Saturday, July 21, 2007


Yesterday's* first movie was John Huston's taut tropical thriller Key Largo (1948),* rebinding the covalent Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Florida's humid southern archipelago. Frank McCloud is passing through, heading to Key West, when he drops in on hoteliers James Temple and his daughter Nora, whiling away their summer off-season in a largely empty, rather idealized colonial inn. Their hotel should be completely empty, but big city thugs have cropped up, renting the whole hotel for reasons mysterious. The thugs sit around the bar with the requisite B-girl, tough-talking any wayfarers who come knocking. But McCall is a friend of the family: the Temple son was killed under his command during WWII; he feels duty bound to fill the family in on those final days. But he's picked a bad weekend on the titular Key: besides the resident mobsters, the police are also sniffing around for escaped convicts and a large hurricane threatens the Florida Straights. What will happen once everyone is trapped inside together during the storm? This movie is filled to the brim with the brooding cinematic environment I expect when watching a John Huston movie. Gone are the static three-walled parlors of the Maltese Falcon:* this movie forces some sense of the world around the leads: ceiling fans cast shadows from outside the frame, foreground and background depth is revealed in mirror reflections, the storm rages. In one magnificent shot, Bacall interacts with the mobsters while getting ready for the hurricane. While she walks around the interior of the hotel Bogart paces her outside, shuttering windows until the space is closed and dark. The house, the weather, even the heat are important characters here, complementing the fantastic cast including Edward G. Robinson, turning out one of the most riveting villains to ever appear onscreen. [Cavin]

Friday, July 20, 2007


It was raining when I left the theater after Lady Chatterley last night,* so I ducked into the Metro and ducked back out again at Farragut West Station a few blocks from Kaz Sushi Bistro.* We ate at Kaz on the ten year anniversary of our first date.* The food there is exceedingly good, after all, and I am pretty sure that I had the best meal I've ever sat down to alone last night: a quail egg cracked over urchin-stuffed calamari in truffle reduction soy sauce, four baby clams in dried fish miso, fifteen bites of angular sashimi separated by thin lemon slices served with raw grated hon-wasabi root. The warm sake they serve seems lighter than air; I can't swallow it fast enough to keep it from seeping into my skin. [Give me a second, here.] Today was another day for me to spend watching movies while Sunshine worked at home. I actually got up and left the unit before she did this morning because my first movie was so early and because her day starts in the afternoon every other Thursday. I saw three movies in Silver Spring today. Between these I bought another pair of shoes and ate high-end Lebanese fast food. I already had shoes for eating and walking, so I thought it was time to get some good trainers for running. I was a little upset after browsing row upon row of intergalactic-looking racing shoes stitched together out of reflective swooshes and lighting bolts over colorful ventilated ballistic netting. They were all as light as Kaz's sake, but none of them seemed very much like my usual style. But I took what I could get: jagged silver and black vacuum-molded rubber foot gear. I look like I'm standing in Flash Gordon's holsters. [Cavin]

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Sunshine's poised to finish her book by the August four deadline. I don't know how she's managing it while also learning Vietnamese full time. To facilitate, I leave the house several evenings per week, granting her productive alone time in our tiny unit. Today was an out-of-the-house day. I headed off to eat lunch at Foggy Bottom's Sizzling Express, which includes a limited sushi counter and hot bar along with the expansive ever-changing salad buffet. Among today's choices: blood oranges, jicama, kiwi, and dolmades. I wonder if the swankly modern name abbreviation codified on the window sign--Sizzex!*--is an intentional nod to latter-day urban slang. After the salad, I walked to the E Street Theater to see Lady Chatterley (2006),* the latest remake of D.H. Lawrence's sensational meditation on basic instinct. Lawrence self-published his book in Italy two years before his death; or thirty-one years before it was finally published in the US and thirty-two before it appeared in obscenity hearings in England.* But this book was written in three versions, the third being the haughtily philosophical Lady Chatterley's Lover we all read beneath our teenaged beds. The previous version, entitled John Thomas and Lady Jane, while preserving all major characters and relationships, streamlines those juxtapositions that more acutely examine a thesis of class versus physical identity through the optic of sex and nature. It does this in a more "show-don’t-tell" manner. It's this book which inspired the movie I saw today, an internal and intermittently staid eavesdropping into the adulterous renaissance of one Constance Chatterley, newly-disappointed with her marriage to a lamed veteran and blooming with uncomfortable feelings for the gamekeeper. It would be impossible to overuse the adjective "earthy" describing a movie which so cleaves to the literal ties between rebirth and soil. Sizzex indeed. [Cavin]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Tonight, after a quick soup and salad at Italian Café, we headed to the zombie multiplex to see the new installment of Bruce Willis' Die Hard tetralogy. To be fair to the multiplex, nothing overtly zombie happened tonight. But this was the very first time we've made it through that place without creepy encounters with some oddball staffers or navigating unnerving expanses of eerily deserted building. I was surprised I enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard* (which has a very bad title) as much as I did. As a matter of fact, with each new towering implausibility, hackneyed narrative trope, and stock half-D cast archetype, I became more surprised. The movie was just getting worse and worse, and I was still really enjoying myself. I don't love talking about movies currently playing, so here's the short story: NY police detective John McClane--previously trapped in a skyscraper, an airport, and a bad third movie when a gang of supposed terrorists attack--again finds himself trapped, this time in all of America, when supposed terrorists hack into space-age computer rooms and shut down the eastern seaboard. John must team up with his own hacker just to fend off the ensuing chaos, no small trick in a country with citizens so dumb they'll plow into busy intersections based on terrorist traffic light manipulation. John must also fend off an unabashed late-model dragon lady, machinegun-toting French Canadian thugs, a hovering jetfighter, computer-generated imagery, and a fashionable mastermind with pretensions of being Bondvillian Eurotrash. So why did I like it? Oh why not? There were even great previews: a Michael Mann-produced post-terror actioner located between Miami and Syriana,* a Jodi Foster rape-revenge in highbrow chicksploition style,* and the Simpsons Movie* trailer, funny from frame one. I can't wait to see them all. [Cavin]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I've been on a health kick lately. It's been coming for a while: I stopped drinking cola and eating fried food in March. I started eating more salads. Lately, I've been cutting out as much arbitrary sugar and salt as possible, and I'm way down on cheese and caffeine intake. At the grocery store we buy large quantities of fresh fruit, which we leave on the kitchen bar: fresh cherries, nectarines, red and black plums, pears and peaches where I can snack on them rather than leftover pizza or another dollar's worth of three-minute Korean Styrofoam cup ramen. I've been popping Clementine mandarin sections all day. I have also begun jogging up stairs and taking fast, late-evening walks around the cemetery behind Oakwood.* At night it's breezy, and these walks are rather addictive. Last night, on just such a walk, something odd happened. Isn't it nice when confusion just hands you a simile? In the sky I saw a shooting star, streaking along at what must have been bewildering speed at shooting-star distance; dimmed from shooting-star brightness by the Falls Church city lights. Only, that's the simile. It was really far closer and far dimmer, but I had to follow its trajectory beneath the horizon before I realized how close it was. It was moving as fast as a meteorite looks to be moving, but at a bewildering six-foot distance. When it augured full throttle into a tasteful little bush just off the path, it crashed loudly and the plant shuddered like it had been hit with a baseball. I watched the bush for a minute, but nothing else happened. It was traveling too straight for a bat and too heavy for a cicada. I don't know what it was, but it was reminiscent of a shooting star. [Cavin]

Monday, July 16, 2007


We tried to eat Lebanese food at Layolina yesterday, but when we finally wedged into the small parking lot we spied a handwritten sign on the door advertising the belly dancer they'd booked for the day. Call for reservations, the sign said along with a number. Inconveniently, this poster obscured much of the glass door, so we couldn't really peer inside to see what was what. We opted to go eat Lebanese food at the Taverna, instead, which was remarkably empty for a Saturday evening. I guess everyone was off watching that unseen dancer. Tonight's dinner was better. Our dear friend, the wonderful Hannah,* stopped over in Falls Church for dinner while on vacation in Charlottesville. It has become a tradition to eat Vietnamese on these occasions, so we all walked over to Eden Center from our unit. Little Saigon is especially impressive on Sunday nights. It's always crowded with shopping families wandering the walkways from store to store. All the neon signs are on, advertising food and haircuts and music and groceries in a vibrant Vietnamese rainbow. The weather was breezy and dry. We ate at Four Sisters, which I've decided probably has the best vegetarian menu of the restaurants we've tried to date. Hannah and I, being the vegetarians, split a large bowl of soup, caramelized tofu with straw mushrooms in a clay pot, and garlic asparagus. That soup consists of baby corn, bok choy, cabbage, tofu, mushrooms, and some sort of processed veggie matter rolled with peppercorns and sliced into thin cakes. The meal was served family style, with communal serving dishes to be portioned out into individual bowls. The kind of meal where you pass things around. The resultant reddish, rice, and green plates of pungent asparagus spears and hot, sweet tofu were marvelous. [Cavin]

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I had a great day Thursday. First, I got up early to make it all the way to Silver Spring for the Maltese Falcon, after which I ate a nice Lebanese lunch consisting of a falafel sandwich with tahini and a bowl of vinegary shorba addas. Then I took the metro most of the way home, stopping short in Rosslyn, the first Virginia station westbound from DC. I had time to kill before meeting Sunshine and a group of coworkers for a "happy hour" of socializing. It was pretty hot, but in a dry way reminding me more of spring in northern México than summer here. I discovered Freedom Park, an interesting not-quite-green space built along a narrow overhead ramp connecting the old Newseum building with the Spectrum Theater and the Dome in Rosslyn (where the Bodies Exhibition* is currently living). Along this park there are permanent exhibits, more jingoistic in collection than in tone, dedicated to the overthrow of communism. Not my usual thing, but the plaques of iron curtain photo collage surrounding actual sections of the Berlin wall were pretty damn cool. So was the large steel-supported colored glass curl memorializing reporters killed in the line of duty. Eventually it was time to make my way up the hill to Café Asia,* a tony and overbearing District Area eatery ostensibly aimed at cuisines pan-Asian, but falling short of any convincing destination. There were many friends in our crowd, making it difficult to get away after just one hour. Fine: we dined there as well, securing a semi-secluded but no less crashingly loud table across the restaurant two happy hours into the evening. I ate passable sushi, but others fared less well in supposedly Thai and Chinese traditions. The company more than made up for the meal. [Cavin]