Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

This year, Junior got to wear his costume in the two days leading up to Halloween. (He's not trick-or-treating yet.) Props to Daddy for the excellent costume choice (via amazon).

Top three reactions to Junior's costume:

2) "What is she supposed to be?" (reply: "He is an octopus.")
3) "Is that a calamari?"

Dress rehearsal
*DAY 1*
Day care costume parade
Halloween party
*DAY 2*
After scoring free cookie 
Exhausted octopus

Note: Hubby chose this costume to go with our family theme of Chthulu -- Junior is supposed to be baby Chthulu; his tentacles are meant to migrate to his face when mature.

Proud Chthulu Dad, Li'l Chthulu

TL;DR: My baby is the menace of the deep.

This post brought to you by coffee!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Toddler Shenanigans

First, some advertising:

Get it? hur hur hur

Ah, the leaves have turned, the mornings are thirty degrees, and that means: TINY HUMANS IN ADORABLE FALL CLOTHES!!! Seriously, a lot of the little girls at the playgrounds are way more fashionable than I've ever been at any point in my life.

But, on to the point: toddlerhood. Now that Junior can toddle, he's a toddler, so there. Here is a checklist of what he's supposed to be able to accomplish at his current age (source: BabyCentre, the UK one):

Level 1: stand alone (check), bend to pick up objects (check), use two words skillfully (errr....)

Let's address that last point. Junior uses syllables skillfully. He's bilingual, too! I speak to him exclusively in Tagalog, and everyone else uses English at him. So he understands the term "bola" and "ball" (same thing), and he's settled for a term somewhere in the middle: "boh, boh." He also seems to think that every vehicle is a bus, which he calls "buh, buh." He understands, "Asan si Papa?" ("Where's dad?", or let's be honest, "Go bug dad") and, at peak whiny, will wail, "mama, mama" using just the right tone to trigger an immediate response from me. He is crafty, this one.

Side note: according to his day care teachers, he lectures the other babies when they misbehave: "Doh doh dow dow DOH doh!" is apparently how it goes.

So I'm going to put a check next to that skill. On to...

Level 2: enjoy looking at own reflection (check), drinks from a cup (check, also uses straw), plays "peekaboo" (check, often initiates game using "come-hither" peekaboo face, it is very cute)

All right, he's pretty good on his Emerging Skills. But what about...

Level 3: combine words and gestures to express wants (check, e.g. pointing and frantic head shakes combined with "no no"), tries to lift heavy things (yeah, I really need to stop bringing him to the gym and letting him play near the kettle bells #parentingfail), rolls a ball back and forth (and throws it at your face) 

As mentioned above, his syllable skills are top-notch, and since he points to what he wants, he can get it once we've used the process of elimination on all counter top items ("What d'you want? Your water? Not your water? Peanut butter? No? Oh, you want my food...")


Now, I know I may be painting a picture of a genius toddler here, and perhaps you are giving me side eye for being biased, but bear with me. Here I present two pieces of evidence for his extraordinary brilliance:

Exhibit A: Problem Solving
Charlie's like, I have nothing to do with this, I'm out.

Junior has been very interested in climbing lately, mostly stairs and his father. He's also very dedicated to reaching for things that are on top of things. Yesterday he combined those two passions by flipping over the laundry basket, clambering on top, and using his newfound height to swipe at previously unreachable objects. In the picture above, he has granted himself access to my vast collection of change, which I've been meaning to put into coin rollers to exchange for bills at the bank. (Well, I at least got the coin rollers. The orange strip near his hand is for quarters.)

Of course, there are  times when he's too clever for his own good, like when he closes the door of whatever room he's in and promptly panics because the big people are on the other side and he hasn't mastered door knobs yet. Or when he opens snack containers by smashing them on the floor and earns the Mom Face of Doom. Or when he used to crawl through the pet gate (!) meant to keep him away from the kitty litter box -- at least now he's too big to do that.

And here is definitive proof that Junior is smaht:

Exhibit B: Drink Preference

That is some fine microbrew that he is holding in his chubby hands. Oktoberfest, yum yum, just the right flavor for tiny tots. And please note how he is rocking that mustache (pacifier). Truly, he is gifted.


It's not all butterflies and beer in the Fragrant Household, though. Junior is teething, and he goes full-on drama mode when he feels a twinge, which is usually at at 2AM or 4AM, or both. And this is on top of his daily 5:30AM nursing demands, followed by a 6:30AM kick to my face (after we fall asleep cuddling, awww -- just kidding, it's like cuddling next to a giant non-slimy earthworm: squirm, squirm, squirm).

He also gets hungry frequently, and follows me around whining piteously and doing his best to interrupt what I'm currently doing, which is preparing his food. I can only fend him off temporarily with yogurt pouch, crackers, and other small snacks -- he needs his rice and protein to make it another hour! 

He still needs to learn not to throw his food to indicate that he's done. When he first started doing that I was all, GRRRRRR, and now he is instantly exiled from his high chair. We'll see if it works in combination with demonstrating how to hand over his unwanted consumables.

Oh, and he is still the scourge of the kitties. No matter how many times we tell him and show him how to be gentle, he still goes into slap mode whenever Charlie's in reach (Maetel is too smart to be at floor level when he's around). Oy vey. Plus he'll grab for their kibble every chance he gets, which for science I bravely tasted, and it was disgusting -- like cardboard and fish. Blecchhhhhh


TL;DR: Toddler = shenanigans

This post brought to you by leftover chicken wings!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Movie Review: Cowspiracy (2014)

Cowspiracy is a documentary with an agenda: uncover the biggest cause of pollution on the planet, and find a solution for Mother Earth to thrive. As a rabid closet environmentalist, I wasn't entirely surprised at what the filmmakers found: that animal agriculture is the devil. From their website:

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.

Let me back it up.

The film begins with director Kip Anderson describing his reaction to seeing Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: he did everything he could to save water, reduce his contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, recycle, et cetera. But when he reviewed the literature, he realized that environmental scientists were pointing to an entirely different culprit: meat and dairy consumption.

To really boil it down:

1) Land and water use: Cows need a lot of pasture, so forests are cleared for their grazing, leading to habitat loss and species extinction. They also drink a whole bunch of water, which could be used for better things, like a golf course. (cries)

2) Waste products: Yes, cow farts are pretty deadly, but also, all that cow poop is not processed in sewage facilities, so they end up in the ocean and cause dead zones.

The film uses excellent, clear graphics to underline these points. Paired with the silence of environmental groups like Greenpeace on the issue, it adds to Anderson's subtext that there's a conspiracy -- a "cowspiracy," if you will -- to maintain the status quo. For instance, in the US, animal rights activists are high on the FBI watch list, while in Brazil, they just straight up kill you if you get in the way of the rancheros.

Not content to stomp all over hamburgers, Anderson also notes that our eating bacon, eggs, and fish is similarly unsustainable. He shows this through graphics, footage, and interviews with prominent authors and educators. What really stayed in my head was something Dr. Michael Klaper said, which was essentially, "The purpose of cow's milk is to transform a calf into a 1,200-pound cow as rapidly as possible." And I went, "HMMMM THAT MAKES SENSE, DOCTOR KILLJOY. WHAT ELSE CAN I NOT CONSUME ANYMORE?"

As it turns out, pretty much everything that isn't plant-based. "You can't be an environmentalist and eat animal products," says Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher.

Overall, this is a tough film to watch because of the message, and I wish the filmmakers had spent more time with alternative eating habits. But perhaps that is a lure to their website, where under the "Take Action" tab, you can choose to be a vegan for 30 days "for free!" Which immediately made me go, "NO THANK YOU," because a 30-day free trial is inevitably followed by badgering emails and unauthorized credit card charges, just ask my mom.

TL;DR: Eating livestock = killing the planet. :(

This post brought to you by okonomiyaki bread! Okonomiyaki bread: available only in Chinese bakeries and my darkest nightmares!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

The Martian is about the human spirit: driven to overcome, to survive. While the title and most of the running length focus on astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his lone struggles on desolate Mars, the movie emphasizes that the united effort of diverse actors is the key to ensuring that Watney can return to Earth.

The trailers tell the essential story: a storm forces the crew of the Ares 3 mission to abort and return home. Watney is hit by debris on the way back to the ship, and is presumed dead by his commander and other crew members. Watney wakes up the next day and must face the enormity of his situation: he's trapped on a planet inhospitable to human life, with only 31 days of supplies -- and the next manned mission is scheduled in four years.

Science to the rescue!!! Watney methodically plans for his long-term survival, taking stock of existing supplies and creating a solution to his food situation via poop and to his water situation via fire. He explains it all as he does it, don't worry. I'm pretty sure this film inspired a bunch of young people to go into STEM fields, just so they can be awesome like Watney. I approve.

There are a great many pleasures in this latest Ridley Scott space adventure. The most welcome one is the writing: all the characters are smart and make calculated decisions, from Watney to the hard-nosed NASA Director (Jeff Daniels) to the satellite tech (Mackenzie Davis) who first notices that the "abandoned" Mars mission site shows signs of activity. The dialogue is laced with humor -- Watney is full of wisecracks as he makes video logs of his survival plans, perhaps to make his bleak situation more bearable. Kristen Wiig, as NASA's PR Director, has a choice line that drew big laughs; Ares 3 crew member Gonzalez (Michael Peña) has a hilarious apology for leaving Watney behind; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's reactions to NASA's demands are pretty comical; and so on.

As for the soundtrack... hahahaha... let's just say it's also a source of humor.

And I about died when a Lord of the Rings reference appeared and Sean Bean obligingly stepped up. EEEEEEEEEEEEE

Of course, The Martian is beautiful. Mars looks stunning, the set designs are impeccable, and the use of Watney's space suit cams makes for interesting visuals. On Earth, camera work is straightforward, with no gimmicks to distract from the people doing their best to help the Martian.

Overall, this is a wonderful story told extremely well by a talented cast and crew. Props to Matt Damon for being a very likable lead, and to Andy Weir for writing the 2011 book that served as the basis for this film. We have Weir to thank for Watney, his daunting obstacles, and his determination to "science the shit out of this." Hubby read the book and said that the film hews pretty closely to it, with some liberties taken for dramatic effect.

And yes Scott Ridley, this does make up for Prometheus.

TL;DR: Watch immediately.

This post brought to you by coffee, surprise surprise!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie Review: The Loft (2014)

The Loft is a murder mystery with poor writing, terrible acting, obnoxious cinematography, and a soundtrack that thinks it’s in a better film. It tricks the unsuspecting by dangling Karl Urban and James Marsden as bait, and by the time viewers realize who the real villain is, about three minutes into the film, it’s already too late. Like a traffic accident, the rest of the disaster must be witnessed to satisfy our morbid curiosity.

The title refers to a loft shared by five friends, for secret dalliances with women who are not their wives. Their personalities are established through flashbacks: there’s the alpha, an ambitious architect (Urban); the fat one, who’s “funny” (Eric Stonestreet); the crazy violent criminal, as a red herring (Matthias Schoenaerts); the conscientious one (Marsden); and the repressed nerd (Wentworth Miller). A crime occurs in the loft, and the movie jumps back and forth between the police questioning, the friends’ initial reactions to the scene, and the moments leading up to the crime. OMG WHODUNIT???

Which leads us to the true answer: nobody cares.

Nobody curr, because:

The acting is awful—There’s a range of awfulness, too, from over-the-top (Schoenaerts) to scenery-chewing (Urban) to wooden (Miller). Marsden seems like he’s trying but wasn’t given much to work with, and I don’t think Stonestreet was acting at all.

The characters are gross—There’s no one to root for. All the main characters are douchey, all their wives are unpleasant, and the two other plot-crucial (-ish) women are bland. The only okay characters are the police detectives (Kristin Lehman and Robert Wisdom), and that’s only because they kept yelling “Bullshit!” (essentially) at the five guys during questioning.

The cinematography is painful—The crew seemed to think that dramatic swoops and intense close-ups would distract viewers from the morons onscreen. But they just made the experience worse.

The soundtrack deserves better—If you just listened to the film score, you’d think really exciting and suspenseful events were transpiring, instead of sad men and women making one dumb decision after another.

And the writing is bad, because if we don’t care about the characters, then we’re not invested in the “twist” or even the “reveal,” and definitely not in the “other twist.”

It’s like all the elements in the film combine to make everything as bad as possible, e.g. the dialogue becomes extra cheesy from being delivered with a B-movie grimace, while the camera is two centimeters from the actor’s face and the soundtrack is all, “This is thrilling!”

If this was intentional, then that is some fine trolling right there, cast and crew of The Loft.

In conclusion: UUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH. If it sounds like I'm harshing too much on this movie, it's because Eomer and Cyclops had earned my trust.

so betray
such crush

TL;DR: Avoid The Loft

This post brought to you by Netflix!