Category Archives: women

Top 5 Female Action-Heroes (movies)

With Terminator Genisys (2015) coming out soon, my first thought was “why” are we getting another Terminator movie? It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the first two movies, but I am somewhat critical of all timeline story angles. Stories that involve altering timelines are always problematic because of temporal paradoxes.

However, the release of Terminator also reminded me of Sarah Connor. Clearly Sarah Connor is an amazing action-hero, and one of the few really good female action-heroes. Sarah Connor is one of the women I think about whenever I try to create women action-heroes.

So, that got me pondering. Who are the greatest female action-heroes of all time? I tried to limit it to live-action origin, or first visual was in a live-action film. This eliminates cartoons, video games, and comic books. With that said, let me give a nod to Wonder-Woman… without a doubt the greatest fictional female hero of all time. In addition, Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft is perfection. However… the Lara Croft films, which had video game origins, needed better writers and better directors.

Below are my top 5 female action heroes, but feel free to add others in the comments.

5.) Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games trilogy

She came from District 12, a poor coal mining district, and survived the very dangerous and very political Hunger Games… a televised fight to the death.

4.) Trinity, The Matrix trilogy

In a world dominated by machines, Trinity is one of the top soldiers in humanity’s fight against the machines. She is clearly a soldier who shoes little fear in the face of overwhelming odds.

3.) Sarah Connor, The Terminator series

She fought the T100 and the T1000 when the life of her son was put in jeopardy by the time-traveling assassins. Instead of running away, she ran toward the danger to save her son… and to save the future of humanity. Probably the most noble of all the women on this list… and her action sequences were believable.

2.) The Bride, Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2

The Bride is rated higher than Sarah Connor because she did action-scenes, and combat, in a way equal to the greatest male action-heroes. Sarah Connor may have done action that was more believable… but let’s be honest, the greatest male action-heroes do lots of stuff which pushes our ability to suspend disbelief. On this list it is quite a feat to rate higher than an action icon like Sarah Connor.

Jumping, slicing, and fighting her way until she finally finds Bill… The Bride is a powerful action-heroine.

1.) Ellen Ripley, The Alien Series

I base this on Alien and Aliens, the first two movies of the Aliens franchise which were both really good. The acid bleeding aliens killed Ripley’s friends, and the aliens killed the Marines… but Ripley killed the aliens. The thing that separates Ripley and Sarah Connor from the Bride, is that Sarah Connor and Ripley feel iconic… whereas the Bride just doesn’t feel iconic to me.

So that’s my list. The top three were separated by tiny details, and on another day the top three might be in a different order. So what are your thoughts?

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Will Disney’s “Frozen” score big during the Super Bowl?

Will Disney’s “Frozen” score big during the Super Bowl? I’m not sure if this is the type of Super Bowl bet that Las Vegas is interested in. But with many of the top films currently in theaters being geared toward men… and the fact that Frozen is awesome and appeals to men, women, adults and children… I would not be surprised if this film again returns to the number one spot in America this weekend.

The songs are infectious, the story is solid… and it has more depth than most Disney movies. Furthermore, this movie feels like an animated Broadway musical instead of just another movie. My wife and I have seen it twice already. If you have NOT seen the movie Frozen, and you are not interested the Super Bowl… this is an excellent Super Bowl alternative.

Cooking with The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book: “Bird’s Nest Pudding” and “Coffee Icing”

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book … made (in)famous by the haschish fudge recipe!

There is a movie called “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” … the title of which was inspired by Alice B. Toklas’ most famous recipe: how to make haschich fudge (cannabis brownies). However the adoption of cannabis brownies by the 1960s counterculture happened years after Toklas originally recorded the recipe. The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, a memoir of French cooking and travel by Alice B. Toklas, was first printed in 1954. This memoir recounts the life and times of Toklas, who was the partner of feminist writer Gertrude B. Stein. The book tells their adventures through the lens of cooking. Because of their ability to own a house, buy paintings, host a dinner with Picasso (yes, the painter), and to hire their own cook… that they were financially very well off while they lived together in Paris. In fact they lived in Paris during both World War I and World War II.

For this class assignment I had to cook a dish described by one of the recipes in Toklas’ book. I thought it would be fun to let my wife choose the recipe. When my wife and I began scanning over the recipes it was again reinforced that Toklas and Stein were financially well off. Recipes included lobster, duck with port wine, and recipes that sometimes took eight days of prep work to marinate. However in addition to social class these recipes

reinforce the idea that Toklas and Stein did not have children. Who has the time or ability to remember to marinate meat twice a day for eight days? Certainly not a single mom who feels accomplished with getting her kids dressed, fed, and not forgetting any of them in the supermarket. With this in mind my wife

chose two recipes that fit within our budget and that I could possibly do with two rambunctious children in the house.

Both of the recipes my wife chose were desserts. Great for my wife! However I do not like desserts and I do not like most candies.  So these desserts would be made mainly for my wife to taste and eat (if they turned out edible). Following is my brief memoir of how I made ‘Bird’s Nest Pudding’ and ‘Coffee Icing’ using the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
All the ingredients I used are pictured here except flour, milk, and regular sugar. The coffee is a local Oregon brand called Cascade Pride… French Roast of course! The eggs are from my backyard chickens 🙂

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 I sat in my office making a list of all the ingredients I would need to make these desserts. After a quick exchange of text messages with my wife, I discovered we had icing sugar (powdered sugar). So I left my office and headed to the grocery store to pick up all the things I would need for these recipes.

Bird’s Nest Pudding

Butter a porcelain pudding dish, slice 8 apples into it, sprinkle with sugar. Pour over them a batter made of 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup flour. Mix well, add the yolks of 3 eggs and 1 cup milk in which has been mixed 1 scant teaspoon baking soda. Bear the whites of 3 eggs, fold into mixture. Bake for ½ hour in medium oven. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Brown for 10 minutes. Serve with sweetened heavy cream. This is a pudding we should not neglect (The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book – 1984: page 129).

Coffee Frosting

In an enameled saucepan put ¾ cup very strong black coffee. Add enough icing sugar to make a very heavy cream. Warm over low heat. Pour on cake and with a spatula cover top and sides of cake. Sprinkle thickly with finely ground pistachio nuts. (The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book – 1984: page 70).

After spending roughly $12 (US) at the grocery store, I drove home and set to cleaning the kitchen. I cannot cook in a dirty kitchen. This is not to imply my wife keeps a dirty kitchen, but that we have different standards of clean. Furthermore we have two foster kids who make keeping anything in the house clean. Again, Toklas and Stein could not have had children considering the types of foods they were able to indulge themselves with. So, after roughly ten minutes of cleaning the kitchen I reached for the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book. It wasn’t where I thought I left it. I checked my backpack, and then the bedroom and living room.

It was 6:52 p.m. and I began to have a sinking feeling. No, I did not think one of the kids had eaten it. But I did consider, strongly, that I may have left the cook book in my office. After another futile minute of hunting I drove to campus… found the book on my office desk… and drove home. Annoyed with myself I was now ready to begin cooking at 7:37 p.m.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Apples ready for the bird’s nest pudding

I set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. There was no mention of how hot to bake the bird’s nest pudding, but I know many things bake at 350. I have a cooking quirk to preheat the oven to a higher level than I intend to cook at because I do. There is no psychobabble analysis needed here because preheating to a higher temp is just something I do. Anyway, while the oven was preheating I peeled eight apples and sliced them up. In addition I brewed a cup of strong black coffee. At 8:05 p.m. I finished peeling and slicing the apples and put them in the porcelain dish. I then mixed in the sour cream/flour topping, followed by the eggs yolks mixture, and finally I added the egg whites mixture. I sprinkled on sugar and put the bird’s nest pudding in the oven at 8:28 p.m. I turned the oven down to 350 degrees.

Sour cream and flour mixed together
Egg whites separated from egg yolks. One of the egg yolks broke, dripping a little in the egg whites. Oh well…
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Sour cream and flour mixed together
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
This bird’s nest pudding does not look good

At 8:30 p.m. I focused on the coffee icing. The coffee was finished brewing. To this I added A LOT of powdered sugar. The directions noted that I was supposed to add enough to make a very heavy cream. What did that mean? I was unsure, but I stopped adding sugar after dumping two cups of powdered sugar into the 3/4ths cup of black coffee. It looked like honey syrup boiling in the pot instead of a very heavy cream. I hoped that when it cooled it would thicken like many sauces do. To crush the pistachios, my wife helped me remove the shells, and then I put the pistachios inside a Ziploc bag. Then I crushed the pistachios with a rolling pin while they were inside the Ziploc bag.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Getting ready to crush pistachios with a rolling pin inside a Ziploc bag
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Finely crushed pistachios

At this point I attempted to make whipped cream out of the heavy whipping cream. After 15 minutes it still looked like milk. My wife told me I wasn’t ‘whisking’ hard enough. She briefly showed me how, and after I ‘whisked harder’ the heavy whipping cream looked like whipped cream. I put the whipped cream in the refrigerator and returned to the oven.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
This is what the heavy whipping cream looked like after 10 to 15 minutes of gentle whisking. Basically it still looks like milk.
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Heavy whipping creme that has been intensely whisked… it’s started to look like WHIPPED cream
Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Hmmm… the coffee icing is not thick after two cups of sugar???

The boiling coffee icing still looked like syrup. At 9:10 p.m. I removed the coffee icing from the heat for it to cool. Then I checked the bird’s nest pudding baking inside the oven. After 42 minutes of baking the pudding was still runny. I brushed the top of the bird’s nest pudding with butter, sprinkled on sugar, and left it to bake longer in the oven.

And then left it longer.

…and longer.

At 10 p.m. the pudding seemed done.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The bird’s nest pudding comes out of the oven… after nearly two hours of baking!

I placed the bird’s nest pudding on the counter for a few minutes to cool down. At 10:13 p.m. I did a taste test. This pudding was not good. My wife tasted it and thought it was okay. I told her she did not need to be nice to me, but she still insisted it tasted okay. She even said she would eat more the next day, while I would have been content feeding it to our chickens. It tasted very bland as I recall most British food to taste. But this was from a French cook book! I instantly wished I had not sprinkled sugar… but instead added a cup or two of sugar to this recipe. Two recipes I found online for bird’s nest pudding and bird’s nest pie list over a cup of sugar to be added to the recipe. Blah! I wonder if the French sprinkling of sugar equals two cups of sugar.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The Bird’s Nest Pudding served with freshly made whipped cream. It looks better than it tasted. And… it doesn’t look good 😦

Now I began to feel pressure. I was cooking TWO dessert items. Would either turn out? The coffee icing had not thickened by 11 p.m. Tuesday night, so I put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight. My plan was to put the icing on sugar cookies that I purchased… but if it didn’t thicken then it might be better for pancakes.

At 4:32 p.m. on Wednesday I checked the coffee icing. It had barely changed in thickness. Why? This I am unsure of because two cups of powdered sugar added to 3/4s cup of black coffee should have been very thick. My wife expected it to be a solid sheet of candy that I would need to melt down. Instead overnight it had not thickened at all. If I had more money I would experiment with this some more because I have no idea why this icing did not thicken. The recipe does not say how much sugar needs to be added to make a thick cream, but I felt like I added enough sugar to guarantee a heart attack. As a syrup it tasted very good.

Sigh… two disappointing cooking outcomes.

Cooking with the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
The coffee icing after sitting in the fridge overnight. It tastes good… but it is not icing 😦

My conclusion, if anything can be concluded from this, is that I do not like desserts. That was already known. So like so much other scientific research my experiment simply complimented (reinforced) existing knowledge. This was disappointing but not ego crushing. My ability to cook chili (meat or vegetarian) is very good. I can also cook steak, vegetables, and various dishes that go far beyond the skill requirements of a microwave dinner. While I am writing this report (attempting to write it) the kids have been put in timeout more than once. While I was cooking the kids were put in timeout more than once. I reiterate: There was no mention of children in the obituary of Alice B. Toklas. I’m convinced if she had kids she would have just ordered pizza!

This Weekend I Run my Second Half Marathon

This Saturday I will run in the Canby Dahlia Run. It is a half marathon (13.1 miles). I’ve run 13-plus miles three times since my leg injury. My leg is healed, but I am far behind where I hoped to be in preparing for this half marathon. I feel confident that I can run the Canby Dahlia Run without stopping to walk. However I do not feel confident that I can run it as fast as I did the Eugene Half Marathon in April.

In addition, this is my last time asking for your support before the Canby Dahlia Run. I do not want to spam people by asking for donations, but I am raising money for Womenspace, a local nonprofit that does work to combat domestic violence. If you are willing to help me in anyway it is greatly appreciated. The money goes to a great cause. My mother was in a violent relationship, which is one of the reasons I chose Womenspace as a receiver of charitable help.

In total I have raised over $100 for Womenspace so far, and I hope to raise more. I hope you will considering helping me “help Womenspace.” You can like/share my fundraising page through facebook, share on twitter, you can blog about my running for Womenspace, or you can make a financial pledge.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day 🙂

“Skinny Minnie Mouse” from Barneys’ the Fashion Standard or Fashion Faux Pas?

Barneys Skinny Minnie Mouse, change.org protest

Barneys Skinny Daisy Duck, change.org protest

As someone who studies society, I was very bothered when I saw these images of Disney characters. Girls and women have enough pressure put on them by photoshopped supermodels, anorexic actresses, and general media scrutiny. Lady Gaga is one of a list of celebrities who has taken some heat in the media for not being a size zero. I hope you will join me and others in protesting the Skinny Disney Character campaign from Barneys.

You can sign the online protest here: http://www.change.org/petitions/barneys-leave-minnie-mouse-alone