Book Review · Books

What I’m Reading: In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno

 

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In the last few months, I’ve resumed my interest in Japanese and Korean literature and manga (comics). I’m willing to admit, although embarrassingly, that much of my curiosity in the past was in my teenage interest in anime and pop culture and in the Hallyu Wave from South Korea, K-pop, Korean films and television. I still like those things, but as I’ve travelled and have become more exposed to different cultures and ideas, I’ve thought it important, before consuming any medium from those whose backgrounds are unfamiliar to me, to try and understand the cultural influences that inspire a person’s work. I’ve often found that, outside of film, food, music, and pop culture, most Americans, whether purposefully or not, know little to none about foreign cultures outside of the frivolous or the cartoonish. And when consuming art, literature, music or any sort of medium produced in other countries, many Americans don’t try to look beyond just being entertained, to look deeply within the socio-political concepts of reality that are often missed or ignored when pursuing alternative forms or creative expression. It’s quite common for Americans to be thoroughly ignorant of other cultures and ethnicities, but the thing that has been consistent over centuries has been the willful ignorance of Asian cultures in particular.

To remain separate from the fore, I’m trying to learn more about socio-political issues within Asian culture, from to politics to mental health. I admit that I still understand very little, but from what I’ve been able to grasp, I feel that the knowledge that I’ve obtained has helped me to look at Asian cultures with a much less regressive or alien view than I would have compared to when I was younger, and it’s definitely easy for me to separate what is comfortably normalized here in America to the reality that exists in other countries. I continue to want to learn. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries, few good, but with themes in particular focusing on the pressures of keeping up with social norms in Asian society. Joblessness, mental illness, loneliness, alcoholism, domestic violence, eating disorders, bullying and social acceptance are some issues that affect many people in Asia, the youth in particular.

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So, when I read In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno, I was already familiar with some of the themes of her work, but in reading and watching the few interviews that she has done, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was a female centric writer. I’m always happy to find great female writers! Before being published as a book in 2015, ICCF was serialized in a women’s-focued magazine called Shuukan Josei  back in 1997 and was written and illustrated by Anno. Anno is best known in Japan for her female-centered comics in the shojo (comics focused on and aimed towards women with themes such as relationships and self-image) and josei (female teen and young adult comics and anime) manga genres.

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The book centers around Noko Hanazawa. Noko has it tough: a shit job where her boss hates her, co-workers who bully her, a boyfriend who cheats on her. Even throughout all of her struggles, she remains, publically anyway, optimistic, but in private, she deals with the stress by binge eating. At some point, Noko begins to convince herself that that all of the problems will go away if she loses weight. Unfortunately, Noko’s obsession with her weight and weight loss leads her down a road of self-destructive behavior that to Noko seems worth it, in the end she loses more than just a few inches off of her waist line.Image result for in clothes called fat

There isn’t much examination that needs to be done with ICCF, it’s pretty straight forward. Anno’s ICCF explores the psychological tug-of-war in the world of eating disorders in Japanese women in relation to self-image and peer pressure, ideas that are typically seen as only being a “Western” or “first world” problem that young girls and women in the U.S. (and the U.K.) face. What I also like about ICCF is that the lives of the women in the comic are complex, not magical or hyper-realized or cartoonish.

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Though some aspects of the plot and writing are idealized and improbable, the book keeps its feet deeply grounded in reality, and Anno’s reality is harsh and painful but her characters seem to transform in some way and have some sort of deep personal growth even if their ending is ambiguous. A lot of readers complained that the characters are unlikeable, but I disagree. I think that what makes them likable is the fact that each is imperfect. In fact, the characters are downright scumbags, but Anno does not try to amend their behaviour through some sort of moral epiphany or deep self-realizations that ultimately lead towards a flat happy ending. Because, that’s not how life is. It’s a world that most people don’t want to see, I get that, but it exists. It’s a world where people get fucked over, get hurt, are humiliated, but ultimately figure out how to move on and are, maybe, stronger in the future because of it but Anno doesn’t let the reader happily rest on that idea with this book. I love writers who are unafraid to depict the world as it is; a world where reality is vague, disturbing, and frustratingly complex.

Since this is the only book I’ve read by Anno, I won’t give a full interpretation of her work as a whole, but from what I’ve read, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of her books.

© 2017-2018 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

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City Life · Food · Gluten Free · Writings

Gluten-Free Bagels and The Saddest Kosher Egg Salad in New York: Murray’s Bagels (Chelsea)

I spent New Year’s Eve at a nice hotel in Chelsea. The next day, after check-out, I decided to stay in the city and have brunch at Murray’s Bagels. I was particularly excited because one of my friends who isn’t gluten intolerant but is on a gluten-free diet, told me that Murray’s did indeed sell gluten-free bagels. When I tell you that I was hyped! I felt like a kid the night before Christmas! The thing that sucks about being gluten intolerant is  living in a city filled with delicious carbs. In NYC, the quintessential breakfast foods are bagels, coffee, and doughnuts, and if it’s, say seven AM and you’re pressed for time before school or work and need a quick breakfast, nine times out of ten if it’s not coffee and a doughnut, you’re probably going to opt for a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, or toasted bagel with (A LOT of) butter. I haven’t had any of these things in years. But, for a while I did attempt to make my own gluten-free New York-style bagels in the past. The result was always a flat, dense bagel with a dry, gritty after taste that had none of the pizzazz of a NYC bagel, and pretty much fell apart after one week in the freezer.

Heartbreaking stuff.

I’m in awe at how other gluten-free bloggers have managed to have success with their bagel recipes, but as for me, I guess I just don’t have the magic touch. So, this means I’ve had to pretty much shell out the big bucks for Udi’s brand gluten-free bagels and bread which are pretty decent taste-wise. Still, the great thing about NYC is that there are a lot of gluten-free friendly eateries to choose from, so I’ve never felt deprived for culinary experiences. But what continues to elude me is a good gluten-free bagel! So when I went to Murray’s on Monday, I felt like the wait was finally over.

The place was  bustling. I stood on line for about fifteen minutes. Murray’s has a great staff, efficient, polite, attentive. The chain is a pretty typical Jewish eatery in terms of food; smoked fish, cream cheese, sour pickles, chicken soup, the lot. It’s also pretty  affordable. Bagels are $1.35 each and a typical sandwich usually costs under five dollars, well, before taxes. Their menu is so ample that it’s hard to choose. While on line, I saw a girl seated a few feet from me eating what looked to be a toasted everything with lox and cream cheese. I hate cream cheese but that thing looked amazing.

By the time I reached the counter, I decided that I wanted a bagel with a side of egg salad. I don’t even fuck with egg salad like that but, man, under the display case, that damn egg salad looked like heaven. A guy at the counter with a thick African accent, says, “Can I help you?”

“Hi! Good morning! I would like a bagel with a side of egg salad. Do you guys sell gluten-free bagels?”

“Yeah. You want plain or everything.”

I peaked. Wow! I thought, I get options! “Everything,” I said excitedly. “And I’d like six please.” The other five bagels I was going to take home and toast.

He turns around and walks to the bread counter behind him. I’m looking at all of the breads and thick bagels the sized of tea plates, thinking about how I’m a few minutes away from some awesome thick, hearty sandwich. He opens one of the bread boxes, and I felt kind of special, as if I was going experience some great, rare delicacy that only came around about once a year. But folks, when I tell you that when the African dude reached into the bread box and pulled out a commercial bag of pre-made bagels (from a company called The Greater Knead). Well, I was pretty annoyed. These things were tiny; the width of a newborn baby’s palm. And he put two of these thick baby palm-sized pieces of bread into one paper bag, and then placed the pre-made bag of refrigerated bagels in another paper bag.

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He then proceeded to fill a tiny plastic cup with the saddest scoop of egg salad I’d ever seen. I felt like Oliver Twist getting one ladle of gruel.

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It was literally a shot of egg salad.

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And then I looked at the label on the cup: $3.51. All total: $11.61.

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I just laughed. Whatever. That’s New York for you, I guess.

And anyway, I just wanted to eat and then go home.

I already knew what to expect, because this is gluten-free bread we’re talking about here, and the thing about gluten-free bagels is that as they are, they’re rubbery, tough, and hard to chew. I’d equate them to the consistency of a dog toy, really. Still, let me tell you, it was one of the saddest bagels I’d ever eaten in my life. Not so much for taste; it tasted really good, so much so that in the end, I regretted not getting the bagel toasted. Still, I could forgive all of that, if not for the atrocious egg salad which was too damn expensive to be so bland. I was more offended by that than the bagel! I’ve lived in NYC my whole life and never have I ever tasted a Kosher egg salad as sad as this was. It was offensive, honestly, truly, to Jews everywhere. I mean, how the hell do you muck up Kosher egg salad? Even worse, how do you forget to put SALT in an KOSHER egg salad? A literal parody, like something I’d find joked about on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in a Mel Brook’s film.

And, of course, I ate it the damn thing.

Because…

I paid a lot of money for it, and I was hangry, and tired, and it was too cold to run around looking for another place to eat, and it was too crowded at Forager’s Table across the street.

When I got home, I toasted one of the bagels. So good. Not to plug the company, but knowing how difficult it is for people with gluten-related illnesses to find good food, especially bread, I’d recommend The Greater Knead. Plus, it has wholesale online, so I guess the upside is that I’ve now found another brand of gluten-free products that I might actually want to spend money on.

A nice establishment, but I would never eat at Murray’s Bagels again.

© 2017-2018 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Baking · Breakfast & Brunch · Gluten Free · Non-vegan · Yeast Breads & Doughnuts

Gluten-Free Blueberry-Vanilla Yogurt Bread

Blueberry-Vanilla Yogurt Bread

Working from home today, which of course means sleeping late, working in my pajamas, and lots and lots of mindless eating in front of the computer.

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Well, for me, not really. Because I’ve been good these few months. Lots of baby carrots and hummus, raw berries, rice cakes, raw almonds, and lots of water. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and since I love vegetables and fruits anyway, eating healthier has pretty much been a cinch. If only I could feel the same way about going to the gym…

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Well, since it’s me we’re talking about here, every once in a while, a girl’s bound to fall off the wagon. For me, it’s always the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, when all of the yummy foods you’ve sworn off on throughout the year are fully at your disposal, making your existence just rife with temptation.

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Still, I’ve been good at making healthier choices…well, with a few no-nos in between for good measure, but still watching portions and such. So, big servings of salad and water accompanying. I mean, mixed greens topped with cherry tomatoes and Tofurkey bacon.  LOVE IT!

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So today, I felt good about eating some homemade (gluten-free) baked goods.

Even in the winter, I still keep my freezer stocked with frozen fruit, which is always good for breakfast oatmeal and pre-workout protein smoothies. They’re not as good for snacking as they are for baking and cooking, but they’re convenient and are even better when making quick breads.

The best thing about this quick bread recipe is that you can modify it to include additional protein. This is my go-to recipe whenever I have a lot of yogurt in the fridge. For a protein-packed breakfast, I like to add in two scoops of gluten-free vanilla flavored protein powder (If you have severe gluten allergies or celiac disease, I wouldn’t advise adding any protein powder to your diet!) and I omit the sugar. Great for muffins.

 

Gluten-Free Blueberry-Vanilla Yogurt Bread

Ingredients

¾ c. GMO-free organic vanilla yogurt

6 TBS. (1/3 cup) GMO-free organic unsalted butter, diced

1 tsp. fine sea salt

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

2 cs. brown rice flour

1/4 tsp. xantham gum

1 c. frozen organic blueberries

12 tsp. organic sugar, for a sprinkled topping*

Directions

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add rice flour, salt, xantham gum and diced butter. With a pastry cutter or small sharp knife, chop the butter into smaller pieces, about the size of a green pea.

Add baking powder and baking soda, yogurt and blueberries. Fold the ingredients into the flour until well combined.

Pour the batter into the pan. If using muffin liners, fill 3/4 of the way with batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the a golden brown and fully baked.*

When cooled, sprinkle with sugar.**

*Toothpick/knife test: Place the toothpick/knife in the center of the bread and then remove. If the toothpick/utensil comes out clean, your bread is done.

**For protein muffins: omit sugar and add two (2) scoops of protein powder

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

 

City Life · Review · Theatre

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

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Before the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to get tickets to see the Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical. As I was on vacation during the Thanksgiving holiday I didn’t have time to post my review, but during the time off I’d time to write a thorough review since enough time has passed for me to think about the performance without coming from a place of bias, you know, liking something because I felt good about it at the time which often happens after spending two or three hours in the presence of a high energy piece such as a musical or concert where afterwards I feel too elated to think critically about what you’ve just seen.

Of course, since I’m not a professional critic and just a simple hobby blogger this won’t be a Ben Brantley or witty New York Times style review. I do go to the theatre as often as my wallet will allow and I have been an avid theatre fan since I was a child, I’m sure those two fact make me qualified to give a theatre review!

First off I should just throw it out there that I’ve been looking forward to seeing this musical for about a year, but there are other reasons why I was excited to see the show:

First, being one of millions of millennials who grew up watching the TV show Spongebob Squarepants. The show is practically etched in my life some way or another. I’m not ashamed to say that I own at least one piece of SB memorabilia, though I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore fan, I love the show and have a soft-spot for its characters.

Second, I’m also a fan of Tom Kenny who is one of the songwriters on SBSPTM and the voice of Spongebob on the animated show as well as the voice of the Ice King on Adventure Time, another show that I absolutely love. These days, when it comes to the success of a Broadway show there are only two things that signal a great musical (and it ain’t the music or the cast); one, a flawless out-of-town reviews during the preproduction stage, and two, no revisions or modification in production or direction, the casting, music, or book. Fortunately as far as I know there were no revisions, the Chicago reviews for SBSPTM were great, and journalists spoke positively on NPR and in other publications. Anyway, reviews aside, anything that Kenney does I’m always excited to see.

Third, Tom Kitt and David Zinn. Kitt, who arranged and composed music for one of my favorite musicals Next To Normal, is also the musical arranger and supervisor on SBSPTM, and Zinn who did set production for Fun Home and The Humans.

And lastly, besides Tom Kenny, the list of contributing songwriters: David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, The Flaming Lips, T.I., Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and Yolanda Adams to name a few.

So, pros and cons. I’ll start with the pros:

As I write this, the musical is still in previews until December 4th. I went on a Thursday night, the week before Thanksgiving, and purchased seats in the mezzanine because sweetie, I’m working class folk, and there are two more holidays and a couple of birthdays I have to shell out for before the years over (on top of my high ass rent). My money is precious! My seat were center mezzanine, which, when seeing shows at The Palace Theatre can be a game of Russian Roulette, even if you’re sitting in the orchestra but I had a great view. My usual criticism about most of today’s musical productions is that some directors seem to direct with the orchestra and the first three rows of the mezzanine in mind. You go to a performance hoping to enjoy a great time only to be able to see three-quarters of the performance because your view is obstructed by a stage light and the producers didn’t give a rat’s ass to take the time out to work the production around the theatre’s design. But director Tina Landau and her team really did a great job at making sure that the audience in the mezzanine and balcony seats got as thorough a visceral experience as did those in the orchestra section and the house was full.

I would describe SBSPTM as Wicked meets Rent with a dash of Marc Shamann meets Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. It’s colorful, bright and energetic with the typical pop-friendly score you’d expect from today’s musicals. The show ebbs and flows in a nice balance of radiance and frivolity, but to me it’s kind of like a musical version of a warmed marshmallow, a gooey, sugary, sweet treat you enjoy because it reminds you of summer camp and slumber parties, or simply because it makes you feel good. And indeed, the show has a lot of great things going for it, with one of those things being the staging, which is inventive, eye-catching, entertaining, and all around cool as fuck. With the staging here is an emphasis on found objects; ladders, foam board, boxes, as well as a few marvelous pink umbrellas used in one of the most inventive and unique ways I’ve ever seen an umbrella used in a musical since Gene Kelley and his umbrella in Singing in The Rain, and gives the musical a whimsical almost Pee-Wee’s Playhouse type of feel to its set design. The costume design, I don’t know of any other way to describe it except Williamsburg hipster chic, circa 2000 to 2009 and then 2014 to 2016 with the tropical print craze. Those of you who grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as I did know what I’m talking about. Just exceptionally random, weird, and extra as all get out. Plaid pants with suspenders and boots, Hawaiian shirts and New Balance sneakers, track suits with space shoes. I’m sure hipster chic wasn’t what the costume design team was going for, but I thought it was really cool.

David Zinn’s scenic design is always a cut above normal. To me, his work reminds me of Louise Nevelson’s sculptures like Atmosphere and Environment X and Sky Cathedral. There is definitely the trademark Zinn style which devours the stage and extends outside of it. With SBSPTM, it’s like his vision was to have an Ikea fuck a Home Depot while it was messing around with a Home Goods side chick and afterwards had a bunch of out of wedlock Toys R’Us babies. And the kid part of my brain loved every silly, fucking minute of it. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a part in the play involving two ball shooter-like gadgets that it’ll really blow your mind. Zinn really succeeded in recreating the fun, wacky energy of Bikini Bottom onto such as small stage.

I did not watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but heard that the cast performed Best Day Ever which is the weakest songs in the musical’s roster. I still don’t understand why they performed THAT song? Well, I do, in that the parade is popular with children and families. Still, talk about missed opportunities. For one, even though it’s a song that is very recognizable in the SBSP universe it’s not exactly the best song to use if the producers had hoped to show how good their show is. In fact, if the producers wanted to really get the ball rolling with buzz for the show, their best was with the Gavin Lee’s (Squidward) solo of I’m Not a Loser, the most popular number in the show followed by Daddy Knows Best and When The Going Gets Tough (Plankton’s song). Anyone of these numbers would’ve been better, but the Gavin Lee/Squidward number would’ve absolutely killed. Unfortunately, I did see some of the unenthusiastic Twitter responses to the cast’s performance which is a damn shame because not only is the cast great and that performance at the parade doesn’t do the production justice, at all, but also since that one musical number in no way reflects how cool the show is.

Besides the 1990s hip-hop throwback When the Going Gets Tough, written by T.I., Domani Harries, & Darwin Quinn and the Dreamgirls-esque Daddy Knows Best written by Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, other standout songs include: (Just A) Simple Sponge written by Panic! At The Disco, and Super Star Savior written by Yolanda Adams, another number that received an enthusiastic response from the crowd.

The costumes are inventive, cool, and clever. The little details in the costume design will really blow your mind, because what’s so clever about them is that you don’t realize how unique they are until later. Like, for example, and again, without giving too many things away, going with the found objects theme, how the designers got around portraying Sandy’s helmet by styling Lilian Cooper’s hair into an afro, Mr. Krab’s claws as two large re boxing gloves, and even cooler, and Jai’Len Christine‘s hair styled to emulate Pearl’s box-shaped head. There are so many details like these throughout the show that I absolutely loved. I loved how my brain noticed so many of these details, I felt like I knew something that the rest of the audience didn’t!

The main cast is great. Great energy, chemistry, and attitudes. And I’m saying this as someone who’s seen Matthew Broderick on and off Broadway. I mean, he’s just a whole ass exhausting human being, but he’s so much fun to watch ‘cause he’s a wealthy-ass honey badger. And honey badger don’t give a fuck (Remember that reference, fellow kids?).

Anyway, Ethan Slater as SpongeBob is energetic and spirited. Can I also say that he is also fit as fuck? As in, he is in shape? In this cultural climate, can I say this as a passing compliment without seeming like a sexist creep? Because it is a compliment steeped in respect. Because for all of the physical work on top of singing Ethan has to do in the show he pulls it off flawlessly. This all makes sense since I think Ethan was a wrestler in either high school or college or both. So, no doubt the dude is running sprints and squatting twice his weight. Before I went to the show, I got to see some clips of Ethan on YouTube, as well as the rest of the cast in various stage productions. Ethan shines as a physical actor, which is a rarity. I’m talking about going to a musical where the actors only move once the song is cued up, actors that are so stiff and boring on stage that they forget that they and their characters are human beings.

Biggest standouts: Gavin Lee as Squidward

Wesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton

Stephanie Hsu as Karen The Computer (aka Mrs. Plankton/Plankton’s wife)

Jai’Len Chritine Li Josey as Pearl Krabs

The biggest standing ovations of the night went in order of: Jai’Len Christine, Wesley Taylor and Stephanie Hsu, Ethan and Danny. Not that any of this matters, but I say this because I feel that these are the people to look out for on Broadway, especially Jai’Len Christine who is making her B’way debut but performs as though she were a seasoned professional. And her voice! WOW! I loved the chemistry between Stephanie Hsu and Wesley Taylor would love to see them work together in the future.

The supporting cast is so good it’s depressing. Their characters; Larry the Lobster, The Mayor, Miss. Puff, The Sardines, and Peach Perkins, I felt like their characters were mostly present as plot devices to help move the show along rather than being central to the story. Because in using a show such as SBSP where the supporting characters are as memorable and important as the main stays, I was very disappointed that many of the well-known characters such as Miss Puff, The Mayor, and Larry the Lobster, Old Man Jenkins were made as background characters with minor lines and involvement in the musical beyond a few one-liners or short singing stints. I mean, these are fully fleshed out characters on the show, especially Miss Puff and Larry who are also integral characters and fixtures in many of the episodes of the show. I mean, Larry and Miss Puff aren’t just some boneheaded characters with a bunch of throw away one liners. Their characters are multifaceted and just like SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy, have complex feelings and desires that are central beyond just being simple plot devices to move a particular episode along. And because the supporting cast is so good, I really think it’s a shame that their parts aren’t bigger and are so one-dimensional. It’s s shame that the actors cast to play Puff, Larry, and Mr. Jenkins didn’t get a chance to really show what they could do because they really did remarkably for the little material they were given.

Still, the cast manages to create a fun, energetic musical experience.

Okay, now the cons.

See, the thing about SBSPTM is that it’s (obviously) a show that wants to be cool and hip, you know, in an appropriating-something-familiar-but-niche-into-something-comfortable-for-the-consumption-of-the- gullible-masses kind of way. What I’m saying is, it’s malt liquor cocktails, sriracha flavored pork rinds, a bodega turned into a bar called “Bo-dega” or whatever. It’s taken something aimed for kids and is also loved by adults, and reinventing it in a cash-grab move to get a bunch of stuffy theatre goers to spend crazy bucks to enjoy it. I mean look at Hamilton: a boring history lesson about a boring president made cool with a hip-hop score and rap. But the problem is, it’s not as clever as (as Hamilton) because it’s not its own thing. It doesn’t allow itself to be its own thing, as if the people putting it together were too afraid to lose control with it, which considering the subject material, should’ve been the point. I feel that the play is trying to appeal to two groups of audience members: hardcore millennial fans of the SpongeBob series who grew up with the show and millennials who’re not really into musicals but loved Hamilton and/or Dear Evan Hansen and want more of the same. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a neat show, but it’s not really cool enough for who it wants to target nor is it engaging enough for the stiff theatre set who’ll probably more likely to feel silly or bored than feel like kids again. If its target audience is millennials, then it’s too niche. Plus, not many millennials can afford to see Broadway plays. High rents, student loan and credit card debts, low rages, you know, real life stuff, gets in the way of being so fee with one’s wallet. I was able to see it because I live a modest life, and I saved up.

When I say that the show’s creators are aiming SBSPTM towards niche, here’s an example; and is that plays out like an episode of SBSP, if you’ve watched the show you’re familiar with all of the show then you’re familiar with all of the zany cut scenes and jokes. Well, some of those zany cuts and jokes are in the show, and without giving any of them away, I’ll say that they’re definitely SBSP fans will recognize. As a fan of the show, I’m able to enjoy these elements because, well, of course, I recognize them. But, for the audience members that don’t recognize the gag, they’re kind of left confused. I think Landau and her team tried to imbue these elements as simple jokes, but they fell flat and on the night I was there, only myself and a few people laughed. Another problem that I had with the comedy and timing which I felt were a bit tame in that neither had the same sort of off the cuff, fly by the seat of your pants silliness as the TV show. The energy of the show is high and zany, and definitely a HUGE pat on the back should be given to the entire cast, the lightening and production team, and the conductor Julie McBride whose participation to the show keeps the atmosphere entertaining and kooky. Still, being a fan of the TV show, I can understand why capturing the world of Bikini Bottom is so difficult. For one, it’s atypical, out of the ordinary from the real world, secondly, recreating the world of the TV show would probably be too exhausting for the actors to perform (just SO MUCH craziness), and thirdly, attempting to portray the world of Bikini Bottom onstage would probably fall flat like trying to recreate a sketch from, say, a 1960s TV show like Benny Hill or Laugh-In. It’s all just too crazy, too over-the-top and the jokes would file over people’s heads.

Lilli Cooper as Sandy. She is a wonderful singer and actress and she does her best, but watching her I felt as though she wasn’t having fun, that she was too self-conscious and was playing too straight for the role. It’s weird because according to her bio, she was in Wicked at one point. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combo pressure of being a lead having to put on a flawless show whilst in previews. Still, to be in a musical such as this you having to let go of the seriousness, allow yourself to play and be silly. This is why Ethan, Danny, Wesley, Stephanie, Brian Ray Norris (Eugene Krabs), and most definitely Gavin Lee all shine in their roles. I’m confident, if she stays with the show, that she’ll have more fun with her performance as the show progresses onward.

Lastly, SBSPTM boasts a long list of pop and rock musicians such as David Bowie, T.I., Sarah Barellis. With such a group, the songs/score should be stronger, memorable. The songs are good individually but don’t mess well with the musical, so what happens is that the end result it’s one of those musicals where the songs/score doesn’t work without the performance. For example, some of the best scores are the ones you can listen to as if your favorite band or singer performed it themselves. Think of Evita, Cats, Rent, Bernstein scores, and of course Hamilton. I mean, I know a ton of people that’ve never seen Rent, but have at least half of the score on their iPhones. The best musical songs/scores are like pop songs you hear on the radio, they resonate far beyond the stage into people’s lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear any songs like that in SBSPTM. They were well performed, in some cases (Pearl and Plankton) exceptionally performed, but I don’t see them becoming their own thing outside of the musical.

Folks, I want this musical to have a long ass run.

I want this musical to run for five, ten years or more and make a badrillion dollars and be a pop culture smash. I want Gavin Lee, Jai’Len, and Welsey Taylor, Stephanie Hsu, and Ethan Slater to be the next big things on Broadway, I want the cast to be the toast of the town. I want the cast and show to win a ton of awards, to destroy at the Tonys.

I don’t see this show having a Les Mis or Cats type of run, but it’s quite likely that, as time goes onw and depending on how well it’s received in reviews, even without the Tonys, that it could be as financially successful as Kinky Boots or School of Rock, or hell, even as well as Nice Work If You Can Get It which had terrible reviews but was on for over a year and made a nice profit.

It’ll probably do well at the Tonys, so my opinion is pretty nill anyway.

Though a musical like this would, from the outside, seem more kid-friendly, in my opinion, I don’t think that the producers’ aim is for this show to attract children as its main audience. I’d hate to see a show like this become a night at Sesame Street Live!, because a show like this should do more than attract more a family-friendly fare than it had intended. I think the marketing and word-of-mouth may be working because on the night I went to see the show the house was full of adults with a very small scattering of kids attending.

There’s a lot to say about this show, but all in all, I’d recommend it as a great night out at the theatre if you don’t want anything too serious, just some sincere, silly fun.

 

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Life · Writings

Life going up in flames, you know, procrastination things…

Last minutes work that needs to be done, the last thing I need to worry about is procrastination. At many moments in our lives, we have all been victims of procrastination. Maybe the word ‘victims’ is too dramatic, but if you’ve ever found yourself fortunate to have two sentences written across what would’ve otherwise have been a blank screen at the end of a nine hour work day, then you know how harrowing of a chore dealing with procrastination can be.

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I look happy and productive, but I’m literally dying inside.

As I sit at my desk looking out of the window formulating my ideas, thinking of the next sentence to write, it’s easy to let my mind drift on all of the activity happening outside. It is important to keep one’s distractions at a minimum is key. For example, I look down onto the street and see two men sitting on a park bench having a polite conversation, each sipping from paper cups and one rolling up a newspaper and stuffing it into his back pocket. I look at them very quickly, acknowledge them, and then turn back to my keyboard.

Time to work.

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In order to keep procrastination at bay, it’s important to remain focused at the task at hand. For example, there is a squirrel running along a branch in front of my window. My initial reaction should be to ignore it, but as the procrastination bug crawls in to my mind, all I can think about is if it the animal is hungry. Maybe it’s carrying some nuts in its mouth that I haven’t seen. I don’t know. Maybe I should check. Just look really quickly to see what it has in its mouth. Oh, my mistake! It’s nothing. I thought it may have had a nut or something. I love squirrels. Poor thing. It must have been searching all morning for something to eat. It must be hungry. I’ll just break this toast into little pieces for it. It’s not like I need more bread anyway. Two months into this diet and I’m only losing patience. I envy squirrels. They just get up, do their thing, and go about their lives without any need for schedules or time. They don’t worry or fret about life. But, that is neither here nor there.

My focus is back on my laptop.

And…nothing.

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But, that’s okay. For inspiration, I’ll sip some coffee that I made five minutes ago and that is now as cold as an ice cube. I’ll just heat it up really quickly in the microwave. Two minutes should be enough. As a matter of fact, I do feel a little bit hungry. Lunch is in four hours, plenty of time for a snack. Hmm. Something simple. A rice cake with American cheese, some grapes, a handful of almonds. But, that’s too many carbs. Don’t want to fall asleep in the middle of work! I’ll grab some carrot sticks. Some ranch dressing for dip. It’s okay. I’ll just have a light lunch later.

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Back at my desk. An hour has gone by already. That’s the thing about procrastination. Ten minutes will feel like one minute and then it’s an hour later and you can’t seem to remember what you were doing all of that time. What I like to do is to set the alarm on my cell phone to ring when one hour has passed so that I don’t feel too pressured to remain productive. Make sure to turn off any alerts relating to text messages or social media. For example, my friend just sent me a video she took while she’s on vacation. It’s only two minutes, but in two minutes, I could think up a brilliant idea that would otherwise be lost if I watched the video.

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What a beautiful garden. I’ve never seen so many colorful flowers, gold and indigo and crimson colored. Look at that little stand where a man is serving thick cuts of watermelon and pouring sticky syrup onto shaved ice. I forget that it’s still quite warm there. They look so happy to be there, amongst all of the other happy couples. She looks so relaxed and he looks so dapper. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wear a dress before. The nighttime seems so busy, no doubt they have plenty to do! They’re at some kind of festival, there’s a parade, and a marching band. The floats are covered in flowers and from them they are throwing confetti and little candies for the children to grab from the street. Look at her dancing! A beautiful light pink dress with a cream colored shawl, he in a white suit and gold tie. They look like something out of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. She looks so youthful and pretty. The sunshine and warm weather suits her.

I’d love a vacation.

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If you get a little distracted, sometimes it’s okay to forgo those few minutes lost, as long as you ad work straight through the rest of the hour. I mean, it’s better if you can work for an hour straight, because it makes you feel more accomplished because you’re able to do so without distraction.

Sometimes, I like to work with a little music in the background. I’ll often play the classical music station, nothing to distraction, but just enough to keep my mind alert and active. I have my own classical music playlist; Chopin, Bach. I love Beethoven and Mozart, but I find that their pieces too rousing when I write, similar to listening to rock music during meditation. But, I’ve changed my mind and feel in the mood for some jazz. I pop in some Miles Davis, Some Kinda Blue. Great music to keep your mood up. Also, I always find myself just cranking out pages and pages of material whenever I listen to Miles Davis. but see, the thing about living in the city, in particular working in an open office environment, is that once one person starts playing music it becomes like a trigger for the other work neighbors to play music as well. But, it becomes like a contest; who can play the loudest most annoying music in the world. And for hours. With no regard for anyone else who might be.

Sure, it’s best to try wearing headphones, but when the neighbor is playing Migos and has their stereo cranked to eleven, your headphones might as well be made of paper held together by dog shit. Just useless.

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Sometimes, it’s best to forget the music and work in silence.

I like to try at a minimum of 500-1000 words per hour. Sometimes, I like to see how many sentences I can write in one minute. Play little fun games like this with yourself to keep your mind focused on your work. Right now, I have written fourteen sentences in under five minutes.

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That’s a good paragraph.

Sometimes, in order to get your work done, you might have to remain secluded from your family and friends. Because it’s all in earnest, there really should be no fear of becoming reclusive. It’s still good to call your friends and family for a random short chat, and aside from going to work and doing typical errands, it’s best to avoid as many activities as possible, especially if you’re in a time crunch. And there will be times, it’ll seem like you might go crazy with all of that time spent alone. Your mind will wander often on all of the things you think you should be doing. You’ll convinced yourself that your work is less important that these random ass chores that’ll suddenly pop into your head; sorting the dishes in the cabinet, taking out the trash when there’s only an apple core in the bin, dusting the plants. But it’s just procrastination wanting you ditch your work for a few hours of play.

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Wait—what if you g’re constantly distracted by a group of loud idiots outside shouting and jeering and laughing at nothing? Well, that means that it’s probably lunchtime. Time to take a break. Another way to curb procrastination is to plan your meals ahead of time. I like to make a week’s worth of salads so that I can pull one right out of the fridge at lunchtime, and I always stock up on a few healthy snacks and fruit to curb cravings.

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You gotta eat the lettuce!

But sometimes, you may find yourself craving something else, a sandwich perhaps or a more prepared meal. If you have few groceries to prepare your meal, then you might need to go to the market or deli. Another idea would be to call for takeout. Here, it’s best to keep a collection of takeout menus handy. Thai and Mexican food is very popular in my area, and they have gluten free options, so I’ll order some vegetable soup. It comes in twenty minutes and I use it to edit my work.

Afterwards I take my lunch outside and sit in the courtyard and enjoy the sun. It is cold and dim inside the apartment, but sunny in the courtyard. An older gentleman sits next to me, drinking a can of orange soda. He says hello, and starts talking about the weather.

“I have a daughter that lives in Atlanta,” she says. “Says it’s still seventy degrees there. This global warming thing is something else!”

If you find yourself short for time at lunch and caught up in a conversation, be polite. You never know when the person in front of you has gone a very long time without friendly conversation. And anyway, sometimes, procrastination can bring about great experiences. You can meet some of the best people, the kindest individuals. I talk to him for a little over a half an hour, going over the time allotted for my lunch break. In this case, it may mean setting aside two hours for lunch instead of one next time.

I return to the office and the janitor is sweeping the steps. He nods and then says hello, and too, attempts to have a conversation with me about the weather!

“Quite windy out.”

But I nod and then wish him a nice day as I have a lot of work to do.

Soon I’m back at my the office.

I scoot up to my desk, press the little silver button on my laptop, Six hours has passed and a whole three hours work is stretched out before me. I feel good. I feel productive and with the food in me, I feel energetic and keen. My work is my only priority.

I will finish today, I saw in fact, fuck it, I’ll even finish tomorrow’s work four days ahead schedule!

Because I’m a machine!

Because I’m a badass!

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And then I look at the screen…and see that I’ve only written the same fourteen lines from six hours before.

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Dammit, screw it.

I’m just going to sit back and pour myself a glass of grapefruit flavored sparkling water and congratulate myself on another productive day.

Cheers bitch. Good job.

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© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Life · Writings

Working Out and Working Shit Out.

 

Back from the gym. Because, man, I’m to trying to get my life together.

When I say “life” I mostly mean going a diet, and when I say “together” I mean sticking to a diet. I’m talking about eating healthier, drinking a lot of (and only) water, cutting out sugar, and more than anything exercising. Because when I was younger, I was pretty active and energetic. I loved dancing more than anything and though I wouldn’t consider myself an athlete I also loved playing tennis, volleyball, and soccer. I was actually pretty damn good at tennis, but a few years ago I sprained my ankle and now it looks like a falling stack of Jenga blocks down there.

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Me trying to stand on one foot. But, seriously, I need to see a doctor.

At some point though, as I became a teenager I got kind of lazy, not because I didn’t love being active. Because, it’s true that if your life is a sad, depressing mess, a good solid 9 times out of 10 your ass will be too. And if you’re one of those lovely but sensitive-ass people who keeps their feelings bottled up inside it’ll also mean that 10 times out of 10 you’re going to eat your feelings.

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So, I’ve always been aware of how important the presence of a good clean diet and exercise is to my life. Hell, without it, I’d no doubt be several hundred pounds and living in my bed, or worse, I’d be sleeping in the eternal life bed well before my time. The thing that’s also kept me in check has been my food allergies in particular to gluten and GMO anything. I swear, it seems that every time I go food shopping a good 99% of the food on shelves is processed and smacked together with corn syrup and enriched flour. If these produce farms packed a bag of apples the way Nabisco packages its Mystery Flavor Oreos… Nah, sike. Don’t nobody want them fucking apples.

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If I recall, I think I was around eighteen the first time I joined a gym. I joined a little shoddy but well-known boxing gym in my area because it was cheap, accepted cash, and was within walking distance of my apartment. Man, I loved it. I would go in the mornings before work or class because it was always empty saved for this one Hispanic guy who was a lightweight champion and, if he wasn’t training, would always stick to the weights and the bench. I spent a good solid six days a week for three months working out consistently, and by the end of the summer I lost over twenty pounds without going on a strict diet. At some point, I stopped going because of dysfunctional bullshit responsibilities at home, school, work, and I was so wonked out by all the things I had going on…

But no, in reality; you really need to be in a good emotional place if you want to fix your life.

I would bet that the reason why most people fail with keeping weight off is that they’re not dealing with stress. And, if you’re prone to eating your feelings, 10 times out of 10, all of the work you put in at the gym will be useless. And this on top of all of these restriction diets can kind of do you in. Because, if you’re omitting the food that you’re used to turning to when you’re stressed (i.e.) comforting eating, on your cheat day you’re just going to binge on that stuff like it’s the last thing you’ll ever eat. And you’re going to feel like shit, in more ways than one.

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After a few years of starts and stops, I restarted this summer. Instead of going through the usual rigmarole of cardio and aerobics classes, I decided to get into weight lifting. I mean, don’t get me wrong, cardio and aerobics are badass. They’re great for toning, and without them, I’d look like Jabba the Hut in a one-piece.

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Shit. Whatever. I know I look good!

But, at the same time, all I ever did was rely on cardio, and I never knew how much of a complete fail that is if you’re trying to lose weight and get into shape.

Dude, that first weightlifting session when you’ve never ever done one is fucking BRUTAL. I wasn’t exactly a stranger to weights, but I was always afraid to lift heavy for fear that I might bulk up or hurt myself. I also worried about looking stupid. Because, you know what I’m talking about; that image of the weak-ass noob struggling to lift twenty pound dumbbells, knees wobbling, legs shaking, face so red with struggle that he/she looks like you’re going to shit your internal organs (No one wants to be this person, girl or guy).

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Being that I was nervous about lifting, I asked around to people who were knowledgeable and I as given some good advice.

“Fill your iPod with podcasts and music so you never get bored.”

“Start out doing one set of, like three reps. If you feel comfortable, increase it to three times five.”

“For the first week, try setting a time limit. Ten minutes the first two weeks, fifteen the next two, and so on.”

Because you have to ask questions! You can even ask a trainer or receptionist at the gym. You’d be surprised at how cool people are when they see that you’re making an effort. Believe me, they’ll be more impressed that you’ve gotten your fat ass in there with a plan than if you’re some asshole holding the bench playing games on your cellphone.

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I swear, there’s gotta be a special place in Hell for people who do this shit.

But, so far, I’m really digging this new way of working out, of approaching exercise. I like how much stamina I have, and people have taught me to be less focused on the scale and to pay attention to how good I feel, and most importantly, my progress. Because, when I returned to the gym after many, many, MANY years, I felt like hell crap for so many days I considered going to the hospital. But, the day I was able to do a plank for a full minute, I felt like I could fist fight Superman. When I’m able to increase the intensity of my workouts without restrictions, like, when I can go on the elliptical for an hour instead of 30 minutes or I can lift heavy at ten sets of ten reps, I feel great. I know I’ve got this.

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As time goes on, I’m looking forward to the initial weight loss, but I’m also looking at it from the perspective that I’m growing stronger, looking better, feeling better, and it’s hard to fail when you’ve got all of that in your lap. So yeah, this means I came a long way from the girl who couldn’t do a squat without falling over or who collapsed in a wheezing, sweaty pile after ten minutes of hard running in place. Compared to that, no doubt I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been.

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Still, I’m not throwing out my fat girl clothes just yet. I still have to make it through the mine field that is the holidays.

And Talenti Pumpkin Pie Gelato.

Did you know that was a thing?

Like, sheesh.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Life · Writings

It’s hard figuring out adulthood.

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Illustration/Gif by Günseli Sepici. http://gunseli.tumblr.com/

When I was a teenager, I never thought that half my life would be spent struggling to roll myself out of bed at 5:30 am after the 30th alarm ring or wearing a stiff dress and shoes  that are not Converse sneakers or eating raisin bran for breakfast or hanging out with my co-workers after work at a bar and enjoying drinks that look like they would be accessories in a Barbie playhouse.

And then, there’s the actual job, my actual job. Because you know who when you were young you were just adamantly opposed to jobs or working or doing anything that wasn’t fun. I’ll live in a van and eat French fries and candy for dinner and make money selling organic homemade lotions! And it seemed back then like everything was Hell yeah! or I can live like this forever! until you start working and suddenly you’re looking back on everything you thought the world was and it feels alien to you.

 

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Illustration/Gif by Robin Eisenberg. http://robineisenberg.tumblr.com/

 

I never thought that I’d be a person who would smile, a lot, who would enjoy greeting people let alone talking to them. I never thought I’d work in an office where on a good day I don’t hide in my cubicle until lunch and then again until the end of the work day.

Everyone I work with, for the most part, is in my age range, so the entire department is a literal chill zone, easy and laidback. Because, I can remember my first job out of college, the atmosphere at this place was so intense that one of my coworkers confessed to me that he was so worried about failing at his job that he hadn’t had a legit bowel movement in nearly a month. So believe that, in comparison to that, when I say that I really, really like my job, I mean I really, really like the fact that my job doesn’t take a toll on my sphincter soul.

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*Illustration/Gif: Tumblr

One day, I realized that I’d become a completely changed person when I started to realize that I had the actual fortitude to literally have chill, to tolerate the type of bullshittery that has people getting into all out fistfights over in those “Public Freakout” videos you see on YouTube (don’t act like you don’t know!).

I never thought that I’d be that person who liked talking to the jolly overweight secretary in my office about her many, many cockatoos. We go to Starbuck’s and then comeback and sit at our desks and chat which always goes something like this:

Me: How was your weekend?

Coworker: Fine. How was yours?

Me: Great. My boyfriend and I spent the weekend at a B&B in Cape Cod.

Coworker: Ohhh, my God. I’ve always wanted to do a Cape Cod B&B.

Me: Oh my goodness, you have to! We went to a place that is, like, one hundred percent eco-friendly. Like, even their bedding is organic.

Coworker: Wow!

Me: And we had these blueberry biscotti with sage honey, and OMG, it was most amazing sage honey I’ve ever had.

Coworker: Oh my goodness! I love sage honey!

And afterwards, I’m like, Cape Cod? Sage Honey? Organic bedding?

WHO THE HELL AM I?

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*Illustration/Gif: Tumblr

So, I don’t know. I guess it’s good to grow up and mature and so on. It’s definitely cool to be in a position where I can work in a cool place, where I can snack on organic gluten-free doughnuts and suck down kombucha drinks and expensive spring water and get paid to chat on social media and write blogs all day. I know that to my family and some of my friends it’s a weird way to make a living, but I don’t really see it as a way to sustain in the long-term. I know I’m not going to be able to retire this way, but I’m also not even thinking about retirement, not because I don’t have a net or a nest egg, which I do, but because I feel…restless.

My dreams keep tugging at me…

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*Illustration/Gif: Tumblr

I get so much more fulfillment creating. And I feel like that no matter how good I am at my job or how many times I get promoted, I still can’t identify with my peers even though I get along with them and like them, but I still essentially feel restless on the inside. But, because I need a job, I’m going to have to try and learn how to balance both for a while. Still, I’m happy to work and I like my job and I’m grateful as hell for my job.

But, as long as I’m writing, which makes me really happy, I feel balanced.

So, I guess that’s all that matters for right now…

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*Illustration/Gif: Tumblr
*(If this artwork is yours, please contact me so I can give you credit.)

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Baking · Cookies · Gluten Free · Non-vegan · Snacks · Vegetarian

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

 

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I think that it’s best to stick to simple recipes, with as few ingredients as possible. Prepare a recipe with a hundred different flours, various starches and additives and often the result is usually something that tastes like it should be slathered against a slab of concrete block and used to build a house.

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Like, why would you…why would even put this on a plate?

Taste is a major reason why I’ve kept this recipe (and all of my other GF recipes) as simple as possible while sticking to the traditional way of making oatmeal cookies.ywsbtetGluten-free doesn’t always mean healthy, so I’m letting you know that these cookies have a bit of sugar.insulin-resistanceBut, of course, you were not planning on eating these too often anyway, unless you have the metabolism of a hummingbird. If not, stick to one. Two maybe fine, as long as you plan on doing more than one push-up the rest of this year. rashida-jones

 

 


Ingredients

¾ cup rice flour

¾ cup quinoa flour

1/4 tsp. xantham gum

2.5 cups Irish style Organic cooking oats

1/3 cup Organic granulated sugar

1 cup of light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp. fine sea salt

1 cup salted Grass-fed/GMO-free butter, softened

3/4 cup raisins

2 Organic brown eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg


Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine sugars, vanilla, eggs, butter, brown sugar and beat until creamy.

Next, stir in flours, oats, xantham gum, baking soda, raisins, and cinnamon.

For larger cookies (see pictured): Drop 4 large tablespoons of dough, per cookie, onto the baking sheet.

For smaller cookies: Drop 2 large tablespoons of dough, per cookie, onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Writings

Late Night Thoughts: Life expectations.

Photo by Neko Katz. http://neko-katz-illustration.tumblr.com/

When does a person’s life really begin?

When I was a kid, I used to hear adults say, “Life doesn’t happen until your 50.” So, what, do you just wait around until your 50 and just say, “Okay! Time to start living?” Why is it like that? It’s weird. Is 50 years the amount of time one needs to get over all of the fears, anxieties, stress and dumb shit society likes to shove down our throats with the adage, “This is what the real world is like, sweetie. Get used to it.” Is 50 years enough time to really start figuring out who you are?

Of course not.

I know a lot of people who’re over 50 who’re depressed, angry, lost. They keep chugging away at a life they hate because they have responsibilities. A mortgage, insurance, a car note, credit card bills. But, each day they live seems to be devoted to these responsibilities, and it’s strange that they’ve devoted do much time and energy to these things and they’re not happy. What are responsibilities worth in the context of one’s life? Is it right to keep doing something even if it’s destroying you? Do you keep doing something you don’t like and then at the end of the day need to escape from because it is what you have to do. When these people were kids, did they say to themselves, “Boy, I sure do look forward to being 50K in credit card debt and paying 2K a month on a car I can’t drive whenever I feel like it ’cause I’ve got two days off and gas expenses cut into my ability to eat!” I don’t live like this, it’s just an example. And, I’m not trying to shame people who live this way. I’m just confused. What I’m trying figure out is how does it get like this? What do these responsibilities mean in the context of your life’s  meaning or purpose? And, if at the very least these things are purposeful to you, shouldn’t you be, if not happy, content?

Many nights like this one, I stay up, thinking. I think about my realizations, aspirations, completing tasks ,all of the shit I want to do but also need to do that’ll get me towards my goals. These things don’t feel like things I have to do. They’re things I need to do and yet they don’t have the weight of say paying bills or exercising every day. I kind of envy those people who are able to wake up each day and going into it having figured out how they want to live their lives. They discover and learn with an enthusiasm of a puppy discovering a snail. It’s dope as hell. I’m trying to live like that, though hoping not to try, mostly just doing. I’d like to be lucky enough to be so good at living that I don’t find myself fifty years down the road waking up to a bunch of terrifying epiphanies. I’m talking about shit that you want to have realized in you late 20s and 30s or whatever, the shit that’s fixable and doable so that living feels constant as oppose to a burden.

Does it make me incredibly lame if I don’t want what other people have? Does it make me lazy that I don’t want responsibilities outside of what I want to do? I mean, of course there’s rent, phone bill, food, and health insurance, but I have just enough of those things where anything more would feel covetous, greedy. I’m happiest being independent of unnecessary things. It’s in those take-a-deep-breath moments when I’m able to reestablish that my life is not as bad as it seems, difficult at times but I adjust. Trying to figure life out is way harder than actually living. You think you never sort your shit out, but yeah, eventually you do. You just drop the useless garbage, start clean and laundry fresh.

I think it’s best to try and rid your life of the idea that being be an adult is terrible. If you can’t get rid of it, at least try and lessen your anxieties around it. The idea that growing up and growing older is the worse can kind of ruin you. It can make you look at your life, at yourself, as a failure. You’ll spend so much time focusing on what you like that you’ll try and make up for it in things that ultimately tie you down to a way of life you don’t want. And yeah, there are things about life the S-U-C-K. Getting sick/ill sucks. Having to exercise everyday sucks. Dying definitely sucks, but even before that even happens you’ll have a good 80-100 years (Modern medicine, rules!) of your life where you can kick ass.

So, dismissing your aspirations and all the things you want to do is a no-go! Don’t go out and take on a bunch of things that you don’t want but think you need to appear a success. Be the weirdo that likes to spend time creating, doing and accomplishing instead of accruing, obtaining, and possessing. Trying to figure out who you really are isn’t lame or lazy. Allowing yourself to grow is not a fail.

And learning to love yourself. Because self-care is an awesome thing. It’s also an under-utilized thing. It’s the difference between eating a bowl of ice cream because you’re stressed, and eating a bowl of ice cream because it’s a nice day out and you want to enjoy it while sitting on the porch barefoot. The latter one will make you fall in love with being alive.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Book Review · Books · Fiction · Summer Reading

What I’m Reading: Factotum. By: Charles Bukowski

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Around the time I was a freshman in college, I was turned on to Bukowski. I was reading a lot of Henry Rollins’ books, and from his works I fell into a rabbit whole of subversive literature; Henry Miller, Chuck Palanuik, Irving Welsh, and so on. I think most people get into subversive fiction when they’re young and at their most angst-ridden and confused. Reading Factotum as a teenager was like, I imagine, how a first shot of heroin feels. It felt to me like my brain and my feelings were having a brawl inside of my mind. It felt that the first time I read A Catcher in the Rye and listened to Chopin for the first time. I look for that feeling over and over again when I read. It’s so rare to come by. So many books are dumb down these days.

How was I when I was young? Even worse, how were my friends? Ever had a friend that was deep into absinthe and Steampunk cosplay or got into goth, rap metal, and writing vampire fan fiction?  We were all frustrated, overwhelmed, trying to carve out our identities, to find out where and how the hell we belonged. We were fire balls of frenzied emotions, of emotional turmoil, and mental anguish. It was the only time when being dysfunctional was valuable. I don’t know how most people live life without experiencing a little bit of anguish. Everything I was attracted to was solemn, vulgar, dark, exploitative, brooding, but, in my mind, cool. The countless times I’d sat in my room with my windows blacked out with newspaper, drinking bad beer and writing shitty poetry while listening to blues records (I’m talking Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, not that bullshit Eric Clapton wastes his our time with instead of giving us Cream fans an appropriate album AND tour. Rest in Paradise Jack Bruce). My friends look back on that time of their lives, photos included, with a code red level of cringe. But, I feel that it was their most expressive time, a time when they were at their most creative and free. Now, they’re afraid of chaos, or they suppress it with prescription drugs. I don’t know. I sympathize with their fear. Some people get older and feel that it’s probably safer not to feel anything, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t mind being a loser. Living’s a lot easier, I feel good. I just don’t think that you should go through life being completely numb. Face your failures, the stuff that saddens you, just a little bit.

Bukowski was a shrewd dude. He was also a pretty vile dude, but he was conscious. He had a thumbprint on life that I admire and try to maintain for myself, though without the influence of drugs or alcohol. He saw life for what it was, human beings living in a whirring madness of boredom and wasteful living that he just couldn’t understand. Neither do I. But, I’m empathetic to those who continue to live this way. They haven’t figured out how to escape the asylum. I suppose people get older and that’s when the pointlessness of life hits them. Bukowski and his Chinaski alter-ego broke free with sex, women, gambling and booze. And because of the way he lived, he is seen as a hero, or an anti-hero depending on your level of cynicism. Like Bukowski/Chinaski, you want to walk into work drunk off your balls and tell the boss to kiss your ass. Because, somewhere underneath the squander and grind of it all, we all want to believe that happiness exists, unaffected. Far from all of the disappointment and apathy, we want to believe that there is still a resistance within ourselves driving us to live in our own way. It’s a feeling that drives us from our youth that into our adulthood, and we hope to hold on to it for as long as we can.

But, nah. That ain’t reality.

Most people live with both feet on the ground and their head on their bills, and then others are comfortable with permanence and find a rhythm in being broken in like a dog by habituation and routine. I’m not judging those people, but they can only live vicariously through other people’s lives, and that has to be a painful reality, I think. Not being brave enough, so that as an adult, that that six pack of beer and that joint starts to become things that get you through the daily 9 to 5 bullshit. Most people are going to sit on our asses and watch the clock hit five and sweat it out on a packed smelly train on the way home, because home is where your food and bed is, and then do it all again tomorrow. But, hell, you can laugh about it someday when you look down at the joke of a pension check you’ll have to retire on. I’ll probably be that bum you see coming out of work, selling her shitty poetry pamphlets and knitted loves that you’ll throw your unwanted pennies at. We’re all end up losers in some sort of way in this life, I guess.

What Bukowski is saying is, just have the fucking courage to embrace it.

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