What do you get when you cross a flamingo and a ukulele? My office.

I had a hard mental health day on Friday, and all of the late-afternoon popcorn and Perrier couldn’t fix it. Neither did it help that that was the day I decided to watch Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video. Excellent song and video. Bad timing.

But then things got better, because when I woke up the next day, it was a gym morning and it was Mother’s Day weekend. I got cards from Nenette, Geronimo, and Callaghan, and for my main gift, Callaghan took me to Home Depot and said I could go crazy and choose any plant I wanted, emphasis on “any”! I chose this tall guy and named him “Flamingo”:

 

Flamingo! (He’s a Dracaena ‘Massangeana’)

 

My desk now, as seen from the doorway:

 

Four of my nine office companions, from left: Holder, Flamingo, Icarus, Thoreau

 

At some point, I’ll do an updated office tour and take you around to see all of my companions of the chlorophyllous persuasion. Two of them have joined me since my last such update, and some of the older ones have migrated to different spots.

Also, you may be noticing that there’s a ukulele sitting next to my desk. Yes, I’ve brought the ukulele back into the light! I haven’t dusted it off yet, but it’s out. That white binder on the shelf above it is a lesson book. Mom gave these to me, as some of you may recall, and I proceeded to capitalize on the opportunity to share some of my favorite ukulele jokes.

i.e. (from my previous blog post about the ukulele):

What’s the difference between a ukulele and a trampoline? You take off your shoes to jump up and down on a trampoline.

What’s “perfect pitch”? When you throw the ukulele into the garbage can without hitting the rim.

What do you call a beautiful woman on a ukulele player’s arm? A tattoo.

And my personal favorite:

A ukulele player suddenly realizes he left his vintage ukulele out in his car overnight. He rushes outside and his heart drops when he sees that his car window is broken. Fearing the worst, he peeks through the window and finds that there are now five ukuleles in his car.

I still love to laugh at the ukulele, but I do respect it, and I’ve decided to learn to play it. Going through my old rhythm and timing workbooks, composer collections, and sheet music made me realize how much I miss doing music. Self, I said one day recently – yesterday, in fact – why don’t you learn to play that beautiful, new ukulele Mom gave you? Why not.

I’m sure I’ll be back with ukulele-learning updates for any of you who may be interested; I can’t wait to laugh at myself as much as I laugh at the ukulele.

Oh, and my second Mother’s Day gift was a new tool box! Callaghan knew that I wasn’t thrilled with the one I’d been using. My new one (which I chose) is shiny and black and spacious and lovely. I should’ve taken a pic of it, too.

I hope you’re all having a great start to your week!

Getting rid of music? (Minimalism, post 10.)

After I last talked to you on Thursday, I went on an unexpected minimalism sweep, and I mean a major one this time… maybe the second-biggest anti-haul since my initial one. Three days of on-and-off plundering later, I took the spoils to be donated.

[Sidenote and speaking of my last post: I read it again later that day (the Geronimo post), and I found a typo (a missing ‘s’, I believe). I went in and fixed it. Please do let me know if you see typos or other errors in my writing! Don’t be shy. It’s like if I have something green stuck in my teeth, I’d rather someone point it out to me than allow me to go around talking to another hundred+ people like that. Haha.]

I didn’t plan this latest minimalism undertaking. You know… accomplishment in itself feels amazing, but unexpected accomplishment adds an extra kick of satisfaction. This time, I had no mercy. I slashed my sock drawer in half, when up until now I’d maintained that I wouldn’t go there. This progress suggests that my next major sweep might very well include – gasp – books. Could I possibly get to a point where I can decide which books to donate?

While going through the closet in the guest bedroom, I re-encountered my collection of music books, which largely define my childhood. I found Hannon and Czerny exercise books; instructional book series; rhythm and timing workbooks; collections of works by specific composers; collections of popular hit music from the 70’s and 80’s; loads of sheet music (popular, classical, and the blues); holiday music of several different cultures; and my practice notebooks going back to my very first day of piano lessons. Even my violin instructional book is in there! I took violin for six months before my school lost the program and the lessons stopped. My parents got a piano, and I picked up my music studies from there. I was a lucky kid. An excellent piano teacher came to the house once a week for the next nine years; she basically watched me grow up.

My first piano lesson was on November 14, 1978. It’s written on the first page of my first lesson notebook. Just the sight of my teacher’s handwriting brings back memories. The date of each lesson. Reminders to trim my nails (at the top of each entry, sometimes in all caps and with multiple exclamation points – my piano teacher invented screaming in all caps). The practice time charts she drew every week (for me to write in the time I’d spent practicing each day. “30 minutes minimum!!”) And her assignments for the week, numbered in order of priority.

There’s no reason to keep the music with me, but trashing it is unthinkable… at the moment, at least. There was nothing to decide on Saturday. Instead, I sat down and spent some time looking through the material. I’m not even sure that some of it still exists. For instance, are Wesley Schaum rhythm and timing workbooks still in print? Do music students learn rhythm and timing from them anymore? The Schaum workbooks I have were published in 1969 and 1970. They cost $3.00 each.

The memories of this homework, guys. Book Three, Lesson 15: Counting with Ties and Slurs. “On the staffs below, some of the measure bar lines are missing. Draw in bar lines where necessary to make the proper number of counts in each measure. Then write in the counting on the dotted lines (include the word ‘and’ where necessary).”

 

From Wesley Schaum’s Rhythm Workbook, Book Three.

 

It’s also interesting to see the evolution of my penmanship in the way I wrote my name at the top of each page. (By the way, is penmanship even a part of grade-school curriculum anymore?)

It’s possible that I’ll be back one day to report that I’ve thinned my bookshelves, but it may be longer than that before I start dismantling my music collection. Most of it would have to go into the recycling. Stuff like my completed rhythm and timing workbooks? Useless to others. I’m not sure that anyone would want my sheet music with my teacher’s comments in the margins, either, not to mention the stickers I’d chosen for each piece I’d mastered. That was an interesting evolution to observe, too, how the award stickers got less and less babyish as time went on.

I don’t know. I might do this dirty work one day, or it might be up to someone else to dump the music after I die. It’s hard to imagine minimalizing music when it’s printed on paper. Paper is not technology that becomes obsolete.

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.

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Video – Punk Rock Fashion Police

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

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!

What I’m Digging Right Now – June Favorites

June outdid all previous months with its disappearing act. Where did it go? On Friday morning, I said to Callaghan, “Oh, wait… TUESDAY is July 1st? Didn’t I just do my May Favorites post, like, very recently?”

Several exciting things came to pass in June, but the point of my Monthly Favorites posts is to highlight the little, tangible things that helped to elevate the month. I’m starting with entertainment this time because I have a bit of raving to do with this first thing…

 

1). Edge of Tomorrow (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-EdgeofTomorrow

 

Let the appearance of this film in my June Favorites post stand as evidence that I don’t hate Tom Cruise just because he hijacked Reacher. (Hijacked Reacher, get it? Haha!) I’m always up for an insane, high-octane sci-fi thriller, and if Cruise is in it, that’s fine with me. We went to see Edge of Tomorrow Saturday evening. The last time I enjoyed a sci-fi action flick that much was Pacific Rim, and I enjoyed this one even more. Edge of Tomorrow is marvelous storytelling and explosive escapism to the nth degree. The Christopher McQuarrie/Tom Cruise team nailed it with this one!

May I just say that movies like this make me wonder why Reacher? Cruise doesn’t need to be Reacher! Let someone who is Reacher be Reacher, and Cruise can keep doing roles like this one in Edge of Tomorrow, because honestly, I can’t think of anyone who could have done it better. He brought his charisma and unique brand of flair to the role, yet we never once found ourselves thinking this is just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. In Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise doesn’t simply own his character. He locks it up and throws away the key. That’s a rare thing in an action flick, in my opinion.

I loved Emily Blunt in her role, too, make no mistake… and the story, writing, direction, editing, cinematography and CGI, all amazing. Yes, I would see it again, and maybe even again after that. I enjoyed it that much. The poster slogan reads, “Live… Die… Repeat.” It should be “Watch… Rave… Repeat.”

 

2). Modern Family (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ModernFamily

 

We fired up season one of this comedy series because of Sofia Vergara, who captured our attention in May in the film Chef. Hilarious! It brings the LOLs in an off-beat Arrested Development kind of way, and it hooked us instantly. We’re in the middle of season four now. Once we’re caught up, we can get our lives back catch up on some movies.

Moving on to skin care and cosmetics….

 

3). Physician’s Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Oh So Radiant! Powder in Translucent.

 

Physician's Formula does it again! Radiant powder is radiant.

Physician’s Formula does it again! Radiant powder is radiant.

 

What a name for a simple face powder, but radiant, indeed! I wanted to add more of a glow to my skin, and this brightening powder by Physician’s Formula delivers. This is my new setting powder and highlighter in one, and I think it’s going to be a long-time favorite.

 

Kind of a weird picture, but see the slight glow on my cheekbone? That's this powder by Physician's Formula.

Kind of a weird picture, but see the slight glow on my cheekbone? That’s this powder by Physician’s Formula.

 

I’ll say it again: I love that Physician’s Formula products are cruelty-free (not tested on animals). Not all the products I use are, but at least I’m conscious of the matter, right?

 

4). Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24HR Cream Gel Shadow Eye Makeup in Tough as Taupe 35.

 

Tough as Taupe Color Tattoo by Maybelline over Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

Tough as Taupe Color Tattoo by Maybelline over Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

 

Another unwieldy name, and this product apparently suffers an identity crisis, as well. Is it a cream? Is it a gel? Could they not make up their minds, so they dubbed it both a cream and a gel? Whatever. This richly pigmented, creamy eye shadow formula wears beautifully, and the “Tough as Taupe” shade is gorgeous.

I mean, in the pot, the color sort of reminds me of wet cement, but it applies as a perfect, soft taupe with just the faintest tinge of a lilac undertone… it’s a lovely, muted, silky gray-beige-lilac, like a smooth old stone. Depending on how much you build up the color, it’s an all-purpose neutral on the medium-dark end of the neutral shade spectrum, a shade that would be flattering on anyone. I apply it with my fingertip over a base of Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (cruelty-free!), and it lasts all day… and by “all day,” I mean from 7:00am-11pm.

 

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes (Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme).

 

Another time-saver! Refreshing towelettes that clean well and smell great.

Another time-saver! Refreshing towelettes that clean well and smell great.

 

(Alba Botanica = cruelty-free!)

This has become my go-to Saturday morning cleanser, because on Saturday mornings, we basically sleep in as late as possible, roll out of bed, fuel up with coffee, inhale some breakfast and run out the door just in time for our 10:00am Body Combat class at the gym. I shower afterward. So, instead of doing my usual morning cleansing and skincare routine, I sweep one of these cleansing towelettes over my face, put on sunscreen and apply a little concealer, Revlon Nearly Naked powder (I don’t bother with the glowy face powder when I’m planning to be drenched in sweat an hour later) and my usual lip-color… just enough to make me feel dressed.

Callaghan loves using these cleansing towelettes, too. They’re refreshing, they leave you feeling super clean, and they smell great. Pineapples. Who doesn’t want to smell like pineapples at the gym on a Saturday morning?

This brings us to the food things on this list!

 

6). Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Power Blueberry Cinnamon Flax cereal.

 

My favorite power cereals have always been by Nature's Path.

My favorite power cereals have always been by Nature’s Path.

 

I guess the theme for this Favorites post is “Little Things with Long Convoluted Names.”

Anyway, this is my new favorite cereal. I like to sprinkle on a little cinnamon to boost the healthy cinnamon factor, and I add fresh blueberries and almond milk. It’s crunchy and satisfying, and it keeps me full all morning!

 

7). Pears.

 

Organic pears from Argentina are everywhere right now, and they're so incredibly good.

Organic pears from Argentina are everywhere right now, and they’re so incredibly good.

 

PEARS! Simple. Just pears. But… organic pears. Organic pears from Argentina. Okay, now I’m making pears complicated when they don’t have to be, but they are organic, and they are from Argentina, and these organic pears from Argentina are abundant in all the stores now, and they’re amazingly juicy, sweet and flavorful. They’ve been a staple in our refrigerator for a month. So let’s complicate things even more and make that chilled organic pears from Argentina. Anyway, delicious, is what they are… in a word!

 

8). Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

 

Yes, there are three packs here. I ate one right after I took this picture. Then the next day, I ate another, and the next day...

Yes, there are three packs here. I ate one right after I took this picture. Then the next day, I ate another, and the next day…

 

THESE THINGS. These things are fantabulous, and I ate way too many of them in June. I ate so many, in fact, that I had to stage my own intervention, asking Callaghan to not let me go near them in the store for at least a few weeks. I’m currently in rehab for addiction to Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. “But they’re healthy!” is only relevant to a point. Overindulgence is overindulgence.

Rounding out the list, here are two random things that made me smile extra in June…

 

9). Cork phone case.

 

 

Cork phone case by GAIAM. The design is called "Marrakesh."

Cork phone case by GAIAM. The design is called “Marrakesh.”

 

This unusual phone case caught my eye as I wandered the aisles of Office Max one day. I’d been looking for a more protective phone case (the one I’d been using was hard plastic, and I have a tendency to drop my phone), so when this one lured me in with its lovely mandala-like design, I was ready with my justification.

And I did, in fact, drop my phone after I got this case, and the cork did, in fact, insulate the phone on landing! Cork phone cases… recommend.

 

10). Hummingbird feeder.

I got a hummingbird feeder for Callaghan when he told me that hummingbirds don’t exist in France. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me that. (Har, har… couldn’t resist. Sorry.) We brought the feeder home and he mixed the sugar water, filled the bottle and hung it up on an existing nail near the edge of our balcony awning, and presto! We now have a small contingent of hummingbirds who perch and circulate near the feeder, and the pleasurable occasion to sit by the living room window to watch them, especially in the early mornings. We often see the littlest hummingbird hanging out on “his” branch outside our balcony. We call him “Nectar,” and he is beyond adorable, I’m telling you.

 

Nectar, our favorite little hummingbird! Callaghan took this photo from our living-room.

Nectar, our favorite little hummingbird! Callaghan took this photo from our living-room.

 

That’s it for June, Friends! July lies before us, and I’m excited because it’s going to be a month of solid back-in-the-day metal madness… we’re going to see Def Leppard, Kiss, Faster Pussycat (shout-out to Tara!), Alice Cooper and Motley Crue. Some friends from France are coming through town for a few days, too; all of that’s going to happen within a two-week period. Fun times ahead!

Oh, side note (literally): I added these “Monthly Favorites” posts to my sidebar as a category, so if you’d like to go back and see them all in one place, there you go. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Today is the second of May, and this is my first post of the month, so that brings us to – already – April Favorites!

I was hard-pressed to think of new “little things” from April that I didn’t already love in March. The Body Combat class at the gym, for instance, has been my Number One Favorite Thing of Probably the Whole Year So Far, but I already talked about that in March. I could add that I’ve been enjoying the Boot Camp class, as well, but not to the same degree. There are only eight things on this list… but they were things that I really loved, and still love.

So let’s dig in, hmm?

1). Mad Men, season seven (T.V.)

 

mad-men-5

 

It’s back! It’s back with its fabulous ‘60’s-‘70’s hair and make-up, interiors and furniture, costumes and cultural ambience, and its thoroughness in capturing every detail of the era in every scene. The writing. The acting! Mad Men is a sharp and exquisitely rendered period piece that’s just a pleasure to behold. But oh, that Don. Don, Don, Don. What is going to happen to Don? Things are supposed to be groovy for everyone, but they’re just not… so far, anyway.

I was happy to hear that they cut this final season into two parts, as they did with Breaking Bad, because I don’t want it to end.

 

2). Bob’s Burgers, season three (T.V.)

 

Bob’s-Burgers-Season-3-500x500

 

The first two seasons of this show brought enough amusement and sporadic laughter to keep us watching. Plus, we enjoyed the characters and found their predicaments to be interesting, in general. HOWEVER, season three? Season three turned out to be one long moment of outright hilarity. It’s like the writers said, Fine! This time we’re going to let it all hang out! I mean, some of the situations are beyond bizarre and just out there, and any attempt at restraining the off-color humor went out the window. There’s nothing subtle about season three, and there’s no longer any use in pretending that Bob’s Burgers is a kids’ show just because it’s a cartoon.

I think a part of it is that Tina hit puberty.

 

3). Ice water with lemon/club soda with lime

 

Club soda with lime. I crave it!

Club soda with lime. I crave it!

 

This one might seem strange for a “favorites” list, but lately, I can’t get enough icy-cold water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and club soda with ice and a wedge of lime when we go out at night. Now that I’ve gotten back into the swing of my life here and returned to my former habits, other beverages hold no interest. Nothing is more refreshing to me, and I’m glad, because icy citrus water is super healthy and costs very little. In fact, when we go out, it’s usually free. I don’t think I’ve ever been charged for water in Arizona, and bartenders almost always give me the club soda gratis because it’s assumed that I’m the Designated Driver. That’s been my experience, anyway.

 

4). Oysterband’s Diamonds on the Water

 

 

I discovered this new Oysterband release on Spotify literally the day after a new friend asked me what musicians/bands I’m currently enjoying! Diamonds on the Water has been my music of choice since then. I especially love “A River Runs,” “Palace of Memory,” “Spirit of Dust” and “No Ordinary Girl.” Good English folk sounds going on here. Love it!

 

5). A t-shirt from Nice, a gift from a friend visiting from France.

 

Sparkly Nice t-shirt from Chantal!

Sparkly Nice t-shirt from Chantal!

 

Of course, the average non-French person looking at this shirt (with nothing on it to indicate a geographical point of reference) is just going to see the English adjective “nice” spelled out across my chest. Nice! Haha! But I love it, anyway. It’s black. It sparkles. It matches my black Paris baseball cap with its blingy red heart and my beloved sparkly Eiffel Tower. Don’t worry… I wouldn’t wear the two at the same time.

 

6). Ezekiel 4:9 bread

 

Ezekiel 4:9. Best. Toast. Ever.

Ezekiel 4:9. Best. Toast. Ever.

 

Here’s an old favorite! Once I get started on this bread, I never want any other kind, especially since Ezekiel 4:9 makes the most wonderful, crunchy toast that is amazing with Earth Balance. This bread is named for the bible verse that reads: “Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils and millet, and spelt and put them in one vessel…” (Ezekiel 4:9) And that turned out to be a pretty good recipe, in my opinion.

 

7). Physician’s Formula Magic Mosaic Multi-Colored Custom Bronzer (in Light)

 

What's this? A bronzer I actually really like! (by Physician's Formula)

What’s this? A bronzer I actually really like! (by Physician’s Formula)

 

Here’s my cosmetic pick for the month. I used to shy away from bronzers, but I started using this one recently just to brighten things up a bit… and I actually like it a lot! The range of bronze shades in the compact makes it versatile, and it’s just a really pretty way to add a touch of a glow to your skin (without too much shimmer).

 

8). Afternoon green tea

 

Trader Joe's Organic Green Tea

Trader Joe’s Organic Green Tea

 

I find Trader Joe’s Organic Green Tea to be a dependable pick as far as green teas go, but frankly, any green tea would do it for me these days. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.

One of life’s pleasant little routines. =)

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Adventures in Austin: The Neighbourhood at Emo’s

Friday night’s venturing out gave us an opportunity to discover Austin’s Riverside neighborhood, broadening the horizon of one of our favorite areas: SoCo (short for “South Congress,” as in South Congress Ave.).

In this neighborhood, we saw Los Angeles-based alt rock band The Neighbourhood. They played at Emo’s, which was exactly how I’d envisioned it would be… cavernous, dark, loud and packed with people for the sold-out show. There were several mini-bars dotted around the club’s perimeter, and there was a small band merchandise area set up by the entrance.

The band came out and immediately launched into this song:

 

 

The sound was slightly off somehow – maybe too heavy on the bass – but we were impressed with the precision of the singer’s voice, the band’s great stage presence and their ability to generate audience interaction. We had an outstanding time, and predictably, I ended up with a slew of photos, some of which I’m posting here:

 

Emo's - lots of people outside

Emo’s – lots of people outside

 

Emo's - lots of people inside

Emo’s – lots of people inside

 

thatasianlookingchick_com-neighbourghood-011

The entrance

 

The Neighbourhood merchandise

The Neighbourhood merchandise

 

Us

Us

 

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood

 

The packed bus after the show

The packed bus after the show

 

 

Great club atmosphere, and another awesome concert!

 

Of Fire-Hardened Crafts and That Band with the Videos

We’re still in major stuff-organizing mode up in here. In the last few days, I’ve unearthed a couple of things.

Thing One: the miniature clay hand-painted mask a friend brought me from Venice many years ago, which has somehow survived my life so far (I hope I didn’t jinx it by writing that. Watch it break the second I post this):

 

Ronnie James with the Venetian mask

Ronnie James with the Venetian mask

 

It fits! READY FOR HALLOWEEN.

It fits! READY FOR HALLOWEEN.

 

Thing Two: the Navajo horsehair pot I’d given to Callaghan, as referenced in this post:

 

Navajo horsehair pottery, hand-made, hand-painted and adorned with turquoise.

Navajo horsehair pottery, hand-made, hand-painted and adorned with turquoise.

 

And tonight, for something different, we’re heading over to Emo’s  to see The Neighbourhood. I often refer to them as “that band with the videos,” because, yeah, their videos.

 

 

Have a great weekend, Guys!

 

 

 

 

“You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll”

On Saturday night, we went to see Black Sabbath, as in, the British hard rock band that was formed in 1968, the year I was born. As in, yeah, these guys are a bit older now, so can you believe that I actually got to see them perform?

Last month, they released 13, their first studio album in 33 years, and the album took off. After its first week, it sold 155,000 copies and inexplicably ripped its way around the Billboard obstacle course, spiraling up to hit Number One on the charts in the UK, USA and seven other countries. With this accomplishment, Sabbath secured the Number One spot for the first time in history and escorted hard rock/metal done the old-fashioned way back onto the scene. At the concert, we saw many people our age and older, but we picked out all age groups in the massive crowd. The teenagers in the seats in front of us were probably no older than fifteen.

I was beside myself with excitement over this show. It really meant a lot to me.

I’m passionate about many different types of music, including classical, EBM/industrial, (some) rap and (some) country and a smattering of other genres, but since I’m talking about Black Sabbath here, I present the following brief chronology of my history just as a hard rock/metal fan:

(First, let me just say that it’s my parents who rock. They survived the years I skulked around in a Black Sabbath t-shirt and chains while they observed other people’s daughters looking cute and preppy in pink Izod shirts [and who went off to college immediately after high school. I was the only daughter they knew who joined the Army and went to war and did the whole college/grad school thing later. But that’s another story]).

–Sixth grade: I bought Back in Black, AC/DC’s new album. I was 12, and Back in Black was the first album I ever purchased myself, which established hard rock as my first love of all the genres of music. I was taking piano lessons, so I was listening to Chopin waltzes, too, among other things, but I didn’t blast Chopin waltzes. I blasted AC/DC, loudly and frequently. My parents started to wonder what was happening.

–Grades seven and eight: my friends and I fixated on Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman. We shed real tears the tragic day Randy Rhodes, Ozzy’s phenomenal guitarist, died in a plane crash. The gloom that blanketed the world of music that day fell heavily upon the halls of Steinbeck Junior High in San Jose, California. Rhodes was a legend, but we felt like we’d lost our brother. I don’t know. We were 13 years old. We were like, “Randy Rhodes is dead? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?” It was inconceivable.

–Grades nine-twelve: High school. I listened to ALL the metal out there – and it was a lot, remember… this was the 80’s hair-band era – but AC/DC, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Ozzy were my favorites in the genre. Also, I spent many a Saturday afternoon listening to Iron Maiden with the guy who worked the bar at Shakey’s Pizza. (David. Funny that I still remember his name!) It was cute. Though we really liked each other, nothing “happened” when we were hanging out – he was a lot older than me – but he got me hooked on Maiden with Killers, and that was it. To this day, Killers is still my favorite Iron Maiden album, and Maiden is still one of my favorite metal bands.

–During and after the Army, Queensrÿche, D.A.D., Faith No More, Vixen, Warlock, Savatage, Megadeath, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica were some of the bands that joined the crew in my metal music collection. I also really enjoyed guitarist Joe Satriani, and my love for Alice Cooper’s Trash album bordered on obsession.

–Flash forward to 2003, when I discovered Disturbed’s The Sickness while training in Muay Thai at an MMA gym in Arizona. My trainer kept it cranked, and I loved it so much that I had to own it. I bought it and wore it out in my little truck. The significance of this is that The Sickness was the last metal album that I actually purchased until Sabbath released 13 last month. (This is not to say that there weren’t other bands in the interim, because there were. I just didn’t go out and buy any metal CDs between Disturbed in 2003 and Black Sabbath last month.)

What can I say about Saturday’s show?

It was definitely An Experience. The guys did a fantastic job overall. We had a solid good time, and I will never forget it.

It was an incredible feeling just to be there.

 

Waiting for the show to start. We got there early.

Waiting for the show to start. We got there early.

 

What I really took away from the show was a reinforced crush (maybe not a “crush” so much as some sort of hero-worship thing) on lead guitarist Tony Iommi, who is a God.

Iommi lost two of his fingertips in a factory accident when he was a teenager, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he knew he was born to do. He fashioned some “thimble-like devices” out of a “squeezy bottle” and stuck them on the ends of his amputated digits to extend them, then went on to play guitar for Jethro Tull before co-founding Black Sabbath with Ozzy, Geezer and Bill. They were a bluesy kind of hard rock band at first. From there, they evolved into their signature sound and ultimately grandfathered heavy metal and all of its derivatives. Yes… one of history’s greatest hard rock lead guitar legends has amputated fingertips.

 

Tony Iommi, lead guitarist and co-founder of Black Sabbath

Tony Iommi, lead guitarist and co-founder of Black Sabbath

 

Quoting from wiki: “Iommi is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential rock guitarists of all time. A prolific riff-maker, he was ranked number 25 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the ‘100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time’.”

Fake fingertips, okay? And I mean, not costly, sophisticated works of custom-made, medically engineereed craftsmanship, either. We’re talking homemade fake fingertips that he stores in what appears to be an old Altoids tin:

 

 

The man is tireless, in possession of a relentless drive, an admirable work ethic. He’s constantly busy. The solo album he released in 2000, called, simply, Iommi, is a veritable piece of musical collaborative genius and one of my all-time favorite metal CDs. (I introduced it to Callaghan, and it’s now one of his favorites, too.)

Yet young at 64, Iommi’s now working to beat down lymphoma. Blood cancer. Where was he on Saturday night? Here in Austin, on stage, rocking his ass off. His performance was spectacular. I sat back in my seat and closed my eyes, listening to his solos in the dark with people around us screaming, and thought, Wow. That’s Tony Iommi on that stage down there!! I never thought I’d get to hear him play live.

You know, Ronnie James Dio, who took over Sabbath’s lead vox after Ozzy’s departure in 1979, died of cancer in 2010. (Why yes, we did name our kitty Ronnie James after him!)

 

Ronnie James with my headphones on the left. Ronnie James Dio with his mic on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James with my headphones on the left. Ronnie James Dio with his mic on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

“It’s only now, since his passing, that people are coming out saying how great he was,” Iommi says of Dio in a “good-bye message” he videotaped in 2011.

 

(video cuts off at 1:48)

 

Iommi received his own cancer diagnosis within a year of this interview, in early 2012.

News for you, Iommi: YOU are great. YOU ARE THE MAN. You’re looking good and performing like it’s no one’s business, and thank you so much. Thank you for inspiring us with your passion and dedication! Here’s to many more years of showing them all how it’s done!!

Here’s my favorite Black Sabbath song, “Megalomania” (Sabotage, 1975):

 

 

And here are a few pics we took before, during and after the concert…

 

Callaghan, mid-stride

Callaghan, mid-stride

 

Me, pausing for a snapshot outside of Consuela on Congress

Me, pausing for a snapshot outside of Consuela on Congress

 

 

From left: Geezer Butler (bass), Tony Iommi (guitar), Ozzy Osbourne

From left: Geezer Butler (bass), Tony Iommi (guitar), Ozzy Osbourne

 

OZZY

OZZY

 

The Texas State Capitol, a gorgeous building. We walked through the grounds to get to the concert and back to our bus on Congress.

The Texas State Capitol, a gorgeous building. We walked through the grounds to get to the concert and back to our bus on Congress.

 

Me with Ronnie James as I was writing this. Ronnie James loves him some headphones!

Me with Ronnie James as I was writing this. Ronnie James loves him some headphones!