7 movies, 3 series. (April Favorites!)

April was halfway-to-October month, as in, halfway to SHORT HORROR OCTOBER. Hence, I took it upon myself to watch more in the way of horror shorts than usual. It’s my responsibility, after all, to bring you the best in short horror when October comes around. As selective as I’m trying to be, I have 12 short films on my list so far. This number will probably (at least) double in the next six months, so you’ll likely get several horror shorts per post in October. I’m looking at the list and seeing nothing that I want to cut.

That aside, I’m here to tell you about the feature films and series that we/I watched in April, because that’s all that’s on my list this time. There were no new food items or products to try in April.

We were glad to be able to catch the three movies we’d wanted to watch in theaters in the last six months. As a wonderful coincidence, they’re all set on or in the ocean: The Lighthouse, Aquaman, and Underwater.

Then, Netflix dropped an original movie, Extraction, which readily delivered the sort of entertainment you expect and want from a high-octane action movie.

Also in April, I discovered the dark, arthouse films of Greek writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, whose work held my fascination for days after viewing it. I watched The Killing of a Sacred Deer, went on to The Lobster, and then to Dogtooth. One after the other, the films drew me into their simple yet elaborately designed little worlds, each one small in scope, grand in situation, and surreal on any scale. The minimalism of Lanthimos’ cinematic style is interesting, too, in the way that it isolates the story, with you in front of it like the proverbial fly on the wall – you can either walk away, or allow yourself to become engrossed in the material that’s ultimately thought-provoking, often macabre, and sometimes perverse. I found myself caught up in the spare complexity of Lanthimos’ excellent films with their carefully crafted, awkward characters. The only film of his I’d heard about in the mainstream was The Favorite. I’ll get to that one eventually, but the next two I plan to watch will be Alps and Kinetta.

As for series, Ozark’s third season dropped in April, along with The Terror: Infamy (season 2 of The Terror) and the Netflix mini-series Unorthodox. 

On with the list, then! The first four, I watched with Callaghan. The rest, I watched alone. (I’m going to start making that distinction.)

 

First, the “recently in theaters” from newest to oldest:

1). Underwater (Amazon Prime)

 

 

2). Aquaman (Amazon Prime)

 

 

3). The Lighthouse (Amazon Prime)

 

 

 

Next, the Netflix Original:

4). Extraction (Netflix Original Movie)

 

 

 

(That wraps up the four that I watched with Callaghan!)

Now for Yorgos Lanthimos’ excellent films:

5). The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Netflix)

 

 

6). The Lobster (Netflix)

 

 

7). Dogtooth (original title: Kynodontas) (Amazon Prime)

 

 

These last three on the list are series, which I found to be outstanding:

8). Ozark (S3) (Netflix)

 

 

9). The Terror: Infamy (S2) (Hulu)

 

 

10). Unorthodox (Netflix)

 

 

That does it for April, my friends. Happy Friday Eve!

 

 

 

The Art of Self-Defense: element of surprise. (No-spoiler film review.)

A young man recovering from a brutal street attack happens upon a martial arts dojo and decides to join in order to learn self-defense.

Seems like a premise for a simple, straightforward plot, right?

We’ve been lucky with movies lately, Callaghan and I. As infrequently as we go to the theater, it’s pleasing when two consecutive outings put us in front of brilliant cinema. First we watched Midsommar, and then The Art of Self-Defense.

 

 

When independent film distributor Bleecker Street released The Art of Self-Defense, we didn’t take notice. The movie wasn’t getting a lot of attention, and we weren’t paying a lot of attention. It slipped by us into the theater as quietly as a ninja too broke to buy a ticket.

As it turned out, we almost missed it! The showing we caught at Alamo Drafthouse would be the last of The Art of Self-Defense not only at that theater, but at any in our vicinity.

I didn’t know anything about this film beforehand. Sitting down unaware that I was in for a black comedy – a favorite genre of mine – proved to be a fascinating experience in and of itself, a treat of a discovery. The film’s comedic elements appear at the beginning (Rex Kwan Do, anyone?), while the dark aspect stalks through at its own, measured pace: it develops incisively and in tandem with the protagonist’s own development as a karate student.

More than comedy with a dark underbelly, The Art of Self-Defense stands as a feat of comedy and horror merging agreeably while maintaining their respective identities. It’s a film with a lot of personality considering its small cast of characters, a black comedy whose darkness takes on a voice and insistence of its own, as if to challenge the humor. First I was amused, then successively perplexed, frustrated, and appalled… and in the end, I was rewarded. I found the ending of this film to be immensely satisfying. A rarity!

(You might be wondering how I didn’t know that The Art of Self-Defense is a black comedy when the words are printed right there on the film poster. This is where I admit that the poster only caught my attention because it features people wearing karate uniforms. I didn’t read the quoted text.)

The Art of Self-Defense stars Jesse Eisenberg  (Zombieland) as its protagonist, and it was written and directed by relative newcomer Riley Stearns. Beyond a sharply penned black comedy piece, Mr. Stearns wrote a straight-up satire on toxic masculinity, the concept of which slaps you in the face over and again as the story progresses, as a good satire should. If you’re unfamiliar with toxic masculinity before seeing this film, I can guarantee that you’ll have an idea of it after seeing it. The Art of Self-Defense is a smart, successful film; it’s jarring in its boldness, which is the paramount feature of exploitation cinema.

My only regret in seeing The Art of Self-Defense is that I got to it so late in its run-time. I wish I’d seen this film early enough to recommend as a theater viewing! You may find it lingering in theaters here and there. No matter – it’ll be just as clever and fun on a smaller screen.

 

 

Midsommar: you don’t go to frolic. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

On Sunday, we went to the movies anticipating a good scare, because we thought we were about to see a normal horror flick. But that plan didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Nothing about Midsommar turned out the way I thought it would. Midsommar is a film that does things to you. Leaving the theater, it was more “what just happened to me?” than “what did I just see?”

There’s horror, and then there’s Midsommar.

 

 

Writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary) and independent film distributor A24 bring us a masterpiece of psychological horror in Midsommar. One needs to be somehow mentally prepared to see it. Don’t look to the trailer for help with this, because the “scary” parts aren’t even in it. Midsommar is disturbing to the extreme. For me, it was an unsettling and inexplicably compelling visceral experience.

A group of four American friends travel to Scandinavia at the invitation of a fellow student at the university. He’s from Sweden, and he’s spoken of a special summer festival held in his small community back home. The festival takes place only once every 90 years! Cultural anthropology doctoral candidates can’t pass it up, can they? Especially considering that they’re still wavering on where to train their focus in their graduate studies. An ancient festival in Sweden, now, that would be different. One of the students has a girlfriend suffering in the aftermath of a tragic event; she tags along, desperate to hang onto her caring yet ambivalent boyfriend.

And so we’re all shepherded to Sweden by our congenial Swedish student friend. He’s happy to take us on this trip to experience the festival… and a trip, it is.

I’m leaving by the wayside any attempt at sounding intellectual in this review, because I’m not an expert reviewer, and it’s difficult to characterize how I felt from the time the Americans reached Sweden. Having made this disclaimer, I can say that once the group arrived at the festival in all its isolated, bucolic splendor, it was just WTF piling on WTF slowly and steadily throughout the rest of the film. Midsommar is a true WTF-fest. By the end of the movie, I felt pinned to my seat beneath the weight of a WTF stone tower, each stone heavier than the last. If I needed the restroom during this movie, I couldn’t feel it. Midsommar is completely immersive, and that is one of its horrifying strengths.

In Midsommar, Ari Aster seeded the horror in the atmosphere of the setting; from there, he grew and cultivated it with methodical precision. Simple acoustic music played by festival hosts takes the shape of a voice that serves as much as a character as the actors. Skillful usage of foreshadowing and symbolism help the film to burrow under the skin. There are no jump-scare cheap thrills in this film.* An early scene in which the group is driven through the Swedish forest to the festival is presented upside-down. This bit of symbolism sets the tone for the rest of the movie as standard horror conventions fly out of that upside-down vehicle’s window.

We are in Sweden in the summer. Our tendency is to think of horror unfolding in the dark, but Midsommar is horror unfolding in a place that never gets dark.

Elsewhere in the horror genre, we might experience the horror of, say, a haunted house. In Midsommar, we experience the horror of nature in a peaceful, Scandinavian countryside.

Midsommar robbed me of some pedantic horror-movie joys: a few things happened that I guessed would happen, but I couldn’t take satisfaction in guessing correctly, because the events played out in ways more twisted than I could have imagined. I was too traumatized to be smug.

That’s the thing about this film. Even if you know what f*cked up thing is about to happen, you can’t believe what you’re seeing as it’s happening. The happening is more horrific than the thing, itself.

Another of Midsommar’s strengths is that it’s horror that could occur in real life. You think, this could happen. Then you dare think, maybe it does.

I’ve spent the past few days recovering from this nightmare film, and yet I’m sitting here recommending it. As disturbing as it is, Midsommar is impressive and beautifully wrought. The writing, direction, and acting are superb. It’s a fine work of indie art, as we’d expect from A24.

When we stopped at the store after the movie, I made my way through the aisles feeling disoriented and panicky. I was jumpy and irritable. You would’ve thought I was in Costco, not Whole Foods! Everything freaked me out: interactions with people in the store. The color white. The flowers for sale. My inability to find an item that I needed. The cashier handing me the receipt.

I saw runes everywhere, in everything. I still do. It’s chilling to the core.

I don’t know whether a film this macabre, graphic, and psychologically disturbing can be an Academy Awards contender, but if it can, Midsommar deserves nominations. The big ones all apply: writing, acting, directing, cinematography, musical score, costumes, editing.

If you’re up for the challenge and thrill of psychological horror, go see Midsommar in the theater! You need the theater to optimize the immersive experience of it. I would recommend that you see it in any case. It’s an excellent film. It’s an experience. As the tag-line says, let the festivities begin.

*****

*Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy carefully placed cheap-thrill jump scares!

 

 

New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

And now we’re raining. (June Favorites!)

Just like that, we’re monsooning here in the Land of AZ. I don’t know what happened, but this time of year arrived quickly. I’m into it. I shouldn’t blink. Summer storms in the desert are magical, and our monsoon seasons seem to be getting shorter and less… just less. It’s been years since I’ve seen dumpsters rolling across the street, I’ll put it that way.

Just as quick, here’s my “favorite little things” list for June. Yes, that June. That weird and wonderful black hole of a month.

 

1). Hereditary (horror film)

 

 

2). Thor: Ragnarok AND Avengers: Infinity War (superhero films)

 

 

 

3). Goliath (Amazon Prime drama series)

 

 

Three words about this excellent original Amazon Prime dramatic series: Billy Bob Thornton. Also, William Hurt as Billy Bob’s nemesis. If you love a good legal/suspense drama and you’ve been looking for an excuse to sign up for a Prime free trial, this is it.

 

4). La Casa de Papel, aka Money Heist (Netflix crime thriller series)

 

 

5). Fresh Off the Boat (comedy series)

 

 

Blackish being on hiatus had us antsy for a good comedy. We love Ali Wong and knew of her creative involvement with Fresh Off the Boat, so we thought we’d check it out. It’s now our second-favorite comedy series. We watch it on Hulu.

 

6). Karl the Fog (twitter account)

 

 

San Francisco isn’t one of my favorite cities, but I’ve always loved the fog in the Bay Area. It turns out that the fog is witty and he has a name and a Twitter account.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil pesto.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

8). Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

9). Peaches, nectarines, plums.

 

Summer fruit

 

10). e.l.f. Velvet Touch Eyeshadow Palette (Island Breeze) – CRUELTY FREE AND VEGAN.

 

e.l.f.

 

I’m enjoying this e.l.f. eyeshadow. You swipe it on with your finger… no brush necessary! It’s more like a cream than a powder, and I love the colors in the Island Breeze version.

 

That takes care of it for June… sorry to be a little late this time!

Pay attention: It’s Hereditary. (Non-review movie review!)

My partner-in-crime Caroline and I anticipated Hereditary for months, so you can believe that we were in that theater on the morning of opening day. I do have something to say about this film, but it constitutes even less of a “non-review movie review” than usual. This is not a review of the movie. It’s a mere commentary on my reaction to it.

 

 

First, I found the ending to be disappointing, which affected my immediate opinion of the whole movie. I don’t know what I was expecting the ending to involve. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to involve what it did. It wasn’t the ending that I wanted.

Well, that was my problem, because the movie turned out to be an overwhelming success for me as a person who loves to get scared by horror movies, and who very rarely gets scared by them. Hereditary got to me. I just didn’t realize it until later that day. And that night. And the next day. And that was the beauty of it: the delayed reaction.

[Sidenote: It made no sense that I left the theater with such a dominant feeling of dislike for the ending, because while I was complaining about the ending, I was also marveling at the excellence of the production as a whole… not to mention Toni Collette’s stunning performance.]

I didn’t think that Hereditary had any effect on me, but then the day drew to a close, the sun went down, and I started to look around the house apprehensively. Hours later, I got ready for bed feeling more than a little creeped out. I thought back to the movie and couldn’t pinpoint a single scene or instance to blame.

Hereditary wound itself into the back of my mind, and then its creep-factor unraveled forward and stayed with me for a good two days.

That night, I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the dim lamp in the dining room when departing with my glass of water. For the first time, I was so spooked by a movie that I didn’t want to turn out the light. I’m not afraid of the dark.

I went to bed with my heart thumping in my chest.

Tired as I was, I stayed awake. Then I had to pee, but I was loathe to get out of bed, so I held it. How old was I the last time that happened, if ever? Five?

A shuffling sound moved quietly across the space by the closet. I couldn’t breathe. Callaghan didn’t move. When it happened a second time, Callaghan murmured that it was the fan blowing his cup off the nightstand, which didn’t make sense because the small fan was sitting on the floor, and the cup was up above and full of water. He reached down to turn off the fan. I didn’t hear the sound again.

The next day, I went around with many questions in mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. Caroline and I discussed it in a flurry of messages. She said that when she woke up at 2:44am to get a drink of water, she was “kind of freaked out and heard noises” as she walked around in the dark.

“I felt like there was something on the ceiling… following me as I walked to the kitchen,” she said. “And I heard a bump… and the hairs on my neck stood up and I gingerly looked up… but there was nothing there. ghghhghg.”

I would say that this sums up our joint reaction in terms of scariness on a scale of 1-10: ghghhghg.

I’ll be going to see Hereditary again… with Callaghan. This time, it’s his reaction that I’m anticipating.

 

May Favorites!

I’m not sure how to sum up the month of May. Mental health real talk: May was the white serial killer van creeping slowly down the street in front of your office window; you’re mesmerized by a combination of horror and morbid fascination as you wonder when it’s going to stop, and what you’ll see when it does. The van doesn’t stop, though. It keeps going, slowly, and when it disappears from view, you’re relieved, but you wish you’d seen more. Then June rolls around in the form of another serial killer van, and now you’re wondering whether you should ask for an adjustment to your depression medication cocktail.

In other words, ugh. This is what “Little Things” are for, right? Here are some of the Little Things that I enjoyed in May:

 

1). Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (Netflix)

 

 

Some hilarity was in order. We got it by watching this. BEWARE if you have delicate sensibilities. Ali does not hold back!

 

2). A Quiet Place (film)

 

 

We finally made it out to a movie, and we picked a good one. It’s immensely gratifying when a horror film turns out to be good and not cheesy at all, like this one, though I love cheesy horror flicks, too.

 

3). The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, S2)

 

 

I probably noted the first time around that the phenomenal The Handmaid’s Tale is visually stunning, and that you could hit “pause” anywhere and it’s like you’re looking at a Vermeer painting. Season 2 follows suit.

 

4). Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix)

 

 

Netflix’ real-life crime drama docuseries game is strong.

 

5). Cobra Kai (YouTube Red)

 

 

Cobra Kai is a current day “where are they now” blast that puts you back in the 80’s because the main character is stuck there.

 

6). The Americans (FX) Series Finale (S6)

 

 

The Americans series finale couldn’t have been better, in our opinion. We’re sad that it’s over, but it had to end at some point, I suppose.

 

 

Philip and Elizabeth in the final scene of the very last episode of The Americans.

 

7). Sumo/Natsu Basho (May 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament) and Tochinoshin’s promotion to Ozeki.

 

Tochinoshin (actual name: Levan Gorgadze)

 

We’re big Tochinoshin fans, as you may recall if you’ve been here for a while, so we were thrilled to witness Tochinoshin’s historic promotion to Ozeki (Sumo’s 2nd-highest rank) at the end of his spectacular May tournament.

 

 

The wonderful tribute video above doesn’t include Tochinoshin’s most notable victory of the May Basho (for reasons of respect, I would guess), so I’m posting another video showing that match. This is his win over the formidable Yokozuna Hakuho. Yokozuna is Sumo’s highest rank. A Yokozuna is basically like a god in Japan.

 

 

8). Cherry season.

Cherry season is when Dad drives 1.5 hours to the cherry orchards in Brentwood (CA) and picks pounds and pounds of cherries and sends a big box of them to me, and then I know that we’re on the verge of summer, because I can taste it. Cherries are my favorite fruit. Callaghan doesn’t like them, so these were all for me.

 

Rainier cherries and another type whose name I can’t remember. The deep red-black Bing cherries come later in the season.

 

9). Popcorn with nuts.

 

popcorn and nuts

 

I started dumping roasted, salted mixed nuts on top of my popcorn, and it’s so very satisfying.

 

Alas, I could only come up with nine Things this time. They were outstanding. They were more than enough.

Life lessons. (About learning the ukulele…)

I went to a ukulele lesson last week.

In the following days, I admitted to myself that the ukulele isn’t what I should be learning. The lesson was fun, the teacher was excellent, but I was a student who wasn’t a fan of the ukulele – the instrument itself, or the sound that it makes, or the music commonly played on it. I realized that I was in the wrong place, and it wasn’t fair to the teacher or to a potential student who could fill my time slot.

Passion fuels perseverance over a learning curve. I was happy to be at my lesson; I left feeling determined to practice, but once at home, it was a different story. I had no desire to practice, and when I sat down to do it, anyway, I found that practicing with a lack of interest is difficult. I’d had this idea that I wanted to learn the ukulele, but that wasn’t enough. Sometimes, an idea isn’t enough.

I don’t love the ukulele.

If not passion, navigating a learning curve requires necessity, I think… necessity as in you have to learn it because it’s a job requirement, or for some other practical reason, or your life depends on it, like someone’s holding a knife to your throat saying learn it or else.

There has to be a compelling reason to allocate time to the effort. Rather than passion or necessity, my reasons for starting ukulele lessons came down to sentimentality and a desire to do music again… emotional, general reasons that had nothing to do with the ukulele.

I hate to let anyone down. Some people had great expectations of me. For instance, I have a friend who’s going to be extremely disappointed that I won’t be bringing my ukulele to the gym to play “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” during Body Pump in place of the workout tracklist, as he’d expressed his eager anticipation of my obliging.

Callaghan couldn’t appreciate this “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” gym scenario when I told him about it, because he didn’t know the song, he said. I went to YouTube to find it for him. I then learned that “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” was featured in the horror movie Insidious, which I thought was fitting because I know if I heard Tiny Tim singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in my house in the middle of the night, I’d be horrified, too. I can see how a demon would choose “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” as his entrance song through the gates of hell, or whatever it was going on there…

 

 

[Aside: I would love to see a boxer or an MMA fighter walking out to “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”]

I don’t really remember Insidious, by the way. The story didn’t stick with me, and I didn’t think it was scary. It’s safe to say that going to bed with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in my head that night was scarier than Insidious.  

But I digress.

I’m sorry that there will be no tiptoeing through the tulips during Body Pump or anywhere else. I didn’t intend for my endeavor to be a mere dalliance, though I did go in with a “try it out and see” attitude.

My instructor was awesome, though! If any of you locals are looking for a teacher of string instruments, let me know, and I’ll gladly share his contact info.

I will say that this experience intensified my desire to do music again. Any learning curve would be a fun challenge if I were passionate about the instrument. I know exactly which instrument that would be, but it’s not worth mentioning here, because it’s unlikely that I’ll get one.

All of this said, I still have great affection for my ukulele. Mom gave it to me; it was hers. It gives me joy just being here. I’m keeping it.

 

The ukulele that came home with us.

 

Ruthless. (February Favorites!)

I’m a little embarrassed looking at this list. For being such a short month, we sure watched a lot of T.V. in February.

Of the little things that helped to brighten our days (or distract, as it were) in February, there was one stand-out vegan junk food item, and only two non-food items: a perfume and a household cleaner, of all things. No skin care on the list this time! I haven’t run out of anything, and I’m loving everything I’m currently using. I have been testing out a product, though – actually an item – so you might see that on next month’s list. I need another month with it to get a good idea of how I like it.

Back to the aforementioned T.V. escapism-fest. We didn’t catch any fight cards in February, nor was there Sumo to watch, so that left us with more screen-time for Netflix and the like. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Of the six series listed in this post, we only binge-watched three. There’s one ongoing series, and there are two complete seasons of series we just haven’t finished yet.

On with the list, then!

 

1). Black Panther

 

 

We went out to see just one movie in February, and we did well to choose this one. Black Panther  was absolutely worth the excursion. Black Panther is awesome. Its superpowers are manyfold, but mainly it’s managed to change the superhero film game, in our opinion, delivering in big, sweeping and important ways. I would have to dedicate an entire post to this film in order to begin trying to discuss my experience with it as a movie-goer. Suffice it say that we walked away feeling like we’d watched something quite profound… not at all what you’d expect when sitting down in front of a superhero flick.

 

2). Zone Blanche (T.V. series)

 

 

This thriller series stars Suliane Brahim, a French actress whose work Callaghan admires, so we thought we’d watch the pilot one night. We went from watching the pilot to binge-watching the whole season. The story’s premise might lack in originality (Silence of the Lambs kept coming to mind), but it held our interest with its mystery. Fine writing and acting had a lot to do with that.

 

3). Babylon Berlin (T.V. series)

 

 

Babylon Berlin is another intriguing and well-wrought foreign-language thriller series – this one’s German (we always watch in the original language with subtitles). We’re enjoying it, but we’re taking it one episode at a time, every few days or so. We’re finding this series to be a hefty bite; you don’t escape into mindless entertainment with this one. You escape by getting drawn into a dark and complex web of we’re not even sure what, at this point.

 

4). The End of the F*cking World (T.V. series)

 

 

Here’s one series we did binge-watch. The End of the F*cking World tells a brilliantly original, neatly-paced story of the misadventures had by two teenagers. You go along for the ride fully immersed in its weirdness, then you’re struck by the sheer poetry of its ending. I was, at least. If you’re up for a dramedy, I highly recommend this one!

 

5). Everything Sucks! (T.V. series)

 

 

We started Everything Sucks! toward the end of the month, and we’re still working on it. This is another fine coming-of-age dramedy. Heavy topics are covered with a light touch, a strategy that works to soften the blows. Youth at high-school age can be uncomfortable and often plain awful, and Everything Sucks! doesn’t let you forget that reality. I’ve done a fair amount of cringing so far, but still, I go back for more. There are a couple of stand-out young actors here whose work, alone, makes it compelling.

 

6). Imposters (T.V. series)

 

 

I’d say that Imposters is the classic escapism vehicle on this list. It’s not especially brilliant or original, but it’s entertaining enough, just light and fun. It’s one of those where you look forward to witnessing the demise of the bad guys, even though you don’t really care that much. This might make you wonder why I’ve included it on my “Favorites” list, right?! I can’t fully remember why we kept watching Imposters on consecutive nights, sometimes more than one episode per night, but watch it all the way to the end, we did. The Bumblers’ shenanigans definitely amused us. As I’d said: escapism.

 

7). Homeland (Season 7) (T.V. series)

 

 

This (7th) season of Homeland is so intense, it’s insane. It wastes no time. It grabbed us by the throat in episode 1, and it tightens with each new episode. This seventh season is my favorite so far. How could Homeland not only get better, but completely outdo itself this late in the duration of the series? The writers, that’s how.

 

Moving on to the non-entertainment “little things!”

 

8). Beanfields Pico de Gallo Bean & Rice Chips.

 

Beanfield’s Pico de Gallo Bean & Rice chips

 

We discovered Beanfields at our neighborhood farmer’s market down the street. These chips taste as junky as you want your junk food to taste, but they offer 5g protein and 6g fiber per serving… so while they’re not exactly healthy, they do have some nutritional value. They’re vegan, of course, but you should also know that they’re gluten-free, as well; they don’t crunch in quite the same way that average chips crunch. You soon get used to this as the flavor of the chips seeps into your bloodstream where it transforms into an opioid. Kidding. Or not.

 

9). DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go.

 

DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go

 

ETA: This fragrance is vegan.

My new favorite fragrance! I found DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go on Ulta’s website and thought I’d try it. It’s available online, only. Since I was placing an order with the gift card Callaghan gave me for my birthday, it was actually a gift from him, and it worked out surprisingly well (it’s a risk, buying a fragrance without smelling it first). Callaghan loves this fragrance as much as I do. It’s light and crisp, not too sweet, and it develops well with my chemistry. On me, it has great lasting power and sillage, as well. I will be repurchasing this fragrance!

 

10). Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner (Bluebell scent).

 

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner (Bluebell scent)

 

I don’t know what to say about this cleaning product other than it’s more pleasant to clean when I know I’m not spraying chemicals all over the place. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner is “made with plant-derived ingredients, natural essential oils, and birch bark extract.” I use it on everything, including mirrors, and it works well! Its scent is pleasant, too, but not at all overpowering or even that noticeable.

 

That wraps it up! We’re stoked about March… it’s a Sumo month, for one thing.

Happy Tuesday, All!

First Favorites of 2018! (January Favorites)

January was interesting… it seemed to go on forever, and yet it was a great month!

Without the usual blathering, may I present some of the “little things” I enjoyed in January:

 

1). The Florida Project

 

 

You may already know how I feel about The Florida Project if you’ve read my “non-review movie review” about it. If you haven’t, and you’d like to, it’s here. We found this to be Just a wonderful film, with the best acting I’ve seen from Willem Dafoe (whose acting I’ve always enjoyed, anyway). I highly recommend it!

 

2). Sumo – January 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament (Basho)

Sumo, Japan’s national sport, is one of my favorite martial arts/combat sports to watch. There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament in Japan every other month, and we watch them all – the “Grand Sumo Highlights,” that is. There are 15 days in the tournament, and we watch each day’s Highlights (on YouTube). Some tournaments are more enjoyable than others. We didn’t much enjoy last November’s tournament, but January’s was amazing… it was probably my favorite of all the tournaments I’ve seen!

Early on in the 15-day tournament, we were impressed with the rikishi Tochinoshin – one of our favorites – when he came out looking like he’d been training hard. We rooted for him to win the championship (Emperor’s Cup), and win it, he did!

For those who don’t know, this is Tochinoshin, the first European to win a Grand Sumo Championship since 1972!!

 

Tochinoshin receiving the Emperor’s Cup (January 2018)

 

Tochinoshin is Georgian. His actual name is Levan Gorgadze.

 

Tochinoshin (January 2018 Grand Champion)

 

 

3). Glitch (T.V. series)

 

 

Thanks to Netflix, we have access to all kinds of wonderful international T.V. series, and this is the latest we’ve started. Glitch comes from Australia with a great cast and an intriguing sci-fi mystery storyline. There are two seasons so far, and we just started the second.

 

On to food…

 

4). Cherry Pie Larabars.

 

Cherry Pie Larabar

 

This is getting predictable, I know. I still enjoy those apple pie Larabars – and all the other ones I’ve written about – but cherry pie Larabars are my favorite-favorite so far. They’re tart and just barely sweet enough to be sweet, if that makes sense. I love cherries, but these bars taste more like cranberries to me. They remind me of this cranberry quick bread recipe someone in my family used to make at Christmas. Very festive, Larabar.

Cherry pie Larabars have three ingredients: dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries.

 

5). Lifelight meatless pastas (esp. Wild Mushroom Ravioli).

 

Lightlife meatless pasta (esp. wild mushroom ravioli)

 

This month’s favorite processed vegan food discovery award goes to Lightlife for their frozen meatless pastas. My favorite is the wild mushroom ravioli… so flavorful and hearty!

 

6). Baby sweet potatoes.

 

Mini sweet potatoes

 

We found that mini sweet potatoes come out creamy – buttery, even – and delicious after 20 minutes in the steamer. They’re a treat hot or cold!

 

7). Coconut yogurt bowl with berries and seeds.

 

Coconut yogurt with berries, hemp seeds, and chia seeds

 

You may have seen this on Instagram when I posted it recently. I’ve been enjoying plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt with a little bit of light agave nectar, hemp seeds and chia seeds (a heaping tablespoon of each), and whatever berries we have on hand. It’s so tasty and satisfying!

 

Products…

 

8). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil

 

Being that I’m a skin care junkie and a devotee of The Body Shop, I went a little crazy when said establishment had their Black Friday sale a few months ago. I stocked up on some favorites, and I also ordered some new products to try.

I’ve been using these Oils of Life products since the middle of December, so I’ve had some time to decide how I like them. I like them a lot, as in, “I will re-purchase before I run out” a lot. The two products I use are the facial oil (above, #8), and the night cream (below, #9).

I’ve seen mixed reviews of the Oils of Life line. Many reviewers were turned off by the products’ fragrance, saying that they thought the scent was terrible, overwhelming, or both. This seemed to be the number one complaint about this line.

I don’t mind if skin care products are scented as long as I like the scent, and I love sandalwood and other woodsy, warm notes, so the Oils of Life products appeal to me even more because they’re rich with such a fragrance. Oils of Life, to me, smell like a Buddhist temple. Or like a man who smells great. (haha)

That aside, I’m very happy with the way these products work on my skin. I use the oil twice a day and the night cream at night, of course. I put the oil on first, then layer other products over it. I use an overnight mask over the night cream.

(About the pricing: this is The Body Shop, and The Body Shop isn’t drugstore cheap, but it’s not La Mer, either.)

 

9). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream

 

(See above for the text!)

 

10). Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids).

 

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids)

 

This product for towel-dried hair is just refreshing and pleasant. I found it in the kids’ hair care section at Target.

 

That’s it for January! Onward with the new year.

Just believe: The Florida Project. (Non-review movie review!)

Last week, we went to the cheap seats (the iconic Tempe Pollack Cinemas) to see The Florida Project, a film about a young mother and her little girl who live in a run-down budget motel, and the motel manager’s conundrum of having to be an effective manager in difficult circumstances while also being the compassionate person that he is.

Theirs is one in a cluster of colorful, Disney-themed budget motels crouched on the outskirts of Disney World. The motels create a mini-village mostly populated by human beings living in poverty the likes of which most of us couldn’t imagine, while skipping distance away, tourists visit the Magic Kingdom.

 

 

In the Magic Kingdom’s shadow, the motels strung together with fantastical storefronts of various establishments – gift shops, corner markets, eateries – contain a precarious world concerned with survival… a world of have-nots and have-nothings. Worlds exist within other worlds, though. At the center of The Florida Project, the little girl, Moonee, explores her world and finds smaller ones, each of them magical. She knows where to find them.

Left largely to her own devices by her mother, who comes across as more sisterly than motherly, Moonee is like a little old person, wise in the ways of her universe yet oblivious to danger, to the fact that her mother is unstable in perhaps every sense of the word, and to the reality of living a hairsbreadth away from homelessness. It’s both a relief and a heartbreak to note that the difficulties of Moonee’s life haven’t deprived her of her childhood innocence.

Halley, Moonee’s mother, can’t seem to set examples of right and wrong, but she can exemplify elation and the ability to turn the mundane into wonder-provoking discoveries. In terms of parenthood, there’s fit and unfit, but can you be a thoroughly bad parent when you can show your child the incalculable value of joyful play in found moments?

Writer/director Sean Baker discovered Bria Vinaite on Instagram, and he cast her as Moonee’s mother. She is a treasure. Young Brooklynn Prince’s raw and unfettered performance as Moonee could make you believe that she’s not an actor, either, but a child who wandered onto the set. All of the children in the film are wonderful. And as the motel manager, Willem Dafoe – the only “named” actor in the film – gives a superb performance that eclipses any I’ve seen from him… after all these years, we finally get him in such a role!

 

 

I would describe The Florida Project as a dramedy, and I highly recommend it. Just believe.

In a nutshell. (December Favorites!)

Happy New Year! I can’t say that enough. Every day since last January, 2017 showed no sign of ending anytime soon, and now, at long last, it’s over. At the same time, the year went way too fast. 2017 was the split personality of years in my life, and it leaves me excited for 2018.

I’m starting 2018 with a new approach to these “monthly favorites” posts: I’m going to answer three questions about each “little thing” on my lists, rather than writing paragraphs about them. If I have something more to say about something, I’ll devote a separate post to it. Starting now, these posts will be more visual, less blah-blah-blah.

 

1). Darkest Hour

 

 

What I liked: The acting, the direction, the musical score, the story of Dunkirk from the back end, Gary Oldman’s make-up and costume, the overall quality of the production.

What I didn’t like: It dragged slightly in some places, but not enough to lessen my regard of the film.

Would I recommend it? Yes, especially if you enjoy biopics.

 

2). Black Mirror (S4)  (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: Every story in every episode, the writing, the direction, impact/thought-provoking nature of the stories, the big philosophical questions raised, the overall excellence of the production.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. You might enjoy this even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi thrillers.

 

3). The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The writing, the acting, the costumes and set, the entertainment factor, the film’s freshness and overall excellence.

What I didn’t like: Some of the humor fell flat on me.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

4). I Love Dick (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The story, the writing, its presentation as art, its unapologetic rawness, some of the acting (mainly Kathryn Hahn’s).

What I didn’t like: Just that its IMDB rating is much lower than I’d expect it to be. In my opinion, this series is curiously underrated.

Would I recommend it? NOT TO EVERYONE. If you’d rather not see sexually explicit stories and raw, “artistic” story-telling of such material, I would not recommend.

 

5). Mom’s cooking.

 

Okara with brown rice and furikake

 

What I liked: Everything, meaning the tofu and the okara pictured above. Mom brought freshly made tofu from the little tofu place in my hometown’s J-town (Japan-town), so it was the tofu of my childhood. It’s nothing like the prepackaged tofu you get in a box in the supermarket.

Okara, by the way, is Japanese for “rubbish,” in a sense, from what I understand… as a dish, it’s the scraps leftover from the making of fresh tofu. You could buy it in bags and cook it up with dashi (Mom used plant-based dashi), seasonings, and finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and carrots. It’s one of my favorite home-cooked dishes. Grandma used to make it just for me!

What I didn’t like: That it was, perhaps, the last time I’d eat it. With the closing of the little family-run tofu factory (there’s no one left to take it over), fresh tofu and okara may be a thing of the past.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but this is irrelevant, of course.

 

6). Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels.

 

Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels

 

What I liked: High nutrient density in a bread that seems like a cheat-day indulgence.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. I’ve been eating one of these a day almost every day for over a month, and I’m not tired of them yet.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter.

 

Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter

 

What I liked: Peanut butter on an apple pie Larabar is as delicious as peanut butter on fresh apple slices. It’s a satisfying nutritional powerhouse of a treat.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? If the apple/peanut butter flavor combo appeals to you, then yes.

 

8). Cara Cara oranges.

 

Cara Cara oranges

 

What I liked: These beautiful red-fleshed navel oranges (they are not blood oranges) are incredibly sweet and juicy, and they have just a hint of tropical flavor.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

9). Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract).

 

Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract)

 

What I liked: This overnight mask makes my skin look more smooth in the morning. It goes on like a thick lotion that dries into a pleasant, slight tightness; it’s not sticky, as other overnight masks often are. I layer this on over my nightcream every night.

What I didn’t like: Its schoolroom fragrance (paste, maybe?) is somewhat strange, but actually, I don’t dislike it. It may be a turn-off for some people, though.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

10). OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter.

 

OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter

 

What I liked: Just that it actually works to smooth out the frizzy fly-aways all over my head, and it doesn’t make my hair feel heavy or greasy.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

The End. How’s that for succinct?

Until next time!

It’s that time again. (November Favorites!)

I’m back to share some “little things” that I enjoyed or actually loved in the last month! November brought significant “big” things to appreciate, such as visiting my family and finishing the first draft of my manuscript, but as always, this list is all about the fluff in between.

We’ve got a couple of T.V. series, a horror flick, some vegan processed (junk) food, some other edibles, and, of course, a few cruelty-free skincare products.

Without further ado, may I present…

 

1). Godless (T.V. series)

 

 

This series, in my humble opinion, is rave-worthy.

Westerns aren’t my favorite genre, but I do enjoy the genre; my all-time favorite movie – Tombstone – is a western. We thought we’d give Netflix’ new western mini-series a try. Godless did not disappoint. From its quintessential sweeping vistas to its characters who are badasses merely by virtue of existing, this one captivates for the reasons fans love westerns. One aspect that sets this western apart from others, though: in this traditionally male-dominated genre, Godless is female-dominated.

Add to this the story’s extravagant application of symbolism and metaphor (also characteristic of westerns), the quality of the production, itself, and the actors’ fine performances, and we’ve got a binge-watching hazard on our hands.

 

2). The Good Doctor (T.V. series)

 

 

Truth be told, we’re just entertained enough by The Good Doctor to keep watching it. The main attraction, for me, is Norman Bates in the lead role. I’m sorry, but hapless Freddie Highmore will always be Norman in my mind. (Bates Motel remains one of our favorite series.)

Callaghan feels the same way. While watching it, we’ll say things like, “Norman will figure it out!” and “Poor Norman is going to get blamed for this,” and “FINALLY Dr. Melendez recognizes that Norman is a genius surgeon!” Also, “But does Lea know that Norman is autistic?” because we’re rooting for Norman and Lea to become “Norman and Lea,” and the two of them are continuously confused by each other’s behavior communication-wise, and, well, you can see how this hospital drama closes in on soap opera territory at times. Maybe this explains why I’m only borderline super into The Good Doctor… generally-speaking, I don’t dig soap operas. We love Freddie Highmore’s character, though. We giggle every time he sums up his assessment with his emphatic, matter-of-fact “He’s dying” or “She’s dying” (right in front of the patient), which he does in almost every episode.

That being said, it’s Norman’s (I guess I should say “Sean’s”) personal journey and challenges that intrigue us. The Good Doctor is ultimately thought-provoking and well-wrought.

 

3). As Above, So Below

 

 

I don’t have much to say about As Above, So Below except that we enjoyed it. We’re not too discriminating when it comes to horror, especially since horror is sometimes at its most entertaining when it’s cheesy, low-budget, or just plain bad. Horror’s found-footage sub-genre is usually guilty of one or all of the above. As Above, So Below is no exception. We liked this one more than most, and definitely enough that we’d see it again.

Also, we’ve walked through those catacombs beneath Paris, and let me tell you… I believe these movie people 100% when they say that As Above, So Below was filmed down there. That the story unfolds in a familiar place made it even more creepy and entertaining.

 

4). Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes.

 

Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes

 

This is Gardein’s third consecutive appearance here. This time, it’s their crabless cakes, my friends. These little tidbits of doom are delightful. I don’t think they taste like crab, which is good if you like crab cakes that don’t taste like crab, if that makes any sense. Haha!

We bought these for my parents to try, and they liked them, too. We always find ourselves looking for more, so next time we’re in the mood for these junky, processed vegan treats, we’ll get two bags. (They’re not cheap, so they are treats.) Our preferred prep method is to bake them in the conventional oven. Oh… and they’re amazing with vegan chipotle “mayo,” in our opinion!

 

5). Simply Balanced Organic Agave Nectar Light.

 

Simply Balanced Organic Light Agave Nectar

 

I ran out of coconut sugar for my coffee and had to fall back on something else until we could get to the store. That “something else” turned out to be the unobtrusive bottle of light agave nectar we’ve had in the pantry forever. Now I remember how I used to love it! This might even be the second time I’ve featured it in a “favorites” post. For me, light agave nectar serves as a great middle ground (sweeter than coconut sugar, not as sweet as Truvia). I love its light smoothness, too.

 

6). Raw unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Raw unsalted mixed nuts

 

I love salted nuts, but in November, I cycled into my raw-unsalted phase. I leave a big jar of these mixed nuts out on the kitchen counter, and I grab a handful of them at random times… often with breakfast, actually. I’ll still have the salted nuts and seeds later in the day, so yeah, I’ve been doubling down on the mixed nuts. If you count the peanut butter I eat almost every day, it’s a triple-down. I have nothing against a daily mega-dose of healthy fats, though. They’re delicious.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar.

 

Apple Pie Larabar

 

I’ve also cycled back into a Larabar phase! Lately, I’ve been enjoying this apple pie version as a spicy-sweet refined-sugar-free alternative to fall desserts. Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. That’s it. Yum.

 

8, 9, 10). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Yes to Coconut Naturally Smooth Lip Balm.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Naturally Smooth Lip Balm

 

Okay, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of this entire line of products by Yes To. I’ve already talked about (and continue to use) Yes to Coconut cleansing facial wipes and Yes to Coconut moisturizer. It’s all wonderfully rich and hydrating, and I can’t say enough about it, really. If you have dry skin like I do, then you might do well to try out the Yes To Coconut line for your skincare!

 

That’s it for November! Happy Friday, friends.

Cancelled plans, but good things, too. (October Favorites!)

In October news, nothing much happened. October was the month of cancelled plans.

We wanted to catch UFC 216 (Demetrius Johnson defending his title again!) at our usual sports bar, but it didn’t work out. We’d planned to go to a Halloween party – I even had a Harry Potter costume! – but we had to cancel. That’s right. We did nothing for Halloween. The closest I came to celebrating Halloween was going to BodyPump looking a little goth. That was it.

At the same time that nothing happened, a lot did happen. We had houseguests in October, you see, for 10 days in the middle of the month… and that was what happened. In the aftermath of their visit, we were wiped out on every level. We were compelled to hibernate.

Enough said.

Let’s get on to the little things I enjoyed in October. OH, here I must insert an apology in advance: these are not great pics. I didn’t have the wherewithal to work on getting super-good shots of anything this time. So it goes.

Starting with entertainment, as usual!

 

1). A Ghost Story

 

 

You may remember the non-review movie review I wrote about A Ghost Story. If so, you know how I feel about it. We were just as happy to watch it a second time.

 

2). Mindhunter (T.V. series)

 

The excellent Mindhunter is not your average T.V. series. It’s unusual. Words that come to mind: Vintage. Stylish. Noir. Not scary. Not glamorous. This series about the beginnings of criminal profiling in the FBI’s fledgling Behavioral Science unit first struck us as a bit awkward in its delivery, but you soon realize that this is deliberate. It works. This is a period piece, after all, and this was how T.V. looked back then.

I’ve heard people say that they had to watch two or three episodes of Mindhunter before they got into it. Our experience was that we were hooked by the end of the first episode.

 

3). Stranger Things 2 (Season 2) (T.V. series)

 

 

Is it even necessary for me to say that we loved Stranger Things 2 and it was fantastic and maybe even better than Season 1 and in our humble opinion everyone should watch it? I think not. If you’re not watching Stranger Things, then I don’t know how to help you.

 

Products!

4). Physician’s Formula Super BB cream SPF 30 (in “Light”).

 

Physician’s Formula Super BB Cream

 

Did you catch the complete name of this product? The operative words are SPF 30. I wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30 cream every day, so I always have it on under my make-up, but I love a make-up product that also has sun protection. Physician’s Formula BB cream’s sun protection includes zinc oxide, which I look for in a sunscreen above other active ingredients.

It so happens that this cruelty-free product not only works as an extra layer of sunscreen, but it also wears nicely as a foundation. It works for me, at least. The color match is perfect, with the right undertone and everything, and the product is long-wearing, as well. Physician’s Formula is one of the more pricey drugstore make-up brands, but it’s still drugstore… easily accessible and not outrageously expensive. I highly recommend this product if you’re looking for a new foundation.

 

5). The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel

 

The Body Shop’s 2017 holiday (limited edition) line is Frosted Plum, and – surprise, surprise! – I love it. I wasn’t expecting its pronounced pine scent; I adore pine fragrance, so this was a pleasant discovery. The vaguely sweet plum scent is detectable beneath the pine. I find this fragrance to be less sweet than the other fruity fragrances I’ve tried from The Body Shop. Callaghan loves this scent, as well. (On me, that is. He doesn’t use it.)

 

Food!

6). Wholesome! Organic Coconut Palm Sugar.

 

Wholesome organic coconut palm sugar

 

I started sweetening my coffee with this coconut palm sugar… it’s an enjoyable change from the stevia-based product I’d been using. Coconut palm sugar is less sweet and more healthy. This was a great discovery!

 

7). Organic Honeycrisp apples.

 

Organic honeycrisp apples

 

Apple season! Honeycrisp apples are my favorites at the moment. They’re ubiquitous around here (we get them from Fry’s, but we’ve seen them everywhere), and they’re so tasty and satisfying. My fruit addiction hasn’t suffered a bit with the end of summer fruits.

 

8). Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces

 

I’ve been eating walnuts the way they should be eaten, in my opinion: unsalted. My preference is always to crack whole walnuts, but time is of essence, so any brand of shelled walnut meat will do. It so happens that I picked up Simple Truth brand in October.

 

9). Gardein Meatless Meatballs.

 

Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs

 

Gardein does it again with their meatless meats! We love these “meatballs” of theirs. They’re high in protein, high in flavor, and super fast and easy to prepare.

 

10). Helpful friends at the gym.

I don’t have a pic. I just wanted to note that thanks to friends like Rawn, I’ve been able to do the leg track in BodyPump with my usual weights as I rest my tennis-elbow-compromised forearm. (I’m not doing upright rows right now, or any variation thereof. I’m finding ways to modify in the back and shoulder tracks.) I wouldn’t be able to do legs without assistance in getting the heavy barbell onto my back, and I appreciate having a buddy who’s willing to take time from our quick track-change to offer this.

 

Well, that wraps it up for October. November’s list is already filling up!

Opening windows, letting in fresh air. (September Favorites!)

Are we ready to talk about the little things I found to love in September? I mean, ready already?

I’m not complaining that it’s already. I’m loving October.

Here’s one thing I discovered in September: two of my go-to, ride-or-die product brands – Organix (shampoo and conditioner) and Burt’s Bees (my lip products) – are no longer cruelty-free. I had to go on the hunt for replacement products, and that’s fine… I’ve had it in mind to go completely vegan with products, anyway, as up until now, I’ve only been partially there. Organix’ and Burt’s Bees’ decisions to start selling their products in China (therefore abandoning their ethics – testing on animals is mandatory in China) gives me a long-overdue push in the direction of finding vegan replacements for any non-vegan products I’ve been using. And find them, I did. They’re on the list below.

Other than these products, I’ve got a great movie to share, a T.V. series we’re particularly enjoying, and some noms, as well and as usual.

 

1). What the Health

 

 

This excellent documentary about health and how we can manage it with success is informative, and, in our opinion, surprisingly fun to watch (for what it is). What the Health is available on Netflix. I highly recommend it!

 

2). American Horror Story: Cult (T.V. series)

 

American Horror Story: Cult (season 7)

 

We went into this season of AHS with a degree of skepticism. After watching the pilot, we were still somewhat skeptical, but intrigued enough to watch the next episode. We ended up hooked despite our initial misgivings. After the last episode (4), we decided that “Cult” is our new favorite AHS season, with our former favorite (“Asylum”) down to second-place. Let’s face it, though: we love the gruesome, over-the-top insanity of AHS no matter what the story.

The great thing about AHS is that since it’s an anthology series, you don’t need to have watched any previous seasons.

 

3). Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (both plain and chive).

 

Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (chive)

 

In the world of plant-based cream cheese spreads, Kite Hill makes my favorite, so far… and that’s saying a lot, because I really like Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese. Kite Hill makes their product from almond milk, and they do it wonderfully.

A 1 oz serving of the chive variety has 78 calories, 3g protein, 6g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 3g carbs.

 

4). Gardein Beefless Ground.

 

Gardein Beefless Ground over a layer of vegetarian refried beans (with hot sauce and Daiya cheddar-style shreds) (Side salad not pictured.)

 

Gardein makes a delicious plant-based ground to replace ground mammal or bird. We love using it in red pasta sauces, or simmering it in taco seasonings to use in tacos (as in the pic above). This would also be great in Hamburger Helper-style meals, to make them healthier and just as tasty. We’ve seen Gardein Beefless Ground at most of the grocery stores we frequent (Sprouts, Fry’s, Whole Foods, Safeway), but we get ours at Target, where it’s $3.99 for the 13.7oz bag.

A 3/4 cup serving has 120 calories, 18g protein, 2g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 8g carbs (4g fiber).

 

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian shampoo and conditioner Colorific Plumeria. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Colorific Plumeria shampoo and conditioner

 

I’ve long been been a devotee of Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Pineapple Enzyme facial cleanser and facial scrub, so when I went looking for new hair care products (to replace my products from now-sold-in-China Organix), I thought I’d try Alba’s shampoo and conditioner from the same line… the Colorific Plumeria is formulated for color-treated hair. I’m thrilled to report that I like these products better than Organix’! They smooth out my hair and leave it super shiny and smelling so good. I don’t have to use any after-products, either.

 

6). The Body Shop vanilla eau de toilette. (cruelty-free… and vegan?*)

 

The Body Shop Vanilla Eau de Toilette

 

I loved Pacifica’s gardenia scent during the summer. The last time I put it on, though, I couldn’t stand it and tried to remove it as much as possible before going out. I’m not sure what happened… why it suddenly offended me so much… maybe something about my chemistry changed so the fragrance just went bad on me? But I was inspired to find a different sort of fragrance altogether.

The Body Shop’s vanilla eau de toilette is a lovely, updated 90’s vanilla scent with a spicy-sweet, musky dry-down. That’s how it works on my skin, anyway. It’s perfect for now. I absolutely love it.

*I put a question mark after “vegan” because when I did a “vegan” search on The Body Shop’s website, this product came up on the list… and it still does… but when I search for “vegan” as a sub-category under fragrances, it’s not on that list. Since it appears on the main vegan list, though, I’m thinking that it just got left off the sub-category list.

 

7). Method nourishing hand wash (in Almond Flower). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Method nourishing hand wash in almond flower

 

Callaghan chose this hand wash for the kitchen; since it’s called “almond flower,” I wasn’t expecting its vaguely spicy scent, so that was a bonus. Maybe almond flower actually is spicy. I don’t know. Whatever the case, I’m enjoying this product. I love its scent, and I love the fact that it’s indeed moisturizing. We get our Method products from Target, and all of their products are cruelty-free and vegan.

 

8). Pacifica Bali Coconut Natural Lip Balm. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Bali Coconut Lip Balm

 

Luckily, I found replacements for Burt’s Bees lip products that are not only cruelty-free, but vegan, as well… and it turns out that I like them better than Burt’s Bees’. I had to replace a plain lip balm, a tinted lip balm, and a lipstick.

Pacifica’s Bali Coconut lip balm is silky and softer than the Burt’s Bees lip balm I’d used for so long, and it feels more hydrating, too. I don’t have to use as much of it, and I don’t need to reapply it as often as I did the Burt’s Bees, either. Love this product!

 

9). Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick (in Natural Mystic). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick in Natural Mystic

 

I didn’t think there was a lip color I’d like better than Burt’s Bees Redwood Forest, but here’s Natural Mystic by Pacifica to prove that wrong. Again, think 90’s: Natural Mystic is an updated 90’s mauvy-brown shade, hinting at Bordeaux. The Devocean formula’s creamy softness feels wonderful, and the color is highly-pigmented. In comparison, the Burt’s Bees lip crayon was drier, and the Redwood Forest shade had a slightly orange undertone rather than the purple undertone of Pacifica’s Natural Mystic. I like it better all the way around.

 

10). Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint (in Sugared Fig). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig

 

Last, but not least, I found Pacifica’s tinted lip balm in Sugared Fig to replace my Burt’s Bees Red Dahlia lip balm. As with the lip color above, I like it even better… and for the same reasons. It’s creamier and more hydrating, and its undertone is cool, rather than warm.

[Sidenote about Pacifica: I ordered these lip products from Ulta online, since I couldn’t find their cosmetics in the store. From what I’ve seen, stores only carry Pacifica’s skincare.]

 

This brings us to The End. I’m happy to be in the Octoberness of now. I hope you are, too.

50 (no, 41) facts about me. (Meme)

Every once in a while, I’m browsing blogs or social media posts and I come across the “50 facts about me” meme that’s gone around on-and-off ever since the internet was invented. I don’t remember ever doing it. Last night, I revisited a friend’s blog post in which she did this, so today, I’m going to see if I can think of 50 things about me that most of you don’t already know. I’m feeling weirdly self-indulgent just thinking about doing this, so I’ll jump right in.

 

 

  1. Pressing lightly on my left eyebrow or running my finger over it sends a tickly-sneezy feeling down through the left side of my nose.
  2. I often sneeze while doing the eyebrow part of my makeup because of that eyebrow-nose nerve connection on the left side.
  3. I believe that I’m addicted to lip balm.
  4. I believe that I’m addicted to peppermint gum.
  5. I don’t think of my wisdom teeth procedure (that I had when I was 17) as a surgery, even though it was (as it is for many of us).
  6. Therefore, I usually accidentally lie when I’m filling out a medical form and I’m asked how many surgeries I’ve had.
  7. I used to drink, and sometimes, I got really, really drunk.
  8. But I’ve never had a hang-over in my life.
  9. I believe I’ve inherited some crazy English drinking genes.
  10. I don’t drink anymore.
  11. I’m uncomfortable to the point of anxiety attack when I’m around people who are drunk.
  12. So I avoid hanging out in bars, unless it’s a sports bar and they’re airing an event I want to watch but can’t watch at home.
  13. I especially avoid bars because not only do I not drink, but I don’t eat bar food.
  14. I always order club soda/sparkling water at a bar.
  15. My club soda is free because I’m the designated driver.
  16. I am a cheap date.
  17. My first job was at a dentist’s office in Honolulu the summer I was 14.
  18. I once tripped on something while walking to work at the dentist’s office.
  19. I thought I tripped on a large rock, but it was a snail the size of a tennis ball.
  20. My roach-phobia started with a terrifying roach incident in Honolulu when I was 12.
  21. I read both The Amityville Horror and Helter-Skelter when I was still in grade school.
  22. Also horror-related, I was probably 7 or 8 when It’s Alive aired on cable, and my parents didn’t want me to watch it, but I low-crawled into the family room so I could watch it while lying on the floor behind some furniture, and they didn’t know.
  23. It’s Alive scared me and I loved it.
  24. Horror has been my favorite film genre ever since I watched It’s Alive.
  25. The most scared I’ve ever been at the movies was during Alien when I was 11.
  26. Alien petrified and traumatized me and had me crying and literally begging to leave the theater.
  27. Horror was still my favorite film genre, and Alien also spawned my love for sci-fi thrillers.
  28. I’m always looking for movies that creep me out, and so far, only The Ring has come close.
  29. I love all forms of entertainment-provoked fear.
  30. But I will not see The Human Centipede.
  31. I don’t understand how I developed a roach-phobia after a traumatic childhood roach incident, but the total opposite thing happened when I had a traumatic childhood movie incident (Alien).
  32. I used to be a republican.
  33. I switched from republican to democrat.
  34. I was a democrat for less than a year.
  35. I switched to “independent.”
  36. I’ve been an independent for more years than I belonged to any political party.
  37. I generally avoid discussing politics.
  38. I strongly dislike the word “ditto.”
  39. My biggest grammar pet peeve is when someone ends a sentence with “at.”
  40. When I hear someone say “where’s it at” I have to physically contain myself.
  41. My thoughts on the Oxford comma are more complicated than my thoughts on politics, and I will not discuss the Oxford comma.

So there’s 41. I would try to think of 9 more, but I’m out of time, so The End for now.

p.s. I guess my mind went to a Halloweenesque place in this post because it’s feeling like fall around here. In Arizona, summer is over when you can open your windows in the early mornings.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

August Favorites!

Here we are in September. Let’s just be blunt: August was a shit show from start to finish in the U.S. and in some parts of the world. Of course the month had to go out with the tragic devastation of Houston and other cities in Texas; I swear I’ve never seen a month slam the door behind it like August just did. It was like, HERE’S THIS ONE LAST THING TO REMEMBER ME BY. Well, good riddance, August. Despite silver-lining moments and suggestions of hope and restorations of faith in the human race, I’m especially glad to be here sharing some of the little things we enjoyed.

Without further ado…

Entertainment:

1). Atomic Blonde (film)

 

 

Atomic Blonde was the one movie I saw in the theater in August. Callaghan ended up having to work the day we’d planned seeing it with a friend, so he hasn’t watched it yet. I know he’s going to like it as much as I did, because we have pretty much the same taste in movies. Atomic Blonde is the type of movie we’ll see when we’re in the mood for a thriller on the campy side of the 80’s. (Like there’s any other side of the 80’s.) Charlize kicks ass with stylized aplomb, and the soundtrack took me right back to high school, only now I can actually enjoy those songs, because I’m not in high school anymore and therefore life is much better. Anyway, if you’re into cheesy thrillers, I recommend this one.

 

2). Department Q (film trilogy: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith… in that order.)

 

 

We watched the excellent Department Q film trilogy at the recommendation of friends, and I’m passing that recommendation along to you who also enjoy getting caught up in dark and brooding crime thrillers. We’re fans of Scandinavian noir in television and movies; we’ve had a penchant for the genre since Bordertown (Sorjonen). The Department Q trilogy can be found on Netflix. It should be watched in order: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith. The films are in Danish (I believe) with English subtitles.

 

3). Bob’s Burgers (S7) (animated T.V. series)

 

 

We like Bob’s Burgers, in general, but some seasons make us laugh more than others. Season 7 was one of those! Warning for those unaware: some of the humor in Bob’s Burgers is not for the little ones.

 

4). Parks and Recreation (T.V. series)

 

 

We started a Parks and Recreation marathon. We’re nearing the end of season 4. I don’t know why it took us so long to get into this series, but it couldn’t have come at a better time! The only other series that makes us laugh so much is Black-ish. Enough cannot be said about comedy that works for us.

 

Food:

5). Watermelon.

 

Fresh watermelon

 

Fun fact 1: Callaghan doesn’t like watermelon. Fun fact 2: In August, I learned that it only takes me three days to eat an entire mini watermelon by myself.

[Sidenote: How can you NOT like watermelon?!]

 

6). Kiwi fruit.

 

Kiwi fruit

 

We love the tart sweetness of Kiwi fruit. Slicing them makes them easier to eat without making a mess, but I like to eat them whole after peeling them… sinking my teeth into a whole Kiwi fruit is somehow exhilarating. The fruit is tender and dense and juicy, and those tiny seeds add the lightest crispy crunch that’s hardly a crunch at all. Kiwi fruit is like the Krackle or Nestle Crunch candy-bar of fruit.

 

7). Pistachios.

 

Pistachios

 

This pic is from my Instagram. We bought two of these big pistachio nut bundles from Sprout’s, but by the time I got around to gathering pics for this post, I’d long since eaten them all… by myself, too, might I add. Callaghan likes them, but he ate maybe a handful of the pistachio haul. I love how they’re salty without a coating of salt granules. I love their flavor. We’ll probably get more before the season’s up.

 

8). Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagels

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel: toasted, melted cheese sandwich with Daiya cheddar-style slices. That’s a pickled jalapeno pepper on the side. AZ-style.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread is our staple bread of choice, so when we saw that they now have everything bagels, we were all over it. They’re called “Epic,” which they totally are: they’re organic, vegan, delicious, and satisfying, and each bagel has 12 grams of protein. So good!

 

Products:

9). Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream.

 

Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream

 

I used up my Yes to Blueberries night cream. I love it, but I cheat on it all the time, as I often do with skincare… there’s just so much to try! This time, I decided to get a night cream from Derma-e, who makes my holy grail sunscreen. I’m impressed. This cruelty-free night cream is light and smooth, and vitamin C products are so good for the skin. I layer it over my vitamin E serum-in-oil (The Body Shop) at night, with Yes to Blueberries eye cream in between the layers. It’s like my skin is drinking a smoothie. Or something.

 

That wraps up this “monthly favorites” installment! September holds fresh promise. I’m all in.

Intensity before our eyes. (July Favorites!)

Most of this list is stuff we watched. I tried no new products in July. Two of the three food items here aren’t even new. I’ve just never mentioned them.

That being said, that which we watched in July made for some intense entertainment, some of it difficult to watch. It wasn’t all weighty and dark, though.

Let’s take a look!

 

1). To the Bone (film, Netflix)

 

 

I don’t know what life is like inside an eating disorder, but I would guess that this film captures a realistic glimpse of what it might be like… for both patients and their family members. To the Bone focuses on a young woman struggling with anorexia nervosa. We were surprised to find ourselves laughing a bit, which felt awkward at first – I would never expect to laugh while watching a film about eating disorder patients – but we’re supposed to laugh. To the Bone is a fine example of a dramedy, deftly scripted with humor to help make a serious and uncomfortable subject more understandable.

I’m not sure that I would recommend this film to everyone, as it may be triggering. Watch with caution.

 

2). Ozark (T.V. series)

 

 

What’s this?! It’s another Netflix original crime drama/thriller. Atmospheric Ozark stars Jason Bateman, whose outstanding turn as the desperate protagonist should earn him Best Actor nominations throughout the 2017 awards season next year. We were impressed when we saw the trailer, and with the cast including Laura Linney, we marked it on the calendar. Bateman was great, Linney didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers – thrillers such as Breaking Bad, let’s say – then you’ll likely enjoy this one.

 

3). Black Mirror (T.V. series) – S3 “Hated in the Nation” and “San Junipero”

 

 

Netflix’ sci-fi thriller Black Mirror is the series we watch when we’re in the mood to have our brains scrambled. I’m thinking particularly of season 3’s “Playtest,” followed by “Shut Up and Dance.” Season 2’s “White Bear” did it, too, as well as season 1’s “Fifteen Million Merits.” Never before had we encountered a series whose episodes made us say “Well that was a mindf*ck” so consistently.

This series is unique in that I couldn’t binge-watch it. That would be a bad mental health decision.

Black Mirror episodes are written as stand-alone stories, so they can be watched in any order. We haven’t seen them all, but of the episodes we have seen, the above-mentioned ones were made more disturbing by their very excellence. Two other season 3 episodes, though, stood out. They weren’t disturbing so much as they were just plain successful at being mysterious (“San Junipero”) and thrilling (“Hated in the Nation”).

I think it’s safe to say that if you like The Twilight Zone, you’ll dig Black Mirror.

 

4). The Handmaid’s Tale (T.V. series)

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale takes Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and brings it to chilling life in this outstanding Hulu original series. Elisabeth Moss may well have secured herself major awards nominations for her performance as Offred. There was also stunning beauty before our eyes in the town of Gilead: anywhere we hit “pause,” the image on the screen could’ve been a Vermeer painting. The use of color and music play strong roles in the telling of this story.

Sidenote: Callaghan found The Handmaid’s Tale to be so unsettling that we took a long break from it… we started it in June and finished it in July. We returned to it after we saw The Keepers (next on this list), which made The Handmaid’s Tale seem mild.

 

5). The Keepers (T.V. series)

 

 

I honestly don’t know what to say about this Netflix docuseries. I think it’s important to watch, but I would not call it “entertainment.”

Two middle-aged women – former classmates at a Catholic high school in Maryland – continue their efforts to solve the case of their teacher Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder. A priest and the Archdiocese of Baltimore come under scrutiny, and horrors are uncovered in the process. By the end of episode two, we were disgusted and enraged into speechlessness. We watched the seven episodes over the course of a week, and when it was over, we immediately signed the petition. I do recommend this docuseries, but again, my recommendation comes with a trigger warning (this one for sexual abuse).

 

6). Gypsy (T.V. series)

 

 

Admittedly, it was only Naomi Watts’ name that drew our attention to this Netflix series; we had no idea what Gypsy was about. Turned out we’d gotten ourselves into a psychological thriller, which we kept watching because of its intrigue… from beginning to end (of the season), we never stopped asking, “What is going on, exactly?” Naomi Watts plays a shrink whose behavior, um, deviates from the norm. I’ll just leave it at that! We did enjoy Gypsy, though, and I would recommend giving it a try if you’re looking for a different sort of ride.

 

7). GLOW (T.V. series)

 

 

I’m finishing this part of the list with GLOW, an offbeat Netflix dramedy that gave us a respite from the heavy intensity of the rest. GLOW was a treat. It’s smart and satirically (sometimes crudely) funny. It combines combat sports, misfit women, and the 80’s. There are a few turning-point situations in the women’s lives, and there’s some outlandish and creative problem-solving… solemn moments and hilarity held together with Aqua Net. An original, indeed!

Now let’s get into the food….

 

8).  Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives.

 

Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives

 

I love these olives in my salads. I always have, but now I have them on hand at all times, and I eat a few of them every day. I’m sure I’ll cycle through this olive phase eventually, but it’ll be one of those recurring phases. I can tell.

 

9). Nectarines.

 

Nectarines

 

All of a sudden, in the third week of July, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a single summer stone fruit since the cherries my parents brought when they visited in May. It was like I’d had blinders on in the grocery store. How could it be that I’d been so intent on finding the red grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, oranges, and bananas that I’d failed to see the plethora of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots right before my eyes? I’m still eating those other fruits, but I’m also making up for lost time. At the moment, I’m swooning over the white nectarines. Better late than never!

 

10). Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil.

 

Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil

 

There’s actually nothing new about Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil in our house. It just occurred to me, as we went to pick up yet another bottle, that it’s one of our staple foods, and I’ve never mentioned it in a “favorites” list. We eat salads at least four days per week, so we go through these big bottles of Trader Joe’s olive oil pretty quickly. It’s a good, dependable favorite, and the spout that comes with it makes it friendly to use, as well.

 

This brings us to the end. Heading into August! Much to anticipate already!

DUNkirk. (Non-review movie review!)

Last weekend, we went to see Dunkirk, an historical war drama written and directed by Christopher Nolan. As you may know, I enjoy historical war movies – the operative word being “historical.”

 

 

The film is named for the WWII event that took place in the town of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) on the shores of northern France: the rescue of allied forces hopelessly hemmed in by the Nazis.

I didn’t know anything about this event at the start of the movie; neither did I know much about it by the end. Dunkirk didn’t have a lot to teach. One thing I did learn is that I can gauge the appeal of a film by my degree of willingness to use the restroom in the middle of it. In the case of Dunkirk, the slightest urgency in my bladder had me rushing out of the theater.

Yes. I’d eagerly anticipated seeing Dunkirk, so it was with disappointment that I had no problem at all getting up to use the restroom about an hour in. I was disappointed because I feared missing… nothing. There was nothing worth the struggle of ignoring my bladder so I could sit through the remainder of the movie.

I wasn’t held in my seat by suspense (there was no suspense). I wasn’t invested in any character (there were no developed characters). I wasn’t afraid I’d miss out on great acting or brilliant writing going into the dialogue (there was very little in the way of dialogue).

Dunkirk starts out promising. There’s a scrappy kid on a mission to survive. He’s got his wits about him, and he seems resilient and resourceful. But the film’s human component fails to evolve beyond that. We never get to know the kid. What remains is a maelstrom of impersonal and chaotic drama that consumes the film, resulting in turbulence that had us fidgeting with annoyance and boredom.

I mean, we were utterly bored.

We yawned through scenes that seemed cut, altered, and pasted throughout the film. Did Nolan decide that after reaching the apotheosis of his vision in one scene, he could get away with making a few changes and then “saving as” so he could plug it in here and there? It was as if he re-worked the scenes repeatedly until he could use them to string the film together.

So yes… after an hour of this, I had no fear of missing anything in the 10 or so minutes I’d be out using the restroom.

Let me mention, too, the nuisance that is the film’s soundtrack. Dunkirk’s “music” is a ceaseless cacophony that plays too great of a part in that above-mentioned turbulence. The musical score could have used at least a measure or two of restraint, even a little bit of push-and-pull… not only to give us a break from the noise, but to employ the sound as a device of suspense-building.

Making it all worse was the fact that I later read about the event and found myself wondering whether the film was in fact historical or merely based on historical events. From what I read, it was more the latter. We saw fewer than 10 boats, fewer than five aircraft, and merely one or two hundred troops in peril. For all of its powerful, sweeping cinematography – the film’s great strength – we saw barely a fraction of the magnitude of the evacuation of Dunkirk. If Nolan’s strategy included condensing the event in order to give us a focal point representative of the event as a whole, he forgot to include in that strategy, as I said, an iota of character development to keep us engaged.

In summary, Dunkirk is inaccurate and repetitive. It’s somewhat difficult to follow as its perspective swings from land (specified as “mole”) , air, and sea, which made it often unclear as to where we were in time. The film has no human quality to speak of, which is why, perhaps, we felt no sense of profound triumph at the end of it. If you’re a fan of Nolan’s non-linear storytelling style and you wouldn’t mind seeing it applied to the telling of an historical event, then you may enjoy this movie.

We were drawn to Dunkirk by its trailer. We didn’t suspect that the merits of the film would stop there. We would have been better off leaving it at the trailer’s sweeping scenes, its enticing glimpses of sturm und drang and suggestions of gravitas promising an outcome of stirring heroism worthy of a film made more than 70 years later.

 

Cycling back around. (June Favorites!)

I’m going to let the pics do most of the talking here, but I do have some blurbs to go with them (some more blurby than others). It goes without saying that I recommend everything on this list! (The foods are vegan and the products are cruelty-free, as usual.)

Getting on into it: some of my favorite little things from June!

 

1). Wonder Woman (film)

 

 

I already dedicated an entire post to this superhero movie, so rather than repeat myself here, I’ll just direct you to that post: If you’re interested, click here to read my thoughts. (The link will open the page in a new tab; whatever glitch was causing my links to open in the same tabs has been fixed.)

Suffice it to say that we highly enjoyed this film.

 

2). Okja (film)

 

 

Joon-ho Bong’s stunning feat of cinematic wizardry brings to life the story he wrote about the plight of an engineered animal and the girl who loves her. While love, loss, loyalty, and identity comprise some of the story’s themes, desperation is the dominant mood… in every character, at every level. Okja is a study in ethics, a socioeconomic commentary set in a fantastical world that’s yet real enough to be imaginable.

 

3). black-ish (T.V. series)

 

 

The comedy series black-ish is thought-provoking comedy gold; once we were able to access it again, we were thrilled to be able to pick up where we left off. We’re nearing the end of season 3, and we’re still laughing! For us, black-ish’s brilliant writing and the performances of its actors amount to unparalleled hilarity in television.

 

4). Tofurky hickory-smoked deli slices.

 

Tofurky Deli Slices Hickory-Smoked

 

As far as food is concerned, it’s more fun to talk about the processed stuff, so here we are again!

Tofurky’s deli slices, now. I’ve enjoyed all of Tofurky’s deli slice varieties for years, but in June, I cycled back around to the hickory-smoked flavor. I’m still going strong. I love the peppered flavor, as well. Tofurky does a good job with these slices!

 

5). Van’s Power Grains waffles.

 

Van’s Power Grains waffles

 

Actually, since I do cycle through foods, I probably post repeats in these “favorites” lists more often than I think. I know for a fact that I included these waffles on a favorites list from last summer. Van’s Power Grains waffles are delicious and satisfying, firstly, and secondly, they give you 10 grams of protein per serving (2). They prepare themselves in the toaster oven. What else could I want in a waffle?

 

6). Dave’s organic thin-sliced 21 wholes grains and seeds bread.

 

Dave’s thin-sliced 21 whole grains and seeds bread

 

As a breadaholic, it’s my inclination to try new breads all the time. We’ve been fans of Dave’s breads for several years now, so we weren’t surprised to find that we love this thin-sliced version, too. For one thing, the smaller slices perfectly accommodate the deli slices and the sliced Daiya cheezes we eat. Comparatively, the larger breads seem awkward.

 

7). La Costeña jalapeños.

 

Costena jalapeno peppers

 

I’ve also cycled back into a jalapeño pepper kick. (Haha! Kick! Get it?) I’ve been eating these peppers with sandwiches instead of dill pickles… savory sandwiches, that is. Personally, I wouldn’t eat these alongside peanut butter and jelly.

 

8). Maitake Mushroom (supplement; Solaray).

 

Maitake mushroom supplement

 

I’ve updated my daily supplement regimen with the addition of ‘shrooms: Maitake Mushroom (Solaray). Each capsule is a triple-mushroom threat with 600 mg maitake mushroom, 180 mg shitake mushroom, and 180 mg reishi mushroom. The reported health benefits of these mushrooms are numerous; click the links to read about them. (Again, the links will open the pages in new tabs.)

 

9). OGX Orchid Oil shampoo, conditioner, and color-protect oil.

 

OGX Orchid Oil shampoo & conditioner and oil

 

I finally ran out of my OGX Vitamin E shampoo and condition and went to repurchase them, but when I got to the shelf, I found OGX’ Orchid Oil shampoo and conditioner, which I didn’t recall seeing before. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve gone looking for hair care products.

It seems that this line isn’t just safe for color-treated hair, but it was formulated specifically for it. I’ve been putting dark brown color in my dark brown hair that’s naturally – but not uniformly – reddish. When the color fades, some parts look artificially red, even though the reddish color is real. I also have a silver hair here and there, and it’s a mystery why my hair comes out blondish in some pics. Mixed chick hair identity issues!

I went for the Orchid Oil line, and I’m digging it so far. I haven’t refreshed the color in my hair in quite a while, so when I finally do, I’ll really be able to see whether these products extend the color’s longevity. I got the oil to mist on as a detangler, too. OGX claims that all of these products provide broad-spectrum sun protection, which, if true and truly effective, would be a great bonus.

 

10). New prescription sunglasses.

 

Selecting frames for sunglasses (Instagram 05/30/2017)

 

I Instagram’d this pic when I was trying on frames at my optometrist’s office. These sunglasses are nothing short of life-changing. They arrived a week or so into June, and I still can’t get over how great it is to be able to see everywhere at every distance while wearing sunglasses! My old ones were single-lens, the prescription was wrong, the frames didn’t fit correctly, and one of the lenses kept popping out.

 

That does it for June. I’ve already got a list going for July!

Wonder Woman: a superhero of a female bildungsroman. (Non-review movie review!)

We went to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday night.

 

 

When I say that this is not a real movie review, I really mean it. I’m in no way equipped to say everything that needs to be said about this excellent film. I could say that its writing, direction, casting, acting, film score, cinematography, costumes, et cetera are superb, and call it a day. It’s for the real film reviewers to elaborate on all of that, as I’m sure they have.

No, I’m only here to offer my personal reaction and observations, beginning with the women’s training, sparring, and battle scenes. (Those of you who know me are shocked, I’m sure!)

Be that as it may. Starting from there, here are my three main thoughts about Wonder Woman:

1). In making Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins didn’t hold back. She directed the women to fight the way actual, trained women fight: brutally. Trained female fighters are fearless and capable of taking tons of pain and punishment, and Jenkins hands the general population this reality with no-big-deal nonchalance. How refreshing and unexpected it was to see these women training and sparring like they were actually trying to kill each other.

 

 

2). It’s with this same deftness that Jenkins merges the film’s worlds in time and dimension without skipping a beat, at the same time crossing Wonder Woman over multiple genres. With its tight, complex plot, this film has something for everyone. You want to watch a movie about ancient western mythology? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a superhero movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a Great War movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a drama with a little comedy thrown in? An action/adventure flick? How about a martial arts action flick? Wonder Woman.

(About that last: you want to watch real-life tough, highly trained, battle-scarred badass women warriors facing off in real-life action? Watch MMA.)

 

 

3). The film is really all of the above, but the way I see it, Wonder Woman is, at its core, a female bildungsroman presented in a superhero framework, a coming-of-age story ending with the protagonist fully realizing who she is. Literally. It’s maybe too easy in this regard, but it works. The result is breathtaking. First of all, the notion of a female bildungsroman disguised as a superhero movie is, in itself, brilliant.

Directed by anyone other than Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman might have turned out to be another one-dimensional superhero flick. In Jenkins’ hands, Diana did not come out to be a sword-wielding piece of ass in a short skirt, and neither did the Amazons. Diana is the hero, contingent on nothing, peripheral to no one.

What there is to drool over here is a well-crafted film that’s already a classic.

Not to mention, the battle-scene fight sequence choreography is stunning.

Heading into summer. (May Favorites!)

It’s a fine day for that customary list of my favorite Little Things from the month that just ended. It’s a fine day for some fluff: entertainment, edibles, and stuff to put on your face.

The month of May brought our late-to-the-party discovery of a dark crime dramedy series, the return of a favorite Netflix comedy series, and a book filled with short stories revolving around my favorite fictional character. It brought frozen veggies and yet another protein bar discovery. Also, I’ve got a slew of rave-worthy skincare products – more than usual, in fact. I don’t know what happened in May, but here we are with all kinds of goodness from The Body Shop and Yes to. If skincare products don’t figure in your life, feel free to pass this along to someone you know who may be interested!

In one word, the theme of this list is “refreshing.”

Starting with entertainment, as usual…

 

1). Master of None (T.V. series)

 

 

After 2015’s debut of this fresh, intelligent, and hilarious series, we waited (im)patiently while Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang went back to work. Season 2 of Master of None was well worth the wait! It proves again that a comedy television series can be an exquisite work of art. This is storytelling made rich with subtleties… nuance and mood, humor and wit. Throughout the season, vignette after vignette, a larger story unfolds, and yet that larger story itself is nothing more dramatic than a slice of life. That is the brilliance of Master of None. An artist first and foremost, Aziz Ansari brings life to life.

 

2). Fargo (T.V. series)

 

 

We love dark comedy, thriller-mysteries, and crime drama. We’re huge fans of the Coen brothers. So it doesn’t matter that we’re (inexplicably) three years late getting to Fargo, the T.V. adaptation of the titular film. Season 1 takes off on the shoulders of strong character development, plowing through a series of increasingly outrageous events after Billy Bob Thornton ever so gently nudges that first domino.

Evidence of the Coen brothers’ involvement abounds. Billy Bob Thornton is terrifying. The music is awesome and actually supplies a lot of the humor in the dark-humor equation. We couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

 

3). No Middle Name (collection of Jack Reacher short stories by Lee Child).

 

 

After devouring all of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, I’m finally reading all of his Reacher short stories, and very happily so. The first two installments in this newly released collection had me a little worried, I’ll admit, but my enjoyment’s increased with each story. I’m just past halfway through the collection, so I can’t comment on it as a whole, but I can say that seven stories in, I’m having a blast!

Jack Reacher is my favorite fictional brain candy, and in terms of reading, brain candy is what I need right now. Thank you, Lee Child… and thanks to my friend Bob, who alerted me to the collection’s impending release.

Heading into food…

 

4). 22 Days Plant Power protein bar in salted caramel.

 

22 Days Plant Power protein bar in salted caramel

 

We knew this would happen sooner or later. I’m back with another protein bar.

This one threw me off at first, mostly with its unexpected texture… but it wasn’t bad. The texture, I eventually realized, reminds me of caramel candy, which is appropriate for a “salted caramel” flavored bar. My enjoyment of this bar increased when I stopped thinking of it as a bar and started thinking of it as a chewy caramel treat. It grew on me.

Also, consider the macros in each of these organic and plant-based bars: 15g protein, 9g fiber, and only 4g sugar (20g carbs in all) and 150 calories per bar. At this point I’ve gotten very good at limiting my consumption of processed foods, so I don’t eat protein bars every day anymore… but when I do, I feel pretty good about reaching for this one.

 

5). Trader Joe’s Soycutash.

 

Trader Joe’s Soycutash

 

I’ve never been a fan of succotash because I never learned to enjoy lima beans. I’ve tried. I can’t. (Add lima beans to my list of permanent food aversions.) So when I stumbled upon Trader Joe’s version of it, I had to try it.

TJ’s “soycutash” contains three ingredients: edemame (replacing lima beans), sweet corn, and red peppers. It is delicious. I prepare it in the microwave and then eat it cold as a refreshing and satisfying side or snack. Fun fact: I grew up snacking on fresh, cold boiled soybeans, but I never knew they were called “edemame” until they became popular in western cuisine!

Getting into the skincare products…

 

6). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Facial Soufflé Moisturizer.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Facial Souffle Moisturizer

 

How do I begin to describe this product?

I know I included a moisturizer in a recent “monthly favorites” post. The problem with doing a monthly favorites post is that you try a moisturizer, think it’s great enough to add to the list… and then the next month, you try a different moisturizer, only to discover that it’s your Holy Grail of moisturizers.

This one from Yes to Coconut is thick and very rich, but it melts into my skin and leaves it soft and dewy without a trace of greasiness. Its coconut scent is subtle and not at all overpowering. I love this. I love it so much that I already re-purchased it, so I’ll have it at hand when this first one’s used up.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see another moisturizer on a monthly favorites post… at least not for a long while!

 

7). Yes to Cotton Micellar Cleansing Water and Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes.

 

Yes to Cotton Micellar Cleansing Water and Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes

 

My current favorite way to remove the makeup from my face involves these two products: I fold a Yes To Coconut makeup removing wipe into quarters, saturate it with two pumps of the Yes to Cotton micellar water, and smooth it over my skin… a refreshing treatment I’ll do even when I’m not wearing makeup.

Yes to has upped their game quite a bit!

 

8). The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey Body Lotion, Hand Cream, and Shower Cream.

 

The Body Shop Almond Milk and Honey Body Lotion, Hand Cream and Shower Cream

 

I couldn’t stay away.

It’s safe to say that I’m enamored with The Body Shop’s entire Almond Milk & Honey line, starting a couple of months ago when I picked up the body butter. All of these lotion and cream formulas exist in TBS’s other lines, but the Almond Milk & Honey products are richer and more moisturizing than the others I’ve tried. I still love the scent. I hope TBS comes out with a body mist in the same line!

 

9). The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter.

 

The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter

 

I’ve been using The Body Shop’s camomile eye makeup remover since I discovered it well over a year ago, but when I finished up my last bottle in May, I decided to try something different from the same line.

After several tries, I figured out how to make this cleansing butter work for me: I take a little scoop onto my fingertips, massage it gently onto my eye makeup, and then (just as gently) wipe it away with one of those Yes to Coconut makeup removing wipes. I’m preferring this method to the application of the liquid eye makeup remover, which feels harsh in comparison; I’d used a cotton pad with that remover, and I always had to sort of work those rougher cotton fibers into my lash line to remove eyeliner and mascara.

I don’t use this cleansing butter on my entire face… just on my eyes. I do this first, and then I go over my face with the above-mentioned Yes to Cotton micellar water on the Yes to Coconut makeup removing wipe… this takes care of any eye makeup/remover residue, as well.

 

10). Freeman Beauty Infusion Brightening Overnight Mask.

 

Freeman Beauty Infusion Brightening Overnight Mask

 

I wouldn’t have tried this mask had I not gotten a free sample from a lady at Ulta when I went there with Mom a few weeks ago. I love this sleeping mask! Callaghan tried it at the same time I did, and he was also impressed with the appearance of his skin when he woke up.

I’m now alternating between this mask and The Body Shop’s vitamin E overnight mask (one each per week). I’m still doing TBS Honey & Oat 3-in-1 Scrub Mask one morning per week, too. They’re all wonderful.

That wraps it up for May!

La Fin.

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Remembering the Four-Four-Deuce. (The U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII.)

My parents had wanted to see Hacksaw Ridge, but they weren’t able to catch it in the theater… so we all watched it together in our living room when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Callaghan and I were eager to see it again, and we liked it even more on second viewing. Mom and Dad also enjoyed the movie.

Hacksaw Ridge is a World War II film, and it’s an important one for an unusual reason: it tells the true story of a young American man who joins the army as a conscientious objector, refusing to touch a weapon, but determined to make it to the front line as a combat medic. He was eventually allowed to complete basic training without rifle qualification. After finishing skill training, he was sent to Japan with an infantry regiment. There, the regiment fought the Japanese in the Battle of Okinawa atop the treacherous Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the extraordinary story of an extraordinary man whose extraordinary valor saved many lives.

As I watched the scenes of Americans fighting the Japanese, it brought to my mind, as a Japanese-American, another WWII story: that of the United States Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion. This infantry regiment was also extraordinary, and also for an unusual reason: the unit was comprised mostly of Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans, mostly from Hawaii.

I say “as a Japanese-American” because I’m not sure how many Americans in the general population are aware that there was a United States Army infantry regiment of Japanese-Americans fighting during WWII. As a Japanese-American, I’m aware of it, as it’s a part of our history in this country.

And it’s an important part of our history… not just in Japanese-American history, but in United States history, and in Hawaii’s history: the WWII Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd went on to become a key factor in Hawaii gaining statehood. As intoned by narrator Gerald McRaney in The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers, “On August 21, 1959, largely because of the Nisei soldiers, Hawaii became the 50th state.”

*****

American Desmond Doss (subject of Hacksaw Ridge) wanted to serve his country in wartime, but almost wasn’t permitted to do so because of his refusal to touch a firearm. Second-generation Japanese-American men also wanted to serve their country during the same wartime, but almost weren’t permitted to do so because of their Japanese ancestry.

It was a time when Japanese-Americans on the mainland were forced into incarceration… because of their ethnicity.

*****

The only ethnic Americans are Native Americans.

To say that we’re “American” is to describe our nationality – who we are as a nation. Americans are Irish-American, for instance… or African-American, or Japanese-American, or German- or Italian-American. Americans are Polish-American, Franco-American, Korean-American. Americans are Arab-American. And because of the ethnic diversity that characterizes our country, we’re a nation with a proud “mutt” population: many of us are of mixed ethnicity.

Our ancestry does not define who we are nationality-wise.

But during WWII, Japan was our enemy, and Japanese-Americans had the misfortune of looking like the enemy. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the incarceration of west coast Japanese-Americans, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and placed in the internment camps. Houses and businesses were confiscated. Families were broken apart. Living conditions in the camps were poor to horrendous; many internees were forced to live in horse stables, and all of them behind barbed wire fences patrolled by armed guards.

Not a single Japanese-American was ever found to be guilty of espionage.

Now, today, there are some amongst us who would like to repeat this shameful part of American history. They would like to round up innocent Arab-Americans and imprison them, just as Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during WWII.

*****

My parents are from Japanese-American families in Hawaii, some of which moved to the mainland to settle in California. While parts of these earlier branches of my family in California were incarcerated in the internment camps, two* of my uncles from Hawaii volunteered to fight in the United States Army as members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion.

When one of those uncles passed away in 2006, a retired veteran found his obituary, read that he was a WWII veteran of the 442nd, and contacted his son, my cousin. The gentleman told my cousin he would ensure that his Dad was recognized with the appropriate ceremony: a military funeral service. And so my Uncle’s casket was draped with the American flag and carried to his gravesite in the presence of an honor guard, and a bugle playing “Taps.”

*****

In 2011, Japanese-American WWII veterans – more than 19,000 of them – were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in a mass ceremony.

In the article “Unlikely World War II Soldiers Awarded Nation’s Highest Honor,” Barbara Maranzani details the extent of the Nisei’s wartime achievements:

“The 442nd became the most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. In less than two years of combat, the unit earned more than 18,000 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 21 Medals of Honor. Upon their return to the United States, they were praised by President Harry Truman for their brave stand both home and abroad, and were even the subject of a 1951 film, “Go for Broke”; the film’s title was derived from the unit’s official slogan. Many members of the 442nd went on to distinguished careers in science, academia and government, including nine-term U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, who lost an arm due to World War II combat injuries and was among those attending Wednesday’s event.”

 

 

*****

Many Japanese-Americans were already serving in the armed forces when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. When the attack occurred, Japanese-Americans were as horrified as any other American, and in Hawaii, especially, Japanese-American men wanted to join the armed forces to fight for their country.

To this day, Japanese-Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces. I’m proud to have been one of them.

My Dad directed me to the above-mentioned documentary from the History Channel. If you’re interested, watching it will be worth your while:

The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers

 

 

Japanese-Americans’ wartime service didn’t begin and end with the 442nd: in addition to the 442nd, thousands of Japanese-Americans also had roles in the army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during WWII. These Japanese-Americans “provided translation and interrogation assistance to the war effort. The MIS is perhaps best known for the crucial role it played in deciphering a captured set of Japanese military documents, known as the ‘Z Plan,’ which outlined plans for a final, large-scale counterattack on Allied forces in 1944. The discovery of the Z Plan has been hailed as one of the most important military intelligence successes of World War II.”

[source: http://www.history.com/news/unlikely-world-war-ii-soldiers-awarded-nations-highest-honor]

*****

Valor comes in unexpected forms. It comes in the form of a young man who wants to serve unarmed on the front line of a bloody battle. It comes in the form of men who want to serve despite looking like the enemy, thus feared, maligned, and betrayed by their own country as Japanese-Americans were incarcerated because of their ethnicity.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion in WWII was the face of Japanese-Americans’ loyalty to their country. It was a loyalty they proved in bloody campaign after bloody campaign, national pride a stronger force than the racism that tried to oppress them.

*[Editing to add: since posting this piece, my family has remembered at least two more uncles who joined the 442nd. Two of them were incarcerated in internment camps in California when they volunteered.]

Things that smell good, and other April Favorites!

Looking back on April, I’m happy to be alive and eating fewer processed foods. Haha! There are no processed foods on this list, maybe for the first time in the history of Monthly Favorites posts on TALC. That is something.

This is not to say that I didn’t eat any, though, because I certainly did. But I managed to cut way back, and I didn’t discover any new processed foods.

As for the rest, well, we’ve got the usual assortment of movies and T.V. series. Also, there are more products than usual on this list.

Take a look!

 

1). The Devotion of Suspect X (film)

 

 

We went to see The Devotion of Suspect X when we saw that it was playing in the theater near our house. The Chinese film (with English sub-titles) detailed a mysterious story whose reveal toward the end came as a surprise. I found the development of the two main characters (and their relationship) to be somewhat lacking, but the aspects that were emphasized were intriguing enough. All in all, the movie’s minor deficiencies didn’t have much of an impact on our enjoyment of it. It was an interesting time, and it was fun to see a film that we knew nothing about when we went in.

 

2). Split (film)

 

 

James McAvoy’s turn in Split is something to behold. Can one actor win 23 Best Actor awards for the same film? That is the question. Of course, I’m creating a wild exaggeration here… this is just to say that I was enthralled by McAvoy’s ability to shift from one personality to the next, and I thought that his main personalities were well-acted in their own right. His performance was truly stunning. I was also impressed with Anya Tayler-Joy’s performance. This is, in my opinion, one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better films.

 

3). Better Call Saul  (Season 3) (T.V. series)

 

 

Between Better Call Saul and The Good Fight, spin-off series have been some of our favorites! Better Call Saul gets better and better. We’re now at the point where we’re seeing the evolution of the liaisons in Breaking Bad, which is extremely satisfying. Last night’s episode left us on a particularly maddening cliff-hanger. Is it Monday yet?

 

4). Sorjonen (Bordertown) (Finnish T.V. series)

 

 

Here again we have a foreign language piece, only Sorjonen (English title: Bordertown) is a T.V. series. In fact, it’s the first foreign-language T.V. series we’ve seen. It’s in Finnish and Russian, sub-titled, of course, and it’s a crime thriller (surprise, surprise). It’s fun to watch the Finnish protagonist at work with his unique methodology, and his Russian counterpart is one of the more badass women (of the many) that I’ve seen in such pieces. Sorjonen was picked up by Netflix, so it’s binge-watch friendly!

 

5). D’anjou pears.

 

 

Pears are one of two repeats on this list. D’anjou pears are fabulous right now! They’re flavorful and refreshing straight from the refrigerator. I love pears as a transition fruit to stone-fruit season.

 

6). The Body Shop Vitamin E sink-in moisture sleeping mask.

 

The Body Shop Vitamin E sink-in moisture sleeping mask

 

Still addicted to The Body Shop. Still haven’t stepped foot in a Lush store or tried any Lush products… but old-school works for me. The Body Shop is a little costly, and its parent company is L’Oreal, but their products are cruelty-free and pretty reliably awesome.

This sleeping mask from their Vitamin E line is my latest TBS passion. It was my first foray into sleeping masks, so I didn’t have expectations going in. I put it on and immediately felt sort of like my skin couldn’t breathe… and also, the mask on my face felt tacky to the touch, which wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. Luckily, of course, you go to bed right away, so you’re asleep and unaware of how weird it feels. The important thing was that in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t believe how different my skin looked. My skin loves this mask! (My skin also loves The Body Shop’s Vitamin E serum-in-oil as a nightly treatment. And their Honey and Oat 3-in-1 moisturising scrub mask.)

 

7). The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey body butter.

 

The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey body butter

 

But wait! I’m not done raving about The Body Shop. They’re famous for their body butters, but this new one of theirs is something else. TBS Almond Milk & Honey body butter is silky, creamy, and rich, and it has an unexpected bouncy feel to it when you scoop it out. I love the way it sinks in and transforms my severely dry skin into soft skin, especially on my hands. Bonus: I love its fragrance; it’s exactly what it is. Almonds and honey.

 

8). Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh daily repairing moisturizer.

 

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh daily repairing moisturizer

 

When I went looking for a daytime moisturizer, I picked up this blueberry/age refresh one from Yes To. I loved their night cream (see below), so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with their daytime formula. It’s wonderful. I have a feeling it’s going to stay a favorite for a while.

 

9). Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh deep wrinkle night cream.

 

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh deep wrinkle night cream

 

This is an old favorite that you’ve probably seen before, if you’ve been reading here for a while. I loved this night cream, but I drifted away from it as I tried other products. I came across a lot of good ones, but I’ve circled back around to Yes To Blueberries. This night cream is just the best for my skin.

To give you an idea: I tried The Body Shop’s Vitamin E night cream in April, too (there was a crazy sale going on, so it was a good opportunity to try new things), and while it’s good, the Yes To night cream beat it to get on this list. Adding to its wonders, Yes To is a more affordable drugstore brand.

 

10). Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia perfume roll-on.

 

Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia perfume roll-on

 

This is a first: a cruelty-free fragrance (vegan, to boot) that I absolutely love. Its sillage is impressive, and its scent doesn’t change on my skin over time, which is probably the nature of a perfume oil. It’s not a chemical concoction. I picked this up at Sprouts on a whim, as I’d been on the hunt for a new fragrance. I love this one.

 

La Fin. Let’s see what there is to discover in May.

Happy Tuesday, All!

 

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.

 

 

All kinds of action! (March Favorites!)

A lot (a lot a lot) happened in March. It was busy. It was painful in more ways than one. We lost our Cita, and I’ve been dealing with a medical situation that actually had me incapacitated at one point… both of which occurred in the midst of some home improvement projects we’d scheduled. It was a lot all at once, but we got through it. There were some stellar moments in there, as well, make no mistake! I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to say that I’ve been blissfully pain-free for the last week, I’m back at the gym, and my writing’s going well, albeit slowly.

So in March, the little things that provided pleasant distraction amounted to a whole lot of junk food for the brain. We seem to have something of a Marvel and Shakespearean theme going on in this post, and I also included trailers, which I don’t usually do in “monthly favorites.” Let’s get started!

 

1). Logan (film)

 

 

This well-crafted film features Wolverine at his most human – human in ways that invoke a sort of empathy I wouldn’t expect to feel for a comic book superhero. Apart from a few choice scenes, Hugh Jackman’s character wouldn’t rouse suspicion that he even is a superhero, if you weren’t familiar with his storyline from the previous X-men/Wolverine installments. You might be a bit confused, but I doubt you’d be thinking superhero. This human feature of the superhero protagonist sets Logan apart from other superhero movies and allows it to engage a broader audience than the strict superhero fandom. (Are you counting the number of times I’ve written “superhero” in this paragraph?)

 

 

2). John Wick 2 (film)

 

 

John Wick 2 was the other franchise installment we saw in March. The thing about Keanu Reeves is that his action flicks tend to be slick and over-the-top stylish, with plenty of theatrical embellishment to backdrop the inevitable violence. No one, in my opinion, centerpieces such projects better than Reeves. They seem to be made for him. There’s something Shakespearean about Reeves’ acting that doesn’t always do it for me, but I like the way it works in such films. John Wick 2 offers elaborate, suave eye candy for the eye that appreciates action movies. You don’t need to see the first John Wick in order to escape into John Wick 2. That’s always a plus.

 

 

3). Fortitude (T.V. series)

 

 

Fortitude is a dramatic mystery/horror series saturated with spooky intensity coming largely from its excellent pacing and the stark clarity and loveliness of its cinematography. For one thing, it’s set on the north pole, essentially, in a small Arctic town; you immediately wonder why would anyone want to live here? The sheer intelligence of this series makes it chilling. Pardon the pun.

 

 

4). Legion (T.V. series)

 

 

We started watching Legion, another Marvel-associated production on this list, and now we’re a few episodes behind as we only have so much time and other series have taken priority in the plethora of shows we’re currently watching (i.e., we discovered and got sucked into Fortitude). But we’ll catch up. Honestly, Legion’s acid trippiness kind of wore us down and we needed a break, but I wouldn’t say don’t watch this. I would say, give it a try if you like your T.V. to scramble your brain at the end of a long day.

 

 

5). The Americans (T.V. series)

 

 

It’s the return of The Americans! I just love this series about Cold War-era Russian spies. The plot, as they say, thickens.

 

6). Empire (T.V. series)

 

 

Empire also returned in March, and it’s better than ever, in my opinion. Cookie out-Cookies herself, Lucious continues to surprise without surprising (a paradox that makes his character particularly interesting to me), and the whole shebang continues to invoke Shakespeare. Where the poster says “King Lucious,” I still read “King Lear.” The series actually harkens back to Shakespearean tragicomedy at some turns, as well. Long live Empire!

 

7). Sumo: Grand Sumo Highlights (March 2017 Basho)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The March 2017 Basho (Grand Sumo Tournament) captivated us, too. Seriously, we needed all of this diversion, anyway, but we’re completely entranced with Sumo. We’ve become familiar with the Rikishi (fighters), so it’s fun to note who’s fighting who and cheer on our favorites in the matches. Somewhere in the middle of this spring tournament, I became a particular fan of Terunofuji’s; he’s now tied with Kisenosato as my favorite of favorites.

 

8). Strawberries.

 

Fresh strawberries

 

Because it’s strawberry season, and the strawberries are currently fabulous, we’ve been enjoying fresh strawberries for dessert every night. Strawberries have a fleeting season, so they’re a special treat when they’re this good!

 

9). Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs.

 

Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs

 

Honestly, I’ve been doing well in going lighter on processed foods lately. The fact that Trader Joe’s has these delicious meatless meatballs that find their way into our freezer doesn’t take away from that. Really.

That’s all I’ve got for March!

La Fin.

The Mysterious Case of the White-sheeted Ghost (in the Shell)

We went out to see a movie last weekend. The usual assortment of trailers rolled before our eyes ahead of the featured film. One trailer stood out. It caught me off guard. Then my surprise turned to annoyance and dismay, and I wanted to stop it there, but it kept returning to my thoughts, and now I’m just fed up.

Here’s the thing…

  • There’s a popular manga series (Japanese comics) called Ghost in the Shell.
  • Ghost in the Shell has been adapted to the big screen in a live-action production.
  • The Japanese story is set in Tokyo, Japan.
  • The protagonist is Major Motoko Kusanagi, and she is played by… wait for it… Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett Johansson isn’t Japanese? No problem! We have CGI (digital special effects), and we can use it to make her look Asian! Because the actress doesn’t have to BE Asian. She just has to LOOK Asian. “Asian” is all about how you look, after all. Japanese are actually bananas… yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Use CGI to turn Scarlett Johansson yellow! Also, we have clever make-up artists. We can do stuff to make Scarlett Johansson look Asian, so there’s no need to cast an actual Asian woman for the lead role. Thank heavens. There’s a billion dollars to be made from this picture, and we need Scarlett Johansson in order to make it.

Except the CGI and make-up didn’t work. It just looks like the crew tried to make Scarlett Johansson look Asian.

 

The many faces of Scarlett JAPANsson

 

Scarlett Johansson thinks she’s turning Japanese/I (don’t) really think so. (If you watched MTV in the 80’s, you can name that song.)

And if you were to insist that the ethnicity of the main character in a manga/anime movie is open to interpretation (to which manga and anime fans would say perish the thought), then at least don’t keep the character’s name “Motoko Kusanagi” when you cast Scarlett Johansson, for crying out loud. Keeping the name “Motoko Kusanagi” obliterates any argument that the character shouldn’t necessarily be of Japanese ethnicity. The old “anime characters’ features are made to look more western, anyway” argument doesn’t work, either. The characters are still Japanese. Major Motoko Kusanagi is Japanese. If artistic liberties had been taken with the character’s ethnicity, then no effort would have been expended to make Scarlett Johansson look the part.

When asked about it, Scarlett Johansson allegedly said that she didn’t mind taking a role that could have been given to an Asian actress because the role “empowers all women.” I’m not kidding.

We need to talk about Hollywood’s apparent problem with ethnic representation and how they’re going to reconcile it with their pride in being the paradigm of societal righteousness. Casting a Caucasian actor to portray an Asian character isn’t new in Hollywood, and Asians aren’t the only ethnic minority group of artists being passed over. Whitewashing is an on-going insult, a symptom of the institutional racism embedded in Hollywood. That racism doesn’t look to be going anywhere. No (privileged white) actor has the right to make sanctimonious speeches about the superiority of diversity and inclusiveness in Hollywood. The hypocrisy here is staggering.

Frankly, it makes my skin crawl, this idea of casting a white actor and then using CGI and/or make-up to adjust the features to match the character’s ethnicity when you could simply cast an actor of that ethnicity.

Ghost in the shell, indeed. One thing’s for sure: they nailed the invisibility part.

February Favorites!

From looking at this list, it would seem that all that happened in February was a whole lot of T.V. and movies. This is pretty much the case as far as “favorite little things” are concerned, but merely because there wasn’t much new in the way of things to eat and things to put on my face. I’ve only got two new food items one new product to share.

What you’ll see here probably amounts to the same number of watchables in which we indulge every month, except the volume was probably more because we stumbled into a few series that demanded binge-watching: Santa Clarita Diet (pun not intended) and The Fall (we’re just now starting season 3).

I’ll try to keep things succinct this time!

Without further ado….

 

1). Get Out (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-getout

 

The race-based singling out of victims in this brilliant horror movie chilled us to the core. This is a concept I’ve never seen done before, and there’s never been a better time for it. On the lighter side, the big take-away from the film is NEVER leave home without your portable phone charger, and keep it with you at all times.

 

2). The Wailing (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-thewailing

 

This Korean horror movie is almost three hours long, but not a moment of it is gratuitous… the pacing of the film’s development of the mystery is masterfully done. Its gorgeous cinematography helps the time to pass, as well… and we always appreciate not knowing what the hell is going on all the way up to the end. We found this excellent film on Netflix.

 

3). Santa Clarita Diet (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-santaclaritadiet

 

We had to employ our three-episode try policy to get into this Netflix series. At the end of the first episode, we were unimpressed and not at all amused, as we were supposed to be. But it left us with just enough curiosity to watch the second episode. And the third. By the end of third episode, we were in. And we were laughing.

 

4). The Good Fight (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-thegoodfight

 

Delightfully, The Good Fight is more a continuation of The Good Wife than a spin-off. It hits the ground running, so to speak. Diane has shifted to the spotlight, Alicia is absent completely (so far). Thanks to this series, we’re no longer The Good Wife orphans.

 

5). The Fall (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-thefall

 

The Fall is mainly what happened to us in February… if you’ve been wondering where we’ve been, look no further. Gillian Anderson hunting a serial killer. Need I say more?!

 

6). Bate’s Motel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-batesmotel

 

Is there a T.V. character we’ve ever wanted to shake more than Norman in Bate’s Motel? I think not. He’s so repulsive and infuriating it’s almost difficult to bring ourselves to continue watching, but we know that Rihanna will appear as Psycho’s iconic shower victim (if you didn’t know, Bate’s Motel is the T.V. series version of Psycho)… and how could we miss Ri-Ri??

 

7). “Memphis” (episode 16 of This is Us – S1)

 

THIS IS US -- "Memphis" Episode 116 -- Pictured: Ron Cephas Jones as William -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

THIS IS US — “Memphis” Episode 116 — Pictured: Ron Cephas Jones as William — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

 

This episode of This is Us ranks up there as one of the finest hours of television I’ve ever watched. It had me crying at the end, which is very unusual, if not unheard of. The excellence of this series continues to amaze us.

Moving off-screen…

 

8). e.l.f. Nourishing Night Cream.

 

e.l.f. Nourishing Night Cream

e.l.f. Nourishing Night Cream

 

I used up my night cream, and when I went to Target to get another one, all three of my go-to night creams were out of stock (Yes to Blueberries, Acure, and derma-e). I headed over to the e.l.f. section because I like their day moisturizer, so why not try their night cream, right? This cream was only ten bucks (LOVE e.l.f.), and it’s pretty good. I like it and I’ll keep using it until it’s gone, but I’m not sure I won’t pick up one of my other three go-to’s next time around. That said, I wanted to include this e.l.f. cream here…  I like it enough to repurchase it in the future at some point. I tend to switch up my creams.

 

9). Orgain Organic protein bars.

Okay, so I am trying to cut down on processed foods (I guess this has become somewhat of a New Year’s Resolution), so I’m limiting myself to ONE protein/energy bar per day. The one I discovered in February is my current favorite. These bars by Orgain are tasty (to me, anyway), and they contain a decent amount of protein for a snack. I think they only have 5 grams of sugar, which is important to me, too, as I limit my sugar intake as much as possible. I think I like the chocolate chip cookie dough flavor the best, but honestly, they all kind of taste the same.

 

Orgain Organic Protein bars

Orgain Organic Protein bars

 

10). Vega Clean Protein Powder.

 

VEGA Clean Protein powder

VEGA Clean Protein powder

 

I balked when I read the list of proteins in this new concoction of Vega’s: pea, hemp, alfalfa, and pumpkin. Translation: ugh, ugh, ugh, and ugh. But I bought it because I was out of my usual Vega protein powder… and I was pleasantly surprised! It’s nowhere near as bad as I thought it’d be. I got the vanilla flavor and I just shake it up with water, as usual. It’s got BCAAs and glutamine, too, which I guess sets it apart from Vega’s other protein powders. This turned out to be a happy accident.

That’s it for February’s little favorites! Happy Friday, All.

 

Shadow and light: January 2017 favorites!

There were so many “little things” that tripped my trigger (slang I picked up in the army) in January, I almost couldn’t decide which to include in this list. I try not to go beyond 10 because 10 already makes the “favorites” post pretty long.

I enjoy raving about productions I loved watching, and foods I loved eating (usually processed food, but you know that by now, if you’ve been here for a length of time). If I tried any new skin care/cosmetic-type products, I like to share those, too, if I think they’re great and I’m still using them.

So this list is par for the course. As usual, the food items are vegan and tasty (to me, anyway) and not terribly unhealthy nutrition-wise. The products are cruelty-free, meaning “not tested on animals.”

Let’s get into it!

 

1). Passengers (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-passengers

 

Passengers is candy, especially if you’re a fan of sci-fi action thrillers. You’ve got a guy who runs into some bad luck. Because he’s human and he wants to survive without completely losing his mind, he makes a decision that’s not the best for the other person involved… but in the end, the decision saves everyone, because the other person involved is a badass. That other person is played by Jennifer Lawrence, who does badasses pretty well. We were entertained and left the theater feeling like we’d spent a fun two or so hours that were worth whatever the tickets cost.

 

2). Hidden Figures (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hiddenfigures

 

Admittedly, we were lured to watch Hidden Figures partially because Cookie from Empire is in it. That would be Taraji P. Henson. With her versatile talent, she’s great in everything she does, but to me she’ll always be Cookie, just like Jeff Bridges will always be The Dude. Hidden Figures was high on my “to watch” list, anyway, though. I went into it already knowing that while it was a man who first went to the moon, it was a woman who got him there, so I was eager to watch the story unfold… and unfold well, it did. In Hidden Figures, we see the story (of these women and their roles in the historical NASA mission) told with focus on the social climate of the time, exemplifying ways in which segregation hindered progress. If you haven’t already seen this excellent and inspirational film, you may want to add it to your “to watch” list, too.

 

3). 2017 January Grand Sumo Tournament (Honbasho)

Sumo! We’re still obsessed with Sumo; we were thrilled that there was another Grand Tournament in January. Our question is, when will we see more Sumo incorporated into mixed martial artists’ game plans? It’s likely a matter of time before it joins the plethora of martial arts combined in MMA. Sumo is a technically intricate martial art, and it’s the most brutal one I’ve seen yet.

We wanted Kisenosato to win from Day 1 of January’s 15-day basho, and he did!! Behold the champion’s Tale of the Tape:

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-sumorikishi_kisenosato

 

 

4). The O.A. (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theoa

 

The O.A. was our binge-watch T.V. series of the month. (Thank you, Netflix, for releasing your series’ episodes all at once.) In The O.A., we saw nods to Netflix’ Sense8 and Stranger Things, both, and we enjoyed it as much, which is a lot. If you love a good dramystery (has anyone coined that term yet?) with a sci-fi/fantasy bend, you may enjoy this one, as well.

 

5). This is Us (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-thisisus

 

Speaking of hybrid T.V. genres, here’s This is Us, a brilliant dramedy that captured our admiration and affection right from the start. It can’t be easy weaving hilarity into dramatic (sometimes heavy) scenes and situations, but these writers and actors and directors do it with aplomb. This is Us became an instant favorite of ours.

 

Moving on to products…

6). Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh Peppermint and Rosemary body wash.

 

Burt's Bees Fabulously Fresh peppermint and rosemary body wash

Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh peppermint and rosemary body wash

 

The scent of this body wash is redolent of a sauna… to my nose, its combination of peppermint and rosemary gives off a very similar rustic, invigorating, and warm aroma. It’s unusual. The first time I used it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. By the end of the shower, I realized what it reminded me of. Now I’m enraptured and I sometimes take two showers a day just so I can inhale this scent. I may have a problem.

 

7). Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm (Red Dahlia).

 

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm (red dahlia)

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm (red dahlia)

 

I added this tinted lip balm to my collection of Burt’s Bees lip products (which is getting slightly out of hand). What can I say? For over a year… maybe two… I haven’t used anything on my lips but Burt’s Bees. The Red Dahlia tint to this lip balm is similar to the Redwood Forest lip crayon that’s my go-to shade when I want more saturated color on my lips. I’ve had the tinted lip balm in Hibiscus, a pinkish shade, for a while now. I love that one, as well.

 

8). Pacifica Alight multi-mineral BB cream.

 

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

 

This one’s a rediscovery: I found my old tube of Pacifica BB cream when I was organizing my life a few weeks ago. I used it the next day and remembered everything I loved about it. Its sheerness leaves a lovely, dewy finish on the skin (not sure how this would work on oily skin types), and it feels like you’re wearing moisturizer. I plan to repurchase this product when I’ve used up this tube.

 

Now for food!

9). Larabar Fruits & Greens (strawberry spinach cashew).

 

Larabara Fruits and Greens (strawberry spinach cashew)

Larabara Fruits and Greens (strawberry spinach cashew)

 

Okay, I found this bar to be strange at first. Like apple cider vinegar water, these particular Larabars were somewhat of an acquired taste for me… but it took just one before I was hooked. This bar gives you fruit, greens, and nuts compacted into a chewy treat that’s slightly sweet, and slightly tart. It’s made of plants and nuts. If you can acquire the taste, you really can’t go wrong with this! I keep one in my bag at all times.

 

10). Trader Joe’s Wild Rice & Mushroom Sausage-less Sausage.

 

Trader Joe's wild rice & mushroom sausage-less sausage

Trader Joe’s wild rice & mushroom sausage-less sausage

 

Trader Joe’s came up with this wonderful plant-based sausage that balances umami (savory) with salty in all its herbalicious glory. We love this stuff. I think there are other varieties of Trader Joe’s veggie sausages; we’re looking forward to trying them out.

That brings us to the end. I’ve already got some things on my list for February!