Friday, January 29, 2016

On the Changing Temperatures

The air was so cold there for a while in the first half of January. Insulated shirts plus cashmere sweaters plus jackets and hoods and scarves and gloves and wool socks were all necessary items. It truly was winter.

And then came this past week, when the sun seemed so much stronger and the sky was often clear and the temperatures rose up to the high sixties in the afternoon and only dropped to about thirty at night. It's been energizing. I've spent some time doing some work outside. Inside, I've been encouraged to do more or to go about things more enthusiastically because it isn't as dark and as cold. And the sun is finally staying out a little later in the evenings. Almost it has seemed that spring is here.

Until we realize and remember that it was only a warm spell. February, generally the coldest month around here, is yet to come. Late March is the beginning of spring--and that is a ways still away. Today (Friday) the high is seventy, the low thirty-six. But on Monday the high is forty-six and the low eighteen, with a chance of snow. So one day you can be out in short sleeves and just a couple of days later you have to be all bundled up to step outside. Or maybe I should rephrase: at one time of the day (early afternoon) you can be outside in short sleeves and at another time of day (early morning especially but also at night) you have to be all bundled up to step outside. This is why I check the weather app on my phone at least twice a day, often looking also at the hourly temperatures: it makes such a difference toward what you need to wear.

The weather is bipolar out here. (I realize that other parts of the country also have cold fronts and warm spells around the same time--I'm talking more about the regular, drastic changes between cold and warm.) Up and down and back and forth. Sunny and cloudy. Dry and rainy. Warm and freezing. Not only do we experience all four seasons throughout the year, but sometimes we seem to get all four within a week or even a day.

It certainly affects your mood, too. Halfway between melancholy and joy. Bright again just when the winter was starting to wear you down. Rested again just when the warmth was getting to be too much. Never complacent, always moving, always changing, always rotating. That is the weather here, and I can't imagine it any other way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life and Death

That sounds like a philosophical title, like I'm just about to go into an exploration of the human condition, the meaning of life and the inevitability of death and all that. But no, it isn't that at all. I'm sure most of you (to whom such a thing would be of any interest) already heard last fall about the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight that Stephenie Meyer released on us all without any forewarning. Instead of just writing a foreword, she explains, she decided to gender swap a couple of chapters of the book and ended up doing the whole thing . . . which is now titled Life and Death and is included together with Twilight (you flip the book over to begin Life and Death at the "back").

If you have been uncertain on whether or not to read this superfluous, silly little thing that I think none of us were sure what to make of when it came out, let me suggest that you do read it (if, that is, you have any curiosity--and if you don't you're probably not still reading, anyway). If nothing else, it is . . . interesting. Now I will go into more details--which you may or may not want to read if you haven't read Life and Death yet.

As the book begins, it's hard to keep track of the characters. I was constantly rearranging them in my head, trying to remember that this character is supposed to be that character and that when it says "he" here it really means "she" in Twilight. Actually quite a mess to keep track of because instead of just reading the story like new, I was trying to fit it in to the images I already had of the characters and the story. I got more used to it as it went along, though. (Every character is gender swapped except for Charlie and Renee and the Volturi--even the cab driver towards the end of the book is a woman instead of a man.)

Most of the lines and content are the same. A few of the phrases are changed, some words here and there. Sometimes I recognized better wording and sometimes I kind of missed the carefree style and tone of Twilight (the writing style, that is: Bella herself isn't, of course, always carefree throughout). Where things are most different are where there are (subtle or greater) changes in the plot--except for the ending (which I'll get to later), these pretty much all have to do with the change in gender.

Bella is switched out for Beau and once you get used to the idea that your narrator is a he instead of a she, the transition is pretty seamless, more so than I'd expected. It's a very fluid change--for the most part. The small changes are sometimes funny, like when Beau finishes all the leftover lasagna so that there isn't any more for Charlie when he gets home (there was with Bella). The saddest change is the whole Port Angeles ordeal: for such a danger to happen to a teenage boy, guns and a bit of a backstory have to be involved. But for Bella, just being a teenage girl on a dark street was enough to put her in danger. Sad but true (pretty much--Beau's threat could've just been people beating him up for his wallet, but it had to be more dire in order to quite match Bella's situation and therefore stir up the same rage in Edythe as it did for Edward).

The fact that Carine (Carlisle) had to work as a nurse instead of a doctor for many years is also a little inevitably disappointing--because of course it has to be that way. I don't get, though, why there is no mention of the Civil War with Jessamine (Jasper): she could have been one of the women who pretended to be a man and enlisted in the army--I'm kind of disappointed that that wasn't in there because I think war was always such a big part of Jasper's life even before he became a vampire. But it's a pretty small thing.

Edward translates pretty easily into Edythe, too. This really helps emphasize, as Stephenie had hoped, the fact that Bella is the human in the face of the supernatural world versus the girl who needs to be helped by a guy. Edythe is stronger than Beau in exactly the same way . . . and gender has nothing to do with it. The only thing is that Edythe and Beau relate to each other just a little bit differently, even when the conversations are the same. Beau takes the lead in certain ways just a little bit more--and not just him feeling like he has to open the door for her. I suppose this could be a remnant of the fact that Edythe is from an era when women were trained to be more subservient to men, so she naturally lets him take the more dominant role (where appropriate--because, of course, she still yells at him and tells him what to do in certain other situations).

But Beau is less, hmm, submissive than Bella. Bella can have quite a stubborn temper, so submissive seems like the wrong word. But I think you know what I mean. Stephenie says that Beau doesn't have the "chip on her shoulder" that Bella has. I kind of wonder why. It makes Bella's quieter, more unsure of herself, hesitant personality seem more of a negative portrayal of a girl because that personality trait doesn't carry over into Beau. There are quiet, unsure boys, too (though, of course, the stereotype is for girls to be this way more than boys). But I think there is another reason. This book ends differently from Twilight. This book sees the end of Beau and Edythe's story, sees it come to resolution the way that Bella and Edward only did at the end of Breaking Dawn. Bella needed the time of four books to learn about herself. Beau, with only one book, has less time to work through his issues. So he kind of has to start off with less issues than Bella had. (Although I still don't know why a boy has to be OCD in order to care about organizing the kitchen, making dinner, and doing laundry--can't he just be neat and responsible like Bella was when she did these same things?)

It's interesting to see how the end of this book plays out with the "what if" of Joss (James) halfway wins and Beau turns into a vampire now instead of later. Strangely, it feels so wrong--not just because it's different from the ending of Twilight. It's wrong because he didn't have time to say goodbye to his other life, time to realize why he wanted a new life, time even to simply fall in love with Edythe in more detail (honestly, they only had a few days to get to know each other). So it's an imperfect ending, and yet that's what's interesting about it. It kind of takes you full circle and makes you realize, after you've been watching these other characters, what it was that worked so well about Twilight. The four books really allowed for the four stages in Bella's personal journey in a way that only one book can't quite cover.

So Life and Death was interesting. It's an interesting look at gender (although the claim is that gender makes no difference, what's interesting are the moments, however small, that have to change because of gender). It's a strange way to revisit a familiar story. And there's no pressure involved: it isn't really a real book, after all. The fact that it's included in the back of Twilight shows that it's just a novelty, just something fun to take a look at. And the "new" ending means that we need have no fear of sequels, either.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Trader Joe's: Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles

Mostly this box of truffles is interesting as an example of how to do a moderately nice set of truffles that still have a shelf life of longer than two weeks. Obviously the fresh truffles (which only last two weeks because they're made with fresh cream) are going to be better, but not everyone always has the time (or money) or even the means (they just don't sell fresh truffles where I live) to buy such truffles. So sometimes you want truffles with a long shelf life. Trader Joe's sometimes sells some cocoa-dusted truffles that I used to think were good--but that I now find less interesting. These are better.

They started selling them last year with the Christmas items (I know I said I was done with Christmas items, but I wasn't sure if I was going to do a review of these or not--and they're not really Christmas-y, anyway, right?) and the best by date is at the end of March. So at least a few months of a shelf life. Instead of cream, the ganache is made with caramel, corn syrup, and butter (no partially hydrogenated oils). And then there is the cabernet sauvignon (the maximum alcohol content is 0.5%). When you first open the box, the truffles do taste a little boozy. But if you let them get closer to that best by date, the alcohol taste seems to fade away somewhat. It seems that it was never intended to be strong, anyway: it's mostly there to elevate the taste of the chocolate, to make it seem richer and more complex.

And it works. The chocolate here is an average 70% cocoa content. A little dusty in flavor, definitely not too sweet and leaning a little more toward the bitter side (though also not really bitter, especially when tasted in such close proximity to the ganache). The chocolate shell is also about average thickness, neither too thin nor too thick. The ganache is smooth and cool, tending toward a silky texture (probably because of the caramel).

Oh, yes, and I've almost forgotten about the box (have I just been completely ignoring packaging lately? I used to talk more about packaging than the product inside). A thin, flat circle edged in silver calls to mind gourmet, bulk foods. Wrapped cheese and meat, for instance--especially what you might choose to pair with wine. Given the generally casual nature of Trader Joe's packaging (even when it comes to their Christmas cookies and confections, which are often put together to be gift-giving-friendly), this box is quite classy-looking. Very simple but with just the right touches--maybe that's why I thought these truffles would be worth trying (well, that and the fact that there's no partially hydrogenated oil)?

And you know what's also great? The lid just lifts right off and slides right back on, so you can keep using it to store the truffles for as little or as long time as you need. This may seem like a small thing, but I hate when an opened package can't be used again if you don't finish everything in one day. And these truffles are well enough made that just one or two is satisfying; they float just above the level of confections (which often have to be eaten by the handful).

So for those of us living away from fresh truffles . . . Trader Joe's is a good friend.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why Kylo Ren Is the New Darth Vader

Yes, Episode VII spoilers.

Months ago when the merch for The Force Awakens started showing up in stores, I was somewhat indignant that Kylo Ren was everywhere, trying to replace Darth Vader as the main villain. I didn't know who Kylo Ren was, so why would I be interested in seeing him everywhere (well, I did like Rey just because of her costume--but that's a different matter)?

And then we come to the character he establishes in the movie. When he first appears, it seems that he is an attempt at another dark, ruthless, evil character. So your first instinct is to compare him to Vader, to see how his mask's voice is different from Vader's, how (though tall) his figure is not as physically imposing as Vader's, how he walks about with such force and power and yet not somehow quite the same command that Vader had. And then at some point you realize that all of this is intentional; for me, the moment came when he takes off his mask while talking to Rey. In that moment, his character clicked into place.

As I've said before, I came to realize that Kylo Ren isn't just a character we call a wannabe--he is written as a wannabe. He wants to take the place of Darth Vader. He isn't wholly successful yet--but he's trying. And that's just as sinister, if not more sinister, than if he were a full, blown-out, flat baddie character (like Darth Maul, who always felt rather temporary and therefore not terribly powerful or important in the long run).

Back when I started thinking about Episode VII, I wondered how it was possible to continue the story, where the writers would take it. Both the OT and the PT are Vader's story, Anakin's story: it is his character arc that informs the most important part of both trilogies. He was Star Wars. So how do you make Star Wars without Vader? (And I realize that there are and have always been plenty of books and such that focus on other characters--but I'm focusing on the movies here.) Well, you have to create a new Vader. And what made Vader Vader not just as himself but also as an important feature of both trilogies was his character arc. That was where the value was, where the themes were, and where all my greatest interest was. So if you want to try and replace that, you can't just create a villain: you have to create someone with a significant and engaging character arc. And Kylo Ren is just that.

I keep getting more obsessed with this character (Vader will always be Vader--liking a new character doesn't have to replace the old ones). I love the theory that he's secretly trying to take over the First Order from the inside; it's so easy to find evidence for this. But the reality is more complicated, isn't it?

I keep pausing on his conversation with Vader's melted helmet. "I will finish what you started . . . grandfather." We've been so focused on the first phrase that what about that last word? "Grandfather?" Does that seem a little odd to anyone else? Okay, it can just be a line in there to reveal who Kylo Ren is, but that isn't really necessary because Han and Leia (and even Snoke) talk about who he is. Think about it. If he's such a fan of Vader/his accomplishments, then wouldn't he feel the need to have a little more decorum? Wouldn't he have some other title, something else to call this powerful, dark figure? Grandfather? It's such a familiar term, so informal, and it hints so much of kindness. (This could also just back up the idea that Ren simply believes he is in the right and isn't "evil"--but I like to think otherwise.)

So perhaps people are right. When he says grandfather, it means that he is talking of Anakin, not to Vader (Anakin's Force Ghost for Episode VIII, anyone?). And when he fears that he will never be as strong as Darth Vader, it is that he fears he will never have the strength to turn away from the darkness in the end as Vader did. There is that line of his, where he talks of feeling the pull to the light again as if it's a bad thing--but maybe it's a bad thing just because the timing isn't right? Or just because he knows he needs to continue the farce for a little longer, in order to accomplish something.

Whenever I try and remind myself of how creepy and sinister Kylo Ren could be, I keep getting reminded of that constant duality that is in him. When he's talking creepily/threateningly to Rey, he also could seem almost reluctant to actually look in her mind for what he wants--it's like he's trying to put it off (which could also mean that there is something about his "mind power" that works at a cost to himself, even that it's simply unpleasant to do). When he kills Han Solo, he cries. He talks for the whole movie about hating his father but then he cries when he kills him. It's just the best thing ever. Is he trying to be dark or secretly trying to be good--and does he even know what he's trying to do?

There wasn't so much mystery around Darth Vader in Episode IV as this, was there? Kylo Ren, if you're just getting started, this is a good start and I can't wait to see what else is in store. . . . So many years of guessing and theories and imaginings, that's what. (This reminds me of the time before Episode III came out. There was a joke about how Darth Vader's face was burned when he was taking cookies out of the oven . . . it's so funny now to think that we once didn't know how Vader became the burnt, mostly-machine figure he is in the OT.)

(Oh, and what's with the face-slashing of Kylo Ren by Rey? Usually the bodily deformations [hands and arms getting chopped off] happen in the second episode of a trilogy. So why does he get them now? Will he have scars? And why do the slashes on his face look suspiciously like the scars on Snoke's face? Snoke must be him from the future [has anyone built up evidence for that theory yet?] Maybe the slashes are just a physical representation of the deterioration that took place within him when he killed his father. I could talk about this all day--but I've already filled up the space of two or three posts, haven't I?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Changing Hair

Anyone who knows me who is reading this will laugh. But the subject has been on my mind in such a way that I've just really wanted to talk about it.

When I went to get a haircut a month or two ago, I discovered a white hair in the middle of my head. And I was immediately entranced. As the days went by, I would catch sight of it in the mirror above the sink, this shining white hair like a string of glitter. Such a gorgeous glistening. It catches the light like diamonds.

Sometimes it sticks right up on my head and I have to try and pat it down: it sits right where I usually part my hair and it isn't very long yet, so it always wants to stick straight up instead of falling to one side or the other. Sometimes that makes me think it would be easier to pull it out just so it won't be sticking up, but I can't bear to pull it out because I've grown so fond of it. And, anyways, if I just let it be then I think it will finally grow long enough that it'll fall straight down with the rest of my hair, whereas if I keep pulling it out it'll keep on sticking out.

You see, I've always said that I don't think I will ever dye my hair. I once briefly considered dying the bottom of my hair green (just temporarily while I could get away with it), then decided that I couldn't because that would be dying my hair, which I didn't want to do. I like my hair color: it's a nice rich brown. And I like my hair: I like it long and people always tell me it looks nice long (I've had random people tell me never to cut my hair). And so I figure, if I have this nice hair, why would I ever want to dye it just for the sake of a few whites? Why all those chemicals (yeah, I know there are some more natural hair products out there, but still I think it's unnecessary--we already use enough products as it is)? Why all the bother, the time and money spent dying hair? What for?

With all my comments, I've always known that it might be different when my own hair starts going white. But now, with my one white hair, I still find my position the same. Sure, I my feel different when I'm in my thirties with a lot more whites, but I hope I won't cave. I hope I just style my hair, do my makeup, put together my silly outfits, and enjoy my hair for simply being itself. (And by the way, no, I'm not really into the twenty-year-olds bleaching their hair white trend--that's still changing your hair color, no different from if you're dying it brown or blonde or red or purple.)

Maybe it's because people always think I'm younger than I am that I'm looking forward to age showing in my hair. When I was at the Disney Store last month, I seriously think the woman working there thought I was twelve (really? or maybe that's just her "Disney style" of talking to customers?). And a waitress last year guessed that I was twenty at the most, though I'm twenty-four (which isn't really much--it was funnier when I ordered a margarita in San Diego last summer and the waitress confessed she thought I was sixteen--and they know it's not a fake ID because if it were, it would say I'm twenty-one). This is the life of short, thin people--and it bothers me more than it should.

So maybe that's why I'm okay with getting whites. That instantly tells people that you have a few years on you--and I don't mind people knowing my age. I want them to. I don't want to pretend I'm younger. Yeah, I know I'll like looking ten years younger when I'm forty of fifty or sixty. But I don't need to look eighteen forever. I guess I grew up watching and reading so many older shows and books or historical movies and books, where age is simply something that happens. I watched a lot of The Andy Griffith Show, where Aunt Bee is older but there is nothing wrong or particular about that--even Andy and Barney and their girlfriends aren't too young anymore. Or I Love Lucy--same thing (well, maybe not, there is a lot of changing appearances to "look better" in this show--I just mean the idea of the characters obviously not being twenty anymore). Little House on the Prairie, where age is bittersweet: it means that you have lived.

I'm not an aesthete like Oscar Wilder: I see beauty in what is not "beautiful." (Ugh, when he talked about how manmade chairs are so much better than sitting out in nature--I wanted to tear his head off. I often prefer to sit on the floor to sitting on a chair, and nothing can compare to sitting within nature, I don't care what the chair is made out of. And so many chairs are cheap and horrendous--but I'd better let it go now.) I hope that I don't mind carrying my life on my face because I hope that I make my life into something that I won't mind sharing, visually, with the rest of the world. I hope that the creases will be in the right places, from smiles instead of frowns. I hope that when my eyelids start to sag, my eyes will remain bright underneath them. And I hope that as my hair turns white, I will still be caring for myself--and cared for by others. Life means change: that is time and life is made up of time and only you can decide how to live your time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trader Joe's: Magic Beans

Okay, this review will be quick because, frankly, there isn't much to say.

Being that this is the Southwest, beans are one of the staple foods: they're healthy and easy to make and they go with pretty much everything and they come in so many varieties, too. So the idea of chocolate beans looked funny and cute and so of course I just had to try them. The look here, though, is different from the Southwest: they're Magic Beans. Magic beans go with a world of fantasy, with giants who live up in the clouds and that sort of thing.

So while the colors are fairly toward the natural tones, they also have a touch of whimsy. Green and a sort of white-purple, with only a few brown--and all speckled. Visually, they're pretty, though of course the packaging is quite simple, as is usual with Trader Joe's products (hey, it's how they keep the prices down). The surface of the candies is pretty shiny with all that coating, but I guess that's the norm, isn't it?

Now, the label says that they're "chocolate covered nougat beans." The nougat sounded a little odd to me, but I wanted to try them and I do, after all, like nougat, so the idea was appealing to me more and more the more I thought about it. And then I got my knife out to cut one of the beans open to show the inside in a picture, and instead of finding a nice soft nougat my knife had a tough time getting into a rather hard interior. As it turns out, the inside is what I would call toffee, not nougat. Hard, honey-colored candy that kind of sticks in your teeth.

I like toffee, but the label says nougat and I've always known nougat to be soft and toffee to be crunchy--I think that's the general way, even if technically (after I looked it up, that is) nougat can also be crunchy. So I do have to mark down some points for the mislabeling: you want to go with the names that people are generally used to. Or at least call it "crunchy almond nougat" or something like that.

Labeling aside, they're pleasant candies. The milk chocolate coating is fairly flat in flavor: it's just a sweet something to hold in the nougat. The nougat has small slivers of almond that probably add to the crunch (though the candy section is crunchy enough on its own that the crunches are indistinguishable) and add just a touch of nutty flavor. Nothing is particularly special, though they are good and better than a lot of standard grocery store candies (Trader Joe's does tend to have better sweets). I wouldn't probably specifically set out to buy them--but I also wouldn't mind having more if more somehow ended up in my hands.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Writing Adventures: Part 3

Click here to read Part 2.

I've always been grateful toward Kaleb Nation (author of Bran Hambric and Harken): he used to talk a lot about writing and publishing, giving inspiration toward other writers and describing how the whole process had worked out for him. I was in college around this time. So he was kind of like the motivational speaker I was hearing, the person saying that you can do what you want to do and you can make it work. So even though I was always reluctant to say that I wanted to be an author (because I've always been a writer), Kaleb helped me remember that if I wanted to, I could be.

And he also gave some practical advice. He pointed out, which has information about literary agents and about how you write and format query letters to them asking if they would like to represent your book. I would visit this book from time to time, reading different sections of it. And then when I had finished writing and editing my book, I started putting together a list of agents who might be interested in it and writing my query letter.

This was unbelievably difficult.

You know how, when you're in school, you adopt a certain writing tone for essays? One that isn't really yours, even though you're also graded on "voice?" That's how it was writing a query letter: it has to be professional and include certain information. Except the thing is, you have to adopt a certain tone while also demonstrating your specific writing voice as a sample of the tone you take in your book. And that's hard. You have to play by the rules while also trying to stand out, so to speak. Oh, yes, and you have to give each agent specific reasons why your book will appeal to them specifically.

I wrote one letter that I sent out to a few agents. Then I rewrote my letter and started sending out that one instead. And from this second letter I started getting some results: I started getting the occasional rejection. At first I thought, this is fine, they say that getting rejections is good because it means that they took the time to at least give you an answer (as opposed to not answering you at all, which happens quite a bit). And a few people asked to see either a full or a partial of the manuscript. But after a while, as months were passing, it was all starting to wear on me.

I started to feel like I was wasting my time, like no one that I was trying to reach out to would be interested in my book, anyway. So many of these agents want a book that has mainstream potential: my book, in theory, doesn't really. It's more localized, more specific; I know there is an audience for it, but not (in theory) a mainstream one. So trying to convince a busy literary agent in New York that my Arizona book is worth their time just wasn't working out. I had one rejection at least tell me that my book sounded too abstract for their agency; I was grateful that they were so specific.

Given the fiction that's generally considered abstract ("The Wasteland" or Endgame or even something like Mrs. Dalloway), I don't exactly like to use the term toward my book. Abstract also implies that it's difficult to understand; yet I find my book very straightforward and simple to understand in its almost blatant expression of them (blatant sounds like a negative word; I would look for another word, except that this one gets my point across so easily, you see). It doesn't have much of a plot, but does that really make it abstract? To agents and publishers apparently it does. (I've been toying with the phrase "poetic fiction" lately--how does that sound?)

So I came to realize that, unless there was something very wrong with my query letters, my book just wasn't what literary agents look for. And that's okay. If the problem was that my book didn't sound mainstream enough, then that was just fine with me: I did want to create a very specific type of book, so if only certain people (especially at first) found it interesting, I had no problem with that.

Next time: I approach smaller publishers that don't require literary agents.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rey's Survival Guide

Probably some light Episode VII spoilers in here.

If I hadn't been wondering whether or not this book was worth getting and then ended up really liking it, then then there probably wouldn't be much need for a post. But given these two facts, I think a post is in order.

Like everyone else, I love Rey's character--and I knew she would be great even before the movie came out, just from that cool outfit they gave her. So a book called Rey's Survival Guide, which would presumably be about her life on Jakku? Sounds great. But, you know, you see the cover (which is designed almost like a magazine), you see that it's a short 96 pages, and you see that the age group is 6-9 years, and you sort of wonder if it's a book you should be getting, after all. But it's also $10 (I got it for around $8), and it's a nice and sturdy hardcover.

So I bought it and I finished reading it pretty quickly--and it was pretty good. It would have been much nicer if the outside cover matched the inside; it needs to have the look of a journal on the outside, too. That would be a better indication of what's on the inside. This book is designed just as if Rey put it together, writing commentary and drawing in pictures and putting labels on things. She moves from topic to topic (the landscape, the ships, the people, etc.), describing what she has learned from her time on Jakku and how she manages to survive living there.

It's pretty bleak content, really. We've all seen Jakku. It's a sandy, hot environment with no cities or means to earn a livelihood except for scavenging in the graveyard of ships, attempting to sell salvage to Unkar and hoping he'll give you a fair deal. So whether or not you want a six year old reading Rey's cautioning that you can slice yourself open on jagged metal inside one of the ships is up to you (or about how the ship graveyard is full of the bones of all the people who were on the ships). But it's interesting reading: it has just enough hint of a storyline, even though it's really just descriptions of different facets of Rey's life without many actual events.

Though there are a few hints of events scattered around. If you read Before the Awakening, you'll see Rey's references to the ship she worked on in that book. And she talks about her childhood a bit. It's like you almost have hints about who she is or how she came to be where she is--without actually getting any info. So that's great for feeding the great mystery about Rey's identity (because even if she is Luke's daughter, how exactly did she end up on Jakku, and without any memories of who she is?).

There is a decent amount of description of the ships and their different components in here since that's a huge part of Rey's life, picking through the crashed ships to find anything salvageable. Even though it isn't in too much depth, I'm still thinking that most (not all, of course) 6-9 year olds would find it a little too much to read about, though I suppose they could look at the pictures without reading all the text (but the text is printed out in a way that where it looks meant to be read). So I'm really not convinced that that's the target audience (which is why I wish the cover were a little different). Sure, the text isn't too lengthy or too in depth, but it's something that I think people of different ages who can't get enough of the movie or are curious to learn more about Rey will enjoy flipping through.

And honestly, I really love the handmade feel of the inside of this book. The font is designed to look handwritten but it isn't too sloppy, childish, or hard to read. The sketches are great to look at. (Though I do think it's odd how every so often something is made to look like it's taped in. Tape doesn't feel very Star Wars, and even if Rey did have tape, would she really use it just for a journal?) There are also a few fold-out pages, including a great one of an AT-AT. I'm kind of in love now with Jakku (as a fictional place because no, of course I don't want to go live there). So if you're interested in this book but not sure if you should get it or not, I'd definitely say to get it.

The Novelization & the Second Viewing

Yes, there will be spoilers of The Force Awakens.

We're all just taking Episode VII into our skin now, aren't we? Back when they started releasing all the march before the movie last year, everything looked so foreign and unknown and now it's all becoming familiar and part of the whole picture. Now Episode VII is moving away from being "the new movie" to simply being the seventh installment (wow, are we really on seven already?).

The Book

I guess we'll start with Alan Dean Foster's novelization. (Side note: his author bio paragraph says he lives in Prescott, Arizona--really? He lives just right there? I've probably walked by him at some point; that's so cool that someone just right there wrote this book.) The tone of the narration is just right: something about it (like the movie, I guess) hits right in between the narrative styles for the original trilogy's novelizations and those of the prequel trilogy. It's more updated than those older books but it also has something of that (I almost want to call it more "sci-fi" style, though that isn't quite what I mean) style. Neutral, straightforward, good use of descriptions (not overdone but always used with weight and meaning when it's called for). And a look into different characters' heads.

It was strange reading the novelization after I'd only seen the movie once. It was a way of reliving the movie--but it was also odd because I hadn't had a chance to memorize lines and conversations and scenes yet. So it wasn't until I saw the movie again that I really realized where certain conversations are extended in the book and which pieces are added in/developed in more detail. There was less extending in here than with the prequel trilogy's novelizations: here, it was more about making conversations a few lines longer than about adding in whole new scenes. So I would say it's more about relieving the movie than adding much to it (which is perfectly fine). It was great fun to read and go over favorite scenes with a little more leisure. I got the Barnes & Noble copy, which has a couple of color inserts that include pictures from the movie--it's very much in the look of the 1976 edition of Star Wars that they released before that movie came out (Can you believe that I actually have that edition? Antique stores are so wonderful; I just happened on the book sitting randomly underneath a cookbook, where I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been making it a point to check spines.)

The Movie

And now the second viewing of the movie. I watched it in 2D this time because I wanted to see it in the Cine Capri theatre at Harkins (which is a much bigger screen, though not as big as IMAX [which I find too big], and also includes Dolby Atmos sound). I'd forgotten how great the Cine Capri is; it really is the best way to watch a 2D movie.

I still found the title sequence so beautiful. And this time it's like I was watching in a completely new way in regards to character: I knew a little bit about who everyone was this time, so I could easier see what's going on in every scene. Kylo Ren just keeps getting better and better the more you think about his character: there is something so soft and warm about him that just makes him even more terrifying when you realize that, despite this, he wants to be dark. And Adam Driver plays him so well: there is so much depth to the way he plays every subtle thing that I know there is so much more that we're going to get from this character.

And the way that he relates to Rey. In such a specific way. For a brief moment, I even wondered if it was possible if she was his daughter. I know, the actors are only about ten years apart in age, but if Padme was supposed to be 14 (Natalie Portman certainly wasn't 14) in The Phantom Menace, then maybe Rey was 16 (they do keep referring to her as "the girl") and Ren was 34? But no, the novelization says that Rey isn't quite twenty. So that rules out that theory. But I'm just starting to think that my initial thought that Rey is Luke's daughter might not be quite it: it seems too obvious. And she can't be Han and Leia's (Leia makes such a big deal of wanting Ren back that I don't think she would act so neutral about Rey if Rey were her own daughter).

That made me wonder if she isn't related to Kylo Ren at all--in which case maybe she might develop into his love interest later on in the movies, which would enable her to be the one to turn him away from the dark side. (Is it weird that I just went from her being his daughter to his love interest? Sorry.) I feel like there is a certain something about the way that he relates to her that could support this possibility--but it just doesn't quite feel right, either, does it? I have a feeling that the answer might be something that none of us are expecting, a theory no one has said yet--in which case we'll just have to wait.

So I'll go back to thinking of them as cousins for now, flip sides of a coin. I mean, don't you love that picture that's on the book cover, with them right next to each other, his lightsaber right up against her staff? Whatever the connection between them, I love the constant comparing and linking of them. It's very Star Wars, the ideas about light and dark and balance and whatnot. And when he tells her that she needs a teacher, I think there is more to that line, something more that we don't know yet. It is easy to find evidence for that theory that Kylo Ren is only pretending to take part in the dark side just to defeat the First Order from the inside (very easy, almost too easy--even if the theory isn't the case, I think this shows just how complicated his situation is). You could take it as he's pleading with her to fight back enough that he can't defeat her--even though he also seems so taken aback every time she shows how powerful she is/can be.

The first time I saw the movie, I was content simply to say that it was good: I didn't need to determine how good it was. But now that I've seen it again, I realize that it was in fact good. This movie, like those that came before, will last generations. It's kept to the same things that we recognize and love while also introducing a new take on everything for the next chapter in the story. Everything is becoming familiar and lovable, from the big things like the friendship between Rey and Finn to the little things like that fantastic bird on Jakku that eats metal that you see in only one quick shot.

I've been thinking about a couple of other things, too. Star Wars has never really had flashbacks. But Episode VII keeps referring to things that have happened in such a way that I wonder if we'll have flashbacks in the next movie. How will we learn what happened to Luke, to Ren, and to Rey? Will we see some of it happen in flashbacks, or just have it all explained to us? It feels like the answers are too complicated for quick explanations. But I've been coming up with some possibilities.

You know how Ren goes into people's minds to take information? Well, maybe Rey had memories erased or blocked from her mind in a similar way. I'm guessing that Rey is Luke's daughter, so after Ren went bad, Luke was worried that he would fail Rey in the same way. So to protect her from himself, he sent her away/stayed away from her and to protect her from Ren, he blocked her memories. That would explain why, when she comes to him on the island, he has such a sad look on his face (which I didn't even notice the first time). But whatever happened before, presumably he's going to train her now--and what advice will he give? What advice can he give?

As the last sentence in the novelization, what will happen next? I can't wait to find out but I'm also going to try and savor the wondering for the next two years (after all, when I was young I got to watch the whole original trilogy in a row without having to wait years in between each one--the prequel trilogy is different because you always knew how it was all going to end, in general if not in detail).

Monday, January 11, 2016

Chocolatissimo: Donut Chocolates

On a completely different side of the spectrum from Salazon's Gingerbread bar is my other Christmas chocolate, a set of Donut Chocolates. In fine print, the box says they're made by Chocolatissimo (the back of the box says Chocolaterie Ickx) out of Belgium. What interests me most, though, is just the cuteness.

Look at them. Nine little chocolates (the total is six ounces, so that makes them just over half an ounce each) decorated like little donuts. Maybe it's because I've been really wanting to make donuts again (I just have enough people around to make it worth all the time and ingredients) that I couldn't resist the look of these. I haven't even been wanting to eat them because I've been worried that the taste wouldn't match up with the cuteness. Because even with the fun chocolate designs, the box is pretty standard without anything special about it.

The chocolates sit on a clear tray that holds them in place but does nothing for visuals. There are three Chocolate Cremes (with the dark brown), three Caramel Cremes (with the lighter brown), two Strawberry Cremes (with the pink stripes), and one Vanilla Creme (right in the middle with the brown stripes). Kind of an odd way to arrange the flavors; it seems that there should be an even number of all the flavors, or at least more than one of each flavor in case you're sharing with someone (that's why I only like sharing my leftovers).

I tried a Chocolate Creme first since it seemed like the most standard flavor. And it was rather a bit better than I was expecting. I hadn't been planning on taking a picture of the insides, so I had to get a hasty picture of this one just to try and explain what the filling is like. It's kind of like what some restaurants pass off as flourless chocolate cake: a kind of rich, kind of sweet, chocolate substance that isn't quite crumbly and also just melts in a very particular way in your mouth. So you have that with a little bit of dark chocolate on top and a little bit of either colored white chocolate or very pale milk chocolate, and it all comes together to create a sweet little confection that could in fact pass for a dessert.

Next is the Caramel Creme, the only chocolate donut with sprinkles. It doesn't have any caramel (on its own, at least), just the flavor of caramel mixed into the chocolate. So you could also call this a maple donut since it's pretty much the same flavor. The filling here is lighter in both color and texture, though mostly similar. Everything is much sweeter here, enough that I'm almost glad for the crunch of the sprinkles to help lighten the greasiness. It's a nice candy if you like caramel and chocolate.

Strawberry Creme has, you guessed it, a pale pink filling that's almost slightly frothier in texture than the Chocolate Creme's filling. It has the same strawberry flavor as ice cream does, making this feel a little more like an ice cream chocolate than a donut chocolate. Having only white chocolate and that pale chocolate (which I'm guessing is just colored white chocolate rather than pale milk chocolate), this one is probably even sweeter than the Caramel Creme.

And last is the Vanilla Creme, the lone donut that cannot be shared because there is only one. A smooth, white filling has the same flavor as white cake and Vanilla Tootsie Rolls (the ones that come in the blue wrapper). So more of a candy vanilla flavor than just a straight vanilla flavor. And again, just the white chocolate and the pale chocolate, so lots of sweetness. Maybe it's a good thing there is only one of these.

You get the idea, right? It's pretty simple: cute chocolates that have to remain as candies because they're so sweet and the flavors aren't the freshest (after all, they're also packed with vegetable oils to have a shelf life of months). The Chocolate Creme was the best, followed by the Caramel Creme. So if there were less white chocolate in this box, my comments would probably be more favorable than they are. As it is, these chocolates were just fun: plain, cheap, cute fun. And I'm enjoying eating them.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Awakening of the Art

I used to like when, at the end of an episode of Wishbone, they would show a clip of how they had made the sets or something like that. And my interest in watching behind-the-scenes as a child translated into an interest in movie books as I got older. What started as just a couple of movie companions has now grown into quite a pile, one that's also more diversified and detailed than just movie companions. So while I wait for the movie companion for The Force Awakens to come out, I've settled in with the art book by Phil Szostak.

As far as movie art books go, I guess what I've mostly read are the ones Weta put together for The Hobbit (I have the last one sitting waiting to be read, by the way--I do promise I'll get to it before too long). This one is very different from those. Those are more about pencilled and painted sketches or illustrations, with many small images of anything from sets to props to small clothing items or accessories. And it had lots and lots of captions and quotes.

This one is more brief, though it still comes in at around 250 pages. The images are more done by computer, often collaborations from different people who worked on the movie (one did the background, one did the characters, one colored it in, etc.). There are also a few photographs (just a few). The computer-made images are less interesting, to me, to look at of themselves--so I was focusing a lot more on the decisions they were making design-wise in each image (which, of course, is the point: it's concept art).

The commentary felt fairly brief to me. Each section has a short introduction, maybe a couple of paragraphs, that's focused more on explaining who was working on the project at the time/who had stopped working on it and what exactly they achieved during that time period (an approved design for Kylo Ren or a certain ship, etc.). Then the pages with the images tend to have a couple of quotes about the images. Each image does have a caption with its title and the artist; however, these captions usually weren't enough for me. I wanted to know a little more. Sometimes I almost felt a little confused about where the images were for, which set or which part in the story. And sometimes I just wanted to hear more elaboration, more talk about what they liked about one design or why it didn't work out. I wanted a little more discussion. I guess the images are supposed to speak for themselves.

Which, I mean, they do: I'm not saying this wasn't a good book. There is a lot to look at and any glimpse into the creative process and how a concept grew into a movie is interesting to see. Some things started out very different from the final product. The way the book is organized (by timeline rather than by object, location, or character), you may get a couple of pictures of ships next to some images of Kylo Ren, then get another group with more ships and some characters in Maz's castle, then maybe the Falcon and more pictures of Kylo Ren. I'm more used to having each item grouped together (all the pictures of Maz's castle together, instead of spread around, for instance), but this format does give you a better idea of how the process actually happens: not everything is linear.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lucy & Susan with Aslan

In one of my college classes, we read a couple of The Chronicles of Narnia (LWW and LB, I believe), and at some point a conversation arose about C.S. Lewis's portrayal of female characters. There was some question of whether he portrayed femininity in a positive light; some people pointed out that the good characters are generally less feminine (Lucy, for instance, wields a bow and Aravis is rather what we once called a tomboy) and the weaker characters are more feminine (Susan gives up on Narnia in favor of "nylons and lipstick" and Lasaraleen loves clothing and shopping). Now, I think it's all a little more complicated than that. Being feminine, for one thing, isn't just about liking makeup and lipstick--Lucy is also feminine. And sometimes the disdain for makeup/clothing is meant more as disdain for materiality. Additionally, these are children's adventure stories, and often children aren't particularly feminine or masculine yet: they're just children. C.S. Lewis is actually fairly equal in his portray of children, if you think about it: LWW focuses on two girls and two boys, and MN, HHB, SC, and LB all focus on a girl and a boy. PC and VDT do have more boys than girls, but Caspian is such a great character that I don't really mind--and I never even thought about it before, anyway.

All of this was just leading in to a newer thought I was having. I was on the side to defend C.S. Lewis's portrayal of female characters (some people also pointed out that he himself simply didn't know very many women very closely; after all, he didn't marry Joy until fairly late in life), so I realized another way of looking at scenes. It's kind of like when people talk about women in the Bible, saying that there aren't very many or that they're in inferior place to men or whatever--when you actually look at individual women, there are some very important, positive things to notice about who they were, what they did, and how they were received. Same thing with Narnia.

There are several instances, from as small a thing as the arrival of the cabman's wife in MN to something bigger like Aslan's "choosing" of Lucy to receive his messages and help bring the others to Narnia (I'm thinking of scenes in both LWW and PC). In fact, Lucy is the most "chosen" character out of the whole series, followed perhaps by Caspian (though he is chosen simply to lead a country, while Lucy is chosen for almost more of a spiritual position). (Peter may be the High King and he does play that role well, but he never really feels as important as Lucy.) Aslan is constantly appearing to Lucy, often to Lucy alone. Yes, he appears to other characters, like that wonderful scene with Shasta in HHB (that scene is one of my favorites, where he's walking next to him), but those scenes are usually more on a persona, one-on-one basis. When Aslan appears to Lucy, he is asking her to tell others what he wants; he is trusting her with his messages and asking her to have faith for them all. That's a big deal.

So the main scene I've been thinking of is in LWW when Lucy and Susan walk with Aslan to the Stone Table. Just think about that scene. I remember watching it in the animated movie, and even when I was young, that scene just had such a resonance, such a weightiness, such a sense of significance. The fact that Aslan is allowing these two characters, these two girls, to walk with him on this night, to set hands in his mane, really says something about how they are viewed. They are special and important in order to be welcomed into this place. And they repay their favor by being with Aslan after the White Witch kills him, by trying to untie the ropes that bind him. In turn, they are rewarded by being the first to see him come to life again. And that, too, is big. Okay, you can say that C.S. Lewis wasn't giving any special place to women because he was only mimicking Biblical scenes, but wouldn't that make you pause, too? Because if this position is special for Lucy and Susan, then it really was for the women in the Bible. It's a special place, definitely a special place.

What a beautiful moment in fiction it is, too: Lucy and Susan, walking side by side with a great lion during the darkened night while he willingly walks to his death with only their company.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Salazon Chocolate Co.: Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Gingerbread

I never seem to get Christmas chocolates all reviewed before Christmas is over. The problem is, I often don't even get them until Christmas day, and then I have to wait until I have a chance to sit down and take pictures and write up the review. So. Here is a holiday chocolate bar from Salazon Chocolate; after all, gingerbread shouldn't be so out of place in January, anyway. It's still cold out (and so cloudy all week, too).

I was positive that I had tried something from Salazon Chocolate before, but after glancing through their website's product list, nothing looks familiar. Maybe I've just seen their chocolate around. The flavor of this bar, gingerbread, is exciting, though the packaging puts up an ambiguous first impression. At first, it looks great: a basic chocolate bar style but with a dash of holiday imagery. Then I start to wonder if it looks cluttered, both visually and in terms of the content: lots of words in the brown box on top, lots of words in the main label in the middle, and all the little logos at the bottom--and how can sea salt and gingerbread go together? And as readers will know, I'm not usually fond of chocolate in the 50% range; usually I find it too boring, too dark to be pleasant but also not complex enough in flavor to be interesting. So after my initial interest in the gingerbread flavor, I hesitated.

And then I unwrapped the paper and the gold foil and out emerged this beautiful bar of chocolate. It's gorgeous. Given that the imagery has nothing to do with gingerbread, I expect that this is Salazon's usual chocolate mold, and it's one of the best I've seen. A map of Central America, the top of South America, and the eastern coastline of Africa, complete with little markers of the Equator, the Tropics of Cancer/Capricorn, and the oceans. Salazon's name is right there in the middle. The level of detail in this map is surprising, as is its smoothness: I had to look pretty hard to find the six or so tiny little air bubbles.

The back of the bar is, of course, plain. On its surface you can see the sea salt, much less than I was picturing there would be. My picture of a corner of the chocolate shows one of the more heavily sprinkled areas, so you can see that there was no over-salting going on, which very much eased my worries about strange flavor combinations. Now, Salazon claims to be the first salted chocolate company, explaining that they are very careful about the salt/chocolate ratio, using the salt to balance out the flavors (specifically of sweet/bitter) just as salt has been used for generations to season other foods. Given that they started around 2009 or 2010, perhaps they're right: I remember salt becoming all the rage in chocolate a little bit after that. It started with salted caramel, then moved into chocolate. Either way, I can agree (from this bar) that Salazon speaks truthfully about controlling the exact amount of salt: this bar is definitely not over-salted (as some chocolate I've had).

It smells and tastes of gingerbread, not salt. Very warm, spicy, and rich gingerbread. It almost tastes like there is a dash of cayenne or something like that; the ingredients list does show black pepper and allspice, so perhaps they're what I was tasting. So definitely on the spicier and less sweet side of the gingerbread range. It has all the tanginess of ginger, but not too much of the specific sharpness. You can taste the salt just a bit when it hits your tongue (since it's on the bottom of the chocolate), but it fades away into the other flavors--or perhaps they all fade into one. I don't know; it works.

The chocolate works, too. The packaging labels this as organic, non-GMO, and Rainforest Alliance Certified sun-dried Hispaniola cacao grown in the Dominican Republic (Salazon makes their chocolate in Maryland--their company's name is the Spanish word for "salted"). Their website further states that their chocolate is fair trade, though I do wonder why they wouldn't label a bar as such: I think the holiday bars must be an exception (which is a little odd because they seem to imply that they use a single kind of cocoa for all their bars). But organic and Rainforest Alliance for all their chocolates and fair trade for the non-holiday bars is still a good thing.

Back to flavor. Though I wasn't very keen on the idea of a 57% cocoa bar, the level of this chocolate's flavors works well in this context. It tastes more like a dark milk chocolate than just a dark chocolate, which I in fact prefer to a boring dark chocolate. There is some sweetness to the chocolate, but it all gets balanced out by the spices, and there's only a touch of darkness that serves to complement the richness of the flavors. And the inclusion of tiny pieces of ginger snaps encourages chewing the chocolate rather than letting it melt: in this case, I find that that's the better way of tasting all the different flavors together. I'm always so much into eating chocolate tiny piece by tiny piece that it really says something that I've already finished a third of this 78 gram bar and I'm still ready to keep eating it.

Did you see that? I pretty much only have positive things to say about this chocolate. That's impressive to pull off all of these flavors so well, along with having such a beautiful-looking bar and some important ethics, too. I'll have to keep my eye out for more of Salazon's products.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

December Favorites

Yes, I'm later with this list than ever and it isn't the chocolate review I'd promised. But I had to get this up here first. And most of these this month are either Christmas presents or purchased with Christmas money.

1) Star Wars Nail Polish in Diva After Dark by Covergirl - You see, there usually isn't much merch for the things that I really like (though I do have a few Jane Eyre products, come to think of it--and someday when I have $300 or so to spare, I'd like to get the I Dream of Jeannie bottle), so when there is, I get excited and I try and get some of it. And this polish color is in fact rather nice. It's basically just black, not a glitter polish. But when you look at it up close, you see the tiny little sparkles in it; it's like a hidden secret, like the stars in the galaxy that you can only appreciate when you take the time to look at them.

2) Art Nouveau Jewelry Box - I'd been wanting one of these for a while. I love all the curves and flowers and elegance of art nouveau, and these boxes really capture that look. The only problem is, I put it next to my other jewelry boxes and now they don't look as pretty anymore. Oh, well.

3) Star Wars Dark Side Mascara by Covergirl - Yeah, I know, I usually use Tarte mascara, but, well, same thing as with their nail polish. It's just so cool to have this. The mascara is okay: it goes on nice and thick, but it does clump my lashes together more than I like.

4) Downton Abbey Legacy Tea - They call it plum pudding black tea; it has vanilla, cinnamon, plum flavor, sloe berries, and elder berries. It's rich and yet not too overdone and it's one of my favorite of the Downton teas. Since I have so many teas right now, I've been drinking this one in the morning (usually I have a less flavored tea in the morning), and it's just beautiful.

5) Lollia Poetic License Fragrance Wardrobe - Lollia is one of my favorite perfume brands, maybe even my favorite (Tocca is really nice, too, and I love Anthropologie's Happ & Stahns Rose Alba). They had this set in for the holidays; it has three thin bottles that are supposed to reflect memories of everyday moments, "each note a remnant of another time." They're quite pretty scents, maybe a little less floral than many of Lolli's fragrances tend to be. The pink one is my favorite, soft and sweet.

6) Downton Abbey Christmas Preserve - I guess World Market is some kind of partner with the Downton merch, hence all the products. This rich preserve was great for December, tasting heavily of wintery spices. It was good on toast and also very nice in crepes.

7) Before the Eye Shed Antler Necklace and Barrette - This is the type of thing I like from handmade jewelry. It's a natural material that also becomes available naturally each year. And there is such a level of detail in the carving; I also appreciate that many of the shapes chosen are natural items (the leaf and feather here; they also do flowers and animals). You can visit their Etsy page if you'd like to see what else they have available right now.

8) BB-8 App-Enabled Droid by Sphere - And now for the less natural but no less fun. I slowly came to the realization that I did in fact want this little droid everyone has been fussing over. I got him just on Wednesday, so I've only had a chance to turn him on a couple of times (I've been busy cleaning/rearranging things, so I have a bit of a mess for a little toy to get lost in). Steering is pretty hard still (the round shape makes me confused about which direction is which), but he can move pretty well on his own. And he really is quite cute. During the day, he sits here on my shelf as the white and orange bridge between white porcelain and orange wood. The combination of old and new amuses me.

9) Millenium Falcon Necklace - When I wore this necklace out, I kept getting compliments on it at different places. Amazing how happy it made everyone. It's quite a sturdy piece, and I love that it's instantly recognizable and yet in a neutral gray color.

10) Downton Abbey Christmas Tea - What with the 36 bags per container in these little cylinders, Christmas is now over and yet I'm still drinking this Christmas tea. It's very good, though. Black tea, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, and apple bits. I've had similar teas, but this one is perhaps better balanced. Sweet and spiced but not too cloying.

11) R2-D2 Humidifier - I really did need a humidifier: I was waking up with my throat ridiculously dry and I was even starting to wake up, coughing and needing water, because it was so dry. So there at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, first humidifier I saw (they have several to choose from) was this one. Given that I mainly wanted it for my bedroom, the small size was also perfect. He sits on my windowsill for a couple of hours before bed; the mist comes from the little circle by his eye. Oh, and sometimes R2 and BB-8 like to visit each other.