Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Favorite Filmmakers

I was inspired to make a list of my favourite movie directors. Here are my top 10, plus a couple honourable mentions, counting down:


Honourable Mention I~ James Cameron 

Yes Avatar, The Terminator and Titanic were films of epic proporitons and don't get me wrong I think they're great. My favourite Cameron movie is probably The Abyss though, slightly less epic, though it still is, and more suspensy (to make up a word) and more hauntingly  sci-fi  yet more human somehow...

Honourable Mention II ~ Sofia Coppola

I don't know a lot of her work but I did enjoy Lost in Translation and loved, loved, loved, Marie Antoinette. Her portrayal of the French Queen is poignant, creative and dazzling. The young Antoinette is shown to be a troubled person rather than an evil one. Her rock star escapist life style is amazing eye candy yet not too different than the quintessential teenager, except multiply that by 100!


10~ Ridley Scott

Epic! Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner and, my personal favourite, Kingdom of Heaven, all show case Scott's talent of creating and bringing the onlooker into a world so different from their own. His movies are a unique and powerful experience for anyone who braves their sight. 

9 ~ Andy Tennant

A name I wasn't familiar with until recently, until I realized he was behind the creation of two of my all time favourite romantic movies: Ever After: A Cinderella Story and, the lesser known but wonderful, Fools Rush In. His other films include Anna and the King, Hitch and, most recently The Bounty Hunter. I haven`t seen Tennet`s newer work but the Older ones mentioned just bring back so many memories for me that I can`t ignore him.

8 ~  Don Bluth

Two movies I wanted to marry as a child were Titan A.E. and Anastasia. I still love these Don Bluth films as well as his others such as The Secret of NIMH and The Land Before Time.


7 ~ George Lucas

Two words: STAR WARS. He created the most epic Space Opera Saga ever conceived! Unfortunately, I can`t say I admire Lucas for much else though.

6 ~ Steven Spielburg

Probably the most recognizable name on the list. I'm not really following his stuff these days either but some of his classics are my favourite films and many memorable movie moments: Indianna Jones, Jurassic Park, and Minority Report to name a few.

5 ~ Peter Jackson

"What wonderous days are these, in which myth and legend spring forth from the turf before our very eyes!?" ~Eomir to Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Jackson's love for the (yes, in my opinion "THE") English Language's best Fantasy book is evident in his film adaptation. Let's just say the fact that the final installment in the triolgy won the most Oscars ever (tied with Titanic)is not something to sneeze at. And I am soooo excited for The Hobbit and another row of Christmases when you can't wait to go to the Theatre!

4 ~ Wes Anderson

His unique style is enchanting. Anderson's The Royal Tennanbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox are so intensely Human without a drop of convention.Here is the trailer for his newest creation, which I eagerly want to see:

3 ~ Terrence Malick

I haven't seen of Malick's work but his The New World is one of my favourite films ever. His Tree of Life is outstanding as well. I describe his style as "visual poetry." Perhaps it's not for everyone but being a visual person and one that takes spirituality seriously his films touch some part of my soul that is not often reached!


2 ~ Brad Bird

He brought us the Iron Giant. He brought us Ratatouille. He brought us The Incredibles. He is incredible in bringing us some of our most loveable cultural icons!


1 ~ Hayao Miyazaki

From the first drop of a rainstorm kissing a stone to the dance of soot blown from a furnace to the wind moving though the tree tops enlivened by a child's vision into a cat bus! There is no such thing as a Miyazaki movie I didn't like. He captures something in his animation that seems more alive than reality. Disney has done a fine job at dubbing these masterpieces in English as well, so don't worry, you don't have to put up with subtitles to fully enjoy them! And though they all bear his signature style he offers so much variety: from the mythical Princess Mononoke to the Fantastical Howl's Moving Castle to the more down to earth, yet whimsical Porco Rosso.


My Adventures in G&D Free Food ~ Day #1: Quinoa and Korea

So I thought I'd post my recent experiments in my world of gluten- and dairy-free eating. And I thought I'd try this for at least a week straight. That makes today "Day #1." Here are some recent creations:

Super easy salad I just slapped together. Leftover quinoa with chick peas, tomato, cucumber, spinach, arugula and other mixed greens. Tossed with a simple homemade vinegrette: Olive oil, apple cidar vinegar, garlic, salt and spices.

For Dinner I mixed what was left of the salad with more quinoa and a nice juicy piece of wild salmon fillet. Plus one of my favourite Korean side dishes: Black beans marinated in soy sauce with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. They are salty with a hint of sweetness and their moist, soft exterior tranforms into a happily dense centre. So good!

On that note why don't i use this opportunity to promote Korean food. I only tried it in the last few years and now love it. Definitely one of my favorite Asian Cuisines!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Calligraphy is Captivating

Last year I bought a Lamy fountain pen with a refillable cartridge. Recently I ran out of ink so I bought some Winsor & Newton fountain and dip pen ink. Being equipped I began to write back to a few friends that I've been corresponding with the last few years the good old fashion way. Then when I was cleaning my room I found an old calligraphy set. There was a pen with three changeable ends, each with different width nib. The cartridges were all used up and did not appear refillable. So I just started dipping them the really, super old fashion way. And for super, uber awesome old fashionedness,  I a fixed one of the nibs to a feather...with masking tape, which I must now somehow creatively cover up...working on that.

 Anyhow, here is a small thing I recently "calligraphized." Great fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Delightful, Delicious Gluten- and Dairy-Free Dishes

Though eating gluten-free and dairy-free was initially a challenge it is getting easier and more exciting. I think this shift is because I've had to become more creative and resourceful and seek out new stores and products. If one rises to the challenge then it will not be a burden but rather become an adventure!

You'll have to give up fast food and other mediocre restaurants though...one time I almost cried because I was so hungry and after a lengthy discussion with the waiter in order to find something I could eat they kept messing up my order....urgh! Anyhow...on to lovelier things: Cook and bake yourself and you have absolute control over what you ingest...plus a lot of fun!

Here are some dishes I had recently at home which were reallllly good...and healthy and contained nothing I'm allergic to!

Firstly, rice is my best friend! Rice cakes, rice cereal and just plain old wonderful rice. Rice with fish=one of the easiest and healthiest and yummiest meals you could eat! Remember, you can bake frozen fish without defrosting it too, so don't worry if you forgot to take it out...and both your rice and fish will be done in about 20 minutes (unless to make super hearty brown or wild rice at least). BUT...add this salad to it and you will be inhaling your dinner off your plate like a starving cat! (well, I can at least say that for myself and my cat... :)

All this SALAD is:

1 head of Green Leaf Lettuce
1 handful of Dried Cranberries
1 or 2 handfuls of Nuts and Seeds (I used Peacans, Pumkin Seeds and Pine Nuts)

For the DRESSING (I'm guessing here, i encourage you to play around with it and find the proportions you like):

1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsps of Lemon or Lime Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar
1 generous pinch of Herbamare (a really awesome vegetable seasoning salt)
1 or 2 Cloves of Garlic
1 tsp of Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp of Hot Dijon Mustard
1 dash of Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper

 I also recently discovered "cultured almond," a dairy free alternative to yogurt. The almond variety has a nice texture. I also tried cultured cocoanut milk but it looked too much like cocanut oil and I couldn't get  over that! With this Erewhon crispy cereal (which is looks and feels like the Kellogg's version), raspberries and a drizzle of maple syrup it made an awesome parfait. I certainly thought I was eating real yogurt!

Just discovered this light and airy version of crispy rice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Health Wars: Return of the Old-style Mentor (or Guru, Sensei, Master, Teacher, Grandpa...Jedi...Your Pick!)

Recently, I went through some health difficulties, one could call them. I spent a month in the hospital. It was a confusing and painful experience. The culprit, or at least what seemed to be the culprit, was Major Depressive Disorder.

Soon after being involuntarily admitted to the Nova Scotia psychiatric ward I was prescribed several sessions of Ultra-Brief Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT). Apparently ECT is commonly used in Nova Scotia, where I was at the time, and they are a leading province in terms good results from this treatment. Simply put, you are sedated, given muscle relaxants and then briefly given a targeted electric shock to your brain. This shock induces a seizure. The practice comes from the observation that epileptics experience a significant mood increase after an attack. One might have an impression of ECT as seen in the film "A Beautiful Mind" (I certainly did at first) but methods, research and technology have developed a lot since then, plus you are sedated so you don't feel anything, except a bit of headache when you wake up. Was it effective? For me, yes! After 9 sessions I was a a different person, I could even say perhaps the happiest and clearest minded I had been in my whole life.

Do I recommend ECT? Depends. I think in an acute case it can be a quick way to solve the problem. However I strongly believe there are other ways! Ever since I got out of the hospital I dedicated myself to finding out more about depression and to do anything I could to stop it from happening again and then spreading the word.

For me one blessing that came my way was Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Along with prayer, spending time in community, improving my diet and seeking out natural remedies, CBT has been amazing. Upon reflection though, I chuckle a little. Why? Because CBT is so called a newish, scientifically-proven, drug-free way of dealing with depression. Another word for it could be mentorship -- something that has been around for a loooonnng time! Here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a depressed friend who was interested in CBT (I changed the name of the particular psychologist):
I found Dr. So&so to be quite objective, and goal oriented yet caring and not too pushy. He stays very professional, up to date on the latest research (he's always telling me about studies that pertain to my situation) and I think he is a good psychologist, in that he seems to be devoted to what he does, sticks to it himself and is genuinely concerned for his patients (at least from my experience).
Again he is quite professional, so I don't know much about him including if he is religious at all except from what I read in his cv. But he does respect my faith very much, he seems to read up on Catholicism from what I can tell so we can talk about it better and encourages me very much to continue being true to my faith. I would say he really tries to be unbiased, really being invested in being helpful to his patient rather than imposing his own views. Though he sometimes encourages things that have been proven in research.
He's helped me with a lot! With procrastination and achieving goals that I might be avoiding. He is always specific and practical, for example in tackling my final essay he helped decide how I can tackle it best, working with me so I can work it out, rather than just arbitrarily telling me to do things ( so breaking the task up, making it less overwhelming, rewarding myself in a healthy way when I accomplish it). Most of all, he's helped me to find behaviours and thinking patterns in myself that are either anti-depressant or make me more depressed and how to shift to more anti-depressant behavior.
He says himself his methods are simple, practical, aimed at specific things. Its about slowly changing the way, and being more mindful of the way, you think and act. Its something you have to continue to actively do. He also told me I will find it empowering if I stick with these things, because you learn to control your feelings and not let them control you -- I'm really starting to experience that now and it is amazing! I can at least say that his guidance is very helpful to me (I'm still doing phone appointments with him, which is a convenient option). I think cognitive behavioural therapy is a real blessing and liken it to old-style mentoring. It's really in a lot of ways like the path of growth in Christian virtue.
I hope that's helpful! I know this is running a bit long here but I thought I'd just mention that a naturopath might be something to look into as well. I've been seeing one, who tested me for food sentivities and I've gone gluten, dairy, and corn free for the last month with really amazing results! Sensitivities, besides leading to chronic, and often unnoticed, physical problems, can effect mental health as well! I can send you some research on that too if you like.
Through this experience I have come to believe the current psychiatric system to be flawed. In the psych ward where I spent a month of my life the space was, ironically, dull and depressing. Besides the ECT and maybe some of the groups there wasn't much else to heal the mind, sooth the spirit or aid the body (these three parts of the human body I believe are inseparable and mutually impact each other). We were given no counseling, though some of the nurses were kind and easy to talk to, othrs gave me the look like "why are you even talking me" when I approached them with questions. Anxiety was almost totally treated with an anti-anxiety drug"Clemazipan" (not sure about spelling), and the food was worse than I would have been eating at home.

Something is missing. No: a lot is missing! Did anyone consider: maybe it's celiac? NO. Or ponder: does she have all the vitamins or minerals she needs? No! Or think: maybe she needs therapy to overcome trauma from her past? NO NO NO! No one did. Don't get me wrong, I think these mental health practitioners are helpful, and many are sincerely devoted to helping people. But there is soooo much more to depression than sadly gets looked at by a lot of doctors.

Thank goodness for sincere psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy to heal our way of acting in such a fundamentally human way. Thank goodness for naturopaths and chiropractors and biochemists who seek to heal the root cause of illness and prevent disease before it occurs, instead of treating the symptoms when the condition is already very developed. Thank goodness for martial arts teachers and dance instuctors, who help our bodies become fitter while instilling us with confidence, perseverance, discipline and respect for ourselves and others.

Besides the psychologist, the naturopath was helpful in many ways too, one of which was testing me for food sensitivities. What were the results? I am very sensitive in to gluten, corn, and dairy. And also mildly sensitive to tomatoes, soy, beef, and strawberries. Is this a depressing revelation? Well it could be if you choose to take it that way. To me it is inspiring. It is an opportunity to be creative! And feel fantastic doing it. One month of gluten, corn and dairy free eating has resulted in more energy, better digestion (no more frequent diarrhea, hurray!), clearer mind and...believe it or not less BO! (Yup, BO means your body is toxic!).

I can honestly say that these days I am happy, grateful and inspired by so many things. Together with the therapy and guidance of that naturopath, I also met with a biochemist/pharmacist whose helping me supply my body with vital nutrients, vitamins and amino acids that naturally keep depression away. I'm also seeing a chiropractor who is helping me get rid of the stuck parts in my spine to optimize blood and nerve signal flow to the rest of my body. Plus, in terms of excercise, which is very important of course, I've chosen Taekwon-do and flamenco dancing (both of which I've never done before in my life...so it's never too late to start!) along with some soul-soothing nature walks. I enjoy all three very much!

So thats my story. That is my experience.

If you are curious about any of this and want to know more here are some links:

Gluten-free living and recipes:

Nutrition and Mental Health: