Monthly Archives

May 2016

ART, DESIGN + NICE THINGS, PAULIE SAYS

PUSHEEN BOX – SPRING REVIEW

Yesterday I finally received this ~bundle of joy~ and off the bat knew I had to show it off. This is my second Pusheen Box – a seasonal subscription box based on “that Facebook sticker cat” exclusive goodies. The one I received is sold out, but you can subscribe for the summer edition! (I wasn’t paid to advertise this box, in any shape or form, I’m just a humble, very enthusiastic fan and cat lady).

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Priced at $43.95 + $6 Shipping to the US per box, they claim its worth +$100 in stuff, plus you can’t really get most of them anywhere else. The one I will describe below is sold out, ordered it months ago…they actually have an automatic billing system after you purchase your first box.  I believe next box is scheduled for July so if you’re interested, I suggest you subscribe to their newsletter so you don’t miss out.

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So, let’s proceed to the box. You can scroll the pictures as you please in the gallery above. First of all, it’s probably the best designed subscription box I’ve ever received, given they transformed the whole packaging into a squared Pusheen. From the face, to the tail and paws on the bottom of the box. Two for you, Pusheen box coco!

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The contents: it was packed. Each box comes with an information card. It consisted in an exclusive Baker Pusheen vinyl figure(around 4 inches tall), a Pusheen cookie cutter, an apron, an umbrella, 3 pairs of socks, 3 sticker sheets, a pin set, a key cap and my favorite: a Pusheen mini planter! I’m in love with the planter and headed out to get a tiny succulent right away (bedazzled with tiny golden rocks, in case you hadn’t noticed, I love golden odds and bits).  Loved the previous box (winter edition) but I feel this one suits me better.

Veredict: absolutely worth every penny. If you’re a fan of Pusheen, go for it. If you’re a regular cat lady like myself, go for it. It’s a lot of kawaii for $50 every few months and the best part is they’re things you can actually use and not only exhibit. It offers a good balance between decorative and useful stuff. Meow.

NERD SPOT, POPCORN TIME

Captain America: Civil War – Movie Review

Having only directed episodes for nine TV series and three TV movies besides one feature-length comedy, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo weren’t necessarily regarded among the best filmmakers of their time prior to Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2. But Captain America 3: Civil War leaves no excuse to disregard The Russo Brothers. Helmed by Disney, Marvel was smart enough to sign the siblings into both of the parts that will close the Avengers film series, concluding the era of superhero movies that so many skeptics are looking forward to seeing collapse.

latest-2In a time of readily available information, it’s becoming increasingly important to ask why in general. Not only in matters of questioning authority or finding oneself, but also in analyzing and thusly understanding the world we live in. Why are superheroes so popular? Why are they so hated by others in return? Why are love and hate of things mutually exclusive concepts? Civil War does not answer those primordial questions, but it does bring some fine quality entertainment for masses who enjoy mainstream accessibility.

Be it 3D, 4D, or good ‘ol 2D, Captain America’s final trilogy chapter closes so many loose ends and opens up so many new worlds of possibilities, in such carefully crafted ways, that even the most hard-hearted of purists would be delusional if they denied that Marvel actually makes good cinema that acknowledges the parts within its continuity.

Let’s start from the script. The very first slam superhero movies get is for being too formulaic, almost engaged in a tragically Oedipal romance with Joseph Campbell, immortalizing his name as the daddy of screenwriting clichés. Hero rises, falls, rises again. People weep in awe at the Phoenix and all ends as it started, only improved. But why is this bad? At one point does a story stop being full of conventions and instead become full of organic parts? My personal answer is that it isn’t. Superheroes are definitely a stage of film history (hell, Marvel was smart enough to divide it in Phases), and it will eventually end. But even the fall of its empire is entertaining to watch. After all, that’s all it’s supposed to be: entertainment. And entertainment itself is a human necessity. Ergo, superheroes are just a part of a human need.

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Let’s move on to the film: everything the viewer wanted was delivered like a checklist. Anyone familiar with Civil War knows and expects a set list of things: Iron Man vs. Captain America, Black Panther, Spiderman, Ant-Man riding Hawkeye’s arrows, Ant-Man becoming a giant, a speech of planting oneself like a tree and telling others to move on, and so on. In various comic book iterations, both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers eventually die at some point, so the source material canon has some pretty high stakes raised already. But even if you know nothing of this movie and the above stated elements were spoilers to you, you’re in for a fun ride.

The marketing for the movie was exceedingly clever, down to the things that the studios didn’t even control: Batman v. Superman was definitely meant to be released earlier. And it was totally meant to be a much less entertaining movie (for one, it has less characters, it has a much more serious tone, and its intent is to bring some cinematic solemnity to the Justice League). Following Joss Whedon’s beloved method of quippy remarks, the characters in Civil War breathe like regular humans. They bleed much less than regular humans, but they do so nonetheless, and they complain, they hurt, they hesitate, they repent, they improve, and even though they don’t… spoiler… die at all (only ONE character with a known name and speaking role dies in the movie… if you solely count sequences more than five minutes long).

Civil War does many things right: it continues the storyline, mood, and settings introduced by its predecessor (in a world where, for instance, Iron Man 3 is so disjointed from Iron Man 2, this is particularly noteworthy). It introduces characters in the best way possible (Black Panther is the only character truly shown for the first time in film), and it gives just enough screen time to the many characters is crams together without turning it all into a mess. Where Dawn of Justice stumbled and struggled while building a fearsome villain, setting up sequels and putting one side of ideals against its opposite (I thing BvS did all those things well, but you could feel the work it took), Civil War maneuvered seamlessly with little more than a few seconds of awkward editing that is expected in action movies. At least for once, we’re getting a properly packaged product where every scene promised in the trailer is actually shown to us in the movie itself. That’s a relief nowadays (and we even get to figure out who the mysterious bald woman in the Age of Ultron is).

captain-america-civil-war-posterAnd the core of the movie itself is about minimizing damages: sure, superheroes will always cause deaths, as the nature of a hero is to challenge the very concept of mortality. Following the ideology that saving a few lives is ethically “more right” than saving nobody at all, the movie imploded its capacity of failure into enjoyable plotlines that preserve the magic we all love in cinema. No hero is tarnished in the movie. Even its main villain is given a bitterly heartfelt moment to tragically grieve his motivations into the audience, and into a character changed for the better as a result of this apotheosis (what defines a hero). This movie is about consequences, and the anti-hero’s journey is almost the same as the hero’s (watching an empire fall), the only difference is that the hero attempts to stray the least from the rules (even though the system descends into synonymous entropy that following rules in full results in not doing the right thing) while the anti-hero writes his own, and then ignores his own rules.

Certainly, the movie itself is not about opposing forces, about the impossibility of true neutral balance, or about the Confederacy raising musket bayonets against the Union, as advertised in the title and as the least clever parts of its marketing would have you believe. But it is about many other related things, and it feels real in a world with routine news of terrorist attacks, increasing climate change, and unending conspiracy theories by self-proclaimed clickbaity journalists. Civil War is a needed breath in superhero movies. It is a necessary conclusion to storylines left hanging by the company that keeps the dreams of mice alive. It is a fair product of sacrifice and hard work, mostly by the screenwriters, actor, directors, and even the audience. And it is a deserved moment in comic book history, where nerdy fans can see their haven immortalized in what is arguably the most complete of all art mediums. I keep saying “in this world”, because in this world the superhero is supposed to die any time. But mark by words, heroes never die.

 

ART, DESIGN + NICE THINGS, PAULIE SAYS

WISH DAY

My parents were part of the The Lions Club and wanted me to follow their footsteps, but I never did. I saw how they helped gather stuff for people in need, but oddly, I didn’t feel identified with the cause, maybe because I felt these organizations only benefited the rich and were more of a social status label, for the most part.

I think it was a couple of years ago when a friend contacted me for a volunteer job. At the time, I didn’t have much time off to go on activities, so I offered my graphic design skills. Then I got to know a little bit more about the Make a Wish Foundation.

You may wonder… what’s that?

Founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1980, when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, Make-A-Wish is one of the world’s leading children’s charities.

After the start of Make-A-Wish in the United States, interest in granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions quickly spread to other nations. In 1993, Make-A-Wish International was officially formed to serve the five countries outside the U.S. – and now helps to serve children outside the United States in nearly 50 countries on five continents through its 39 affiliates. Make-A-Wish America grants the wishes of children in the United States through its 61 chapters. With the help of generous donors and over 32,000 volunteers, Make-A-Wish has collectively granted approximately more than 350,000 wishes worldwide since 1980. (source)

Late last year I even granted a wish, along with my coworkers. We held a bake sale and sold ice cream sandwiches to fund it. Little by little we gathered the money and it felt so good. Something as simple as a new bike can make a kid’s day, or his entire year. If you have the chance, resources, skills or just want to bring a smile to a kid, and yourself, do it.

So, two weekends ago I had the honor to volunteer again, this time it was not design related (yay!), so I got up early on a Sunday morning (I know, the horror) and drove my way into the venue for Wish Day.

April 29th is World Wish Day®, the anniversary of the wish that inspired the founding of Make-A-Wish® in 1980 and a worldwide day of gratitude to thank our donors, volunteers, medical professionals, sponsors, wish kids and families.

 

Wish Day was basically a party/fun fair for the kids, their healthier siblings and their parents. I was in charge of the “Duck Pond” and gave away prizes for the children. I may and may have not cheated a bit and helped them out so everyone got something…and maybe I did give away extra prizes to some kids… but It was a day for them go to all out. There was all kinds of games and things to do. I couldn’t even take many pictures, those kids kept me busy. Not surprised though, they had free popcorn, cotton candy, raspao'(Panamanian shaved ice), popsicles, burgers, hot dogs… and a freaking CANDY BAR. There was a candy bar, okay?! Even I walked out with my Jolly Rancher stash. My precious.

Most importantly, the children had fun and once more, taught everyone in the room how appreciative we should all be of the little things in life, like fishing a rubber duck off a kiddie pool and it being the biggest achievement ever. Those little people have probably been through hell and they are still fighting through it all with a smile.

If you’re interested in taking part as a volunteer for Make a Wish, you can contact them directly by clicking here or through me. There are many ways to do it and it doesn’t take much, but gives you back a whole lot.

EDGAR SAYS, POPCORN TIME

A la deriva

Artículo escrito por Edgar C. Mans

Si a un antropólogo se le preguntara algo complejo y pesado como “¿cuál es la solución a la situación en el Medio Oriente?”, lo más probable es que responda comenzando con el origen de un conflicto y siguiendo con algo como “el primer paso es la comprensión. Porque solo sabiendo el por qué, se puede comenzar a solucionar una situación social”.

¿Qué sentimos cuando vemos el peso de la justicia caer sobre un culpable? El cine es el arte morboso que no permite un clímax en el cual un monstruo sufre, porque en la vida real la mayoría de injusticias ocurren sin retribución newtoniana, causando nuestra gran mayoría de frustraciones a pequeña escala acumulándose en enfermedades crónicas.

El cineasta Miguel I. González confesó que se le pidió que callara el tema del dietilenglicol, ante vítores y aplausos de un público justamente conmovido. Pero más allá de una historia de un director, A la deriva es la historia de tres mujeres y las ramas y raíces que se extienden y crecen de ellas. Las hojas de su vida, las flores de sus sueños y las semillas de su indignación.

Como izquierdista social, me alegró que el monstruo del documental no fuera la Caja de Seguro Social. Como humanista me pareció satisfactoriamente ético el enfoque en lo humano. Hasta el monstruo de la historia es humano: cada culpable del consumo de dietilenglicol. Como socialista, me agradó la perspectiva femenina en un mundo incrementadamente consciente de la igualdad de género, compensando por milenios de desproporcionado privilegio masculino. Como público, me cautivó el tono tan orgánico, las texturas tan vívidas, y el ritmo tan delicado con el cual el filme toca los temas más sensibles y acaricia la psique con un susurro de esperanza ante la más perseverante de las adversidades: el dolor constante.

A la deriva es en mi prematura opinión el paradójico ganador de una competencia en la cual no compite. El premio del público claramente es uno guiado por conmoción y empatía. Y la película, done o no a la causa con sus procedencias, es la pieza clave en este movimiento que no descansa mientras haya afectados por el dietilenglicol.

Si a mí me preguntaran, sin ser antropólogo, ¿cuál es la razón por la que olvidamos tan rápido? Mi respuesta sería: para vivir. Allison, una niña gravemente afectada a nivel neuronal por el dietilenglicol, se ve temprano en el documental luchando por comunicar que entiende el concepto del cero. En la película claramente vemos víctimas, pero más que nada vemos sus esfuerzos en sacudirse tal fúnebre título. Lo más fuerte de A la deriva es la cotidianidad de todo. Como confusiones burocráticas en expedientes médicos pueden poner vidas en riesgo. Como un envío casual de glicerina para producir anticongelantes puede terminar en medicamentos otorgados por una entidad gubernamental para mejorar la salud. Como un cambio de receta puede terminar en un padecimiento de por vida. Movimiento reducido, cansancio constante, debilidad muscular, desorientación y otra gran cantidad de síntomas afectan a quienes han tenido el compuesto químico C4 H10 O3 en su organismo sin tratar por más de un día. Y día tras día, las protagonistas de la historia no olvidan, sino que luchan para vivir una vida con un semblante de la dignidad que merecen, cercenada por los síntomas de la intoxicación.

La película busca justicia. El movimiento que genera es uno de indignación. La misma indignación que causa ver niños privados de acceso a sus sueños, a un aprendizaje pleno y a una vida con salud. La misma indignación que siente una mujer al ya no poder ser libre para caminar, para ser esposa y amante, para ser ama de casa o compañera de vida. Los héroes de A la deriva son puramente humanos, viviendo un día a día con una realidad incómoda, pero unida a cada silla en la que se sientan.

Apropiadamente, A la deriva no sucumbe a la trillada herramienta de cámara en mano. El pulso de este documental es tan solemne como debe ser: la fotografía se mueve junto a los sujetos que retrata. El sonido captura el ambiente en el que juegan niños, en el cual se desplaza una silla de ruedas, o en el cual un pincel revive el rostro de un esposo difunto sobre un lienzo.

La delicadeza que logra A la deriva es admirable, y es sin duda un fruto de amor. Un amor a la vida que sobrepasa la amargura por no tener justicia ante los culpables de una calamidad masiva que afecta a miles dentro de Panamá y otros miles en decenas de países diferentes. Y es por todo esto, por el montaje de respiro esperanzado, por los planos de un paisaje pulsante, y por el cariño con el que tres voces lloran y sonríen colores del pasado y el futuro, es que A la deriva es una obra audiovisual incambiable. Urgente en su llamado, permanente en su efecto, necesario en su voz.

 

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