Short Break

Hi all,

I’m going to be taking a short break in my posting schedule. I’ve been experiencing a pretty low mood for the past 3 weeks and I feel like it is reflected in the poor quality of my posts over here. Plus, I find myself really forcing myself to update twice a week, so to be fair to you and myself, I’m just going to take some time off and try to work on getting my spirits back up.

I do really hate to interrupt my schedule, because the schedule is sort of the only thing that really keeps me consistently posting, but I need to take some time to work on my mental health.

In the meantime, if you want to share anything that usually gets you back in a better mood, please do share! I’m partial to cute animal videos but am open to anything 😀

Thank you for your support and understanding,
Starr

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Wonder Woman (2017) // review

[ NOTE: This review is in-progress but my wifi is spotty so I’m putting it up now for you to enjoy. Thank you for your patience and support! ]

Thank you to Hotchka DC for inviting me to view Wonder Woman early and to the Spy Museum for helping me win my 2nd-ever in-person raffle!

At. Long. Last. After actual decades of a Wonder Woman movie being discussed and passed from studio to studio, director to director, actress to actress, we finally have our first-ever live-action Wonder Woman feature film! Can you believe it’s taken so long? It has taken decades of pressure on studios to convince them that yes, a female standalone superhero movie is not even a gamble at the box office. People are interested in the character and her being a woman will not hurt your profit margin. In fact, women, who are also in possession of money to spend at the movie, are eager to buy tickets to see a movie starring a strong female superhero, THE strong female superhero.

TL;DR: Wonder Woman is a pretty standard Marvel movie with Zac Snyder’s visual signature and a female superhero.

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Quick confession: I have not been keeping up with the DC Extended Universe movies. I begrudgingly watched Man of Steel and found it as meh as friends’ reviews indicated, and I had almost no interest in watching Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. So, admittedly, my comments about the rest of the DCEU aren’t entirely fair, since I don’t have firsthand experience of seeing those films.

I say that Wonder Woman felt like a standard Marvel movie because it is very familiar, both with its positive and negative qualities. Even the structure and basic premise is quite familiar: Diana, aka Wonder Woman (although no one calls her that in the movie), is a bad-ass and optimistic character who does not understand the strangeness of our human ways and finds herself fighting in a world war with literal brute force. Many critics are saying that her origin story is like a mix of Thor + Captain America. (My faves! Chris Squared!)

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However, I think it has similar pitfalls to many superhero movies now. I’ve complained about it here before and I probably will never stop but I found the villain(s) to be poorly developed and lacking of compelling characterization and motivations. “Because he’s a bad guy” doesn’t cut it anymore as the answer to “Why is the bad guy doing the bad things?” We have several antagonists in this movie and I found myself not knowing very much about them at all. Just some menacing looks and vague ambitions of prolonging World War I in the face of an armistice and for what? Because! (I’ll discuss more of our villain characterization in the spoilers below the trailer.)

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One of my favorite, too-short, parts of this movie was the scenes on Themyscira, not least of all because they are uncharacteristically sunny for a DC movie! (Don’t worry, the rest of the film remains very blue-grey with spectacular flashes of yellow+orange for effect.) While the slow-motion that Zac Snyder often gets criticized for now gets tired, I liked watching the Amazons be bad-ass in slow-mo. Themyscira seemed very beautiful, if poorly protected from outsiders. (It’s an island in the middle of the ocean that is always a sunny paradise but around it is dark and cloudy and the seas are rough. Which means that, as per the trailer, a plane can just fly in. But also boats can basically just cruise on through. Whatever, it was refreshing to see a bright and sunny scene in this cinematic universe and all these amazing women doing awesome stunts. (Don’t fret, most of the movie is filmed in the dark or on suspiciously overcast days, as per the other DC films.)

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What’s not to love?????

Gal Gadot was a pretty good choice to play Diana, Princess of the Amazons. It goes without saying that she is incredibly beautiful. (My boyfriend and I became fans of hers when Fast Five came out.) She is also very bad-ass, as someone who trained in the Israeli military. While I did find myself wishing she was a little more expressive, she was very good at being naive and finding little pleasures in things like snow and babies. She also pulled off subtle comedic moments quite well. Her chemistry with Chris Pine, who always plays a charming guy with differing levels of douche-baggery (see: Star Trek, Into the Woods), was great. I really have to commend Chris Pine on playing Steve Trevor as a charming hero who recognizes that Diana is amazing and does not go hypermasculine in response to that. (It is unfortunate that this very basic demonstration of decency is commendable, but it is.) I felt that almost every other actor was… underutilized.

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Robin Wright gets top billing as the greatest Amazonian warrior of all time, Antiope, but she is so stoic and doesn’t have much depth, as with most of the characters in this movie. She is a general, she fights, she trains. She trains Diana to become an Amazon warrior against her sister, Queen Hippolyta’s, wishes. Why does Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, think that she can get away with just sheltering Diana away forever, anyway? It doesn’t look like Amazons age (and I mean, we know Diana doesn’t age at all between World War I and when she meets Bruce Wayne so I mean…) so trying to just wait it out seems foolish. That is never made very clear and, in the context of the events in the film and the very little circumstantial context we are given, it seems dangerously unreasonable.

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I must say that this movie is… not the kind of feminist movie I think I was expecting it to be. There’s a reversal of the male gaze trope where Diana walks in on Steve Trevor emerging from a bath. There really is no reason for him to be naked in this scene, or for him to be naked for as long as he is, but he is naked because nude Chris Pine serves as eye candy, both for the audience and for Diana, who has to ask if the first man she has ever laid eyes upon is “average for his sex”. Even with so many awesome Amazonian women, I feel like maybe there were scenes cut out of the film that would have fleshed some of them out more. For example, at one particularly emotional scene near the beginning of the movie, one of the Amazons runs forward in tears. I have no idea who she is or why she is moved more than the rest of the Amazons? She is visually differentiated from them when she runs forward but I don’t have a clue who she is, she doesn’t even look familiar to me, don’t even ask me to tell you her name. While looking for the movie poster for this post, I wondered if she is the mysterious 4th Amazon woman on some of the posters that feature the powerful women of Themyscira but, again, I just don’t know? And there is a severe dearth of women with depth throughout the movie, aside from Diana. Etta Candy, Steve’s secretary, is sassy and loyal. Doctor Isabel Maru, aka Doctor Poison, is……. uh… she likes poison gas? I don’t know?? It’s a similar problem that we encounter with the villains.

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Before I forget, I also was bothered that, while Wonder Woman and Sameer speak a few lines of a few different languages in one scene, the Germans are all speaking English. (Some with German accents…)  Steve Trevor does, however, put on a German accent when acting as a spy and talking to Germans. (???!) We know that we aren’t simply suspending disbelief because Steve Trevor remarks that Diana and the other Amazons speak very good English. Not perfect English, as everyone on Themyscira speak with a variation of Gal Gadot’s accent, but very good. I think if that line was left out of the movie, I wouldn’t be as bothered about the language thing but it is what it is.

(Also, I’m not sure I like Wonder Woman’s musical theme. It just doesn’t seem quite in character for her, and it plays several times throughout the movie and is featured prominently in the trailer. Not a fan of it, personally, for Wonder Woman.)

I liked this movie. It was a lot of fun and I think it will send the message that Hollywood can stop avoiding making films with female protagonists and should especially stop making excuses to not make female superhero movies. (How long have we been begging for a standalone Black Widow movie???) It isn’t a perfect movie and I don’t think it deserves all the hype it has been getting. Criticism that the fight scene at the end ruin the tone and pacing of the movie is valid, as is other criticism about what about Diana is actually valued by other characters. (Has she been reduced to a token female? Eye candy? The girl who men want to bang because she acts a bit outside of her gender role?)

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Still, this movie is important. It’s so important for young girls to see a character like Diana on the big screen because it’s astoundingly important to see yourself represented in the media. So to see Wonder Woman, a beautiful woman who does not compromise on who she is or the things that make her a woman, a person who does not fully understand why wars happen and the complicated nature of mankind, is extremely powerful. And it will be similarly powerful for movie audiences to use their ticket purchases to show Hollywood that this movie is overdue and that we want more like it.

Wonder Woman is in theaters everywhere today. Discussion of some spoilers after the trailer.

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Chicken or Cheeseburger // Story Time

I’m trying out something new where I just… share stories here? Let me know if you like or dislike this new post style, because I have a few drafted but previously didn’t really think they really fit here.


When I was a freshman in high school, our class went to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway as a field trip to supplement us having read PotO in English class. Before the show, we got dinner at a nearby restaurant (I want to say… it may have been Playwright Tavern but I’m not 100% sure now, several years later). There were almost 40 students there, so we were given a very simple choice for dinner to expedite the process for our chaperones and for the restaurant: chicken or cheeseburger.

Now, I don’t like cheese (you did not misread that, I really dislike cheese), so I naturally opted for the chicken. As our server went around collecting orders — “Chicken” “Cheeseburger, please” “Cheeseburger” “Chicken” — I let him know my order: chicken.

What ensued remains, to this day, one of the most confusing exchanges I have had with any restaurant staff or human person in my life.

Me: Chicken, please.
Him: Okay, cheeseburger.
Me: Sorry, no, chicken.
Him: … right. Cheeseburger.
Me: No, can I please have chicken.
Him: Sure, cheeseburger.

Sherlock Frustrated
(BTW I’m finally caught up on Sherlock please let me know if you want to discuss!!)

I was getting really exasperated and turned to my friends. “Am I saying chicken or cheeseburger?!” They confirmed that I was saying “chicken”, so I tried again.

Me: Can I please have the CHICKEN?
Him: Um, yes, sure.
Me: Okay great, thanks.
Him: Yeah, that’s fine, one cheeseburger.
Friend: WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT MAN?

The relief I felt with my friends (and eventually, my teachers) sticking up for me was immense. There was so much doubt in my head like… Am I saying “cheeseburger” every time when I mean to say “chicken”? Is my English somehow so atrocious that he keeps hearing “cheeseburger” instead? Meanwhile, my fellow 14-year-old friends are making clucking noises to indicate to our server that I want chicken, and when a teacher intervened to say “She wants chicken” we were finally able to get my order in. Chicken for Starr. Hooray.

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I wish the story ended here.

The food starts to come out, chicken and cheeseburgers all around, and I am waiting… and waiting… and waiting…

… my food never comes out. After all the trouble we went through to put in my order, all that clucking and flapping did not yield me any chicken. I wasn’t the last person to order, but my order was the only one not filled yet. Our teacher called over the server and asks where my order is.

“Oh, the cheeseburger right?”

What the hell?

NO PLEASE SIR WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME.

We clarify, pretty freaking firmly, that I ordered the chicken and not the cheeseburger. Our server repeats “chicken” to us, apologizes for the delay, and hurries off to  make sure my order gets filled.

Guess who they bring a cheeseburger out to?

At this point, I’m almost resigned to eat the cheeseburger, I really am, but I just can’t stand cheese. And the weirdest thing was the cheeseburger did not look good at all? Like it had been sitting for a long time, even though my friends’ cheeseburgers did not look like mine did.

………..

Eventually, I got my chicken. I have no idea how it tasted, because I remember almost nothing about my time at this restaurant except for the infuriating process of trying to NOT get the cheeseburger. I do remember having a great time with my friends and absolutely loving my first-ever Broadway show.

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Sometimes, when I struggle with ordering food at restaurants, I remember this situation and just consider myself lucky!

Have you ever had a weird experience ordering food somewhere before? I still wonder why they were so hell-bent on giving me a cheeseburger. Maybe it was a weird assassination attempt, I had seen something I shouldn’t have, and they needed to take me out…. via cheeseburger? That’s the only explanation I’ve got so far. Do you have any better explanations?

Another Busy Week

Hello and happy Friday! I have been a little bit low mood this past week, maybe from just being so busy and maybe from the transition from hot and humid to gloomy and rainy. (I haven’t seen the sun in almost a week, now…) But I’ve been doing a lot of fun stuff so I thought I’d share a bit of that here today!

2017 DCFemTech Awards

This year, several of my friends and colleagues were recipients at the DCFemTech Awards, celebrating women in technology in the DC area and their work. It’s really inspiring to see so many women getting recognized and encouraged, and I am proud to work alongside them.

Great turnout from my coworkers to support Hareem!

I was also able to see some friends from college that I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as get an ~exclusive~ after-hours look at the Washington Post headquarters and newsroom!

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Congrats again to Angela and thanks (again) for the tour!

Daybreaker: Music on the Brain

My first time attending a Daybreaker event was on my birthday back in December. I really loved the concept when I first read about it: early morning dance parties fueled by coffee, juice, and a love of dance rather than by sex, drugs, and alcohol, which aren’t my motivations for dancing.

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This month, Daybreaker partnered with the Kennedy Center, one of my favorite institutions in DC and of all time, to put on a great dance party on the terrace. It was crazy hot and humid but I had an awesome time dancing with my friend Megan at her first Daybreaker. Both of us saw friends we knew and had an amazing time sweating and dancing before a Friday work day.

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Megan and artist Yoko Shen, who performed a haunting piece to end the pre-work evening

InnoMAYtion Hackathon

On Saturday, I mentored a hackathon for the first time! I worked with Think of UsThink of Us to help think of ways to make their website for parenting teens in the foster system easier and more appealing for people to use. It was strange being one of the more experienced developers on a team, considering I’m still not very confident in my skills yet, but it was fun to work with that team and I learned a lot about the resources that are available to parenting teens and their caregivers.

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Cat Yoga

My friend Jen’s birthday was yesterday and I wanted to do something with her before she went out of town for her birthday weekend. We had talked about DC’s cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers, before but I hadn’t gone. I figured that even if Jen had gone a bunch of times, as an avid cat lover, it would still be a treat for me to take her to enjoy cats and pastries.

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Little did I know that Crumbs & Whiskers has recently been offering Sunday yoga sessions. WITH THE CATS. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, even though I was frequently startled by how often I would find a cat where I was going to put my hand or foot. Those precious kitties were worth all the allergic sniffles I experienced, and I got a great yoga session out of it, too!

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I also enjoyed a delicious brunch with Jen afterwards, and just remain so grateful to still be friends with this great girl I met at college orientation.

EdibleDC Eat/Drink Local

I recently won tickets (thanks BrightestYoungThings!) to EdibleDC magazine’s Eat/Drink Local, where I was able to sample so many delicious foods from local vendors all over DC. From local oysters to truffled gnocchi to blue (!!) cashew milk and an entire pizza, my belly was delighted to sample so many delicious foods and drinks from the area. I have been known to give the DC food scene a really hard time, but it’s because I know there’s so much potential and I want it to be better! It’s gotten so much better over the past 2 years and I can’t wait to see how much more it grows.

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You know I’m a sucker for a photobooth, especially if one of my favorite companies – UrbanStems – is helping run it!

Foodelicious Night

Did you know that the DC mayor’s office has a special division dedicated to Asian Pacific-Island affairs? It’s true! MOAPIA (Mayor’s Office for Asian Pacific-Island Affairs) has been putting on events all month for AAPI Heritage Month and I was able to attend Foodelicious Night, where 3 of DC’s most famous Asian and Asian-American chefs performed cooking demonstrations for us and let us taste it after! We had:

  • Chef Erik Bruner-Yang, the phenom chef who runs Maketto, one of the trendiest and most critically-accalimed restaurants in all of DC, period, and cooked for us a delicious Cambodian curry
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  • Chef Nobu Yamazaki, of the best sushi restaurant in DC, Sushi Taro, which recently won a Michelin star in DC’s first Michelin guide, and prepared for us 2 different sushi rolls
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  • Chef Xiaolong Hu, from Panda Gourmet, the best Chinese restaurant in DC that is famous for being the go-to authentic spot for Chinese embassy employees who are craving real Northwestern Chinese food, prepared for us pork belly buns

This was a really fun event because the chefs all had a lot of personality and prepared really amazing foods for all of us. It was such an incredible way to celebrate Asian cuisine in DC and how easily you can recreate it at home!

Megan’s Birthday Dinner

Last night, I met up with Don, Megan, and several of their friends for a birthday dinner to celebrate Megan! (Fun fact: She actually has the same birthday as Jen!) It was a lot of fun seeing some of Megan’s friends that I haven’t seen in years, or since her wedding last year, or just since the last time we all hung out. (Please tell me it’s normal to have trouble hanging out with friends at a higher frequency as an adult, it is very frustrating to me…)

It was a lot of fun to see everyone and to see Megan twice in one 7-day period!


It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and I’ll be spending it resting, cleaning, and maybe checking out some online sales!

How will you be spending the (long) weekend?
How was your week??

3-Ingredient Protein Pancakes

After many, many years on the internet, I have become the kind of person who regards “life hacks” and Pinterest/Instagram foods with suspicion. Sometimes, I just outright dismiss a lot of them. Make ice cream by blending frozen banana? That’s not ice cream, it’s just frozen banana? And yet there I was, very happily enjoying the soft-serve-esque texture of a blitzed-up frozen banana, begrudgingly admitting that the curated photos on social media didn’t lie this one time.

A similar recipe that I had many doubts about were the paleo-friendly 2-or-3 ingredient pancakes. In its simplest iteration, you mash up a banana with a beaten egg and fry up pancakes with the mixture — without it tasting like scrambled eggs with banana. I believe I attempted this once several years ago by beating an egg with a fork in a bowl and then mashing a banana into the egg with that fork. It was… meh.

But I kept seeing this recipe get touted over and over again, and other people’s photos of these pancakes looked a lot more like pancakes than my initial attempt.  Maybe I did something wrong? This recipe came back into my life as I started to remember why I am not the kind of person who is able to skip breakfast. These days, I am trying to be better about making sure I have a protein-filled breakfast so that I have fuel for when I do actually go work out in the mornings, since I have been feeling myself struggle a lot physically when I try to exercise on an empty stomach. I also feel myself thinking about lunch at about 10:30, which is pretty early to have your mind on lunch, if we’re all being honest here! While these pancakes are not allowed on Whole30, they are paleo, and I’ve found 2 added components have improved the entire process enough to make this a new breakfast staple for me:

  1. A blender (I use this super cheap personal blender)
  2. Protein powder 

The blender makes mixing it a much easier and smoother process, so I’m not left with a scrambly-egg + mushy-banana consistency. The protein powder makes it more like a pancake and less like banana-y eggs. I’ve also been adding spinach to the whole thing for a bit more nutrition. Occasionally I also add a bit of cinnamon to see if I can get any of its purported health benefits. I fry them up in some coconut oil (who am I…) and I have some healthy green protein-packed pancakes for breakfast so that I have some fuel in the morning!

Here’s the recipe, adapted from PaleOMG:

  • 1 ripe banana – the browner and riper, the sweeter!
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 scoops of vanilla/chocolate protein powder
  • Coconut oil (or oil/fat of your choosing)
  • Optional: handful of spinach
  • Optional: pinch of cinnamon
  • Optional: pinch of baking soda

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  1. In a blender, pulse your eggs and banana until you have a smooth, consistent mixture.
  2. Add in your protein powder, starting with 1 scoop and adding 2 if the consistency is too liquid, depending on the size of your banana and eggs. (You want the batter to be a bit viscous.)
  3. If the mixture is still fairly runny with the added protein powder, add a bit of baking soda to help add fluffiness and rise to your pancakes.
  4. Add spinach and/or cinnamon if you’d like green pancakes or a teeny bit of warmth.
  5. In a non-stick pan, heat a small amount of coconut oil.
  6. When the oil is hot, pour small dollops of the pancake into the pan to form 3- or 4-inch wide pancakes. Since they will be runnier than your traditional pancake batter, keeping them small helps them cook through a bit faster and makes them easier to flip.
  7. After about a minute, flip the pancake to the other side; you’ll know it’s ready to flip when the edges are browning and the batter on top is becoming a bit less funny.
  8. Cook on the other side for 30-45 seconds, remove from the pan, and place on some paper towel to get rid of any excess oil.
  9. Serve plain or with syrup, jam, whatever pancake accoutrements your heart desires.

Enjoy

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Clean eating green pancakes, a similar recipe from Emily at LouisianaBrideBlog

Have you ever tried a recipe you saw online and didn’t think would work only to be pleasantly surprised?
Are there any super popular internet recipes you think I should try? I haven’t tried very many of them but after some recent successes, I’m trying to have an open mind! Trying to get back into cooking more for myself, and prepping breakfasts and lunches in advance, so any recipe suggestions would be so appreciated!

A lot of things have been happening in the news that are difficult to ignore. I try to keep the tone on this blog positive and upbeat, not only for you, my handful of readers, but so that I have something positive to reflect on myself. Please know that I am staying informed, staying vigilant, and staying active in supporting a world that is good for more people than it was before.