6 gems to try : 2 movies, 2 book and 2 dishes

Read this blog post and you will get 6 good tips that I guarantee will enhance the quality and texture of 2014 for you. Two will take some time (open book, read), 2 will take little time (click on movie file, watch) and 2 will take no time at all (open mouth, insert)

Some quick background exposition first: In January, among the goals I had set out for myself this year, two are worth mentioning for the purposes of this essay.

1# See 100 movies by year end

2# Read 36 books by year end

So far, thanks to the travel that has been the one defining standout feature of this unforgettable year, it has been very difficult to carve out the uninterrupted time blocks necessary to purse these above 2 demanding goals as piously as I would have wanted to. Alas, so far, 2/3 of the year is over and I have only finished 1/3rd of the first goal and only half of the second.  But in pursuing such goals you understand what the wise meant when they reminded us that “The journey is the reward”.

A few of the books I read this year have been a tad disappointing. None of the movies though. This is because there are such good universal filters on the latter (movies). More people engage with movies than with books and so more reviews and feedback is available, Goodreads notwithstanding.

From the 18 books I have managed to read I am going to recommend 2 that are really worth your time.

From the 35 movies I have managed to see I am going to recommend 2 that are outright genius works of art from 24 carat auteurs.

From the many many many interesting dishes I have eaten with great relish this year, I am going to recommend 2 that I think you should seek out and ingest.

At the end of the year I will review books and movies  like I always do but I cannot wait to share these 6 gems NOW versus December.  I promise to keep my gushing succinct. You are busy. We know. (We all are by the way. It is not a boast. Re-examine your priorities when you are unbusy next)…anyhoo….


2 Movies you just should see immediately:


2 Books you just should read as soon as possible:

  1. The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty by G.J. Meyer
  2. The Whisperers by Orlando Figes

2 dishes you should try:

  1. Pho
  2. Pintxos

Reasons for endorsing these 6 gems :


THE ACT OF KILLING – This stunning documentary, unlike anything I have ever seen before it, is about the Indonesian killings of 1965–66. It is soooooo surreal you will be in a daze for days afterwards. It has some scenes that make you really really examine what being a human being and having empathy really IS and is NOT. Something we may have forgotten living our busy lives in the cities we are parked in.


INCENDIES – This is a 2010 Canadian mystery drama film. It follows the journey of twin brother and sister as they attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother’s life, the woman who brought them into the world, discovering a tragic fate as well as the courage of an exceptional woman. In 2011, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It did not win. It should have.


The Tudors : This book is a gripping, totally absorbing read about the Tudor era. 2 kings and 2 queens who influenced much of England and European history and showed just how crazy, random, callous and plain unbelievably brutal the late late medieval age was. A fantastic way to understand the period, the Christian schism, England and Europe. THE most interesting book I have read so far this year.


The Whisperers – This deeply moving and very depressing book I have reviewed separately, in a post. Drawing on a huge range of sources – letters, memoirs, conversations – Orlando Figes tells the story of how Russians tried to endure life under Stalin. It is a very good tome for understanding Russia, the early 19th century political dynamics and how just how banal, rotten and evil communism really was.

Now for the delicious parts of this essay : Two signature dishes you need to eat more of, whenever the opportunity presents itself, be it in the city you live in or when you travel next.


Pintxos – A pincho is a small snack, typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country. They are usually relished as a small snack while hanging out with friends. Or in my case with my lovely wife, in San Sebastian. Real Basque country. Served in cute individual portions, they’re called pinchos because many of them have a pincho (Spanish word for spike), typically a toothpick through them. We were in SanSab and we ONLY ever ate Pintxos for lunch and dinner. Every day!


Pho – This is a Vietnamese origin aromatic, nutritious and delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please. Usually the meat in it is beef or chicken. I personally recommend thinly sliced beef strips if they give you a choice. Pho is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world so you can get it in most cities. I was bored enough and intrigued enough to go to EVERY Vietnamese restaurant in Madrid, where I am based for a while now, and eating their signature Pho. NOT A SINGLE ONE was regrettable. So your odds are good wherever you are when you try this. This is difficult to mess up as a dish. And damn delicious to boot.

So there it is. 6 things you will not regret if you make the time for them.



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