Nature = nurture

The last few days have been a waiting game, so I decided to take a short road trip to go hiking. I fear that someone important to me is making bad decision, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it and, frankly, my efforts at trying to have likely done more harm than good. Anyway, as I was walking today I thought a lot about something I learned at one of the BPD family workshops I went to this past winter. The topic was mindfulness, which it seems everyone was talking about in January/February, and the psychologist mentioned that being out in nature can be very helpful for those trying to practice mindfulness. What’s more, she said, for people with BPD or related issues, being in nature can help alleviate some of their feelings of toxic shame. The idea that something as simple as being outside can help people heal their feelings of shame, and even guilt, is really encouraging to me. It seems like such a pleasant way to reconnect with oneself, one that I know has worked well for me, and I truly hope it helps those who most need it.

My Top 8… Cheesy ’80s movies

I got into a hilarious conversation about the ’80s with two 19-year-olds from my class this morning. They say awesome things like, “I love old movies. Like Mean Girls.” Wait, what? Have they never actually seen any of the ’80s movies I grew up on? Turns out, they have. Sort of. They’ve seen E.T. and Dirty Dancing and they’ve been “meaning to watch The Breakfast Club.” Um, ok… But, what about all the awesomely cheesy ’80s movies they’ve probably never heard of?

So, in no particular order, here were my top 8 recommendations:

1) Mannequin – A decade before Kim Cattrall first donned Manolos as Samantha on Sex in City, she starred opposite ’80s all-star Andrew McCarthy in this outrageously ridiculous movie about a mannequin who comes to life just for her window-dresser. Shockingly, the sequel, “Mannequin Two: On the Move,” wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor. Nevertheless, Mannequin gets extra points for featuring a “young” Estelle Getty in the cast.

2) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – When I was in high school, the VCR in our dorm common room always seemed to be playing some terrible ’80s or other. This one, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Shannen Doherty, was on heavy rotation. Like many of its contemporaries, it features a competition, because if the ’80s taught us anything it was that nothing infuses a movie with drama better than a dance off.

3) Sixteen Candles – Admittedly, anything from John Hughes could have shown up here, but with its unabashed sexism, classism and racism, Sixteen Candles wins it for me. Incidentally, the soundtrack is arguably the worst of all the Hughes’ movies, so that doesn’t help matters.

4) Labyrinth – I told a friend I was adding this one and I got a pretty impassioned blowback. The thing is, cheesy doesn’t necessarily mean bad, especially when you’re talking about the ’80s. Labyrinth is a great example. Directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas and featuring an impressive cast, including David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie’s crotch, Labyrinth embodies the decade’s fascinating brand of sentimental weirdness. And don’t even get me started on the music….

5) Bloodsport – The action in this Van Damme “classic” isn’t bad. The acting, on the other hand, isn’t good.

6) Return to Oz – This movie scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. And I’m sure it still will if I ever get up the nerve to watch it again. It’s seriously dark, although much closer to the original L. Frank Baum books than the 1939 Judy Garland classic. But, between the Wheelers (humans w/wheels instead of hands and feet) and the villainess with the interchangeable heads, this is one seriously creepy film. (P.S. Forget Toto, Dorothy’s sidekick is now a chicken named Billina.)

7) Howard the Duck – Another perennial favorite in our dorm, as well as widely considered among the worst movies ever made, Howard the Duck is the tale of an alien duck-man who finds himself in Cleveland where he dresses like Michael J. Fox, falls in love with Lea Thompson and ultimately saves the Earth from The Dark Overlord. They just don’t make ’em like they used to, huh?

8) Over the Top – Sylvester Stallone competes in the World Arm Wrestling Championships. Need I say more?

(N.B. These were the ones that came to mind quickly – there are A TON more. The ’80s were hardly a golden age of cinema.)

I love me a good cover.

Frozen Treats II

Confession: I am not a huge fan of frozen yogurt, as you might have gathered from my love letter to ice cream places around the world the other day. But, I go to the techniques classes every Sunday at my local Williams-Sonoma store and this morning’s theme was frozen treats. We made a bunch of different ice creams, frozen yogurts and sorbets. They were all excellent, but my favorite was this awesome honey & cardamom frozen yogurt. It was delicious; I’ll definitely be making it soon. And, call me crazy, but I think dark chocolate covered pumpkin seeds would be a great topping. Yummy.

Waiting for whales…

As part of my Marine Bio class, we’re going out on a bunch of whale watches to sequence whale behavior and photograph what we see. We’re also learning how to identify individual humpbacks just by looking at them. It’s pretty amazing, thousands of humpbacks have been cataloged this way and researchers can trace family trees back generations. Isn’t that insane? These animals are 40-60′ long, weigh 60,000-80,000 lbs. and yet their tail flukes are unique enough to enable individual identification on sight. There hasn’t been a ton of activity lately, but about thirty humpbacks were seen feeding on Stellwagen Bank yesterday, so hopefully we’ll have better luck this weekend.

A whale of a time…

• Fun fact: Humpbacks eat ~1.5 tons of food every day. BUT, they don’t eat anything for 3-4 months each year while they’re at their breeding and calving grounds.

• NOAA’s guide to identifying humpbacks, including a family tree of the Gulf of Maine’s star, Salt.

• I caught the documentary Blackfish on TV a few months ago and it’s insane. It follows a killer whale in captivity and its role in three deaths. If you haven’t seen it, definitely get your hands on it (it’s streaming on Netflix and it still may be in Redbox).

Apps I Love: Seafood Watch

We were talking in Marine Bio the other day about sustainable fisheries and I was surprised to find out more people didn’t know about Seafood Watch, an app run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I only learned about it in January while I was eating brunch at The Border Grill in Las Vegas. The restaurant, whose chefs are familiar to fans of Top Chef Masters, is committed to including only sustainably-sourced seafood on its menu. They even go so far as to include a Seafood Watch cheat sheet in every check folder. It’s an easy move and a commendable effort at informing the dining public.

After a great conversation with my server, I downloaded the app and it’s been a pretty handy resource.  You enter in the type of seafood that you’re considering buying or ordering and the app will give it a rating – “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” or “Avoid.” If you’re considering something from the “Avoid” list, the app will suggest more sustainable/environmentally-friendly alternatives. For example, let’s say you’re considering buying Atlantic cod from Canada. The app would tell you to avoid it and lead you to Atlantic cod from Iceland (which is caught using a handline, instead of a bottom-trawler), Pacific cod or even US farmed Cobia. Few, if any, consumers would notice a culinary change, but given how cod stocks in the North Atlantic have suffered over the past few decades, this small switch, if adopted by enough people, could have a major impact.

If you’re a fan of sushi, Seafood Watch’s sushi list is also really helpful, although it may be heartbreaking for many out there. On the “Avoid” list are some of my personal favorites – hamachi, maguro, ebi, unagi… There are some exceptions based on where exactly the species are sourced from and how they’re caught, but it’s a grim list. On the other hand, it’s been pretty fun to explore alternatives and to discover new sashimi and sushi I’d never considered before.

I highly recommend Seafood Watch for the environmentally conscious piscivores out there. It’s easy and eye-opening, and, if we can all do our part, we can help change consumer demand and give some sorely suffering stocks time to recover.

One fish, two fish…

• If you want even more Seafood Watch, check out the website. In addition to all of the stuff from the app, there’s an expanded section on the issues facing the world’s oceans, the double-edged sword of aquaculture/mariculture and other relevant issues.

• If you’re interested in this kind of thing, this article from NPR’s Food for Thought blog is pretty interesting, albeit controversial.

• I don’t know of any sustainable sushi restaurants in Boston, but there’s one in near Yale in New Haven – Miya’s. Expect long waits and an ever-changing menu.