The Quiet Zone and The Smiling Man. (Day 2: Horror short film October!)

In a regular cardio kickboxing practice, you sometimes have more to sweat out of your system than others. We usually carry a normal stress-load into the workout, getting to the gym eager to kick and punch the week into smithereens because it just feels so good. At last night’s Body Combat class, though, I wanted to kick and punch it clear into the next century.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with politics and the way the current overall situation has divided even family members. Our political climate is a wrecking ball. Fractures sustained one, two years ago have refused to heal, if not worsened… and it’s hard to imagine how a complete break can ever be mended. When this kind of helplessness builds to fury, you get an extra visceral kickboxing workout. Politics, meet my straight right/cross punch. I’m over it.

I don’t know where this little rant came from. Oh, yes! I was going to say a little something about adrenaline and how it can fire you up, whether it’s slow-burn adrenaline or the kind of adrenaline blast you get when you’re shaken.

Or when you’re trying to escape a killer such as the ones in slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and their ilk.

I’ve got a good, old-fashioned slasher flick to share with you today.

Never fear: this one’s tame for what it is! Slasher flicks are notorious for their gore, but as promised, there’s very little gore in this excellent film that runs for only eight minutes and 42 seconds. I’m talking about The Quiet Zone.



To balance things out, this next short-short horror film is supposedly based on a true story… loosely based, I would guess, with the urban legend factor doing the rest. This is 2AM: The Smiling Man.



On that note, Happy Friday Eve!


Itsy Bitsy Spiders. (Day 1: Horror short film October!)

Last week at Target, a man approached the woman behind me in line and starting talking about vampires.

With childlike wonder, he spoke earnestly of “the undead.” He remembered that in Interview with the Vampire, the vampire thought it would be best to turn the child into a vampire when her mother died. He mused on the psychological implications of being a child vampire, and then he apologized for talking too much about vampires. He explained that it all started with Count Chocula cereal, which is “undead because it’s a chocolate-eating vampire.”

This had to be the best one-sided conversation I’ve ever overheard.

Well! My last post flushed out enthusiasm for horror short films, so for those of you who wanted more, you got it. (Much arm-twisting occurred.) In honor of Halloween season, every TALC blog post in October will include at least one horror short film.

To this end, I’ve had to watch tons of horror shorts. The things I do for you guys. It is, after all, my responsibility to vet the films and to share only those that I enjoy and find impressive in some way. As with all art, this determination is subjective… you may not like what I like.

Please also note:

–I’m only sharing films with no profanity, no nudity, and zero to minimal gore.

–I’ve chosen from sub-genres ranging from psychological horror to fantastical horror to the supernatural and to the psycho killer, though even in the latter, there’s not much in the way of killing.

–There are two films in the bunch that I wouldn’t even say are horror films. They might be a little dark, but they’re much more drama than horror, in my opinion. They’re just excellent, beautiful short films. I’ll indicate those when I post them.

–Whether I share one or two films at a time, I’ll keep the total viewing time to less than 15 minutes. You can watch them in the space of a coffee break.

That said, here’s today’s spooky horror short film: Itsy Bitsy Spiders.  (Moral: encourage your child’s artistic inclinations.)



La Fin.



Getting to the gym. (RANT.)

[RANT WARNING: Unusual-for-this-space ranting ahead. Turn away now if your negativity tolerance levels are maxed out.]

Driving to and from the gym today, it struck me that it’s official: downtown Tempe is under siege. Gentrification planners cannot be stopped. We’re boxed in by massive construction projects. It seems that there’s one at every intersection. Everywhere I go in my everyday life lies east of our neighborhood, but getting through downtown is insanity… all of the routes I take to reach my destinations are either single-laned or blockaded.

A Whole Foods down the street. A retirement community for university professors. Extravagant lofts, condos, restaurants, retail businesses, office spaces, parking garages, hotels, multi-purpose high-rises, just… development after development.

Historical establishments continue to get hemmed in or pushed out. This is sacrilege.


I cherish this pic I took of one of our intersections. This corner will probably be unrecognizable in ten years.


I witnessed the beginning of the gentrification surge back in the 2000’s, but now they’ve amped it up. Every week, I get numerous robocalls leaving messages to the effect of “I was driving through your neighborhood and I’m interested in buying your house.” Public meeting and town hall notices have piled up in our stack of non-essential mail. We residents are all invited to attend and “participate.”


Getting to the gym has become an exercise in frustration, if not occasional futility. I thought they were done with their development projects along the north shore of the lake, but apparently not. I usually drive east along that shore to get to the gym. I’ve tried all alternative routes. There’s no way to avoid the construction zones. Last week, I got pulled over in a moment of confusion and indecision about which way I could go – thinking too many steps ahead when I encountered another blocked road and stopped at the wrong place – and I was cited. I missed Body Pump, and now I have to go to defensive driving school. (Ka-ching!)

I made it to the gym today, though… I left 15 minutes earlier than usual. I’m prepared for “15 minutes earlier” to be “the usual” for a while. That’s fine. I don’t mind leaving early… but I do mind being stressed when trying to get somewhere.

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading. Maybe you can relate… maybe your everyday life is also impacted by urban gentrification. If you’re like me, you love your section of town and you have no intention of leaving. Silver lining: it’s always good to hone one’s adaptation skills. Adaptation, adjustment, and gratitude.


I had one foot in October before the month ended, though. (September Favorites!)

I’m excited about this monthly (September) favorites list, because I’ve got some new stuff for you… “new” as in different than the usual TALC monthly favorites fare.

(Incidentally, I’m also excited to post this list because that means it’s OCTOBER, the most creeptastic month of the year.)

The list is still mostly comprised of T.V. series and movies and food, but I’m also including some short YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure.

These videos make great procrastination material. For me, it’s more than gratuitous time-suckage. It’s brain-cleansing, and it’s actually serious business: when my head’s been submerged in the worlds of my creative endeavors, it’s good to clear it out and forget that on which I’d been focused. This allows me to return to those worlds with fresh eyes. I can then see clearly what oversaturation had concealed.

My recent – and current – tool of choice for brain-cleansing is YouTube. I need simple escapism into the creative worlds of others. My favorite YouTube videos of late are short horror films and videos of this one guy fabricating sharp kitchen knives out of materials such as tin foil, underwear, and jello.

You’ll see. I’ve provided a few of the videos. You can click to watch them right here! Down the rabbit hole with you, too.

Let’s get on with it!


1). Searching (film)



We went to the theater to see this one. Searching is a different sort of thriller, and a different sort of film in the “found footage” genre. What the audience sees on the screen is a movie entirely shown on other screens – computer screens, phones, televisions, surveillance videos, etc. It makes for some solid and unique entertainment regardless of the film’s other merits (or lack thereof). As well, I love a good mystery/thriller.


2). Ozark (S2) (Netflix)



An intense, atmospheric, dark drama/thriller, this Netflix original series is a work of art about which I cannot say enough. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are superb in their roles – Bateman more than I’d ever seen him in any role, and Linney as per usual. Julia Garner’s performance confirms what we suspected when we saw her in The Americans: she’s an artist with a formidable future. Ozark wants you to binge-watch it, and it’s hard to resist if you have the luxury of time. Breaking Bad fans, here’s your fix.


3). American Horror Story: Apocalypse (S8) (TV – FX)



What can I say? AHS is back, and it’s more twisted than ever… and that’s already saying a lot. Thanks to its mid-September release date, October’s coming in on a delightfully disturbing note. I love it.


4). Horror short films (YouTube)

YouTube rabbit hole number one: short horror movies. You’ll run into all the horror movie tropes you expect: jump scares, white dresses, cheesy demons and monsters, tripping and falling while running away, doors that close and then won’t open, gratuitous gore, characters who make maddeningly stupid decisions, etc. I find, though, that these transgressions are often more forgivable in a film that’s less than 15 minutes long. Besides, thanks to their short duration, I know pretty quickly whether I should move on. If I make it through the whole thing and end up not liking it, I only wasted a few minutes of my life compared to two hours wasted during a full-length horror flick that never got better. When these short movies are good, they deliver what you want in horror. They’re tense and tightly-wound because they get straight to the point. Many of them are silent films in that there’s little to no dialogue, which can add to their creepiness. The whole spectrum of the horror genre can be found across the hundreds of these films on YouTube… and they’re free.

Two examples:





5). Luna Bar (Blueberry Bliss).


Luna Bar Blueberry Bliss


I wasn’t sure whether I’d include this bar on my list. It’s too sweet for my taste, but I really like its thin layer of blueberry jam. Moreover, after two test runs, I determined that this bar gets me through a Body Pump workout if for any reason I can’t have a normal breakfast. I guess it’s on the list because of the blueberry jam part and the instant fuel part. If you like blueberries and instant fuel, you might like these.


6). Nori – specifically, Kirkland Signature Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack.


Kirkland Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack (aka nori)


First off, I should say that I have a cousin to thank for my return to eating nori straight out of the bag. Like all Japanese-Americans (with family rooted in Hawaii) I know, I grew up eating this stuff. Mom used to send me this Korean version from Costco, but it’d been a while as I’d turned my salty snack attention elsewhere. I’m back!

These have no nutritional value, but they don’t contain anything detrimental, either. They’re organic and devoid of chemicals. Eating this nori is like eating air. Crispy, salty, seaweedy air.


7). Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (plain).


Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (soy, plain)


I cycle through yogurt phases, and I’ve been in one since September. This time, it’s this soy yogurt by Silk. I prefer the plain version because it’s the least sweet, but I often top it with granola (see below), which is sweeter. It’s a great combination, though. I love the thick creaminess of this yogurt.


8). Bear Naked Granola (V’nilla Almond).


Bear Naked Granola V’nilla Almond


This lightly sweetened granola is fabulous on the plain Silk soy yogurt. That’s why it’s on this list.


9). NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring).


NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring)


Remember the NYX butter gloss lip (in Ginger Snap) on my July list? This lip liner goes perfectly with it. Just thought I’d share!


10). kiwami japan (YouTube channel)

Rabbit hole number two: THIS GUY. This enormously talented guy. This guy can make a knife out of anything. (If you know me, you know that I love knives.) His YouTube channel is called “kiwami japan,” and his videos are awesome, fascinating, and entertaining. I feel obliged to show you a couple of them.


Making a knife out of underwear:


Making a knife out of tin foil:


The End, and have fun.



Fractions of a doubt.

Our bathroom project is almost done. What started with the assembly/installation of a new shower ended up morphing into a full-blown re-model. It shouldn’t have taken so long considering that our bathroom is the size of a postage stamp, but, you know, problems.

Putting together our new shower brought out Callaghan’s one frustration with the United States: our non-compliance with the metric system. The only time he rants about the States is when he’s confronted with fractions. He did plenty of ranting over the shower pieces.

“Blame England,” I said, quick to throw England under the bus. (Being French, Callaghan always says that he “only hates half of me”  – the English half. It’s in his genes, he says.)

I get him. I’m American, and I still can’t do fractions. That’s not saying much, though, since the math part of my brain has always been crippled by math anxiety. I remember going to high school rejecting math in academic settings. I just… shall we say… checked out.

How do I know that math anxiety is real? In the army, I made effortless, practical use of trigonometry to cut radio antenna wavelengths based on frequencies. Put me in a MATH CLASSROOM, though, and I’m done. I’m out.

Anyway, when Callaghan came to me waving his arms while announcing, “We’re wasting time! A lot of precious time is being wasted with these… doing of fractions!” I did a quick search for an online fraction calculator. “Shoot,” I said, signaling his cue to recite the fractions he needed to calculate.

He looked at his notes. I waited. I had my fingers set on my numeric keypad. I was expecting to hear the sort of fractional equations I would’ve learned in school had I cared.

He read:

“43 1/2 – 3 1/8, 43 7/16 -2 /16, 43 3/16 – 35/16, and 1 3/4 + 2 3/8.”

To which I said, “What?”


[From fractioncalculator dot net]

“Please enter the numerator and denomina – ” Yes. Please and thank you.

Duck-avoiding season. (Mild-mini-rant: annoying commercial.)

I’m usually not one to complain about commercials. I don’t see too many, for one thing. I only see commercials online, as I don’t watch actual television. For another thing, most commercials are annoying; that’s par for the course. Insurance company AFLAC, though, has come up with several commercials that deserve mention.

They’ve got this duck.

YouTube’s commercial rotation at the moment includes AFLAC’s. If you’re not familiar with these commercials, I envy you.

In case you didn’t know, AFLAC’s commercials currently feature a duck whose gimmick is to appear suddenly near a person who’s minding their own business. To announce his entrance, the duck quacks… but he doesn’t say “quack” like ducks are supposed to say (according to the old guy on the farm). He says: “AFLAC!”

His squawk comes out nasally because the first “A” is pronounced like the “a” in “cat.” The second “A” does, too. The company’s name rhymes with “quack,” which probably inspired the ad campaign that spawned the duck. I’m assuming that the AFLAC! squawk is meant to be a mating call to attract insurance buyers.

I’m not sure what the company’s name means, by the way. I haven’t looked it up. It may be an acronym. Actually, it reminds me of text/internet-speak, like ROTFL. “AFLAC” should stand for Abstain From Loud Annoying Commercials. AFLAC!!!!

I would insert one of the commercials here for your reference, but I’m not that mean.

It’s a hazard, this commercial. I cringe at the idea of this duck every time I click on a YouTube video. My guard is usually down, so I end up scrambling to mute the commercial before it gets to the part with the duck. Each commercial features two duck appearances. In the space of 20 or so seconds, avoiding the duck’s nasally call is my whole mission in life.

Of course, I worsened the situation for myself by sharing my grievance with Callaghan. I should’ve known better. His new favorite way to amuse himself is to squawk AFLAC! in my face. When I asked him (as I was writing this post) how many times the duck says AFLAC! in each commercial, he said, “I don’t know. You have to find one and watch the whole thing… with the sound on.”


Plague season is afoot. (ZOMBIE ALERT.)

There’s a zombie plague going around. A friend of mine texted me yesterday. She wasn’t feeling well.

Lest you think I’d seize anyone’s plight with the pull of my easily entertained mind, I do believe that she’s talking about zombies. I worry that she may be infected, so I feel it’s my moral obligation to let you know.

I’m assuming it’s zombies we’re dealing with here. She said there was a plague. She said, “I can feel something trying to get me.” She also said she was in a meatlocker, that she and her co-workers were discussing inhaling ocean water and roasting goats, and that shower curtains are better than tarps for body disposal. ALSO, she said that “the name of the day is Rudecinda.”

What would you assume? ZOMBIES. Obviously, my friend had a run-in with a zombie called “Rudecinda.”

(Also, the zombie outbreak was triggered by the rain because it was raining yesterday and she said that she couldn’t go out in it.)

This is serious. This is the girl who stands in front of me in Saturday morning Body Pump, and we’re always next to each other in Body Combat. We’re in close proximity at least once a week, on average… and we’re sweating. (Sweating BUCKETS in the case of Combat. Last night I left class looking like I’d showered fully dressed.)

I thought it was especially considerate of her to stay home and keep her “plague” to herself, though I do worry for her, as I’d said.

I used to be well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. That particular disaster fell off my priority list as other heinous threats crept upward. But when I had lunch with a different friend a few weeks ago, we talked briefly about our zombie apocalypse-preparedness statuses when she asked me about the survival bag I was carrying. I realized that I was indeed carrying the latest iteration of my zombie apocalypse bag. On some level, I must have sensed that we were on the threshold of another outbreak. Yes, I told her… this bag does have in case of Z.A. cred.

Not long after that lunch date, Callaghan suggested we watch a certain movie on Netflix. His film selection was totally random. We didn’t know what it was about. All we knew was that it was horror, and it involved people trying to escape a plague. The plague turned out to be… zombies.

Then the third thing happened: my friend’s text yesterday.

Coincidence? I think not.

As always, when the question is the plague, the answer is zombies. I know what you’re thinking. All I have to say about that is that the only thing worse than a zombie is a zombie infected with ebola.

Honestly? A zombie in good health is hilarious to me, not scary. I just wouldn’t want to be near one or to be one.

ANYWAY, in explaining my friend’s absence, I let our Body Combat instructor know about the plague. I didn’t tell her that the plague was of a zomboid nature, though. I would only tell Les Mills instructors that it’s zombies if I thought that they (the instructors) were imperiled. I wouldn’t want the instructors to stop coming to class.

On my part, I definitely need to keep up with my cardio in these dangerous times. So do you. Let’s not forget that Rule Number One of Zombieland is “Cardio.”



And you know there’s no better cardio for zombie preparedness than cardio kickboxing.


Unrelated sidenote: how is it that “adorbs” now appears in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, but “meatlocker” does not? Merriam-Webster, we need to have a word. Pun not intended.

Side-sidenote: I hated to confirm that MW added “adorbs” to their dictionary. I didn’t want to go there, but in the end, I couldn’t resist. The vocabulary trainwreck is real, guys. ADORBS.