Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Songs Of Yesteryear

Black Velvet 

Think back in time to a hot August night, when one song seemed to dominate the airwaves. Every time you turned on the radio, the song played in heavy rotation. Whether you went to a shopping mall, ate dinner at a restaurant or met friends at a favorite watering hole, you heard the song. It played so much, the song triggers your memories of the day and how you spent the summer. Perhaps you grew up with classic rock radio, so the song could be from any decade. Or, the song you heard time and again could be off a CD or cassette that a relative or friend played endlessly in the car while on a road trip with you as their hostage ... um passenger. 

Here are a few flashbacks to get the discussion going. (Songs not uploaded, have links; just click to play them.)

1. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor - will always remind me of being let loose in Washington, DC and exploring all that DC, Georgetown and the surrounding area have to offer: art, music, history and amazing food with adventurous, fun-loving partners-in-crime. It was my first trip to Washington, DC. Not that I'm a lush now, but I didn't drink then.

2. Black Velvet (top video) - Alannah Myles - a gorgeous, bluesy tune from a Canadian singer-songwriter with a smokin' voice. Reminds me of weekends spent in Manhattan's East Village over a summer.

3. The Final Countdown - Europe - Bender put the song on a list of "Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever," and I agree. Eurotrash, perhaps? Plus, over the top fun! Another summer with friends checking out the downtown club scene.

4. Superstition - Stevie Wonder - M-o-t-o-w-n, enough said. Last summer (2013) Stevie performed it in Central Park. Envision a dark night, the park lights, a cool breeze ... and families dancing to the beat on the Great Lawn.


5. Magic Man - Heart - I heard Ann and Nancy Wilson sing this for the first time on FM radio in my parents' living room (where I spent many hours over a summer break). And, I took note: Girls sounding heavy metal! They were captivating. Decades later, they were asked to perform Stairway Way To Heaven for Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center Honors (2012). Imagine the pressure to sing such a signiture song! Ann's voice has gotten deeper (as has Robert Plant's), but with her power cords, Jason Bonham's drums, a killer guitarist and two backing choirs, she pulls it off to great excitement!

6. Walk Like An Egyptian - The Bangles - Bless classic rock radio where 80s songs never die.


7. The Weight - The Band - My Dad introduced me to The Band, a blend of rock, country and blues. I wonder what summer memories the song held for him? In this Martin Scorsese directed rendition, the Staple Family interject gospel and soul.

8. Space Oddity - David Bowie - My cousin was obsessed with David Bowie (because um ... boys); consequently, I heard this song a lot over a summer. To this day, my Coz is a huge Bowie fan. So I believe his children also know it, note-for-note.

9. Ghostbusters - Ray Parker, Jr. - Remember the movie and later its sequel? The song was popular all summer long. The films are still delightful to watch:

Bill Murray : "R-a-y ... what did you do?"

Harold Ramis: "LOOOK!"

Dan Aykroyd: "It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!"

STUMP, STUMP, STUMP ...

10. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson - I worked at MTV for awhile, and at every big company party I attended, you could always count on two things: 1) hearing this song and; 2) being served all the sushi you could eat. The song also reminds me of those summer breaks spent listening to FM radio in my parents' living room.

11. Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye (featuring Kimbra) - An indie pop ballad that's been going strong for several summers. The mega hit continues to play on the radio, in stores and at parties.


12. Counting Stars - One Republic - Catchy tune from the band's 2010 album. I'm hearing it plenty this summer. I love when a man sings a few hit notes. [The best example of a true falsetto is A-Hah's classic, Take On MeA listener waits for that high note. By the way, isn't A-Hah a chiseled-cheekbone-blessed band?]

When compiling song lists, you inevitably leave off so many possibilities ... like huge hits from the catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and rock and roll greats. Each could comprise a solo list. Lynyrd Skynard's Freebird is another candidate.

But, now it's your turn: Name a song that defined your summer?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Door-To-Door Salesmen ... Nearly All Men

Photo: Tim Bradley (Getty Images)
When I was a child about ten years old, or younger (not so much later on) we had vendors who came to the house to sell their goods. We got to know our egg mana farmer with grey hair and glasses, who owned land outside the city limits. He sold us eggs for several years, and if he came at the right time, sometimes had a cup coffee or a bite of lunch with us. Sadly, he died in a farm accident. His tractor flipped over as he plowed his fields, crushing him. I was a sensitive city child, so the news haunted me. Still does!

Another hard working farmer, who's name I never knew, didn't actually go door-to-door, he walked the neighborhood, shouting, "Strawberries, strawberries, strawberry man!"

Joe was our potato chip man. Mentally slow, he was friendly, a gentle soul with lovely manners. When we answered our front door even on the hottest day, he was dressed in a suit and tie and said, "Hello, Mrs. (or Mr.) Turner, it's the potato chip man." We offered him cold drinks in the summer. Joe lived in a men's rooming house and supplemented a modest retirement check (of some kind?) by visiting our block once a week ... always on foot, carrying shopping bags full of potato chips. When I think about him, it's with great admiration.

We also had a Fuller Brush manwho went door-to-door, selling household cleaning products, as well as, the tools needed to get rid of grime. And just like in so many American communities, we had an Avon lady. Mrs. McBay.

There are baby pictures of my cousins and I ... because one afternoon my Aunt Ursula, while at home minding us, got a knock on the door from a door-to-door family photographer. He spent the next hour, or so in her living room setting up lights and snapping pictures of us, together and separately. (We were 18 mos, 3 years and 5 years old.) Wow, can you imagine! It was a more innocent era.

All these people were so darn nice, you didn't have the heart to turn them away, so we tried to help them out by using their services, when we could.

What a blessing to live in such a safe world back in the day. Fortunately, these small-time entrepreneurs were, indeed, nice people, most with families to support, who were just trying to make an honest living. Ordinary, dignified, hard workers from bygone days. The neighborhood was kind to them, and they were kind to the neighborhood.

Times change. You don't have to be a sociologist to know nobody could be a door-to-door sales person in the same way today. With good reason, we don't trust people we barely know, and often they don't become part of the milieu of a neighborhood. Too often, good will, doesn't run both ways. But once upon a time, in my old neighborhood, it did.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Smokeless LotusGrill For Healthy Grilling

Many people enjoy an outdoor summer barbecue, but are worried about the cancer risks of eating hydrocarbons, which are chemicals that form on meat (beef, pork, chicken, as well as, on fish) when it is grilled over an open flame. As fat from the meat drips into the open fire, it forms hydrocarbons (PAHs for short). PAHs then rise with the fire to engulf and stick on the surface of the meat.

The portable LotusGrill is designed to fix the problem of chemicals forming and then returning to the meat as it cooks. 

Here's how: The LotusGrill confines charcoal to a covered inside chamber. Grease drips into an inner bowl, but avoids the charcoal, thereby no flames are produced. The result is healthy grilled meat minus the cancer causing hydrocarbons.

At $250, it's pricy, but a no-brainer if you are in the habit of barbecuing. Healthy grilled meat every time. It is better to pay the piper than the Grim Reaper.

Personally, I eat side salads, a variety of fruits and vegetables and many meatless meals. I make a real effort to plan nutrious meatless dinners. However, I haven't been able to give up meat entirely. Nothing satisfies my hearty appetite like a big juicy steak, sirlon burger or pork chops. With potatoes they are stick-to-your-ribs delicious!

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Trendy Body Chains ... And An Everly Brothers Tribute


Oh, look what's trending now. Just as I'm wearing less jewelry, models and A-listers are sporting more. According to TotalBeauty.com, body chains are being spotted on high fashion runways, plus celebs are sunbathing decked out in chains on the world's most exclusive beaches. Really?

I like the look, sort of, but probably won't follow it, because I don't want to get all tangled up in hardware. Common sense points to the possibility that dressing could get complicated. There's a reason I don't commit crimes. With chains criss-crossing my torso, I might feel like a prisoner.

My favorite (of the above examples) is the chain dangling off the heels. Hmm, I wonder if it makes an annoying sound as you walk? There's a reason jails put heavy metal on an inmate's feet when he leaves his cell. I'd rather not announce I'm walking across the floor. But who knows, maybe that's one of the effects a chain fashionista desires?: "Here I come world!"

A dazzling look for the rich and famous, but how practical for main street? Are you the type of gal or guy who will try a body chain? If so, what do you like about the trend?

Meanwhile ... enjoy a catchy tune about chains from our favorite duo. 

Some exciting news: A special tribute concert for the Everly Brothers will take place on October 25th at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. According to the Associated Press, the list of performers are being finalized, and Don Everly will come out of retirement to make an appearance. (Thank you, Angie for the article!!!)

video

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Shredded Brussels Sprout Becames Shredded Cabbage Salad

Photo: What's Gabby Cooking
Summers are for light, easy fare. Doesn't this shredded brussels sprout salad look mouthwatering? I love avocados and different textures in a dish. The recipe was created by "What's Gabby Cooking." It came to me via Facebook. However, I have simplified a step by substituting a 14 oz bag of classic coleslaw for the shredded brussels sprout. Frankly, I wouldn't have the patience to shred little heads of brussels sprout. Tedious! Cabbage and brussels sprout are in the same family and have the same crunch and health benefits (namely vitamin C and fiber). A bag of shredded cabbage is inexpensive.

Here's my tweaked-lazy-chef recipe:

For the salad

Ingredients:
14 oz bag coleslaw
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 ripe avocado, cubed
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

For The Lemon Vinaigrette dressing

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Dump the salad ingredients into a big serving bowl.
2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle on the salad. Toss. Labor free!

I might substitute different vinegars in place of lemon juice occasionally. I can also see adding a can of beans, or cubed soy for more protein, depending on the rest of your dinner. Leftovers become a healthy snack you keep in the refrigerator. 

Finally, here's a link to watch Gabby making her salad her way. All versions, delish! (More salad here.)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gorgeous Sunglasses At Old Navy

Often I'm pleasantly surprised by the cute clothes and accessories available at Old Navy. This summer I'm wearing three of Old Navy's adorable, cotton dresses. Each is machine washable and $15 on sale. Look for a promotion. They run frequently.

Another find is a soft cotton scarf, which I like to fold up to carry in a purse, then pull it out to use as a shawl in order to protect my bare arms and shoulders from the damaging heat of the sun, or Arctic cold of an air conditioner. I paid $9 for my pretty textured-and-smooth scarf, then walked across the street to see a similar Eileen Fisher scarf selling for $138. There wasn't a significant, deal-breaker-difference in quality. The comparison was a real eye-opener. Perhaps, that's when I became an Old Navy fan.

In addition to the summer dresses, I bought active wear yoga pants, leggings and just this weekend, a gorgeous pair of sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. The price points are always fabulously cheap. Using a 20% store wide discount, I paid about $12. What a steal! They are light-weight, sturdy, an excellent fit and ultra stylish. Already, I've gotten compliments!

At Saks Fifth Avenue, I tried on a pair of Chanel sunglasses. The cost? A cool $550. I didn't buy 'em, but let me tell you, I looked gooood in those shades! These Old Navy sunglasses remind me of the Chanel style. (They also remind me of Tom Ford's current sunglasses.) Unlike the scarves comparison, the Old Navy sunglasses don't quite measure up to Chanel, but they are durable and look expensive. The O.N. store selection is huge. 

Everyone is different. Personally, when I think of where to splurge, it isn't going to be on sunglasses. A sharp kitchen knife, bed pillows, comfortable shoes, an education ... yes, yes, yes and yes. Travel ... maybe. Sunglasses, no. However, never buy a pair without sun protection for your eyes.

For the price, you can splurge by buying a few pairs from Old Navy. If you break or leave them in a restaurant, it will hurt less. Plus, you can change your sunglasses like you change shoes and outfits. It's well worth a trip and a browse.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Commemorating The 4th Of July

After five years along the Hudson, Macy's fireworks are returning to the East River this year. Manhattan's east siders will be happy to have the view. The fireworks do, indeed, illuminate the sky and reflect off the water just like in this photo.

How extra nice when the 4th of July falls on a Friday, making it a festive and relaxing 3-day holiday.


A slice of ice cream cake is especially appetizing on a hot summer night. (Recipe here, though why not just use quarts of ice cream?)

Truthfully, I favor dramas, however my favorite musical of all time is about the birth of our nation. Also, I rarely view plays or films over and over. There are too many new ones to see, but I can watch this one every year. Below is a favorite scene from the movie. I enjoy the humor, the four actors who play John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock; and I love the moving freeze-frame ending of the film, where the Founding Fathers dissolve into history. A real painting of the scene hangs in the U.S. Capitol. As a congressional intern, I often walked over to look at it. (Not the exact, but a similar painting.)



Enjoy Independence Day. Let freedom ring, not just here in America ... but all over the world. What a privilege (and responsibility), it is to live in a free, democratic society. For one thing, I can say anything I want on here and with the tap of a key ... publish it. So watch your P's & Q's, readers. :) Long live the USA!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

What A Lovely Zebra Cake

Photo and recipe created by Cookies, Cakes and Carbs. Video here.
My family celebrates a lot of summer birthdays. We either buy torte cakes from a good European bakery, or make cakes, using real vanilla, dark chocolate and nuts. We try to eat cakes worth their calories. This year I'm making a zebra cake. Doesn't it look devine? 

For your benefit, I will type the recipe below, as well as, link it to its original source. Tweaks: To my cake batter, I will add ¼ cup of very finely ground, toasted walnuts ... and to the black batter ONLY ... a little ground dark chocolate and instant coffee. Reportedly, you can't substitute butter for vegetable oil in the cake batter, or you won't get the zebra design. So don't do it! Butter makes the batter too thick for the design to take effect.

Zebra Cake

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I use ½ cup less.)
¾ cups vegetable oil (I use a light olive oil.)
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use more.)
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk
white, pink, and black gel food coloring
vanilla butter cream frosting (see below)
black fondant
pink butter cream
Wilton tip 1A

Optional: dark chocolate and instant coffee 

Directions: 

(Preheat the oven to 350F.)
1. In a mixing bow, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder.  

2. One at a time, add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes, or until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. [Here's where I add ¼ cup of nuts.]

3. Divide the batter into three separate bowls, with one bowl having half of the batter and the other two having a quarter each.

4. Color the large bowl with white color gel, and the two smaller bowls with black and pink color gels, respectively.  Mix the coloring thoroughly until no light streaks remain.  [I add dark chocolate and instant coffee to the black batter.]

5. Grease two 8 inch pans.  

6. Place four tablespoons of white batter into the center of each pan.  Then, directly into the middle of the white batter, place two tablespoons of black batter.  Directly into the center of the black batter, place two tablespoons of pink batter.  Repeat white/black/pink batter additions until all the batter is used up, or the pans are ⅔ full.  

7. Place the cake pans into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  

8. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, remove from the pan, and cool completely on a wire wrack.

9. Once the cake is cool, level, stack and cover in white butter cream.

10. To cut the fondant pieces, roll fondant out very thinly and using a rolling cutter (pizza or pastry) slice long, narrow stripes and arrange on the white cake as desired.  

11. To finish the cake off, using the pink butter cream with Wilton 1A tip, pipe a small beaded border along the bottom of the cake.

Personally, I will make butter cream frosting, myself (easy), but buy the fondant for the zebra stripes (too time consuming!). Sometimes I make whipped cream frosting. It's not as sweet. Lastly, a few strategically placed fresh stawberries are a lovely garnish. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shea Moisture Beauty For Everybody

In 1912 Sofi Tucker began selling her homemade skin and hair preparations at the village market in Sierre Leone, West Africa to support her family. Although her lotions, shave cream, shampoos and conditioners are marketed for people of color, one glance at the certified organic ingredients, which include raw shea butter, chamomile, neem oil and silk protein (see the complete list here) suggests they are good for all of us. I am eager to try the skin care line, which is formulated to soothe dry, sensitive skin. I've never had a problem using products created for sensitive skin or dry hair even though I don't have either. "Gentle" and "natural" are good!

The products contain no harmful paragons, phthalates, paraffin, formaldehyde, propylene glycol, mineral oil, petrolatum, artificial color or DEA.

Certainly, Shea Moisture has stood the test of time. For the most part, skin is skin and hair is hair. Why wouldn't the cleansers and healing moisturizers be beneficial for everybody? I plan to find out. The body lotions, shampoos and conditioners smell terrific! Top-notch ingredients sold at reasonable prices. It pays to think outside of the box. Available online, as well as, at Target and Walgreens. These products are the corner drugstore's best kept secret ... until now.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Get Your Ear Jackets On, Sister

If the title didn't give it away, would you know what these items were? Ultra trendy jewelry, that's what. 

Nowadays they are prominently featured on red carpets and high fashion runways. They are also popular with hipters on Madison Avenue and Main Street. Called ear jackets (or cuffs), they come in many styles and price points. It's like an extented earring ... metal and stones that often spike and contour the full length of an ear.







Fun, right? Saves you the trouble (and pain!) of mulitple ear piercings. (As you go up the length of an ear, piercings get increasingly painful.) Classy, wild or playful, the choice of sparkle is yours. Which ear jacket are you?
Here are some bejeweled styles to browse. 

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sam Smith - "Stay With Me" LIVE


For a myriad of reasons, I fell asleep last night while watching late night television. This is the voice that woke me up. WOW!!! At first I thought I was dreaming. Oh WOW!!! The rich, bluesy voice belongs to Sam Smith, a London singer-songwriter. I LOVE this guy! Only 22 years old, surely, he will be the next big thing.

There is such a wealth of young talent today. The future of music looks good!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Father's Day ... Hmm

Photo by Visualizeus
It's become my habit to share a few random thoughts about my Father on Father's Day. When he died, I suddenly became aware that you do not love someone who was dear in the past tense. Clearly, you move on. In time, the loss is not the first thing you think about each morning, but it's not really accurate to say, "I loved my Father." It's more correct to say, "I love my Dad," although he is not alive to give, or receive it anymore. But your affections never really shut down.

Have you noticed? Everything in our world has an opposite. Light has dark. Good has evil. Happiness has sadness. Life has death. If you live long enough you experience it all. That's how the world works. And ... so much of the world is temporary. So appreciate what you have.
Jim Jordan Photography

Not only was I fond of my Dad, our family dog adored him. It is my observation that while dogs love everybody, they often form special bonds with men. "Man's best friend." I don't know why. Is it the testosterone ... or the style of play ... or what it is? As much as I hate to admit it, dogs do seem to prefer men.

My Dad could pick our dog up, for example, if he were injured, when no one else in the family could. You know, when I think about that dog ... I miss him too!

So let me share a funny story about my Father and the family dog.

One day my Dad decided our dog should have a comfortable bed of his own. So he bought a handsome wicker dog bed. Dad wanted to make the bed as cozy as possible. An uncle (Mom's brother) gave us a thick deer skin hide, which for years hung on a hook in a hallway because we never knew what to do with it. So Dad thought that perhaps the deer skin -- one side had fur, and the other was leather -- would make the perfect padding for the dog to rest on.

Dad spend half an hour measuring and cutting it just right to cover the bottom of the dog bed. It made the bed soft, snug and homey. We showed our dog his lovely new wicker bed and left him alone to lay in it.

Several hours later, we noticed our dog had chewed the entire back off his new bed ... as a matter of fact, there wasn't much left of it, just bits and pieces of wicker strewn all over the floor! But that's not all ... the dog was having a field day playing with his perfectly-cut oval padding, by gripping it in his teeth, then shaking-and-flinging it across the room whenever he felt like it. So much for a welcoming bed of his own. Sometimes a dog has other ideas. Dad took this lack of appreciation in stride as I recall.


Some final thoughts about fatherhood come from President Barack Obama, whom I admire for being a fabulous father. 

Here's a snippet of what the President said in a recent interview:

"The one thing the girls know about me is I love 'em to death ... Younger parents ... ask me why it is that Malia and Sasha turned out so well. I say, first of all, you know -- marry somebody who's going to be a great mom.' which I did. But second of all, unconditional love sure makes a difference."

Plainly, unconditional love was true of my Father ... for his daughter and the beast. :)

Happy Father's Day to all you wonderful, well-intented FATHERS who read the blog. We love you for everything you do! And ... I will always love you, Daddy ... where ever you are.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Penny Dreadful: A Review

Photo by Jonathan Hession - Showtime
Recently I binge watched the first four episodes of Penny Dreadful, a horror suspense television series, created and written by John Logan and co-executive produced by Sam Mendes for Showtime. 

I give the show a B+. I don't always understand what makes a character tick. Parts of the storytelling are engaging, and it should get better. Penny Dreadful has a handsome cast. Excellent acting by the entire ensemble. Hopefully after the back stories are told and the characters gel, the plot and action will snap, crackle and pop up to an A.

The edgy drama takes place in Victorian England and features famous 19th century British and Irish fictional characters, including Mary Shelly's Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray and Mina Murray from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Other principals are veteran actor, Timothy Dalton, who plays Sir Malcolm Murray, a seasoned African explorer, on a mission to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Mina from evil supernatural beings before it's too late. He teams up with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), who is in touch with the occult and was close to Mina before a trust between them was broken. Sir Malcolm is aware of the history (and perhaps in the thick of it), but this arc is still unfolding for the audience.

Eva Green has beautiful, expressive eyes, though in my opinion, she should tone down the eye widening for television. She is a gifted stage actress, but for television, her expressions need to be a bit more restrained. That surely will happen as she grows more confident with her character. A notch less would turn very good acting into great acting.

Rory Kinnear portrays a very interesting misunderstood Frankenstein's monster. Caliban, the creature, is bitter that he came into the world in agony; was quickly abandoned; and is the polar opposite of handsome. So he hunts Victor Frankenstein down, subdues Frankenstein's much improved 2nd creature (which was sad!) and threatens to kill anyone Dr. Frankenstein holds dear unless the doctor makes an immortal mate for the resentful, anger-festering monster. It turns out Caliban longs for love and acceptance, which he is denied by most in society. Something bad is brewing ... perhaps at the theatre where Caliban works and finds a measure of acceptance and contentment. [Sweeney Todd is playing at the theatre!]

We discover that Dr. Frankenstein ... as a boy ... was wounded by seeing too much death. His purpose in life is to unlock the key to immortality. 

Josh Hartnett is American Ethan Chandler, a man of action. The actor is super watchable and easy on the eyes! A former gunslinger, brave and capable, his easy charm hides a more complicated nature. Ethan gets involved with Irish immigrant, Brona Craft, who is battling tuberculous. Brona and Ethan become friends with benefits. He wants to help her get treatment. So to earn the money, Ethan joins Sir Malcolm and Vanessa to find Mina. Without a doubt, Ethan is honorable, but we have yet to find out what kind of man he is. Is he in the habit of falling for lost causes ... or is he capable of life long commitments? We'll have to stay tuned.

The only certainties are ... it will take time, a mystic and the ability to outwit, out-fight and out-kill many terrifying demons before finding Mina Murray; and whatever Ethan Chandler is getting paid, it isn't enough.