Book Review: Kisha Nicole Foster –POEMS 1999-2014

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I first had the pleasure of seeing this poet perform one of her poems at the Cleveland Main Library some time ago. I remember she put her whole body into her performance, projecting her voice, and infusing each syllable with meaning and emotion. This book is a testament to how well her performance poetry works on paper as well as in person.

Some of her poems are abstract, relying on sound and impression to create an emotional impact, so that while I did not know what every line meant, my impressions were strong; moods were set. I could hear and imagine each line as I read, and sometimes I read them aloud to make audible connections I might have missed with a silent reading.

Others are all too clear in their meaning. She doesn’t hold back, so that when you read verses about painful loss and heartbreak, you empathise. Much of her work is deeply personal: reflections on loss and desire and how past mistakes inform the better person she has become today.

Absence of punctuation in some poems aids in the blending of lines to create multiple meanings, not knowing where one thought ends and the other begins. She is adept at using color and imagery, and some lines stand out such as (from “POEM. ONE. FOR. EVERYONE.”)

“let’s tell the truth to shame the lies”

The subject matter varies from one poem to another as well: homages, such as “A Viking Story”; love poems, such as “Say Come Love”; and others that are calls to action or deeply personal such as “UNTITLED.”

“in the cold wind of Cleveland you brought me home

to rewalk the path that I laid

move the mountains I made”

This is an eclectic collection, disparate subjects and styles united by her unique voice. I enjoyed this collection immensely and heartily recommend, Kisha Nicole Foster: poems 1999-2014, to any poetry lover.

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Tea Review: Melody Grey by Desert Sage Natural

Desert Sage Natural, a tea blender with a lovely and nerdy bent, has recently begun a Tea of the Month club. For just $10 each month, you can get a sample of one of their teas. I filled out a form after enrolling in the club, in order to indicate my taste preferences. I tend to enjoy Indian black teas, often with a floral note, and–with the exception of Earl Greys–I despise fruit flavored teas.

I am by no means an expert tea taster–my palate is far from refined–but I do know what I like. That said, I liked my first month’s selection very much. My first sample from Desert Sage was Melody Grey, a Doctor Who inspired black tea composed of Earl Grey, orange peel, lemon peel, and cornflower.

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My first thought upon looking at the dry tea was how similar it looked to Twinings Lady Grey. In both blends, blue flowers with white marshmallowish bits contrast sharply against a background of dark, dry Camellia Sinensis. However, the labels vary slightly, the biggest difference being Melody Grey’s label says their tea contains all organic ingredients, including bergamot oil; the Twinings label does not list organic ingredients, and replaces the bergamot with “citrus flavoring.”

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I prepared the loose tea according to my normal method: five spoonfuls of tea into the filter for my favorite teapot–a 4 cup Chatsford. I firmly believe in the rule of one spoonful per cup, plus “one for the pot.” Tea is mostly water, so I use filtered spring water. As the electric kettle heated the filtered water, I preheated my trusty teapot by filling it with hot tap water. This served two purposes: one, it would keep the pot from cooling the tea; and two, it would keep the hot liquid from cracking the pot.

When the water began to boil–the stage when the bubbles resemble fish eyes as described by Okakura Kakuzo in the Book of TeaI quickly dumped the tap water, placed the tea filter in the pot, and set the timer for three minutes. Black teas generally are best steeped between three and five minutes, and I enjoy my tea on the mild side.

Meanwhile, I set out my treats. In case you are not aware, tea preparation requires treats. For this occasion, I chose Kedem orange-flavor tea biscuits, ginger preserve, and red grapes. For those of you who drink tea purely for caffeine, you may may not appreciate the importance of this step, but the right treats can accent the flavor of the tea. I like to pair plain or citrus snacks with Earl Grey styles teas in order to accent the bergamot. I also lit electric candles for ambiance, since my cat might knock over traditional tealight candles.

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When the three minutes were up, I removed the filter to stop the steeping process, then poured the steaming brew into my pink Depression glass teacup. I prefer glass or porcelain cups, because the container strongly affects taste.

My initial impression was that Melody Grey tasted very similar to Lady Grey, though my son pointed out that Melody Grey was milder, without the slight astringent taste of the Twining blend. I’m not quite sure why. The bases of black tea are probably blended from different sources, but I suspect it has something to do with the Melody being named for my favorite companion of the Doctor. The Melody Grey had a mild, floral flavor, close to a good oolong. I did not notice a strong scent to the brew, though the leaves produced a lovely amber liquor. However, the glass was pink, so this may have influenced color.

Next, I decided to see how the new tea tasted with sugar. Normally, I don’t add sugar to tea because good quality tea should stand on its own merits. However, I occasionally add sugar to dessert teas for added sweetness, or I might use sweetener to save something I’ve oversteeped. I added two small spoonfuls of Florida Crystals organic sugar. I briefly considered using my River Song sonic screwdriver to stir the sugar into the cup, but I couldn’t  remember the correct setting. My normal tea spoon worked quite nicely; the tea was sweet, mild, and delicious.

My use of tea spoon, as opposed to teaspoon, is intentional. I have decorative spoons I use just for tea, because part of the ritual is to set aside the time for something beautiful as well as meditative. I don’t care how busy you are, you can afford ten minutes out of a twenty-four hour day to create something beautiful.

In my opinion, a good quality tea should do well over the course of multiple steepings, so I rinsed my cup and set the kettle to boil once again. For the second pot, I let the tea steep for five minutes instead of three, since each additional steeping requires additional time as well. The second steeping produced a lighter colored brew, though the taste results were very similar to the first steeping.

So, in short, I thoroughly enjoyed the Whovian blend, Melody Grey, by Desert Sage Natural, and I recommend this tea to my fellow tea lovers.  I look forward to finding out what next month’s selection will be!

 

**I have not been compensated for this review. I am simply sharing my opinions.

Star Wars IV A New Hope Rewatch Commentary

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Recently I checked out Star Wars I – VI from my friendly neighborhood library. I thought I’d brush up as preparation for the December release of The Force Awakens. Since it’s been awhile since I watched the movies, I noticed things that I’m almost ashamed to admit I’d never noticed before. So, in the interest of pointing out what others have already picked up on, I give you my observations from rewatching Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

  1. C-P30’s constant moaning reminds me a lot of Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. When he says, “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life,” I keep hearing, “Don’t talk to me about life! And then of course I’ve got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side…”
  1. How is Obi-Wan keeping an eye on Luke from the Jungland Wastes? Does he have secret spy equipment or something? Or is it just a Force thing? If it’s a Force thing, how come Vader never senses Luke before Luke begins his Jedi training? I mean, he already had the midichlorians, right?
  1. I sense Luke following Obi-Wan on some “damn fool idealistic crusade” is not what Luke’s aunt and uncle were worried about. Probably more he might become a near invincible psychopath, but then I’m just spitballing here…
  1. They have space travel and laser swords, but their holograms look like when I was a teen and used to try to watch HBO with basic channels.
  2. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” And nonsensical. I’m all for skepticism, but wouldn’t the fact that he can force-choke people and use a sword made out of a freakin’ laser (think about that, not particularly scientific given the way light travels) give Vader’s “sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion” at least a little credence? Also, how stupid is that guy, insulting Vader to his face?
  1. Obi-Wan can’t even stop Luke from speeding home to check on the freshly burned corpses of his aunt and uncle. For a Jedi strong with the Force, he does a crap job of protecting Luke.
  1. Again, if the Skywalker children are strong with the Force, they already have a high midichlorian count. So why doesn’t Vader sense something’s up with Leia when he goes to torture her with Mr. Floaty Ball?
  1. Now that I’ve paid more attention to storytelling over the years, I’m noticing how the setting says things about the characters. Everything with the Rebels and Luke is all organic, soft edges, and dirt-under-your-fingernails. The Empire is all about cleanliness and order (except on Tatooine where, let’s face it, white would be impossible to keep clean). The Empire is black and white, and it looks like they have a full time cleaning staff just to keep the Death Star sparkling. Just because it’s an instrument of mass destruction, doesn’t mean it can’t look its best!
  1. I love the Cantina song. I wonder if those guys do birthday parties?
  1. HAN SHOT FIRST!

I forgot the library copy is the redone one with all the added crap that NO ONE likes. If you slow it down, you can see Greedo shoot a very fake looking laser blast at Han which inexplicably changes direction to miss Han’s face, then Han shoot a very fake looking laser at Greedo. Not only do the added “special effects” undermine Solo’s setup as a rogue character, they are also badly done technically.

  1. I just realized Han is the reason I always play rogues in D&D.
  1. Oh, my… there aren’t even enough words for the stupid added scene with Han talking to Jabba. I mean, what the Hell is going on? I know it’s an original scene that Lucas never got to finish, probably because the special effects wouldn’t have worked at the time, but he shouldn’t… just,no. Also, Jabba looks significantly smaller than in the later movies. So what happened? Did he go off his diet and binge on rat burgers or whatever other weird crap he eats?
  1. I am totally going to be Princess Leia for Halloween this year. Albeit, an overweight, myopic Princess Leia, but hey, everyone ages, right? Oh, also, I’m blonde, so in my scenario she bleaches her hair. Or if that doesn’t work out, a Jedi. Actually, I might just go as a rocketeer named Leia, but I digress…
  1. OK, so in the prequels, the Galactic Republic doesn’t reach out to Tatooine and eradicate slavery. In A New Hope there are stormtroopers on Tatooine. Granted, they are looking for the droids, but are they also a long-standing presence? Given Vader’s past, have they abolished slavery on Tatooine? I’m not sure, given the fact that gangster Jabba is still around, but if so then that’s a good thing. I mean, give the devil his due. Why didn’t the Republic do that? Seems like it would have saved everyone a world of pain.
  1. The Empire’s soldiers all seem pretty dumb. No wonder Vader enjoys force-choking them.
  1. Really, R2D2 can just plug in and interpret the entire Imperial network? So why can’t I get Windows programs to work with my Linux OS? Just sayin’.
  1. “Your destiny lies along a different path from mine.” Obi-Wan knows he’s not coming back when he leaves Luke with everyone in the control room. What the-?
  1. OK, Luke is much shorter than Han. Leia even notices he’s “a little short for a stormtrooper.” So if the stormtroopers are all clones, wouldn’t they notice a short guy in a stolen uniform? I mean, they’d all be the same height! Again, how dumb are these guys!
  1. “Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route!” So how is the garbage compactor an improvement, your Highness? Even after they avoid getting eaten by the slime monster and crushed to death, the stormtroopers mysteriously give up. The heroes can’t get out the other direction, they can’t get by the troopers, so when the firing stops why don’t the Imperials investigate?

I get that the bad guys are supposed to be dumb. Conveniently dumb. And bad at their jobs even though they are an army of physically bad ass clones trained since childhood as soldiers. But even conveniently dumb bad guys can’t possibly be that conveniently dumb! No one thought to look down the hall, see a big gaping blasted hole, and think, Hey, maybe they’re down here!

  1. The stormtroopers are different heights! How in the Force did that happen?
  1. The hallway is, at least initially, mysteriously clear after the good guys get out of the garbage masher. Hmmmmm. Must be that whole Vader plan to let them escape. Only explanation.
  1. Shiny reflective armor doesn’t seem to deflect any laser blasts. So what’s the point?
  1. When Obi-Wan is fighting Darth Vader, they seem pretty evenly matched. Then Obi-Wan looks to make sure Luke is watching, before he puts up his lightsaber so Vader can kill him. Why? He knows this poor whiney kid just lost the only parents he’s ever known, knows he’s in a similar situation to his father before he went all Dark Side, so why traumatize him further by making him watch his death? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to at least try to defeat Vader instead of just giving up to give Luke a show?

Is he more powerful after he’s struck down? He’s a Force ghost, but so what? How is that more powerful? Later on, he tells Luke to go kill Vader, knowing he’s his father. Wouldn’t just defeating Vader himself have been better? Even if he couldn’t defeat him, why not keep fighting so they can buy more time to escape? Oh, wait… Luke wouldn’t have left him. Damn.

  1. Luke barely knows Obi-Wan. I get why he’s bummed, but Leia lost her whole planet! Why isn’t she a gibbering mess? Because she’s badass, that’s why!
  1. “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.” Again, didn’t her entire planet blow up? What money? Did Alderaan’s royal family have enough foresight to diversify their investment portfolio among different planets?
  1. I know Han’s just teasing Luke because of the kid’s obvious crush on Leia, but it’s still kind of a bastard thing to do, isn’t it?
  1. I strongly suspect R2D2’s beeps and whistles are actually the censoring of massive amounts of profanity. That poor little underappreciated droid’s fate is to be constantly put in danger. I think I’d have a potty mouth too.
  1. All the orange and white uniforms make the Rebels look like oompa loompas from behind. I keep expecting them to turn around and have orange faces.
  1. “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home.They’re not much bigger than 2 meters.”  Apparently, being a hick really pays off.
  1. Just before the Rebels attack the Death Star on a near impossible mission, R2D2 is being lowered into the back of Luke’s fighter, the outside of the ship.

Luke asks, “You ok, R2?” R2 answers in beeps and whistles. Translation? WTF kind of question is that! We’re going to die.

  1. I can’t help it. The scene where they are flying the trench run towards the target on the Death Star, I keep seeing the old Star Wars arcade game with the line graphics. “Use the Force, Luke!”
  1. “Evacuate in our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”   Oops.
  1. Poor R2. Always getting the shaft.
  1. Wait a minute. The Tie-fighters are shaped like O’s, and they’re fighting “X”-wings. Is Star Wars just an intergalactic game of space Tic Tac Toe?
  1. Vader shoots at Luke in the trench FIVE TIMES, and Han shoots the Tie-fighter next to him on the fifth time. So how the Hell did VADER miss? I mean, he’s Darth FREAKIN’ Vader!
  1. “Remember, the Force will be with you always.” So, since Obi-Wan’s a Force ghost now, can’t he come visit? I mean, the poor kid lost his family, so why not come over and have some space tea every once in awhile instead of just dropping in whenever he needs Luke to do something, like kill his own father. What good’s being a Force-ghost if you don’t get to socialize?
  1. Where’s Chewie’s and R2’s freakin’ medals? They made Chewie walk up there, just to show that he didn’t get a medal! What happened to “It’s not wise to upset a Wookie?”

And I get that droids are basically like slaves, because they’re sentient,have no rights, and need to do what they are told. I don’t feel particularly sorry for C-3PO who seems to enjoy being miserable, but R2 deserves better. Also, just suppose the Empire did abolish slavery on Tatooine, one better than the Republic I might add. So, when the Rebels win, does that mean they’ll free the droids? Or will there be a future movie, Star Wars: Rise of the Droids? Actually, I vote for that. That would be pretty awesome.

Another thing that’s fairly obvious but I’m going to say anyway is that the blend of fairytale with science fiction tropes was a genius move on Lucas’s part. The Empire is filled with elements from the Roman Empire and the Imperials seem like evil space Nazis. The good guys are princesses, knights, farmers from nowheresville, and there’s a magical, all-powerful Force. Midichlorians be damned, it’s a magical Force, albeit a spacey-one.

In case it’s not obvious through my criticisms, I adore these movies. I love the franchise. I can’t wait for the new movie to come out. I know it’s called Space Opera, but dammit it’s a space FAIRYTALE. Princes and knights, shining armor, and magic swords. I mean, come on. And it’s incredible.

I hope you enjoyed this. I will try to space out my postings on a weekly basis for the other five movies. May you come visit my blog again, and May the Force be with you.

*My thanks to D Paul Angel for suggesting I create this post.

**Though I had originally thought I’d watch the series beginning with Episode I, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So my observations may change as I remember or misremember things from the prequels.