January 11, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis ~ this movie is Kosher for Passover

Inside Llewyn Davis, the new film from Joel and Ethan Coen, is a wonderful look at the folk music scene in New York in the early 1960s. Just before Bob Dylan exploded on the scene, and a few years before the pop of the British Invasion, folk music was a major force. Amidst that setting, the Coens present their customary set of strange characters to entertain and enlighten.

Oscar Isaac, as Llewyn Davis, is brilliant, though his character is somewhat unlikable, but then so are there others just as unlikable. The film works because of its devotion to the detail of time and place, and because of that weird mix of people we encounter along the way.

While watching the credits roll by, as is our custom, a Kosher symbol came up near the end and sure enough, this movie has been approved to be Kosher for Passover, as acknowledged by the film makers in a Salon interview from early December. Inside Llewyn Davis is probably the first, and possibly the only movie ever made that meets the rabbinical certification.

The film's website is full of interesting articles, including one about the democratisation of music in America by the New Republic's David Hajdu. Interesting stuff. Interesting movie.

In the end, our anti-hero, gets the cat, and not much else. This is a movie about a special time and place in American history, and a character slightly out of touch with both. It is a wonderful movie. Don't wait for Passover.

Photos  from the film's official website.
Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.

January 06, 2014

Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona

The place we now know as Sedona, Arizona, home of the red rocks
was first populated about 12,000 years ago. 

Apache people came to this place about 1450 BCE and Yavapai people came here around 1300 BCE. Both groups were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer type societies. 

Both nations were forcibly removed from the valley in 1876 CE to make way for an influx of white Americans. The First Nations people, about 1500, were marched, in mid-winter, to an Indian Reservation about 300 km to the southeast. Hundreds died along the way and their survivors were interned for twenty-five years.

The rocks around Sedona are beautiful. Get away from the noise and hassle of the main drag and its T-shirts shops and time-share hustlers, and one sees how this is a special place. A sacred place. 

This is a place that allows a person to take a moment to look, to feel and take a deep breath. Sometimes even without a mobile attached to his or her ear, though that might be asking too much. This is a special place.

This place belongs to others. We should give it back.

Photos by Jim Murray.
Copyright 2014.

Tlaquepaque in Sedona

The landscape around Sedona is beautiful. The valley and its red rocks are truly incredible.

Sedona, the town, is a tourist town, not that there's anything wrong with that. It seems to be a one-strip business district that follows the highway in, and out of town, regardless of direction. There are far too many "tourist information" offices that are really fronts for real estate and time-share sales centres, which is annoying to no end. There are lots of T-shirt shops, tour agencies, and local artisan stores of dubious integrity. It could easily be something related to Whistler, or Victoria, or Gastown in Vancouver; the Sedona business district is that bad.

However. Tucked away, out of sight of the red rocks, and down by the river, is a retail development that deserves attention. It is Tlaquepaque, and it is well worth a visit.

Tlaquepaque was the idea of Abe Miller (1912 - 1982). Begun in 1971, the idea was to create a Mexican-style village that featured artists and craftspeople of the area. That idea took root in some fashion, evolved, and Tlaquepaque was born.

Today, the village has the feel of something European, but it is actually founded on a Mexican village concept. Over forty shops and galleries, several restaurants and a number of offices make up the complex, and it is delight to walk around the property.

Giant sycamore trees have been left in place and are lovingly protected according to Abe Miller's original promise in 1970. The village was quiet when we were there, but this place might just be the heart of the artistic side of Sedona's mercantile district, and it certainly beats whatever is happening along the main drag.

For casual dining, Rene's offers a menu and presentation that exceeds anything along the main highway. For a truly exceptional dining experience however, the nearby, L'Auberge Restaurant is not to be missed. Elegant, expensive and amazing in every way, L'Auberge provided a near perfect dining experience. 
Photos by Jim Murray.
Copyright 2014.

January 05, 2014

J. Knox Corbett House & Cafe a la C'Art

Part of the impressive Tucson Museum of Art in downtown Tucson is the Historic Block of which the J. Knox Corbett House is the centrepiece.

Completed in 1907, the two storey mission-revival style house has been restored and furnished with period pieces.

The house was built by a merchant family, the Corbetts, who were involved in lumber and hardware businesses in Arizona, and later in politics. The house was one of the finest in the city in its time and has been restored in the elegant fashion of the period. Tours occur not all that frequently and are well worth the time, if you are there at the right time.

Nearby is the wonderful little Cafe a la C'Art. Located in the courtyard of the museum, this place is a gem. While the espresso drinks were lacking, in temperature and strength, the food items were impressive enough and the outdoor setting, on a fine desert afternoon in winter, was delightful.

Photos by Jim Murray.  Copyright 2014.

Who are these people?

Sometimes, at those scenic viewpoints along the highway, where people take photos of family and loved ones with a beautiful backdrop of mountains or lakes, your faithful scribe and photographer has offered to assist with the taking of the photo. This very thing happened along an Interstate in Arizona, where a family of Spanish speaking americanos, were trying to take a photo that would include everyone, and Jeem stepped in to help.

Initially the plan was to take a few photos of the nice family, with their cameras, and then, for fun, to take a photo of Sherry, the writer, with her new, extended americano family, with our camera. Jeem might have been a wee bit confused; it's a multitasking problem for men generally, and to be fair, there were at least two different cameras involved in the process.

So today, somewhere in the Excited States, and probably in Mexico too, someone is asking, "Who is that nice woman with the family?" or quite possibly, "For the first time in seven years we get the entire family together and ... who is that woman?"

Yes, Sherry is in all the photos on all the cameras.

And who is the guy with Sherry?

Group photo by Jim Murray.
Photo of the couple, by the female, 
back row, fourth from the right. 
Muchas gracias senorita.

Copyright 2014.