Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Love Letter to My Mom

Once upon a time there was a little girl, brimming with energy and a healthy dose of mischief.  She lived, loved, struggled, and fought.  Eventually she grew to become a beautiful goddess, cleverly disguised as full time computer engineer and mother of three.

Dear Mom,

I have probably never told you this, but there is nothing quiet or subtle in the way that you have always loved me.  Even into my 30s, we still hold hands in public and you continue to kiss me on the lips.

I get teary eyed, sometimes, when I realize the effects on your love because I can see the evidence in newer generations.  In the way that the first grandbaby, my younger sister’s son, hasn't forgotten the little games you play with him.  Even though you both live several states apart.  Picking right up where you last left off.  Your love an indelible mark he will know for the rest of his life, as your own children do.

I marvel that my dog, an adopted blue heeler named appropriately “Lil Mama”, remembers the training you spent hours teaching her, even though we live in separate houses.  Learning to sit and shake, despite not having been a puppy for some time.  Still haunted by the abuse of her former owner, she was initially a little wary of me but you loved her from first sight.  And instinctively she somehow knew you could be trusted.  Yours is a love that conquers all.

You continue to be so smart, so shrewd, and so intelligent.  You double checked and edited all my school papers, corrected my spelling before spell-check was even a thing.  You helped with my math homework showing equal aptitude for numbers as well as grammar.  Being bilingual, you also double checked my Spanish homework.  You urged us into becoming engineers like yourself, but also continue to support our artistic endeavors.

I love you Mom.  Every day.  Nonstop.  


Monday, July 28, 2014

Yelp - The Review

Love it or hate it, Yelp is here to stay.

If you are not familiar, Yelp is a social media platform featuring user-generated reviews for businesses and restaurants.

You can sign up for free and review the Empire State Building, your local Wal-Mart, that old roller skating rink in your hometown, your favorite bar, whatever you feel like.

Now, a fair number of business owners and published restaurant reviewers hate Yelp.  Absolutely hate it.  Do a Google search on “Why People Hate Yelp” and you will get a plethora of results.  See here and here.

Restaurant and small business owners hate Yelp because anyone can write super-harmful negative reviews and destroy their businesses.  Allegedly, good reviews hardly ever appear unless the owner pays for marketing on Yelp. 

Published restaurant reviewers hate Yelp because it allows people unfamiliar with the restaurant business to post uninformed reviews.  Yelp also threatens their very livelihood as well.

Now, I myself use Yelp.

I can tell you that Yelp users run the gamut from those with hometown local pride, seeking to spread the word about their favorite hole in the wall places, to name dropping’ high society, 30K millionaires looking to be impressed by the cuisine.   It is just like Facebook. 

There are users you avoid and those that have you rolling with laughter because they are describing how ratchet the parking lot looked like outside of their favorite Thai place.

Yelp rewards its most active reviewers, given the status “Elite”, perks such as invitations to free events in which food and drink samples are provided.  “Elite” events are highly coveted in the Yelp community.

Yelp structures its user experience in such a way that rewards are given out to users that review businesses as often as possible.  This generates free content for Yelp. 

Note, users are urged to be as honest as possible and are not pressured to write completely positive or completely negative reviewers.  Neither are they paid or compensated for their reviews.

Yelp works much like a video game.  The more time spent playing, the more rewards accrue.  Most Yelp users, are as good as their word.  They try to be extremely honest and write accurately about their own personal experience.

Some however, do not.  As with every social media site, there are users that are dishonest or over exaggerating.

Yelp was not created to hold back businesses.  People do not use Yelp to have a business owner fail, lose their livelihood and be thrown out with their spouse and five children on the street.

Most people still don’t what the heck Yelp is.  Most people still talk to their family, friends and co-workers about a bad experience at a restaurant. 

Yelpers can detect when other reviewers are full of bull shit.  Business owners can directly reply back to the reviews and contact unhappy parties, to either apologize or to bitch that reviewer personally.

There are two sides to every story.

Personally, I love the ability to write funny reviews and to bring notice my favorite local haunts.  I love being part of the Dallas – Fort Worth community and Yelp facilitates with that.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use Yelp?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy 75th Anniversary Batman!

In light of the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman today,  I would like to dedicate this post to the five things I have learned from the most formative cartoon and superhero during my childhood, Batman the Animated Series. 

Yeah, eff' Looney Tunes man, this was my jam. 

  1. 1.       BTAS introduced me to the Film Noir and the Art Deco movement.  The style of show resembled a noir detective film in the early episodes and featured beautiful, time consuming hand painted backgrounds and title cards.

  1. 2.       BTAS made me aware of strong story-telling and the concept of using no dialogue in scenes, such as the famous opening sequence which depicted Batman chasing after two criminals on the rooftops of Gotham City.

  1. 3.       BTAS introduced strong female characters of all races, ages, and sizes such as Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and Talia al Ghul.  Some were pulled from the comic books, others (Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya) created for the show were later added to the comic books.

Renee "BAMF" Montoya
  1. 4.       BTAS pioneered the use of well-known film actors to voice the villains.  David Warner, Richard Glover, Richard Mill, Roddy McDowall, Michael York, Ed Asner all provided their voices for various villains.

  2. 5.       BTAS taught me to fear the Joker.  Joker was still hilarious but also dangerously psychotic.  Despite being a children’s cartoon, the show taught new generations the true potential of the Clown Prince of Crime and also proved that the man who played Luke Skywalker could also create the definitive version of comic’s greatest villain of all time.  Amen, Mark Hamill.

I'm a fan of Heath Ledger's portrayal too but come on, look at him! And in a cartoon, too!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

10 Best Movie Soundtrack Moments

God, I love movies!  Most people do.

I actually got my BA in Radio/Television/Film and still try to write screenplays on the side.  I really love the concept of storytelling in all formats.  I learned from my dad and maternal grandfather, the best way to set up a story and then deliver the punchline.

And I really love music! My sister and I used to joke that our dream jobs would be music curators, putting together playlists for a variety of purposes.

Now every entertainment site has a top movie-music soundtrack and/or music score list.  I'm not enough of a music nerd to make separate lists but the usual suspects always show up.  Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, The Magnificent Seven,  The Breakfast Club, Casablanca......

Movies I haven't re watched in years.

So I decided to present an alternative take and chose some newer films.  Yeah, Tarantino snuck in there, sorry.  And I don't get Cameron Crowe, so his films aren't on there, sorry. Here, in no particular order are 10 Best Movie Soundtrack Moments in my honest and most opinion.

1.  Half Nelson - Broken Social Scene "Shampoo Suicide"
The motel scene happens at the climax of the movies, when one of  the students (Shareeka Epps) finds her teacher (Ryan Gosling) in a crack den.  With very little dialogue, we witness a flood of emotions between the two talented actors and are utterly swept away by their raw power and the music in the scene.

2. Sunshine - John Murphy, Original Score
*Spoilers*  Sunshine as directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) was the rare sci-fi flick with a wealth of fresh ideas and a truly international cast of heavyweight actors, (Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada).  Early on, Captain Kaneda bravely sacrifices himself, as he stares down the sun, waiting to die the score turns an horrific event into something almost magical.

3. Smokin' Aces - Clint Mansell "Dead Reckoning", Original Score
Clint Mansell is a badass.  In addition to making some of the most recognizable movie music used in virtually every trailer today (Lux Eterna) he has also scored the likes of The Fountain, Moon, The Wrestler and Black Swan.  His music can also transform the ending of a mediocre film into something transcendent, as evidenced below.  *Spoiler*  This shows the end of a movie you probably weren't going to watch anyway unless you were jonesing for pre-Star Trek Chris Pine roles.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums - Nico "Needle in the Hay"
Wes Anderson movies usually show up as MVPs of any movie soundtrack lists.  The Royal Tenenbaums was my first exposure, hence this inclusion on my list.  Something as horrific and gut punching as a failed suicide attempt becomes tragically beautiful and delicately unsettling.  I wouldn't view if you are adverse to the sight of blood, though.

5. High Fidelity - Jack Black "Let's Get it On"
Better named, "The Adventures of a Privileged White Male Music Nerd", this movie name drops music and records all over the place like a gentleman making it rain in a strip club.  As one of his first big roles, we are introduced to the comedic stylings of an up and coming Jack Black, however, it isn't until the end of the movie that we get to hear how well he can actually play guitar and sing.

6. Magnolia - Aimee Man "Wise Up"
Paul Thomas Anderson's films are usually about various individuals suffering in vaguely unsettling environments.  They undergo love, life, and loss in intertwining tales.  When the characters of Magnolia, take time to sing to  Aimee Man's "Wise Up" we are moved by their reflection on life, in a curiously powerful "breaking the fourth wall" scene.

7. Donnie Darko - Gary Jules "Mad World"
This movie is weird, crazy, hilarious, dark and demented.  "Mad World" could not sum the ending up any better.

8.  Scott Pilgrim v. The World - Beck "Threshold"
Ok, full disclosure, I love Beck.  He also put together the soundtrack for one of my favorite films, Nacho Libre.  Beck provides all the songs for the fictional band, Sex Bob-Omb but I included this scene for it's video game characteristics that literally gives power to the music.

9. Napoleon Dynamite - Jamiroquai "Canned Heat"
Sitting through Napoleon Dynamite for the first time, most everyone has the same thought, "is this all there is to this movie?".  Yes, yes it is.  The crowning achievement to the weird, quirky existence that is Napoleon, is the moment he dances before the high school student body and dances like no one is watching.

10. Pulp Fiction - Basically the whole soundtrack 
Yep, for reasons other people have endlessly expounded on.

Got any favorites you'd like to add? (Besides "Let It Go").  Let me know.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Simple DIYs for a Fun & Whimsical 4th of July!

Image Source

The Fourth of July is almost here!

In anticipation, I've rounded up some simple DIYs for a fantastic holiday bash.  




I'm in love with this holiday wreath.  If you have kids, let them help by making pom-poms with yarn.  It's super easy and all you have to do is glue or pin onto wreath base and voila!  Instant cuteness!

Click on the above link to find a free printable banner from  This is probably one of the easiest DIYs on this list.  Just print, cut and staple and you can adorn your home or patio in just a few minutes.

These Mason Jar Painted Lanterns may take some prep time in painting and then letting the paint dry but they look so worth it!  Really, just when you thought you had seen every craft under the sun involving Mason Jars, someone clever thinks of yet another use.  Just make sure to paint the outside, not the inside!   


Pinterest Link

I never have any idea what to wear for a Fourth of July party.  For so long I just threw on one of those Old Navy patriotic themed shirts and called it a day.  Now I can turn my old jeans into cutoffs, and paint those cutoffs with fabric paint!  Genius....or shall I say Jean-ius? (Shut up, puns are fun)


Now you can buy this headband from can just make it with some glitter foam sheets and a black stretchy headband.  Just cut out three stars to your liking from gold glitter foam sheets that can be found at most craft stores and attached to headband with some hot glue.  Pretty and simple.

Or if you fancy, you could do a version with fake flowers instead.  You know this how Lana Del Rey does it.  I mean I assume.  Who doesn't like the Fourth of July?  Canadians, that's who!  And probably the rest of the world.  


Pinterest Link
Usually, I'm pretty happy with a hot dog and some ice cream on the Fourth of July, but my mom likes to make a similar Strawberry Spinach salad as pictured above.  Just toss blueberries, sliced strawberries, almonds and some crumbled feta cheese in with some spinach leaves.  Then drizzle with some raspberry balsamic dressing and you have a tasty, festive salad sure to please!


Oh mah gawd!  Patriotic Taco Salad sounds amazing and slightly ironic, no?  I could also see this as a way to dress up a Seven Layer Dip.  Just decorate the stripes with shredded cheese and sliced tomatoes.  Add some olives and extra guac to the top left corner and you have the most delicious version of the American flag to ever exist.

 Dude, ice cream floats with red and blue sodas?  I'm soooo there.  This one is pretty much a no-brainer but so pretty and tasty looking at the same time.


Okay so I may have lied a little bit when I said, "simple DIYs" but how awesome is this Patriotic Corn Hole set?  Yes, to some of my readers out there, there is a game called "corn hole" and it is played quite frequently outdoors.  Basically it is a set of elevated boards with a hole cut out across the very top.  Players divide into teams and try to sink as many bean or sand filled sachets through the top or "corn" hole.  If you know how to build or know someone with basic carpentry skills, how cool would it be to bust these babies out?  Painted in red, white and blue.


Now this Custom Beer Pong Table is entirely within my skill set.  Just get a slab of plywood or if you'd like something sturdier, a hollow-core door, from any hard-ware store and paint a flag using painter's tape for straight edges.  Then rest the table on top a pair of saw horses and your patriotic tribute to drinking games is now complete!

So tell me, my precious readers, what plans do you have in store for the holiday?