Now that MMA has everyone’s attention…

I realized something this week: all this time I’ve been writing about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in this blog, I’d assumed that everyone reading had knowledge of it.

I apologize. That was a silly assumption.

MMA is a sport relatively new in sports broadcasting, but it’s been growing in mainstream popularity, capturing fans beyond MMA participants and aficionados. This week, it was brought further out of obscurity when the term “Mixed Martial Arts” was dropped in a pejorative way before a broad audience.

It’s an awkward moment when someone who’s lamenting prejudice uses a specific example in a context that amounts to prejudice…

and when the speaker’s prejudice goes on display for the world to see, but much of that world doesn’t know any more about (MMA) than the speaker, so they aren’t capable of recognizing the hypocrisy of the comment.

On the bright side, MMA now has everyone’s attention, which offers a learning opportunity for those who wish to open their minds.

First, to be clear with my own terminology:

Definition of prejudice (Merriam-Webster)

  1. a (1) :  preconceived judgment or opinion (2) :  an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
  2. b :  an instance of such judgment or opinion
  3. c :  an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

The gist of the prejudice against Mixed Martial Arts, its participants, and its fans captures this sentiment: MMA is a barbaric/low-life sport that gratifies the plebeian tastes of bros, bullies, rednecks, and mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. 

Some general points I’d like to make:

1). History: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) finds its roots in the sport of Pankration in the ancient Greek Olympic Games.

From Wikipedia: Pankration (/pæn.ˈkrti.ɒn/ or /pæŋˈkrʃən/) (Greek: παγκράτιον) was a sporting event introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and was an empty-hand submission sport with scarcely any rules. The athletes used techniques from boxing and wrestling but also other types, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground. The only things not acceptable were biting and gouging out the opponent’s eyes.[1] The term comes from the Greek παγκράτιον [paŋkrátion], literally meaning “all of power” from πᾶν (pan-) “all” and κράτος (kratos) “strength, might, power”.[2]

–This is a broad summation of MMA, though unlike Pankration, there are plenty of rules in MMA.

Admire these images of Pankration found on Greek pottery:

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

2a).The original and most well-known MMA promoter in the U.S. is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

2b). The UFC’s current champions include foreigners Amanda Nunes (Brazil), Johanna Jedrzejczyk (Poland), Conor McGregor (Ireland), Jose Aldo (Brazil), and Michael Bisping (England). The remaining five champions are American. Three of the American MMA champions are black.

Ergo, of the UFC’s 10 current champions, only two of them are white Americans.

3). MMA is an international sport rich with diversity. There’s no indication that racism is an issue in MMA such that it’s likely we’ll see a hashtag for FightCardSoWhite (as the hashtag OscarsSoWhite ripped through social media leading up to last year’s Oscars when well-deserving actors of color were snubbed in the award nominations, prompting some Hollywood stars and insiders to boycott their own union’s biggest award event.

(Hollywood is still working on living up to its own hype of being a paradigm of diversity and inclusiveness. But it will catch up to MMA soon enough.)

5). Mixed martial artists employ a variety of martial arts styles from various countries. Some of the arts comprising an MMA fighter’s repertoire are Muay Thai (Thailand), Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (Brazil/United States), Judo (Japan), Wrestling, Tae Kwan Do (Korea), Karate (Japan and China), and boxing. As the sport is evolving, we’re starting to see increasingly common usage of techniques from other martial arts, as well, such as Capoeira (Brazil), Kung Fu (China), Wu-Shu (China), and Kali (Philippines).

6). MMA is the only sport that has the word “arts” in it, and the term is there for a reason.

Classical martial arts involve body movement and training, discipline, and practice of techniques through choreographed sequences. In Karate, these choreographed sequences are called kata. They’re performed at tournaments as dancers perform in dance productions. The Shaolin Monks (China), for instance, perform their Shaolin Kung Fu techniques on prestigious stages all over the world. The art side of martial arts is akin to the art of dance.

Like dancers, martial artists spend countless hours practicing their techniques in order to master them. Command of their art demands mental as well as physical training.

In this video of a kata competition performance, the competitors display the artistry of Karate techniques, some of which are used by MMA fighters (punches, kicks, take-downs, ground-and-pound):

 

 

[Performance of Team Serbia in the WKF World Championships Belgrade 2010.]

5). The gender aspect: women joined the UFC’s ranks only 18 years into the organization’s inception. Before 2011, there were no women’s divisions in the UFC. (European female MMA fighters were competing in Europe before females could fight in the United States’ UFC.)

Ronda Rousey was the first female champion in the UFC. She not only paved the way for women in the UFC, but she arguably elevated the UFC and the entire sport of MMA to the status of household familiarity.

Since Ronda Rousey has been the most famous of the UFC champions, it’s a common mistake to judge her and then build on that judgment to make assumptions about the entire sport. Like her or not, Ronda is someone to respect for the success she’s achieved not only for herself, but for all of us. Ronda is a tough, ambitious woman who has overcome tremendous hardship in her life; she is inspirational in many ways.

Sidenote: Ronda got her very own Twitter insult from Donald Trump the year before the 2016 presidential election because she publicly declared that she would not vote for him. Ronda was an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter from the beginning, so when she lost to Holly Holm, Trump was quick to tweet:

 

“Glad to see that @RondaRousey lost her championship fight last night. Was soundly beaten – not a nice person!”

 

The next women’s UFC bout I’m anticipating is Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena on January 28. Shevchenko is from Kyrgyzstan and fights out of Peru. Pena is Venezuelan-American and fights out of Spokane, Washington, USA. This fight is the main event of the fight card – that means it’s the headliner fight – and the fighters are female. It’s not uncommon for female fights to headline a UFC fight card. How’s that for diversity in an organization that started out exclusively for men only 24 years ago?

I’m glad that MMA was brought into the spotlight via a controversial speech this week. Fall-out speaks volumes, and there’s always something to learn from it.

Turbo heart rate – Body Combat Release 68 (Informal Review!)

Les Mills Body Combat 68 is fun. It’s a killer. There’s one part that’s a struggle for me. There’s another part that knocks the wind out of me. I love these challenges.

The music set is probably my favorite of all the releases I’ve done, not because of any particular song, but just the set as a whole. The beat match from start to finish is pretty decent, there’s a great bassline in each track, and none of the tracks annoy me too much. (The tracks have strong hooks, which means they can be either very awesome or very annoying.) That’s one thing this set has going for it: the beat manages to override any vocals that might otherwise make me want to stab myself in the ear. I do like most of the tracks, though.

You move through the cardio set in the hardcore electronic dance/club genre with flavors of drum and bass, trap, dubstep, synthpop, Eurodance, and the like, driven by an aggressive pulse with some cool remixes. I like the set’s cohesiveness in contrast to the releases whose sets take you all over the map with metal, electronica, rap, pop, hair band hard rock, etc. (I dig most of those genres individually, but mashed together in a single workout release? Not so much.) The cohesiveness of 68’s sound set keeps my momentum going; I don’t have to drastically switch gears from track to track. I looked up the music and noted that some of it hails from Down Under, home of Les Mills International. Great job, Les Mills DJ!

Workout-wise, I like 68’s footwork (agility), plyometrics (explosive power), and level changes (reflex and compound exercise). [ETA: There’s some great H.I.I.T. in this release, too.]

So let’s go.

 

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

 

(Grainy screenshots Callaghan and me in this post are courtesy of video footage taken in bad lighting.)

 

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 68

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up (“Freak” – Steve Aoki, Diplo & Deorro feat. Steve Bays)

  • Music: No-bullshit, high-octane club music for the upper-body warm-up; there’s no easing into this release with souped-up Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. It might be annoying to some, but it does the job.
  • Boxing combinations with uppercuts, hooks, jabs, crosses.
  • The level changes and small footwork involvement are cool. My upper-body is most definitely warm after this!

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up (“Break The Rules” – Anonymous Hotel)

  • Music: Same vein as 1a above. You know this excessively bright and happy music for the lower-body warm-up is meant to lull you into a false sense of security. It can only portend major lower-body mangling in the rest of the workout. And it does.
  • Knees and more knees!
  • Kicks (front snap kicks to push kicks to roundhouse kicks).
  • Down for push-ups… in the warm-up?!
  • These aren’t static push-ups, either. This is a lower-body warm-up, remember… there’s active leg involvement here.
  • Yep. The dynamic push-ups became MOUNTAIN-CLIMBERS. In the WARM-UP.

Track 2: Combat 1 (“Push” – Kronic, East Movement & Savage)

  • Music: Trap, and heavy on the drums. Great track for Combat 1!
  • Switch kicks (knee to kick). Jump kicks. Jump kicks on repeat.
  • Knees and lunges.
  • More knees and lunges.
  • Lower-body burn-out, check.

Track 3: Power Training 1 (“On My Way” – Jupiter Soliloquy)

  • Music: This could be a track that annoys me too much, but it’s saved by the beat.
  • Hard and fast upper-body combinations… uppercuts, jab, crosses.
  • Footwork (scissors) incorporated into the upper-body combos.
  • Running in place – but it’s not even the halfway point!
  • More.

Track 4: Combat 2 (“My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” – 2 Chainz)

  • Music: 2 Chainz remixed Fall Out Boy’s song, and it’s kickass. This song actually deviates from the set’s general character, but it still fits in there nicely. Great jam for Combat 2.
  • “Bring your mat close-by” is a euphemism for “We’re doing push-ups in the middle of this cardio track.”
  • Low-mid-low block combination.
  • Roundhouse kick add-on to the block combos.
  • Side kicks with a floor tap in between.
  • Double kicks, and here I face the fact that my balance has gone to shit. The tap in between the double kicks becomes a quick squat to involve more leg.
  • This is the part that’s a struggle for me. I don’t get it – my balance has never been so bad. But this gives me something to work on.
  • Double kicks become triple kicks.
  • I don’t feel the burn I’m supposed to be feeling in my standing leg, probably because I completely fail to hold my balance.
  • 2 Chainz takes over the song and we drop down for push-ups (with the same lower-body involvement we saw in the warm-up) in increasing reps.
  • Mountain-climbers. Of course.

Track 5: Power Training 2 (“Dirty” (Metrik Remix) – Dirtyphonics)

  • Music: Drum & Bass. Great vibe, and again, great music for this track!
  • Striking combos with level changes.
  • Plyometrics: Squat jumps, then lateral squat jumps.
  • This is a short but intense track.

Track 6: Combat 3 (“She Got It (Club Mix)” – Vandalism & Angger Dimas)

  • Music: Sick beat. Not my favorite track, but clearly this DJ knows what’s what.
  • Side kick, front kick, back kick combination.
  • Back kick repeaters.
  • I couldn’t count the number of kicks in this release if I wanted to.

Track 7: Muay Thai (“The United Vibe” – Scooter)

  • Music: Okay, after two years of Body Combat, I’m now used to practicing Muay Thai moves to music other than death metal and gangsta rap. Thus acclimated, I can get into this techno/Eurodance jam for the Muay Thai track.
  • Jab, up elbow, double knee combination.
  • Four knees. Two knees. Running man knees.
  • Four levels of running man knees!
  • Downward elbows.
  • This is the part that knocks the wind out of me: Downward elbows IMMEDIATELY following level 4 running man knees.
  • Level 4 running man takes a lot out of me. Downward elbows take a lot out of me. I need a brief pause to recover between the two, but there’s no such thing. So here’s the second major area I need to work on (the first being my balance): Breathing management to get through this track.
  • Ground and pound.

Track 8: Power Training 3 (“Out Of My Hands” – Olympic Daydream)

  • Music: I like the instrumental sequence, and it makes sense for this last cardio track.
  • Jabs!
  • Hooks!
  • Jacks!
  • More jabs!
  • I always like track 8. It’s an opportunity to use everything up, if anything is left.

Track 9: Conditioning (“Turn Down For What” – DJ Snake & Lil Jon)

  • Music: A classic. Great song for a killer ab track.
  • Laying on back: Criss-cross legs in the air.
  • Crunches added to the legs.
  • Laying on side: side crunches (side plank)
  • Flip back over: More. Just more. And flip over again. And again. Maybe I’m exaggerating at this point, but I don’t think so.
  • My abs hate me.

Track 10: Cool-down (“I See Fire” – Sol3 Mio)

  • Music: I looked up this song, and sure enough, it’s famous for representing the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby team. (Les Mills is a New Zealand company.) The vocals are beautiful.
  • Stretching.

 

 

*****

In summary: 68 is an intense release.

 

Us being us.

Us being us.

 

I’d give it an 8.5.

RIP Muhammad Ali.

He was the warrior poet who stood by his beliefs.

As you can imagine, this would endear me to Muhammad Ali even if he hadn’t had an enormous part in shaping some of my most cherished childhood memories. Ali is the reason I’ve loved the sport of boxing for most of my life, as I’d spent Saturday afternoons in the 70’s bonding with my Dad while we watched boxing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Ali celebrated the imagination, and I loved that. (The man who has no imagination has no wings.)

He was a conscientious objector who refused draft into the Vietnam War, and I admired that, too. As a combat veteran, I recognize that objecting the war was his right as an American citizen.

Later, he leveraged his fame to do service by participating in the release of American hostages in Iran. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth… the first version I’d heard of this quote came from Ali.

For years, I had a poster of this iconic photo from Ali’s (then Clay’s) second fight with the great Sonny Liston:

 

Cassius Clay (Ali) knocks out Sonny Liston

Cassius Clay (Ali) knocks out Sonny Liston

 

Ali practically invented the sport of pre-fight trash-talking, and he literally made an art of it. He sometimes used his poetry guns to fire off his trash talk:

Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,

If Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat.

Clay swings with a left,

Clay swings with a right,

Just look at young Cassius carry the fight.

Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room,

It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom.

Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,

And the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.

Liston still rising and the ref wears a frown,

But he can’t start counting until Sonny comes down.

Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic

But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic.

Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight,

That they would witness the launching of a human satellite.

Hence the crowd did not dream, when they laid down their money,

That they would see a total eclipse of Sonny.

 

RIP Muhammad Ali.

Good times in the garage gym! (Strength-training, SuperStarch, punching bag workout.)

Thing 1: So far, the heat in the garage isn’t bothering or deterring me. This is especially great considering that we haven’t put a fan in there yet. Temperatures have been lingering around the low 100’s and it’s warmer in the garage, but I’ve been keeping the back door open and lifting weights (dumbbells) in there every day. Making progress! New Year’s resolution progress is my favorite kind of progress.

Thing 2: Some friends recently told me about “pre-workouts” – powders you mix with water to make a drink formulated to give you an energy boost during a workout. You know I had to look into this. I forayed into the bewildering world of pre-workouts and decided to try one I thought looked impressive from the view-point of science… and I’m not talking bro-science, either. This is serious nutritional science. You can take the girl out of the scientific research lab, but you can’t take the scientific research lab out of the girl, even if the girl isn’t a trained scientist.

So I ordered some SuperStarch. SuperStarch powers you with carbs, and that’s what caught my attention, being the loyal fan of carbs that I am. This drink is like my dream drink. It’s straight-up complex carbohydrates in a delicious, thick and creamy beverage. 21 grams of carbs. 1 gram of sugar. 70% of your Vitamin C DV. SuperStarch is devoid of caffeine and other stimulants, and the cran-raz flavor that I got is sweetened with stevia, my sweetener of choice. For me, this couldn’t be more perfect!

In case you missed the link above, click here to learn about SuperStarch.

Thing 3: Unholy university graduation traffic prevented me from getting to the gym in time for Body Combat on Wednesday evening, so I did the reasonable thing: I made my way back home, changed my shirt, and went to the garage to work out on the punching bag. I didn’t want to miss a workout, PLUS I’d guzzled the SuperStarch for the first time, and I was eager to test its effects. I had to use the energy somewhere!

I recorded my workout so I could provide a sampling in screen shots:

 

The bag is where I want it. It took almost no effort to get it there. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

The bag is where I want it. It took almost no effort to get it there. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

 

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

 

Straight right.

Straight right.

 

May I just reiterate here that it’s my personal choice to work the bags with bare knuckles. I DO NOT recommend this practice to you or anyone else. Do what you will, but don’t do it because I do it! (I repeat: I am not recommending that you hit things without donning some kind of hand protection.)

 

See – this shot reminds me that I tend to drop my left hand. Like Mayweather. Except I'm not Mayweather, so it would behoove me to keep that hand up.

See – this shot reminds me that I tend to drop my left hand. Like Mayweather. Except I’m not Mayweather, so it would behoove me to keep that hand up.

 

Spinning back elbow.

Spinning back elbow.

 

Muay Thai round kick prep.

Muay Thai round kick prep.

 

Muay Thai round kick.

Muay Thai round kick.

 

Low side kick.

Low side kick.

 

Curved knee strike.

Curved knee strike.

 

Straight knee strike, and now the bag is migrating out of the frame.

Straight knee strike, and now the bag is migrating out of the frame.

 

The bag has migrated out of the frame, but I'm still working it. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

The bag has migrated out of the frame, but I’m still working it. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

 

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

 

I stopped after 45 minutes of throwing all kinds of combinations on the bag, including speed punches and power shots. I could’ve gone longer. The verdict on SuperStarch? Yeah, it blew me away. I have no basis of comparison (to other pre-workouts), but I killed my workout with this stuff!

And that concludes this edition of Garage Gym Workout chez TALC. Until next time!

Body Combat Release 67 – Informal Review!

1). I’m stoked to be here talking about the new Les Mills Body Combat release (#67), because that means the class still exists at our gym! So far, all is well in the aftermath of the great gym take-over.

2). I’ve done the new release a few times at this point, so I can say with zero hesitation that this tracklist is my least favorite of them all… of all the ones I’ve done, that is. I enjoy the workout, itself, but… the music.

I can train with no music at all, but if there’s music and it’s unappealing to me and it doesn’t motivate me, that’s a challenge. The first time I worked out to music was in Army basic training, where drill sergeants yell melodic cadences at you and you have to yell them back. The “songs” are meant, among other things, to motivate troops during company runs and marches, and they inspire a strong esprit de corps among the ranks. That experience set my standard of a motivational training soundtrack. I’m beyond hope with Body Combat #67’s music. Dear Les Mills Body Combat music-selecting team: It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still getting in a kick-ass workout with #67. I’m just having to reach deeper to seize motivation from within, which, actually, is probably a great exercise in and of itself. So really, no complaints. I’m just saying.

3). Since the music does nothing for me, though, I’m not going to list the names of the songs and my thoughts on them in this review.

4). Someone on Facebook posted a handy meme with the number of techniques done in release #67, so I thought I’d share the info here. Within an hour, we do:

720 jabs, 294 crosses, 389 hooks, 432 uppercuts, 30 circular elbows, 36 ascending elbows, 43 back fists, 80 karate punches, 418 knees, 56 roundhouse knees, 118 front kicks, 44 side kicks, 29 roundhouse kicks, 32 jump kicks, 30 shoots, 32 lunges, 32 scissors, 88 jacks, 64 plank climbers, and 32 push-ups.

And that doesn’t even include the ab track with that one move that always makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. You know the one. That side plank thing where you lift and lower your hips a million times.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Les Mills Body Combat 67

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up

  • Jabs
  • Combinations: hook/cross, jab/cross, double uppercuts
  • Lateral shuffle to scissors (I like how they always finish the upper-body warm-up with a move to segue into the lower-body warm-up)

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up

  • Shoots
  • Kicks: side kicks; double front kicks; roundhouse kicks
  • Down on the floor? During the warm-up? Plank climbers. Gah.

Track 2: Combat 1

  • Double upper/hook combo
  • Roundhouse knees
  • Back fists; back fist/roundhouse kick combo

Track 3: Power Training 1

  • Jabs, crosses; double jab combo
  • Hooks; hook/jack combo

Track 4: Combat 2

  • Karate punches
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick combo
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick/repeated front kick combo
  • **Dying**
  • Down on the floor for push-ups/plank climbers

Track 5: Power Training 2

  • Uppercuts
  • Upper/cross combo
  • High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.): running/wide-stance running/4-second sprint intervals

Track 6: Combat 3

  • Back knee/front kick combo
  • Jump kicks
  • Lunges and jump lunges

Track 7: Muay Thai

  • Circular elbow/front knee combo
  • Ascending elbow/knee combo
  • Double knee/single knee combo
  • Running man knees

Track 8: Power Training 3

  • Jab/cross combo
  • Jab/cross/hook combo
  • Jabs (variations)

Track 9: Conditioning

  • Abs: Pulsing side planks super-setted with another torturous plank exercise, then
  • Ab-work lying down
  • Admittedly, it does help that this track is Rihanna. Rihanna makes abs easier somehow.

Track 10: Cool-down!

*****

In summary, #67 is a great lower-body destroyer and upper-body stamina squeezer… shoulders, in particular. I also feel my calves more than usual (during Track 4). The release is heavy on knees and kicks, but light on footwork. The H.I.I.T. sequence in Track 5 isn’t as killer as the H.I.I.T. in the last few releases. #67 brings new challenges, and that’s what’s awesome about it.

For lack of a pic that makes better sense here, I’ve got a selfie I took yesterday morning. This post was in progress and I was thinking how great it is that we still have Body Combat at our gym!

 

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

 

BC #67: Great release overall!

Body Combat Release 66 – Informal Review!

[This post is subtitled: “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”]

Today I’ve got a review of Les Mills’ latest Body Combat release (#66). I’ve actually done release 66 three times now, so this isn’t exactly a “First Impressions review,” but I did throw my first impressions down on paper after the first time… so it’s like a “first impressions” dragged through three classes, if that makes any sense.

Like last time, I used a voice recorder in class so I’d have an audio guide to remind me of what we did.

That being said, here’s my concise run-down of the new release (and my thoughts about it)!

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 66

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up (Justice Crew “Everybody” Jump Smokers Remix)

  • Standard high energy music for an upper-body warm-up.
  • Standard boxing combinations for an upper-body warm-up: hooks, jabs, crosses and uppercuts.
  • Shoots! Shoots always make for a nice segue into the lower-body warm-up.

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up (DJ Fresh & Jay Fay feat. MS Dynamite – and “Dibby Dibby Sound” (The Partysquad Remix)

  • Love this electro/house track for the lower-body warm-up.
  • A nod to capoeira! Awesome, as always.
  • Front lunges though. I fear for my very near future. (The warm-ups foreshadow the actual workout.)
  • Roundhouse kicks.

Track 2: Combat 1 (R3HAB & KSHMR – “Karate”)

  • Okay music. More electro/house.
  • Power upper-body combination work: punches and ascending elbows.
  • Power knees.
  • Kicks! (This track is, like, power everything.)
  • Single-leg triple roundhouse kicks at varying levels (good core work going on here with the balancing).

Track 3: Power Training 1 (David Guetta – “Titanium” ft. Sia)

  • Fast tempo electronica with high-pitched vox – not my favorite music track ever.
  • Upper-body combinations – jabs, uppercuts, etc. (Great shoulder work!)
  • Footwork – slips and weaves worked in with the striking.

Track 4: Combat 2 (David Guetta – “Hey Mama” ft Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack)

  • More electro/house; catchy song. I actually like this song a lot.
  • Grab our mats? That means push-ups….
  • Front lunges. (Oh hell – here they are.)
  • Lots of lunges!
  • Too many lunges.
  • Switch lunges. (At this point my quads are hating me.)
  • Kicks; kicks mixed into the lunges…??
  • (Holy crap these lunges)
  • Push-ups. (Yes! A break from lunges.)
  • MORE LUNGES. (*dies*)

Track 5: Power Training 2 (Chase & Status Ft Plan B – “Pieces” – Ram Records)

  • Drum & bass? Love the build-up and the lyrics.
  • Power upper-body/hook-uppercut-hook combination on speed.
  • Add footwork (scissors).
  • HIIT training – sprints! 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 12 seconds 12 seconds. 15 seconds. 17 seconds!!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-beast-mode-300

 

Track 6: Combat 3 (McBusted – “Get Over It”)

  • First rock song in the release; fast-paced, electric guitar.
  • Back kick/front kick combo.
  • Adding a Jab-cross-hook combo.
  • Side shuffle to side kick/back fist combo. (I was kind of so-so about this track until now. Love back fists.)

Track 7: Muay Thai (Scotty – “The Black Pearl” (Rui Festival Edit)

  • Sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean on electro crack.
  • Muay Thai! (Always one of my favorite tracks.)
  • Elbows and knees. (Fantastic. I’m feeling it!)

Track 8: Power Training 3 (DOUGAL & GAMMER Ft. CAT KNIGHT – “Reach Out”)

  • This must be standard high-intensity cardio music, or else I’d remember it.
  • Punches as you’d expect in a final cardio track.
  • Body shots!
  • Because of the body shot combinations, this seems more like a Combat 1 or Power Training track. Pretty great for a final cardio track! I get to work harder than usual at the end.

Track 9: Conditioning (Iggy Azalea – “Bounce”)

  • Rap; the music is more energetic than usual for an ab track.
  • Spider crawl – shoulders and core on the floor.
  • Crunch sequences on our backs (abs)

Track 10: Cool-down (Imagine Dragons – “Bleeding Out”)

  • Imagine Dragons for the cool-down. Yes.
  • Stretching.

*****

In summary: This is one of the more athletic releases I’ve done. If I were to rate Release 66 on a PERSONAL scale of 1-10, I’d give it an 8, because…

–It challenges me to work on my balance.

–The mostly electronica/house music is stuff I wouldn’t mind listening to myself while training out in the garage.

–I like the changes in levels in this release.

–The HIIT sessions in the middle mix things up with an extra hit of badassery.

Great release overall!

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

Coming back around to the promised garage gym update! Since our initial setting-up in January last year, we’ve made a few additions to the garage to further its transition into a small but functional training space. We also cleared out the relics that came with the garage when we bought the house – old cans of paint and such.

Now we’ve got the basics: 63 square feet of mat flooring (we added a couple of rows of rubber tiles to enlarge the floor), a standing punching bag, an MMA dummy on the floor, a mirror (thanks to Craigslist), a few sets of dumbbells, and speakers (for blasting dub-step, rap, and metal during boxing and Muay Thai training, of course). It’s a great space for the two of us, but as many as four people could train in there at once. Maybe five. Maybe six, depending on what we do. It’s small, but it works.

The South Korean flag still hangs in the corner. When I go in to practice Tae Kwan Do, I’m entering a do-jang  (the Korean equivalent of the Japanese dojo). There’s no music during a Tae Kwan Do session. Because of the quiet and the concentration required, I find that it’s akin to a moving meditation practice. I feel at peace. Perhaps more than anything, the flag carries sentimental value, as my Tae Kwan Do master handed it down to me before he moved out of state years ago.

Another thing – unrelated, but useful – is that I upgraded my phone last week, so now I’m equipped with a camera that’s much better than my old one!

(I’ll be honest… I only upgraded my phone to get a new camera. I was content with the phone, itself, but I wanted to take better pictures, and I didn’t want to invest in an actual camera. I was eligible for a phone upgrade, anyway, so it worked out well.)

So, with this new phone camera, thinking of how I could show what the space can accommodate, I decided to record myself doing a Tae Kwan Do form (hyung in Korean; kata in Japanese – this is TKD, so it’s hyung). I recorded the video on Sunday afternoon and used “pause” and “the snippy tool” to get the slew of Tae Kwan Do technique selfies posted here.

But first, observe the quality difference between my old and new cameras!

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

I clipped this shot out of the video, so I’m blurry in movement, but notice the colors! The lighting in the garage was exactly the same in both images, and as per usual, there were no digital shenanigans involved to alter the pics. I’m in love with this camera. The phone part is pretty great, too, and yes, I’m totally raving about a Korean phone in a post about Korean karate. Coincidence.

Without further rambling about cameras and phones, here are a few of the Tae Kwan Do blocks and attacks I clipped from the recorded video:

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

(My striking fist did originate from further inside, but it looks awkward at this second of transition… )

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

Note that my feet are slightly too far apart in that finish.  I saw ALL of my mistakes while watching the video and pausing on the techniques, which makes the recording a valuable practice I should continue. You may see more training pics here in the future.  Just a head’s-up.

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

Anyway, our garage gym figures beautifully into my New Year’s resolution to get stronger. We’re going to add three or four sets of dumbbells to our little collection, so we’ll be able to get in some effective full-body workouts. Gotta love Play It Again Sports! We’re also going to add what we need to keep the space tolerable during the hot months.

The Preacher’s Daughter does women’s boxing proud.

At the end of August, I wrote about the upcoming MMA fight between defending UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and her challenger, Holly Holm, and I was less than pleased. That was when the fight was set for UFC 195, which would take place on January 2, 2016.

On November 12, last week Thursday, it came to my attention that the fight was going to happen in two days… nearly two months ahead of the original date. How I missed that memo, I don’t know, but the change threw me. I went to Facebook with my consternation, which I don’t often do.

Returning to my train of thought: In that first post about the upcoming fight, I expressed doubt, though I did say:

“Holm needs to have a plan, and it should include honing her take-down defense between now and January. If she can keep her head, set the pace and control the fight with a highly technical boxing approach (not allowing the bout to become a brawl), and successfully ward off Rousey’s take-down attempts, then she’d have a chance. And I do believe a Holm win is a possibility. The fight will, after all, begin to Holm’s advantage… standing up.”

But I wrote that, as I said, in the midst of doubt. Now that we know about Holm’s plan and how she carried it out with winning precision, I’m back to say that I was wrong. I’d been hasty in writing that first blog post, and hasty in posting on Facebook when I found out that the fight would happen in two days. In both cases, I didn’t give myself time to mentally adjust to the situation. I’d fallen into the pervasive notion that Rousey’s game was bullet-proof.

Hindsight is a wondrous thing. The question was never about the strength of Holm’s ground game. The question was about the strength of Rousey’s stand-up game.

It was my own cowardice that fueled my doubt. That first post was me imposing my own fears onto the situation. I wasn’t so much afraid for Holm as I was afraid for myself; after following Holm’s professional fighting career for over 10 years, I didn’t want to see her lose this fight. But because I’d been following Holm’s career for over 10 years, I should never have doubted her. I guess it was just that the bulldozer of WIN Rousey was riding didn’t appear to be running out of gas. I freaked out before I could remind myself about Holm’s wealth of ring experience and her exceptional athletic ability.

Now the world realizes that women’s boxing veteran Holm is a formidable presence in any ring or cage, and to underestimate her is a mistake.

After finding out that the fight would take place in two days, I dove into the internets and dragged out the video of the Rousey/Holm weigh-in. After watching it, all I could think was, “What was that, exactly?” What was that post-weigh-in outburst erupting from Rousey’s mouth… that one about Holm being “fake,” etc.?

And then my respect for Rousey slipped a little, and my admiration along with it. I knew that the kind of swagger Rousey performed is sort of par for the course leading up to a fight, but again, I’m writing from my personal bias toward Holm. (Delayed disclaimer: it’s difficult to write objectively about this given my long-time history as a Holm fan.) I was already on #TeamHollyHolm, but after watching that weigh-in, I prayed that Holm would win. On Saturday morning, the day of the fight, I silently dedicated my Body Combat workout to Holm before class started.

Watching the fight now, I feel foolish for having worried about Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. (She’s “The Preacher’s Daughter” because she actually is a preacher’s daughter, by the way.) How could I have doubted her when I was so familiar with her talent and toughness? When I knew the depth of her confidence and the breadth of her professional boxing record? Holm is a multi-world champion trained by one of the best combat sports training teams in the country. I shouldn’t have aggrieved this bout, especially since I’d viewed training videos of Holm such as the one on this page:

http://www.mmafighting.com/2014/4/3/5577052/holly-holm-training-camp-journal

Holm is meticulous about her own training, dedicated and focused beyond the scope of what seems humanly possible, and she’s merciless on herself. Mike Winkeljohn, her coach, couldn’t be harder on her than than she is on herself.

 

Holly Holm

Holly Holm

 

I don’t know what happened to Rousey in that fight. She seemed ill-prepared to face a combat athlete of Holm’s caliber. She also looked tired by the end of the first round, as if she didn’t train hard enough. Had she been too busy? Did she take her training less seriously because she assumed that she’d score another first-round win? Or could it be that Holm is simply the superior fighter? Holm is smart, calm, humble, and mature, all of which goes into her arsenal of badass, and none of which I’ve seen Rousey display… yet. Rousey is young. She has time to mature. I almost pitied her as she panicked (when she realized what she was up against) and chased, careened, and flailed around the octagon after Holm. It was a Rousey I’d never seen, but it was a Holm I’d seen time and again, and now that the MMA-watching world has seen it, too, the MMA game has been changed.

Obviously, Rousey is a supremely talented combat athlete, as well, and she’s certainly deserved her victories in combat sports. But so has Holm… and Holm has many more victories than Rousey over a much longer career in professional fighting. The fact that most of her career has been in boxing rather than in MMA is irrelevant.

I’m just happy that Holm won. That’s my girl.

In closing, enjoy this adorable pic I found of Holm with her husband:

 

Holly Holm with husband Jeff Kirkpatrick

Holly Holm with husband Jeff Kirkpatrick

Rousey vs. Holm WTF.

I’m just going to go ahead and use this space today to ramble a bit about Ronda Rousey’s next professional rendezvous, as I’ve been having thoughts about it since I heard the news a few days ago.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-RouseyVsHolmUFC195

 

Mainly, I’m dismayed.

Like the rest of the MMA-watching world, I’ve been waiting to see who Rousey would fight following her theatrical 34-second dispatching of Bethe Carreia on August 1. Also like most of the rest of the MMA-watching world, I assumed we were in for Part III of Rousey vs. Tate. (Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino’s been calling out Rousey, but their impasse over weight seems unbudgeable for the moment.)

So I was surprised when Rousey announced who she’s planning to fight this January at UFC 195. She’ll face an opponent who’s only been dedicated to MMA for two years. An opponent who’s only fought twice in the UFC, and who only has nine fights on her MMA record, total. We’re four months and a week out from early January. Could someone so inexperienced in MMA possibly get Rousey-ready by then?

I guess anything is possible. It’s possible that we’ll see an upset on January 2. But I don’t think it’s likely.

Southpaw Holly Holm and her kickboxing/boxing career first came to my attention in 2002, when I started following women’s boxing on WBAN.com. At some point, she wrapped up kickboxing and went on to box her way around four weight classes, picking up title belts at every stop. Then, in 2013, she hung up her boxing gloves to shift her attention to MMA. That was just two years ago. I repeat for the third time, that was just two years ago.

Holm, literally “The Preacher’s Daughter” from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an experienced boxer and a formidable opponent in that sport. She’s comfortable with the contours of the ring, and she’s technically good on her feet. But in order to stand any chance (pun intended, yes) against Ronda Rousey, she has to stay on her feet on January 2.

Because so far? I haven’t seen that Holm has any ground game to speak of, and I don’t know why the UFC is giving we MMA fans this lopsided match-up for Rousey’s next fight. I’m dismayed because of that in and of itself, and I’m also dismayed because, as I said, I’ve been following Holm’s boxing career for 13 years. I feel like I know the girl, as long-time fans do. After Holm’s tremendous, decorated and highly-esteemed boxing career, I don’t want to see her get into the octagon to be finished off in less time than it takes me to take the trash out to the alley behind my house. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear about it, either. Ronda Rousey? Holly Holm? In four months?

In four months, Rousey can sharpen her stand-up skills (have I mentioned that her striking coach was/is Lucia Rijker?), but Holm, the newcomer to MMA, will need years of grappling work and experience to raise her skill-set on the ground to Rousey-level proficiency. Rousey reigns on the ground. Okay, she reigns everywhere, but especially on the ground. (You know, that whole Olympic Judo thing of hers that preceded her MMA career….)

Holm needs to have a plan, and it should include honing her take-down defense between now and January. If she can keep her head, set the pace and control the fight with a highly technical boxing approach (not allowing the bout to become a brawl), and successfully ward off Rousey’s take-down attempts, then she’d have a chance. And I do believe a Holm win is a possibility. The fight will, after all, begin to Holm’s advantage… standing up.

She just has to stay standing up.

Guys, I’m a Holm fan in boxing. I’m a Rousey fan in MMA. I’m having a hard time reconciling the idea of the two of them in the octagon together. In my mind, they belong on their respective sides of the combat sports universe, where they each dominate. I’d heard Holm’s name thrown into the mix in talk about who Rousey could fight next, but I’ve never given Rousey vs. Holm a serious thought… at least not at this embryonic stage in Holm’s MMA career. It always seemed like something that could happen in the future. Is the future in four months?

“Southpaw” floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawMoviePoster

 

It seems like a long time ago that an upcoming boxing drama called Southpaw crossed our radar… or, rather, a long time since we found out that Jake Gyllenhaal, one of our favorite actors (we’ve never seen a film of his we haven’t enjoyed), would be portraying a boxer called Billy “The Great” Hope. We went online and found a photo of his Southpaw physique, and we hardly recognized him. Needless to say, we were stoked.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawJakeGyllenhaal

 

We admire Gyllenhaal because he’s consistently good, and he has a knack for choosing solid projects. He has depth. He has range. But we’d never seen his range extend into action/sports hero territory, and he’d never been an actor I’d expect to see in a gritty, testosterone-driven role such as that of Billy “The Great” Hope. Along with the rest of the world, we were eager to find out how he did. How he did was he went out and trained obsessively and developed himself the bod and the skills, and he smashed it.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawJakeGyllenhaal2

 

Some actors, you can see how they come to casting directors’ minds for such roles: Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Russell Crowe in Cinderlla Man, Michael Jai White in Blood and Bone, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, for instance. Then you have excellent but unexpected choices, like Will Smith, who bulked up and trained to play Ali and nailed it, killing everyone’s skepticism (that marked the beginning of Smith’s action hero career, didn’t it?)… and now, Gyllenhaal, who does the same in Southpaw.

There are several ways you can describe Southpaw. It’s a fight movie, a boxing drama, a story of redemption, a vendetta movie, a come-back story… and it’s a family drama.

Here, I have to say that fight movies – especially the ones about boxing – always carry a note of sentimental value for me, so I can’t approach them unbiased. I’ve mentioned before how my fascination with boxing began in early childhood, growing up in the 70’s sitting in front of the T.V. with Dad on Saturday afternoons watching the likes of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Duran, and Hagler, and into the 80’s with Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns (not to mention Howard Cosell throughout it all) on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Because of those intervals of bonding with Dad throughout my grade school years, I’ve loved the “the sweet science” of boxing for as long as I can remember.

Because I watched the film through the lens of some of my fondest childhood memories, I saw Southpaw as more of a family drama than as a straight-up fight movie. Southpaw is a simple story about a father-daughter relationship and how it was both shaken and healed by boxing. My own enduring affection for the sport of boxing was inspired by my father when I was a young girl of the same age as Billy Hope’s daughter. Unsurprisingly, I found the drama of that relationship to be the most inspired theme in the film.

Nevertheless, Southpaw follows a standard fight-movie formula; fortunately, it does its thing exceptionally well. It transcends the mundanity of its story with great acting and all the technical trimmings of the film-making craft. Neither Callaghan nor I had trouble forgiving the film its baldly formulaic plot, because if you turn it upside down, you can see that the formula works in Southpaw’s favor in some ways. It relieves the film of obligations to be fresh, and it opens up space for the characters and conflicts to develop. It’s telling an old story rife with clichés, and the refreshing part is seeing it done so well.

Family drama aspect aside, Southpaw’s boxing scenes are beautifully filmed and keenly impactful, and we found ourselves on edge even if we could predict the outcome of the bouts. Much of the movie is painful to watch. Southpaw is relentless, a film that needs no time to find its footing, gliding into its rhythm right from the outset. I’d love to watch Southpaw contend for Academy awards, and I think it could, considering the talent that infuses it: Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer); actors such as Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams, and, of course, Gyllenhaal. Then there’s the music by James Horner (the film was dedicated to his memory) and Eminem’s contribution of four songs, including “Phenomenal” and “Kings Never Die”… and the fact that the film was brought to us courtesy of the Weinstein Company.

Of all his memorable quotes, Muhammad Ali is perhaps most famous for proclaiming that he’d “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and that’s what Southpaw does. It floats along on its easy, predictable plot, but in the end, it’s a knock-out.

Vehement boxing gloves – cruelty-free to animals, but not necessarily to your opponent!

As many of you know, I’ve been steadily working on switching over to cruelty-free cosmetics and other such products, as this was my primary New Year’s resolution for 2015. I also resumed my vegan eating habits back in April, which didn’t involve much of a change, as the only animal product I was consuming was a little dairy here and there. After three years, I’m finally back to my pre-France lifestyle, and I feel physically fantastic! Although I’m still floundering in the sleep department (a secondary-though-not-less-important New Year’s resolution was to “get more sleep” – still working on that one), I’m enjoying much more energy now.

After making the cruelty-free commitment with my personal care products and returning to 100% vegetarianism (aka dietary veganism), it made sense to extend the latter choice in the direction of classical veganism, beginning with examining the materials of the things I use and wear. I found that there were a few leather items left in my life at that point, the main one being out in the garage: my pair of boxing gloves. My boxing gloves were made of leather. I started researching to find an alternative. I only felt a little bit guilty springing for some new boxing gloves when a). I’m in financial recovery mode (from Ronnie James’ medical ordeal), and b). I had a beautiful, fairly new pair already (given to me for my birthday last December). But I’m passionate about animals, passionate about combat sports, passionate about my New Year’s resolution, and, before he died, I promised Ronnie James that I’d re-dedicate myself to our favorite cause.

Some of you might be thinking, But Kristi! Boxing gloves are made for hitting people. Why worry about hurting animals in the making of something intended to cause pain to others? I know it seems counter-intuitive. I know. But engaging in combat sports with adult human beings who know they’re going to get hit is not the same thing as taking something cruelly from non-consenting beings. I’m just going to leave my reasoning at that brief statement and get right to the point:

I stumbled upon Vehement, a company that makes boxing gloves, MMA gear and other combat sports equipment and apparel. This is all they do, and they do it very well… without harming animals, humans, or the environment.

 

"Sustainable." "Vegan." "Sweatshop free." What the label doesn't say, but could: "HARDCORE" and "KICK-ASS."

“Sustainable.” “Vegan.” “Sweatshop free.” What the label doesn’t say, but could: “HARDCORE” and “KICK-ASS.”

 

Vehement is a German company, but their international shipping rates are reasonable ($13.00 to the States), and the combat sports gear they make is extremely well-engineered and on point. When you go to their web site, you’ll find a statement that reads:

DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES, NOT YOUR PLANET.

Our hand sewn, sweatshop-free fight gear is made of 100% Battleskin™, an extremely advanced artificial leather: sustainable, durable and vegan. We won several awards for our innovative boxing gloves, MMA gloves and shin guards.

The Wolfheart X2 gloves that I purchased (I chose 12 oz) are a superb all-purpose pair of boxing gloves. Also, did I mention that this conscientious company’s logo is a beautiful wolf face? This is because Vehement shares their profits with the Wolf Conservation Center NY (WCC). That’s right… when you purchase gear from Vehement, you’re contributing to a great cause! From the Wolf Conservation Center NY site:

The WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. The WCC accomplishes this mission through onsite and offsite education programs emphasizing wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the United States.

 

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

 

I love the design and fit of Vehement's Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

I love the design and fit of Vehement’s Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

 

Vehement sells hand wraps, shin guards, MMA gloves and two types of boxing gloves, as well as clothing and water bottles. If you or someone you know is interested in combat sports gear, I highly recommend this company! Check them out, explore the goods and read their blog posts and announcements: http://vhmnt.com/

In case you’re short on time, I’m pasting in this description of the gloves that I got:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-VehementWebSiteText

 

I’m extremely happy with the fit, feel and performance of these vegan boxing gloves. I honestly can’t say enough about these gloves – they’re simply the best boxing gloves I’ve ever had (and I’ve owned pairs from both Title and Everlast). Two Battleskin-encased thumbs up!

[NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Vehement]

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

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

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!

Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens – with a hard right hand.

Body Combat class was cancelled at the gym last Saturday because of the holiday. Reluctant to miss a workout, I thought, what better time to find a heavy-bag somewhere? It had been so long!

I jumped online and honed in on a Saturday cardio kickboxing class at a boxing gym near our apartment. Going as a walk-in, I could avoid missing a workout and get in a heavy-bag bonus while I was at it. Their web site said to bring your own hand-wraps, so I knew I’d be punching something.

The rental fee for an hour with the heavy-bag walk-in cost for the class was only ten bucks. I was excited. It’d been about six years since I’d touched a heavy-bag, and just as long since I’d taken part in any kind of martial/fighting arts training (Capoeira and Kali were the last. Boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do and T’ai Chi – many people don’t realize it, but T’ai Chi is actually a deadly form of martial arts – seemed ages ago). The last time I’d climbed into the ring to spar was maybe 2008. My six years away from combat sports felt more like six cat years… that would be 40 human years, which is about how long it felt!

The class was fun, and I did get to work the heavy-bag. I had my old hand-wraps that I’d dug out of storage the previous week, and I borrowed some gloves from the gym. During the hour-long workout, we did cardio kickboxing drills (including punching with weights, which I’d never done before, so that was interesting, and throwing kicks), push-ups, bag-work, partner-work and abs.  It felt great. I felt great.

Until two days later, when I found myself gobbling four extra-strength Advil as we ran out the door to Monday evening Body Combat. Everything hurt. The boxing gym workout had settled into my muscles, and I literally felt it from my neck down. Trapezius muscles? RIGHT, those exist! And to quote Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “Oh. Johnny Anterior Delts, I apologize; I forgot you were there.” Pecs. LATS! Triceps. Abs. QUADS… I felt the intense soreness in my upper legs just walking.

It didn’t help that I’d forgotten to eat something beforehand, either. In addition to the post-workout soreness, my energy stores felt depleted in class that night. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love feeling that kind of pain again, and I still had a great workout!

When we started Body Combat on Saturday, March 29, Callaghan was looking for general fitness benefits, and I was looking to re-gain my skills and get back into shape after being ridiculously sedentary for over three years (NEVER AGAIN). Three and a half months later, I’m feeling immensely better, but I still have a long way to go. There’s the two Body Combat classes and a boot camp class each week, and sometimes I go an extra day to walk on the treadmill. I feel like I should be doing more.

On Wednesday, it happened again… we had tickets to see Def Leppard and Kiss, which meant ditching boot camp class. We made it up last night by doing a Body Attack class at a different gym location. I’d never heard of Body Attack (like Body Combat, it’s a Les Mills International class). It was a pretty good workout!

Here’s a picture of Callaghan and me at the concert on Wednesday night:

 

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here's this, for what it's worth...

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here’s this, for what it’s worth…

 

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)

Incessant Phoenix Flashbacks. Also, the Sports Sitch in Austin.

I realized that ever since I decided to post here on Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ve been posting on Wednesdays and Fridays… this is the fifth Wednesday in a row. Not a Tuesday in sight on the recent calendar. Somehow, despite my efforts for Tuesday, Wednesday is just when it happens. Maybe I’ll try to start posting on Mondays, as well, to make it a 3x/week affair.

Saturday evening, we went downtown to meet a friend at Champion’s, and he took us for a stroll onto Rainey Street in pursuit of some local flavor. I kept expecting to find Casey Moore’s cozying up to the old houses lining the street. I wonder when the look-out in the back of my mind will stop automatically using my old Phoenix metro stomping grounds as a cultural point of reference for Austin? Austin is a very unique place with a distinct character of its own, but without wanting to, I’m finding Arizona corollaries for many places we encounter here, as well as many of the same businesses. Some of the Austin neighborhoods appear to have twins in The Valley (Greater Phoenix Metro Area), especially around Arizona State University.

University towns. I like them. Austin being a university town was one of its selling points. The live music scene in Austin is bigger than it is in Phoenix – hell, it’s the “Live Music Capital of the World” – but in my opinion, Phoenix has more of a hard rock vibe, if you can apply a genre of music to a place to describe its general ambience. Phoenix is Alice Cooper’s town. Alice is a big sports fan, and his establishment is a popular pre- and post-game watering hole and eatery in downtown Phoenix. (My girl Stevie Nicks is in Phoenix, too.)

That brings me to this one thing about Austin: there are no major professional sports teams. This is not a source of distress, mind you… it’s just different from what I’m used to. The Greater Phoenix Metro Area has the Suns (NBA basketball), the Diamondbacks (MLB baseball), the Cardinals (NFL football) and the Coyotes (NHL ice hockey). The Ironman Arizona Triathlon is there, and there’s pro fighting. Golf is also big in The Valley of the Sun; the WM Phoenix Open is the largest professional golf tournament on the PGA TOUR. The Super Bowl was hosted at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 (Cowboys vs. Steelers). There are also two college bowl games hosted in the Phoenix metro area (the Fiesta Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl), and MLB Spring Training takes place there annually. Phoenix is a huge sports town by anyone’s standards.

Here, the major professional sports situation is this: San Antonio’s 1.5 hours away, which actually isn’t that far… it’s the home of the Spurs (NBA basketball). Drive to Houston (3 hours), and there are the Rockets (NBA basketball). And Dallas – 4.5 hours away – has the Mavericks (NBA basketball), the Cowboys (NFL football) and the Dallas Stars (NHL ice hockey). Also in the Dallas area, you’ve got the Texas Rangers (MLB baseball). So the teams are here in Texas, for sure. Just not here in Austin, which is perhaps a good thing, because it’s already bad enough that we’re tempted by live music opportunities every which way we turn.

It’s not like I went running off to sporting events all the time when I lived in Arizona. I didn’t. But I do enjoy the energy of a sports town, and there was the occasional game or boxing bout.

The most memorable one was on May 9, 1993; it was Game 5 of the Suns vs. Lakers NBA Western Conference play-offs. That was some basketball! The Lakers were in the house, and my boyfriend and I decided to go at the very last minute. We went downtown, bought tickets from a scalper and folded ourselves into the madness, because isn’t that what any sane college student would do when she has a final exam the next morning? I had my priorities straight. There were memories to be made. We had a feeling that the game would be phenomenal, and holy crap, our instincts did not fail us. About 500 mini heart attacks later (or maybe it was just one big long heart attack – yep, pretty sure I’m remembering that correctly), the Suns won 112-104 in an astounding over-time upset. That win constituted the biggest upset I’ve ever seen live, in person. Actually, it may have been the biggest upset I’ve ever seen, period.

 

 

I was there!

That was Jerry Colangelo’s Suns, with the likes of Charles Barkley; Dan Majerle; Cedric Ceballos; Danny Ainge; Kevin Johnson; Oliver Miller and Mark West on the roster. Remember that team, Suns fans? I was unabashedly obsessed. I was working part-time as a barista and found myself ridiculously flustered early one Saturday morning when coach Paul Westphal came in an ordered a latte. I don’t think I breathed at all while I was making his drink, and I was embarrassed because I thought he could see my hands shaking. At least it wasn’t KJ standing there before me. I would have passed out.

Needless to say, I’m a Spurs fan now!

But I’ll always be a Suns fan. And a Sun Devil.

One very exciting thing Austin does have, though, is Formula 1 racing. This is enormous, and it’s a relatively new development.

At any rate, I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I’m not looking around seeing Phoenix everywhere we go in Austin. We haven’t even been here two months yet. There’s a lot of discovery yet to happen, and we’re really loving it here so far!

Here are some pics from Saturday:

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion's on 4th

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion’s on 4th

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night