Author Archives: Allayne

Let me tell you about Lore…

I don’t mean lore, like the weird stories from the “old country” your friend’s creepy old great grandma told you against your wishes when you were a kid – I mean Lore, the supernatural, super thrilling podcast written and produced by Aaron Mahnke. Now that I think about it though, maybe it’s more like those creepy old stories than I thought…maybe Aaron Mahnke is secretly someone’s creepy old ethnic great granny?? (I’m on to you Mahnke…)

ANYWAYS… Lore is a by-weekly podcast that brings you real scary stories – and that’s real as adjective and a noun! Really though, each episode is a unique tale of people, places, or things with supernatural elements or goings-on. You’ll get the story first – each little horrifying bit delivered exceedingly well with lots of details to help you get a firm grasp on the topic at hand. Then you’ll get the breakdown, meaning the little (or surprisingly large) pieces of truth that hide in the core.

Mahnke covers a wide variety of topics to, so you’re sure to find something that appeals. From the classics like werewolves and the rambling undead, to more obscure fables of “others” living among us, to news stories that can’t quite get their stories straight – trust me, there is something for everyone.

My personal favorites, with a mini synopsis, include:

The Bloody Pit (Episode 2): A super tragic and frightening true story about a series of intense mining accidents that still linger to this day.

Dinner at the Afterglow (Episode 4): Imagine that awkward family dinner…for all eternity.

The Castle (Episode 8): H. H. Holms puts the hostile in hospitable.

Black Stockings (Episode 11): “You’ve changed” use to be a legitimate reason to torture your relatives, friends and neighbors.

Covered Mirrors (Episode 16): Real life stories about how it was way easier to be a serial killer back in the day.

Hunger Pains (Episode 18): Tales about the taboo of cannibalism and it’s place in mythology.

Bite Marks (Episode 19): A collection of stories about spirits and the marks they can leave on the physical world.

6792384200_a6e467b5f3.jpgThe scariest one (if you’re into that) I can think of off the top of my head, is Unboxed (Episode 15); that one tells you about a boy who’s attached to a doll that is more than a little attached to him. (I was going to put a creep doll photo in the end here for you guys, but … I got scared, OK?)

Right now, there’s 26 episodes with more being added every other week – and even though I’ve mentioned my favorites, they are definitely all worth a listen. Next time you’ve got some time to kill, put yourself in good company and hunker down with one of these chilling and thrilling tales of men and monsters. But, maybe leave the lights on…

 

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The Ant-trasting Ant-Man

*** YES, I KNOW THAT’S A SH!T PUN AND THERE ARE SPOILERS…PROBABLY. ***

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photo credit: LEGO Ant-Man via photopin (license)

First things first, despite the title of the this piece, I actually really liked Ant-Man – which is saying a lot as I have a really serious bug issue. Probably not surprisingly, I don’t have an overabundance of Ant-Man knowledge, so I didn’t really know what to expect going in – but that lack was in no way a deterrent. The movie handles the backstory and plot in true Marvel need to know fashion; you know what’s up without being bogged down, and that leaves you with plenty of time to appreciate the sarcastically hilarious dialogue and unique visuals.

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photo credit: Paul Rudd via photopin (license)

The most surprisingly enjoyable thing about this movie for me though  was actually Paul Rudd. I’ll be honest and admit that though I really appreciated him in I Love You, Man I was not at all sure he could pull off a headliner superhero. But man, was I surprised. Just like Peter Quill was kind of made for Chris Pratt, I feel like Scott Lang was maybe tailor made for Paul Rudd. He’s every bit the lovable underdog and makes the good guy crook a believable and relate-able; The cat burglar you could take home to mom, if you will. Yellowjacket, played by Corey Stoll, however I felt was a little lackluster for a villain. I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly I wasn’t thrilled to pieces with him, but there just seem to be a lack of dimension in his character and he was crazy just for the sake of being crazy. Plus he looked exactly like Lex Luther if Lex Luther was a gym rat with pronounced emotional problems, which was somewhat distracting for me.

The supporting cast was pretty stellar though, so that made up for a lot of my misgivings with Yellowjacket. Team good guys, which consisted of Michael Douglas (Grumpy Original), Evangeline Lilly (ass-kicking instructor), Micheal Pena, David Dastmalchian, and I.T. (who make up the comedic technical support crew), and really well casted in my opinion, and though some of these were obviously only added for comedic effect, that effect is really appreciated in the second half of the movie.

As for the visuals – which I referred to as unusual, if you remember – were quite something. I can’t say that any other super hero movie has attempted to do what they managed to pull off – which is maybe the best argument for an Ant-Man movie? Anyhow, they somehow managed to blend serious action with simplistic silliness in a perfectly entertaining combo, which I really enjoy very, very much.

Final thoughts? I’d have to say not surprisingly, Marvel is probably the only studio that could have pulled off this title to begin with, but they did so much better than anticipated. I feel like any other studio would have taken a much campier route, which with a plot as absurd as this to begin with would have come out looking like someone’s extremely dorky third cousin who gets avoided at family reunions rather than the good natured, fun guy afternoon outing that it is.

 

Total Eklipse of My Heart

Eklipse 1Guys, guys – have you heard this band? This group of angles from the very heavens above? They have descended upon our mortal land to grace us with their amazing musical skills in these beautiful instrumental renditions of popular, if not famous songs. Think Lady Gaga meets Yann Tiersen with a dash of unicorn wishes and magic rainbow dust – or something. Anyways – I just happened to get really lucky and caught one of these lovely songs in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist today, and I was simply blown away – I listened to both of their albums in their entirety and I’m just IN LOVE. They are so amazing, I knew I had to share them with you guys!

To get down to business, the band I was introduced to is a German string quartet called Eklipse. The band was founded in 2011, and it is comprised of 4 very talented young ladies: Helena, who plays the cello; Miss E, who plays first violin, followed by an additional violinist named Scarlett; and finally Viola, who plays, well, a viola. Surprisingly, I actually was not able to find as much information about them as I would usually like – however they do have a website that can be translated with the help of google, and then also a Facebook page. (Because who doesn’t have a Facebook page at this point, right?) If you’re more down for Twitter, you can find them here.

Eklipse 3What I did happen to find is a rather nice interview with Helena from 2013 that was enlightening as far as the early aspirations of the band and their feelings towards music in general. She comes across as super down to earth and you can tell she really loves her band. They seem to work really hard to stay genuine to themselves in the spotlight life, which I think we can all admire.

What I really like about their sound though is that they have such a range of emotions that come though in their music – there’s passion, and sorrow and inspiration. It literally takes my breath. Even with their covers of popular (?) songs – which they have a lot of – they make remake them into something completely new and fresh. Check out these for instance:

Rock the Casbah – I don’t really even like the original and I love this!

Assassin’s Creed – What?! I know, right? I’m not super familiar which the Eklipse 4original aside from what I’ve seen in commercials and YouTube, but I thought you guys might like it.

In The End – I know, I know. Everyone is tried of or kind of hates this song; however, this is probably the best remake of it I have ever heard, so at the very least it’s a testament to their skill, alright?

Clocks – This is just freakin’ beautiful, ok? Give it a go.

Finally, as a treat I pulled one my favorite songs from YouTube for you guys to check out right here if you have a moment; it is also a cover, but the original song is awesome and this remake does not disappoint. The song in question is Titanium from their album Electric Air – which personally I like better than A Night In Strings, but that one is still pretty good too. Also, A Night In Strings has a better cover photo, so it’s got that going for it. I hope you like it as much as I do!

*** Please note all photos are taken from the band’s Facebook page, and credit belongs to Eklipse ***

 

Let’s Talk Food, Saint Louis Style

As many of you may know, Rocket Punch Productions is based out of the Saint Louis area, and while I do love this town – we sure do have some weird food favorites. Well, maybe not weird, per say, but definitely acquired. Not being a native Missourian myself, I was a little surprised at how the locals liked their pizza and their super sweet deserts – but then didn’t have sweet tea! (Thankfully that tea issue has resolved itself over the past few years. Being from the south for a large part of my adolescence, it’s more a necessity than a desire, you see.) Truthfully there’s lots of awesome reasons to love Saint Louis, from a large variety of free attractions to a stellar wine country – it’s too much to cover in one post, but I promise to tell you more in the future! Today I wanted to share with you guys one of our culinary specialties and how this weirdo came to be. It should be fun! (Then we can all go get a snack, right??)

Today I’m taking about the big star of the dessert cart, the Saint Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Now, it sounds a little gross. I know that’s what I thought when I first heard it, so I don’t blame you. However, eaten warm fresh out of the oven it is a truly awesome experience. At least that’s what my husband says when he eats mine. 🙂 It’s hard to describe because it’s really in a league of it’s own. The bottom most layer is dense, almost like a coffee cake and a little less sweet than a traditional cake, while the upper layer is creamy and gooey (as the name suggests), and is very very sweet. As the cake bakes, the super sweet top layer will blend into the lower layer and you’ll end up with a short (most are only about 1″ tall or so), almost brownie like cake with a very thin caramelized sugar ‘crust’ on top. And while the layers do blend, the top layer of the cake will remain more ooey gooey than the rest of it. I’ll put a link here for a super easy one you can make with a boxed yellow cake mix if you want to give it a shot at home!

Now, what you don’t maybe know about the Gooey Butter Cake is this Saint Louis sweetheart was actually a mistake. There’s a couple theories about how exactly this came to be, but the predominate one is that a local bakery (possibly Saint Louis Pastries, owned by John Hoffman?) had hired a new baker in the early 1930’s that got a little mixed up in the kitchen. This bakery had two types of butter smears: a deep butter and a gooey butter. These smears are basically what they’d roll pastries and cakes in to get crumb toppings, nuts, coconut, and other tasting tidbits to stick to the outside and tops. The deep butter was used on the more dense goods, like coffee cakes, while the gooey butter was more for lighter treats like danishes and stollens. (Yum!) This poor baker was supposed to be making cakes, but happened to get the butter smears mixed up, and the problem wasn’t caught until the goods went to the proof box (basically like a old timely quality control before hitting the ovens). Hoffman, being a thrifty businessman in the midst of the Great Depression, decided to bake’em on up and see how they sold rather than toss them out. His gamble paid off too – they sold so well that the bakery eventually had lines around the block and other bakeries came up with their own variations to get in on the action.

Another prominent baker of the time, Fred Heimburger, liked it so much he tried his darn-est through to promote it by bringing the golden sweetness to other bakeries whenever he traveled out of Saint Louis. While the bakers liked the flavor fine, the final product looked to much like a mistake (i.e. a “flat gooey mess”) for them purchase it for their shops. As a result, it was a local favorite for many decades but the love for this decadent dessert didn’t spread to other areas until much later, after the recipe had evolved somewhat. Nowadays the Gooey Butter Cake has a much more appealing appearance, closer to that of a traditional coffee cake, though it is still has that familiar gooey aspect that we’ve come to adore. Along with the face lift came a boost in popularity; Local grocery stores now sell boxed and fresh versions, Panera Bread Company has a gooey butter danish, and even Walgreens sells individually packaged ones next to their prepackaged muffins, cookies and brownies. We also now have several businesses that specialize in different flavors and sell them in coffee shops or to walk in customers. Some businesses will even ship them, like our local Park Ave Coffee! It’s also been classed up a bit too on it’s journey to the mainstream; Fancy versions with berry sauce and ice cream toppings can be found in some restaurants in the Midwest and even as far as the West Coast! So if dinning out is more your speed and you’d like to grab some on your next outing, you could try places like the popular Kansas City chain Ya Ya’s, Murray’s in Columbia (Missouri) and even Seattle (Washington) where The Five Spot serves a pumpkin version of this classic!

That’s all for now, and I hope you enjoyed this tasting telling of one of Saint Louis’s most beloved confections. If you’re a local reader, let us know your favorite Gooey Butter place or flavor so we can check it out too! Maybe we can convert our non-local readers in the process! (One of us, one of us! Haha!) 🙂

Nana is a terrible name … but maybe a pretty good anime?

Visit the wiki  here!

Visit the wiki here!

I’ve recently watched the entirety of this show over a long weekend. What can I say: I have no self control and Netflix is a cruel mistress. I was impressed enough with this show however that I felt a need to scribble down my feelings and observations, give myself an opportunity to examine them in detail and file this away under a good or bad experience. To be honest, I think it’s a little of both. I’ll try to explain without any spoilers, so bear with me.

photo credit: joker of love via photopin (license)

photo credit: joker of love via photopin (license)

I’ll start by saying this is not a happy-ever-after anime. You also won’t get all the loose ends tied up neatly at the end either. It’s not a walk in the park to watch but what it is … is truthful. It’s one of the most realistic animes I’ve seen when it comes to portraying real life and mistakes people make becoming an adult. It shows that real life is hard; Sometimes amazing things happen and you’re on top of the world, but there’s also times when there’s no right answers and you have to make impossible choices. This show lays it all on the table with no apologies, but also no judgment of it’s own – it’s all left up to the viewer. I think that’s why I have such mixed feelings about it; It’s very different than anything I’ve watched before, but that was a respite in some ways. I could have genuine feelings and reactions when things changed, rather than those colored by previous shows in a similar genera. It was exhilarating not knowing what to expect at every turn.

photo credit: Skin Deep via photopin (license)

photo credit: Skin Deep via photopin (license)

The two main characters are both named Nana, which is where the show get’s it’s name, obviously. After finishing it though, I also feel like there is a deeper meaning about how these girls broke apart and reassembled themselves with pieces from each other. I feel like it showcases how people are kind of like puzzles, and interactions with other people cause you to trade those pieces of yourself for pieces of them, over and over again, for better or worse. I don’t want to give too much way about them, but I will freely admit that Nana K was really difficult for me to like at first; she’s kind of an awful self centered, boy crazy nitwit in the first quarter of the show – but she’s 19, so I guess that’s forgivable. She kind of grows on you though because she comes across as genuine in her strengthens and faults. (She also reminded me a lot of my younger self, which – let me tell you – I did not appreciate.) Nana O. on the other hand comes across as cool and collected in the beginning, but I think it’s intentional by the creators. I think you’re suppose to like her in the beginning because she presents herself as tough and no nonsense.

The two main bands, Blast and Trapnest, are actually quite interesting. As I found out more and more about each of the band members the creators make it easy to see how everyone became who they are and how their circumstances and choices led them to where they are. I actual like most of the band mates better then the main characters over all, but I

photo credit: Casper via photopin (license)

photo credit: Casper via photopin (license)

found that my favorites changed as the characters grew and I got to know them better. The entertainment industry isn’t sugar coated at all, which is a nice change of pace. They definitely show the highs and the lows of being in the spotlight, but also what the demands are to get there and the deeply individual costs. Personal choices and cause and effect are major thematic elements throughout the story, which reinforces the realistic edge. Family and trust are also a major part of each person’s story, wither it’s to show how our origins color our perception of our world and people around us or how a support group – or lack there of – can make or break a future.

I know so far I’ve made this sound kind of dreary and maybe a tad depressing, but that’s not all it has to offer – I promise. It is serious at times, but there’s also love and friendship. The first quarter of the show is actually kind of sweet and maybe just a bit silly. Everyone has to grow up sometime though, and even though it doesn’t have a nice neat ending where everything is perfect, there is a fair amount of understanding; In real life things are rarely perfect, but the mess is what makes it okay.

Would I recommend it? I don’t know. It’s definitely not for everyone; There is one scene I can think of in particular towards the end of the show that is distressing in regards to consent, which could definitely be a trigger for some. I don’t know how I feel about that issue in regards to how it fits into the story, but I can say the rest of the story overall is engaging – it will absolutely make you laugh at times, but it will also make you hurt as well. Personally, it was worth it for me. I probably will watch it again at some point, but not for a few years. I need some distance and a little more introspection on my own life. I would say if you do watch it, watch the whole thing. All 47 episodes. Just like any real friend, they want you to know the whole story.

Cosplay is kind of a spiritual experience

You won’t often hear the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘cosplay’ used in the same sentence – Well, probably not ever actually, unless it’s you’re making No Face from Spirited Away or some such. For me though it really is. I’ve never felt like I was a particularly creative person. I like making things with my hands, and I have a design background (academically speaking) – but for the most part I have a really hard time with creative fashion and clothes in general. Things like make-up and ‘doing your hair’ still seem like special occasion accessories rather than an every day necessity. Being introduced to cosplay was like being invited into Narnia. It’s a whole collection of things I struggle with made accessible and fun in a larger than life kind of way.

Now I won’t lie; The first time I made a costume, with my own two hands and all that, was very trying. It was lots of trail and error and learning from mistakes. (That never really ends, but that’s okay.) I’d never worked without a pattern before and I’d never actually worn a wig, let alone alter one. I can’t remember how may times I’d thought ‘why am I even doing this?!’ only to be reeled by to saneville by one of my cosplay co-conspirators. There was lots of good things about it too though, and that is a huge reason I keep coming back; Bringing a favorite character to life. Learning how to make new things and how to improve old skills. Sitting around a table covered in sewing machines and fabrics, laughing with friends and solving problems – those are some of my best memories. Without a doubt, cosplay brings us closer together, and what’s not to love about that?

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)

While I do enjoy the process (most of the time), I would be lying a little if I said wearing them wasn’t the best part. In the words of Lady Gaga, I live for the applause! (Don’t we all though?) All kidding aside, the very first costume I ever made – Toph Beifong from Avatar the Last Airbender – was something special. I’m not going to tell you it was the best costume ever made or some other similar BS – it was special because of the experience I had while wearing it. Cosplay is pretty much guaranteed to bring you to other fans, new friends, and costume enthusiasts admiration – and it’s all sunshine and rainbows in the sincerest way possible. When I put on Toph, it was almost a surreal experience. Taking pictures, meeting people, trying to walk through a crowd with 97% of my vision obscured by really intense bangs. It was all good fun – for the first three quarters of the day. Then I was sweaty and tried and tried of having my sandaled feet get trampled and really, really hungry ’cause I couldn’t find the food court; I was definitely in the ‘powder walk through the crowd with resting bitch face’ phase of the day.

Then a nice looking, out of breath Hispanic man stopped me, and explained that he’d seen me through

Hey look - it's me!

Hey look – it’s me!

the crowd – his girls were big fans of the show and would love a picture. So we wade back though the throng of people, and the minute these two little girls see us their faces break out into these huge smiles. They looked like they were maybe three and four – they were these tiny little adorable doe eyed creatures who were sincerely overjoyed to meet me. It was probably the single most humbling moment of my life – I’m getting teared up now just thinking about it. Everything that had gone wrong that day, all my aggravation and hangry-ness, just evaporated. I knelled down on the floor for some pictures, let them touch my wig and laugh, and talked to them a little about the show and their favorite characters. The younger one kept asking me where Aang was, which was pretty funny. Their parents eventually rounded them up to leave, and they each gave me a hug and waved goodbye over their shoulders.

Being able to bring that character to life for those girls made that entire trip worth it for me – and that’s the feeling I get every time I put on a costume I’ve made. I keep coming back because being able to brighten someone’s day by doing something I love is a pretty powerful gift.