Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: Review and Resolution

2018 seemed to go like the speed of light. Maybe I think and say that every year? I've been feeling negative lately which makes it difficult to view the past twelve months objectively, but I'll try!




GOOD THINGS:

DIY house repairs. This year I finished painting the sides of my house, sawed a hole in the roof for added ventilation, replaced a fence post and repaired fence parts, lined the last closet, silver sealed my dormer roof (in blazing 90 degree weather), fixed a gutter (in a thunderstorm), and prepped the garage for painting although didn't quite get to it. I paid absolutely no one money for substandard construction. I'm very proud of myself.

Health care avoidance. I've managed to avoid doctors and medical professionals of all kind for the last eight months. This is after eight months of incompetence overexposure, however, so I plan to avoid any and all for the rest of my life to make up for the trauma.

The Dems. Crazy liberals. Snowflakes. We saw the election of some great people in politics, people destined to change the course of America. People like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is incredibly capable and intelligent with way more panache and energy than any of the old Republican guard. She's quick with the tweets and is going to kick ass. Also, Beto O'Rourke. I enjoy listening to his speeches. Watching Kamala Harris demand answers from the rapist pig during the Senate hearing made my heart sing. If she runs for president in 2020, she's got my vote. We need a strong woman leading the country. (Why do they call Democrats snowflakes? I've never figured that out. Snowflakes are miracles of nature, every one of them different and beautiful. Ummm....)

My blog. I love conversing with myself. It's great therapy. Thank you to anyone who might wander into it accidentally.

Free stuff, cheap stuff. The garage, yard and estate sales were outstanding this year!!

Jazz. I found a really cool jazz radio station online www.jazzradio.com and I listen to it all the time. Wonderful. So soothing.

New neighbor! New GOOD neighbor. No barking dogs. He removes the leaves from his tree off my driveway. He lets me dump my compost over his cliff. He gives me things. Wow. I forgot what good neighbors are like. I hope he doesn't change. Rathole does that to a person.

Fragrance-free friends. They are few and far between, sometimes in different countries, but I appreciate all the email correspondence, support, and kindness. They don't realize how much they contribute to my quality of life even those who rarely write. When they do it's lovely and makes me feel alive.

Glass on glass mosaics. OMG! Mosaics are so fun...alternating with frustration which kind of adds to the adventure. Patience has never been my strong suit and it is the number one skill one needs to master this art form although I can tell mastery will take me a lifetime. Glass doesn't always do what you want. Still, mosaics have replaced every substandard strategy for entertainment I've attempted as of late out in the middle of no where. The colors are so cheerful and the patterns so beautiful. It has provided me all kinds of joy.

"America"


IN THE MIDDLE:

Mosaics. I really should put mosaics not really here, in between good and bad. First, the tools and supplies are incredibly expensive. Second, my house is a disaster with most of my living room a workroom, the kitchen a process room, and my office a planning room. Just today I looked around for a surface and used the clothes dryer. What a mess!

Living Room. Most of the furniture has been moved out.

One of the kitchen tables. 
The other kitchen table...I've run out of tables. I keep eyeing the large
art tables out in my garage, but they are too heavy to move.
I've tried...twice! LOL!

Third, it is one of the most dangerous crafts I've ever encountered! So far my thumb got infected, swelled and the nerves were damaged for a couple weeks. I lacerated a finger nearly off on a piece of dirty, broken glass which gushed blood for about a half hour. The thumbs and first two fingers of both hands have callouses and scars from all the cuts and the wire I use to hang the mosaics is sharp and pokey which causes bleeding. I found some nitrile surgical gloves that are small, thick and tight and often cover my fingers with bandaids for protection. I also have to wear glasses to protect my eyes from the flying shards of glass and be very careful where I walk since these sharp shards of glass are all over my floors and must be constantly swept or vacuumed. Good god! No one ever talks about the risks and I often wonder if the risks are worth it, but I keep persevering! And of course, I'm pretty sure this is another creative endeavor that will uncontrollably reproduce itself and then get shoved into the back of a closet in a box never to be seen again (keeping all the other art things company). Until then, I'm having fun...and mosaics are still on my "Good Things" list!

Work. I like money. My eyes didn't fail me this year and neither did any other body parts.

Health. Everything seems to be working right now. Knock on wood. Eight months ago this was not the case. I recently read a book called Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich about how we are unnecessarily preoccupied with keeping ourselves alive. As a biochemical researcher, her theory is once we get to a certain age our bodies are TRYING to self-destruct. It's the way organisms work. The older, less capable, less effective bodies make way for the younger so the species survives. Our bodies are not "holistic" as new-age doctors want you to believe and she gives the autoimmune diseases as an example along with inflammatory-based diseases such as Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis where our own cells are bent on destruction. On purpose! The money-making marketing of the health industry wants you to believe otherwise so you'll spend your dollars on exercise equipment, gym memberships, fancy foods, fad diets, and lots of DOCTORS and DRUGS in an attempt to defy the inevitable. There is no such thing as age-reversing. Great book and perspective. Like the author who has decided against future, unnecessary medical visits, I'm done....


BAD THINGS:

Health care. Useless, substandard, expensive, waste of time. This year was the worst. I saw at least a dozen doctors this year before I called it quits: three naturopaths, one functional medicine, three conventional twits, two eye doctors, one gastroenterologist, several radiologists, and one acupuncturist. And the hospital visit. Not one could diagnose me correctly nor offer any relief of any kind for anything.  I've assessed the last twenty years, most of it spent in the throes of MCS, and have realized not one medical professional has ever helped me with anything. NOTHING. The closest was my ex-environmental medicine doctor who provided a diagnosis and understanding, but prescribed "avoidance" as the only remedy. Sorry...not much of a solution, but perhaps the only solution until research gets its ass in gear. I am thankful for books and the internet and the ability to read or I'd be in misery.

People. I have come to the conclusion I hate people. Maybe I always did? I used to think most people were basically good, honest, kind, loyal, caring, but veered toward bad as an exception. I don't believe this anymore. I've always known they were disappointing, but I'm inclined to think they are useless and often evil on so many levels.  In my quest for new friendships and meaningful relationships searching both in my community and online, I've encountered way too much self-centeredness, selfishness, dishonesty, and stupidity. It makes me wonder if I've just become too intolerant. Maybe. Perhaps forgiving and settling for too long and now tired of it? Is this just how our society is now, everyone focused on themselves and what they can get from others? A culture of misery? Trumpism? Or maybe there are just no quality people in Rathole? And after each bad experience it makes me thankful I have the option to be alone. I'd rather be alone than deal with most humans. It makes me think I should get a dog.

Sexism. The Kavanaugh hearing was an eye-opener. We think as a society we have progressed into a civilization that honors all human dignity, but clearly women are still second-class citizens perceived as objects to be used, abused and thrown away. How someone like that can be nominated to the Supreme Court is shocking. But again, look who's president...

Dump. What a failure. What an embarrassment. Every step of the way he lies, manipulates, deflects, and insults. The ultimate immature, unprofessional man-baby. Clearly his agenda is to destroy our country by making us the laughing stock of the world as he spews his hate and ignorance. I pray he is arrested and imprisoned along with his sleazy cohorts and family. I'm sure all those Russian-loving, gullible imbeciles who voted for him are really proud. So shameful. How does anyone vote for such a horrible person without vomiting every time they look in the mirror?


Well, look how wonderful this year was!! I'm feeling less negative now.

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS:

1.) No doctors. Ever again.

2.) Avoid construction workers, although I am planning some plumbing and deck repairs in the near future so I guess I can't completely cross them off my list.

3.) Find some more friends. Although this was last year's resolution and I failed miserably at it, I haven't given up all hope. There must be someone out there who shares my ideals, can be fragrance-free, and wants to have some friendship fun.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!



December Movie Reviews


*****  Exceptional
****    Great
***      OK
**        So So
*          Blah

Cold in July Is about a clean-cut family guy (Michael C. Hall) who shoots and kills an intruder who has broken into his house.  The police tell him the intruder was a wanted felon and he did society a favor. The intruder's newly-released-from-prison ex-con father (Sam Shepherd) comes a calling, isn't happy about his only son being murdered, and starts stalking and intimidating the family. The police do a stake out at family guy's house then claim they ran the ex-con out of town. In the meantime, Family Guy sees a wanted poster and realizes he didn't kill the wanted felon, but the police tell him he must be in shock, go home, forget about it. When Family Guy decides to go back to the police station to ask more questions, he witnesses the police dragging the ex-con forcibly out of the police station, injecting him with some kind of a sedative, and leaving him on the train tracks with a train coming down the tracks. Family Guy rescues the ex-con and asks, WTF is going on?  Ex-con phones his old Army buddy who is now a private investigator (Don Johnson) and they attempt to answer that very question. Never a dull moment. Don Johnson's character was delightful. All great performances. I'm not sure I'm convinced Family Guy who was shaking so hard in the first scene trying to load his handgun is the same guy at the end who is acting like a professional law enforcement officer. Hmmm...and none of the questions Family Guy had were ever answered: who did he shoot? Why were the police murdering the ex-con? Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time for their plan to work? The plot kind of twists into something totally different. Still interesting. Lots of blood and shoot-em-up which is not my favorite, but worked fine. Stupid title. You'd think someone could come up with something better. Just off the top of my head I'd take something out of the movie like "Fear of Life" which is the justifiable homicide law that allows Family Guy to get away with a self-defense charge. Way more interesting and connected to the script. Cold in July? What the hell is that? ****

God Help the Girl is about a young woman in a mental institution although they aren't clear why...there was a boyfriend she followed from Australia to Britain, and she wasn't eating...I have no idea. She writes music, escapes the institution, and finds two people to start a band with her. The music was good. It was a little like a 1960s musical where they just burst into song and start dancing which was odd. Her clothes were outstanding. Another stupid title. **

Little Accidents is about a mining community after a mining accident and the disappearance of the mining foreman's teenage son. Excellent story, beautiful photography, lots of conflict and tension between characters and outstanding character development presented quickly and efficiently at the beginning. Great performances. Love the title. ****

The Meg is a science-fiction about science gone wrong and although I'm not a fan of sci-fi, I do like a storyline that makes sense rather than giving long convoluted scientific speeches on how the craziness happened. Not only do these explanations rarely make sense, but usually a total waste of time. For this story an underwater research station inadvertently opens a portal from a hidden trench in the Pacific Ocean. OK. I can get into that. And up from the depths comes a Megalodon - a 75-foot thought to have been prehistoric shark with a mean disposition. It was exciting and fun with great special effects and lots of humor. It also had lots of bad scriptwriting filled with sentimentality and overacting, but the giant, incredibly ugly shark made up for it. ***

Sold is about a twelve-year old girl in Nepal who is sold to a brothel by her very poor family thinking she was being sent to a better life in the city to work for rich people. When she realizes what she's expected to do, she fights. They beat her and when that doesn't work, they drug her and have her raped repeatedly into submission. So horrible this is based on a true story. An American woman (Gillian Anderson) is hired as a photographer by a humanitarian organization and sees this young girl calling out from her barred window for help. They plan to find and rescue her, but the logistics take time. So very sad human trafficking is so wide-spread. I can't imagine what it must be like for a child. It's horrifying there are so many degenerate men in the world who keep this business going. They all need to have their dicks cuts off. ****

The Screaming Woman I saw this movie on television when I was a kid and it has haunted me all my life, popping into my memory every now and then. It was a made-for-TV horror movie, but since it was made in the 1970s it's more melodramatic than scary, but for a kid it was frightening! It's about an older, wealthy woman (Olivia de Havilland) who had a mental break after her husband died and was sent to an asylum to recuperate. Her son and his money-hungry wife want to have her permanently committed so they can sell her very lavish house and property to a development company, of course. She is now home, and on her first outing away from the house comes across a dog on her property digging. She stops, investigates, tries to shoo the dog away, and hears a voice coming up from the ground calling for help. She runs hysterically back to the house screaming about a woman buried alive, but everyone is wondering if they let her out too soon. She calls the police and they too think she is wasting their time. She runs through the neighborhood trying to get someone to help her because her arthritis prevents her from digging the woman up herself, but her reputation for being a little crazy proceeds her and the fact no one likes her because she's rich and mean doesn't help either. Then she knocks on the door of the man who thought he murdered and buried his wife...he's not real thrilled she's still alive.  Even now in 2018 it's quite scary and says a lot about how elderly people are treated, dismissed, and constantly judged as incompetent for no reason other than someone is trying to control them. Great movie even for all the melodramatic performances. Love the high-end 70s California architecture and fashion. The film quality wasn't very good, but I watched it online copied from an old horror movie program like the ones we watched when we were kids. I remember watching old horror movies on "Nightmare Theater" every Friday night. LOL. ****

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas Tree

I was in an antique store the other day and stuffed in the corner is this Christmas tree someone made out of wood slats! Wow.


It might not be as pretty, maybe it needs some ornaments (?) or something, but definitely non-toxic, fascinating, and easy to make. It's just wood slats with a hole drilled on one end, strung together with a pole, then fanned. A conversation piece for sure!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

MCS and Health Care Accessibility


I recently wrote this letter to a state representative who is working on health care accessibility for the chemically sensitive. I was surprised to hear of any politician who has this issue on their agenda, but it seems this one has a whole committee of like-minded people! We always think we are alone in our struggles. This gives me hope, but I know change is slow in coming...

I am writing on the lack of health care accessibility for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). MCS is a medical condition where everyday chemical-based products create illness and often life-threatening side effects compromising health and negatively impacting quality of life. For MCS patients, health care is limited due to the lack of fragrance-free policies for staff and patients in medical facilities.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in 2002 after being poisoned at the school where I taught. Although the school was relatively new, only ten years old, the faulty ventilation system created a mold problem. My first day on the job the carpets were being replaced and the adhesives were being stripped with toxic chemicals. Everyone complained of the various smells in the building, however, it didn't bother me until they all began spraying the halls and classrooms with perfumes and air fresheners to camouflage the stink. When my health deteriorated beyond repair, I lost my teaching career, I was forced to move out of the city away from family and friends, I discontinued most recreational activities involving people, and I reinvented a new, isolated life away from the use of everyday chemical poisons.

Health care in general is a struggle. Most conventional medicine doctors who are dependent on chemical company pharmaceuticals don't recognize MSC and even if they do they are inadequately prepared or trained in knowing how to address it. Research is virtually nonexistent since chemical companies are in control of funding much of the time. When I first started showing signs of MCS, I went a local, well-known hospital with a department specializing in environmental medicine. The doctor whispered confidentially it was clear I was reacting to the air fresheners and perfumes on the job, but if he admitted this, the American Medical Association would "come down on him." After many years of experience I have found disclosing chemical sensitivity is met with patronizing skepticism and condescending sarcasm so I have learned if I want even substandard, partial treatment for any health condition, I must avoid mentioning any complications related to MCS.

Unfortunately, over the years I have mentioned my MCS diagnosis to not only environmental medicine specialists, but naturopaths and integrative or holistic doctors because they acknowledge the problem. The risk with disclosure is the information ends up in my records which are sometimes transferred to other, less knowledgeable doctors. I've been denied specialist care because of this information and I've had conventional doctors treat me with contempt and disrespect after they review my records. Some confess on the phone or in the office that is why I'm being denied. There are no patient protection laws. Doctors can deny treatment or care to anyone for whatever reason. I must constantly be vigilant with what I disclose to any doctor as it can compromise health care options that would otherwise be available to me.

Due to this AMA-controlled denial and skepticism, finding a health care facility that is fragrance-free or scent-free is challenging due to the copious use of perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, or essential oils by doctors, nurses, and staff members. My former optometrist now uses air fresheners due to a ventilation problem after an office remodel. A local dentist sprays his office down with air fresheners. The area chiropractor fills his office at Christmas time with fake floral arrangements and wreaths scented with chemicals. Another local doctor baths in body spray in attempt to hide his own bad body odor. I've even experienced naturopaths or acupuncturists who scent their offices with "natural" air fresheners, essential oils, incense, or scented candles. I cannot enter scented spaces without becoming incredibly ill. The Hippocratic Oath states health care professionals should do no harm. Using poisonous chemical-based scented products in these facilities is contradictory to the whole point of seeking medical care.

Unfortunately, in order to protect my health, I often must disclose my limitations by asking if the air quality of medical facilities are safe. I always call an office anonymously prior to making an appointment and ask if their doctors, nurses or office personnel wear fragrances or use air fresheners. Most do.  If I am told they don't, I cautiously and again anonymously visit before making the appointment unless travel time restricts a casual visit.  Most people don't understand basic questions regarding "scented products" or "fragrances" and have no comprehension of the vast products that are included in this category.  Others defiantly defend their personal habits. The staff at one local clinic does use perfumes and colognes and they have informed me they have no plan to discontinue this unhealthy practice. I was told by the physician's assistant in another facility she most certainly does use fragrances and I should find another clinic.

At even another doctor's office a receptionist told me they didn't use fragrances so I made an appointment and in excited anticipation waited a month to see the doctor. The afternoon before my appointment having not received a confirmation call I called the office myself. Determined to maintain my health knowing I must continuously protect myself from unexpected environmental changes, I asked again if fragrances or scented products were being used. The receptionist informed me, "Of course you can wear perfume! We all do." Shocked I replied, "But I was told your office didn't use fragrances." She became flustered, apologized for not understanding my question, and corrected herself. I sighed in relief and thanked her. This worried me greatly, but needing medical care I was desperate to believe it would work. Fifteen minutes later I was called back and told not to bother coming in because the doctor didn't think it would be a "good fit." I sat on the phone in silence, speechless. She repeated and asked if I understood they were cancelling my appointment at the last minute. According to their cancellation policy, I would be charged $50.00 for any appointment cancelled without a twenty-four hour notice. Unfortunately, their policy did not extend to their own cancellation without adequate warning.

The few health care facilities that do have a fragrance-free policy for staff rarely do they extend this policy to patients as it would be bad for business. Money, not health care, is always the priority. If I choose to risk an exposure out of desperation, I must ask which day is the least busiest and must plan my appointment to be the first one of the day stressing and praying no stinkers will contaminate the air space. This time slot is popular so waiting for weeks for an appointment is a common occurrence. Still, this doesn't always work and if I must cancel due to an exposure in their office, a cancellation fee is always imposed. Having MCS is very expensive.

Even some medical facilities that do have comprehensive fragrance-free policies don't enforce them. I worked for a medical clinic who professed MCS knowledge and had a stated chemical-free policy, but behind the scenes they were spraying toxic mold killer in their plants on the weekends and some of their staff wore scented products to work. When patients displayed side effects from these exposures, the doctors and staff claimed ignorance and blamed the patient. Another medical office has a policy and posts warnings on their doors, however, they have products scented with essential oils in their office contaminating the air. (Essential oils, even those claiming to be natural or organic, are processed with chemicals and emit VOCs making them just as toxic as any other fragrance.) Written and posted policies that are not enforced are false advertising and dangerous to those of us who depend on these protections.

I've heard as many as eighteen percent of the population are seriously chemically sensitive requiring lifestyle alterations to avoid life-threatening complications. Around five percent are classified as disabled due to MCS. Thirty-three percent of the population have minor side effects to everyday poisons and experience headaches, sinus congestion, dizziness, or coughing that can be erroneously explained away as a cold. These statistics have increased in the sixteen years since I was diagnosed.

Those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are not the only patients who react badly to chemically-based scented products. People with asthma, COPD, or other respiratory problems are seriously impacted by fragrances. Patients with cancer, autoimmune diseases, headaches/migraines, or women who are pregnant can be very sensitive to scented products as well. Allowing these toxins in medical facilities is detrimental to everyone's health and negates the whole concept of health care.

These are just a handful of examples of how I personally I've been treated by health care professionals in the last sixteen years. I do recognize in the last five years it seems health care is more aware of MCS and more facilities are making a better effort toward safer air quality. This is a slow improvement, but a hopeful one. In addition, although I appreciate the effort of the Affordable Health Care Act in the ability to obtain reasonably priced health care insurance, I resent the requirement of insurance. What is the point of purchasing insurance if health care is not accessible? Although health care dialogue always seems to center on the insurance issue, the medical system as a whole is in dire need of major reform.

Thank you. If you have any questions regarding my experiences, I'd be happy to answer them.

  
These are just a few examples of what I have to deal with when I attempt to go to a doctor. I tried to keep it short, but failed miserably. I could write a whole book on the subject! 


Monday, December 17, 2018

Stink!

I just discovered, Stink!, a 2015 film on the toxic chemicals in our every day products. The preview is outstanding. The film is produced by Netflix. This interview with the director is very informative:



OH MY GOD, that movie was frightening! The methods in which the chemical companies and their lobbyists double-talk around regulation is absolutely shocking. The fact that Europe and China have better regulations than the United States is disgusting. The movie makes a point that the USA is now a chemical dumping ground for manufacturers because of our lack of oversight so companies create cheaper products with more toxic chemicals because they can. We are their market. Asthma, autism, cancer, diabetes, obesity, reproductive issues, and cardiovascular disease are all linked to toxic chemicals.

BUYER BEWARE! No US agency or official is looking out for consumers. The manufacturers, retail outlets, or trade agencies are just out to make profits and don't give a rip about the health issues caused by toxic chemicals. We are on our own. If it's on the shelve, there is every guarantee the ingredients are not regulated, controlled or even researched for safety and the labels are not to be believed. I already knew this, but it was still frightening and depressing.

There was a woman featured who is a "Green Living Expert." She goes into people's houses and identifies the toxic products they are using. Heck, I could do that! I'd be good at it!

Scary movie. Everyone needs to see it. If they did and stopped buying these toxic products, we'd start to see real change.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Fete

The party series continues...






I found this chair in a pile of stuff in an alley with the sign "free":


Although I vowed I wouldn't paint anymore furniture and sold most of the pieces left in the garage, this one was so small I couldn't help myself.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Why Are These Organic Blueberries Making Me Ill?

I eat a lot of blueberries. Blueberry season starts in July and I pick a freezer-full until the farm runs out. Yeah, I have a small freezer. If I had one of those monster freezers, I'd fill one of those. That's how much I love organic blueberries. High in antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients, I indulge and don't feel guilty one bit.



I'm spoiled living just minutes away from one of the best and most trustworthy organic farms in the whole state, if not the whole country. I've witnessed first hand their chickens fertilizing the bushes. I've watched how they grow their gardens and maintain their farm so I know they aren't pulling a fast one on their customers with less-than-honest claims and slipping in conventional, non-organic methods.

But with expectations of quality, it makes store-bought blueberries seem very substandard. They are smaller, with questionable taste and texture, and well, horribly expensive. The price for u-pick, fresh organic blueberries is $2.00 per pound. For store-bought, fresh, organic is about $5.00 per tiny container, and frozen, organic is about $6.00 per pound. So when I run out of berries in December, I'm at a loss. I think maybe I just need to stop eating so many? Take a break and wait it out until next July. That never works. I start craving them. So I do the next best thing and shop the frozen food aisle.

Costco, our local, cheap, big-box grocery warehouse, carries some organic foods. Last year I discovered they have frozen, organic blueberries so I supplemented my winter fruit intake with store-bought. They were good. Never as good as fresh or even freshly-picked frozen, but still good. They cost just over $8 for 3 pounds which is suspiciously cheap, but Costco is all about saving money so I didn't question it.


This year when I ran out of fresh, frozen, again, I bought some from Costco. They were weird. They were dark, almost black. Were they that black last year? When they are cooked they still hold their shape which is odd. The taste...good god, they tasted like someone injected perfume in them! Whew! At first I thought maybe this is just the flavor and it's another variety of blueberry? Maybe African blueberries or South American blueberries? Taiwanese blueberries?

Then I started feeling sick. At first I didn't connect it to the blueberries. Sometimes it was a bit of a headache. Sometimes neck pain. Sometimes nightmares. These are common side effects of a chemical exposure. I did a few food elimination tests and sure enough it's the blueberries. During the third test I was experiencing all the above side effects with nausea, joint pain, stomach pain and then my colon started slowing down to a crawl. Whoa! Was I eating these blueberries last year when my colon stopped working????


I check the label. Sometimes companies change the recipe so it's a good idea to review the label every so often. Ingredients: Organic Blueberries. CERTIFIED organic. So what am I to think? Do I trust the label of a big-box, money-making machine? Or do I trust my instincts knowing myself and knowing the symptoms I experience with chemical exposures? Why do they taste so strong? Are they truly organic? Or are the berries organic with added flavorings or chemicals not on the label? They definitely don't taste like the organic berries I've been eating non-stop for the past five months. They don't taste like any blueberry I've ever had in my life!! Why am I reacting this year and not last year?

The scary thing is we really have no control over what we eat. What is being done behind the scenes? How many rules are being broken in order to make a profit? How would we ever know? My body knows. These blueberries are making me sick regardless of the reason.

I returned them to Costco. Costco is known for its very liberal return policy, but I know if one returns too much they will revoke your membership assuming you are not happy with their products which assumes the membership is not of value. I don't think I've ever returned anything, but I don't buy much especially in terms of food. Most of the food is not organic. The fresh organic produce is in large cases so for a single person unless I freeze it or can it which contradicts the whole concept of "fresh", it would go to waste. I normally don't trust big-box. Even when they say it's organic, one should take that with a grain of salt. My experience in the grocery industry taught me that.

The woman at the returns counter didn't seem very happy when I presented my cooler packed with ice and a bag of blueberries. She whispered something to the woman next to her which I thought was rude, but I think she just asked if it was returnable. She doesn't know about her own employer's very liberal return policy reputation? I thought everyone in the world knew.

"Was there a problem with the product?"

"I think there is. These don't taste like blueberries and they made me very sick."

She mumbled something under her breath. I said loudly, "Excuse me?"

"I've never heard that before." Bitch.

"Well, I considered just throwing it all away, but someone needs to know there might be a problem with this product." I wanted to scream THESE FUCKING ORGANIC BERRIES ARE ANYTHING BUT, however, I really have no proof of anything only my symptoms. I find in these situations it's best to maintain a level of sanity.

She didn't respond.

She gave me my money back for the one bag ignoring the receipt that clearly states I bought two bags. The second bag was the one I ate from so I didn't bring it in for return, but you'd think she'd ask about it. Customer service sucks at Costco.

So I'm writing this blog post just in case someone else out there had a problem with Kirkland Signature Organic Blueberries. I looked online. Found all kinds of Costco products that have been recalled, but nothing on the blueberries. Of course, my inclination is to assume I am the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD with these reactions, but I have become very aware over the years there are thousands of chemically sensitive people out there with experiences just like mine and many of you, like me, can only tolerate organic food. If anyone has had a similar experience with this brand and these blueberries, let me know!

I decided to do one more test...buy frozen blueberries at my local co-op. They are beyond reproach and incredibly trustworthy. If their blueberries taste like perfume and make me sick, I'll conclude it's just me...maybe I am the only one reacting badly to blueberries! I purchased a one pound frozen bag of blueberries grown and packaged by Stahlbush Island Farms. They were $5.00 or twice as much as the Costco berries. The co-op no longer sells frozen bulk blueberries. After too many bad experiences I hesitated. I really didn't want to eat them, but felt obligated. No reaction, no illness. They were fine.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Coconut Oil as Insect Repellent

I just read this article from the Environmental Health Bulletin, December 2018:

Coconut Oil Better Than DEET to Fight Insects

A team of researchers led by entomologist Jerry Zhu with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service Agroecosystem Management Research Unit analyzed data using coconut oil compounds against biting insects and bedbugs. Their data revealed the compounds had a strong repellency against mosquitoes and ticks. By comparison, DEET was only fifty percent effective against biting flies, while the coconut oil compound was more than ninety-five percent effective. The researchers compared the coconut oil compound against DEET on bedbugs and ticks and found DEET lost effectiveness after three days while the coconut oil compound was effective in repelling bedbugs and ticks for nearly two weeks.

The link to the research article is HERE

Natural remedies are very cool.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

November Movie Reviews


*****  Exceptional
****    Great
***      OK
**        So So
*          Blah


Deserted was about a woman (Mischa Barton) who just got out of prison and goes with her brother to a hippie festival in the desert with three other women. Their car breaks down so they accept a ride with three men in an RV who are going to the same festival. Driving in Death Valley at night isn't a good idea. After a night of drug-induced cavorting, they wake to find out the battery on the RV is dead, they have no idea where they are, and one of them is dead. None of them bothered to tell anyone where they were going so they start walking in hopes of finding civilization. One by one they die. It was an adequate story. Not sure the point of the ex-convict plot line. The performances were OK. ***

The Female Brain was about an anal retentive neurological researcher who knows so much about how people's brains work she doesn't trust them. She's studying several different types of couples based on the differences between how men and women think and therefore behave. The scientific data presented at the beginning is really interesting, especially the stuff about why women act the way they do. **

Freak Show is about a gay kid with a crazy, alcoholic mother (Bette Midler) who goes to live with his rich, conservative father when mom goes into rehab. He's very flamboyant, loves to dress up in wild costumes, and is constantly being bullied and beaten up by kids at his new school. I love the morning of his first day of school...the maid said, "You might want to re-think your outfit. You are now living in a red state". It had some really funny moments, but most of them were shown on the previews. I loved his courage and humor in the face of all that opposition. ***

In Your Eyes is about a man (Michael Stahl-David) in New Mexico and a woman (Zoe Kazan) in New Hampshire who have shared some kind of telepathic connection since they were little. They can see through each other's eyes and feel what they feel. It was a little far-fetched, but such a wonderful uplifting story about connecting with another person. Of course, both look like they are talking to themselves constantly so people think they are crazy. She's married to a doctor who eventually has her committed and he's an ex-con on probation with problems of his own.  Still, really sweet story with a great ending. I wish I had a friend in my head who could see what I experience and feel what I feel. ****

The Isle of Dogs is an American animated movie set in a slightly futuristic Japan. Legend has it dogs were banned from Japan, then reinstated which according to the local cat-loving ruling class, the Kobayashi Dynasty, created a "dog saturation crisis" due to overbreeding. The dogs come down with dog flu and snout fever (infected by the dynasty in order to get rid of dogs and replace them with mechanical dogs) and the prime minister (Kobayashi) uses fear propaganda to turn the citizens of Japan against all dogs, banning them to Trash Island where Japan dumps its garbage. The first dog to go is the prime minister's twelve-year old newly adopted/distant nephew/ward's guard dog, Spots. The boy steals a plane, flies it to Trash Island to find his beloved dog. Cute story.  The Japanese people all speak Japanese and it's translated through translators or foreign exchange students. The dogs all speak English and sneeze constantly (snout fever...LOL!). Beautiful animation and art.  I'm not fond of the dogs as gods mentality and the current dog epidemic so I rather liked the idea of all dogs banned to an island. It had a agenda I found realistic, but the bad guys were obviously the ones not to root for. The line up of celebrity voices is impressive with Brian Cranston the lead stray and Scarlett Johansen his love interest, a show dog...Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Graham, Liev Schreiber, Angelica Huston...even Yoko Ono has a couple lines! ***

Just Charlie is about gender dysphoria and a boy who feels trapped in a male body and hiding who he/she really is. Very sad. It must be difficult. Good story. Good performances. ***

A Kid Like Jake is about a four year old who has a very creative imagination, loves princess movies, and dressing up in dresses. He's about to go into kindergarten and his parents are stressing out how he will fit in or if he'll even get into any private school. A lot of views of New York City. With every scene change, panoramic view of the city, view of buildings, view of streets. Not sure the point. Good performances. **

Rampage is about an experiment gone wrong, transported on a space shuttle which blows up and infects animals on earth, specifically an alligator, a wolf, and a rather tame gorilla at the San Diego Primate Center run by the Rock. These animals start growing like crazy, becoming aggressive, and killing everything in their path. It got pretty bloody and gross. The special effects were a little unbelievable. I turned it off. *

A Trip to Spain with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I think this is the third installment after England and Italy. It's two guys traveling and eating fine food. They are both really good at impressions and I kept wondering are they improvising or if it's all scripted. I vacillated between envying their carefree, close relationship and feeling irritated at all the chatter. Constant talking. At times it was funny, especially the impressions, but I know if I were traveling with them it would get really old really fast. There is a scene where they are sitting with two women who are listening to this constant chatter that should be funny and they looked uncomfortable as if they were expected to laugh but were just tired of it. It's like being in a classroom with two obnoxious boys who are competing for attention. The Mick Jagger and David Bowie impressions were great though. Beautiful landscape. Gorgeous food. **

We the Animals is about three brothers growing up in a volatile environment with unpredictable parents. The youngest escapes nightly into an imaginary world illustrated in his notebook. The art work is awesome. ***

Monday, November 26, 2018

Christmas Festivals

Christmas festivals are typically filled with toxic stink so I normally don't even attempt to attend one. However, this year I found out the local bead shop has one every year for their artist customers and I just happened to be in the store at the right time. I was excited! Beads are one of the few non-toxic art supplies and very popular with chemically sensitive creatives.  Lately I've been using beads for the mosaics I'm making. I was looking forward to a whole festival of bead-themed art project for ideas. I love seeing what people do for fun. Unfortunately when I asked more questions I was told the event is not just for beadwork, but any homemade project. Hmmm...I think most people would be more excited but the thought gave me pause.

There were a few booths located on the lower level. I'm sure they were run-over due to overbooking as the space was a bit of an after-thought, a messy storeroom area haphazardly organized to accommodate this handful of artisans. There were tables of baked goods, ceramics, hemp sculptures, and cards. Nice, non-smelly. I stopped and chatted with the artists and let them tell me all about their processes. I regret the baked goods were not gluten free. Darn. I perceived this as a preview and it gave me hope.

As I made my way to the upstairs location, a very small sign at the top caught my eye. It was a copy of an email but printed in big bold letters at the top was the heading, "ATTENTION: READ THIS".

OK. Ever the complaint one, I hesitated and thought, It's probably something not so important as it is implying, but at that point my curiosity got the best of me. The email was addressed to artists with booths and said something to the effect (paraphrasing):

Please remember to be fragrance-free as many of our employees are chemical sensitive and would appreciate it! Thanks!

Whoa!! Outstanding! I was so hopeful for this event. I cheerfully walked through the door and was hit by an avalanche of toxic stink. It took me about thirty seconds before I stopped stubbornly fighting the desire to continue, turned around, and high-tailed it out of there. So disappointing.

I wrote to the store and requested next year they put the non-smelly booths downstairs, perhaps those focused on beads since that is what their store sells, and leave the toxic, poisonous stink upstairs so everyone can enjoy. Am I asking too much? I told them if it's extra work, I'd be happy to volunteer to help.

Their response was...no. LOL. Hey, it never hurts to try. In fact, I don't know if they knew about that sign. Perhaps a rogue chemically sensitive employee hung it? I hope I didn't get anyone in trouble....

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Toxic Suck


Negativity is a constant battle for the chemically sensitive. We regret what we've lost which makes us sad. We feel frustrated at our daily limitations and constant sacrifices we are forced to make to stay safe and healthy. We fight toxic exposures which try our patience and make us angry. 


I try to avoid negativity on this blog because I know how constant pessimism can effect one's attitude.  I avoid complaining about how I feel because I think it affects my general attitude and physiological health and would rather chant positive affirmations tricking my brain into thinking I feel great. This has actually helped me over the years. I do believe the neurological research that states the brain is very plastic and easily manipulated. I also try to surround myself with positive energy and happiness while I search for everyday joy in nature (gardening), creativity (art projects) and recreational activities. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. If I haven't written a blog post for a while it's usually because I am writing them but I then delete them one by one before posting because I think what I'm writing is too negative. Some slip through but only if they are about people I've encountered.

People contact is always a negative risk. Not do we have to worry about their poisonous habits, but so many have their own health issues and life challenges that hang a dark cloud over everything. I avoid MCS support groups and other chemically sensitive people for this very reason.  I'd like to avoid all doctors, too, since they tend to be the main cause of any frustration. Every now and then my life gets infiltrated with negativity and I suck it up like a sponge. Then it just boils out of me. I hate that. (Oops! That's negative....)

Recently I had an old ex-friend email me. I hadn't heard from her since I moved to the edge of civilization. I purposely purged her from my life not wanting to deal with her selfish, backstabbing, self-centered behaviors. She's been depressed most of her life, struggling to keep her head above water, and inflicting negativity on everyone around her. Fifteen years ago I told her she needed to give up caffeine for her health as her anti-depressants clearly weren't working. She laughed and told me I was ridiculous. I was really excited to hear from her. I thought we could reconnect, share, converse, have fun, maybe rekindle our friendship. Then I asked, "It's been so long! How have you been?" 

My mistake. She's now more depressed than ever contemplating suicide. Still drinking caffeine, but she has added cigarette smoking, alcohol, and pot to her arsenal of self-medication. Her selfishness is embarrassing. She began emailing me long monologues wallowing in self-pity with little interest in anything to do with my life or what I've been doing since our last encounter so long ago. She wasn't interested in a reconnection or a reattempt at friendship. She just needed someone's attention. I'm guessing she ran out of patient friends and started searching her archives of ex-friends. At one point just when I thought she would finally acknowledge something personal I said about myself, she responded with one sentence and, "Well, enough about that, let's get back to me." If I hadn't already suffered for days reading her lengthy, one-sided rants I would have thought she was joking. She wasn't.

For some reason I always think if I give these people a chance to expunge their bad news eventually we can evolve into a mutually shared conversation. Silly me. After two weeks of her rants and me brainstorming ideas for solutions, I came to my senses. I was free therapy for her. I was a depository for all her negativity as she sucked all the positive energy out of my soul. I became irritable then angry then hostile.

I tend to be a magnet for these people. At least a few times a year I get toxic people who work their way into my life demanding attention. The chemically-sensitive man-baby wanted me to devote all my energy to caring for him because, "That's what good friends (women) do." Another old friend reappeared and exclaimed, "I think you'd be a good support!" and then proceeded to take over my life with his non-existent health problems. The failed friendship who refused to give up her fragrances but wanted to discuss her and her brother's mental health issues five minutes after our first meeting.

Two of our local librarians are depressed. Both go on and on about their depression drama as if they are staring in their own soap opera series. If you stand there long enough they will repeat their history of it in full detail. I keep wanting to say, I'm just here to check out books! When I ask about movie suggestions, one of them pulls all the movies off the shelf about people who are depressed. Her whole life is wrapped up in depression. She looks at me dumbfounded not understanding why I'm not equally enchanted by the subject. When I suggested one of them give up caffeine and smoking she responded with, "Oh no. My therapist said I need these things for comfort." I wanted to scream, Cha-ching! I'm sure your therapist doesn't want to lose her cash cow!" Can you imagine a health care professional prescribing addictions for self-medication? No, I'm not surprised, but I am shocked this woman thinks it's appropriate to regale library patrons with her health problems. 

Is my  super-empathy so obvious and glaring these people target me? Do I ask too many questions signaling I can care unconditionally? Maybe. I like asking after people and I'm honestly interested in hearing how they are. It's common human decency to be empathetic to others, but it's just kindness and etiquette not a request for a lengthy sermon on their misery nor have it continued day after day. I believe it's bad manners to attack people with your problems every time you encounter them as if everything about being alive is wrong. So selfish. I can tolerate toxic suck for a short time then their negativity starts to affect my own disposition. I like to help people, but once they show they aren't interested in my help or advice and just want to use me for a negativity depository, I'm finished. 


Depression is a common symptom of chemical sensitivity and Hashimoto's, but it's only a symptom. Calling it a disease as if it just mysteriously appears with no cure and requires no personal culpability is idiotic. The usual cause is substance abuse, some kind of chemical impacting the brain balance whether that chemical be alcohol, drugs, nicotine, perfume, or foods acting like chemicals, for instance, caffeine. Caffeine is the most obvious suspect because it is so widely accepted in our society as a mandatory fifth food group. Most people plan their daily life around their caffeine addiction. It's a drug that is not only socially acceptable but socially required. Few would admit caffeine is poison and I believe caffeine poisoning is the main contributor to our epidemic of mental illness because its negative effects are so misunderstood.

However, depression has its own side effects. It makes people incredibly selfish and single-mindedly self-centered as they demand undivided attention and unconditional support from everyone around them. They complain incessantly and blame everyone else but themselves for their problems...it's their mother's fault, it's their husband's fault, it's their employer's fault, it's their kids' fault. Wasting time organizing all the people at fault doesn't contribute to healing. It's not a solution. It's only justification for more self-pity and continued inaction. Then depressed people self-medicate with more chemicals and become even more intolerably self-centered and selfish and the cycle continues. It's so typical of them to wallow in self-pity as if their suffering is a badge of honor. It's self-soothing, like thumb sucking or back patting.

One of the questions my ex-friend posed was, "Did I choose depression?" My answer is YES. Substance abuse is a choice. Is it easy to overcome? No, but it's still a choice. I know addictions are difficult. Years ago I gave up caffeine and all my depression went away. I think it would be harder if I ignorantly hadn't given up the caffeine and instead added alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs to the mix, but was still my choice. Fifteen years ago my ex-friend rejected my help. Fast forward, I suggested again she give up caffeine. She had all kinds of excuses why this wasn't possible. She'd rather be dead than decaffeinated.

I recently read an article on a woman who died from a heroin addiction. The article kept calling her addiction a disease and the comments went crazy with most stating addiction isn't a disease, it's a choice. I think once the choice is made and the addicted person refuses to seek solutions it becomes more like a disease, but using the word "disease" is to avoid culpability as if this woman's death was not her fault. Addicts haven't been infected by a germ or virus. They aren't even being poisoned by the perfumes or bad habits of others. Their choices are their own.

I don't have much sympathy or tolerance for depression. If I can eradicate it from my life, anyone can. I'm not interested in the negativity that comes from the toxic sucking behavior of others who want to drag another person down into the gutter for company. Still, I think it's human nature. Misery loves company. We share misery so when someone brings me down, my next step in healing is to share it in order to get it out of me so it doesn't fester. But I'll only do it once and promise I won't let it go on and on for weeks!





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October Movie Reviews


*****  Exceptional
****    Great
***      OK
**        So So
*          Blah

Alex and the List is about a man in love with a woman ready to ask her to marry him, then she presents him with a list of "improvements" he must make for them to be the perfect couple who will last an eternity.  The staging was really, really bad. The actors all seemed too old to be playing their characters. Lots of talk about being immature, or not having to work, living at home, or not having to be responsible until they are forty. They all looked like they were about 39 years old!  The performances were substandard, the plot was pretentious, but I do like the premise that all women have these lists but few ever speak them aloud. I think this is true, although a mistake. Only young, silly girls think they can change a man. (Been there, tried that.) If you don't like him the way he is, he's not the one. *

Alive and Kicking is about the resurgence of swing dancing: the Lindy Hop and all the dances that were developed off it. It shows the various conventions and competitions, focusing on specific dancers or dance couples. Lots of history and historical film footage. Many of these dancers from history are in their 80s and 90s and still dancing. It also stresses community and connection, happiness, and camaraderie and that just made me depressed. Totally off limits for someone who is chemically sensitive, but fun movie. ***

American History X is about neo-Nazis and all the hate that comes with that. Derek (Edward Norton) goes to prison for killing two black men who were jacking his car leaving his little brother who idolized him to follow in his footsteps. In prison he realizes all that hate has done nothing to help his life. Excellent performances and story. ***

The Bridge This was the first German anti-war movie produced after World War II. It's about a village of boys near the end of the war. The Germans were running out of soldiers and started recruiting kids. They join up, idealistic, ready to defend the fatherland and bring honor to themselves. With only one day of training, their officer decides to keep them away from the battle front as the Americans approach and assigns them to guard their own village's bridge until daybreak when the American troops are expected and the Germans plan to blow the bridge. Their commanding officer is killed by the village police and the boys are left on their own not understanding they aren't supposed to really be guarding the bridge. The American tank show and the boys stand their ground. Great black and white film. War sucks. ***

Finding Your Feet is a British movie about a woman (Imelda Staunton) who's been living in the lap of luxury with a philandering husband who leaves her for his mistress. She moves in with her older free-spirited sister who she fell out of touch many years ago and learns how to live again. It was cute. ***

Flower was a complex, brilliant, disturbing, delightful movie about a fast-talking, smart-ass, seventeen year old girl, Erika (Zoey Deutch), who with her two friends, blackmail child molesters for money after entrapping them into accepting blow jobs.  Her mother's new boyfriend's son is just out of rehab and moves in with them. He is anxiety-prone, overweight, and not anything like she expected. He's very disturbed and after running into the teacher who molested him who was released from custody due to lack of evidence, he attempts to hang himself in their garage. Erika finds out this is guy is the "hot old guy" she has been oogling at the bowling alley. She devises an elaborate scheme to entrap him and make him pay for what he did to her new step-brother. Did he really do it or did her new, disturbed step-brother lie? Zoey Deutch is an incredibly actress. All outstanding performances. It gets very entangled and frightening when things go very wrong, but ends rather well. Excellent, intriguing movie. ****

The Hero was about an aging, unemployed cowboy-actor (Sam Elliott) known for his one good movie The Hero forty years prior. He's long-time divorced, estranged from his adult daughter, smokes too much, drinks too much and does way too many drugs. He is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and questions what achievement really is when he is offered a lifetime achievement award from a Western historical preservation guild. This was very much like the Burt Reynolds movie I saw a few months ago with the same theme, except it was more melancholy regarding age especially when he hooks up with a young, vibrant woman (Laura Prepon). The Reynolds movie also had a young woman in it, but their relationship was paternal not sexual in any way. The romance tended to put a glaring spotlight on his age especially since he keeps questioning her intentions. The Reynolds movie had more of an uplifting message about life appreciation. The Sam Elliott character was far more pathetic in his self-pity, but the plot was a little more entertaining. Prepon tends to play the same person in every role: always dyed black hair with teeny tiny drawn eyebrows, usually leather attired, often drugs, same personality. Same everything. I've never seen her do anything different and that suggests she's not acting, just being herself. That gets boring. ***

In Darkness is the Holocaust survivor story of a group of Jews in Lvov, Poland, who lived in the sewers for 14 months after the Jewish ghetto was annihilated until the end of the war. Leopold Socha, the local sewer maintenance worker and inspector, helped keep them safe and fed. Can you imagine? It amazes me they survived under those conditions, but they didn't have much of a choice. I actually read this story many years ago in a Holocaust encyclopedia. I wasn't sure if it was the same or based on the same story, but two details were seared into my brain: 1) the woman who had to smother her baby to keep it from crying so they wouldn't be discovered, and 2) when the war was over and Socha brought the Jews up to street level he proudly exclaimed repeatedly, "These are my Jews! I saved them!" It must have been hard work and his joy was overwhelming even in print. Great story, excellent performances, very violent and graphic, but it's the Holocaust and I appreciate the director didn't clean it up or romanticize it. Lots of rats. I can only imagine the smell of shit and dead bodies. I wonder how they didn't all die from disease. ****

Kings This was about the Rodney King trial and riots in Los Angeles in 1991-1992. It focuses on a husband-less woman (Halle Berry) with a whole lot of children including foster kids. She seemed to be out of control in every scene or not present leaving the children alone with older siblings who are not always competent in their care or even present themselves constantly moving in and out of the house. They are always hungry and with no food in the house, one of the older kids teaches the younger ones how to shoplift. They head to the local supermarket for some shoplifting fun and a meal of Cheetos and junk food.  (Note: this was really unrealistic as she would never be allowed to have this ratio of foster kids and with constant inspections, the neglect wouldn't go unnoticed. I think....) When the violence starts to escalate, the characters become perpetually confused and hysterical. Halle's character runs down the street and with no thought to leaving her very young kids at home. She starts screaming at and attacking police officers. Then as an afterthought she becomes a blubbering idiot wondering why they are arresting her. This leaves the seven year old in charge of two two year olds! Her kids all go running out into the streets in different directions regardless of the explosions and sounds of gunfire. Are they just stupid? The oldest kid in a hysterical fit of rage purposely stabs his friend/foster brother with a shard of window glass and then seems to come to his senses and wigs out that the kid is dying. Well, duh! Was he just not thinking? So they jump in an abandoned car, stealing it, and race around the neighborhood hysterically crying not sure where they are going with the idea they might save the kid's life by driving in circles. The whole movie was weird like that with people acting as brain dead as possible and the actors overacting to absurdity. Daniel Craig played Halle's drunk and volatile neighbor. Normally I like him, but his character was pretty ignorant as well. What adult in their right mind would harbor three young kids in his apartment without telling the parent? At one point Halle falls asleep and fantasizes about him. There was even some humor inappropriately and haphazardly interjected into some scenes that almost made it feel like a parody. Totally inappropriate for the subject matter. Is police brutality, injustice and violence funny? Maybe the writing was just bad?? Are these characters supposed to be stupid? And then it dawns on me...Is this the white man's view of the Rodney King situation? Are all African Americans perceived as stupid with too many unsupervised, out of control children? Do all black women desperately long for a white man? Are they all hysterical and unable to think in times of stress? And is all this violence their fault because they are so stupid to run out and challenge police officers? Hmmm... I wonder about the title, too. Kings. Hmmmmm.... So unable to stop thinking about how offensive and insulting this movie is, I got online and tried to find more information. Sure enough the director who is also the writer is a French white woman. Rotten Tomatoes, Rolling Stone and Roger Ebert each gave this film ONE star with comments such as "emotionally constipated" and "a really bad sitcom." So my final question: Why are Berry and Craig in such a movie? They are big box office draws. Did they not see these underlying messages?  This movie was a racist commentary on African Americans. Oddly enough, it was very thought-provoking and watchable, just appalling. *

Love, Simon is a coming-of-age, coming-out film about Simon who has a great life, great friends, great family and one big secret he desperately tries to keep for fear disclosure will change everything. Then someone at school  confesses anonymously in a chat or group and Simon and this mystery man begin emailing. Simon tries to guess who it is as the movie progresses. His emails are discovered by an asshole who blackmails him into helping him get a girl with the threat he'll tell everyone. It's a sweet movie, well-written with excellent performances and great humor while addressing nearly everything about being in the closet and coming out: the stereotypical behaviors of people, the worries and stresses, the realities, the "rules". Love the drama teacher. LOL. He has a great bedroom with really cool blackboard/slate walls surrounding his bed, but all I could think of is how he has to breathe in and sleep on chalk dust. Eeeeww.  *****

Nostalgia is about the material objects people leave behind after they die and the personal meaning and value that is attached to them. It follows several interconnecting stories of people's lives and their memories of loved ones. It was a little slow, but interesting in how it asks questions, for instance, if your house was burning down, what would you save, what is irreplaceable.  I've often thought about if I had only moments to get out of my house what would I grab. One of the stories involved a young woman who dies and because her computer and phone were destroyed, she left so little behind. Interesting thought. ***

Outside In is about a man who gets out of prison after twenty years for murder he didn't commit but took the blame. His ex-high school teacher (Eddie Falco) work for two years to get him released, talking to him several times a week. He's in love with her. She's married. Adjusting to life on the outside is difficult and he misses the connection they once had. ***

Patti Cakes This movie was a total surprise. I couldn't read the back of the DVD without my glasses, but I could make out "an inspirational underdog story" so I thought, OK. The front cover was questionable featuring an overweight blonde girl looking a little too much like Melissa McCarthy and an Indian man looking like ghetto gangsters. I was afraid it was stupid humor. I asked the librarian to read the back for me and she wasn't impressed. She read like this, "...Jersey NO!...strip-mall NO!...rapper NO!" I got it anyway, not always trusting the intuition of my librarians. Pleasantly surprised. It's about a 23 year old bartender living with her alcoholic, slutty mother and her dying grandmother. With posters of her favorite rapper covering her bedroom walls and many notebooks filled with rap lyrics, she fantasizes about being a famous rapper garnering acceptance from those who doubt her and money to pay for her grandmother's medical expenses. Playing in a man's world is difficult. Having a mother who once nearly got a recording contract when she was young and constantly beats your self-esteem down makes it nearly impossible. Most of the boys from her neighborhood still call her their junior high nickname for her "Dumbo" and resent her presence on street corners challenging their rapping skills.  Her best friend is a Indian pharmacy worker and she meets an African American guitar player at a open mic with metal rings in his mouth who calls himself the anti-Christ but goes by the name of Basterd. He lives on the edge of the cemetery in a shack filled with all kinds of recording equipment.  Together they become the rap group PBNJ and set to record a demo. Amidst the constant, debilitating rejection and negativity, she fights to escape the Jersey suburbs. Great story. Outstanding performances. ****

Permanent is about a very strange family in the 1980s. Their junior high daughter decides she wants hair like Farrah Fawcett and talks her mother (Patricia Arquette) into a perm. Her mother takes her to a beauty school where they overperm her head and she ends up with wild kinky curls. The previews looked like it might be cute and clever, instead it was stupid and irritating. *

Please Stand By is about a young woman (Dakota Fanning) living in a group home who wants desperately to live with her sister but she had a difficult time functioning, gets confused often, noises bother her and she throws violent temper tantrums. She's a Star Trek fan and enters a script writing contest in order to win money that she feels would enable her to live with her sister without costing her money. When she has missed the mailing deadline, she heads to Los Angeles on a bus negotiating the road blocks and hurdles along the way. Toni Colette is her therapist. **

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is about the creator of the comic Wonder Woman which is based on William Marston's psychological theories of dominance, influence, submission and compliance enacted through the polyamorous relationship between him, his wife and their student assistant. It was fascinating seeing how Wonder Woman and all her sexual domination over men came to be. Great performances. Loved the 1920s - 1940s wardrobe. ***

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is about a lawyer (Denzel Washington) who has been the hidden backbone of a two-partner law firm. His partner has a heart attack and his estate along with the firm is left to the niece to close using her uncle's former law student (Colin Farrell). She makes it clear Roman is unsuited to continue the work.  I think he is either autistic or has Asberger's Syndrome. He is unkept, dresses in old suits, listens to 1970s music and constantly relives his 1970's activist days sporting an Afro hairstyle. He tends to blurt out just what he's thinking and doesn't seem to comprehend the body language of others. Although he has a photographic memory and astute knowledge of the law, his interpersonal relationship style makes him a shitty lawyer which is why he was relegated to the backroom for the past 26 years. It was a sad, depressing movie. Washington was brilliant although truthfully it was a little unsettling seeing him 50 lbs. heavier, looking like a homeless guy stuck in the 1970s, and acting like he was cognitively impaired. I was never sure if Colin Farrell was a good guy or an extremely sleazy guy. Excellent soundtrack. ***

Same Kind of Different Than Me is about rich people volunteering at a homeless shelter. It was a little mushy. Lots of A-list actors, but the dialogue was a little staged. *

Submission is about a college literature professor (Stanley Tucci) who wrote one good novel and now has a serious case of writer's block due to his mundane, lifeless existence. One of his students is writing her own novel and asks him to read it. It's an X-rated narrative about a high school girl who has an affair with her science teacher. The young woman acts insecure, but clingy, needing his advice and approval constantly, hanging outside his office waiting for him, calling him at home. Are men really that stupid not to see the manipulation, how she setting him up to use and blackmail him? It's so pathetic to see how weak and stupid he is not to see what she's doing and she gives all women a bad name. Is it any wonder women who report bad behaving men are rarely taken seriously? **

Thank You For Your Service is about veterans who come back from the war with PTSD, get absolutely no help from veteran's services, and have to negotiate life while contemplating suicide all the time. It was very sad and frustrating. Great story, excellent performances with Miles Teller as the main character. ****

We Are X Oh, good god where have I been? It amazes me how much I don't know about the rest of the world. This is a documentary film on the androgynous-looking elaborately-costumed with a foot tall spiked pink hair, Japanese heavy metal band X Japan who has been around since 1977!!!???  They are internationally well-known...although clearly not that well-known in my part of the world! Yoshiki, is an incredibly high-energy, head-banging drummer, with huge celebrity, super-hero-type following in Japan. He is a classically trained pianist, writes all the group's songs, plays a number of instruments and is the designated band leader. He has made everything happen. The film addresses his background and family including his father's traumatic suicide when he was ten years old. Most his songs have to do with that pain which is why they resonate with so many. Outstanding vocals from the lead singer who at one point was brainwashed by a cult who talked him into quitting and causing the band to break up. Shortly after the breakup, their guitarist committed suicide although I don't think it was suicide agreeing with other people in the film based on the information they gave. Another guitarist, former band member, also committed suicide after he was arrested. It was an incredibly compelling history and now forty years later, they are still performing to huge international audiences with a devoted following. What shocks me is how young Yoshiki looks! Skinny rockstar, no wrinkles, long hair...He's 52 years old now and doesn't look a day older than 25!. How does that happen? I'm jealous. The film included a lot of footage on the steroid shots he takes because of the pain in his wrists, elbows, and shoulders from overuse (drumming and piano playing) and he wears a neck brace due to neck injuries from head banging action, but it all somehow adds to his rock-star mystique. The fact he looks immortal helps. They wear face masks too, but I don't know if it's because of air pollution, a fashion statement, or vocal protection. It wasn't addressed. I know this is really popular in Japan, and with MCS I was curious. Great movie. I love it when fans cry when they meet him. LOL. *****

The Wedding Plan is an Israeli movie about a Jewish woman who has been looking for a husband for twelve years. She's about to get married and as they are sitting with the wedding planner's sampling dishes for the wedding, she asks him why he has become distant, they argue, then he finally confesses he doesn't love her. She gets back on the wagon and through a matchmaker starts looking for another suitable candidate, but she's so depressed and exhausted by the frustration and disappointment she turns them all off with her negativity. In the meantime she has booked the wedding hall and plans to get married in 22 days trusting God will find her the perfect man in time. At one point she goes to visit some rabbi's tomb and cries about how unworthy she is. A man on the other side of the gender partition starts asking her if she's alright and if she needs anything, what her name is. Again as with all men she shuns him and tells him to go away. He meets her outside...GORGEOUS, CHARMING, totally mesmerized by her and the chemistry between them in undeniable. Come to find out he's a rock star. Really! But she starts spouting off her crazy-ass wedding plan and tells him clearly their relationship would be unrealistic because she's looking for the real thing with a religious spouse and kids and homemaker responsibilities. Good god, I wanted to slap her! She continues being negative and depressed, turning off and away suitable men. It was so fucking weird, but these orthodox religious beliefs are so weird they are often unbelievable. I can't imagine the stress of being an extremely orthodox Jewish woman who feels she must get married but is so picky it never happens. The wedding song lyrics are so bizarre! Weird ending. It says on the DVD cover it's a comedy, but I thought it was depressing as hell. **

Wilson starts off hilarious with LOL moments. It's about Wilson (Woody Harrelson) who is contemplating life and how when we are young we are full of possibility, but then the older we get the more we realize it's all bull shit. Wilson has realized his life has no meaning and with the advent of computer technology, we've lost all connection to other human beings. He goes through his day trying to make connections, sitting next to strangers in cafes, on buses, on trains, people who are staring at their phones or laptops or plugged into earphones. And he has absolutely no filter saying whatever he wants. After his father dies, he realizes he has no one. He decides to try dating (Margo Martindale...who I always love) and then reminisces about his drug-addicted ex-wife from long ago. He finds out she didn't have that abortion eighteen years ago and they have a daughter who the wife gave up for adoption. They find the daughter, stalk her, whisk her away for a weekend, until her adopted parents charge him with kidnapping. That's where the movie got a little bizarre, silly and convoluted. Prior to that it was asking some really great questions about life. ***

Wind River is about a young Native American woman who is found frozen in the snow far from civilization on the Wind River Reservation by a Fish and Wildlife Ranger who is a professional tracker. The FBI is called in and together they set about solving her rape and murder. It was excellent and addressed violence against Native American women that goes ignored. ****