Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Thanks to the Saint for hosting a delightful midsummer BC.  Wine, cheese and charcuterie alfresco (nice work, Doctor, for rescuing us on that one!), followed by chicken Marbella and roasted brussel sprouts, and--was it fruit cobbler?--topped with ice cream for dessert.  Lish!

Chicken, prunes, olives and capers... who would have thought?

Let's get right down to it, since Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken was one of the top scorers for the year, and certainly up there in BC history overall.

This book was praised across the board, as evidenced by a whopping 8.9.  (Allow El Jefe a huge non sequiter right here:  on Wednesday can we please rate Michael Phelps?  As I'm typing, he's taken the lead in the 200M fly semifinals, OK, now he's won it.  Separate scores for face, body and personality.)  But yes, Unbroken was a big hit, not to mention timely given the lead-in to the Olympics.  Even those of us who normally don't like to read non-fiction found something good in this book.  Logan's Run commented that she felt a particular connection, having had family members in the military.  Ms. K. found the story to be an amazing testament to the human spirit.  And Red thought the author's description of Louie's 47 days stranded at sea on a raft was beautiful and compelling.  And the raft was just the beginning.  How many times in reading this book did you wonder how it was possible for one man to endure so much hardship?  If the author hadn't included 50 pages of research footnotes in 6-point font, the book would be completely impossible to believe.  (The Chinese men's gymnastics team is currently kicking ass on the pommel horse. Talk about hard to believe--is the human body really made to do that?!)

From narrowly escaping drowning in a plane crash, to having the single piece of chocolate on a life raft with three men stolen from under his nose, to somehow avoiding being shot to pieces by strafing from enemy aircraft, to drinking albatross blood, to fending off sharks with his bare hands, to... wait, sorry?  Oh right, all that happened before Louis got put in a Japanese POW camp and was terrorized within an inch of his life by a maniacal perverted sadist known as The Bird, and suffered what seemed to be about two straight years of diarrhea among other countless incidents of physical and mental torture. (Whoa! The Brits just won the silver in men's gymnastics.  El Jefe didn't even know they competed in that event!)

As if the plot needed more, it was all underpinned by the story of Louie's incredible athletic potential and the heartbreak of his being robbed of the opportunity to fulfil his life's dream--competing in the Olympics. (In a bizarre prallel, the judges just reconsidered the pommel horse score for Japan and gave them extra points--kind of like when the Doctor grade inflates!--demoting Great Britain to bronze and knocking Ukraine out of the running.)

Not only was Louie's own story amazing, but the author also opened our eyes to the conditions faced by thousands of World War II veterans once they returned home--alcoholism, PTSD (undiagnosed at the time), poverty, inability to connect with family and friends.  To be fair, there were some critiques of Unbroken as well.  One telling comment was that in spite of the amazing story material, a certain emotional component was lacking.  The reader didn't feel as if she herself was experiencing the saga with Louie, and in fact didn't shed a tear.  Actually, that was the only negative comment that El Jefe remembers. A great book and a great discussion. Nothing like some light summer reading.

Made in China?  So what?  Ador!

Ryan Lochte, now that's lishy.

But the American flag grillz?

Not lishy after all.

Missy Franklin, 100M backstroke

Guessing she's not competing in swimming.

Eternally lishy

Our next meeting is Wednesday (yes, that's tomorrow) at Ms. K's house.  El Jefe's on apps, the Foxx is on dessert.  Looking forward to talking about Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, and, don't forget your List o' Death suggestions so we can pick some new books!  xoej

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Already Dead

Already Dead.  What foresight the author had!  His title aptly describes the level of discussion that ensued from our June book pick.  The upside is, the book gets a score of 8 by default, since El Jefe was the only one who read enough to vote, let alone finish.  For what it's worth, El Jefe loved this noir-to-the-core novel with a crazy cast of offbeat characters--pot growers, spiritualists, Buddhist monks, and deadbeat policemen-- set along California's far north coast.  On the other hand (and here, El Jefe had to resort to Amazon just to get a counterpoint opinion!), "It's extremely long, meandering and often losing the thread of the plot; disturbed by meaningless shifts in the method of narration (from first to third person to retrospective documents), marred by far too much stream-of-consciousness rambling, such as a series of letters written by a lunatic which hold no interest at all."  Amen.

For anyone who noticed the format change, it's because there was simply no book discussion, so might as well dispense with it up front!  There was, however, plenty of enjoyment to be had otherwise at our little summer BC retreat, held in Cabana 173 down at the Bel Air Bay Club.

#173 is slightly north of this view

How many people in the world have the chance to relax at a cozy beach retreat, spending a weekday night with good friends, lots of wine, discussing books (or not) while the sun sets and the waves crash against the shore not 10 feet away?  Only nine people!!  How lucky can we get?  Pretty amazing.  We noshed on the Contessa's roasted eggplant and red pepper tapenade, always a winner, followed by a cheese and charcuterie platter and Feast from the East Chinese chicken salad (yes, yes, a bit of a mixed bag, but hey, no cooking facilities), and for dessert birthday cupcakes in honor of El Jefe and Logan's Run.  Delish!

We also just had to do a little beachside shopping... some of El Jefe's faves from Janna Conner Designs:

Gold wrapped smokey druzy briolette on an antique gold plated chain.
Gold wrapped cobalt quartz and turquoise.

Yellow gold starburst with diamond.

Our next meeting is at The Saint's house, on Wednesday July 11.  The Highlander is on apps and we need a dessert volunteer.  Surely most of you are nearly finished with our book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, and ready to start on the August book, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  We need great picks for the fall, so bring your LOD suggestions to the meeting!  Until next time, Read Early and Often! xoej