All-day anniversary date! (Firing range + samurai armor.)

Wednesday was our wedding anniversary. The sub-title of this post could be: “We’ve been married for 6 years and to celebrate we went out and Did Non-Everyday-Things.” Callaghan took the day off so we could spend it together.

The first exciting thing that happened was the doorbell rang and a minute later Callaghan called out, “It’s a package for you!” as he came into the bedroom where I was getting dressed, and he dropped the package onto the bed and walked out, leaving me to think, “He got me something for our anniversary??” (We’d agreed no cards, no gifts.) So I opened it and found a Black + Decker 16v cordless hand-vac, which I’d been wanting for the longest time, and which I grabbed while running to the other end of the house all like, “Baby!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the hand vac!! Best surprise anniversary gift ever!!!!!” as I jumped into his arms, to which he replied, “I didn’t order you that.”

Long story short, we found out that my parents ordered it for us for our anniversary, knowing that I had my eye on it. It’s been one of those things that I wanted, but never wanted to spend money on.

Anyway, still. Best anniversary gift ever! Best parents ever! The hand-vac has already changed my life.

The reason we didn’t exchange cards or gifts was that we had an expensive plan for the morning: going to our favorite firing range to rent weapons and practice shooting. Even with Groupon, the whole thing cost us $140.00, and that was only for 40 minutes of shooting. Seriously, how do people afford to do this on a regular basis?! I suppose, for one thing, they own their own firearms. We never will, so we rent them when we want to shoot. Firearm rental is expensive. Ammo at the range is expensive (unlike at Walmart). Hence, the firing range is a special-occasion date activity.

In the afternoon, we went to the Phoenix Art Museum for our second date activity: the “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” exhibition. We’d known that the collection was there, thanks to some of you! We remembered it while finishing up the first season of Fargo not long ago, when we had this conversational exchange:

Me: Oh, look. Good old Lester married a submissive Asian wife.

Callaghan: I thought that was what I got when I got married.

Me: Ha! So what did you get? The English Rose?

Callaghan: No. I got the Samurai.

Then he quickly added, “And it’s perfect!”

And this, my friends, is one thing I appreciate about Callaghan so much. Seven years together, six years married, and the guy is still making me laugh. I have no complaints.

Such as it was that we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Samurai exhibition.

 

“Cultivated Warriors” – (Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection)

 

 

If you can get to the Phoenix Art Museum before July 16, I highly recommend that you go check out this exhibition! It is spectacular.

The first thing you see when you enter the gallery is a large statue of the Buddha. The sight of the Sakyamuni Buddha entrances me instantaneously, so I had to linger a few minutes before going in… and, of course, take a selfie with the Buddha.

 

With the Sakyamuni Buddha at the Samurai Armor exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum 2017

 

Worth mentioning right now: the strategic play of lighting and shadow fluctuates throughout the gallery, and you’ll see this variation in these pics. Here at the entrance, it’s extremely bright. That white square on the top left of my shirt? That’s a sticker that reads “Samurai” in black letters. The light was so bright, it washed out the lettering completely! (I didn’t even try to bring out the lettering with filters or anything like that; I left these pics as-is.)

You can see the lettering here, though, with just a slight change in distance and angle:

 

Me, Callaghan, the Buddha. Not in that order.

 

Let me tell you, it took a lot of finagling with the phone camera position to get the three of us into this shot!

The reason the Buddha invites visitors into the samurai gallery is that Buddhism and its philosophies and motifs informed the design of the warriors’ armor and weaponry to a great degree; the religion was a part of samurai culture. “Buddhism was widely adopted by most samurai,” says one of the plaques inside the gallery.

Despite this fact and the fact that Buddhist warrior monks developed a deadly martial arts system that engendered all of the martial arts schools in East Asia (many of which are prevalent in the public eye today, as they’re included in an MMA artist’s arsenal), there’s still this myth that all Buddhists are strict pacifists, and that pacifism defines Buddhism. This may be due, in part, to Buddhism having become widely New-Age-ified in the hands of western seekers.

The myth may also come from the fact that Buddhists are not a war-mongering people, in general. There is a difference between being a warrior and being a war-mongerer. Being Buddhist and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive.

And so the Buddha welcomes you into the samurai warrior gallery. The exhibition consists mostly of armor, but you’ll also find weaponry and other objects particular to samurai culture. Truly, everything in this gallery is an exquisite work of art.

[click to enlarge if you wish to read the plaque]

 

Helmet

 

Like this one, many of the helmets and masks were adorned with Buddhist symbols. One plaque explains: “The adornments are influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism, a religion that greatly inspired Japanese warriors.”

Another plaque says of its subject: “The shape of the helmet is reminiscent of the cloth headdress (tokin) worn by Buddhist ascetics and warrior monks (yamabushi) who lived in remote mountain areas.”

Here are a few more pics, to give you more of a taste of the exhibition:

 

War drum

 

Family portrait, haha!

 

Did you know that samurai warriors battled with firearms as well as with bladed weapons and bows and arrows? I didn’t.

 

On samurai weaponry

 

Another plaque explains: “Though archery eventually gave way to the use of firearms in combat, the bow continued to be venerated, and archery remained a martial art that every samurai was expected to master.”

And another: “Shogun Takugawa Leyasu described the sword as the soul of the samurai.”

The exhibition includes chest plates with bullet marks and traces of sword-slashes. (Impressively, the bullets did not pierce the armor.) I didn’t take pics of those, though, for some reason. I did get some of the mounted warriors:

 

Mounted samurai

 

Even their horses sometimes wore elaborate masks!

 

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy coming out of the fog.

 

WHY SO SERIOUS? ~Of course I had to get a selfie with a samurai warrior lurking in the background.

 

Remember: this gorgeous and awe-inspiring exhibition will remain at the Phoenix Art Museum until July 16!

Happy Friday, All.

“La La Land” in a flash of whitening.

We went to see La La Land to catch up with the hype it’s been generating. Then, on Facebook the other day, I joked about writing “La La Land annoys me and I’m not sorry.” This was met with interest, and I do appreciate your interest! Here we go.

La La Land, a film widely beloved as a throw-back to Old Hollywood, has a core cast about as diverse as a pile of snowballs in a blizzard. We were both surprised by the extent of its whiteness.

Also, in a bizarre twist on the familiar trope, the story peaks when the knight in shining armor races up on his steed to rescue a damsel’s career in distress.

And there are no gay characters in La La Land, which I found to be an odd omission.

What is happening? At the Golden Globes, a highly acclaimed veteran actress extolls Hollywood’s diversity and then contrasts it with football and MMA. Football is indeed decidedly all-American. MMA, though, is an international sport that’s arguably more diverse than Hollywood… her example a blunder she makes due to her preconceived notions (effectively reinforcing conservatives’ view that liberals are elitist and hypocritical). Ironically, the notably nondiverse La La Land sweeps the same awards ceremony. Now the Oscar nominations have been released, and La La Land again leads the way. 14 nominations!

(This is not a commentary on those who enjoyed La La Land. If I had a penchant for romance films and musicals, I’d find it dazzling, too.)

La La Land is a boy meets girl story.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-lalaland

 

The two artists collide and collide again and then again and then finally get together in rapturous love, but the missed-connections shenanigans continue. One aspect of the plot I appreciate – and it’s a major aspect – is the sincere concern each has regarding the other’s faithfulness to their art.

They don’t end up together, but they get what they want, professionally: at the end, he’s opened his jazz club, and she’s reached stardom.

She reached stardom because she wrote a play at his encouragement, and when that led to a call for her possible big break, he heroically raced across a state line to collect her and get her there.

The one black character in the film plays a pivotal, yet behind-the-scenes role. Interestingly, the white lead character envisions a livelihood in an old-school jazz club, and the black background character convinces him that the way to go is to make money playing keys with a touring pop band.

So I have questions, beginning with: Stone and Gosling? Why? They’re excellent actors, but they’re clearly not singers and dancers. And why is Hollywood enamored with La La Land to the point of 14 Oscar nominations? With its nostalgic, retro tone, the film seems intent on recapturing the magic of a Hollywood moment that took place in the 50’s/60’s, an exceptionally racist moment in Hollywood history… and not a good moment for women in the industry, either.

From the standpoint of craft, the film is undeniably glorious. But in this time of political fervor driving Hollywood even more to give impassioned speeches for inclusiveness and equality, the favoritism toward La La Land is off-key.

Staring at the rafters, waving at stars (December favorites!)

December irks me with all the chaos it creates in my agenda, and yet it thrills me because I enjoy the holiday season, and it’s my birthday month. I had adventures: I went to a party and consequently began my fight against PTSD-related claustrophobia (attempting to close myself inside a coffin-like tank filled with water, aka sensory deprivation tank). I simplified my life by switching my glasses lenses to progressives, and I actually like them because lo, this time they were done right. We saw three good movies, two of which I included in the Favorites list below. I had a weekend to myself (when Callaghan went out of town) during which I went alone to watch an exciting and intense UFC fight card (which included Urijah Faber’s last fight!). I had lunch dates with a few dear friends, one of whom introduced me to a tantalizing cuisine I’d never tried before (Malaysian). I met some good people. December ended with Callaghan’s sister and her two boys coming to visit (they’re still here), and that’s been fun, beginning with the fact that Christmas + kids = Good Times. And on the penultimate day of the month and of the year, UFC 207 happened. We left the sports bar on a thrilling high note, especially because of our girl Amanda Nunes (still the champ)! To say that the year ended on a bang is an understatement.

Also, I ended up getting a decent amount of writing done.

December had its trials and tribulations, too, because that’s how life works… everything can’t be all good all the time. On the not good side, Cita has been struggling to heal all month, and we’ve been struggling to help her. She’s a battle-scarred mess with wounds that aren’t healing. She’s been to the vet numerous times. She’s in convalescence and being a very good sport about it. I’ve never seen such a fearless and stoic cat (who talks trash, but can’t fight her way out of a paper bag). Loving and affectionate throughout it all, Cita is a walking contradiction with tremendous heart, and we wouldn’t have her any other way. We just need to get her healed. The next step will be, once again, to attempt to integrate her into the household with Nenette.

Getting on with the list of little things! December favorites:

 

1). Hacksaw Ridge (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hacksawridge

 

Hacksaw Ridge is an important film, an excellent film. I never thought I’d say this, but thank you, Mel Gibson. The man did indeed create a film to bring to our attention the heroism of a young man who literally dodged bullets unarmed while rescuing others in the bloodiest battle against the Japanese in WWII. This is a true story, and it is unforgettable.

 

2). Nocturnal Animals (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nocturnalanimals

 

 

Nocturnal Animals is a film written and directed by Tom Ford. Tom Ford as in fashion design. Tom Ford as in Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Considering this, we shouldn’t be surprised that every scene in Nocturnal Animals is a vision of artistry; Ford’s eye and talent for design translates magnificently to the medium of film. This isn’t his first film – it’s his second – but it’s the first that I’ve seen, and I admit that I wasn’t expecting to leave the theater quite so impressed.

As in Hacksaw Ridge, the acting in Nocturnal Animals is first-rate, as well. It’s always great when you go to the movies and find that you made an awesome choice.

The third film we saw was Arrival, which was also outstanding. The extraordinary Amy Adams once again! She stars in Nocturnal Animals, too.

December was a great month for movies.

 

3). Samurai “Strength” print (original art by David Lozeau).

 

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau - Strength (Samurai series)

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau: Strength (Samurai series) – signed by the artist

 

I reconnected with my biological mother in December (such a month!), who reminded me again of our Samurai ancestry. With that in mind, Callaghan bought me this print for my birthday: a portrait of one of my ancestors, haha! Seriously, though, I love this badass painting, and I love David Lozeau’s art, in general. Visit his site and feast your eyes.

davidlozeau dot com

 

4). The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

 

This year’s holiday limited edition fragrance at The Body Shop is Frosted Berries… mostly cranberries “from North America.” (TBS is an English company; it’s funny to see what foreigners consider to be exotic on our side of the pond.) This scent is lovely. I stocked up.

 

5). The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil.

 

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

 

I was eager to try this serum, and I’m glad that I did. My skin loves it. I put it on after I cleanse my face at night… this first, then eye cream, then night cream. I’ve always layered products on my face in both my morning and nighttime skin care routines, and this serum in oil is a wonderful base layer for the night. Its scent is lovely and light, too.

 

6). The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter.

 

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

 

More from The Body Shop! I discovered their hair butter, and a wonderful discovery, it was. I’m always looking for ways to smooth out my hair (which can never decide if it’s straight Japanese hair or curly ginger English hair). My hair is thin and fly-away and just plain frazzled these days, and this product has been helping.

 

7). e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette.

 

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

 

I don’t know how e.l.f. does it. They create gorgeous, high-quality make-up that’s not tested on animals, and they sell it at unbelievably affordable prices. This Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette is only ten bucks. It’s my new favorite.

 

8). Urban Decay Perversion mascara.

 

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

 

Urban Decay is the only high-end, cruelty-free cosmetic brand whose products I use (most of the stuff I put on my face is from e.l.f.). In December, I started using their Perversion mascara, and I’m liking it a lot. I can’t even remember now why I got it, since the e.l.f. mascara I’d been using had been a favorite of mine for months. For whatever reason, this higher-end mascara got into my makeup bag, and it’s luscious.

 

9). Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread.

 

Trader Joe's multi-grain sourdough bread

Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough bread

 

I’ve found my new favorite sourdough bread! It’s at Trader Joe’s! This multi-grain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is delicious! [/exclamation points] If you’re a fan of sourdough bread – and if you’re lucky enough to have Trader Joe’s in your state – I recommend that you run out right now and grab a loaf or three. You can thank me later.

 

10). Tofurky pizza with “pepproni” & mushrooms.

 

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

 

Because there are always those days where it feels like a good idea to turn on the oven and throw in a frozen, processed-all-to-hell pizza. This one is vegan, of course. It also happens to be gluten-free, which I usually don’t like. It’s good. It’s really good. Pricey, but good! It’s an expensive junky treat, and I love it.

That’s it for December! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

Hell or High Water. (Non-review movie review! NO SPOILERS.)

You may have noticed that my non-review movie reviews are almost all positive. That would be because I prefer to “review” movies I like. Generally, if I don’t care for a film, I won’t write about it. I’ve seen fewer than 10 movies this year, and only two of them were disappointments. (I’m looking at you, Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad.)

This brings me to the part where I declare, for what little it’s worth, that Hell or High Water is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. It is brilliant.

The story, which takes place in Texas, though the movie was filmed entirely in New Mexico, is about relationships. Two parallel, family relationships.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hellorhighwater

 

Complicated dynamics relationships. Love shown in funny ways relationships. Beer as an olive branch relationships.

Big talk, slick talk, real talk, risk-taking relationships. Loyalty to the bone relationships.

Stoic guy, desperate guy relationships.

Hell or High Water is a testosterone-driven story, so don’t go in looking for strong female characters. The few women in the mix are peripheral. We never get to meet the most important woman in the film, because she’s dead. Central to the plot, but dead.

Thankfully, no one saw the need to throw in a love interest, because that would water down the beautiful disaster that is the protagonists’ predicament.

With the action fueled by family hardship, the events amount to a test of emotional stamina in the context of moral limits. Pacing is critical. We’re fortunate in the hands of director David Mackenzie (Starred Up); we trust that he can calibrate the hell out of a story, and he doesn’t fall short. Hell or High Water demonstrates how restraint can heighten the tension in a film and effectively build its suspense. Here, we see it masterfully done. I was hardly aware that I was holding my breath.

Not to mention, it was fantastic to sit down in a theater and find myself before a fine piece of writing. Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) wrote an intelligent film of considerable depth. I loved the unconventionality of the plot arc barely descending after the climax. The film leaves you hanging on the other side, but near the top, right where you want to be and don’t want to be.

Again, restraint.

 

 

As a result, we walked out on a variety of cliff-hanger that demands no sequel.

I highly recommend this film, if you don’t mind a little gunfire. It’s really, as I said, about relationships.

 

Throw-back poem: “Woman Ironing” (+ writing updates)

A couple of things to share with you today…

Thing 1: Big project writing updates, in brief.

  • Roughly 20% of the way done. Not as far along as I’d like it to be at this point.
  • In my defense, 50% of the work happens in my head, away from the computer. (Actually, a lot of the thinking work happens in the shower.)
  • Not using Scrivener.
  • Set up shop on our dining room table due to feline-related shenanigans, but sometimes migrate around with the laptop. An occasional change of scenery is helpful.
  • Made an 80’s playlist for related reasons, but only listen to it on breaks.
  • Need total silence while writing.
  • Afternoon iced café au lait greatly anticipated.

 

Thing 2: Honoring a couple of requests, I’ve got another poetry throwback for you. Like the last one, this was first published in a journal… because when you’re in grad school getting your MFA in Creative Writing, you’re strongly encouraged to submit work; the process is an unofficial part of your education.

LUNGFULL! magazine is a literary and art journal that’s especially interesting because they request a rough draft of your poem along with its final version. They print the two versions side-by-side so readers can see a fragment of the creative process.

I wrote “Woman Ironing” in 2000, and it appeared in LUNGFULL! magazine in 2001.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-wipoemcover

 

 

“Woman Ironing” was inspired by – and titled after – my favorite Pablo Picasso work. Picasso painted “Woman Ironing” during his Blue Period in 1904.

 

"Woman Ironing," Pablo Picasso, 1904

“Woman Ironing,” Pablo Picasso, 1904

 

 

 

That being said! Here is the poem, with my then-last name blacked out, as before…

“Woman Ironing” [Click on the images to enlarge them into readability]

 

["Woman Ironing" Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[“Woman Ironing” Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[2nd page - "Woman Ironing" Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[2nd page – “Woman Ironing” Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

 

Happy Friday!

Throw-back poem: “A Garden to Tour”

Some of you have noticed that I haven’t posted haiku or other poetry in a while, and you’ve asked about it. Well, a few months ago, I decided to discontinue posting new poems here. Since you asked, though, I’ve got a throw-back to share today. From 17 years ago.

17 years. That is insane. The passage of time is just… creepy.

Right.

So I dug through ancient history and unearthed this poem. It was my first publication, published under my former name. I blacked out the name to protect the innocent.

A note on that: Several publications later, I married my X and took his name, then proceeded to publish more stuff under the new name. When I married Callaghan, one of my MFA professors strongly advised me to keep the name I had because of the publications (especially since one of them was major). There’s the answer, for those of you wondering why I never took Callaghan’s name.

My style has gradually taken new shape in the last 17 years, but even this poem was more narrative (I don’t at all mean that in a pejorative way!) than typical poems I was writing at the time. I do like this poem.

Have at it.

“A Garden to Tour”

 

["A Garden to Tour" Kristi (now Garboushian) cimarron review fall 1999]

[“A Garden to Tour” Kristi (now Garboushian) cimarron review fall 1999]

Backyard hibiscus who didn't make it.

Backyard hibiscus who didn’t make it.

 

 

My Top 8 Favorite Things about living in France.

A friend of a friend is planning to move to France. My friend asked if I’d share my insights about living there, and I thought I’d share some of those things here, too… because, I realized, that’s something I haven’t done that might be interesting or helpful to someone, in some way.

So I gave it some thought and came up with a list of my top eight favorite things about living in France. These are, of course, my own, personal top favorites, based on my own experiences. Others may have had different experiences. These were the things that made a difference to me or impacted me in some way, big or small, and helped to make life in France an enjoyable experience.

Also! These are things in addition to the wonderful people I met while I lived in France… the dear friends I made there, the many memorable experiences I had with Callaghan’s family, and so on.

 

1). Hospitality.

 

Typical French hospitality looks like this.

Typical French hospitality looks like this.

 

Everyone I met in France was gracious and hospitable in their own homes. They commonly ask you over for apéritif or coffee (by “coffee,” I mean espresso… very strong espresso), and if you show up at someone’s house, you will be served something or another (usually coffee).

 

2). Bread.

 

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

 

Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

 

As you know, I love bread. There is a boulangerie (bakery) on every corner in France, it seems, and inside each one, there are freshly baked baguettes that are simply sublime. Pain de Campagne is my favorite, but I love all of the breads I’ve tried. In France, making bread is an art form. Some boulangeries make better bread than others, but even the mediocre French breads at bakery chain stores are fabulous and incomparable to breads I’ve had in the States!

 

3). Socca.

 

Socca (regional food, Nice)

Socca (regional food, Nice)

 

Socca is a signature food of Nice, a popular local street food. It consists of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper stirred into a batter and traditionally cooked on a copper plate in a wood oven. After it’s cooked, it’s broken up into pieces in the pan and served in a pile. Thinking of it brings back fond memories for me, since we lived in Nice half the time we lived in France. Should you ever visit Nice, you should try it. According to Callaghan, niçoise fishermen used to eat socca because it’s cheap. It’s still cheap.

 

4). Cell phone affordability.

 

Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France

Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France

 

Speaking of cheap, cell phone service is one thing about life in France I definitely miss. In France, your monthly cell phone bill comes out to roughly $20.00, flat… and that includes unlimited everything (texting and calling, including calls to the U.S., South America, Asia, etc.)

 

5). No tipping.

 

The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.

The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.

 

(“Je suis à sεc” translates as “I’m broke.” The “E” looks the way it does because that’s the euro sign.)

There’s no expectation of tipping for either goods or services in France. This is convenient. (There’s also a flip side to this, but we shall not go into it, as this is a positive list.) In restaurants, tips are included in the checks, for instance. Unlike here in the States, employees in service industries aren’t paid minimally with the assumption that tips will supplement their take-home pay. The amount you’re charged is the amount you pay, period.

 

6). TGV (Train Grande Vitesse).

 

 Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice

Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice

 

The TGV is my favorite way to travel between regions in France. The train is super fast, as indicated in its name, and it’s quiet, smooth, clean, and comfortable. It’s also affordable – from Nice to Paris, for example, tickets range from 19 to 36 euro (the higher price is for 1st class). There’s a café car where you can purchase beverages, light meals, snacks, and candy. You can charge your laptop and other devices on the train, and there’s plenty of legroom. The TGV is the way to go when traveling from one part of the country to another!

 

7). La fnac.

 

An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.

An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.

 

This one really is personal to me. I’m putting la fnac on the list because it’s my favorite store in France. La fnac is a big, multi-level bookstore, and I could (and often did) spend hours on end there. My favorite area is the café, which is kind of reminiscent of the restaurants in IKEA, but larger. You can get food or beverages there and station yourself at a table and stay there indefinitely with their free wi-fi. I loved spending time there! I bought my first Reacher novel at the la fnac in Nice and read half of it in one afternoon sitting in the café.

 

8). Art and history.

 

Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère

Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère

 

Living in France is like living in a gigantic museum.

Even villages in more remote regions are rich in history and filled with art and architecture that I found to be breathtaking. Romans-sur-Isère (near where we lived), for instance, is famous for having been the home of the factory of Charles Jourdan, one of the first houses of Haute Couture shoes, if not THE first. This museum, Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère, has to be one of the most comprehensive museums of shoes in the world. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it so much since I’m not especially interested in shoes, but it’s amazing how viewing and reading about shoes through the ages unfolds as a detailed history lesson in human culture.

Then there are places such as:

 

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)

 

Between 1879 and 1912, facteur Cheval (“facteur” is a mailman) collected rocks while delivering mail, and he used them to build this little palace in an obscure village between Valence and Lyon. It’s made mainly out of lime, mortar, and cement, and it’s unlike anything I’d seen. I’m including this little gem here to show that there’s art literally everywhere you go in France.

This concludes my list of favorite aspects of life in France. It would be interesting to see other’s favorite things!

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” (Haiku 9: Steampunk)

~Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Shelley also wrote: “There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.”

Steampunk happens sometimes. It just happens.

 

Haiku 9: Steampunk

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

19th-century

mechanics: Mary Shelley’s

gaunt ectoplasm.

 

Art by Edward Gorey ("Amphigorey Too")

Art by Edward Gorey (“Amphigorey Too”)

 

2.

Inner workings breed

clockwork postmodernism –

no contradiction.

 

Antique helmet on antique German trunk

Antique helmet on antique German trunk

 

3.

Dry leather-bound book

trembling with recovery,

Lovecraftian myth.

 

Tentacle

Tentacle

 

4.

Subterranean

yesteryear, macabre air-

ship… gears, cogs, and all.

 

Antique gears

Antique gears

 

This was a fun set to write. Venturing into steampunk in my poetic imagination smacks of midlife crisis, perhaps! Finally! Also, I’m still marveling at the unexpectedness of this whole haiku adventure.

On our loss of Prince. On Ethan 103’s release of “Punk Rock Fashion Police.”

At first, I was only going to write about a local punk rock band in celebration of their new song. Then Prince died, and I wanted to say a word about that… but I didn’t know where to begin. I don’t know where to begin. There is, in fact, nowhere to begin. Nothing I could say would be enough.

It’s unnecessary and not enough to remark that once again, we’re in mourning for an icon, dazed by the loss of another staggering talent. It’s only been three months since we mourned for David Bowie.

What would be the point of writing anything more than, “Like everyone, I’m shocked and dismayed at the news of Prince’s sudden death. May he rest in peace.” What am I going to do, blog about my shock and dismay every time we lose a brilliant genius of a musical artist? At the rate it’s been going, I’d have to change the title of my blog to That Asian-Looking Chick Who Only Blogs About Pop Culture Icons’ Deaths. No one wants to read that.

Moreover, there are countless beautiful tributes and eulogies out there more poignant and well-said than anything I could write.

Michael Jackson is gone. Prince is gone. The last one standing out of that particular holy trinity of iconic artists (which owned the radio during my teen years in the 80’s) is Madonna. (Maybe I’ll never have to consider writing about her death, because maybe she’ll outlive us all.)

Prince has been everywhere. Sinéad O’Connor made the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” famous, but Prince wrote it. I never forgot that, because my appreciation for O’Connor started with that song, as I’m sure it did for many of us.

So it’s in the climate of our purple-hued sorrow that I want to highlight this fantastic local Arizona band, Ethan 103, in celebration of their new song, “Punk Rock Fashion Police” – right here in this same post. Because Prince would likely appreciate the correlation. I don’t think he’d want us to stop celebrating music that celebrates individualism, even for a minute. Prince was individualism. David Bowie and Prince were among the few whose art helped to make individualism acceptable, starting with their music.

Arizona Native punk rock band Ethan 103 released “Punk Rock Fashion Police” on Monday, an event that those of us who know these guys have been anticipating for months.

 

Caption from Facebook: "Newly recorded song from Ethan 103 titled "Punk Rock Fashion Police" to be played tonight on AZ 98 KUPD (97.9) FM on the Go Punk Yourself radio airwaves hosted by Craven Moorehead. Tune in 7pm-9pm. Www.ethan103.com as official music video releases tomorrow 4/18/2016."

Caption from Facebook: “Newly recorded song from Ethan 103 titled “Punk Rock Fashion Police” to be played tonight on AZ 98 KUPD (97.9) FM on the Go Punk Yourself radio airwaves hosted by Craven Moorehead. Tune in 7pm-9pm. Www.ethan103.com as official music video releases tomorrow 4/18/2016.”

 

Read the review (written by Yours Truly) and watch the video here:

Video – Punk Rock Fashion Police

“Ethan 103 Incinerates the Scene with new song ‘Punk Rock Fashion Police’.” Indeed, they do. And whether or not Prince was a fan of punk rock, I like to think that he would dig the spirit of this song.

Installation (Haiku 4: Car, pendulum, bougainvillea, interactive art)

Callaghan woke me up 25 minutes after the alarm should have gone off this morning. The alarm – my phone – failed to function one time before, and I couldn’t figure out why since I knew I’d set it. I didn’t understand why it happened this morning, either, and I was going to ask Callaghan if he’d heard the alarm and I somehow slept through it, except he was busy reading his email from Cècil the Goat in France (I asked him three times if the guy’s name was really La Chèvre because I was half-asleep and could have misheard him: Is his name really La Chèvre? Yes, it was), so I double-checked my phone and found that I’d accidentally set the alarm for tomorrow. Saturday. I SO wanted the week to be over that I subconsciously set the alarm for Saturday?

Anyway, I wrote another set of haiku last weekend in my mostly muted state (re-occurrence of laryngitis), and I was going to post it on Tuesday, but UFC 196 happened on Saturday night and I wanted to talk about that, instead. So here are the haiku.

This set of haiku was inspired by some pics I took on a stroll around my work campus.

 

Haiku 4: Car, pendulum, bougainvillea, art installation

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Curved mannequin, all

disintegration, gesture,

all black-framed, rasping.

 

"Society of Automobile Engineers Formula 1992 Restoration Project"

“Society of Automobile Engineers Formula 1992 Restoration Project”

 

2.

Brass validation:

rethinking embodiment,

limbic perversion.

 

Foucault Pendulum

Foucault Pendulum

 

3.

Equatorial

skeletal recognition

(kaleidoscopic).

 

Towering wall of bougainvillea.

Towering wall of bougainvillea.

 

4.

Critical dissent

momentarily vocal,

avoiding earshot.

 

Multimedia art installation (Todd Ingalls)

Multimedia art installation (Todd Ingalls)

 

I must say, I’m enjoying writing these haiku.

French art in Haiku (Haiku 3: Cromagnon, La Tour Eiffel, Les Fleurs, Absinthe)

Food poisoning this week. No details necessary… just to say that yesterday, I rose from the wish-I-was-dead and went around my house taking pictures and writing haiku.

These haiku were inspired by some of the art on our walls at home. The pieces are from France, except the one that was done by Callaghan, who is French. You get the common theme.

 

Haiku 3: Art

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Déjà vu hunting

blind, agnostic galleries –

counting hours.

 

Cromagnon detail (original art by Callaghan)

Cromagnon detail (original art by Callaghan)

 

2.

Insurmountable:

vapor of millenniums,

vaporous château.

 

Eiffel tower pencil sketch

Eiffel tower pencil sketch

 

3.

Rapidly displaced

spectra: brook waters culling

hand-painted headstones.

 

Watercolor flowers

Watercolor flowers

 

4.

Slanderous tom-tom!

Axioms, acknowledgments

feigning percussion.

 

Tin painting

Tin painting

 

Here’s to a healthier week ahead for us all!

Sunny winter in Haiku (Haiku 2: Blue Sky)

It’s a new week, and other than some residual congestion, I’m flu-free. Seven days of viral craptastic downtime makes for a giddy return to work. I only went in on Tuesday last week. I went on Wednesday, too, but I was sent home almost immediately, so Wednesday doesn’t count.

(Aside: Remember when “viral” really was just a bad thing?)

Even on Sunday, I coughed so much, Callaghan said, “There’s no way you can go to work tomorrow.” But I felt much better when I woke up yesterday. The whole day felt glorious. It was warm and the sky was extra sunny, clear, and blue – even more blue than usual – so I went outside (glorious!) during my lunch hour and took some pics. I didn’t go far… just to the art museum near my building. The museum and the adjacent little theatre.

I’m sharing some of the pics with a few more haiku, because they go together. I’m feeling the haiku these days, and it feels good. It feels good to pick up poetry again!

 

Haiku 2: Blue Sky

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

To be undulant,

an unfinished votive dream

soothing chess-players.

 

Blue sky with theatre box office.

Blue sky with theatre box office.

 

2.

Elasticity:

five hundred sodden leaves around

the arctic building.

 

Blue sky with art museum.

Blue sky with art museum.

 

3.

Plumage battering

an alternative fossil –

carnage emerging.

 

Blue sky with fake lava.

Blue sky with fake lava.

 

4.

A feast of words held:

tense, shy, the gloved telegrams,

chronological.

 

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

 

I love how Haiku encourages pictures in 17 syllables.

“Beasts of No Nation” and The Oscars should have collided, but they did not, and I can’t believe it.

As the dust settled at the end of this crazy week at work, I finally got to sit down and look at the list of nominees for Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards.

I’m happy with some of the big nominations. Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant  were two of my favorite films of the year (of the Best Picture nominees, I hope Mad Max wins). I also enjoyed Bridge of Spies, Creed, and The Big Short. 

I hope Amy  wins for Best Documentary Feature.

I wish that Ex Machina got nominated for something more than a small award.

Moving on to OUTRIGHT SNUBS, Straight Outta Compton, another of my favorite films of 2015, deserved a Best Picture nomination, in my opinion. I also believe that Straight Outta Compton is worthy of a Best Director nomination, and why Jason Mitchell didn’t get nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Eazy-E is beyond me.

But the main questions in my head as I read the list of Oscar nominees were:

1). Why wasn’t Idris Elba nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Beasts of No Nation?

2).  Why wasn’t Abraham Attah nominated for Best Actor for Beasts of No Nation?

3). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Picture?

4). Why wasn’t Cary Joji Fukunaga nominated for Best Director for Beasts of No Nation?

5). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Costume Design?

 

Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation.

Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation.

 

6). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Cinematography?

7). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Original Score?

 

 

(“A Song for Strika”)

At least Straight Outta Compton received a nomination for Best Writing – Original Screenplay. Beasts of No Nation received ZERO Oscar nominations. It was completely left out of the competition, and I’m incredulous. Who, exactly, is responsible for deciding what constitutes art in cinema?

Idris Elba’s searing performance as Commandant should be recognized. And young Abraham Attah? His performance as Agu hurt my heart so profoundly, I’m unable to shake the memory of it, or the pain I felt when I witnessed it.

That’s how Beasts of No Nation made me feel: Like a witness. Not a movie-goer, an audience member, an entertainment seeker. A witness. That is what good art can do. It can put us in the picture, in the moment, make us see and feel things we don’t necessarily want to see or feel; it can unflinchingly cast light on the abominable, because we need to see it. We need to acknowledge it.

A part of the brilliance of Beasts of No Nation is that somehow, overall, it manages to be poetic. Maybe at the end I was too emotionally spent to see it, but thinking back on it now that I’ve processed the film as a whole, the imagery in that last scene was poetry… and it was beautiful.

My personal feelings aside, Beasts of No Nation is next-level outstanding in every respect of film-making, and for it to have been excluded from the Academy Awards is a gross oversight. A colossal oversight. I would go so far as to say that it seems like a deliberate oversight, because anyone with eyes and a heart can see that it’s a masterpiece, and the movie-nominating people have eyes and hearts, do they not?

Idris Elba’s and Abraham Attah’s performances are performances that deserve Academy Award recognition.

Beasts of No Nation is difficult to watch, for sure, as I’ve said before. But art’s intention isn’t solely to entertain us. Good art in all of its genres makes us feel things, including real despair for real-life realities.

How is it that The Martian received a nomination for Best Picture, while Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton did not?

Two of my favorite movies of the year – both of which I thought were objectively stellar – were snubbed, and I can’t fathom why. I could go on and on about Beasts of No Nation, but there’s no need. I wrote a lot more about it after I saw it, so click here if you’re interested in reading that.

I’m actually so disappointed about the omissions on the list of Oscar nominees that I’m not even sure I want to watch the Academy Awards this year.

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

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Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

Yes… we’re still in France. (Many pics!)

First, thank you for your words of support following Callaghan’s loss. Thank you for your kindness, your thoughtfulness, and for being here… for reading, and for caring. All the love means more than we can say.

Callaghan’s been handling his emotions well, leaning on humor as a tool, enjoying time with family and friends, and keeping busy with work, as well, with some of his French clients. This morning, he left early for a full day of work in Toulon; I’ll spend the afternoon hanging out with a friend until Callaghan gets back tonight.

We brought Papy’s ashes home yesterday.

It’s been busy. The fact that we’ve been going non-stop since we landed hasn’t precluded me from taking tons of pics, though, so I thought I’d share a few of them here (sans family members).

To start, this first one is a quote we found in a German magazine on the airplane, because it had us in fits of laughter. A little lightening up is always good, right?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LuthansaMag

 

It was probably one of those you-had-to-be-there situations, because we’re not sure why we found this so hilarious. We just did, and I’ll tell you what… we’re not complaining about cracking up over some much-needed random silliness.

On that note, here’s a pic I took of an old bank in Nice the other night:

 

Old Bank in Nice. No idea what it's called.

Old bank in Nice. No idea what it’s called.

 

I’ve walked by this bank hundreds of times, but I only thought to take a picture of it this time, because, again, Random Silliness Therapy was in order. See, this very bank is the bank that French actor Jean Dujardin’s character attempts to rob in Brice de Nice. Brice de Nice is one of my all-time favorite comedies, and was filmed here in Nice. The bank robbery scene was actually shot inside this bank (as opposed to on a stage set).

To give you an idea of the bank robbery scene, lest you haven’t seen the movie:

 

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Six years before he swept up Best Actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the BAFTAs, and the SAG Awards for one film (The Artist) in one awards year (2011-2012), Jean Dujardin, then mostly known in the south of France as a comedian, wore ridiculous blond hair to play a ridiculous character of his own creation, Brice Agostini, in a ridiculous movie. (Brice de Nice is pronounced “Breece duh Neece.” The character calls himself “Brice duh Nice” as you’d say it in English, though… that’s a part of the humor.) Brice de Nice belongs in the “So bad it’s good” category of films, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re in need of Random Silliness Therapy, I recommend it! (Get the subtitled version if you don’t know French. Dubbed is awful.)

Brice de Nice has something of a cult following around here. The whole joke of the story is that Brice aspires to be a champion surfer, but he “surfs” at the Mediterranean beaches of Nice, where there are no waves.

Here’s the trailer from which I’d snipped the pics:

 

 

On a more somber note, due to current events, some loved ones in the States were concerned for our safety regarding going to France. I was cautioned to refrain from “galavanting around,” as I’m wont to do when I’m here, but galavanting can’t be entirely avoided if daily life is to be lived. We had (and still have) errands to run on le Rue Jean Medecin and the Place Massena, which is adjacent to Vieux Nice, which attracts a lot of people and is therefore potentially hazardous… and since our schedule’s been so hectic, we’ve had to go at night, mostly. But it’s been fine. Here are a few pics:

 

The Ferris wheel all lit up.

The Ferris wheel all lit up.

 

Nice Etoile (mall)

Nice Etoile (mall)

 

A less-traveled street in Nice.

A less-traveled street in Nice.

 

Flag made of lights. French patriotism like I've never seen it. There are also a lot of French flags hanging over people's balconies.

Flag made of lights. French patriotism like I’ve never seen it. There are also a lot of French flags hanging over people’s balconies.

 

The train station where we went to get Callaghan's great-aunt, arriving for Papy's service.

The train station where we went to get Callaghan’s great-aunt, arriving for Papy’s service.

 

Weather-wise, it’s been chilly and mostly overcast and rainy, but the sun came out this morning, giving me a good opportunity to snap the views. Here’s the view from our bedroom in Callaghan’s Dad’s house in Le Bar-sur-Loup, a village in the hills above Nice:

 

Bedroom view, Papa's house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

Bedroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

 

And the view from the bathroom:

 

Bathroom view, Papa's house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

Bathroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

 

And food-wise! I have indeed been taking foodaholic pics, even though I’m a vegan in France, which translates to “I’ve mainly eaten salads supplemented with things from my back-up supply of nutrient-dense food that travels well.” By the way, this is the first time I’ve stubbornly refused to deviate from veganism in France. Not a single pastry has passed my lips… no croissant, no pain au chocolat. No cheese, no dairy of any kind. It’s hard to figure out what to eat. This is not a country that makes it easy if you go out to dine at restaurants and at people’s houses.

But here are a few of the beautiful salads of which I’ve partaken:

 

Salad in a restaurant (greens, tomatoes, onions, toasted walnuts)

Salad in a restaurant (greens, tomatoes, onions, toasted walnuts)

 

Salad at Callaghan's Dad's house (endive and green apple with a homemade mustard vinaigrette)

Salad at Callaghan’s Dad’s house (endive and green apple with a homemade mustard vinaigrette)

 

Salad at Mamie's house (Callaghan's grandmother): Mixed greens and tomatoes in another homemade vinaigrette, this one with garlic.)

Salad at Mamie’s house (Callaghan’s grandmother): Mixed greens and tomatoes in another homemade vinaigrette, this one with garlic).

 

That’s a piece of tomato pizza off to the side, by the way. It’s a south of France thing, and in its original form, like this one, it doesn’t have cheese. We picked it up in the boulangerie across from Mamie’s place in Cagnes sur Mer. It was delicious.

While I’m sharing foodaholic pics, here’s what I ate at the airport when we stopped over in Frankfurt, Germany on our way here:

 

Muesli with soy milk

Muesli with soy milk

 

Because it was 5:45 in the morning. I also had coffee with soymilk. Germany is hip with the times and you can ask for things like soymilk and almost always get it, like in the States.

I also got a pretzel, since I was in Germany, the mothership of pretzels, and I love fresh, authentic pretzels:

 

Wonderful pretzels in Germany!

Wonderful pretzels in Germany!

 

Last, I took a couple of pics of the artwork Callaghan did for his Mamie when he was just five years old:

 

Artwork for Mamie (Grandma) by Callaghan, age 5.

Artwork for Mamie (Grandma) by Callaghan, age 5.

 

His signature wasn't written by him, though.

His signature wasn’t written by him, though.

 

And that concludes my sharing of random photos.

We have three days left here.

Beasts of No Nation: A review, of sorts (No Spoilers)

I didn’t include Beasts of No Nation in my October “favorites” post because those posts are about Little Things, and this film is anything but that. Beasts of No Nation is an immersive experience, and it’s a heavy one. A powerful one. It didn’t feel right lumping it in with Scream Queens and salsa.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BeastsOfNoNation2015

 

The crafting of Beasts of No Nation demonstrates exquisite mastery; if you’re into movies to appreciate the fine art of film-making, I’d say it’s a must-see. However, be warned: Beasts of No Nation is difficult to watch… it’s a must-see for reasons beyond its artistic merits.

There came a point where Callaghan just stopped. As tension tightened our throats in the scene that ended it for him, he muttered, “I don’t want to watch this anymore.” I understood where he was coming from. I was on the verge of stopping, myself. He got up and said, “I’m sorry… you can watch the rest if you want, but I don’t need to see this!”

The challenge when watching a war drama so finely rendered is that you’re there. The film engulfs you, and you become a witness to gut-wrenching circumstances and atrocities appalling beyond belief. It’s harrowing, it’s heart-breaking, and it took me two more days to finish watching Beasts of No Nation after we stopped (and Callaghan had gone to France for his business trip). It took two days because I couldn’t watch more than a chunk at a time.

While all movies of this nature don’t trigger my PTSD, enough of them do that I generally avoid them. I couldn’t turn away from this one, though, and I don’t mean that in a train-wreck kind of way. It was more like, I have to keep watching because at some point something has to happen that will restore my faith in humanity.

While the story in Beasts of No Nation is a work of fiction, the tragedy of it is real. The film depicts a reality that’s largely overlooked in our ongoing lament over global atrocities and human rights violations. We commonly bespeak outrage over horrendous things that are done to little girls, practices we know to be inhumane and abominable. Comparatively, we give negligible thought to the horrendous things that are done to little boys. We forget to acknowledge the trials of male children in some war-torn countries… trials that, as this film so brutally illustrates, result in bodily harm, psychological damage, and an obliteration of childhood innocence too sad to contemplate.

I’d never seen Callaghan so upset by a movie that he had to quit watching it. As for me, I’m usually dry-eyed while most everyone grabs at tissues… but there was one scene in Beasts of No Nation that had me crying, and it wasn’t due to illusory maneuvers on the director’s part. The director avoided any semblance of heart-string-pulling and simply let the power of authenticity do its dirty work, a feat allowed by his elegantly nuanced talent. My sorrow felt heavy, like a sorrow for the entire planet.

The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective), also wrote the film’s screenplay (based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala). I’ve seen several movies this year that I thought deserved serious Academy attention; Beasts of No Nation joins them and rises – urgently – straight to the top. I’ll go so far as to say that I hope it captures awards not only for itself, but for humankind. Fukunaga’s adapted screenplay and directing ought to garner Oscar nominations, at least, and actors Idris Elba and Abraham Attah deserve the highest accolades for their searing performances. They were both brilliant. The cinematography and costume design were also stunning. All of the art that went into the making of this film took my breath away.

Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Beasts of No Nation will do more than tug at your heart-strings… it’ll just seize your whole heart and crush it. But this film needs to be seen. Child soldiers need a place in the discourse of the problem of world suffering, and if swallowing our horror through the viewing of films like this can help bring awareness to the plight of these children, then we need to do that.

Child soldiers are not out there bearing arms and killing people because they had aspirations to do so as healthy children with sound minds. They are victims.

Beasts of No Nation elucidates one of the ways in which art is important and even essential for the well-being of the human race. We can’t continue to keep our eyes closed while certain things are happening in the world, and this is why Oscar-generated hype over Beasts of No Nation could be seen not only as well-deserved, but necessary. Everyone’s attention should be brought to this film.

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’ first original film, being to movies what House of Cards is to television series. The movie streamed on Netflix the same day it appeared in theatres. If you have Netflix and you want to see Beasts of No Nation, it’s there for the watching.

Kick ass in the kindest way possible, and other life advice (an A-Z guide)

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about “life-coaching.” I’m not exactly sure what that is, I’m no coach of any kind, and I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on life, but I thought I’d venture into related territory (meaning distant-cousin related). I thought, if I was to give just simple, pithy life advice, what would that look like? It seemed like a fun and worthwhile challenge. I searched my experience and came up with something for every letter of the alphabet, because my brain likes lists. Some of the “advice” is literal, some figurative; some are quotes, and some are definitions. It’s all helpful to me. So, for what it’s worth –

Life advice A-Z!

Age: Depends on the individual

Balance: “Pick your battles”

Caution: Conceal your true weaknesses

Design: Create your reality

Equilibrium: Drink lots of water

Fitness: Master a physical activity

Guidance: Have a goal

Health: Take the stairs

Intention: Kick ass in the kindest way possible

Juggernaut: Willpower on crack

Key: Unlock with fit, rather than force

Livelihood: Connect to artworks

 

Detail from "Dreams for the Earth, #6" (Beth Ames Swartz, 1989)

Detail from “Dreams for the Earth, #6” (Beth Ames Swartz, 1989)

 

Mental Health: Exercise hard

Nourishment: Cultivate relationships

Organizing: Turn procrastination into productivity

Provocation: Control your reactions

Quote: “Keep your hands up and your chin down”

Resonate: Remember interconnectedness

Strategy: Adjust your lifestyle

Thorn: Strengthen your mind

Urgent: Practice selective response

Vigilance: “Stay alert to stay alive”

Wealth: Clean sheets

Xerox: Never run out of ink

Yin and Yang: “Only when it’s dark can you see the stars”

Zenith: Construct your own ladder

 

[Full annotation on the image:

Dreams for the Earth, #6

“So the darkness shall be the light/and the stillness the dancing”

Beth Ames Swartz, 1989

(Donated by Louise G. Fink to honor the contributions of the Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology)

Arizona State University]

The New Reacher is Nigh.

Today is September 4. This means that we’re T minus four days from the tentatively scheduled release of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me.

You regulars here know how I feel about Reacher.

Last summer, I so eagerly counted down the days until 2014’s new Reacher novel appeared in stores that its release seemed almost anti-climactic, though admittedly this may have been related to the fact that we were frantically preparing to move. We moved almost immediately after I picked up Personal. It was the end of August, and I had very little time for reading in the month of September, as unpacking consumed the entire month. (We’ve been in our house for a year now? What?!)

Non-stop domestic activity kept me from such tantalizing pursuits as pulpy reading, but even when I did find time to open the book, moving-fatigue dulled the experience. I remember reading two pages at a time before passing out late at night, and that was only once or twice a week, if that. I was tired, busy, distracted. I finished Personal with little enthusiasm, and I may have mentioned to Callaghan that the story seemed somewhat… reduced to its formula. I liked Personal, sure, but it just didn’t thrill me. Again, I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been different had life been routine and uneventful at the time.

This year, though? The cells in the part of my brain responsible for escapism have been salivating since I read the synopsis for the 20th Jack Reacher novel. Methinks that Make Me will be a super intense ride, and life circumstances right now are ripe for it!

 

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In honor of Reacher’s return, I present the reappearance of Callaghan’s drawing of Reacher (this is becoming an annual tradition):

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

 

So let’s raise our glasses, fellow Reacher fans, because may we all remember that blond, blue-eyed, NOT-handsome, NOT-glib, super tough, tall and inhumanly strong BADASS Reacher would toast us with a whole pot of coffee. We’d say, Tchin! with respect to his French mother… but Reacher would say nothing.

Jurassic World… because sometimes, your life is lacking in dinosaurage. (“Rage” being the operative part of the word.)

Jurassic World spoiler alert:

There’s a huge, pissed-off dinosaur in it.

 

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No, really. In one scene early on, park operations chief Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) explains that their on-site scientists needed to innovate bigger, better dinosaurs (she may have said the words, “faster, louder, scarier,” but I wasn’t taking notes… you get the idea) in order to re-boot the general public’s interest in visiting the park of living, prehistoric attractions. Because, you know, living prehistoric attractions aren’t interesting enough as they are.

I appreciated how Claire was just as much speaking of we, the audience, as she was of the fictional Jurassic World visitors. We movie-goers are the actual visitors of the park; we’re now on installment number four of this behemoth of a sci-fi action-adventure franchise, and let’s face it: At this point, we need “bigger, better, faster, louder, scarier” dinosaurs if any movie starting with the word “Jurassic” is going to get us salivating to the tune of (insert lofty dollar amount in theatre ticket sales). 22 years after the fresh, meteoric impact of the original Jurassic Park roused millions of imaginations around the world, the team behind this new chapter in the saga had to come up with something spectacular… at least in raw dinosaurage, if the plot lines were going to continue along the uninspired course they’d taken in the intervening years.

1993’s Jurassic Park, based on the novel by Michael Crichton, was just a tough act to follow, so to speak. Steven Spielberg unleashed it on a public that’d been unaware of exactly how well dinosaurs could be done in cinema, and not a mind that saw it was left unblown. The sequel was, in my opinion, dull, and the third one looked to be even less interesting. Following that disappointment, folks on the Jurassic World team got busy spawning a super enormous, intricately modified version of a dinosaur. Callaghan and I entered the theatre fully expecting it, since the trailer had looked promising, and we really wanted to believe the hype this time. We weren’t disappointed. Indominus rex was delivered, and the Jurassic thrill was back and intact.

Because Jurassic World quickly developed into a well-paced, rollicking visual fest of panic and people flung asunder, I was breathlessly entertained enough to shrug off my annoyance and suppress my inward eye-rolling provoked by some of the sub-plots and caricatures of the people in the story. I was willing to overlook the absurdity of the shoes on Claire’s feet, which were 1). white (I noticed as she was running through mud), and 2). high-heeled (I especially noticed as she was running through mud). In fact, from the time she started running, I made it a point to look at her feet in each scene, checking to see whether she’d resourcefully broken off the heels. She hadn’t. She ran at breakneck speed through a prehistoric forest and fields with rampaging beasts and her life in peril… wearing high heels.

I wasn’t there for well-developed characters devoid of stereotypes. I didn’t go in expecting to marvel at the usage of restraint in the writing, or in any other aspect. I was there for the suspenseful thrill of it all, and the snappy lightness of the script allowed us to simply enjoy that. We didn’t have to wrangle too much with ethics in science or the over-arching concept of “playing God.” We could just appreciate the excellence of everything done well in the film. We could admire the panache of the motorcycle-riding Velociraptor Whisperer played by Chris Pratt. We could feel gratified when Claire started to see beyond the dollar signs in her park’s living, breathing “assets” and “attractions” and developed respect for the dinosaurs as actual, sentient beings. We could bask in the nostalgic pleasure of the Jurassic Park theme music sweeping through the theatre, carrying us along on our ride, and we could enjoy exhaling before the spectacle of it all. There were angry, vicious dinosaurs, and they were impressive.

[Side note: Glancing around the theatre, we couldn’t help but raise our eyebrows at each other over the sheer number of young children we saw. Especially with the level of advancement reached in CGI technology, how did this film end up with a PG-13 rating? The girl sitting next to us had to be around six years old, and she was in good company with plenty of other children – including babies and toddlers – throughout the sold-out house. We were genuinely confused. Did the parents think that perhaps Jurassic World would feature Barney?

I remember when I went to the theatre with my family to see Alien. I was ten, and the scene that horrified me – the alien popping out of the guy’s chest – made Alien look like a walk through Mister Roger’s neighborhood compared to Jurassic World].

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World brings dinosaur-sexy back after all these years. It’s a satisfying blockbuster summer action flick to watch, and it’s certainly unlike any zoo you’ve ever visited.

Ronnie James’ paw print, healed (and while I’m at it, here’s a look at some of my other tattoos).

One month ago last night, my heart disintegrated. It shattered into the ether, and the fragments fell and settled into an urn, the dust of my heart together with Ronnie James’ ashes. Well, Ronnie James is my heart. They are the same, and they are in a little box, and I still haven’t figured out how to navigate myself from here.

Our three hearts are broken… mine, Callaghan’s, Nounours’. I took a picture of Nounours last night at exactly the time of his brother’s death:

 

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

 

It’s like that urn is alive with Ronnie James’ pulse. We all feel him; his spirit and love are so strong.

Meanwhile, my tattoo of Ronnie James’ paw print has healed. I thought it was beautiful before, but now I can see that it’s an exquisite work of art. It’s smudgy and unevenly pigmented, looking, in other words, perfectly real – like Ronnie James left it there, himself. I’ll always be able to see the paw print of my (precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon) Ronnie James, my petit Wrah-Wrah, my son who could never get enough cuddles or kisses.

 

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James' paw.

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James’ paw.

 

I’ve never loved a tattoo more, and that’s saying a lot, because I have a lot of tattoos that I love. My collection of tattoos spans three decades; I had my first one done on my 18th birthday in 1987 (it was before tattoos went mainstream, a “bad girl” thing to do at the time, but I didn’t care what anyone thought), and this last one was done three weeks ago. 90% of my ink is on my back, though, where my eyes can’t reach. Every once in a while, I stand at an angle in the bathroom and admire what I can see in the mirrors.

I’ll show them to you, while I’m on the subject. I took the ones of my arm – may I just remark how awkward it is to take a selfie of one’s arm? – and Callaghan took the pics of my back. All of the pictures were taken yesterday, and they’re just of my arm and back. (Not pictured: pelvis tattoo, anklet tattoo.)

 

While the wind blew! Here's a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

While the wind blew! Here’s a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

 

The inside of my lower left arm... and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

The inside of my lower left arm… and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

 

I took those at lunch. We did the rest when I got home from work. This selfie was the last picture I took as the sun was setting (the window is behind me):

 

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture... the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture… the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

 

And here are the back tattoo pics Callaghan took before that (I put on my very lowest-rise jeans for this, since the tiger at the bottom goes quite low):

 

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

 

My poor mother strongly disapproves of all of this ink. Close your eyes, Mom!

 

Here's a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, "om mani padme hum," my favorite Buddhist mantra.

Here’s a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, “om mani padme hum,” my favorite Buddhist mantra.

 

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

 

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

 

I’m kind of fascinated by how my phone’s camera managed to pick up little beads of sweat on my spine!

Happy Friday, All.

Mad Max: Fury Road – (SPOILER ALERT!!)

(NOTE: So I started writing up my May Favorites for Tuesday. Mad Max: Fury Road was Number One on the list, and when my little blurb about it got too long, I decided to give it its own post. I’m publishing it now, off-schedule, because Tuesday will still feature my May Favorites. Carry on, if you will!)

 

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When we sat down in the theatre to watch Mad Max: Fury Road the day before Callaghan left for France last weekend, I had no expectations. It was Mad Max, right? I’d read nothing about the film since its release. I settled in for what I hoped would be an action flick so action-packed it’d numb my mind for a couple of hours. That was what I wanted… a mind-numbing movie, a big, loud, dumb action movie, preferably with lots of explosions and car chases.

I wasn’t planning to employ my brain. I was there to shut my brain off, not to turn it on… but something in the story tickled my neurons at the beginning. At first, I couldn’t figure out what. It started with the improbable spectacle of Max being restrained and forced into use as a “Blood-bag” to keep a sickly child alive, a development that followed the opening sequence of events in which Max is chased down, abducted, attempts to escape, and gets re-captured.

That’s right. After Max – Max – was hauled back into hell, he was put to use as a talking, breathing blood supply. “Blood-bag,” in fact, even became his name… it was what his parasite (the bratty war-child) called him. And that sort of lit something up in the back of my brain, but things were happening quickly, and I wanted to keep up with the events, you know, as you do when you’re blasted into action flick oblivion on a convoy fronted by a demonic wraith of a dude playing a fire-shooting electrical guitar.

But at some point after Max was rescued by Furiosa, the female war-truck driver on a personal mission to free the Biggest Bad Guy’s imprisoned harem of wives, the tickle in my brain started crackling like a live wire with the realization that this parasite (that’s how I think of him… does he even have a name? …the war-child) was literally connected to Max-the-Blood-bag via I.V. line.

The first image that embedded itself in my brain like a song on repeat was of Max tied to the outside of the vehicle with his blood feeding into the child inside.

The second image? Max struggling mightily to free himself from the child, and, giving up, simply slinging him over his shoulders, still connected by the I.V., as he trudged over to Furiosa.

And I realized that Max wanted, among other things, an abortion. It was like he’d been beaten, raped and forced to keep the resulting baby. When he finally got free, it was at the hands of a woman. It had been the men in power who’d forced him to nourish the war-child with his own blood against his will. The I.V. line of “Blood-bag” (no longer referred to as a human being, Max had been reduced to a thing) was an umbilical cord.

What was unfolding before my astonished eyes was a role reversal played out on a massive scale in a spectacular, mainstream action movie, and it barreled on relentlessly until the end. It did not stop to care. How much did it cost to make this movie? Let me look it up… okay, about $150 million, let’s say, if Google is correct. This movie is an estimated $150 million dollar middle finger stuck in the face of all the standard action flick conventions.

Max played Robin to Furiosa’s Batman, and it was something to behold.

Many more things happened along the way, many other things I’d never seen before in a high-octane action flick (which, by the way, was practically ALL explosions and car chases).

Like a gang of weather-beaten, much older women on motorcycles lending aid to Furiosa’s group. WHAT.

And Furiosa making the tough decisions (like leaving the pregnant girl behind because going back for her would have put them all at risk).

And Furiosa being the one with the superior shooting skills (Max wisely and respectfully hands her the weapon when they’re down to their last round, and she nails their target).

Furiosa does most of the driving, and none of the sleeping. Furiosa dispatches of the Biggest Bad Guy. Furiosa is unequivocally the toughest no-bullshit badass female hero I’ve ever seen in an action movie. She has nothing to prove. Charlize Theron hammered her home.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-MadMaxFuryRoadFuriosa

 

Max joins Furiosa’s group of women and instantly has in common with them the fact that they’d all been used for their bodies. When war-child connects with that one girl (sorry, I’m terrible with names in movies, and I’m too lazy to look it up), their bond gives war-child the sense of humanity we assume he’d been lacking. We see nothing sexual happen between the two – I also find it refreshing that there’s nothing sexual in this movie at all – and the power of his emotional bond with her (love) proves to be more profound than his former physical bond to his “Blood-bag.” That old reliance disappears, and he’s able to recognize the humanity in Max and defect to the other side, even switching their roles and assisting Max.

When Furiosa lingers near death toward the end, Max finally reveals his name to her. “Max,” he says. “My name is Max.” There’s something about the way he says it, like the words are more meaningful to him than they would be to her. Max has emerged from the experience with a restored sense of himself, of his own humanity. Once again, he has a name and an identity. He’s no longer “Blood-bag.” He’s no longer an object, reduced to his body and used according to how it could benefit others.

I absolutely loved this movie, and Callaghan did, too. Everything about it impressed us. We pretty much left the theatre with our minds thoroughly blown. We just looked at each other and didn’t even know what to say except HOLY SHIT!! We have to see it again!!!

I went in wanting to zone out before a mindless spectacle, and ended up mentally stimulated while simultaneously holding my breath with the pace of the action. If I’d had expectations, they would’ve been obliterated… and I couldn’t have asked for a better soundtrack for such utter destruction, either.

Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding (instagram series)

Just over a year ago, I took a picture of Callaghan and the Wrah-Wrah together in a companionable moment, and I instagrammed it with a b&w filter. I shared it on Facebook, and people loved it. Over the course of the year, I did this six more times. That first photo was taken before Ronnie James started coughing. The last one was taken on the 14th of this month, the day he died… four days shy of the one-year anniversary of the first.

All along, I had no idea that I was capturing the last year of Ronnie James’ life.

Last night marked two weeks since good-bye. I wanted to share these pictures here today, together as a collection. There are only seven. I’d taken many more, but I’d carefully selected the images for this series with certain qualities in mind. Above all, the photos show the special bond between Callaghan and Ronnie James, each one spontaneous and now extra precious in its memorializing the enormous and profound love our feline son carried in his strong little lion heart.

I’ll say it again: Ronnie James loved like no other. He lived from cuddle to kiss, from nuzzle to hug. He measured his days in snuggles, rather than in minutes. He loved to be picked up and carried. He loved to be held, and, unlike most cats, you could hold him until your arms got tired, because the urge to get down never overcame him. He always had to be touching us, including with the unique way he had of flicking his butt to the side to brush against us when walking by. (We thought this quirk of his was so funny and cute.)

The Wrah-Wrah loved all three of us so much, Callaghan, Nounours, and me… and his love was such a huge, constant and present force in our lives that now, the emptiness where he used to be is just crushing. It is to me, at least. I’m having a difficult time with the absence of our “little lovebug” who was actually the greatest source of love I’ve ever encountered in a being, believe it or not. In that sense, he is divine. He’s with us somehow, I know… but still, when I walk through the house and see his favorite places, the realization of his physical goneness sucks the breath out of my own lungs, and I hinge forward under the weight of it.

It’s been rough, friends. Really, really rough. I don’t think that time could help me to miss him less, but it may help me to adapt, eventually.

Without further ado, here are the seven pictures in the “Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding” series. At the end, I tacked on a pic of me with the Wrah-Wrah (and Callaghan’s leg!), and another of the Wrah-Wrah with his beloved Nounours, both from instagram, as well.

“Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding”:

 

May 17, 2014. The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

May 17, 2014.
The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

 

June 2014. Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

June 2014.
Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

 

August 2014. Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

August 2014.
Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

 

November 2014. Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

November 2014.
Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

 

December 2014. He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan's arm! He loved to touch us.

December 2014.
He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan’s arm! He loved to touch us.

 

March 2015. Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

March 2015.
Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

 

May 14, 2015.  Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died... just hours before he died, in fact.

May 14, 2015.
Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died… just hours before he died, in fact.

 

And here are the two extras:

 

August 2014. Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

August 2014.
Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

 

March 2014.  One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

March 2014.
One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

 

Poor Nounours is so forlorn without his Wrah-Wrah. He still seeks out and cuddles with his brother’s urn and collar.

We will get through this. On Monday, Callaghan left for France suddenly because of an urgent family situation, so he’s preoccupied with the goings-on over there. I’m here with Nounours, doing my best to nurture him through his grief as I work through my own. I value this time to bond more with Nounours. We’re helping each other.

We love you, Ronnie James. As I often used to sing to him: Precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon-Ronnie-James!

The Wrah-Wrah’s paw print.

Why good morning, friends. As of three days ago, I have a new tattoo, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a small one, but of all my tattoos, this one is the dearest to my heart.

Right after Ronnie James died, I suddenly, desperately wanted to apply ink to his little paw pads and press his paw onto paper. It wasn’t a thought I’d taken the time to formulate beforehand. As much as I’d tried to prepare myself, his passing was harder for me than I’d imagined it could be, and in the aftermath, I wanted something of him that would stay with me forever.

Since it was a last-minute decision, we were ill-prepared. The inks in Callaghan’s studio yielded fuzzy prints, but we thought we could work with them. They were certainly better than nothing. My idea was to have his paw print indelibly inked on the inside of my wrist, where I could see it all the time. I wanted a permanent, visual remembrance of how Ronnie James loved to touch me, and of how comforting and sweet his touch had been.

 

The Wrah-Wrah's first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn't come from this set, but we're going to have this sheet framed.

The Wrah-Wrah’s first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn’t come from this set, but we’re going to have this sheet framed.

 

When our house-calling vet brought the Wrah-Wrah’s cremains home to us two days later, she surprised us with another sheet of paper on which she’d stamped some lovely, clear Wrah-Wrah prints, a thoughtful gesture that touched us deeply. I vacillated between my two favorites before deciding on this one:

 

Getting an idea of how it would look....

Getting an idea of how it would look….

 

Callaghan loved it and decided to get the same tattoo. We went to the Club Tattoo down the street here in Tempe to make an appointment with the person who’d done my last (spiral of hearts) tattoo. We made our double appointment for Saturday afternoon.

 

Ronnie James' paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

Ronnie James’ paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

 

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you're wondering, no, I don't lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though... it's been a good couple of months.)

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though… it’s been a good couple of months.)

 

I explained to our tattooist that I wanted the tattoo to look smudgy and real, as if Ronnie James’ inked paw had been pressed directly onto my wrist. He expertly used four shades of black/gray to achieve the effect with shading. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. I absolutely adore it.

 

Now I'll always have the Wrah-Wrah's paw on me.

Now I’ll always have the Wrah-Wrah’s paw on me.

 

And here’s a bad selfie, just for fun. (How do people take mirror selfies, anyway? It never worked out the few times I tried it. It must be an art form.)

 

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist... but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there's that.

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist… but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there’s that.

 

Callaghan loves his tattoo, as well. He asked to have the print altered just a tiny bit, and we wanted ours angled slightly differently, and he positioned his further down his wrist than mine, and he has his on his left wrist, while mine is on my right… so our Wrah-Wrah prints aren’t exactly identical. The Wrah-Wrah loved us both, but differently. He touched us both, but differently.

The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

The Breakfast Club according to Callaghan (or, the seven stages of Callaghan during The Breakfast Club).

thatasianlookingchick.com-thebreakfastclub

Last week, it suddenly came to my attention that Callaghan, who’s almost my age and therefore spent his teen years in the 80’s, like I did, had never seen the movie The Breakfast Club. It was a remarkable revelation that made me blink in wonderment. How could he have escaped The Breakfast Club? Moreover, how could I not have known that the person I’d been with for five years had never seen The Breakfast Club? I never felt any particularly intense passion for the film, but all this time, I’ve duly acknowledged it as one of the most important films of that decade. Like it or not, The Breakfast Club largely defined the pop culture landscape of the 80’s, and it just never occurred to me that anyone could be ignorant of this, even if you’re French. Being a French person in France was no excuse for not knowing The Breakfast Club, especially since the most popular movies in France at the time were other American movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. I was nonplussed.

It was like that time I found out Callaghan had never seen Fatal Attraction. I’d just assumed that anyone would get any and all references to deranged jilted lovers boiling bunnies, until a certain episode of Hart of Dixie happened and the truth came out. Callaghan may have passed the test to earn U.S. citizenship, but obviously, the test is lacking.

Anyway, last week, we were watching “The Runaway Club,” the most recent episode of Bob’s Burgers. The episode opened as a Breakfast Club parody, complete with a parody of the Simple Minds song, which instantly had me cracking up, which led to Callaghan looking at me quizzically, which led to my realization that Callaghan had no insight to the joke, which he confirmed upon being questioned. Yes, this was a grave matter, and it demanded serious questioning.

So on Saturday night, we sat down to watch The Breakfast Club. We were righting a wrong, and besides, I was curious to see how someone would react to the movie three decades after its release! (The movie came out in 1985. I graduated from high school in 1987. Callaghan graduated in 1989. There was no way he was getting out of seeing the movie once I found out he hadn’t seen it.)

Below, I’ve provided a run-down of Callaghan’s responses, which – unbeknownst to him – I recorded in real time.

Stage One: He’s bored and on the verge of falling asleep.

“Baby, so far this is extremely boring.” (Five minutes in)

(in spite of himself, he laughs at something Bender says)

Stage Two: He starts paying attention.

“Huh. She reminds me of Edward Scissorhands.” (looking at Molly Ringwald)

Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club on the left. Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club on the left. Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Stage Three: He accepts the reality that the whole movie takes place at the school.

“Seriously? The whole movie is about this scene?”

Stage Four: He gets drawn into it.

(laughs at something Bender does)

(laughs when Ally Sheedy throws the lunch meat in the air and it sticks to the sculpture)

“Did she just squeal?” (about a sudden, high-pitched noise made by Ally Sheedy)

Stage Five: He’s now totally into it.

(laughs at Bender crawling above the ceiling)

(laughs at Bender looking at Molly Ringwald’s crotch under the desk)

(laughs when everyone’s getting stoned)

“They made her look like Ozzy Osbourne.” (looking at Ally Sheedy)

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club on the left. Ozzy Osbourne on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club on the left. Ozzy Osbourne on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Stage Six: He’s now a part of it.

“Heheh, I thought exactly that!” (when Ally Sheedy says that her parents ignored her)

(laughs at Vernon saying to the janitor, “Do you think I give one rat’s ass what these kids think of me?”)

(laughs when Bender says to Molly Ringwald that a girl is only a tease if what she does get you hot)

(laughs at something Ally Sheedy says)

“Yeah, that’s the exact opposite of Bender’s.” (When Emilio Estevez describes his dad)

(laughs at something Bender says to Anthony Michael Hall, who’s talking about failing shop)

“She’s going to put her tongue up her nose!” (about Molly Ringwald, who instead applied lipstick with her bra)

“SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?” (Callaghan shouts at Bender)

Stage Seven: He becomes an astute observer.

“It’s funny that Brian is way taller than all of them.” (When the three guys are dancing to “We are Not Alone” in the dance scene in the library)

The End.

So, what have we learned from this?

Callaghan’s conclusion: “That was cool. It took a little time to go somewhere, but that was really cool. That’s a movie they could make a re-make of. I mean, watching this, of course, we know it was there. That was us in high school. Not that kids in high school today are any different, but they have phones… I mean, they’re different today. But that’s why they should do a remake. Things are different today.”

My conclusion:  I never realized before that to me, at least, Bender and Vernon are the only character-characters in the movie. In my notes, I called them “Bender” and “Vernon,” while I referred to the other actors by their actual names.

I loved the Bob’s Burgers parody, by the way, even though plot-wise, “The Runaway Club” strayed from The Breakfast Club pretty far between the opening and ending of the episode. Excellent tribute!

The Breakfast Club - dancing in the library

The Breakfast Club – dancing in the library

The dance scene parody in the end credits of Bob's Burgers "The Runaway Club"

The dance scene parody in the end credits of Bob’s Burgers “The Runaway Club”

Thank you to Callaghan for taking part in my sociological experience watching the movie with me. I know you weren’t into it at first, so I’m glad you ended up enjoying it!

On that note – Happy 30th Anniversary, The Breakfast Club! We agree that you’re basically timeless.

On the Craft of Translation (or, Fun with Subtitles)

Up until recently, Callaghan knew what he was getting himself into when we’d sit down to watch a French movie with English subtitles. He knew it would be a matter of moments before I’d hit “pause” and turn to him, exasperated.

“He said blah-blah-blah, but the subtitles said that he said blabbity blah-blah,” I’d complain. “Why?”

Callaghan saw what I meant, and he didn’t know why, either.

 

Me and my three-ton French-English dictionary.

Me and my three-ton French-English dictionary.

 

It used to irritate me a lot when subtitles didn’t reflect the spoken word. It didn’t matter that most of the time, I understood what was being voiced, because that wasn’t the point. The point was hearing and understanding the spoken French while reading the written English and THAT’S TOTALLY NOT AT ALL WHAT THEY SAID.

I mean, okay, there’s a wide range. There are literal, word-for-word subtitles. There are ballpark translation subtitles, where the meaning is basically the same, but the words are different. And then there are subtitles that have nothing to do with what was being said in French, and we’re both just, like, Huh? What were they smoking when they wrote these subtitles? We’re talking completely out of left field subtitles.

But my attitude toward the matter of subtitles changed the other day when an interesting task crossed my desk at work. I was asked to help our German artist/professor write the English subtitles for the short film he’d made.  Suddenly, I was on the other end of the issue. I had to write the subtitles.

Herr Z. and I went through the dialog line by line, starting and stopping so he could tell me what had been said in German. He’d paraphrase what the guy said, then he’d ask, “How would you get that across in English?” Or, “How would you express this in English?”

And there it was… my duh moment.

NEWSFLASH TO SELF: “How would you get that across in English?” and “How would you express this in English?” are NOT the same questions as, “What is the literal translation of this sentence in English?”

Turns out that throughout the German footage, I offered very few instances of literal translation. At almost every turn, I wrote the subtitles based on how American English speakers would most typically say it. I got the meaning across accurately, but often not literally. Distinguishing between “accurate” and “literal” was the key… that, and the realization that translating is as much a creative process as it is a linguistic one.

There are a dozen or so literary prizes out there for translations; it would go to follow that, as in anything, some translators who write subtitles are more talented and skilled in their craft than others. A good translator can deftly exercise creative muscle to capture the meaning of words using other words in order to give the other-language-speaking viewer the essence of what’s being said.

I knew this academically before I helped to write English subtitles for German film clips, but I didn’t connect personally with the craft of translation until that moment. Until that moment, I was too busy hitting “pause” after every line in my angst-filled bursts of self-righteous That’s not what he said! Why doesn’t the subtitle say what he actually said?

I was indignant because I was trying to learn, but in focusing so hard on trying to improve my French, I was allowing myself to get confused by any deviation from the literal. I was missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

I was also overlooking the simple and obvious fact that translation is an art, and, like any other art form, it’s as much about expression as exactness, if not more so. There are a myriad of ways to say any given thing, so if the literal translation isn’t as impactful as the original… if the mood, tone, energy, or emphasis of the original version starts to fall away in the literal translation… artistic adjustments can be made without losing the essence or integrity of the expression.

Furthermore, when writers of subtitles make artistic decisions in their translations, they can do so because there’s more to communication than the actual word. You have the idea, itself, and then you have disposition, emotion, psychological state, body language, etc., altogether creating a rich, multi-dimensional expression, a nuanced expression. I imagine there’s more room for authenticity to slip in when a holistic approach is taken, anyway, especially when there’s depth and complexity in the original writing.

Another aspect to consider is the fact that sometimes, there is no equivalent for an expression in the other language, which creates a whole new challenge for the writer of subtitles. There are some idioms and ways of saying things that are simply unique to their original language, so the best you can do is approximate. Again, doing this well requires talent and skill.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be that some people are just poor translators, or they really were smoking something when they were writing the subtitles. These are certainly possibilities, too!

(Callaghan just remarked that he’d like to see a film in Quebecois with French subtitles, which threatened to start a whole new conversation about how pure Quebecois is virtually incomprehensible to the French, though “people in Quebec know how to speak more French to the French so we can at least kind of understand them.”)

At any rate, thanks to Herr Z and his German footage, I was able to gain a new perspective on the craft of translation and the art of writing subtitles. I’m guessing that the next time we watch a French movie, the subtitles won’t irritate me nearly as much as they have in the past.

On that note, Happy Friday, All!

Welcome to the Hotel NOT CALifornia!

First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!

Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.

The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.

We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.

 

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

 

[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]

Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:

First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”

Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).

The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.

(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)

So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.

The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.

 

Bugsy all glammed-up!

Bugsy all glammed-up!

 

So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)

On the World Cup and Google-Fu Fail (but Google-Octopus Win)

Unlike American football, baseball, basketball and hockey, soccer isn’t a sport that exactly qualifies as a defining feature of American culture, at least at the professional level. It just isn’t to the States what it is to other countries… but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to World Cup mania. The occasion of the FIFA World Cup is pretty much the only time Americans get together to get hyped up about soccer on a large scale.

My first memorable experience with the World Cup was indirect, yet eye-opening: I was living in West Germany when the Berlin wall came down and when West Germany won the World Cup (I was stationed there from 1987-1991). On both occasions, the streets outside my little Ludwigsburg apartment filled with chaos and screaming crowds. One event inspired more hysteria than the other, though. Guess which one? That’s right… the World Cup. It was complete madness. West Germany winning the World Cup in 1990 caused more of a ruckus in the masses than the destruction of the Iron Curtain.

Truthfully, these last few weeks have been so busy that I’ve only been distractedly aware of the World Cup. It was like background noise until earlier this week when an octopus appeared as a Google doodle, and a co-worker mentioned Paul the winner-predicting octopus of yore.

 

Brazil vs. Mexico. Nobody won.

Brazil vs. Mexico. Nobody won.

 

This was an animated doodle, might I add! Like his inspiration, the octopus went back and forth before choosing the winning team of the upcoming match. Paul the predicting octopus, complete with a halo to show that he’d died and gone to octopus heaven.

Since the real-life Paul departed and no other octopus has stepped up to replace him, a slew of alternate psychic animals are being used as oracles to predict 2014 World Cup match winners. I’ve seen mention of elephants, turtles, pigs, pandas and dogs, and there are probably others. To which I say, good luck to them! The octopus has intelligence in his arms, which gives him a clear advantage over animals with dumb arms. I might be wrong, but it doesn’t seem to me that one can successfully replace a smart-armed animal with a dumb-armed one if your goal (haha) is to have him predict soccer match winners.

How do I know about the intelligence of an octopus’ arms? From watching this educational video:

 

 

zefrank1’s commentary dissolves into a winding tangent about Charlotte’s Web at the end (which I find to be hilarious), bringing to mind an obvious replacement critter for predicting World Cup match winners… the spider, another eight-legged marvel of nature!

Anyway, I thought Google’s octopus doodle was a sweet tribute to Paul, and creative little gestures like this keep me from loathing Google outright.

My relationship with Google is complicated. I have trust issues… perhaps Google and I knew each other in a past life and we had a terrible falling-out, with Google betraying me or killing me. Or maybe I don’t trust Google because when I use it, I feel like I’m being subjected to non-consensual surveillance. Whatever the reason, I’ve managed to turn habitual Google avoidance into a sport of its own, actually avoiding it like the plague. (Sorry I’m not sorry for the clichés. I think Google can handle the cliché treatment, and maybe even deserves it.) Many of Google’s interfaces and idiosyncrasies perplex me. I don’t know, I just find a lot of it to be awkward and unintuitive where many Google fans apparently don’t. Big Google-Fu fail on my part? Eh.

I have to say, though, that 2014 has done a great job thus far of taking me out of some of my comfort zones. I had to really start using Google at the beginning of the year (though I resisted as much as I could until resistance became impossible). At this point, I’m fairly immersed in the Google environment: Gmail – two accounts, if we’re including my personal one – Google Hang-outs, Google Docs, Google Calendars, the Google search engine (which I never use on my personal computer, for personal searches) and Google Groups.

Kicking and screaming, but using Google all the same. Go me! Cue the vuvuzelas. I mean, the caxirolas. (Which look to me like hand grenades, but whatever.)

Happy Friday, All!

PHA!

When Callaghan decided to create an Etsy shop for his art, we got right down to brain-storming names. “First name, Last name Art” wasn’t doing it for us, and neither was “Callaghan Art.” He wanted the word “Art” in the shop’s name, but he didn’t want to use his legal name or his former professional nom de plume.

We mused on the possibilities for a few moments.

“How about,” I ventured slowly, “‘PHA!’?”

It seemed like a logical suggestion, as Callaghan’s been signing his drawings, paintings and illustrations with “PHA!” since he was six years old. He’s gone through phases of signing in other ways, but he always goes back to “PHA!” – in fact, in the four years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him sign any other way. “PHA!” is his original, default signature.

 

Callaghan's signature on one of his latest works.

Callaghan’s signature on one of his latest works.

 

“True! I’ve been signing as ‘PHA!’ my whole life,” he said enthusiastically. “I can call the shop ‘PHA! Art’.”

Silence as his words lingered in the air.

“Oh… no,” I said, the realization hitting suddenly. “You don’t want your shop to be pronounced…”

“PHAART.” He finished my sentence with a low, drawn-out utterance, then repeated it: “PHAART!”

We were in the truck, on the road, laughing wildly into the hot, dusty wind.

It reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson raising hell on Twitter while watching basketball, as he did last week during the Spurs vs. the Thunder playoffs game, and the Pacers vs. the Heat: “Muphuggaz,” “MUFUKKAS,” “Muthaphukkaz,” “MUTHAFUQQA” and “Muhfugga!!” are just a few examples of the creative spellings he comes up with (for his signature word).

He doesn’t just use it for sports, though!

 

CaptureSamuelLJacksonStarWars

 

For Callaghan, “PHA! Art” would indeed be an unfortunate business name. Since you can’t use exclamation points in usernames, his URL would be “www.etsy.com/shop/phaart,” and his email address would be phaart@something.com.

“My address could be “PHAART@yourgeneraldirection.com,” he said, getting into it.

“Maybe you could just use ‘PHA!’ by itself,” I suggested.

He hasn’t decided yet for certain, but we know that “PHA!” will likely be a part of his shop’s name somehow. I’ll report back once his shop is up and running, lest your curiosity slay you.

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – May Favorites

May was a long month that brought a slew of healthy challenges. (If there isn’t already a book called The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Month of Houseguests, I might write one.) May was also fun, satisfyingly busy, and rife with “little things” that provoked delight. I actually had to decide which ones to feature here! I doubled some up, so the 10-item list below really contains 13 things. Let’s start with…

1). New reading glasses.

 

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

 

Before we went to California for Memorial Day weekend, I went shopping for a summer hat for Mom and ended up walking out of Steinmart with two hats for her and these reading glasses for myself, because seriously, who am I to pass on a pair of animal print reading glasses?

It’s great knowing my prescription, by the way. This purchase was a no-brainer, and in fact, I was hardly responsible… the display of animal print glasses pulled me toward it, and all I had to do was find the ones marked +1.25.  I actually needed a pair, though (my rickety old ones fall off my face when I look down).

 

2). Snapea Crisps Harvest Snaps.

 

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

 

Snapea Crisps are an old favorite of mine I re-discovered when we got back to the States. At some point during the month of May, they became a staple in our kitchen. They’re as satisfying as potato chips, but they’re baked rather than fried (0 trans fats, 0 cholesterol), and they carry nutritional value… one lightly-salted serving gives you 5g protein, 4g fiber, 230 mg potassium, 6% calcium and 8% iron. I always count out an exact serving of 22 pieces, because if I don’t, I’d probably consume the whole bag in one sitting.

Nutritional density notwithstanding, I know it’s unhealthy to snack on crispy, salty little things in front of the T.V. – we are aware, and we do try to keep it to a minimum. But… you know. Some things just go together beautifully. Rock stars and models.  Desert and rain. Snapea Crisps and Mad Men.

 

3). Artichokes and cherries.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-artichokes

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-cherries

 

It so happens that two of my favorite varieties of edible flora come into season in May!

When I bring home artichokes, I keep it simple, boiling them with a bit of olive oil and salt and eating them with grape-seed oil Veganaise. Prepared in this manner, the artichoke becomes a glorious magic carpet that carries me off into a cloud of gustatory euphoria. Forget food porn. The artichoke is nature’s Demerol. We’re still indulging, as they’re having a long season this year.

As for the cherries, they ripened earlier than usual this year in the California orchards… they’re technically more a June fruit than May. Dad took us cherry-picking when we were there with Callaghan’s father, though, so they made it onto the list. We brought home heaps of lovely Brooks and Rainer cherries. Like the Snapea Crisps, I have to ration them out when I start eating them, because I will OD on them (if you’ve ever OD’d on cherries, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s not pretty).

 

4). Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein Bar.

 

My new favorite energy and protein bars... and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

My new favorite energy and protein bars… and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

 

Yet more food!

You know I’m always on the hunt for perfect energy and protein bars, “perfect” meaning simple, delicious and balanced. In May, I discovered the Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and the Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein bar, and they are fantabulous both pre- and post-workout. Anytime, in fact.

 

Now, let’s talk skincare products…

5). Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment.

 

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

 

I ran out of eye cream in May, so I thought I’d get one I hadn’t tried yet. I picked up the Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment, and it quickly became a favorite. It appears to have a tint of color, but it doesn’t… it’s slightly brightening, and it actually reminds me a lot of Clinique’s All About Eyes (it’s similar in color, and it has the same light, velvety texture and feel on the skin). I put it on twice a day, in the morning and at night. I’m definitely going to re-purchase it once this one’s finished!

 

6). Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil (for dry skin).

 

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

 

I used to use olive oil on my face at night, so when I came across this new cleansing oil from Garnier last month, I thought I’d try it out. The verdict? Love it. It’s light yet rich with jojoba and macadamia nut oils, it smells nice, and it just feels good when I work it into my skin. Now, that part of my nighttime routine is less about removing my makeup and more about my face getting massage therapy. I rinse the oil off with water and follow it up with my normal nighttime cleanser (I’m currently using one by Simple).

 

7). Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance.

 

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

 

May brought warmer weather that I interpreted as an excuse to get a new fragrance. Walking by a Victoria’s Secret one day, I impulsively went in and tested every scent in their VS Fantasies collection on every available square inch of skin on both my arms until I couldn’t smell anything anymore. In the end, I decided to go with Sensual Blush (I got both the fragrance mist and the ultra-hydrating hand and body cream) and Amber Romance (the eau de toilette). I layer them, and the combination is sensational!

 

8). Chihuly in the Garden

When I realized that artist Dale Chihuly had returned to the Desert Botanical Gardens to show his work again – I’d gone with a friend to see his exhibit there a few years back – I had to seize the opportunity, and it was an excellent circumstance that one of our houseguests was with us at the time. Chihuly in the Garden was quite an unusual treat for a visitor from France! Spring in the desert is magnificent as it is, with all the cactuses in bloom… add the installation of Chihuly’s colorful glass sculptures amongst the desert flora, and you find yourself in a place of sheer alien beauty. It’s like springtime on another planet.

 

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9). Chef (film)

 

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We loved, loved, loved this movie! We loved everything about it… the story, the writing, the cast, the humor. It’s a comedy, and it’s incredibly well-done. I’m not in the business of writing film reviews, so all I’ll say about Chef is GO SEE IT!

 

10).  Evernote

 

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Ooh, online organizational tools!!

Yeah, I know. But what can I say. I had to start using it for work, and now I’m a card-carrying Evernote nerd with a paid subscription for a personal account (in addition to my work account). Two Evernote accounts! Yikes.

I still maintain my beloved Franklin-Covey agenda, though. Paper forever!

That about wraps it up for May. We’re only two days into June and I’ve already noted two things for my June Favorites post, so it looks like another fun month ahead. =)