Can the Sony hackers really cancel a movie opening?

SonySome current news’ reports allege that North Korea is responsible for the Sony hack that has intimidated Sony into canceling its Christmas Day release of “The Interview.” That may or may not be true. Time will tell.

Still, it is chilling that anyone can intimidate a company (especially one with the clout of Sony) into canceling “a major motion picture” opening.

“The Interview” may turn out to be a bad movie, or a really good Seth Rogan movie, which may not be a big difference, but let us decide that.

The reactions have not been good PR for Sony. Some of my favorites on Twitter:

“Church Curmudgeon” tweeted “Our boycotts never kept a movie out of a theater. Maybe the Southern Baptists need nukes.”

And Scout (@nycscout) Tweeted: “Apparently, Hitler could have just phoned in an anonymous bomb threat to prevent The Great Dictator from being shown. Unbelievable.”

Yeah, a big FAIL for Sony.

This is a movie I would never have seen, but now maybe I will!

Braised Beef Brisket

Brisket 1

Everybody has a brisket recipe, and they are all delicious. Some have exotic ingredients such as grape jelly, cranberry sauce, chili sauce, etc. Here’s mine; it is pretty basic. This is cold weather comfort food.

Ingredients

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 first-cut beef brisket (I used a grass-fed one) about 5 LBS

5 yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks celery cut in 1 inch pieces

4 clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut in half

½ tsp dried thyme

1 TBS chopped fresh rosemary

3 TBS chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef stock or broth

½ cup of apple cider vinegar

1 14 OZ can of chopped tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Recipe

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wipe the brisket with paper towels, and generously salt and pepper it. In a large oven-proof lidded casserole heat oil over medium high heat and carefully brown brisket without burning until it is nicely browned. Remove meat and put it on a platter. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté, stirring regularly until they are browned.

Add the wine, stock, vinegar and tomatoes and the herbs.

Bring to a simmer, put the meat on top, cover tightly and put it in the oven for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, depending on the size of your meat (grass fed seems to need a bit more time in the braise.) Some recipes have you turn it or baste it. This seems like extra work to me. I check it once at the half-way mark to make sure there is enough liquid in it.

When it is tender take it out and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes until it is cool enough to cut pieces across the grain. Better yet, put the whole thing in the fridge and serve it the next day or two.

The traditional way is to serve it with potato pancakes, which is mighty tasty, but some extra work.

I served these with fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans. A sturdy red wine (perhaps a Cote de Rhone or something from Spain) would not be out of place.

brisket 2

 

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

 

Berkshire Lyric presents “Called by Angels, a Concert of Christmas Music”

I am singing with Berkshire Lyric Chorus in concert on December 20. I hope some of my Berkshire friends can come. Here are the details:

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Berkshire Lyric presents “Called by Angels, a Concert of Christmas Music” at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Park Square in downtown Pittsfield on Saturday, December 20 at 7:30.

The 90 voice Berkshire Lyric Chorus will be joined by the 30 voice Blafield Children’s Chorus in a wide ranging choral program of some of the most beloved music of the season. Now in its 52nd year, Berkshire Lyric most recently performed at Tanglewood’s Seiji Ozawa Hall in the spring, and the big chorus is back for this annual holiday concert. The St. Stephen’s concert is an expanded version of Berkshire Lyric’s traditionally sold out Stockbridge Main Street Concert.

Through the years, it has developed into a heart warming and nostalgic evening of great Christmas music for the whole family. The concert is led by Berkshire Lyric’s Artistic Director Jack Brown and accompanied by Joe Rose. The soloists will be soprano Felicia Durso and baritone John Demler. The chorus will be singing new compositions and arrangements by contemporary composers Alan Smith, Will Todd and John Joubert. The children’s chorus is presenting music by John Rutter, Alfred Burt and Alec Wyton among others. A highlight of the concert will be a medley of “Away in a Manger,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night,” all arranged by English composer and former member of the King’s Singers, Bob Chilcott. During a lighter portion of the program, the chorus will sing lush choral arrangements of Christmas hits such as “Sleigh Ride”, “The Christmas Song” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” There will be a sing-a-long portion of favorite carols and popular selections at the end of the concert. The audience can join their voices to the 120 singers of Berkshire Lyric and the great St. Stephen’s Pipe Organ in the rich acoustics of this historic church.

The Berkshire Lyric season will continue on December 27 with a Handel “Messiah” Sing also at St. Stephen’s. The new year will see four concerts: Moving to Glory: a Gospel and Spirituals Concert in February, A Feast of Operetta fundraiser in March, A Grand Opera Spectacular at the Colonial Theatre in May, and finally Into the Light: Russian Orthodox Sacred Music with the Konevets Quartet of St. Petersburg in June. Tickets for the Dec. 20 Christmas concert are $20 for adults with children admitted free. They may be purchased from chorus members or through Berkshire Lyric’s website. More information at http://www.BerkshireLyricInfo.org.

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The Christmas Tree in the Passing Lane: A Reflection on Advent

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On Saturday we drove home from my brother’s house in Maine where we had celebrated Thanksgiving with our family, or at least the part of it that could make it this year.

It was a calm and friendly few days. We ate some turkey and tucked into various lovely pies. There were numerous board games that lasted into the wee hours, and, yes (I won’t deny it) we watched a football game or two.

It had snowed enough during Wednesday’s storm that we were able to do some good snowshoeing on Friday at a local forest preserve. All in all, it was a good Thanksgiving.

I was especially aware that this year we had much to be thankful for. Somehow “the simple fact of being together made the time holy.” (From my Daily Devotional for Thanksgiving, to read it all go here.)

I often find the season from Thanksgiving to the New Year to be a wistful and bittersweet time. When I was a young minister I became aware what a sad time it was for many of my older congregants, who remembered happier, healthier times, when they and their families were young.

I understand that better now, as my own children are grown, and many of the original participants in my early holiday memories are gone.

The church is often wiser than we are in how it marks the time. A good example of this is the season of Advent, which captures the mood of the darkening days with its texts of waiting and hoping and its hymns in minor keys.

The expectation that the holidays will be better and brighter than our ordinary time can be a burden that weighs us down. I think some of the excessive consumerism we see this time of year is our attempt to keep the long dark days at bay. But there are some things money can’t buy, even at full price, such as health and wholeness, faith, hope and love.

On the way home the day was sunny with a high blue sky, and the traffic on the Maine Turnpike wasn’t nearly as heavy as on the way up in the storm.

As we crossed the river into New Hampshire, there was a freshly cut Christmas tree in the middle of the left-hand lane that had fallen off the roof of someone’s car. It made me suddenly sad, December sad. It must be time for Advent, I thought, and the next day it was.

Good, I thought, I need a little Advent.

 

(Photo by R. L. Floyd. “Black Brook Preserve, Windham Maine Land Trust.”)

Remembering C. S. Lewis

C.S. LewisC. S. Lewis died on this day in 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was shot. Aldous Huxley also died on that day.

Lewis was a mainstay of our house. We read The Chronicles of Narnia to our children, enjoyed The Space Trilogy, and were edified by Lewis’s everyman Mere Christianity which was always engaging, even when his amateur theologian status was showing.

It is ironic that this curmudgeonly linguist who loved his whisky has become such an icon to contemporary Evangelicalism in America. It is true that Lewis was a critic of “Big Science,” but he was not a “no-nothing” and would be horrified by some of the positions on science some of his admirers advocate.

Still, his admirers get it right that he was a thoughtful and clever Christian apologist. I read a recent interview with Margaret Atwood who defended the Narnia books against their critics. She said that if you overlook the misogyny and preachiness they are rather good. And it would be unfair to use 21st Century sensibilities to discredit his work as if he were not a man of his time.

Much of his writing seems dated, but he is still eminently quotable. Here’s one of my favorites:

”A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

Don’t Shop on Thanksgiving

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Last year I wrote a post called “Saving Thanksgiving from the Retailers” that got a lot of traction.  I wrote:

Thanksgiving is the only holiday that Americans of all religions can share, because it isn’t a religious holiday, although one can celebrate it as such if you choose. It is also the one holiday that many Americans gather as extended families. It is the only holiday on which I see my brother and sister and their families, along with my own children and their significant others.

But what if you have to work on Thanksgiving? More and more retailers, not content with the immense profits they make on so-called “Black Friday,” are opening on Thanksgiving. You and I can choose not to shop on Thanksgiving, but the workers in these stores won’t have that choice.

This year I decided to list which stores are open and which ones are closed on Thanksgiving to help people know which stores to support. But first I want to especially commend Costco for putting their workers and their families ahead of profits. Costco, which is the second-largest retailer in the country (after Walmart), will close on Thanksgiving. “It’s an important holiday in the U.S., and our employees work hard during the holiday season, and we believe they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Day with their family and friends,” Richard A. Galanti, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Costco Wholesale, told The New York Times.

Here’s a list of stores that will be closed on Thanksgiving:

Costco

Home Depot

T.J. Maxx

Marshalls

Ace Hardware

Barnes & Noble

Patagonia

Dillard’s

Crate and Barrel

Neiman Marcus

GameStop

Nordstrom

Bed Bath & Beyond

Burlington Coat Factory

REI

Barnes & Noble

DSW

GameStop

Hobby Lobby

HomeGoods

Jo-Ann Fabrics

Lowe’s

Petco

PetSmart

Talbots

Sam’s Club

And here’s a list of stores that will be open on Thanksgiving and their opening times:

6 a.m.: Kmart

7 a.m.: Big Lots, Dollar General

8 a.m.: Family Dollar, RadioShack

4 p.m.: Michael’s, Old Navy

5 p.m.: Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JC Penney, Toys R Us

6 p.m.: Belk, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Sears, Staples, Sports Authority, Target, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart

I cobbled these lists together from various on-line sources, and as far as I know, they are accurate as of today. They are, of course, subject to change and we hope consumer pressure will lead some of them to close.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Cardamom, Garlic and Prunes

Lamb shanks 1

We love braises in the winter such as osso buco and short ribs, but I had never made lamb shanks before, although I had enjoyed many good ones in restaurants. The only exotic part of this is the cardamom, which I have on hand because of my Indian and Moroccan cooking. You can find these in any Asian market, and some super markets, and it is worth it to find them for this dish.

This dish is pure comfort food.

2 TBs olive oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large onion sliced
2 carrots sliced
10 cloves of garlic peeled and squashed
The seeds from 7 green cardamom pods, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 cup dried pitted prunes.
3 cups beef stock

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You need a wide oven-proof casserole with a lid for this one. Brown the shanks in the olive oil until they are nicely brown, about ten minutes. Remove the shanks, and put the onions and carrots in the casserole and saute for about ten minutes until brown. Add the garlic and cardoman, and cook for another minute or two stirring. Then add the prunes and beef stock, put the shanks back in and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven for about two hours.

Serve with crusty bread or couscous. And a robust red wine such as a Spanish tempranillo or a Cote de Rhone.

Lamb shanks 2

(Photos by R. L. Floyd)