment takes skill, humility, and a willingness to let a women be both strong and weak.

Real Women Empower Women

Surprise…She-Jitsu also makes a shirt with this message, which I consider another key component of this movie. (They also have a Real Women Empower Men shirt, which isn’t exactly a feature of Mad Max: Fury Road, but is a fantastic thought to promote.)

Furiosa’s mission in the movie involves helping women leave victimhood and live a free life. The strong should not only protect the weak, they should help them get strong, as well. Always a message worth repeating. Women have a bad reputation for being jealous of other women, and competing with each other for status, for men…that isn’t how it should be. We should be lifting each other up, helping each other. So let’s do it.

Men and Women Can…and Should Be…Friends

The relationship between Furiosa and Max disappointed one of my romantically minded girls, because as she said,  “They should have gotten together!” (Okay, I guess that’s a spoiler. No action between Max and Furiosa. Get over it).

I’m glad they didn’t hook up.

Not because I don’t love a good romance–I do–but because I want to highlight to my girls (and my guys, too) that first and foremost, any person you’re even thinking about in a romantic sense should be, first, foremost, and finally, your friend.

If a relationship can’t start and stand on respect, I’m not interested. If we can’t fight beside each other and appreciate each other as people, it won’t work on a romantic level.

I liked that the main point of the relationship between Max and Furiosa was partnering in a mutual endeavor, and it ended, ultimately, in mutual respect. I like that they left it that way, because it reinforces the thought that sex isn’t everything.

When One Dream Dies…Get Another Dream

I won’t include a spoiler about the aspect of the story that I think promotes this idea, but it was powerful to watch.

In fact, one of the reasons I’m glad we watched this movie in a theater is that at this point in the story, my 13 year old daughter saw a grown man sitting near us cry. That’s meaningful to me. That a little girl can see a man moved to tears over an image of a woman losing a dream that’s kept her going.

And then you get to see her rebound, regroup, and listen to the advice of a friend on how to reform the dream.

And make it happen.

You may not come away from your viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road with the same feelings that I did. But I’m willing to bet that it will surprise you, and that you’ll find out that it’s not tearing men down to show them letting women be strong and helping them win against bad guys.

In fact, it’s a good representation of true manliness. The kind that co-exists with true womanliness.

And car chases, and explosions. And painted men bungee jumping with electric guitars.

Hey, I never said it wasn’t weird, in addition to being emotionally poignant…

(Edited to add: after seeing this movie, my 13 year old came home and immediately repurposed one of her old Barbies as a tribute to the fantastic character of Furiosa. Still on the lookout for a mechanical arm, though. I’ve never tried to impose my distaste for Barbie on my girls, I’ve always allowed her presence…but I won’t lie; it made me smile years ago when this same daughter renamed one of her Barbies Evelyn Salt, and it reassured me even more when she did this. The message is clear; beauty is okay, but badassery is important, too. Carry on. )

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