Lords of Chaos Movie Review - A Culkin plays Euronymous and Val Kilmer's son plays Dead...what?

on
Saturday, September 29, 2018


I know I know.  I was supposed to post Part II of my vacation photo dump and a recipe for the most calorie dense vegan mac n cheese I've ever made/eaten/breathed near, but I've been busy AF. Don't worry though, I have a recipe for artichoke and mushroom lasagna and some other good stuff on the way soon.

However, I caught a screening of Jonas Akerlund's Lords of Chaos movie last night.  For the readers that don't know, I've been a Black Metal fan for about 18 years (can that be right?! Fact check - yes, I'm old) and while I'm no expert and my fandom has gone down increasingly in recent years, I'm still fairly familiar with the events depicted in the movie and even wrote my MFA thesis about how Black Metal was essentially performance art. I've read the book the movie is based on and honestly didn't love or hate it (though I found some interviews and passages useful), and didn't have high hopes for the film version.  Making a movie about something like this, that has die-hard fans and a cult-like following is tricky and sometimes better left alone.  But I did see it, and here are my thoughts about it.


The movie begins with Rory Culkin as Euronymous giving us a 20 minute voice-over about his story and what this movie will be about.  I really am not a fan of voice overs.  This opening would have been much more effective if we were shown what was going on and were allowed to connect with these characters rather than told what to expect.  Also, the only people in the movie that had accents were the actual Scandinavian actor, Valter SkarsgĂ„rd (Faust) and German actor Wilson Gonzalez (Blackthorn).  The rest of the cast speaks with a distinct American accent and Sky Ferreira has a distracting Southern California drawl. Oh yeah, Sky Ferreira is in this (more on that later). Jonas Akerlund has said that he consciously made the movie in English because he didn't want to "make a Norwegian film," but the inconsistency with accents was distracting. After a lengthy voice-over sequence showing Euronymous at home with his loving family (complete with Volvo in the driveway), dying his hair in the bathroom and ruining his mom's white towels, and having a squabble with his little sister who just simply will NOT respect band practice, we are introduced to Dead.  I really enjoyed the beginning, minus voice-over, and who among us can't identify with trying to be evil in mom and dad's house? This movie is humorous and is at it's best when it knows what it is, and acknowledges the inherent silliness of Black Metal, while also showing us that these kids engaged in actual evil.

Dead is one of my favorite Black Metal personalities, and Jack Kilmer just couldn't cut it (er, no pun intended).  Kilmer's wig is atrocious, and his acting is just not on par with the rest.  Honestly, aside from Ferreira and Kilmer, this movie is acted really well.  Dead and Euronymous are supposed to have this kinship and mutual respect that we told, not shown, in this film.  I'm also not entirely sure that's how their relationship actually was.  The scenes with Dead could have been really powerful, but Kilmer wasn't as charismatic as Culkin and it made Dead's role in this film a little flat.  The suicide scene, while graphic and exceptionally uncomfortable, was handled with respect.  We are with Dead for the duration of his death, and forced to watch the result of his crippling depression.  Multiple accounts tell us that Euronymous was encouraging of Dead's suicide, but in the film we see Euronymous emotional about it, and uncomfortable with a lot of Dead's antics.


Once Dead departs from the film, we are taken swiftly into the Varg/Euronymous dynamic.  I really appreciated that the look and feel of Helvete and most of the character aesthetics were pretty authentic.  I bought that these kids were living this lifestyle, and the wardrobe didn't look like Halloween costumes.  Emory Cohen, who plays Varg, may have been miscast. He was great as baby Varg, but when we are supposed to be afraid of him and he is entering villain territory, I had a hard time finding him as mildly sociopathic as Varg actually may be. However, one of the best scenes in the film is seeing the journalists interview Varg in his home, that he quickly decorates with blackout curtains and swastikas, while practicing saying "I am Greifi Grishnack."  The journalist cleverly points out to an unprepared Varg that he's Pagan, Satanist and Nazi...? This leads to Varg's first arrest, and his transformation to villain. The tension builds between characters as antics go from burning down centuries-old churches to murder.  Varg begins burning down churches to get street cred and persuading others, including Euronymous, to join him.

The dynamic between villain and sympathetic hero in this film are confusing.  I found myself forgetting that Culkin was Euronymous, and not just a metal guy with an ego and a secretly kind heart. From my research and hearing personal accounts of those who knew him, Euronymous was kind of a dick (for lack of a better term...).  Painting this picture of him as a guy who just wants to be famous may be fairly inaccurate.  I genuinely think he absolutely believed in what he was preaching (if incoherent at times...), and took pleasure in playing puppet master while his buddies committed crimes in the name of Black Metal.

Another element that took me out of the movie was the producers seemingly shoe-horning a romance for Euronymous to make him more relatable and to make his emotional arc from nihilistic kid to maturing adult more believable.  However, Sky Ferreira's character, photographer Ann-Marit, added little to the overall story and was barely even a character at all.  She existed solely to get naked and make Euronymous seem more human.  In fact, there is a scene where Varg insists she get naked for both him and Euronymous, which she reluctantly obliges, and it's not entirely clear why. She also looks exceptionally out of place for this being a movie set in late 80's and early 90's Norway.  She has an LA, Silverlake hipster look and voice that took me out of the movie every time she was on screen.  She is also the catalyst for Euronymous cutting his hair and putting on a button down shirt right before Varg comes to have a little, er...chat. (One thing I didn't know is that Euronymous actually did cut his hair the night before he was killed.)

All of a sudden, Varg is completely a villain and begins to stab Euronymous (listen, we all knew this was coming), and takes a break for a glass of milk. The murder scene is long, and drawn out, and we feel and hear every one of the 23 stab wounds inflicted by Varg.  The death scene, like Dead's suicide and Faust's murder of a stranger in Lillehammer, are handled well and beautifully uncomfortable to watch.  The point of these death scenes is not to be gory or "brutal," but to show the reality that a life is being taken.  At this point in the movie, I'm still seeing Cohen's Varg as an awkward outsider, and have a hard time believing his cold demeanor while he's dealing blows to Euronymous.  We later see cops chasing Varg in the street and arresting him, while he looks like a scared child.  It is not at all the Varg I know who smiled when the judge gave him his 21 year sentence.

One thing completely absent from the film is the bigotry that Euronymous preached (and that Varg would later preach).  There is no mention, except a homophobic slur and swastika banners, of the racism, homophobia, and general non-tolerance of early Black Metal figures.  The film does a great job of humanizing Euronymous but at the expense of the reality that Euronymous was kind of a dick. Listen, I'm not Varg making a YouTube video about how awful this movie is from my van.  There were things I enjoyed about it, and things that I really didn't.  I will probably give this a rewatch, but it didn't add anything to ongoing conversation about Black Metal, and it didn't get into anything deeper than surface level stuff.  There was no exploration of why this musical genre may have been born at this time in this place, and why these things culminated into such chaos.

In conclusion:

The Good

  • The best thing about this movie was Rory Culkin and he may actually have been too charming for his own good.  
  • The death scenes were beautifully shot and as uncomfortable to watch as they should have been. They were also respectful.
  • The soundtrack was great and we go to hear actual Mayhem songs which I didn't think we would.
  • The characters (except for Dead and his wig) looked like Black Metal guys.
  • The sense of humor this film had, while also not making it a joke.


The Bad 

  • "Poor Euronymous"
  • Sky Ferreira and the most unnecessary on-screen romance of all time.  If you're going to make up a female character for this era, at least make her a multi-dimensional human that actually adds to this story.
  • Jack Kilmer's wig (Jack Kilmer in general)
  • Euronymous being reborn as a "normal" guy at the end, and essentially being saved from Black Metal.
  • There was essentially nothing new that this film added to the conversation.  

Our Southern Vacation Part I: New Orleans

on
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Going on a real summer vacation was highly anticipated and much needed this year.  I went on a vacation during Christmas, but it's always so busy that time of year with so many engagements and then I ended up sick on my birthday and it didn't really feel like a vacation.  So when my vacation for summer rolled around, I knew that we would have to make it count.

Normally during the summer, we take a trip to my grandma's house in Greensboro, GA.  If you read this blog regularly, or follow me on social media, you'll know that my grandma passed in February, the day after Valentine's Day.  I know this is a silly thing to say, and I'm not a religious or spiritual person at all, but I still very much feel her presence with me and thinking of her and her impact on my life doesn't at all make me sad - it actually makes me incredibly happy.  Which is why I knew that we were still going to carry on our tradition of going to her house for the summer.

 My favorite thing about the South is the food.  That was also one of my favorite things about visiting my grandmother's house in the summer. I still follow her example of keeping things simple and perfecting a few dishes to keep on permanent rotation.  If it's good, you can never get bored with it. 

Before we made our way to Greensboro, we stopped for a day in New Orleans.  I had never been before, and I think I fell in love.  It has been on my list of places to see for so long, and I was not disappointed.  I felt so at home there and everyone was so friendly.  And food was not at ALL hard to find for a picky vegan.  There were so many options here and in Georgia, that it really goes to show how easy it is to be vegan these days (no reason not to be if you ask me). I had a vegan crabcake po boy that I almost died over.  We spent the whole day just walking around and admiring the scenery, wandering into stores and stumbling upon some really incredible historical sites and attractions.

Our first night there, we immediately went to eat at 13 Monaghan on Frenchman Street.  Alex and I got the BBQ tofu sandwich and the herb tofu sandwich and split them both.  They were both so simple, but delicious. The place was adorable as well, and a little divey which I loved. Cute murals on the walls and our waiter was such a sweetheart.  I was very impressed with the service here and it's going to be a staple for every trip to NOLA that we make. 

We then hit Bourbon Street (like you do...) and the rest of the night is a bit of a blur (not necessarily from alcohol, but from excitement!).  We went to a bar that had a live band that played some Rush cover songs, then we headed to an absinthe bar (absinthe is crazy strong and I couldn't finish it).  The end of the night took us to a bar called "The Swamp" with a live band that played Heart covers and I was instantly hooked.  We ended up parking it at that bar for the rest of the night and watching the Australian college kids who were taking a US tour.  One of them even bought us a round of drinks! (Thanks man!!)
I don't know what bar this was from...

The next day we got up and went straight to the French Market for and early lunch (we slept in...it's vacation).  We ate at Meals from the Heart, which has some amazing vegan options as well as meat friendly ones. Again, everyone here was so sweet and I was SO impressed (I guess people in LA are just rude compared to everywhere else). We took our time here, and even though it was hot and we ate outside, I was just excited to be there. 

Vegan crabcake po boy...omg.

But ok...so we all know I'm a crazy history freak, so we had to stop by the 1850 House.  This place made me dream of living in 19th century Louisiana and just sitting around being fabulous in my Parisian-inspired home with beautiful Victorian dresses.  There I go again, romanticizing things again.  Anyway, it was beautiful and a must-see if you're nearby.


For dinner, we went to Carmo. This place kind of a tropical, Carribean, South American spot and I was BLOWN AWAY.  Plenty of vegan options and the atmosphere is so relaxing.  Again, fantastic service and everything was delicious and came out so fast.  We got the vegan ceviche and I had the daily rice and beans with vegan sausage. Pretty much everything I ate in Louisiana was super simple and not at all fancy, but it was some of the best food I've ever had, vegan or not.


I am so in love with New Orleans and I can't wait to go back.  It really is one of those places that you build up so much in your mind and when you finally get there, it is just how you pictured it.  Ok, ok so maybe I'm idealizing it a little bit, but I was on vacation for the first time in a while, I had no obligations to anything and could literally do whatever I wanted when I wanted.  Plus, I was in a beautiful place with great architecture and my favorite person.  What else could you really ask for?




 Stay tuned for Part II of our vacation in Greensboro, and a special recipe for Broccoli and Cheddar casserole that was dreamed up by Alex, inspired by my Grandma's southern cookbooks, and put together by me!

xo
Sara

Is "Zero Waste" REALLY Necessary...?

on
Monday, August 20, 2018
I first discovered the Zero Waste trend on Pinterest.  I was immediately sucked into the rabbit whole of reusables, compost bins, mason jars with a year's worth of waste in it, super minimalist homes, living walls, and elaborate apartment balcony gardens that grow everything from basil to strawberries to tomatoes and back again.  I was hooked immediate.

"ALEX WE HAVE TO GET RID OF ALL OF OUR PLASTIC THE EARTH NEEDS US!!!"
"*shouting from next room* Okay."

The more I delved into it, the more my enthusiasm turned to guilt.  I made a post about swapping out commonly used disposable plastic items for reusable, sustainable items and yes, I actually do own and use all of the items in my post.  But I could get rid of everything, and I felt like I was a bad person because of it.  I was still buying soy milk at the grocery store, tofu in packages, and I would sometimes forget my reusable bags when I went to the grocery store.  We did switch to buying produce from the Farmer's Market, but our vegetable seller packaged some of their stuff with twist ties.  I always felt like no matter what I was doing, it was never enough.

If you're feeling like this, KNOCK IT OFF.  Anything you're doing to help the environment is something.  Plus, I'm vegan, which is a HUGE help to the environment in itself and one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint (high five for my vegan pals!). By using all of the items from my plastic swaps post, I am for SURE reduced a ton of waste that would end up in the oceans and landfills. And people are giving Starbucks shit for replacing plastic straws with new cup tops (that also happen to be made from plastic) but straws are on of the biggest contributors to plastic waste, so...why not modify a cup lid that would have been use in addition to the straw anyway, and eliminate the straw...? Makes sense to me.


Then I stumbled upon this blog post. Blogger Renee Peters gets down to the bottom of what it REALLY takes to be "Zero Waste" - Privilege.  Privilege is something that people are talking a lot about these days, and it's honestly not an inherently bad thing, it just depends on what you do with it. One thing I noticed about a lot of these "Zero Waste" blogs is that they have an abundance of time.  They make their own hummus (something that Renee talks about in her post), they make all of their own sauces and condiments from scratch, they live in houses with yards that are perfect for composting and growing food...But hey, I don't have any of those things.  I work a full time job at an art gallery.  It is incredibly demanding (though rewarding) and it is not uncommon for me to roll in early, stay exceptionally late, and sometimes to work without days off at all.  That's what it takes to be in my chosen industry (and I'm not complaining, just stating facts), but it leaves me very little time to tend to an apartment balcony garden being as I'm gone most of the daylight hours and essentially catatonic when I get home at the end of the day (I'm exaggerating...).  But that's another thing...I'm young, unmarried, and live in a big city. I'm also a "millennial" (as much as everyone HATES that word, I was born in 1985 and qualify as one) and it is widely known that we have money troubles and will probably never own a home.  I have crippling student debt, a car payment, and a credit card payment, and rent an apartment from a guy who is obsessed with the band Rush and do not live in a home with a sprawling backyard.  There are limits to what I can grow and compost.


Photos from Bea Johnson's blog, "Zero Waste Home"
Now, I'm still privileged and have very little time to do the things one must in order to be truly "zero waste."  Think about a single mom or a single dad who works two jobs.  What if you live below the poverty line?  What if you're doing your damned best, but live alone and have no family or friends nearby to help you out when things get tough and it is simply not a priority for you to put all of your waste from 2018 in a teeny mason jar?

Being concerned about the environment is necessary, don't get me wrong.  But I think that there are other things we can do about it, than worry about how living up to picture perfect zero waste standards.  Here are some simple and exceptionally impactful things you can do to help the environment:

1. Stop buying fast fashion.  This will help not only the environment (most of this poor quality clothing ends up in landfills very quickly), but you will also be making choices to empower people who make your clothing.  A lot of fast fashion is made overseas in factories that have very little regulations on working conditions and compensation.

2.  Buy a goddamn aluminum water bottle, ya nerd.  Quit using plastic water bottles.  Just STOP.

3. When ordering in, tell the delivery person to skip the utensils.  Buy reusable bamboo chopsticks, so you don't have to use disposable ones with paper or plastic wrapping.

4. Buy a bamboo toothbrush.  I guarantee you don't need that plastic one that lasts maybe a month before it gets disgusting.

5.  VOTE.  Betcha didn't think of this one, did you? Especially in local elections, voting is how we pass environmental bills to stop a lot of waste before it happens.  Remember when California banned single-use plastic bags in 2014 (thanks Prop 67!)? Voters did that!

6. Go VEGAN!!!
By skipping animal products alone, you can save about a thousand gallons of water a day, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons a year!  It is also easier to buy vegetables without plastic packaging, than it is to get meat without plastic packaging (unless you go to the butcher, or buy local, but most Americans are not sourcing their meat this way...).  It is also really important to make sure that your produce is LOCAL.

The takeaway from this is that we shouldn't beat ourselves up because we aren't perfect, and that's essentially my life motto.  I'm not a perfect vegan, a perfect lifestyle blogger, and I'm not living perfectly zero waste. But I am taking a lot of steps to make the world a better place long after I'm gone, and I think that's a great place to start.  I'll never be minimalist or ZERO waste, but I can produce much less waste and consume the right amount of things for me and my lifestyle.

Thanks!
xo
Sara

Vegan in the 90's - a Trip to Saved by the Max!

on
Friday, August 10, 2018
When I was a kid, my sister and I were Saved by the Bell OBSESSED.  I watched it every Saturday morning, and it aired in the daytime in the summer and we would make sure to park it in front of the TV for the 2 hour block that would air on TBS, and then 2 more episodes on WGN.  Yeah, I know.  Living in LA has many perks.  We get a lot of cool stuff here and I've lived in a lot of places that don't get cool stuff.  One of the cool things is the Saved by the Bell themed diner, Saved by the Max! that popped up here a few months ago.  The place was instantly booked solid, and Alex and I booked our reservation months ago. 

I was honestly not prepared for what I would feel while setting food inside the actual Max.  Now, I'm an adult and I'm aware of this.  But I'm also a pop culture FREAK and a sucker for period clothing and nostalgia. It was like a childhood dream come true. In fact, I may have been so excited, so excited....and so scared. The level of accuracy in this place was insane, down to the cups and stickers on the payphone.  But wait....would they have a vegan option on the menu?! No one on the show was vegan!!!


Well, the answer is YES.  While the vegan options weren't plentiful (it was option...singular) they did right with what they had. With your ticket ($40 a person...not including drinks) you get an appetizer and an entree. The appetizer was a salad, that was pretty basic and nothing special, but honestly it's salad.  The entree was an Impossible Burger, and lord knows I love Impossible meat.  The burger was perfectly great for a themed diner, and the only thing that would have made it better was a slice of cheese (listen guys, I'll buy you a few packs at Whole Foods, I guarantee you won't go through it all).  We emailed when we made our reservations to let them know we were vegan, and they were so accommodating and the waiter even knew we were vegan when he first came to our table and let us know what our options were.  The drinks were a little expensive, but creative and damn good.


All in all, it was a great experience. And I think that it was definitely worth the money, if you like early 90s nostalgia at all. Plus, a lot of people were dress in early 90s clothes and character costumes and it was adorable.  The place is also an Instagram madhouse, so the lighting is a little funny while you're hanging out (but the photos come out great...).






The Era of Self-Care as a Commodity

on
Saturday, August 4, 2018

I don't know about you guys, but it seems to me like in the past few years the term "self care," which I had never actually heard before has been omnipresent.  Instagram girls are posting photos of their knees in a bath with candles lit and #selfcare.  Self care seems to be anything from having a glass of wine after work and watching The Bachelor to going on a silent retreat in Joshua Tree.  Self care is doing things for yourself that make you feel good just for the heck of it, and in the Trump era and when the news is awful every single day, it sounds like a great thing.  And honestly, it is.  I've discovered a few self care rituals myself (which are mostly just me playing Tomb Raider on PS4 for 3 hours or reading in the bedroom for an hour before bed while Alex plays FIFA in the living room...which is probably his self care).  While self care is helpful and maybe a bit necessary, we are also living in the age of capitalizing on EVERYTHING.

Bloggers will pitch you anything if they think you'll spend money on it.  And let's face it, millennials would rather do just about anything other than work a 9-5 office job.  We saw feminism become commodity when everything was marketed as "feminist" in 2016.  People were manufacturing Trump protest shirts and pussy hats and they were flying off the damn shelves.  How many people did you see wearing a reproduction of the Labyris bookstore (the first women's book store in New York that opened in 1972) "The Future is Female" T-Shirt.  Online quirky retail supergiant ModCloth sold this shirt for $50 a pop.  It seemed like all you had to do was buy a t-shirt or cute new "Feminist Sex Toy" and pow, you're part of the new wave of feminism!  All it takes is retailers to notice a trend, and figure out how they can sell you that trend so that you'll buy it.  And like, how gross is it that feminism was a "trend?"

That's just one example of many, and now it looks like self care and self help are big time trends that a lot of people have figured out to sell to you.  Spoiler, you don't need to spend a lot of money for self care of even self help....


One thing that jumped out at me during my research for this post was the concept of "manifestation." I actually stumbled upon a manifestation "guru" Lacy Phillips, who has made it her job to offer web classes and real life classes where people (mostly women) gather and learn how to manifest their goals.  Funny thing, I actually went to elementary and Jr. High School with this woman.  She began her career as a holistic chef and posts photos of herself on Instagram in linen trousers with french market bags full of fresh vegetables. She has long, shiny brown hair and perfect, makeup-less skin. She's essentially a younger, hipper Gwyneth Paltrow, and the stuff she offers on her website raise just as many red flags as GP's $900 manifestation loofa (for real...).  On Lacy's website, "Free and Native" you can purchase classes, read her blog, and watch free content (one is called "Am I Unblocked Enough to Manifest a Partner?).


I began following her, because honestly who doesn't want their life to look like that?  She appears to have it all.  I actually bought one of her classes (the "cheap" one, for $40) but ceased using it when every single day I was supposed to just sit and breathe and journal (I can do that for free, thanks).  But I honestly gave it my best effort, and really tried to give it an honest try.  I tried to buy into the crunchy, new age vibe of her website and really see if I could "unblock" and "manifest" things that I wanted. I tried the "deep imaginings" that were marketed to me as a way to visualize what I really want.  But the more I tried, the more I felt completely ridiculous, and the more I began to think about the bigger picture here - there are so many people who can't just "manifest" a better life for themselves...and that's not their fault.

I read an article a while back about another self help guru who managed to capitalize on this trend.  Her name is Gala Darling and she has apparently made millions teaching young girls to use a technique called "Radical Self Love" in order to overcome their depression and anxiety, and live better lives.  On her website, you can buy similar classes to Lacy's, including a guide to feeling wealthy which costs $88, and a guide to get over your ex for good, which is only $33.  Gala Darling has also published books on Radical Self Love that include helpful information like wearing a fake mustache all day to feel better.  I'm being sarcastic, but in all honesty it makes me really sad that people like Gala and Lacy are (maybe unknowingly) preying on a generation of women who are vastly insecure about things like money and love.

Our culture has put immense pressure on women, and that's why things like this are marketed to us and we are actually buying it.  We are crushed under crippling student debt, we are underemployed and underpaid, we are undervalued for our work,  we are finding it hard to find a partner and get married because of all these things, and we have no idea what to do about it.  So I understand why it's tempting to want to shell out almost $200 for a web class that promised to help you make it better.

I honestly was a little on board with Lacy's methods when I first discovered her blog.  But then, in the midst of the Trump hysteria and a few months after the inauguration, she posted an article that really made me think about her angle.  It's all about labels, and how they stop you from manifesting.  In this article, Lacy tells us that when we label ourselves we are blocking our manifesting energy.  She tells us that calling yourself a feminist is harmful, that by giving yourself labels you are putting yourself in a box that will prohibit you from manifesting what you truly want.  We are not supposed to be feminists, we are not supposed to be liberal, we are not supposed to be victims, or label our sexuality. Yeah! Wait....what? Upon first glance, this ain't so bad.  But when you really think about it, it's a lot like Gala Darling's harmful and dangerous claims that you can turn your whole life around and beat depression with positive thoughts.  It puts too much pressure on us, and sounds a lot like "if you just worked harder, you wouldn't be poor" and THAT I have a problem with.

Lacy Phillips and Gala Darling are beautiful white women.  Lacy lives in Los Angeles, was an actress, and went to a great elementary school that set you up for academic success (I went to that school, it was in a "rich" neighborhood that I was out of district for).  I don't claim to know what hardships she had to endure and I don't know what her grades were, or how she may have struggled in her life.  But I do know that she's never had to deal with systemic racism or transphobia.  That she has most likely never been afraid that she would be deported or that she would be denied a job because she has another job and 2 kids. Lacy does talk about how she grew up poor, so she does have some idea about struggle and hardship.  And it really is great that she managed to come out of that and make a great life for herself.  But what about all of the people who aren't able to do that?  Should they just be manifesting harder?

See, this is the problem with this kind of thinking.  Putting so much pressure on people to just "think positive" and "put in the work" and when it isn't working for them possibly because of factors they have no control over, you tell them they aren't doing it right, or hard enough, or that they are labeling themselves.  Telling someone that they are depressed because they aren't wearing a fake mustache or thinking positively enough is dangerous and really irresponsible.  In this same article,  Lacy acknowledges her privilege, which should be a great start, I don't discount any hard work that she has done to get where she is.  I think it's great that a girl who grew up poor managed to work hard and achieve her goals, but I do think that it's flawed to think that "manifesting" is what got her to where she is now, and that if we buy her classes we can do the same thing.


Lacy claims that her classes and methods are rooted in neuroscience and physchology, and honestly the psychology part is kind of true.  But she is using basic PSYCH101 knowledge and peppering it with spirituality (which is all the rage right now, and something that people latch onto), and that's kind of it.  I think a lot of what makes Lacy popular is that she's...popular. She's cool, she's pretty, she drinks whiskey and she knows enough about what she's talking about and how to spin it so that she sounds like an expert.  You trust her, you want to be her...wait...this sounds an awful lot like Gwyneth Paltrow in this widely read New York Times article, right? I think we can draw a lot of parallels between "GP" and Lacy.  They both have that cool, nonchalant, je ne sais quoi that makes them someone you want to be.  And because you want to be them, you want to buy their shit.  They are both beautiful, white women, who are selling an aspirational lifestyle.  When you buy Lacy's classes, what you are actually buying is her brand.  You are hoping that you're buying a little bit of what makes her so cool.  You are buying the photos on her website of her dressed in white linen and wicker, and a perfectly curated life.  You are buying the notion that if you "manifest" then your life can be as perfect as these pictures.  You are buying this whole idea that comes from the Instagram influencer generation that your life has to be as pretty as a picture in order to be fulfilling, and for nearly 70 bucks a class your life can look like that too.

I was part of her Manifestation Secret Society on Facebook, and what I saw were a lot of women like me.  Women who are mostly white, middle-class, and educated who are just kind of in a rut.  We are in our late 20's and 30's and we don't really know what we are supposed to be doing, and a lot of us are looking for anyone who seems to know what they are talking about.  This kind of thinking is marketed to us specifically, and not those who have "problems" that stem from things they have no control over.  We are privileged in so many ways, but still feel that blankness.  So what is the answer? I don't think the answer is buying more stuff, or giving your money to someone who guides you in meditation. I don't claim to know the answers to these questions in fact, but what I do know is that we don't need to be sold false hope that what is ailing us can be cured by positive thinking or visualizing what you want.  And maybe the answer doesn't even really lie with helping ourselves get what we think we want.  Maybe we shouldn't be focusing on how to manifest a partner or more money.  Maybe we should be focusing on those who don't have as much privilege as us and using our privilege to lift others up, instead of ourselves.  I would much rather put my time and money into causes that help others than giving my time and money to someone who's job it is to capitalize on the collective depression that a lot of us are feeling in the late 2010's.

Further reading:

Throw Way Your Vision Board by Neil Farber M.D, Ph.D., CLC, CPT

How to Protect Yourself against Bad Self-Help, by Maia Szalavitz

Pursuing Self-Improvement, at the Risk of Self-Acceptance, by Alina Tugend

Old Fort MacArthur Days - and My New Hobby!

on
Thursday, July 12, 2018
My get-up for the day, before my hair wilted and my makeup melted.
This past Sunday Alex and I went to Old Fort MacArthur Days at...you guessed it...Fort MacArthur.  the Fort is alllllll the way in San Pedro and every summer they have a living history event featuring different military activity across time and spanning many different cultures.  We saw military gatherings from Romans, to Vikings, to British Redcoats all the way to Vietnam soldiers.  And of course, my favorite period of history, WWII.  I don't come from a military background, I've never served, and don't really know a lot of people who have, but for some reason WWII military history has always been a big source of inspiration and something I've read a lot about.  That's even the whole reason why I got into one of my favorite shows, Outlander, in the first place.  In the first episode (and frequently throughout the first season) Claire is shown in the 1940s and we see her background as a combat nurse for the British army (though not in as much detail as I would have liked).

I'll back up just a bit -  A few weeks ago I stumbled upon some girls overseas who were in a living history / WWII reenacting group.  I loved their Instagram feeds and spend way more time that I would like to admit devouring everything.  On a whim, I decided to do a google search to see if there was anything like that in SoCal (spoiler: there are a LOT).  I stumbled upon the website for the California Historical Group and looked at a list of units to join.  I wrote to the 45th Field Hospital, and honestly did not expect a reply.  A few days later I received the warmest reply from the leader of the 45th, asking me to come meet them at the event at the Fort.  I instantly cleared my schedule to be able to go and check it out, and meet the gals.

45th Field Hospital equipment
WWII surgical instruments.
The event itself was incredible, and I had never seen anything like it.  The 45th Field Hospital encampment was set up right near the entrance and I met the gals before I did anything else.  Alex also came in the tent and met everyone (and I think they tried to recruit him as well...). Everyone was so warm and friendly, and I'm always so worried about meeting new people and being weird and awkward.  Everyone looked great and period appropriate (I'm a stickler for historical accuracy), and I was instantly excited to get started.  I'm pleased to say, I will be joining the unit for their next event, and purchased my insignia for my uniform yesterday! I'm on my way to becoming a member of the 45th. I also can't wait to share my journey with everyone, and also my trials and tribulations of being vegan in a WWII reenactment group...(which should be interesting). I also dropped by the WLA tent and learned to milk a cow (which was not a real cow, don't worry) and they also tried to recruit me.  It was very tempting...but I think my heart belongs to the nursing unit.

From the WLA (Women's Land Army) setup. So cute.

Further reading:
American Nightingale: The Story of Frances Slanger, Forgotten Heroine of Normandy
Reading this now, it's incredible.

And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II




From the WAC encampment. Didn't meet these girls - as you can see there's no one in there. Just missed 'em!
Alex (not period appropriate) in front of the beautiful view from the bluff.



Say, "Chicken Frito Pie!"

on
Thursday, June 28, 2018

 

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Chris Hardwick is Trash.

on
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

As most of you guys probably know (if you follow me on social media or have read this blog long), I was in an abusive relationship for 4 years while living in Kansas.  I speak about this fairly often, and always when something hits a little too close to home in the news, because I think it's important to remember that this sort of thing happens to all kinds of people.  I'm just about the last person anyone I know would think would put up with this kind of thing, and that's why it's so important that I talk about it.

I've been a fan of Chris Hardwick since his days on G4, and I even remember crushing on him at 10 years old when he was on Singled Out.  He seemed like a nice guy, like someone that I would really get along with, and he was into the same things that I was. What's not to like?  He's married to Lydia Hearst, who I'm also a fan of.  Lydia is beyond gorgeous, a big time horror fan, and a super cool chick.  Again, what's not to love?  So when Chloe Dykstra came out with claims that he was emotionally and sexually abusive to her for the duration of their 3 year relationship, I was shocked.  I was mostly shocked because I believed it immediately, despite being a Hardwick/Nerdist fan.

My ex in Kansas was charismatic and everyone loved him. He was eccentric and artsy and girls fawned all over him.  He was emotionally and physically abusive after 6 months, and continued for 4 whole years.  He isolated me from my family and my friends and convinced me to drop out of college and move to another state with him when I was just barely 20 years old, and he was 26.  I chose to go.  I chose to stay for 4 years.  I chose that because he made me believe there were no other choices.

Chloe Dykstra says that her abuse began weeks into their relationship, and this abusive continued and escalated for the duration.  She never said anything publicly because she thought people wouldn't believe her, and because people liked Hardwick enough to overlook it.  And while her post detailing the abuse was important, she was not wrong to be scared.  It took me a couple years of being away from the situation before I said anything about how bad it was.  I felt like I wasted a big chunk of my life, and there are still things that I feel that are related to that time (I continually ask people if they're mad at me, because they haven't said otherwise).

Chris Hardwick was lovable and "gentle" (to quote Adam Carolla, who wasn't in the home of these two people and has no idea what he's talking about).  People like Chris Hardwick and my ex are really good at making certain people see them in a certain light, and know how to be abusive without being seen as a person capable of abuse.  One reason why this story in particular hits really close to home, is because Chris Hardwick is seen as a kind of nerd-hero, and in recent years nerd culture has been horrible and toxic.  The nerds have taken over, and become the new jocks.  It's evident every time I talk about my love for LOTR and some idiot guy gets aggressive out of nowhere and quizzes me about every detail in every book. It's sad because he was supposed to be one of the good ones, but it turns out he's one of the worst.

Supposed texts have been released that show Dykstra asking Hardwick if they can work it out, and being emotional about their separation.  People are using this as "proof" that she wasn't abused, but this is complete bullshit (pardon my French...).  I can tell you first hand that when you finally get up the courage one way or another to get out of that situation, they still have a hold on you.  They still can make you believe that you are worthless and that no one else will want you. "But you've dropped out of school, your family won't want you back,  you have nowhere else to go."  Hardwick also moved on rather quickly, which is classic abusive behavior. "See, everyone wants me and you're all alone."  The manipulation that happens in a years-long abusive relationship is deep, and it doesn't just "go away" once you leave.  It has been happening for years, and it takes even longer to get over it and to realize that everything they told you was a lie.  You want them back, because they're so good at making you think they're right and you really won't be better off.

So why did she speak about it now?  When someone is "famous" and successful, speaking against them in any way brands you an "attention whore" and a host of other awful names that people want to call you.  My abuser was not famous, and I was still called these things (I sometimes still am if the right person reads my posts, and because I'm not afraid to talk about it anymore).  I made the age-old mistake of reading comments on her posts, and I was really disgusted by what I saw.  "Fame-whore," "liar,"  "I stand with Chris!"  What these people are really saying is "I believe that any woman is more capable of lying about abuse, than I believe any man would be abusive."

I believe women.  All women.  Even if we don't get along or if we've never spoken.  I believe you. Because no one wants to famous for being abused - that's not the kind of attention you want.   I know how hard it is to say anything about what you've been through, and how scared you are of not being taken seriously, or having your friends abandon you. I know how embarrassed you are of how you put up with someone like that for so long, and how low your self worth was.

I believe Chloe Dykstra, and Chris Hardwick can go to hell.

UPDATE:
This morning Hardwick's wife, Lydia Hearst, made a statement on Instagram that she supports her husband and that "the truth will always win."  I don't think it's right for her to comment on another woman's experience.  Hardwick might be a great, loving, doting husband to you and that's amazing that he was able to turn it around like that, and we should all be happy for you, but that does NOT mean that Chloe Dykstra had the same experience.  I have been harassed and called a liar by a new girlfriend of my abuser and it never made any sense to me.  If he's changed, I'm really happy for him and happy for your relationship, but that isn't my experience with this person.

Dykstra is not a liar just because she said something about your husband that makes you uncomfortable, Lydia Hearst.  And you can support your husband and love him despite the mistakes he has made in his past.  But you were not present for their relationship and you do not get to define another woman's experience.  Accountability is the key word here, and Hardwick has only deflected and said that Dykstra cheated on him and released text messages publicly "discrediting" her statement. I've had both of these things happen to me before.  It didn't make my abuse any less real and it didn't make it ok.

Simple Swaps for Reducing Plastic Waste NOW

on
Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm sure you've heard by now that plastic is kind of an epidemic.  Everyone has been talking about it. I worked at LUSH Cosmetics back in 2013 and we had a campaign called "Take Back the Tap" which encourage the purchase of aluminum water bottles and filling them yourself, instead of buying water in plastic bottles.  It was then that I sort of invested a little more in keeping unnecessary plastic out of my life.


National Geographic has launched the "Planet or Plastic" initiative to commit to reducing plastic waste (click the link to take the pledge!).  The numbers are absolutely staggering.  Americans contribute millions of plastic bags, straws, and other items to the environment every year.  Where does this waste go? Most of it ends up in our oceans.  If you eat seafood, you are consuming tiny bits of plastic every single time you eat something that came from the ocean (another reason to not eat seafood ;P)  Zooey Deschanel paired with the initiative to help us all realize our impact on the planet.  It's getting out of control (and has been for a while) and I am really committed to making a difference.

In the past year, I have grown more passionate about significantly reducing my plastic consumption, and waste in general.  At first, it seemed impossible and really inconvenient.  I have to carry around a water bottle? I have to drink my drink at a restaurant with no straw? (I know... the horror, right?)  How could I LIVE THIS WAY.

Let me stop you (and my past self) right there.  It takes very little effort to reduce your plastic waste, and you will feel much better about yourself, your relationship with the environment, and your trips to the dumpster. Since I made the conscious decision to reduce my waste output (especially plastic), I have found my favorite replacements.  So see, I've done a lot of the work for you!  Here are some simple substitutions that you can make TODAY as in, RIGHT NOW, that won't complicate your life in any way!

Tips:

  • Be conscious of items that you buy that are marked "biodegradable." This does NOT necessarily mean that your biodegradable garbage bag will end up as one with the Earth. In fact, most of these end up in landfills, where things are unable to biodegrade as they are (under EPA regulations) deprived of sunlight and fresh air, which are both things required for biodegradation.  
  • Recycling? Awesome! but pay attention to the numbers on the items you are recycling. No. 1 and 2 can be recycled together, but No. 7 must be separated.  These numbers have to do with chemicals in the plastic and how they interact with each other when they are melted down to repurpose.




There are compostable bags that are available for just about everything - groceries, garbage, pet waste...you name it.  Green Home has a ton and they are made from cellulose, so they don't release any harmful gases into the environment when they decompose.

Metal Safety Razor


I just recently bought one of these and I love it.  You will never need to purchase another plastic disposable razor again, and you can recycle the used blades.

Shampoo/Conditioner Bar


Shampoos are plastic goldmines (plastic mines? whatever).  If your shampoo/conditioner comes in a plastic bottle, it might be time to swap!  My favorites are Seanik and BIG solid shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH. Alex swears by Avo Co-Wash.

Makeup Pads


I use makeup pads twice a day for toner and makeup removers. That was twice a day that I was using a disposable makeup pad and tossing it into the trash.  I've made the switch, and use one of these a day and then wash them with the laundry on Sundays.

Reusable K-Cups


Dude.  I'm addicted to my Keurig. In order to avoid contributing so much plastic in the form of single use k-cups, and also just enjoying better coffee (k-cup coffee is not the greatest...) Switch to a reusable k-cup and your favorite brand of coffee.  You can pre-make these for the mornings if you get a set of reusables!

Solid Soap Bars


There is honestly no need to use a body wash that comes in a spectacularly labeled plastic bottle.  Bar soap works just as well.  I just a bar for my body in the shower, and one for my face at the sink.  You can keep them covered if you prefer.  My favorite is Sam's Natural soap in Oatmeal, and I got mine at Whole Foods without packaging!

Reusable "Paper Towels"


Be honest, how many paper towels do you use a day? Knock it off! Get these instead.  They're perfect for cleaning up spills, wiping your hands or dishes,  and cleaning off surfaces.  I honestly use them for everything.

Cloth Feminine Care Pads or THINX 

As a woman, I experience a monthly burden on the planet.  Not like, other people, the actual planet. Using single use pads and tampons (which usually come with plastic applicators and filled with chemicals) contributes a ton of waste and is completely unnecessary.  There are so many alternatives, including washable pads, THINX underwear, and cotton tampons with cardboard applicators.  Get it together, girls!  These washable pads from Lunapads are perfect.  The packaging is even biodegradable! Plus, you can get them at Target and that's always a good thing. THINX are also super cool, and even though I haven't tried them (yet) I've heard a bunch of good things.  Both of these options will also help you save money in the long run, because pads are expensive and marketed to you as a necessity.

Reusable straws


Keep one of these in your purse, car, pocket, whatever and never use another plastic straw again.  Straws are so unnecessary, and if you must use one then use a reusable one.  Plus, these straws from Pretty Candy Pin Company are friggin adorable and you'll want to show them off.  But you gotta hurry up because she frequently sells out!

And there you have it!!
My favorite super simple swaps for living a more environmentally conscious and waste-free life.  It's hard to change your lifestyle, I know (hello, I went vegan after a lifetime of eating meat!), but it's not impossible.  It's important to put in the work, but to also have supportive people around who believe in your efforts and to have faith in yourself that you're doing the right thing and helping out the world you live in.  If you have any suggestions for me as well, feel free to message me! You can email me at sara@tinywolfheart.com or hit me up on Instagram @tinywolfheart!!

Also, note that I have added a section to the site called "Environmental and Zero Waste" (check the navbar!) and I will be posting  a lot more tips like this!


xo
Sara