Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Model Spotlight: RIYA RAY

Yes, it's true. I have a thing for Middle Eastern and South Asian beauties. What can I say? It's no secret . . . everybody knows. A while back I posted this spotlight on the Persian/Dutch model, Asal Soltani. This time I move on over to the sub-continent to introduce Ms. Riya Ray. She's someone who, like Ms. Soltani, also perfectly exemplifies my personal litmus test of physical beauty.

In other words, I think she's pretty damn hot! Oh yes I do, indeed. I think she's a big deal, actually. Rising up through the ranks rather quickly. I've seen her in a few rap videos and a commercial or two, but she's also done quite a few magazine covers as well and has wrapped up production on a couple films she has roles in this year. Here are some of my favorite photos of Ms. Ray:

Breathtaking. Resembles Kim Kardashian
a little here, no?

That come hither stare gets me
EVERY TIME! Rawrrrr!

Beautiful long, dark hair compliments an oval,
angular face. Gorgeous!!!

That sweet, girl-next-door look.
Nice dress!

Those eyes!!! (faints)

Riya Ray is a Bengali gal who hails from Assam in northeast India. She's based in the States now, but still has strong roots in her hometown and visits every chance she gets. She's also not a fan of the "size zero" trend in modeling, and feels models should be allowed to show their curves. And although she's a naturally slim gal herself, I must say Riya definitely does have the curves where they count!

Just more proof that Indian women are super fly in the summer time! Or any other time of the year, for that matter. My own opinion, of course (heh, heh). Don't hate me if I just happen to be right.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tiny Apartment Is Tiny!

Thought I'd finally get around to putting up pics of the new place, since some of you have been asking for them. I don't know why I waited so long to do this, in fact. The state of affairs as of today is this: I've been living here now for exactly 4 weeks, and I'm very glad to have found this place at the time I did, and so near to where I was living before. Because it's a 500 sq ft studio apartment, alas, there is not much to show. But you know what? For such a small apartment, it's actually quite serviceable for one person. Take a look:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day, Mom.

So, today is Father's Day. Happy fun times to all the great dads out there, whoever you are.

As you all probably know by now, I did not grow up with a dad in the picture. Sure, the man was alive and living in the same city, but he wanted nothing to do with raising his sons. So my mom raised us alone until she passed away when I was 9 years old. We moved in with my mom's sister and their mom after that--so, in other words, with my maternal aunt and grandmother who shared an apartment.

Mom, Grandma, lil brother and me (right).

Grandma and auntie raised us for the next 12 years or so until I graduated college and moved out on my own. All three women shaped me into the man I am today. They were my rock, my guidance, and my heart. They protected me when the world was fearful, sang to me when my heart was sad, and taught me life's stern lessons whenever I thought I had it all figured out. They also taught me that one does not need a father to make it through life, and that women are to be respected and praised for all the hard work and sacrifice they bring.

Pumpkin picking with Auntie, baby sis, lil bro, and me (right).

So I never cared that my father was not around -- but it would have been nice if he were. He never taught me how to be a man: how to carry myself, how to fight and stand up for myself like a man should. Never taught me how to drive, or dance, or tie a tie, or shave, or even how to fix a damn flat tire! I learned all these things on my own or from the women in my life. Needless to say, I have a low opinion of men. Yet, I strive all my life to make myself the kind of man I would have been proud to call my father when I was younger.

How fucked up is that? I was, in essence, my own father. But honestly, that role was filled by three others. And if they happened to be women, who cares? They were the best damn father a boy could ask for!

Happy Father's Day mommy, auntie, and gran'ma. I'm more of a man today through your love and support than I could have ever been learning from my real dad's example.

College grad with baby sis (left), Grandma, and Auntie.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Miss Crush 2013

Over the many years I've been writing this blog (since 2008, to be exact), every now and then I embarrass myself by posting who I'm currently crushing on in Hollywood or the music biz. So now it's that time to do it again for 2013. Yes, yes ... never mind the fact that we're only halfway through the year. Pesky details! I'm going to do it anyway, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

But before I do, a little refresher on all the Miss Crushes of years past. It's a high honor on the Bimillennial Man, don't you know?

Can You Hear Me Now?

You know, I know I'm going to take some flak for this, but I'll come out and just say it: I'm not all that disturbed by these recent NSA Prism revelations. Yes, I'm serious. I know, I know -- the U.S. government has been tapping into our mobile phone and e-mail content. Oh. Mah. Gurd!!!!



How is this news? I've always figured my conversations, emails, and Facebook doings were being monitored somehow, somewhere. This blog, too, in fact. It's probably all being filtered through some government data analyst's server farm buried deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. But do I think anyone cares about what I have to say or write? Hell no! I say: let them do all the snooping they want. Do you really think I'm dumb enough to put out there anything incriminating or of a threat to national security? Do I honestly believe anyone in the higher echelons of our cloak & dagger shadow government agencies actually cares about my Game of Thrones musings, or latest Facebook rant on men who carry around large shoulder bags?

Please, grow up! I don't exactly know why everyone's so surprised by these revelations. Or so afraid all of a sudden. Surely you couldn't have been that naive all these years, right?

Didn't think so.

Is it wrong that our privacy and basic liberties are being trampled upon? You damn right it is! And I'm mad as hell about that. Because if they can do this, then what's next? Don't answer that! It's scary as hell.

Look, ever since I first logged on to this here Interwebs of ours back in September of 1994 (when we were still using Mosaic for access, and the World Wide Web was in its infancy) I've done so with the express paranoia that some super AI or think tank out there would be eavesdropping, just waiting for certain keywords to pop up in all that digital noise and send the black helicopters out to pick me up in the middle of the night. So I just made sure I never put anything out there I wouldn't want my closest friends or family members finding out about. Plain and simple.

If, however, you're one of those pseudo anarchists who uses Facebook as a soapbox to rave about how badly you want the government to implode under an onslaught of a thousand terrorists' dirty bombs--well then, Jethro, you might want to keep you ears peeled for those super silent helicopter blades approaching your bunker.

I hear Guantanamo ain't so lovely this time of year.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Episode 30 Discussion: "Mhysa"

It is with heavy heart that we come to yet another close on an exciting season of Game of Thrones. *sigh* They go by so quickly! I can't believe I'll have to wait another 10 months to see this saga continue. What will I possibly watch in the meantime? I've soured almost completely on True Blood, which was always more Lisa's show. I'll still tune in, I'm sure, but I don't expect it to be much fun.

Anyway, so how did the season 3 finale fair? After last week's "Red Wedding," can any episode following it possibly compare?

The answer is, of course: no.

But you know what? While "Mhysa" may not have been the big bang season finale many have come to expect from this show, I thought it was one of the most fulfilling and well-constructed episodes ever. It's probably this book reader's most satisfying showing, in fact, because it felt like a lot of murky plotlines were aired out and clarified to those non initiates out there who might be having a difficult time understanding what the point of all this is. See, what everyone needs to keep in mind is that Season 3 only encompassed the first half of Book 3, A Storm of Swords. Next season will cover the rest of the novel and escalate quite a few of the different plots wavering around as of this latest airing.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Fry-ful Trip Into The Past

As I settle in to my new apartment, the one thing that still bugs me is coming home from work and having that new paint smell hit me in the face as I step through the front door. I officially moved in 2 weeks ago, but the smell still persists. It was cute in the beginning when the whole experience was new and exciting ... but something needed to be done. So I decided to break in my new kitchen by cooking as often as possible, in the hope that the various food aromas would replace that new paint smell and start making this place feel more like home to me. I grilled marinated chicken breasts one night, made bacon and eggs another morning, prepared a braised beef stew another time, and so on. Slowly I was starting to get this place smelling like normal, but wasn't quite there yet.

And then nostalgia hit. I might have mentioned it here on the blog once or twice, but I have virtually no connection to my Latin roots. My mother was Caucasian, and my father hailed from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Our father was never around growing up, although he lived in the same city and we would visit his family on occasion. So we were never indoctrinated into the traditional Dominican culture that thrives in northern Manhattan, the western South Bronx, and a large neighborhood in Queens. Our cultural cues came from our mother and, later, her mother and her sister. Which meant we grew up with fried chicken and apple pie, corn on the cob and potato salad (among many other staple Americana dishes). However, my mother did try to assimilate herself into the local Latin American culture here in New York. She spoke fluent Spanish as a second language, and her friends were all Latina. So occasionally she would prepare more traditional Latin-Caribbean dishes which her friends and mother-in-law taught her to make. Us kids hated it. We preferred our hamburgers and sloppy joes, thank you very much.

However, one particular Latin staple we did enjoy was fried green plantains. In Spanish-speaking Caribbean cultures, the dish is known as "tostones." In most Central and South American countries, they are called "patacones." But in my household we simply called them "platanos," regardless of how the plantains were being prepared. However, I do recall my sweet Dominican grandmother calling them "fritas verdes" on occasion. Tostones are typically twice-fried and served as a side dish. Although many people eat them as snacks or, even, as a full meal. I'm guilty of the latter, actually.

The thing is, it's been years since I've had tostones. Well over two decades, in fact! And I've never made them myself. All I had to go on were memories of standing in the kitchen as my mother cooked, which means I had to have been all of 7 or 8 years old at the time. Wow! Still, I'd seen it done often enough, and tostones are actually ridiculously simple to make. And luckily for me, I still live in a part of the city that's home to a pretty sizable Hispanic population. So plantains are more plentiful in the markets here than bananas. They are sold 10 for 1 dollar, in fact. Sometimes cheaper.

Suddenly thinking about my childhood, and about the different ways of making plantains--be they green or yellow (aka, "maduros")--I developed a huge craving for them. It was the weirdest thing, but my body immediately wanted some tostones in the worst way imaginable! So, I decided to give it a try. I thought it would be neat to travel back to my childhood and prepare a dish reminding me of home and my mother, and even my father's family. And as a bonus, perhaps banish some more of that new paint smell to boot!

I went to the supermarket this week and purchased myself all the necessary ingredients for making yummy tostones: plantains, corn oil (I usually only keep olive oil in the house), and a trusty tostonera--that ubiquitous hinged instrument of tostones making consisting of two wooden slabs for which to smash sliced pieces of plantain between. My mother just used a heavy pan with foil on the bottom to flatten each piece atop a cutting board, but I decided to get a little fancy with my bad self!

Since I'm only one person expecting leftovers to spare,
I figured 4 plantains were enough for the task.
With a knife, make a shallow slit lengthwise down the
plantain, then gently peel apart with your thumb.

Cut width-wise into 1- to 2-inch thick pieces.

Fry until darker yellow in pre-heated corn or vegetable oil
over medium heat. Turn over pieces for even frying.

Place on paper towels and pat dry the oil away.

Flatten each piece with a hard, flat surface. Or use a trusty
tostonera (pictured).

Slide flattened pieces back into the oil and fry on each side until
golden brown and crispy.

Place twice-fried pieces on new paper towels for drying, then
sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve immediately while still hot.

The end result was a little over-fried I admit, but still tasted exactly as I remembered them. Oh, the memories! Next time I'll fry them for a little less time. I couldn't think of what main dish to have alongside the tostones, though, so I ended up eating them alone. Was quite filling, in fact. And oh-so-delicious! I had around 11 pieces left over when all was said and done, so I wrapped them up in foil and placed them in the refrigerator for another day. They're best served piping hot and straight out of the pan, but I'll reheat them in the oven at 350 degrees F and they should be fine. I hope. *gulp*

Oh, and the house smells a little less painty and more like corn oil and plantains now, which is quite the improvement I say.

Anyway, have you had tostones, or patacones, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods? You might want to give this recipe a try if you're curious otherwise. And as usual, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Episode 29 Discussion: "The Rains Of Castamere"

Hoo boy!

This one was a doozy. It's the episode I've been dreading ever since day one of this show's airing. It's the point when, in the books, I almost gave up reading the whole damn series. And even more than a decade later, I still get uneasy thinking about what happened. To be honest, it's probably also why I haven't re-read these books in all this time. Some things are just too traumatic to live through again, even if it is all just fiction. And fantasy fiction at that!

But before we get to all of that, some quick thoughts on what transpired before the Lannisters--as they are wont to do--paid their debts back to Robb Stark and Company:

I absolutely loved Bran "warg"-ing into Hodor to shut the big oaf up, and then into his direwolf, Summer, to come to the rescue of Jon Snow. Fantastic! And it's about damn time they made it clear to those non-book readers just what the hell is up with Bran and his wolf dreams. Yes, like Orell the Wildling, Bran can also project his mind into animals. But unlike Orell or any other warg beyond the Wall, Bran can also project into a human being's mind as well. Uh, I don't recall this being an impossibility for other wargs in the books. As I recall, it is difficult to do, but not impossible. It's just something that most wargs know not to do, because the practice has some potentially horrendous risks.

Rickon Stark's parting was well overdue, and yet wonderfully acted. That scene almost made me cry. I don't know about Osha taking him to Last Hearth---home of Jon Umber, aka "The Greatjon". That particular detail was different in the book. But I think the end results will be the same. Rickon doesn't get a whole lot of mention in the book series, which is a shame.

The excursion into Yunkai by perhaps the most kick-ass variation of the Three Stooges ever was a big highlight of this episode. Not only was the action edge-of-your-seat worthy, but the choreography was superb! I loved watching Daario and Ser Jorah lay waste to wave after wave of guards coming at them, but the best was Grey Worm. Oh man, this guy was AMAZING! He truly made the Unsullied proud on that night. You know, for a group of ball-less wonders, they actually do live up to their fearsome reputations, eh?

I'm really enjoying how well the Arya and Hound scenes are being portrayed. Very, very close to the books for now. And while Sandor Clegane does have a point about the young lass needing to grow a pair if she is to survive in this harsh world, Arya was quick to demonstrate why she's not the shrinking violet her sister was. Knocking out that poor pork peddler a second time seriously impressed the Hound. And when the right time came, he conked her on the head in kind so as to perhaps save her from the fate her oldest brother was having dished out to him at the Twins.

Speaking of which ...

"The Lannisters send their regards."

*sigh* It is with such heavy heart that I had to sit through this scene. The entire episode my stomach was turning into knots, knowing what was to come. I kept checking the clock to see how much of the episode was still left, because I just knew they were going to save it for the very end before the credits roll. But when the melody to that now infamous Lannister song, "The Rains of Castamere," finally started to play in the banquet hall, I was a nervous mess! Which is strange since I knew damn well what was about to transpire. And yet ...

Anyway, I won't rehash the whole ordeal. If you saw it, you know what happened. And you also know how depressing it was. Oh, and Lord Roose Bolton is an asshole! As is Lord Frey, but that comes as no surprise.

However, since I'm not a mind reader, I would like to read your thoughts in the comments below. After all, this is why the post is called a "discussion."

So, go on. Discuss! How did this episode hit ya? Square in the nuts, or be ye cold and merciless like the Unsullied? The comments section is also the place to ask all your questions, and I will do my best to answer them. This is a very pivotal moment in the entire series, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of my readers have a lot to get off their chests.

Have at it, then!

P.S. -- Here's a consolation video the folks over at The Second City put together for those book readers and show watchers alike who may have just come to the disturbing realization that George R. R. Martin is one sick and cruel bastard!

They're equal parts wrong and right. But I won't tell you which is which. I can be cruel too, see? Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! (Don't worry, there really are no spoilers if you've watched the show up to last night's episode.)

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...