movie

What Review is This? It’s “The Aristocats” (1970)

It’s 1910 in Paris. A retired opera singer named Madame Adelaide Bonfamille and her butler, Edgar, return home. Duchess the mother cat, and her three children, Berlioz, Marie, and Toulouse play around. Meanwhile, Edgar brews some milk to put the cats to sleep. The cats drink the milk and get taken away in a basket. The four cats end up frightened until they meet the alley cat, Thomas O’Malley. From there, they journey back to Paris.

This movie was amazing with its characters (with the exception of a few stereotypes), retro 2D animation style, French culture, and music. My favorite song from this film is “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”.

Duchess was very motherly and gentle with the kittens. Marie was a bit of a snob. And should she really have made goo-goo eyes at Thomas O’Malley? Speaking of which, Thomas O’Malley was voiced by the same actor who played Baloo in 1967’s “The Jungle Book”.

The hounds were great, too. I loved how the lead dog, Napoleon, claimed that he was the leader. Abigail and Amelia, the British geese, were hilarious. Uncle Waldo was okay, although he was not very developed except for his drunk-like attitude. I don’t think Disney or any movie geared toward families and children would get away with that today.

The songs were good, although there were only a few. While the movie was a good watch, to be honest, it wasn’t super-engaging. I don’t know why.

Nevertheless, I would rate “The Aristocats” 4.5 out of 5 stars. I would gladly recommend it today. It didn’t do as poorly as some Disney films (i.e. “The Black Cauldron”), but I was surprised to hear how many people don’t pay as much attention to “The Aristocats” as to “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”. However, the movie did do pretty well when it came out.

cooking

My Life with Making Steak

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Image above from Pixabay

Cooking steak is no piece of cake. I’ve been cooking since I was 12 and it wasn’t until recent years that I made full steaks by myself. Before, I would ask my dad or I would cut them up into strips.

If you like steak, you probably know that steaks are cooked rare, bloody, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done. I like mine medium-rare.

That can be challenging in order to avoid salmonella-poisoning. One trick I learned is to press lightly on a cooking-steak. If it bounces back immediately, it’s cooked and safe to eat. You don’t necessarily have to stick a knife into the steak and check the inside. You can, though, especially if you’re new to culinary arts. Another thing to know is that steak should sit a few minutes to let the juices out before you serve or eat it.

As soon as I knew how to cook a full steak, my method is patting it dry, seasoning it with salt and pepper, cooking on the stove in butter, and putting it in the preheated oven for as long as necessary. Recently, I’ve learned that meat cooks best if you let it sit to room-temperature. It really does make a difference by becoming more tender and cooked.

I would like to marinade my steaks, too. However, that requires a lot of time. My problem is that I decide to cook things last minute. I want to change that habit, though.

TV show

Hookin’ Up My Analysis of “My Life as a Teenage Robot”

The show, “My Life as a Teenage Robot”, was one of my favorites as a child. It focused on a teenage girl robot named Jenny Wakeman (or XJ9, as her mom often called her) who had to balance her normal teenage life with fighting crime and danger. Sound similar to “Kim Possible”, except that the protagonist is a robot?

The characters were great, such as Jenny, Brad, Tuck, and many more. The theme song also rocks. And the style of the art was very well-executed.

One of the most memorable episodes was when Brad found out that Jenny was built 5 years before the setting of the show. So she was technically 5 years old. Authorities took Jenny away from the high school and put her in kindergarten. She showed off as smarter than the little kids and acted like a jerk. When she was forced to go back to go back to high school, she whined, “I’m only 5 years old.”

Another interesting moment was when Jenny was solving a problem in Japan and something got altered in her system. Jenny lost her ability to speak English and could only speak Japanese. That was very unique.

Now what I wonder is if Jenny will ever reach adulthood. In that kindergarten episode, Jenny’s mom revealed that she was built as a teenager. So will Jenny ever go to college, get a job… retire even?

Yes, cartoon characters usually stay the same age for several seasons throughout the entire show duration or maybe age by one or two years. But I wonder how would Jenny feel when all her peers got jobs, married, started families, and so forth while she was still a teenager. Would she ever mature emotionally?

Oh, well. The show isn’t on anymore. I don’t think we’ll ever get to see more episodes of “My Life as a Teenage Robot” or learn more about Jenny herself. As of now, there probably isn’t going to be a reboot.

Still, the series was amazing with an imaginative concept and premise. I have no idea what shows Nickelodeon airs now, except “Spongebob Squarepants” and “The Fairly Odd Parents.” I don’t know about “Spongebob”, but “The Fairly Odd Parents” has made a lot of changes compared to when I used to watch it.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” didn’t last as long. But I still consider it one of my top childhood favorites for Nickelodeon.

movie

He’s the Boss – “The Boss Baby” Review (2017)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

I saw the trailer for this film many times. At some point, I was on a plane and decided to give this movie a try. I had no idea what the plot was until I watched it.

The story is narrated by a man named Tim. It focuses on when Tim was 7 years old and living a happy life with his parents. They bring home a baby in a suit. Like many little kids, Tim is resistant to having to accept a new baby in the family. He discovers the baby talking on the phone in an adult voice. When the baby holds a meeting with a few other babies in the house, Tim records their conversation. His parents see him trying to hurt his baby brother. They ground him. The baby takes Tim to Baby Corp and gives him a tour. Tim improves his behavior with the baby and his parents end his punishment. The parents go to Las Vegas and leave Tim and the baby with a nanny. Things are not going to go well. Tim and the baby have to go stop them.

This movie had a lot of interesting and unexpected concepts, such as how babies are made in that world and how babies need a special formula to function like adults or else they function like normal babies. Despite that, it seems unknown and inconsistent why Tim’s parents told him where babies come from (the real way… I’m obviously not going into detail on that).

The scene with Elvis plane and passengers was funny and creative. I liked how they had their own Elvis language. The growth and change Tim goes through was done well. When the boss baby has to leave, Tim is sad. There are even little figures removing all evidence of that baby and wiping the parents’ memories of the baby. It was so sweet how the boss baby was willing to give up his position and rejoin Tim as a normal baby. His name is then Theodore.

I would rate this movie 4 out of 5 stars and would gladly recommend it to anyone.

 

 

short fiction

Good Night Gone Wrong: A Flash Fiction Piece

Although there was no judging or awarding of first, second, or third places, I’d received a ton of compliments for my piano-playing and singing-performance of “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen”. People had said to me, “You were really great, Aliana,” despite the pause in the middle of the song. I’d blanked out for a few seconds due to my live-performance anxiety. But everyone experienced them, even the greatest and bravest performers—of anything.

            I sat on my bed and looked at my laptop. People posted pictures of me performing at Spotlight Night. Someone even tagged me.

            I’d thanked my mom for forcing me to practice my piano and voice performance for weeks straight rather than focusing on trying to get my anime comic published. I was only a high school junior after all. My birthday wasn’t for five months. In fact, I’d started attending the public high school in September. Before that, I’d attended private school—the same one since kindergarten.

            A message came up in my Facebook messenger. It was my best friend, Veronica. She said, “Aliana, I just came back from the hospital for a few weeks. I saw that you performed ‘Let it Go’ at Spotlight Night. Well, tell you what? That was my idea. You stole it from me.”

            I replied back. “Veronica, I am sorry you feel this way. However, I wasn’t able to contact you. I’ve visited you a few times and not once have you said that you had that song in mind first. You should’ve said something.”

            Veronica replied. “Maybe we should part our ways.”

            I lowered my jaw. No. She did not just say that. Or she didn’t mean it—she couldn’t have.

            I responded. “Veronica, you don’t have to do this.”

            But she did nothing. I waited a few minutes and surfed other parts of the web instead.

            I returned to Facebook. Veronica had still not answered me. Okay, maybe she had to get offline for something.

            I looked at my digital clock. It was nearly 11 P.M. Tomorrow was Friday. I turned off the computer and got ready for bed.

            I went on my phone to see if Veronica had gotten back to me. Nope. She couldn’t have unfriended me, right.

            I went to the “Who Deleted Me” app on my phone. And guess who was listed… Veronica Button. What? No. She couldn’t have.

            My energy drained. I looked down. My eyes watered. That girl had been my best friend since the first day. And now she was no more.

            I contacted my old friend, Lorenza from my previous school. But she didn’t answer.

            The tears streamed down my cheeks. I sat on my bed. There had to be some way to reciprocate.

            Wait, tomorrow was a gym day. Perhaps, I could talk to Veronica before or after our activity. She should listen. Maybe she’d had a bad day. So she should understand.

 

art

Fun with Photoshop

Lighting effect 3

Above is a lighting effect I did in Photoshop. That’s right, Photoshop is more than just editing photos, although that is the main purpose of it.

You can draw, paint, shade, and anything you would do with traditional painting. Errors are easier to fix. You don’t have to start over and redraw the thing you made a mistake with. Best of all, there is no mess to clean up. It’s just your digital palette which can be shown as a gradient bar or swatches. You can name your colors, too.

Just be aware that Photoshop is expensive and can be complex or abstract for those just starting out. I’ve used Photoshop for over seven years. It was one of my high school graduation gifts, along with a MacBook Pro.

You should also avoid letting it spoil you. Don’t allow the easy error-fixing shortcuts make you frustrated when you have to do traditional media . That happened to me when I was 19. I was a bit disappointed (although didn’t express it) to have to erase the eye on the portrait I was drawing and had to redraw it instead of transport it to the right spot quickly. That would be magic. And of course, that’ s not possible.

Another approach I’ve done several times was draw something by hand using pencil and then scanning it into Photoshop to color, like in the image below.

Little Girl Scan

Yup, you can color in Photoshop using the paint bucket tool. Photoshop recognizes lines and will color only in between them as long as there are no gaps. Even the tiniest ones can get unwanted elements colored in by accident.

Speaking of which, Photoshop uses pixels. If you draw an image in Photoshop and try to blow it up, it will look blurry. You can raise the dots-per-inch (DPI) to 300 and that’ll make it less blurry. But Illustrator might be better for enlarging a picture. That’s another topic, though.

Blending is also something you can do in Photoshop. Below is a portrait I did where I blended colors to add dimension to the subject.

20150613_195551_resized coloredYou can see the smudges, tints, tones, and highlights. It also looks tangible, especially the lips. I was trying to experiment with realistic textures in digital painting. Few simple digital art programs would offer something this complex.

So if you’re considering using Photoshop, take these into account. Get to know the program. Although I’ve used it for over seven years, there are still some techniques I have yet to learn.

cooking

Trick or Treat with this Sweet Skillet Cookie

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Ah, the gooey, chewy, skillet cookies–who doesn’t love them, especially when warm and topped with ice cream (which I didn’t use since I don’t have any in my house)?

Well, I used a recipe that was rated close to 5 stars, and had the best rating compared to the other recipes I found on Google. You start off by making caramel with the sugars and butter. Then you add the other ingredients.

I decided to add some extra ingredients to dress it up for Halloween. I know Halloween hasn’t come yet. But hey, stuff about that holiday is already happening.

So the additional ingredients I added were white chocolate chips (I like to use them in general, regardless of time of year), Halloween sprinkles, green sugar, and yellow and red food coloring. I think the problem that kind of messed up the recipe was the green sugar and possibly the sprinkles. The cookie ended up tasting too sweet.

I forced myself to eat it. I still have most of it in my refrigerator. So I have to find some way to get it consumed. I don’t think adding ice cream will be a good idea at this point.

I do usually enjoy skillet cookies. But something about this creation ended up not what I expected. I used unsalted and salted butter, by the way. Hmmm… perhaps, I should keep looking for more recipes. I think I’ll find a recipe just as well-rated. If not, better.

 

art

Collage Comedy

In college, I took a 2D design course. One of the assignments was to make collages of scenes in different moods. There were a few choices, but the ones I remember, and the ones I chose, were content and melancholy. We has to make them humorous or somehow positive. We also couldn’t use words.

I like to apply humor to many of my creations. In high school, we did slideshows on endangered species and I was assigned some type of wild pig (I can’t remember the species, though) to present on. I had a man lifting a big dumbbell and drew a pig over his head to show the hog’s strength. To reveal its lifespan, I used a picture of Pumbaa from “The Lion King” and drew a beard on him.

Of course, this isn’t a science post. I don’t specialize in science here on my blog. Anyway, let me show you the collages I made and why I used the specific scenes.

collage 1

This was the collage with the content theme. I always admired the idea of non-native species in certain areas of the world. I especially liked the idea of a non-native creature in Italy, such as the lion above in the gondola with a singing-man.

Obviously, lions don’t live in Italy. And no, I didn’t use the ancient Roman animal fights as an inspiration. Honestly, I don’t remember how I came up with using a lion. It’s been a few years.

And onto the next collage:

collage 2

Above is a dingo eating a baby as the assignment for melancholy. This is actually based off a true event. In the late 90’s, a dingo actually ate a baby. That is, of course, really sad.

However, at some point, people used that event as a way to express humor. It was a tragedy turned into a comedy. That was why I used this scene. It was the first thing that came into my mind.

Collages can be used as scrapbooking style, like random information about you. I’m assuming many people had to make them in school when they were kids. I most certainly did. They can also be used artistically to make images. I’ve actually done that in high school in an advanced art class. I don’t have them here on this post. In fact, I don’t know if I have them anymore.

But I found these after searching all over my room. I made them 3 years ago. They are still great to admire now.

travel

I Went the Distance to Greece in the Summer of 2015

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Image above from Pixabay

Greece is the home of the Parthenon and one of the oldest nations in the world. It also has beautiful islands, water, and architecture. When I went to Greece with my family, we went to Athens and one of the outer islands, which I can’t remember the name of.

We did sight-seeing, walked around, and went on a boat around the other island. We did a Segway tour, too. I was not the best, honestly. I stayed with the guide.

The food was very different than from in the US. The meat quality if higher and fresher. Olive oil is used on pretty much everything. In fact, it’s the dressing for traditional Greek salad. Greek salad from Greece also has no lettuce. The Greek dressing and lettuce Americans use is a tradition in the US.

Another moment that was unexpected was when a stray cat came up to our dinner table (we were seated outside) at a restaurant. My dad would chop up meat and feed it to the cat. We didn’t get caught, by the way.

One pitfall, however, was that outside of Athens, there wasn’t much variety in cuisines. At some point, I got sick of Greek food. I craved gravy, barbeque sauce (when I still could eat tomatoes), and other foods not traditional to Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece was a nice place to visit. It’s great after learning about the country in school. I had to study Ancient Greece in school. Didn’t we all?

movie

On the Way… Now a Review of “Ice Age” (2002)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

One of the greatest prehistoric-set movies of all time is “Ice Age”. I am amazed how much effort the creators did to use prehistoric creatures. They got to use pretty much any kind, except dinosaurs.

The three main characters’ voice actors did such a great job with their roles. John Leguizamo expressed such great humor on Sid the sloth. Ray Romano did a superb job as the cranky Manny the mammoth. Dennis Leary portrayed Diego the dark saber-toothed tiger very well.

And Scrat? Ah, you can’t forget him—constantly chasing his acorn. He may not speak or be part of the main trio (or the group of 4 if you add the baby), but Scrat’s moments are wonderful. There was one moment in the film where Sid, Manny, Diego, and the baby came into contact with Scrat.

Speaking of which, the film begins with Scrat, trying to get his acorn in the snow. He falls and the snow is gone. He catches his acorn, and a larger animal steps on him. The title sequence and opening credits start.

The animals are migrating to prepare for the ice age. Manny goes in another direction. Another scene shows Sid waking up and unable to find his family. After accidentally angering a couple rhinos, Sid runs from them and meets Manny. Sid shows interest in being Manny’s companion. But Manny is too moody and prefers to be alone.

Another point-of-view shows the human baby and his parents. Diego and the other tigers are watching. At some point, the tigers attack. Diego almost gets the baby until the mother catches him. She runs away with the child, but dies as she sees Manny and Sid. Sid takes the baby. Shortly after, Diego meets Sid and Manny. They begin their journey to return the baby to the other humans.

This film had a lot of action, humor, and emotional moments. The scene where the animal trio and the baby get separated in the ice slide tunnels was funny. The baby had no fear whatsoever. The animal trio was for the most part good with the baby. Diego didn’t always act appropriately to the child, though. Sometimes, however, he was brighter than Sid. Sid tended to be naïve and didn’t always make smart choices. Like when Manny suggested milk for the baby, Sid reacted with, “Ooh, I’d love some.” Diego clarified that Manny was taking about the baby.

The dodo scene was awesome. I appreciated their Tae-kwon-do scene when the main trio just wanted to give the infant food. And Sid won. There was a slow-motion effect as Sid fought the dodos.

Now the film is not without its flaws. There is one inconsistency I noticed. At the end, when Sid is getting emotional and teary as the baby has been returned to his father and the other people, Diego comes back and says, “You know humans can’t talk.” But the baby’s mother talked. Diego was even there. When she ran away with the baby, she turned around to the other humans and said, “Bye.” I guess Diego must’ve forgot by the film’s end—or had tuned out during that time. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, “Ice Age” was a fantastic movie. There are three sequels after, I believe. I would rate this 5 out of 5 stars.