Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thoughts on Jane

"My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol." - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is one of those quotes that lingers on to me. It makes evident that the problem with Jane and Rochester's relationship at first was not just Bertha: Bertha is the physical manifestation of the problem rather than simply another character, another person. Their relationship only became equal and based on the right foundation after their separation.

Reading Lacey Sturm's latest book started putting this quote back in my head--as did typing up some scenes for the book I'm working on right now.

I don't know how I can claim to know anything more about love than anyone else does, but love is one of those things that people talk about so often in seemingly the wrong context. That is, they use the word when they're not really referring to love at all.

This was something that I appreciated about Ashley Eckstein's book, too: in talking a bit about how she met her husband, she talked about love as being something that you work at. Love is giving, not sensation.

Sure, when you love someone, they start to fill your thoughts. But the thing is, you can't put so much pressure on a person that they become the most important thing in your life. Jane put all her thoughts on Rochester, tried to let him be her redemption. She put the world and the material above the eternal. If she tried to look at Rochester in this way, he was bound to fail her. And she was bound to fail him.

People don't save you and you can't save people. That comes from elsewhere--and realizing that also helps us realize that we are all part of that creation of which Jane speaks--and then that helps you to see the intense value in every person.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dreaming Your Universe

Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano and founder of Her Universe, the company that started all of the great Star Wars, Doctor Who, Marvel, etc. clothing for women. Now she has a book out about her journey towards achievement. As you can tell from the title, though, It's Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen isn't exactly an autobiography. Ashley is writing directly to her audience and letting them know how they, too, can make their dreams reality.


It's a YA book, so it's short and succinct and styled in that casual way that reminds me of a magazine. There are sections of blank lines scattered throughout where Ashley encourages her reader to make lists or otherwise write things down that will help with planning out a dream. Lots of pictures, too. A few of Ashley, maybe at different stages in her life that she's talking about--like her early trips to Disney World or the first time she put on a Her Universe fashion show at SDCC. Plenty of the images are illustrations with Disney imagery.

The style of the book ties in Disney stories with life lessons. And sure, much of this content is, well, nothing that you'd call new exactly. It's all great advice that I've mainly heard before. However, it remains wonderful advice to have collected here and put out in such a straightforward and honest way. Sometimes just because you know that, oh, you have to work hard and not give up and come up with multiple plans to achieve something, etc. doesn't mean that you don't need a reminder of all that. Sometimes you need to hear again that even though you feel like you just lost a big opportunity, the reason you lost that opportunity might be because there is an even better one coming up.

And also this book was a reminder that just because I know certain things doesn't mean that everyone else does, too. Especially here is where it helps that, even though any age can read this book, the target audience is mainly pre-teen and teen girls. Reading this was a reminder that there are still people figuring things out, making realizations about the world and about themselves and their place in the world, people still trying to plan out what their contribution will be. It's a reminder that for every good thing you figure out for yourself, you need to share that with other people, too. If you've achieved something, help other people achieve something, too (which doesn't just mean achieving a dream like starting a company or something; it can simply be achieving contentment in life or the ability to smile daily). And that's exactly what Ashley does with this book.

I knew only a little bit about Ashley's story and though she doesn't go into great detail here (probably partly because it's all recent history and partly because she doesn't want the focus to just be about her), there were still plenty of interesting stories to hear, from her early acting work to her job at Disney World as a teenager to the casting call that led to Ahsoka. In hearing her talk about starting up Her Universe, I realized that I had kind of forgotten just how much Her Universe changed things. It was years ago now that I found that Darth Vader dress from them that I just thought was the most awesome thing--and now dresses like that are so common that I've almost forgotten what it was like before they existed. The shirts and the accessories, too. So much variety. It's funny: if you watch Fresh Baked shopping at Disneyland, David sometimes talks about how there is such better Star Wars clothing for women than for men. Ashley started that. And in this book, she mentions one of the statistics she found when she was researching starting Her Universe; it has to do with the greater percentage of sales being from women than from men. So . . . even though of course there should be great merch for men, too, well, it does make sense that nowadays there is so much more for women--because we definitely buy it.

And this all made me think about not just clothing. Ashley talks about these stories of girls who had been bullied, etc. for liking things like Star Wars. So much has changed in the last few years, hasn't it? Part of it has been because of Disney acquiring Star Wars--but the thing is, Ashley was stirring things up at right about that time. You had the character of Ahsoka introduced just before that and you had Ashley realizing that she could use her influence as Ahsoka to make some changes. And then we started getting all these things like those Forces of Destiny toys that are just like Barbies (a "girl toy") except that they're characters like Leia and Rey (they're so wonderful and exciting that I just had to get the Endor Leia one). It's cool and what I mean to say also is that it's amazing how one piece of influence can keep on having an effect.

Dream it and do it kind of also means that every action you take has power. You have power for passivity or power for influence. We all have a role to play and all of these roles work together in one great web that connects everyone, person to person.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Black Butterfly: Banana Toffee Crunch & Bonbons

Last time I was in Prescott, I made my stop at Black Butterfly to see what I could see. I thought that I was in Prescott often, but the infrequency with which I now seem to go to Black Butterfly would make things appear otherwise. And did you know that the shop has just had its one year anniversary this week? How time flies.

I picked out two flowers from the case, the Champagne & Roses and the Violet Creme. Sometimes I don't pay as much attention to the medallions because I look to the truffles first, but in truth these are wonderful, as well, so I thought I should give them a bit of attention this time. This little disc of chocolate came with rose petals on top, sugared and dried. So you get rose flavor from the dried petals and also some crunch of sugar. The champagne adds perhaps a bit of richness. A light and feminine medallion.


The Violet Creme is feminine, as well, although perhaps not light in the same way as the Champagne & Roses. Violet is, after all, a stronger and more in-your-face flavor than rose (which is not to say that I dislike violet at all, quite the contrary). Violet also brings even more of that classic and vintage feel. Once again, sorry that the purple and blue heart didn't photograph as nice as it looked when I bought it: it's hard to get these home in exactly the original condition, especially now that we're in warm weather season. The flavor of this truffle is truly delightful. This is the type of piece that's perfect and flawless as a simple product because the flavor that it does contain are wonderful. The violet brings in that strong, distinctive flavor and the chocolate adds the right balance of warmth and richness. I don't know if it's just because it's the one that I have with me right now, but I think this one might be one of my favorites from Black Butterfly so far.

And now to the toffee. I heard this name and knew I had to get it. Banana Toffee Crunch. Yes, that is for me, for me specifically. I already like toffee (because it crunches and it has that classic sweet taste to it). And I always get excited over banana with chocolate because it's a pairing you don't see too often, banana being easy to work into an ice cream sundae but more difficult to bring into a chocolate bar or a truffle.


In this case, the banana is in the form of banana chips. While banana chips wouldn't work for every product, here they're just right since the chocolate already has crunch from the toffee. So a little more crunch blends right in. The seven ounce bag comes with one-to-two-bite pieces, easy for sharing while you're hanging out with a group under the trees at the Square or great for keeping at your desk to munch on like chips. Depending on which you get, banana or toffee or feulletine (which is also in here to make up a third element), each bite is a little different. The toffee adds that familiar toffee flavor and sticky-crunch texture; it's in nice and small pieces. The banana comes in with almost more of an unexpected but fitting flavor since, once again, you don't come across banana in chocolate much and yet the flavors do go so well together. I don't normally notice the feulletine distinctly on its own, except sometimes when I find a piece after the chocolate has melted away. This is one of those instances, though, where I say that I would probably notice if it weren't there.

Rather than trying out something new (which is great, too, of course), this time I just zeroed in on the things that I know make me happy. Flowers and toffee. Nice and simple and yet also well-done (because of course simple does not necessarily mean that something will be well-done). Also pretty and light, which feels perfect for this transitioning-into-summer season.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Fates Divide

I'm already doing a terrible job at keeping up with the new books (and not new books) that I want to read, but I enjoyed Veronica Roth's Carve the Mark so much that I took the time to reread it before its sequel, The Fates Divide, came out this spring.


Disappointing thing was, I couldn't get into the new book. There was so much more focus on characters I didn't care for, namely Isae. There was more of a political side to the content this time (and mainly it was Isae and politics together, so that made whole chapters of very little interest to me). And even characters I did like or relationships I did like (like Cyra and Akos) were just dwelling in content I didn't care for (honestly, it felt "general YA" to me rather than what I had come to think of as specifically Veronica Roth). So the book sat for, well, months, with my bookmark about a third or so of the way in. I had other things to do than read and then I had other things to read.

Finally when I picked it up again, it got better. Turns out, I'd left off right at that turning point in a book when the tone and pace change. It returned to more of what I wanted. And I can't complain about the ending. There were, let's see, two main things that happened in the plot that I kind of predicted the second before they happened. Which means that they were things that the entire plot beforehand pointed toward but things that were difficult to guess before all of the pieces moved into place. So it all went in a good direction.

I can't really complain, then. And I'm not. I do think, though, that the best part of this story remained in the first book, along with certain pieces of this second book that tie it all in. (I'm being intentionally vague here rather than talk too much about plot.) The first book was the one with all of those great questions about character and guilt and justice and pain and duty and personal choice, etc. All of that came into play in here, as well, just not in quite the same way. In the first book, everything was fresh and sharp. Here, maybe it felt like most of the important character things were done; we just had to finish up some plot things. (I didn't think of this while I was reading, but I wonder if that means that this story was originally just one book instead of two and that it was the publishers who wanted it stretched out into two for obvious reasons.) Not that there was no plot: there was plot. And like I said, I like the direction it all went to in the end.

The idea of fate sounds worse than it is. Personal choice still exists. Positive and negative still exist; sometimes knowing how to be part of one or the other, well, that can be more complicated. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Disneyland Adventures: Part 2

I had been hearing such tell of so many Disneyland foods that I had never tried. So for this trip, I had a mental list of many, many foods I wanted to get to--if I could fit them all in during just a short day and a half visit.

To maximize time, as well, I decided to go for the bringing-things-to-snack-while-you-walk-in method for breakfast, which would probably also allow for two lunches instead of just one. This method also meant that, only by the time we were making out way from Hyperspace Mountain and Star Tours over to the west side of the park, I was getting hungry again. And there was no line for Dole Whips, so I thought, hey, why not just get one now.

I'd never had a Dole Whip before. I was too excited to even get a picture of the pretty yellow swirl; I just started eating it instantly. And it is kind of fascinating, almost more like a popsicle than an ice cream. Nice and light, a little tangy. I did kind of eat it quickly quickly (which is unlike me) because I was expecting there to be a little bit of a line for Splash Mountain by this point in the morning but there was barely an inch of a line (maybe it had opened late that morning).

Since I don't have a picture of the Dole Whip, here is a picture of the Jungle Julep.


The Jungle Julep is not as exciting as the Mint Julep that you can get in New Orleans Square. That mint and lime drink is lovely; this one was okay. It was more of a slushy drink, with a fruit candy type of flavor. Pretty, though. I had the Jungle Julep because first lunch of the day (around 11:30 maybe?) was at Bengal Barbecue, another place I had never tried. The chicken skewer was good; I would get that again. But the vegetable one was disappointing, especially after I had heard that oh, they're so wonderful, the only way to get people to eat vegetables who don't usually like vegetables. The squash were fine, the onions I would have preferred cooked a little more (I stopped eating them before the end), I don't like peppers (so I didn't eat much of those, either), and the potatoes mainly tasted like cheap potatoes to me (which probably just means that they weren't organic--because yes, I can often tell--with bananas, too--I'm not trying to be snobby, there's just a taste difference).

And a Disneyland corndog? I had never had one of those. So second lunch was one from DCA. Which is funny because, well, yes, it was good, but there is also a limit to how good a corndog can be. Anyways, if the hot dog itself were better quality, then the whole thing would have been better, too. But yes, sure, it was good as corndogs go.

Dinner, by the way, was a Mint Julep and a Monte Cristo and a beignet at New Orleans Cafe. Classic.

Day two started with a ride on Autopia and then the opening of Toontown for the day (more on that later). And then breakfast from Jolly Holiday Bakery enjoyed at one of the tables there in Toontown, which was really perfect. It was that moment where I was so hungry that a croissant with egg and bacon (I always end up taking bacon out and yet I didn't this time; that's telling) and some fruit on the side was just the best thing ever. And watching Toontown in the morning before it's full of people? Somewhere on the line between peaceful and whimsical, a special tone.

Lunch that day was at Rancho del Zocalo, where, you know, I got the tostada salad for the shorter line and because tostada salads basically have all the ingredients that other dishes have, anyway. Nothing remarkable but it was good; I'd go there again if I didn't have anything else I particularly wanted to try.

And then the last thing. The last thing I ate at the parks was from Red Rose Tavern, where I went just to get the Grey Stuff and Gaston's Brew.


The dessert is white chocolate mousse served up on a thin sugar cookie. Hiding inside of that big swirl is cake, red velvet, I suppose. Not the absolute most amazing dessert I've ever had; mainly I had to get it because I had to have it while I had the opportunity. But it was nice and I enjoyed it. If I hadn't just had lunch, I would have been able to finish it myself; otherwise, I recommend sharing. And the brew? It's a fruity drink that's maybe not as good as the Mint Julep but is a better option for a drink than, well, standard soda and lemonade and iced tea options. The main thing about it is the way it looks: just like a foamy beer. (The foam had fallen a bit by the time I took the picture; it looked even better freshly made.)

Want to put a cap on the experience? Don't drink it at Red Rose. Walk with it to your next destination and see what kind of reactions you get from the people around you. That'll be its own entertainment.

There are times when you visit Disneyland and you just seek out the least expensive, quickest, most fueling food. It was really nice to get to try out all of these different things that I wanted, without limits. Another dash of sugar on the experience that made this trip so much fun.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Han & Lando

I did at least start reading Daniel Jose Older's Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel before watching Solo. I wasn't able to finish before the movie, though, but honestly, I don't think that mattered. Some books do set things up for the movie; Catalyst before Rogue One was a great example of that. This one kind of introduced you to the tone and to L3, but that's about it.


Remember how, with the movie, I said that it played out like a side scene that could have been part of a bigger story but that I just didn't overly care about as its own separate movie? There's a similar feeling in the tone of the book as with the movie--except that this was just another book among many. So in the case of the book, I was fine with just reading a random adventure. This book was fun in a casual way. I kept on forgetting who characters were each time I picked up the book again, but that didn't really matter too much: I just kept rolling with it all.

Not that it was an entirely meaningless plot. This plot was big enough that I can see other stories referring to it in the future. Though the book was a prequel to the movie, it's split between taking place pre-A New Hope and post-Return of the Jedi. And you know what that means?

Toddler Ben Solo. Toddler Ben Solo. I totally would have read this book just to get those scenes with toddler Ben Solo because they created a great character there and I always love getting these little hints at his background. Specifically, his background with his parents. Leia, the nurturing one. Han, the one who cares but just feels like he can't. Leia, the one Ben couldn't shoot down. Han, the Ben lightsabered with tears in his eyes. He thought he was killing the past but all he was killing was his father. So all of those little bits and pieces about Ben and about Han and Leia were great.

This book moved at a good pace. The pacing and the lightheartedness (which is maybe an odd word to use given that the plot did involve mutilation and potential genocide or whatever) made it an easy read.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Disneyland Adventures: Part 1

Like an ache it begins: the longing to return to Disneyland. It had been nearly three years since I'd been, which I realize isn't actually a long time--but it feels like a long time to me. So earlier this month, I up and went to Disneyland for a magical one and a half days. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Maybe I could have spent longer there if I had waited, but I needed to go in May because, well, I had to ride Hyperspace Mountain and the original announcement said the retheming of Space Mountain would only be back during the month of May. And I knew that the whole retheming thing wasn't the greatest thing in the world (I did ride Ghost Galaxy a few years back, which uses the same projection system, and really wasn't the greatest), but I still had to ride this silly ride. I've had dreams of going on this ride, my longing for it has been that great.

And yes, Disneyland is much greater than Star Wars or even Space Mountain. I'm not saying that a Star Wars element is the most important thing about Disneyland. Certainly not. But I won't deny that I was unabashedly excited for this one ride--and so I made it my first ride on the first day.

Oh, my goodness, it did not disappoint. Sure, I can see why locals would tire of it. But that first ride? It was amazing and I smiled the whole time. A familiar ride, a ride in which I know every turn and every beat, became something new. You're not just seeing projections of ships; you really are in the middle of a battle, with a plot and everything. You're dodging this and aiming for that and there are not just ships but also shots ringing out through the air. And it's like this big game that you're playing in, like you're a child with all your toys again except that this time the toys are a whole attraction system of vehicles and lights and projections, etc.

I started off my day at Disneyland with a smile. I'd done the silly number one thing that I'd wanted to do, so I knew that nothing could go wrong and everything would be wonderful. That's how Disneyland is: it's a place where you decide that you're going to have a good time. And so whatever happens, you're riding that wave of enthusiasm. You smile at it all because you've decided that it's all going to make you smile.

Ah, Disney magic.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo's Going Solo

The non-spoilery comment on Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it was forgettable and more shallow than I am accustomed to getting from a Star Wars universe story.

Now for the more detailed comments that you'll want to save for later if you haven't watched the movie yet.

It is true that I wasn't expecting much from this movie and that I wasn't excited for it. I thought that out of all of the possible angles to take for a new film, focusing on Han Solo's early days was the most boring one. So when you go into a movie with that attitude, anything that is good you enjoy and you tend to focus less on or be less disappointed by anything that isn't. I expected little and I got a little, so it worked.

Opening crawl. Everyone said that Rogue One was the movie that actually needed an opening crawl, so I do like the way that Solo avoided the traditional opening crawl of the saga films while still giving a piece of that effect. That was good.

Han's last name. Um, that naming story sounds good if you're a middle schooler writing a short story. But not here. It was overly contrived. Maybe it Han had chosen his own last name it might have worked. But to have an Imperial officer name him? No. An Imperial wouldn't care enough to put thought into naming an unnamed someone, and this officer had probably come across many unnamed someones with no family connections so Han wouldn't have stood out as someone to give a cool lone wolf name to. Anyway, Solo isn't the only Star Wars name that has character meaning (I always liked Finis Valorum, or "the end of valor"), so to draw attention to the meaning of his name, to me, felt like detracting from it rather than enhancing it.

The movie was fun. Sure. I kept on kind of waiting for it to gain some sort of significance, even though I had to remind myself that it probably wouldn't (and it didn't). So it kind of plays out like one long side sequence. You know, a plot thread within a film that in itself doesn't mean too much but is a cool bit. Except that that was the whole movie. A whole movie made out of a little side story.

I don't normally bring up things like this, but I'm starting to agree with everyone: why are all of the main female characters in Star Wars movies white Brits? (Okay, they're not all Brits, but the recent ones are. And yes, not everyone, we're mainly talking about just three characters here.) Nothing against any of the individual actresses. And with Rey, sure, we did want someone who could look like she was a Skywalker just for all of that early speculation. But Qi'ra? She could have had any look. Unless (I have to mention it) they still want us to speculate that she's Rey's mother (if, you know, she and Han met up again some years later). They did, after all, give her the name (just spelled differently) that they'd originally used for Rey's character (but every female character in Star Wars has been getting some version of the name Kira lately). Not that I at all subscribe to that theory, but it has to cross our minds, right?

Lando. I don't know if it's because I watched Star Wars from a young age, but I never had much interest in Lando. The whole suave thing never caught me. And honestly, I always thought of him as the new guy, the guy who had kind of been the bad guy but was now the good guy. However, Donald Glover was pretty great as Lando. The charisma, accompanied by the humor of the over-the-topness got me this time. And Han? Han also never overly interested me as a character on his own--so I literally have no comments to make about Han in this movie.

Corellia. We've head that Han is from Corellia, but this is the first time any of the films have shown the planet. I always enjoy the chance to see how "regular people" are living, so the Corellia scenes were kind of cool. Han is a person who grew up during the Empire's reign; what did that look like? How did he get by? How did other people get by? It reminds me of the images of Jedha in Rogue One and of the Lothal content in Rebels. Seeing these young people (not just Han and Qi'ra, the others, too) trying to survive and seeing what the transportation center is like helped color in the image of life under the Empire. I liked that.

Chewbacca's introduction I liked, too. That kind of caught me by surprise. Kessel? I mean, the shots of the Falcon going through the whole maelstrom thing looked cool, but we finally saw the infamous Kessel run and saw how Chewbacca got his life debt to Han and that was all we got? I'm the one who said there were more interesting stories to pursue and yet I felt like there was more content here to flesh out. We didn't even get a single mention of the life debt, after all (and there's a whole canon novel named after it, too, so it doesn't make sense to me to not bring it up).

And Darth Maul. Ha, ha, who doesn't like that he had a cameo? It would seem that we'll be seeing more of him in the future, too.

Hmm. These are all just random, disjointed comments because my only cohesive comments are what I said in the beginning: this film was shallow and unmemorable. I remember with Rogue One, I didn't think that I would like the movie that much after hearing that it would be more of a war film but I was also looking forward to seeing what they did with a Star Wars movie apart from the saga. And they delivered something with significance, something that brought that Star Wars feel even while it brought other things, too. Solo didn't bring much of a Star Wars feel. I'm not saying that it all needs to be about putting your life on the line for the rebellion and all that. But we need that important character moments and the beautiful cinematography and the nature imagery and . . . I don't know. Something else. They tried by putting in the Cloud Riders, but that felt slightly contrived and not connected enough with the current story in order to give the current story heart; all that gave was a sort of nod to the rebellion with which we're all familiar. And when I say that stories don't need to be all about life for the rebellion, the books and TV shows are the examples of that. There are other stories that have that feeling, even if they're not about Cassian and Jyn stealing the Death Star plans or Luke defeating the Emperor by throwing aside his lightsaber or whatnot.

It's a cool idea to have Star Wars films apart from the Saga. There is so much to explore. And they don't all have to be as good as your favorite Star Wars film. But what's the point in having so many new movies if they have such a small, fleeting significance? What did Solo really add to the mix? Very little.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Identity

I'm walking in the present while aware of eternity.

I'm facing today with my hands and eyes reaching upwards.

I'm rotating from one sphere to another, from a place where I needed people to influence me to a place where I realize that I can influence others.

I'm walking with brightness because I realize light passes from one person to another.

I soak in and absorb the light. I reach for it; I cling to it; I thirst for it. And then I hope that I can spread it, in any way, to others.

I spend my days naturally positive and upbeat--so different from how I once was, once upon a time.

I crave prayer and worship like I never did before. I understand getting down on my knees and lifting my hands like I never did before.

I am capable now like I never was before and I am vulnerable now like I never was before.

I stand with such a better sense of self and also the realization that it is not from myself that my strength comes--and that's what makes me capable.

Even when I'm walking over my mountains, I'm surrounded by the light.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stone Grindz: Mint & Nib

One of the great things about Stone Grindz is the chance for me to catch up on new creations or specials (even though I suppose I still haven't tried all of their more standard chocolates . . . but there's time for that in the long term, right?). So the one I have here today is the Mint & Nib bar. Mint chocolate I have had and chocolate with cocoa nibs in it I have had--but mint and nibs together I don't think I have had before.


Opening up this package reveals sugary nibs on the back of the bar in chocolate bark style. They're like little gems on the shiny, smooth surface of the chocolate. Immediately I get the aroma of the mint in what I have been, in my recent comments about mint chocolate, calling more of the mint oil variety.


Obviously, the nibs invite you to crunch the chocolate. And nibs do have such a great, unique crunch. Naturally, there are more of them towards the middle of the chocolate and less towards the edges, so the corners don't necessarily have any nibs at all. The effect of the nibs, I realize, is the mint crunch effect that you get from cookies and candy bars--just brought out with a different type of ingredients. Crunch adds casualness while the use of nibs keeps things classy. So casual classy--would that make this chocolate chic?

The mint is mint. It didn't particularly wow me, but it stood its ground. The flavor of the chocolate, too, makes for a great flavor base; it's smooth in flavor with just enough presence to create quality while also not detracting from the main effect of the mint and nibs. Interestingly, the first time I tried this chocolate was at my usual time for chocolate tasting (mid morning), but I liked it more when I tried it again another day around evening. Those are both supposed to be the best times for tasting, but I suppose it makes sense that mint chocolate would taste nicer in the evening than the morning. After dinner mints and chocolate mint desserts all. So maybe I ought to keep that in mind as I go forward with more mint chocolates in the future.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Pangaea Dinos

I thought it was time that I shared some pictures of a few of the dinosaurs I spend so much time around* over at Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs. Let's start with the king, shall we?

This is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the King of the Tyrant Lizards. Quite cocky of a name, isn't it? I mean, when he was first discovered, no one had seen anything like this--he was truly terrifying and immediately made a place for himself in our collective imaginations. Though we've since found bigger and fiercer dinosaurs, the T-Rex will never lose his place as king.


Speaking of dinosaurs bigger than the T-Rex. Do you know my friend the Spinosaurus? He became my favorite after watching Primeval; I love how Connor and Abby come across the Spinosaurus when they're in the Cretaceous. And the Spinosaurus is like a big crocodile with a sail on its back, this hulking amphibious being. It's just beautiful. Also, the first fossil was found in Egypt--which is even better. Imagine this creature waltzing around the Nile or around the pyramids (whether or not the Spinosaurus and the pyramids existed simultaneously is irrelevant). 


And here's the itsy bitsy Spinosaurus, for the cute effect. (Granted, you can't really see size in pictures; these all look much better in person. And they all move so much.)


The velociraptors (for which I am sure you were waiting) in particular are difficult to photograph. They claw at the air and they growl and they shake their heads in ferocity. Look at those claws. I'm picturing the size of an emu's claws (or are those called toenails on an emu?) with the attitude of a cat savoring the murder of some type of creature it has just caught (a lizard or a locust or a bird or something). Vicious velociraptors. 


Look at those eyes. And they blink at you, bright spots of light with slivers like the eye of a hawk . . . or the Eye of Sauron. 


And while you were distracted by the velociraptors, did you even notice the Carnotaurus coming up from behind the trees? This is the Flesh-Eating Bull. He may be smaller than the T-Rex but that's irrelevant: he's still much bigger than we are. And his speed? Thirty miles per hour--let's see if you can outrun that. 


To give you a brief respite from your fear, here is an herbivore. The Stegosaurus, who is the Roofed Lizard because he carries all of those shingles on his back. A walking house he is. Initially, in fact, his discoverer believed that the plates had been flat on the critter's back (like with a turtle); now that would have been much more like a house with a roof than the current look, in which the shingles stick up more like spines. 


Okay, enough of the herbivores. Here, lurking in the shadows, is the Allosaurus. Many, many of these have been found, quite a few of them in Utah. Picture this great predator stalking the landscape of Monument Valley. 


And last we have not a dinosaur but a flying reptile. Remember, the flyers and the swimmers weren't dinosaurs. And the flyers weren't pterodactyls; that's just a common speech name. Technically, only Pterodactylus genus can be called pterodactyls--and there were plenty of other kinds. Just think of how many different kinds of birds, for instance, we have today. You can't call them all hawks because, cool as they are, pigeons just aren't hawks. 


And on that random analogy, we have come to the end here. Just a little quick glimpse at a few of these critters. If you're in Scottsdale (or, you know, Arizona) and you have the desire to spend some time around some dinosaurs (and who doesn't want to spend time around dinosaurs?), this is the place. 


*At this point, perhaps you'd like me to add the disclaimer that if you hadn't realized already, yes, I do work for this company in one form or another. But would I be blogging about it if I didn't genuinely like the place?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rereading Books

I don't know if everyone was like this, but when I was younger I reread books a lot. True that when you're in school, you have access to the school's library that (for every non-fictional person I've come across) ends up being an endless supply of reading material all at your fingertips. But I also owned less books and read books at home for, well, a great percentage of my free time. It was like I jumped from picture books straight to Little House on the Prairie (on reflection, it seems that I simply didn't acquire new books in that stage when you're transitioning out of picture books into chapter books). So, in a sense, those were the only books that I owned for a bit.

That meant that I read them again and again. I also got Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Black Beauty around that same age of about ten to eleven years old--and I read those first two again and again, too. In middle school? It was The Chronicles of Narnia. Somewhere in the middle school to high school transition, it was The Lord of the Rings. Jane Eyre also turned into my steady companion, a book that I need to read every few years just because I've let it become so much a part of me.

Books that I've read more recently, though? (And by recently, I mean in the past probably ten years.) I don't read through them a second time, even if I've enjoyed them. (Okay, I just did reread Veronica Roth's Carve the Mark to prepare for the sequel [which I strangely am having a hard time getting into despite how much I enjoyed the first book], but that was unusual. And I'm not counting books that I read for a second time during college, like Beowulf or Ceremony.) Why not? I guess the more you read, the more aware you are of books that you have not read. So it starts to feel like you can't waste time in rereading something when there are so many things you need to read for the first time.

But still, that's different.

I can sit back and read passages of Twilight or any of Narnia in my head even though it's probably been years since I opened up the pages of either of them. I can repeat exact sentences and lines of dialogue and remember descriptions. And I think, is it because I remembered things better when I was younger? I mean, maybe that's part of it, but not all--I remember the old books so well because I read them again and again. That puts things into a different fabric in your mind. So much of what we read now is only temporary; we filter it in and out and make no effort to memorize it because we know we can look it all up again with the click of a button. But I miss being able to recall everything about an author's style simply because I could call to mind the very sentences and paragraphs they formed.

There are so many of the old books that I'm craving to read again. It's like they're old friends that I've abandoned in favor of fleeting flings. Jane and Frodo and Shasta, I miss you all. And yet--if, because of the rereading I did years ago, I can picture in my head passages from your stories, is that really so different from picking up the old pages again?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Shattell: Peru 70% Cocoa

While World Market did have a few bars from Shattell, I decided to just start with one--and now probably they don't even have the rest anymore. If that's the case, that's kind of a shame: this has turned out to be a gorgeous bar of chocolate.


I chose the 70% Cacao bar, marked as Single Origin Pucacaca - Peru. The cool thing is that this chocolate is both sourced from Peru and made in Peru. Shattell is based in Lima. So we're continuing our trend here of trying chocolate made in a greater variety of countries--and it's even better that besides just being from a country whose chocolate I don't come across often, this chocolate is made in the country in which it was grown. (That was not a wordy sentence; I don't know what you're talking about.) And it's organic, which is great, as well.

The packaging hits that trendy mark that gives a sense of the natural world, artisan products, etc. Inside the blue, llama-bedecked card box is a matte gold wrapper, which makes for a nice change from the usual gold/silver foil or clear wrap. The bar is quite beautiful. Even though the design is simply rectangles, there is a subtle curving to them that enhances the look. The surface, too, comes across as rich and red and more than usually appealing. Because the aroma is both pleasant and bitter, I worried that the chocolate might taste overly bitter.


That, however, did not end up being the case. The first phrase that came to mind initially was cherry bark. I guess the flavor was halfway between sweet and zingy. The texture, from the start, was slightly dusty. Quickly, the flavor developed into that specific taste belonging to cocoa nibs; this is a flavor that can be potentially bitter but in this case didn't register at all as such. There is definitely some sweetness to this chocolate; it's the sweetness of unrefined cane sugar, though, along with warm cocoa flavor. So simple, that's how this chocolate's flavor comes across--and yet it is so specific that it feels quite artful. It hits that line where it tastes of chocolate but is also sweet and yet not in that weird "sweet dark chocolate" way at all.

And that slight dusty texture? It continues throughout, but it works here and somehow goes beautifully with the flavor. I don't know, it makes me feel like someone just made this chocolate in their home in front of me and then offered it to me and I ate it like a piece of gingerbread. There truly is something stylistically different about this chocolate compared with the usual chocolates made in the U.S. or U.K. or Europe. So I'll repeat what I said earlier: this chocolate is gorgeous.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Saguaros in Bloom

Okay, not just saguaros. I mean, saguaros are one of the coolest of spring flowers, but I have a couple of others to share, too, like these pretty orange ones:


But back to those saguaros. Saguaros blossoming is one of the pieces of magic belonging to the Sonoran Desert. The cactus trees start growing little knobs on top of each arm and then each knob blooms into a flower for one day only. That is, each flower only lasts for a day; the series of blooms will last longer. So you'll look over and see a flower and treasure it. 


These are all from the Desert Botanical Garden. These awesome red tongues were growing from octopus arms of cactus beams. The yellow that you see around belongs to the yellow flowers of the palo verde tree. 



Look at those flowery caps on the saguaro in the back; they're natural crowns. 


So pure and simple, no?


And this one. I always pass by this cactus and yet it's so easy to miss these red fruits on it because they, too, only last for a short time. 


The rest of these pictures are from maybe a week later, on a cloudy day. 



A classic pink cactus rose. 


And pale lavender flowers. 


And these, these are wonderful. All the year, you can read the sign about the flowers that attract flies because they smell like rotted meat. But these are no flowers. And then they come--and they look like bruised purple starfish that someone just placed randomly among all of the little cactus fingers. Once more, yellow from fallen palo verde flowers. 


Springtime, springtime, still enjoying spring--though summer is riding fast on its heels.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pompeii in Phoenix

The Arizona Science Center has had their exhibit on Pompeii for a few months now--it closes in just a couple of weeks here. Naturally, though, everyone (including me) is currently looking at the calendar and saying, whoa, I need to go see that before it's gone. I had how long and yet I had to wait until May?

Timing doesn't matter, though, as long as you do make it over. This is quite the exhibit to see, not one to miss. Was it, though, everything I wanted it to be?

That's a strange question. Pompeii is one of those settings, like the Titanic (the Science Center had a pretty good exhibit on that several years back, too), that is romanticized because of its tragedy and just exists in this crazy fictional space in our heads despite being historical. The fact that we're talking about real people almost increases the fictional side of it all. So you go in thinking about the marketing image of the volcano exploding--and you want that romanticized horror factor. You can't pretend that you aren't seeking that.

But honestly, that's sad. Pompeii, the place known as the city where so many people died, is sad. So this exhibit was sad. I don't want to give away the final couple of rooms in case anyone hasn't been to see it yet--but they set it up well to give an effect. So if you're coming in to see tragedy, you'll see tragedy.

And the rest of it? You do get to see some great artifacts. Marble statues, mosaics, furniture, dishes, jewelry, money, tools, theatre masks, gladiator gear, etc. They're extremely old and also from a part of the world that, well, we don't get many artifacts from here in the Southwest. It's fascinating to see all of these little details from the Roman culture. The mosaics and furniture were some of my favorites to see, I think. But even all of this still brought me back to that sad feeling. Coming from my personal perspective, so many aspects of the Roman lifestyle just make me feel sad. I came in expecting to be sad about how these people died but I ended up feeling sad about how they had lived. And yes, yes, this is why I emphasize the phrase "personal perspective." I'm not trying to be judgy about dead people. But how can you really go in and read things about, for instance, gladiators and not feel at least some shred to regret? (And seeing things like this that stand out in past cultures can remind us of things that will stand out to people in the future about our culture, bringing these around to a reminder of what we can be doing better. So, yes, sadness about the failings of our humanity in general.)

We live and then we all die. That is the story of the Pompeii exhibit.

What are the footprints that you want to leave behind?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

La Naya: Strawberries, Cinnamon & Cayenne Dark Chocolate

Despite the cayenne (and my usual disinterest in spicy chocolate), immediately this bar caught my eye at World Market as something unique. Look at that earthy tone of the pencil drawing, highlighted with just a muted touch of color. The hand drawn effect implies that the style of this chocolate will be based on traditional food rather than experimental flavor combinations--or rather than trends that are just exciting because they're trendy rather than because they're wonderful. And La Naya Chocolate is based out of Lithuania, which is not a country I come across too often in, well, any context but especially not in terms of chocolate. So that's exciting. There are organic and handmade labels--I'm not entirely certain what "handmade" means but I guess that's okay.


The chocolate is named for the valley of La Naya, which appears to be in Guatemala. There are some poetic descriptions on the back of the card box about the valley and about the tone that it inspired for the company. Here's this: "Lonely moments should not be terrifying. They should be liberating." So, you know, taking moments to observe and take in and savor the world around you. Definitely perfect for setting the scene for chocolate (I used to so often draw nature pictures in my chocolate reviews--I don't seem to do that much anymore, do I?).

At $5 for 80 grams, this bar came in at an average price. The chocolate comes in a pretty design, more modern than what I'd expected given that earthy style of the outside. Then again, though, the angular shapes can also represent mountains, which are a nature element. All of those angles don't photograph well, but they do look cool.


Though a scent of strawberries and chocolate comes from the chocolate, there are no visible strawberry pieces or anything like that. Given that this is a flavored chocolate, I decided that chewing slightly would be the best way to go rather than just letting it melt. Early on, the flavor is of cinnamon and cayenne commingled. Then I picked up that specific chocolate taste that belongs to the Mexican hot chocolates like Abuelita and Ibarra--it's something about the way that the chocolate and sugar combine, or possibly about the type of sugar or maybe even the type of chocolate. If you're familiar with these hot chocolate discs, then you'll know the flavor I mean.


While this chocolate is only lightly dark, neither is it exactly what I would call sweet dark chocolate, either. It's at a good, grounded level somewhere between it all, somewhere in its own space. Now, I don't know that I taste much of the strawberries--but there is a sense of sweetness to the mix (separate from the chocolate element) that I imagine would probably disappear if the strawberries were suddenly taken away. The strawberries, by the way, are freeze dried. If you're not a fan of the almost crispy texture of freeze dried strawberries in chocolate, don't worry: it's just chocolate texture all the way through here.

Back to the spice. It isn't too much. Instead of being spicy chocolate, this is flavored chocolate. Sure, there is a light spiciness that you'll notice more if you're sensitive to spiciness. But a good percentage of people won't find this chocolate spicy at all--which I count as a positive. Again, the cinnamon and cayenne are commingled, which helps to build up that sense of flavors rather than reactions (that is, burning). That commingling is what makes this flavor mix work.

So, yes, it does remind me of something kind of traditional, of that sense of older flavor profiles. I feel like this chocolate is based on an old recipe for drinking chocolate. That is, it doesn't have to be that; it's just that it gives me that sense of the historical, the traditional, and the natural. As far as putting together good flavored chocolate, La Naya has satisfied me so far.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Butterflies in the Desert

I've been sharing an abnormal amount of pictures lately, haven't I? Not because I have suddenly developed an interest in photography, no: I'll never have the patience or desire to learn to take good photos. As a writer, I take pictures more as records than as the art itself.

My latest batch come from Butterfly Wonderland. After viewing their short 3D film about monarch butterflies, you move into the butterfly zone. I'm used to the butterflies at the Desert Botanical Garden since, you know, I have membership there. So the question was, how different would this be?


Naturally, with this being the main feature rather than an addition to a main feature (the gardens) as it at DBG, the space was much larger. There was also more walking space, which meant that instead of everyone all moving together as in a circle, here everyone has the chance to take a different route or find a spot to just sit/stand and look. 


I also felt like the butterflies were flying around much more here than at the garden. Maybe that's just my memory failing me (I don't usually go see butterflies at DBG, honestly) or maybe it's because I visited at a different time of day than when I'm usually over there. Or maybe it was behavior or the time of year or the temperature or the amount of butterflies in the space. Who knows. 


This butterfly variety kept on flying around these red flowers; I wanted to catch a picture but they flew so fast like hummingbirds that it was hard to catch them. 


One did land on my head. At least, I feel certain that I felt something on my head; I went by myself so I had no one to ask. And one did land on my arm, later, too; it tickled like it was licking me. (This all reminds me of the butterflies at the Arboretum in Flagstaff. One landed on my head there just where I had on a headband, so it looked like it was part of my hair accessory.)


Can you tell that I was stalking these brown ones with the eyes on their wings? Brown on the outside but when they flew, you could see bright color on the inside; they just never landed with their wings open. 


And they also had reptiles. Because, well, I guess you don't need a reason to include reptiles, do you? (No, no, they had a reason; the reptiles are all from rainforests, like the butterflies. But let's just say there are reptiles there just for the sake of coolness.) 


Lizards I find so beautiful. 


I only got a terrible picture of this one, but it was amazing and gorgeous. The panther chameleon. Bright blue and green and orange coloring and hands that split like some type of gloves with two fingers on each side so that it could grip the branches while climbing around. I was just standing there in awe of it while it showed off its cool fingers to me. 


The finish is a mini aquarium section, just one room with a few little tanks in the walls and some little stingrays and sharks in the middle. I, um, have a fear of aquariums (I'm sure I must have brought this up here at some point or another), so I was fearful of the fact that I was going to have to exit through an aquarium section. But it was small enough not to bother me much and one of the employees was playing with one of the stingrays (I had no idea stingrays could recognize and interact with people like that) and that helped distract me. I don't mind more of the "pond or pool water" type of setup; it's the fish tank type ones that disturb me. Maybe I'm not ready to go to Odysea Aquarium yet, then, eh?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Penelope & the Theme of Beauty

The thing that I liked about 1991's Beauty and the Beast that the live-action retelling kind of threw to the side (if not completely disregarded) was the theme of "looks don't matter because it's the inside person that matters." I've heard that Shrek was the story, more than Beauty and the Beast, that successfully expressed this theme--but I tend to disagree. Shrek liked Fiona because she looked like him--so their story is more along the lines of "everyone's beautiful to someone" than "looks don't matter." The movie that does, without a doubt, express the latter theme is Penelope.

This is a random movie that I don't even know if most people have seen or not. It's kind of a blend of genres: fantasy, family drama, rom com, etc. It's also the type of movie that starts to take on this cult film tone (for me at least); the more times you watch it, the more entertaining it gets. It's a modern fairy tale not in the sense of having princes or princesses (it has none) but in its plot and theme. A family is cursed but it takes generations for the curse to show up--in the face of Penelope. So you have this girl growing up and into her twenties hearing from her mother that her own face is not hers--that she will only be herself once the curse is broken.

They all think that she needs to get married (to someone from an upper class background) to break the curse. Plot elements, plot elements, turns out the truth is a little different. Point is, Penelope goes on this journey of realizing that her face is just her face. She doesn't suddenly look in the mirror and say, wow, I'm so beautiful. She doesn't say, I don't care that I'm ugly. She doesn't say, there are all different kinds of beauty. She just says that this is her face and she likes herself the way she is.

It's like her face becomes completely irrelevant: she and her family spent so many years obsessing over what she looked like that she finally became tired of it and realized that her face wasn't her entire person. She no longer cares about her face. Her face was the entire reason that she put up with the whole marriage plans mess; once she decides not to take part in all of that, she is also deciding that she doesn't care if her face never changes.

Think about what happens later, too. When Penelope and Max/Johnny finally meet again, he doesn't know that her face has changed. But he doesn't care; he still loves her and still wants her to know that. And when she does show him her face? He really does hardly seem to care. He's happy if she's happy but he cares about her either way. And notice, too, that for anyone who likes to be picky about such things, Penelope doesn't need Max to break the curse for her and she only goes back to him after she's all settled in herself first.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder doesn't just mean that everyone has different tastes (which of course is true; I can't deny that). It also means that you have the choice to see what you want to see. What do you see when you look at a person? Sure, there are some people so striking that you can't help but think that they look like models. But mostly when I look at people I see their expressions. You start inward and then move outward. If someone is always positive and upbeat and excited, probably you'll notice their eyes and find that they have nice eyes. If someone is always smiling, you'll probably find that they have a nice mouth. That sort of thing. It all goes to such a point where you don't even know how to physically describe someone because you just see them when you look at them, not what they "look like." Looks matter, sure, because we're in a physical world--but looks also don't matter at all.

Friday, April 20, 2018

De Villiers: Intense Cocoa 70%

For a time, World Market was the best place for me to find chocolate, what with having a more limited variety of stores available to me than people living in other areas probably have. Lately, though, I had been starting to feel like they had very little. They've been introducing more and more World Market brand items, including chocolates--and I have no interest in those when it comes to chocolate. Their steady chocolate brands are things like Ghirardelli and Lindt and Cadbury, companies of which I have only slim interest nowadays.


World Market has, however, now been seeming to stock more interesting chocolate products--for a limited time. They'll get in a small stock of cool-looking chocolates, so if you don't buy them when you see them, they might not be around next time. So again, I've been buying chocolate at World Market quicker than I can post reviews (unless I post more than one a week, which I usually try not to do because that becomes a bit much, doesn't it?). That means that by the time everyone comes around to read my reviews, World Market probably won't have each of these bars in stock anymore--but perhaps you'll run into them in other places.

The one I'm looking at today is the Intense Cocoa bar from De Villiers Chocolate. Besides the whole non-GMO and sourced from cocoa grown with "respect for people and planet" thing (the cocoa beans in this bar are from Uganda, by the way), I was also interested in the fact that this company is from South Africa. Most of the chocolate I come across is made in the U.S., the U.K, or France (and occasionally other European countries). I've come across a couple from Central or South America, as well. But I think South Africa is something new for me.

Also new is the packaging. Though there is quite a bit of pattern to the illustrations on the wrapper, the black and white color scheme keeps the look plain and subdued, making for a unique look.


Let's not dwell on the look of the surface of the bar too much: it has a little layer of harmless bloom on it, as per usual for chocolate at World Market and honestly for most chocolate that has made its way out here from a distance. The style is simple with nothing complicated in the design; a basic cocoa aroma comes from the surface.

Now, after ten years of reviewing chocolate, I've come up with my own vocabulary. I talk more about colors than about actual flavor notes. I know this; it's just my style. So the first flavor that I pick up from this chocolate is what I call a silvery flavor. Next in is a cocoa powder flavor and a bit of what I call Nesquick flavor, you know, that taste that has the idea of darkness but is in actuality more sweet. The Nesquick flavor here, though, isn't also thick like it tends to be; I like it much more than I usually do. Here it is pleasant and simple (simple seems to be the keyword today). A little bit of redness comes in and develops into more richness just past the halfway point. The finish has a touch of sugar but in a welcome way: the taste is of sugar and chocolate, not overly sweet chocolate, if that makes sense. The mouthfeel throughout is steady and smooth.

I notice also that the ingredients specifically list unrefined sugar. I wonder if that difference in sugar is what makes the difference in how I perceived the sweetness of this chocolate--especially given that I didn't look at the ingredients before tasting it the first time. Whether or not that's the case, this is a solid bar of chocolate. I'm not waxing poetic about how it transported me through time and space, but it tastes nice and it would be a great sort of "beginner's level" dark chocolate for people who tend not to like the very dark chocolates or are less accustomed to them. So De Villiers gets positive marks from me, and I would definitely try more chocolate from them if I ran into the brand again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reflections on Age

I'm always edging myself older than I am. Not to appear older or because I want to be older. Not quite that.

It's more probably that it used to be the usual thing for me to be the youngest person in a group. Those September birthdays mean that you either start kindergarten a little early or kind of late; I started early. So I was usually one of about three youngest people in my grade. I started college when I was seventeen--and in college, sure, there are other seventeen year olds but there are also people in their mid and late twenties and up. So I was always the younger person--and also the seemingly even younger person given that I am small and apparently do look up to ten years younger than I am depending on context.

So I guess I was accustomed for a while to being at a certain stage past what people my age were at. I graduated college at twenty-one. Sure, plenty of people do that and some are even younger, but still that's generally a little young.

Nowadays I find myself in so many different contexts and around so many different age groups. I used to have just one setting; now I have four or five. In some, I'm the older person. In others, I'm the younger person. In others, I think that I'm about the same age as the people around me--until I sit and think about it and remember that they're probably in their thirties and I'm still in my twenties. And then that makes me realize that in my head I'm nearly thirty but in actuality I'll only be twenty-seven this year and so I'm really only in my mid-twenties. And yet there I am so quick to consider myself already in my late twenties that I already think I'm just around the corner from thirty.

But I feel like I'm at that age where I do mentally align myself more with people in their early thirties than people in their early twenties. (Not, of course, to say that everyone is a certain way at a certain age. Of course there is variation among individuals; I just mean that in general certain things are more the case at certain ages than others.) People in their early twenties are still in that absorption stage: they're still looking bright-eyed at the world and taking it all in and feeling like there is so much in it for them. People in their early thirties have more of an idea of daily living.

I'm not, in saying that, trying to say that I'm all "responsible adult." (That is a completely separate concept.) I'm saying that I carry with me more of the mindset of the constant positives and negatives that are in life. Nothing will ever appear perfect and nothing will ever be all bad. Each day, you have your tasks to complete (literally and mentally) and your decisions to make. And I think it's that as you live more days, you become more aware of all of those days as a fabric. They all thread together to make one piece, so even if one seems to go over a bit rough it won't ruin the whole thing because there are all of those other pieces, too. It's what it all comes together to express that makes for the important part.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Desert Dinos

While I do work with the dinosaurs and therefore the temporary Dinosaurs in the Desert exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo was somewhat our competition, similar things don't have to be competition, right? They all work together to keep up interest in a topic or to combine to make everything greater and more interesting. And you can never have enough dinosaurs. So I had to make it over before the exhibit closed this month. It was in the mid to upper nineties, but I decided I didn't mind--and the weather made it the perfect time to go because I got to be alone with the dinosaurs.

The setup is pretty cool. You're walking along and you see this around the bend:


It's a Carnotaurus, the flesh-eating bull, just perched there on the top of a slight hill and looking down at you. 


Around another bend, an Ankylosaurus waited among the saguaros. 


These guys looked like raptors, but they're actually Coelophysis. They looked pretty awesome with the rocks in the back and the saguaros and teddy bear cholla all around; they also made their honking/barking sounds to one another to communicate while out on their hunt. 


You can tell I don't usually take selfies, but I had to get at least one, right? 


Approaching the Quetzalcoatlus is an intimidating thing. The huge feathered serpent has a beak like the ones people used during the time of the bubonic plague. It's a nightmare-like creature that towers above everyone. 


And beneath it: baby feathered serpents. 


What's that in the bushes up ahead? 


Look out, it's a Utahraptor! Honestly, I was quite taken with this one. It reminded me of the ostriches at Out of Africa; I love to admire their claws because they remind me of dinosaurs--so I guess this all brought me full circle to have the dinosaur now remind me of the ostriches. All feathers and claws, this beauty was one I wanted to keep. 


Almost at the end, a baby T-Rex stood underneath a tree. Its striped tail matched that of its much taller parent . . . 


. . . which was the full-grown King of the Tyrant Lizards. I stared him down for a while, imagining the power of those teeth and that jaw and imagining this animal as a giant chicken--which is quite a terrifying image if you've ever seen a chicken go chasing after a junebug to eat it. 


And that was the last of the dinosaurs. I did skip quite a few here for simplicity's sake; these were just my favorites. 


The dinosaurs were great because dinosaurs are always great. They didn't have quite as much detail or move quite as well perhaps as some other dinosaurs that I know, but that's because this was an outdoor and temporary exhibit versus an indoor and permanent one. And these were still a lot of fun. The setting, too, really made this exhibit. As you know, I love the desert. So to have these dinos just hanging out among all the cactus plants and trees and orange-toned dirt just made it something special. Honestly, too, having it all to myself on that hot day was awesome, too: it let each one catch me by surprise as I turned each corner and it let me unleash my imagination more to picture myself out in the wild with living creatures.