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Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 2

Hello my lovely readers!

I hope you had wonderful Marches and enjoyed welcoming spring. Boston’s weather was very all over the place. Spring-like one day and snowing the next. I can tell you that shoveling snow another time when I’d thought I was done with it was *not* one of my favorite things this month! Lol.

Wolfy's Favorites -- Episode 2

Turkey Cordon Bleu

I have a severe food intolerance to chicken (something that took years to discover and before you ask, trust me, it’s gross, you don’t want to know). Back in the day, chicken cordon bleu was a favorite meal of mine, and I’ve really missed it. One day the thought struck me that hey, I bet I could make this with turkey. I discovered that it is possible, although turkey tenderloin is much larger than chicken breasts. You have to cut them in half width-wise, or they’re too wide, and you have to sometimes cut them down by size even more to make the pinwheels the right size. However, after that cutting, the rest of it is pretty much just like chicken cordon bleu. Using low fat swiss cheese and high quality ham slices along with minimal shallow pan frying in ghee kept these a low-calorie dinner….., and we ate them at least twice this month. At least.

Wolfy's Favorites -- Episode 2

A screenshot I took of the livecam. So majestic and yet so derpy.

Washington DC Bald Eagle Nest Live Cam

So the American Eagle Foundation has had a mated pair of bald eagles in the National Arboretum since 2014. They are named Mr. President and First Lady, and this month they hatched two eaglets, and you can watch the mated pair care for their eaglets 24/7 on a pair of live cameras at the nest!! This has honestly been a bit of a time sink for me, and I don’t care one iota.

Wolfy's Favorites -- Episode 2

This is a screenshot. Click out below to watch the video!

Who Is Calling Me – A Short Documentary by Olivia Nevius

My littlest sister-in-law is a cinematographer and photographer, and this month she completed this short documentary about their family and their love of ham radio. My husband and his whole family have ham radio licenses, which I think is quite the unique family hobby. (Before you ask: yes, I intend to get my license too). We’d heard rumblings of the documentary, and I was vaguely around while various filming was being done (most particularly, I was cooking dinner the night she interviewed my husband for it via Skype…she lives in Chicago, and we live in Boston). I was really excited to get to see the final product and very proud of her.

Wolfy's Favorites -- Episode 2

Bunny Leggings by CowCow

These bunny leggings arrived just in time for springtime mountain biking with my husband. I was worried since they’re white they’d be see-through, but they actually are opaque, no worries about that! They’re a stretchy, slippery fabric that is just right for spring temperatures.

And finally, my favorite book since the last episode.

Wolfy's Favorites -- Episode 2

Rymellan 1: Disobedience Means Death by Sarah Ettritch

This is one of my 2016 ARCs, and it left me on the edge of my seat so much that I immediately read the next two books in the trilogy. The first entry has a dystopian-style military regime that may pull the f/f couple apart (for non sexual orientation reasons). I got so invested in their relationship that I just had to find out if they end up together.

That’s it for March. Be sure to tune in next month for episode 3 of Wolfy’s Favorites!

What were some of your favorite things in the month of March? Did you have a favorite read? Have you tried out any of the things I’ve mentioned? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Mini Movie Reviews #2

August 9, 2012 10 comments

Chris Rock standing in front of a row of women at a hair salon.Good Hair
USA
2009
PG13
Documentary
Public Library
5 out of 5 stars

This is one documentary you need to believe the hype about.  Chris Rock decided to make it after his daughter (not even five years old yet) asked him why she doesn’t have good hair.  This documentary then looks at the world and culture of African-American hair.  It covers everything from perms to weaves to hair shows.  Chris Rock interviews famous and not famous people alike with a certain charm and intelligence that gets them to really open up.  I think the scene that best demonstrates the feel of the whole movie is when Chris Rock is interviewing a white male scientist about sodium hydroxide, which is the perm that African-Americans use to straighten their hair.  The scientist has just shown Chris how quickly sodium hydroxide eats through raw chicken, and Chris says, “You know black people put that on their hair.”  Horrified, the scientist says, “Really?! Why would they do that?!” Chris says, “To look like white people.” Epic. Silence. The documentary is smart, because it doesn’t run around blaming white people for this whole culture among African-Americans against natural hair.  It kind of blames everybody, and it does it in a witty, intelligent manner.

A werewolf face and a woman who looks dead.The Wolf Man
USA
1941
PG
Horror
Netflix
4 out of 5 stars

Another from the 100 Horror Movies To See Before You Die list I’ve been working my way through.  A wayward son of a British aristocrat comes home to hopefully reestablish himself in the little town.  He starts to pursue an engaged gal, but while doing so, gets bit by a wolf.  Naturally, he turns into a werewolf.  I think what’s the creepiest about this film is how the main character goes about pursuing the engaged girl.  He starts off by watching her through a window and then hitting on her in her father’s shop in possibly the creepiest manner ever.  She resists….at first.  But then doesn’t.  The whole film sort of feels like a judgment on both him for being a creeper and the engaged girl for being seduced by the bad boy instead of sticking with her nice, stable man.  Kind of a nice change of pace from more modern films, eh?  The special effects aren’t as good as some others from this same time period that I’ve watched, but they’re still fairly decent.  It’s a fun change of pace if you enjoy shapeshifters.  Also the “British accents” are pretty much nonexistent.

Pale, white-haired man sitting in a throne-like chair.The House Of Usher
USA
1960
Not Rated
Horror
Netflix
5 out of 5 stars

When this movie started, I thought it was going to be cheesy.  But I was very wrong.  It turns out that this is an adaptation of a Poe story, and it is completely frightening, even with outdated special effects.  Essentially, this guy wants to marry this girl, but her brother insists that the Ushers need to let the family die out.  He also claims the house itself is evil.  I won’t tell you what happens from there, but suffice to say the tension builds perfectly until you are on the edge of your seat for the climax.  Vincent Price plays the brother and let me tell you, he is a legend for a reason.  When I finished this one, I was actually nervous to go to bed. Which never happens to me.

PS There is a 2007 remake. Ignore it. Ignore it so hard.

Maccauley Culkin and Seth Green.Party Monster
USA
2003
R
Biography
Netflix
3 out of 5 stars

This is based on the true story of a murder during the 1980s ecstatic clubbing days (see what I did there?), which was written about in Disco Bloodbath by James St James.  (Btw, the memoir is almost impossible to find and hella expensive).  Anyway as for the movie. It’s very campy.  The absolute best part is seeing Macauley Culkin and Seth Green play two fabulous druggy gay men.  It’s campy but not over-the-top.  I mean, these clubbers really did act like this. They weren’t exaggerating.  But the plot is oddly told, jumping around perspectives and time and can be hard to keep up with.  Also the ultimate murder is told by a rat (a man in a giant rat suit).  So yeah.  It’s odd but fun.  Recommended to fans of Seth Green.

Dracula in sepia.Dracula
USA
1931
Unrated
Horror
Netflix
5 out of 5 stars

This movie really doesn’t need much explanation.  It’s a classic (chosen for preservation) for good reason.  I have read Dracula, and I was flabbergasted at how good the adaptation was.  Modern film adaptations could learn a thing or two from this production.  Bela Lugosi as Dracula is still deliciously creepy, instilling chills.  Two cool things to know.  One, originally there was an epilogue in which the audience is told vampires are indeed real that has been forever lost so the ending does feel a bit abrupt (because it’s not actually the ending).  Also, the entire movie was shot simultaneously on the same sets in Spanish (with Latin* actors).

Mini Movie Reviews #1

July 17, 2012 2 comments

I feel like I generally don’t have quite as much to say about movies as I do about books.  Perhaps that’s because they only take an hour or two of my time, whereas books you live with for several hours, even days or weeks.  In any case, although I really don’t watch much tv (and when I do, it tends to be nonfiction like cooking shows), I do periodically watch movies.  Some of them popular, some of them older or documentaries you might not know about.  After having seen mini reviews on other folks’ pages, I decided this format would be ideal for my movie reviews.  A movie will periodically get a fully fleshed-out review if I have a lot to say about it.

So here we go, in the order in which I watched them.

Woman in Amsh bonnetThe Shunning
USA
2011
Not Rated
Contemporary Drama
4 out of 5 stars

I read the original bonnet books back when I was in middle school, which started with The Shunning.  I was happy to see it pop up on my Netflix.  (I believe it was a made for tv movie, possibly for the Hallmark channel?)  This isn’t your typical bonnet romance.  Katie Lapp is struggling with the idea of her marriage to a man she doesn’t love after the death of her first love.  She also likes playing guitar and singing, which is frowned upon in the Amish community.  When she learns that she is adopted, her whole world is rocked.  It’s a great film both to see Amish life and to consider issues of identity and adoption.  I can think of quite a few of my friends and followers who would enjoy it

Unspeakable Acts
USA
1990
Not Rated
Docudrama
3 out of 5 stars

It’s odd, I generally don’t go for courtroom drama books, but the movies sometimes work for me.  This one from 1990 is about the daycare child abuse scare that happened in the 1980s and looks at the groundbreaking case that made certain aspects of children testifying easier in court.  One fun thing, one of the mothers is Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Frasier), and it was pretty….odd seeing her in a loving mother role.  This docudrama addresses the controversial methods of questioning toddlers about situations at daycares.  The movie falls solidly on the pro-questioning side.  I enjoyed it.  It was a bit slow-moving and sometimes the acting was a bit over-the-top, but it does a good job encouraging parents to be communicative with each other and to actually bother to ask their kids questions like they are real people (which indeed they are).  Some viewers might be disturbed by the graphic descriptions of child abuse.

Creature from the Black Lagoon holding a woman in a white swimsuit.Creature From the Black Lagoon
USA
1954
Not Rated
Horror
4 out of 5 stars

I’ve been working my way through the 100 Horror Movies to See Before You Die, starting with the ones available on Netflix.  This one is about a group of scientists who think they’ve discovered an artifact of the missing link in human evolution deep in the Amazon.  They get there and of course discover that the missing link is actually a living creature.  Let me just say upfront, yes it is abundantly obvious that this is one of those movies about white guys being scared of non-white guys stealing their women.  Bare that in mind when watching this, and you will come away with a totally different viewing than those who don’t.  It’s easy to see why it became a classic. The underwater shots are absolutely incredible.  There are in particular these scenes wherein the woman is swimming in a gorgeous pure white swimsuit (I know, I know), and the creature is swimming underneath her in tandem.  How they pulled that off in the 1950s, I don’t know.  It is a highly watchable film and a great way to start a discussion of the racism in the 1950s.  Perhaps even to try to convince those who would say otherwise that the good old days weren’t really so good.  Side-note: there is a great scene where the woman scientist and the dude she’s dating are asked when they are gonna get married. It’s been a while. Only to find out they’ve been dating 6 months. o_O

Image of movie theater with arrows in it.Reel Injun
USA
2009
Not Rated
Documentary
5 out of 5 stars

This documentary looks at the stereotypes and use of Native Americans in American cinema as a lens for considering Native identity and the American Indian Movement (AIM, the name for the Native American civil rights movement).  The documentary eloquently moves decade by decade, presenting clips and interviewing actors, directors, and AIM activists.  It completely blew my mind.  For instance, I didn’t know that during the silent movie era there was a strong group of Native filmmakers who made their own, powerful movies.  It was when the talkies came that the cowboy and Indian trope came about and also when every Native everywhere was re-written as a Plains Indian. For ease.  Then in the 1970s and 1980s after the civil rights era, we started to get the ass-kicking Natives as a reflection of the anger in the movement.  It’s impossible to come even close to telling you all everything I learned or how powerful the movie was for me.  I will say, though, that I found the part about how Marlon Brando turned down his Oscar due to the treatment of Natives in cinema by sending Sacheen Littlefeather up in full Apache clothing to turn it down for him completely shocking.  I had no idea that such a movement exists in Hollywood, but it does, as is also evidenced by Clint Eastwood’s involvement in this documentary.  It’s encouraging to hear that not everyone in Hollywood sits by while this shit goes down.  In any case, a powerful documentary and a great starting point for getting your feet wet in the Native American civil rights movement.

Man wrapped in bandages, man looking at test tube.The Invisible Man
USA
1933
Not Rated
Horror
2 out of 5 stars

Another entry in the 100 Horror Movies to See Before You Die.  A scientist manages to make himself invisible but doesn’t have an antidote ready. Also he goes crazy. Allow me to say, yes I realize this is super-old and they still managed to do the slowly revealing the invisible dude scenes, which is an amazing achievement in cinema.  Watch clips of those parts on youtube.  The storyline itself is super boring and not well structured, and the science is rather shoddily done.  It was good for a few laughs. For the first 55 minutes. The rest was suffering and wanting to rip my hair out.  I think one of my live tweets from watching it sums it up best, “The best part of this movie is the knowledge that this dude is running around nekkid.” Because his clothes are visible, you see.

That’s about a month’s worth of movies.  Stay tuned for more quick thoughts next month!

Source: Unless otherwise noted, all movies watched via Netflix.

Movie Review: Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy (2010)

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Images of Donna Sadowsky with Faith.Summary:
This documentary follows the adoption of Fang Sui Yong, an 8 year old Chinese girl, by the Sadowsky’s, a Jewish family from Long Island.  The filmmaker seeks to highlight the particular issues faced when adopting older children internationally.

Review:
This is one of those films that shows how difficult life can be, and that sometimes there is no good choice.  There’s only the iffy choice that’s a bit better than the alternative.  Sui Yong (who now goes by “Faith,” so I”ll call her that for the rest of the review) didn’t want to leave China.  She was quite happy living with her foster family, and had never seen a white person before.  This is all the film tells us at first, so you immediately wonder, why can’t Faith stay with the foster family?  It turns out that foster families can’t adopt the children they’re caring for in China, and it is unlikely Faith would have stayed with them for her whole childhood.  Additionally, Faith is special needs with a club foot and dropped wrists.  Her foster parents state that she would face great difficulty in China, being treated as an outcast.  Her foster parents want her to be adopted.  They see that her future in China is very bleak.

That doesn’t mean that her transition to the US went perfectly, of course.  The culture shock Faith faces is severe, even if just looking at going from hearing Mandarin and Cantonese to hearing English all the time.  Donna Sadowsky is obviously a tough love type mom, believing that being firm will be the fastest way to help Faith acclimate.  Personally I believe she was a bit too tough.  Some of the learning could have been made into a bit more of a game.  More understanding could have been shown for her special needs.  But I only saw a brief film of two years of the time they spent together.  It’s almost impossible to tell Faith’s personality from that much film.  Maybe they tried taking it a bit easier on her, and she slacked off too much.  Maybe the doctors told them Faith could do certain things that it turned out she couldn’t.  It’s hard to tell.

An interesting element of the film is the fact that the filmmaker, a one-woman team, speaks Mandarin, and so translates sometimes for the family.  This of course means that she has a direct impact on the story she’s documenting.  It’s quite interesting to watch and to consider how much documenting a story impacts it.

Overall, this is a very interesting documentary.  Many people are hesitant to adopt older children.  This film shows that it can be done, as well as the great need for families for older and special needs children internationally.  It brings up interesting questions regarding international and transracial adoption, as well as demonstrating how quickly the American consumer culture impacts children.  I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in international adoption or the issues related to it.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PBS website

Movie Review: Back from the Edge (2006)

April 12, 2010 3 comments

Summary:
This is a documentary produced by New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  BPD is an Axis II personality disorder that generally first shows up in teen years or young adulthood.  According to the DSM-IV-TR, to be diagnosed, a person must have 5 or more of the following 9 symptoms:

  1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (some clinicians expand this to include fear of abandonment)
  2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  3. unstable self-image or sense of self (identity disturbance)
  4. impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (such as sex, spending, substance abuse, reckless driving, etc…)
  5. recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-mutilating behavior (such as cutting, burning, head banging, etc…)
  6. a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  7. chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms (from page 710 of the DSM)

BPD affects approximately 10 million Americans or about 2% of the population.  It is more prevalent than bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  75% of those with BPD are female.

This documentary features interviews with people who have BPD, their families, and leading clinicians specializing in BPD such as Dr. John Gunderson, Dr. Marsha Linehan, and Dr. Perry Hoffman.

Review:
This documentary is divided into sections starting with each of the symptoms then leading through causes, treatment options, and hope for remission.  Each section start with a quote directly from a person with BPD.

This documentary is beautifully done.  We see pictures of the people with BPD from their past including both the good times and the bad.  We also see excerpts from their journals and letters sent to others.  The clinicians all display evident empathy and desire to help not only the patients but their families, friends, and other loved ones.  The family members are given the space to express their confusion over their loved ones’ behaviors before they were diagnosed and relief after.

It’s not common to see a documentary of a mental illness that does such an excellent job of humanizing an illness that can be scary both to those who have it and those who don’t.  The clinicians carefully explain in clear terms the causes behind the most frightening BPD symptoms–self-injury, clinging, and suicidal ideation (a lack of caring whether or not you die).  They show real brain scans comparing BPD brain activity with that of non-BPD brain activity.

My only complaint is that they do not discuss the fact that numerous studies have shown a marked prevalence of abusive childhoods among people with BPD.  They are far more likely than the non-BPD person to have been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually by at least one caregiver.  I believe they generally left this out from a desire to create a welcoming atmosphere for family members, but it is important for people to know that it takes both a certain environment and the BPD-specific brain chemistry and pathways for BPD to develop.

That said, this is still a very important documentary.  It offers so much hope for both those with BPD and those who care for someone with BPD.  The filmmakers obviously want the public to know that BPD is treatable, contrary to the stigma attached to it.  Most people with BPD who get treatment go into remission (most of the symptoms are gone) in about 2 years.  It is so important for everyone to understand mental illnesses.  I highly recommend this documentary.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: library

Buy It

Movie Review: The King of Kong (2007)

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Man with back to us with his hand raised in the air.Summary:
The world of competitive gaming (and by world, we mostly mean the US) has been a tight-knit bunch of people since the 1980s.  Everyone acknowledges the awesomeness that is the head referee and current high-score in Donkey Kong and perfect score in PacMan holder Billy Mitchell.  All that changes when a determined rival shows up in the form of Steve Wiebe, a middle school science teacher.  Is Steve actually better than Billy?  Is the competitive gaming institute corrupt?  Is Billy as good as he says he is?  Should videotaped gaming sessions count?  All these questions and more are addressed in this documentary.

Review:
This is hands-down the most amusing and engrossing documentary I’ve ever seen.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually played Donkey Kong, so I sort of understand what’s going on when the guys play.  Maybe it’s that I’ve known uber-nerds like this my whole life.  You know the type–awkward, greasy, yet positive of his own awesomeness.  I think it’s mostly that it’s a portrayal of a group of people united by what they love to do as opposed to who or what they are that makes this such a watchable documentary though.

Still, though, the documentary could have gone horribly awry if it weren’t for the skill of the filmmakers.  They manage to tell the story in a way that lets us laugh at them, but not in a cruel way.  They let us see that these guys know they’re a bit odd to more mainstream Americans, but they don’t care.  That makes it totally cool for us to be amused at how seriously they take it all.

However, the documentary does more than show us a subculture and let us be amused.  You can see your own group reflected in this one.  We all have the devious person, the person who just wants power, the person who just wants recognition, the henchman, etc…  It’s fun to see these realistic group dynamics on screen surrounding an issue as non-controversial as Donkey Kong.

I highly recommend The King of Kong to anyone who loves documentaries, mockumentaries like Modern Family, or videogames.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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