Marathons and Growth 

First entering the world of Christianity can be confusing and intimidating. Who knew that there were so many flavors and nuances. You can encounter seemingly conflicting theologians ranging from faith that every single word from beginning to end is the literal and immutable Word of God. Others have denied the basics of the Christian tradition in order to modernize and make relevant what they may see as a creaky old structure. Still others have settled on an Old Testament view that disallows forgiveness while focusing on God’s Wrath. 

I am of the Reformed Presbyterian school of belief and further define myself a Paulist, placing importance on his letters to various churches. The main story through the Gospels and Paul’s Marathon  is, of course, the salvation of the Cross and the eternal life in Jesus and the Father, and the Holy Spirit. 

Paul explained to his followers that the life of placing yourself in the hands of the Trinity would not be the most comfortable or safest place in terms of worldly comfort. Rather, he explained that hard times and rejection by the world were very likely. He also explained that our part should be approached with the attitude of the athlete, training, building stamina and competing with absolute conviction of victory. He likened the Christian life to a race, a marathon, and where speed may be less important than staying power. Somewhat like a runner who feels his reserves lacking, pushing on through the wall of resistance is the path to victory and a race well run


Doctor Strange is True Blue 

Just returned from seeing the magnificent film depiction of one of my longtime favorites, Doctor Strange! I and great many others have longed for a truly fine version of this guy’s story . I was entranced by this thing when it hit print about 1963 or 1964.That was a pivotal time for my comics reading; having found both Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, along with Sgt  Fury and the Howling Commandos, my days as a DC comics guy were largely over . Oh, I kept an eye on Batman and Sgt. Rock , probably why I was so happy to be a three-striper with no ambition to be any more than that . 

Marvel had a style that simply spoke to us. Their characters bicker ed, made wisecracks while fighting, didn’t feel so good sometimes, and had spiffier Duds, as well. Then, we saw Stephen Strange with that swirling red cloak and those finger contortions when he cast a spell! Hey , some of us practiced our versions of the spell-hands so we could at least look like the Doctor. Comics in general didn’t suit well with our Southern Baptist mothers and now here was a guy who was “messin’ with the devil”! 

But the film takes a few liberties with the canon, most notably with the Ancient One being female instead of the wizened Oriental dude. I am speculating here that the change was made to introduce some diversity, as well as Mordo being black. Also, the character of Wong is elevated from servant to equal,  even superior. No big deal. Sometimes it’s hard for us long -time fans of the various superheroes to accept any changes to our favorites . I have a friend who is adamant that Nick Fury has no business being portrayed as African American even though he is black . Kind of set me back to hear that from him . Others are upset over wardrobe choices, but the director of the X-Men said in an interview that purple and yellow spandex doesn’t translate to the screen as well as dark leather. 

One thing that is spectacularly well done is the alternate dimensions where  Strange confronts Dormammu (chief evil deity). Steve Ditko’s influence is on film view. The tangled, looping elements bring just the right note of psychedelia and weirdness. Altogether satisfying, this could be the best of the Marvel films, yet. 

My Favorite Voice

This is an instrument that truly turns me on. I don’t play, but I have been captivated by the clear clarion call of the trumpet. As a child, I remember such classics as “Ring of Fire” and “This Magic Moment” with their ringing trumpets sending athrill down my spine. Then, along camtrumpete Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, and I could luxuriate in the brass tones.

When I discovered “real” jazz, it was Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, and I was sold on jazz for life. All of the trumpet players appeal to me, now, I especially the older recordings of Clark Terry and Louis Armstrong. Chris Botti and Sean jones rock me, as well. And, while other voices are appealing to a greater or lesser degree – bass hits me on a more primitive level – it is still the trumpet that sends me into flights of fanyasy,

Good Eats in Columbia

20160307_165212A recent visit to the Kraken Gastropub on Rosewood was a fortunate find. The restaurant is located in the bottom of a older building on Rosewood Drive. It uses a rear entrance with very adequate parking. We visited at around 4:00 PM only to find that the grill would not open until 5:00 PM. While this seemed odd, and my initial reaction was to leave, our waitress quickly offered a cold plate to engage us until the grill was ready. Reluctantly, we accepted the offer of a hummus plate and soon was glad of making that choice. The Kraken offers a lengthy list of beer, we chose a tripel called Golden Monkey with an ABV of 9.5%, strong, but good smooth taste. The decor is dark with bare brick walls, wooden floors, and a variety of wall decorations. Greeting you as you enter is a sculpture of a kraken tentacle which also serves as place to keep utensils and menus.

The ambiance and attitude suggested by this decor was further enhanced by an eclectic array of music played over the sound system. The music ran from swing through blues and jazz, folk and straight ahead rock; reminded us of being in Asheville, a favorite for us because of this very type of atmosphere. We later found out that the owner puts the music list together, and kudos for that good taste! We sat at the table of our choice because of our early arrival, initially being the only customers. Our cold plate of hummus arrived and was a sight to behold; three generous scoops of hummus, one from chickpeas, one from black beans, and one from butter beans. Butter beans! We’d never heard of using the “home bean” for such a tasty option. And tasty they all three were, seasoned to a nice slow after burn, a creamy consistency, and paired with pita chips and bread, both toasted also carrying a spicy flavor.  People began arriving as we scanned the menu and settled upon Pulled Duck Confit Sliders with white truffle oil fries for myself while my partner chose the Lamb Sliders with truffle oil fries as well. We had been told that truffle fries were tasty, but we had to gather some information to understand.

Truffles, briefly, are a type of mushroom that grows underground around tree roots. More common in Europe, there is a growing business in Oregon. They are highly valued for the flavor they add to foods. Truffles are also the most expensive food in the world because supply falls far short of demand. To help combat that situation, truffle oil was developed. Some are natural, pressed from truffles (the truffles are still used, not wasted) and there is a synthetic version using the chemical profile of truffle oil and mixing in with some olive oil. That is where the “controversy” sets in with some chefs making use of the newer synthetic while other chefs grouse that it isn’t a food, but rather, an abomination. We did not inquire which was used on the fries, and we can only report that they were delicious. The hand-cut potatoes were also garnished with Parmesan cheese shreds.

Confit is meat cooked in its own fat. This method was developed in Gascony, France during the Medieval years as a way of preserving cooked meat, especially duck. At the time, refrigerators were rather scarce; yet to be invented type of scarce. Done properly, the meat could be preserved for several weeks if not consumed immediately. In use today, this type of food preparation can be done at home with relative ease, and produces tender meat with huge flavor.

Our meals arrived hot and within a reasonable length of time. The sliders were each finished with a srirachi cole slaw providing an extra bite to the meats that was altogether agreeable. The truffle fries, as mentioned, were a great accompaniment to the little sandwiches. After this, we decided to try the two dessert items offered that day, Shannon’s Bread Pudding and the Donuts with Srirachi Peanut Sauce. We received a generous portion of the pudding that was soft without being too starchy or gummy, and the sauce covering it was smooth and light. The donuts were warm and soft with peanut sauce spooned over them and giving the bread a nice peanut flavor with a little kick.

The Kraken Gastropub is highly recommended and we have more visits in store for the rest of the menu.