Making Truffles with Chocolate Tales

by PenRei

A little while ago, bestie Douggy Fresh and I participated in a truffle making workshop offered by Chocolate Tales. We heard about it a few months ago when a Groupon emailed showed up in both of our inboxes. “Learn to make chocolate and eat it after? Uh… YES!” The answer was obvious.

Chocolate Tales

All in all, it was a good experience. I would have liked to have gotten my hands a little dirtier and gone as far as crush the beans myself, but that’s just me. The website clearly stated that it was a truffle making workshop. Plus, considering that I have never made any form of chocolate in my LIFE, I was most likely over-reaching in my expectations. (I don’t count melting baking chocolate.)

The workshop was comprised of 3 sections: learning, making, eating. I think we all know which part was decidely favoured by PenRei and Douggy Fresh (cough:: eating ::cough), but that does not undermine the other 3 sections.

LEARNING ABOUT CHOCOLATE

We had the pleasure of having a workshop lead by David, the chocolatier du jour! He didn’t have a chef’s hat, but that can be forgiven since I don’t know if chocolatiers wear those hats. David was very articulate and explained the process from beans to chocolate in a very charismatic way. Honestly, if I had the money, I wouldn’t mind following a lesson on how to make chocolate from scratch with him. Everybody wishes that at least one of their high school teachers was more charismatic… like David!

Anyway, stuff that I learned?

Did you know that cocoa beans are actually white and not brown? I had NO idea. When you open the pod collected from the tree, you’ll see white beans at the centre. CRAZY!

Cocoa Pod

Cocoa Pod

This also led to a fascinating discovery about white chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought, “chocolate is brown and milk is white, so white chocolate must be chocolate with a lot of milk”. Despite the fact that this logic didn’t make sense as I grew up, I didn’t question it too much since nothing in my life had proven otherwise. UNTIL NOW!  White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids (it was separated from its brown counterparts), but is instead just cocoa butter, the fattiest, creamiest, and richest part of cocoa. Chocolatier Dave called it “the junk food of the chocolate world”. And so it is, with its delicious addictive properties. Yum yum!

Something else I learned about chocolate is that it is made up of 4 unstable molecules and 1 stable molecule. I’m not talking unstable to the point of explosion, but in the sense of culinary cuisine (don’t ask me more than that, I’m guessing it has to do with taste, texture, and combining in the end). To help turn the 4 unstable into the 1 stable, you have to heat your chocolate (always heat in a metal bowl over boiling water to heat evenly and avoid burning), pour 2/3 onto a slab of granite (granite always stays at 10 degrees celsius below room temperature) and mix it using a scraper that can be found at your local Home Depot or Canadian Tire (but please wash it first!). By using the scraper to mix the chocolate over the slab or granite, the mix between cold and hot creates a “chemical drama” (in Dave’s words) that we can’t see, but that stabilizes the molecules.

Also, random fact for you, cocoa and cacao are the same thing. It’s just different pronounciations of the same word… in case anyone was wondering.

Health benefits of chocolate:

  • Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Flavonoids are naturally bitter, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
  • Continuing with your cardiovascular system, it also improves your blood vessel function and lowers blood pressure. The flavonoids slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one we all try to fight or deny). It’s when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it can clog your blood vessels.
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants, which strengthen your immune system to combat free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage) in your body.

History of chocolate:

  • History says that chocolate started in Latin America where the cacao trees grow naturally. The Olmec, living in southeast Mexico around 1000 BC, called it “kakawa”. I think you can see the similarity to our “cacao”.
  • Mayans who inhabited the same general area between 250-900 AD also ate chocolate. Mayans used cacao beans as currency in a trading culture. “I’ll give you 2 rabbits for 6 cacao beans.” Unfortunately, slaves cost a mere 9 beans. Luckily, this is not the case anymore. Boo to slavery!
  • Mayans didn’t eat chocolate, but drank it.  Essentially, they had thick hot chocolate for many religious rituals, such as weddings. They didn’t add sugar though, so it was a lot more bitter than the hot chocolate we know today.
  • Since cacao beans were considered currency, only the rich, who had them in abundance, ate chocolate. The rest of the population used it as money. After all, if you were poor, would you eat your money?
  • After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they continued the tradition of drinking chocolate. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought chocolate down to earth to share it with man. Quetzalcoatl was then cast out of paradise, for only the gods were allowed to drink chocolate.
  • In 1519, Cortez (a Spanish conquistador) tried hot chocolate, but disliked it for its extreme bitterness. With all of the conquering and ruling happening around the area, the Spanish eventually discovered the Caribbean islands where sugar cane grew. One guy decided to mix the two together and then BAM! instant awesomeness happened.
  • It wasn’t until the 1850s that an Englishman named Joseph Fry created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter to the mixture instead of hot water.
  • 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle (you know which chocolate company he founded) added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating the milk chocolate bar.
  • 1879, Rudolphe Lindt (another name dropped, boom!) invented a machine called the conch, which rotated and mixed the chocolate into a perfectly smooth consistency. Remember the hot chocolate mixed on a cold granite slab with a scraper? Think that but with a robot doing it! Okay, not a robot, just a machine. Still a big deal!
  • 1907, Milton Hershey (you all know this guy) had a factory that produced 33 million Hershey kisses per day. That’s a lot of kisses!
  • Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.

MAKING THE CHOCOLATE

There isn’t much for me to say in this section. The hands on portion of the workshop is something more so experience. Essentially, we made our own truffles by cutting or rolling the ganache block we got into the desired shapes, dipping them in delicious milk chocolate, and decorating them with white chocolate, coconut shavings and cocoa power. For practice, we got to use marshmallows to fine tune those… uh… natural?… skills we came into the workshop with. Everything was edible and VERY yummy. Chocolate Tales even provided us with lava cakes for us to decorate. They had a small oven with them to cook so the cakes would be ready by the end of the workshop.

EATING THE CHOCOLATE

What do you want me to say? It’s clearly the best part, but unfortunately the shortest one. I miss chocolate! *tear*

chocolate tales truffles

chocolate tales truffles

Chocolate Tales doesn’t just do open workshops to the public. They also do corporate events, kids parties and bridal showers. I know what I’ll be planning for Douggy Fresh’s bridal shower when the day comes. Knowing her, you won’t have to bring a gift, just give her all of your chocolate at the end. Ahahaha! I unfortunately found the initial price (about 70$ per person) to be quite high, but the Groupon deal I got meant that I only had to put in 37$ for the 90 minute experience. I didn’t feel that the workshop was worth 70$ (for 70$, I’d want to grind my own cocoa beans), but if you can find a Groupon deal or a group discount price, it’s a fun experience where you get to learn a lot about one of your food best friends: chocolate.

 

For more information, visit their website: www.chocolatetales.ca or contact them at 1-800-905-2858. Chocolate Tales can provide services and workshops at any location between Ajax to Niagara.

The Honeyrunners and TimeGiant

by PenRei

Thursday night, Nomes and I had the pleasure to rock out to two great independent bands at Toronto’s Rivoli venue. Good times were definitely had; so good in fact that we ended up staying until 1:15am. It was quite the feat considering that I had to be at work for 8:30am and Nomes had a dance class at 8am. But I admit, IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!

I would like to start by explaining that this rock ‘n roll show was of, what I find in Toronto, to be a rare kind. Most independent music shows I’ve been to consist of the type of music where you sit or stand and just listen. Of course, there are a few exceptions (like The Balconies, which you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already), but there are few.

I will start with The Honeyrunners. This four piece rock band won my heart over the evening of Friday May 4th at the Hard Rock Cafe. First of all, the lead singer and keyboardist, Dan, came on stage barefoot. I immediately knew that this would be a good show. As soon as the first guitar riff happened, I knew what I was in for. The Honeyrunners are influenced by both American and British rock from the 70’s: an era of amazing music. Throughout their set, I could hear influences from great bands such as Boston, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Lynyrd Skynyrd… but successfully never sounding exactly like these previous big name bands. In short, The Honeyrunners know where their music is coming from while managing to build their own distinct sound. There wasn’t a single song that I found weak or didn’t enjoy, but they had a song based around the Faustian myth of Robert Johnson (unfortunately, I can’t recall the title, but it has the word “devil”) that was pure GOLD. I highly suggest checking them out when you have the chance. Here is a list of some of their upcoming shows in Toronto from the band’s website:

  • May 26th at the El Mocambo with Steve Lewin
  • June 23rd at Cherry Cola’s @ 9pm
  • June 30th at the Evergreen Brickworks from 10am to 1pm for FREE

On a more personal level, Nomes and I noticed that there is a condition spreading across spectators in Toronto. It’s called “not-dancing-because-I’m-a-judgmental-hipster-who-is-too-cool-to-be-judged-by-others”. For some odd reason, even when there is a great concert with danceable rock music, Torontonians just don’t dance anymore. When did dancing at a rock concert become uncool? At the beginning of the show, Nomes and I noticed that we were the only ones who were moving out booty. We had one of our telepathic short conversations wondering if we ended up looking like drunk idiots, or real fans of the music. We thus decided “this music is awesome and it makes me want to dance, so I’m going to dance and all you judgers be darned”. In case you haven’t noticed yet, Nomes and I aren’t afraid to make complete fools of ourselves. Luckily, we got to speak to Dan, the lead singer, at the very end of the night. He said that half of the music they wrote was so that people could dance to it and he was glad to know that there were at least two people that night rocking out. So the next time you go out to a concert and you feel a strange sensation in you to move it, listen and DO IT. Just keep it on a non-annoying-non-harassing level to the fellow spectators around you.

Here’s a YouTube clip with two of The Honeyrunners songs. Hope you enjoy!

Official website: www.honeyrunners.com
FaceBook: www.facebook.com/honeyrunners
Blog: honeyrunners.tumblr.com/

Now, onto TIMEGIANT! That’s right, they rocked so hard that I chose to write their name in all caps (actual spelling is TimeGiant). Their 50 minute set felt like an adrenaline-laced-gasoline-on-fire shot straight into my brain resulting in awesome overdrive! These musicians are rockers in the truest sense; I like to describe them as the type of guys who came out of the womb holding guitars and drumsticks.

Their heavy progressive rock was reminiscent of the 70’s rock music and Nomes I and found it impossible to stand still and just watch (although others further back looked like statues… how could you when THAT is on stage right in front of your face?!). Not only was the music good, but their sound was tight, polished, and well rehearsed. As I told Tyrone, the singer, guitarist, and saxophone player (that’s right, you read it clearly, saxophone in heavy rock = amazing!), it is so refreshing to hear in a day and age full of acoustic indie music that there are still bands that can go onstage, rock out, and really deliver a show. Long hair and mustaches have never been cooler!

Here’s a list of some of their upcoming concerts:

  • May 12th in Hamilton Ontario at The Underground @ 8pm
  • July 5th in Owen Sound Ontario at The Harb @8pm
  • July 6th in Toronto Ontario at The Horseshoe Tavern @8pm

Check out this video from their performance at the Rivoli from Thursday evening. (Review from T Mak World and original videos can be found here.)

Also, check out this acoustic version of their song Temple In the Sky.

Official website: www.timegiantband.com/
FaceBook: www.facebook.com/timegiantband
MySpace: myspace.com/timegiantband

Now go forth legion of music lovers and ROCK ON!

All My Wires or A Tale of Transportation and Low Blood Pressure.

by Nomes

Can I just take a moment to say how much I love PenRei? Thanks: PenRei, I love you. For so many reasons which would take up a whole novel but the most recent one being the bunny pictures related to hair donation…and the hair donation itself of course.

And now for something completely different: my trip to the hospital in an ambulance.

That’s right, folks, Strugglebot Nomes has done it again! Taking the art of struggling to a whole new level!

It all started this morning, or should I say last night, or should I say Monday… Well really it started when I was born with this curse: doomed to struggle forever. But fast forward to this morning I guess, when I wake up after not quite enough sleep. The cause of which was last night’s soirée with friends (let me specify that I am in O-town currently, having returned to the family homestead for a 3 week break from school). Needless to say there was wine. Ok so I had a few glasses of wine. What of it? There was water involved and food being consumed, so all in all a very tame and responsible night of merriment. Got home around 12:30am, my bad there, but I’m pretty sure that this is acceptable and I’m still a healthy girl in her 20s who doesn’t need to worry about sleeping 9 hours every night or else she FAINTS.

So…yeah. I fainted. On my way to work, this morning, the bus was relatively full, and I was standing/cramming myself between bars and the wheel box (that elevated platform at the front of the bus under which the front right wheel resides). Also I was reading a book (Feast of Crows, 4th in the DELICIOUS Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin… I’m sure PenRei will have a review for you once she’s done reading them too. What… you expect me to do book reviews? No that’s the organized half of this team’s specialty:) ) . In any case it occured to me as we approached downtown that I was not feeling a hundred percent, quite nauseous in fact. My headache, which I attributed to dehydration/lack of sleep, started to make its way into my stomach. I felt a pain in my chest which seemed to be anxiety (which I’ve never experienced quite so physically before) and a wave of claustrophobia hit me (also for the first time ever). I tried to smile: using reverse muscle memory to calm myself… Nope! I flashed back to the time when I threw up in the bus a few years back and realized I should probably get off before that happened…but the bus was packed…and I didn’t want to be late for work. “Tough it out, Nomes, just breathe. Put the book down (my sister gets motion sickness in the car, especially if she’s reading), and face the front of the bus. You’ll be fine once you get off. Oh look at that girl, she looks familiar. Breathe. Just bre…..”

Next thing I know, I hear a man say “Oh my god… oh my god.” I open my eyes and my face is pressed against the wheel box, my glasses have left my face and I’m..well.. on the ground. Everyone is looking down at me and the bus driver is asking if I’m okay. We get to the next stop and I get off to just get some air. The man who was saying “Oh my god” follows me and asks if I’m feeling okay. I answer I’m not sure and sit at the bus stop. Well he ended up waiting with me, that gentleman and a scholar. The bus driver did too. He stopped the bus and everyone had to get out and grab the next one, because he wasn’t going anywhere. He got OcTranspo emergency people to come and they in turn called the paramedics. The kindness of all these people just cannot be measured. People are frickin’ fantastic. My sincerest apologies to everyone on that bus that had to wait while the driver assessed the situation, only to get bumped to the next crowded vehicle. All 900 of you. No wait… *blink* 47 of you.

I got into the ambulance, feeling a little better, and they start wiring me up. First it’s the blood pressure (mine was low). Then it’s that finger clamp thingie. Then they checked my heart with half a dozen electrodes on my legs, arms and chest. My dad was luckily headed to the hospital to accompany one of the men he works with to an appointment (my parents are saints, that’s all), so I got the ambulance guys to go to that same hospital. More fantastic people, I tell you. Just lovely.

I admit I used this experience to my advantage and took mental notes for future roles I might play in a hospital setting. Win. So I got to lie on the stretcher as they drove me the hospital and even had some oxygen pumped through my nose. The whole nine yards, man! I felt bad again for making them wait with me as we tried to get a nurse to pay attention to us, once we were at the hospital. I offered to sing to get their attention. Was denied.

Got in to see the nurse and she got me to don the hospital gown of shame. She hooked me to the heart monitor and another nurse stuck a needle in me to take blood samples and left it in, in case they needed to IV me up, and then left in a puff of helpful, caring yet busy nurse-ness.

So I sat. And waited. I needed to get in touch with my dad…and felt like this would be a good time to start learning a monologue for next term, but unfortunately I could not get to my purse as I was stuck in an array colourful wires (which looked a lot like the wires they have in bombs, in movies. Upon seeing them I joked to the nurse: “Oh no.. which one do I cut?!” She was silent. Then she may have chuckled, but it could have been a cough. Awkward.)

So I sat, a long time, contemplating the other patients around. One woman was tied to her bed as she kept thrashing, semi aggressively, and seemed constantly uncomfortable, poor lady. One woman was just sitting in silence in the dark with what could only be considered as a red sleeping bonnet, on. Then there were all the nurses and doctors puttering in and about the central work station. I started playing around with my finger clamp thingie. It looked like a duck from one angle, a donkey from another and an alien from yet another. I should have taken a picture of that, cause now I just sound crazy. In any case, I stored that fun fact in the ol’ attic to use in case I ever need to entertain a kid, were I to, one day, know a child who has to stay in the hospital. Win.

So I finally got a little too bored and decided to try to make something happen; while the doctors and nurses weren’t looking, I grabbed the table next to me, wincing at the pain from the needle stuck in my arm, and tried to manoeuvre it to roll over to my purse and perhaps grab it and drag it back to me. Well, I felt stupid after 10 seconds of that doomed-to-fail attempt, so I put the table back and just asked the next nurse who didn’t look too busy to grab the book my play was in, from my purse. Nice person number 192 today!  When the original nurse came back around she announced that there was an emergency trauma which was keeping the doctor from me. Aaaaand I felt bad again with my silly fainting and low blood pressure, while somewhere else, someone was actually bleeding… Man the hospital is an interesting place.

Skip to doctor coming in, asking me questions, getting me to squeeze his fingers and breathe deeply into his stethoscope, and tell me that I just had a classic “fainting spell” from dilated blood vessels which caused all of my blood to fall into my legs. He recommended I lie down for the rest of the day and drink lots of fluids to restore blood flow and that’s when Super-Daddy arrived to take me home. He knows all about this kind of stuff so spoke to everyone and got all the info and voilà! I am home now. Not before worrying all of my sisters of course, and my mother and a couple of close friends who I informed of my unfortunate yet kind of hilarious situation. Made more hilarious by something they wrote on my chart. Apparently I had suffered from a Syncope/Pre-syncope. In French, “une syncope”, is a medical term as well as a word used in hilarious expressions similar to  “Don’t have a conniption!” or in the famous words of Bart Simpson: “Don’t have a cow, man!”. “Fais pas une syncope!” we would say, and laugh our happy little French heads off. (OOOhhh accidental French Revolution pun. Good for me!) I can finally see “J’ai fait une syncope!”….and mean it.

My final words as I finish this post, will be the same as the last words I said as I left the Emergency Ward with papa: “Oh. How embarassing…”

Nomes-out

The Hunger Games: Movie Review

by PenRei

On Tuesday night, besty Douggy Fresh took me to the theaters for a belated Christmas present: The Hunger Games movie. In case any of you forgot or didn’t know that I LOVED the first book of the trilogy, you can check out my book review here. I figured since I reviewed the books, I may as well review the movie.

Douggy Fresh and I waited for the insane wave of tweens to have their movie experience first. The last thing I wanted was to hear a bunch of teenage hormone filled girls gasp every time Josh Hutcherson appeared on-screen, followed by their own running commentaries. It usually ends with me fantasizing punching them repeatedly in the back of the head.

Now, onto the review!

The Hunger GamesI will start by stating that this is a GOOD movie. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece that will propel moviemaking in a different direction: it’s a solid piece of entertainment. The running length is 2.5 hours and it didn’t feel too long. The director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) and screenwriter Billy Ray took some liberties in the film, but they were all appropriate and helped to:

a) propel the story of the world forward instead of just Katniss’
b) share important information with the audience that was originally shared in narration
c) create a pacing appropriate for a film

Movies and books are not the same thing. They are both different forms of storytelling, with their own narrative style, pacing, structure, and expression. Straight adaptations from the books usually don’t come across very well. Therefor, it’s important to know what to cut from a film and what to change. Let’s look at the three points I listed above.

A) propel the story of the world
The book is written in first person narrative (which means it’s through Katniss’ perspective with the use of “I”). There are few movies and tv shows that can successfully use that narrative form; the only one I can think of is the show Dexter, and even that isn’t purely first person narrative. The team of The Hunger Games went with an omnipresent narrator that switched between Katniss, Haymitch, Seneca Crane, and the population of Panhem. This allowed the viewers to see more than what Katniss was going through, placing her actions in the bigger picture of what was happening in the world of the film (the beginning of the resistance). With regards to Haymitch, we witnessed the work that he did to try to save Katniss and Peeta, giving us more depth to his character. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first person narration in the book and wouldn’t change it. However the omnipresent narrator was key to the success of the film.

B) Sharing information
The use of Ceasar Flickerman as a medium to share information from the book with the audience was brilliantly done. A lot of information in the book is told through Katniss’ narration, which would have been a disaster in the film (thank you Gary Ross for not having narration). A prime example are the tracker jacker wasps. In order for the audience to know why they are so dangerous, Gary Ross had Ceasar Flickerman speak to the camera as a host to a live show and explain what they were. Small moments such as these really helped to close the gaps of knowledge for those who haven’t read the books.
A few scenes with Seneca Crane helped to amplify the dystopic nature of the film. His conversations with President Snow, interviews with Ceasar Flickerman, and direction in the control room proved how the tributes of the Hunger Games were no more than pawns meant to please and control a population. As a result, the obstacles Katniss faced in the arena were even more painful, since someone was deliberately trying to eliminate her as if she was no more than a chess piece.
I’d like to just take a moment to give the team an applause for the action in the control room. As someone who has worked in both live and reality television, they got it spot on.

C) Pacing for the film
It’s hard to go into this section without giving away too much detail of the film, but I will do my best. A lot of small details and scenes were removed from the book to make way for new scenes outside of the arena; this saved time and kept a flow to the film. One prime example is that in the book, Katniss struggles to find water; she nearly dies of dehydration. I loved this part of the book, mostly because I’m so sick of reading about people who go on epic adventures or have to survive and never seem to hydrate or eat. Collins did a phenomenal job writing that into the book, but since it wasn’t key to the story, the filmmakers made a wise choice to scrap it. After all, this isn’t a movie about man versus nature, but of man versus man.

CASTING

Let me just start by saying that Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal! They made the best choice by casting her in the role of Katniss. She owned it!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

What I loved so much about Jennifer Lawrence was her ability to evoke a lot of emotion subtly in the film. Lawrence portrayed a teenage girl who had to grow up fast due to the circumstances surrounding her life in District 12 (such as the accidental death of her father when she was a child). Much like the excellently written exposition of the book, Lawrence’s portrayal was so credible that you knew everything you needed to know about her character before she is sent to the Capital. To name just a few, inner-strength, patience, self-reliance, resourcefulness, doubt, fear, and resentment were all present in the first part of the film with minimal dialogue. There is a reason why Lawrence won an Oscar for the film Winter’s Bone. Despite Hunger Games being a teenage film and not one of Oscar-hype, she delivered and worked just as hard. After seeing her in Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class, and The Hunger Games, I can safely say that Jennifer Lawrence is amongst the most talented young  American female actresses. I’m honestly not even worried about typecasting for her; she’s so talented that she’ll continue to show us just how much she can do.
Can I just say how amazing she was during the reaping? The actor for her sister was fantastic too, but Lawrence demonstrated her strengths as an actress. TEARS!
The only relationship that I didn’t fully buy from the film was the one between Katniss and Rue. Yes, the film already had a running length of 2.5 hours, but there wasn’t enough time for us to feel a real friendship between them. Maybe the scenes were shot but cut due to running time. Extended edition maybe?

Alongside Jennifer Lawrence was Josh Hutcherson. He did a good job, but his acting was not on the same level of Lawrence.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Hutcherson tried, he really did, but the acting gap between him and Lawrence was only made more obvious in the scenes where they are in the cavern. Lawrence’s reactions were subtle, honest, and well-placed within the context of the film. Hutcherson lacked subtlety most of all. In my opinion, I completely forgot I was watching a teenage film until Hutcherson’s puppy face and scripted love acting came into play. It wasn’t bad; it was just on the acting level of teenage romance films (while Lawrence took it a few steps further).
Not specifically related to Hutcherson, but I was upset that during the romance scenes, a very important detail regarding character relationships was omitted. Not only is Katniss pretending to be in love with Peeta to impress audiences (thus helping her survive), but during those moments she’s thinking of Gale. In the book, it makes these scenes more painful to read and amplifies that the lies do have a negative impact of her and Gale. When I mentioned this detail to a friend who hadn’t read the book, she said that she had absolutely NO IDEA that Katniss was thinking of Gale. I believe this small detail to be important for the 2nd and 3rd films to help ease into her relationship/friendship with Gale.

Woody Harrelson was a key actor to put in this film. He was the only casting choice that I initially had reservations about. It had nothing to do with his acting skills because he has done some fantastic work (Natural Born Killers, The Thin Red Line, and No Country For Old Men), but I was hoping for someone less known and more scruffy looking. I was so happy to have been proven wrong.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Harrelson not only did a great job (as usual), but didn’t take too much shine or screen time away from main character Katniss (Lawrence). He is playing a supporting role and that is exactly what he does; he uses his skills to create a character there to support the story and main character. I have to give a hats off to the acting between Harrelson and Lawrence. They both did such a phenomenal job of never outshining each other, but also laying out all of the foundations to build the rest of the relationship between the characters. It was acting work that will give further credibility to the next films if they (including the director) can keep such high quality work.

Lastly, this section would not be complete without a special mention to Stanley Tucci.

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

There is not much to say about him except “Congratulations for your versatility as an actor, for your commitment to your roles, and the craft you present to us on-screen”. No one else could have played Flickerman and we, the audience, completely forget that Stanley Tucci is with us. He portrayed everything that was good and bad about the Capital with an ease to be studied by those seeking a career in acting.

TECHNICAL

Now I know most people don’t really care about this stuff, but I do, so I’m going to write about it (I’m that person who watches the Oscars and asks people to shut up during all of the technical categories).
First off, what was going on with the camera in the first part of the movie? I mean, seriously guys? Handheld telephoto lens with fast editing during introductory shots of District 12? Did you really think we’d be able to fully understand what we were seeing and avoid early onsets of vertigo?! I don’t know who made this choice, or why the director and producers stuck with it. Introducing a set and atmosphere that does not require action scenes should be done with a steadier camera and give us the time to absorb the state of the people in District 12. I’m not saying that it was completely absent, but it would have benefitted from say, perhaps a handheld camera with a 35 mm lens instead. (For you non-techies out there, I basically just suggested to use the same camera technique but with a lens that won’t make you dizzy.)

However, I did find that there was merit to this style during the action scenes in the arena. One thing that I was very hesitant about was the translation of the violence in the book to the screen. To me, there is a huge difference between reading about violence among youths versus seeing it in front of me. I was apprehensive.

Luckily, Gary Ross and his camera team did a phenomenal job of keeping the violence without ever really showing it. What do I mean by that? Well, there were action scenes, but none of the killing blows were shown on screen. Gary Ross and his team made the conscious decision to cut away at the moment a final blow is delivered, or use the extremely shaky-jerky camera movement so that we could never really see what happened. This allowed room in the film for violence without showing it (it’s either too fast or we cut away from it). Despite some people not enjoying the downplay of the violence in the film, I found it to be a very responsible move on behalf of the director, producers, and studio.

First of all, this is a PG rated movie. In Canada, that means that parental guidance is ADVISED, but there is no age restriction, simply a warning that some materials might not be appropriate for a younger audience. Of course, the studio knew that kids 10 years and up would probably want to see the movie, even though the book is not written for their age demographic. So their solution was to remove/hide aspects of violence. Thus, they don’t lose that audience age group and are able to make more money.
On a more social level, we already hear about violence among youths in and out of school and how it’s a serious problem. It is the parents’ responsibility to inform their kids about the things they see in television and theatres. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world and some youths are unfortunately negatively influenced by these medias (even if the consequences are accidents and unintentional). To get to my point, hiding the violence without shying away from it demonstrated a level of creativity and responsibility on behalf of the filmmakers. I am 100% in agreement to their creative choices and would like to remind all those who are above 18 and who saw the movie to remember that this is a book for TEENAGERS, NOT FOR ADULTS. Deal with it!

 

All right, I’m done talking about this movie (not really, but this is already too long). Plus, it took me a week’s worth of breaks at work to write this, so it’s time for it to be posted.

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend!

Donating Your Hair to Cancer: Why I started and why I still do it

by PenRei

For the last 7 years, I’ve been donating my hair to cancer. It’s a very long process and does entitle an amount of work on my end, but I feel it’s worth it. Today is the 3rd time that I’m donating my hair to cancer to help patients dealing with this extremely serious disease and the repurcussions of chemotherapy.

I wish I could give you another one of my fun history lessons about how donating hair to cancer began, but I wasn’t able to find enough (reliable) information on the internet to share with you. History lesson fail!

Instead, I will tell the (short) story of how and why I decided to participate.

First time:
Naturally, I was graciously born with great hair. I have the straight black Asian hair, but the soft fine texture of white hair that doesn’t get tangled. A winning combination I must say! Not many people have easy-to-deal-with hair like mine, so I am very fortunate. The major downsides: you can’t curl it (even with a perm, believe me, I tried) and you can’t dye it without an extreme amount of bleach. Essentially, my hair is like a high maintenance trophy wife: easy on the eyes, but impossible to change – she knows what she wants.

Okay, back on track. For the better part of my life, I’ve heard comments such as “I love your hair” and “I wish I had hair like yours” as well as “you’re so lucky, I’m jealous“. One day, near the end of high school, after one of my good friends wished she had my hair instead of her frizzy hair, I thought to myself “If my hair is so awesome, why am I the only one who gets to enjoy it? There are people out there who need my hair more than me.” In truth, it just didn’t seem fair to me. By then, my hair was already past my shoulders. I was planning on trimming it, but cancelled my appointment to let it grow. A year later, my hairstylist chopped it off, but left enough to do something with what was on my head. At first, I felt kind of sad, seeing the lock of my chopped off hair tied by an elastic band. I hadn’t had short hair since the fourth grade. Luckily, I felt much better once I mailed my hair.

Second time:
As time went by, I started to feel a lot better about my short hair (even if I looked a bit like a teenage Chinese boy). It made me feel good to know that someone who actually needed hair got to enjoy mine. Okay, okay, I’ll admit the praise I got from my friends and family did help to boost my ego and make me feel like a real humanitarian. I’m only human after all. It would be a lie not to state that the shift of others’ perception of me to a more positive light did help.

I decided to do it again. A part of it was about praise, but it honestly was mostly about the fact that someone out there who didn’t have hair would have mine. It wasn’t a cure for cancer, but I figured that on a personal level for someone, it still meant a lot. So I grew out my hair again, taking just over 2 years to reach an appropriate donation length of 14 inches. I didn’t feel the need to share that I was donating it again, although some of my closest friends did ask since my hair had gotten so long.

This time around, because my hair grew straighter and less in layers, I had so much hair that my hairstylist had to make two braids to maximize the length. Twice the donation in one shot. W00t! It happened over the Christmas holidays.

In January, when I got back to work, many people were shocked by the extreme cut in my hair. This time there was even less left behind than before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to donate it a third time, but decided to just let my hair grow for the moment and see how I felt. After all, a part of me did feel selfish and wanted to start playing around with crazy hair styles.

Third time:
That summer, I went to a friend’s barbecue party. In the span of just 8 months, my hair had gone from ear length down to my shoulders (yes, my hair grows ridiculously fast). It was a mix of old and new faces, but a good vibe and mix all around. I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen since second year university (after my first cut) and he asked me if I was still doing it. I replied that I had done it a second time and I was debating if I would do it again.

At that moment, a girl I had never met sneaked into our conversation and said to me (along these words)

Girl: I couldn’t help but overhear that you donate your hair to cancer.
Me: Yeah I do.
Girl: And you’ve done it twice already?
Me: Yeah I have, I’m thinking of doing it again, but my hair is still too short, so we’ll see.
Girl: (with extreme enthusiasm) I think it’s just so awesome that you donate your hair.
Me: (pulling back a little out of surprise) Uh… thanks! It’s just hair.
Girl: (realizing that she had leaned in too close and was holding my arm) Sorry! I should probably explain myself. I’m a camp counsellor for kids who deal with cancer. You don’t know how important this stuff is to them. They don’t wear wigs at the camp, but we talk about how looking sick makes them feel self-conscious and weak. When they wear wigs, people don’t look at them like cancer patients, but like normal kids, and it really has an effect on their mental state. I just think you should know that what you’re doing is great and that it’s not just hair.

At that moment, I knew I had to do it again. You could joke and say that I was guilt tripped into it, but I suddenly felt that my donations were more important than I had initially thought.

Whether or not I’ll do it a fourth time is up to debate. As usual, I’ll wait a year and see from there. If any of you want to lock a fourth donation out of me, send a couple of kid cancer patients my way and I’ll most likely cave immediately for the rest of my life.

And now, time for before and after pictures of my hair.

BEFORE

Before with Bunny Ears

Before with Bunny Ears

THE DONATION

Hair Donation

Hair Donation, 14.5 inches

AFTER

After with Bunny ears

After with Bunny ears

Shocker! So much is gone, but not lost!

Now that I’ve sufficiently talked about myself, I think it’s only appropriate for me to share with you the steps that I took to take care of my hair. If you’re interested in donating your hair (which I encourage full-heartedly), feel free to follow these steps to keeping your hair healthy. Just remember, everyone has different hair, so do your own research to find out what works best for you.

  1. Do not dye, perm, or put any form of chemicals in your hair. This is the biggest NO-NO you can do. Hair altered by any form of chemicals is not accepted as a donation. They will throw it out immediately. This includes the temporary dyes you can buy at the drugstore. If you’ve permed of dyed your hair, you will unfortunately have to wait until that section grows out and cut it off.
  2. Do not wash your hair more than once every 4 days. It might sound gross, but the natural oils and nutrients from your scalp are suppose to make their way down your hair and keep it hydrated. Dry hair is an easy victim to split ends. If you’re use to washing it every day or two, you’ll eventually get used to the 4 day cycle.
  3. Brush your hair. Okay, this sounds lame, but it is important. Remember those natural oils I mentioned above? Well, brushing your hair actually helps to guide the oils down your hair faster. If you can, brush your hair with a wooden comb. Your natural oils will eventually be absorbed by the comb, thus every time you brush, your hair will come in contact with it.
  4. Do not blow dry your hair. Don’t listen to the commercials about shampoos that say blowdrying is healthy. They are lying! If anything, it damages your hair and makes you more susceptible to split ends. Stay away from blow dryers! Air dry your hair. If you feel that air drying gives you less volume, occasionally run your fingers through your hair as it dries. It makes a difference for me.
  5. Do not use 2 in 1 bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Bottles where the shampoo and conditioner are mixed together do not have the desired effect on your hair. The reason why we use conditioner is to help hydrate your hair, while shampoo washes everything away. Thus, when you put them in at the same time, the shampoo wins and you loose the long lasting hydrating effects of your conditioner.
  6. Leave your conditioner in. After you’ve applied the conditioner in your hair, leave it in as long as you can. The longer it’s in your hair, the better. Think of doing other activities in the mean time (like shaving your legs, ect). Washing out the conditioner should be the last thing.
  7. Beware of split ends. There is only so much you can do with this one. In my experience, follow the steps mentioned above, and when you trim your hair, specifically say that it’s only to get rid of your split ends or else they might take off 2 inches. Eventually though, you’ll have to live with a few to allow your hair to grow. Just be aware of your hair’s state.
  8. Your hair should be in a braid or ponytail tied at both ends. The hair you donate should be clean and dry (not swept off from the floor). If your hairdresser is not familiar with the process, ask them to braid your hair (mine is so thick that it requires two) before cutting it off and to tie it off at both ends with elastics. The same goes if it’s in a ponytail.
  9. The minimum length is 12″ for a donation. Length can vary depending on where you send your hair, but the shortest length listed is 12″. I try to go for 14″ as much as possible since every company I have found accepts that length. If your hair is shorter, they won’t accept it. The reason is simple. Half of the length you donate is used to sew onto the wig. That means that a 14″ donation only equals to a 7″ wig. The longer your donation is, the better.

Well, I think this post is sufficiently long at this point. If you have any questions about donating your hair, feel free to contact your country’s cancer society, or email/comment me. I’ll try to answer as best I can or send you to the appropriate information source.

As for Canada, visit the Canadian Cancer Society here for more information. I have donated my hair to Angel Hair for Kids and Locks Of Love. There are thousands of organisations around the world where you can donate your hair.

With this overly length post, I will bid you all a Happy Easter weekend full of chocolates and delights.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

PenRei (your friendly neighbourhood Easter Bunny)

Contemporary Art with Blass, Amer, Mutu

by PenRei

Now, I am someone who is fully willing to admit that I don’t really understand contemporary art. There’s something about its abstractness that I just don’t get. Often, the message of the piece is completely lost on me. If I’m in a museum, I’m either:
a) standing there looking at it trying really hard to come up with an interpretation
b) looking at it and pretending that I’m thinking so that other people around me don’t think I’m an idiot

On March 24th, I decided to take a little trip to Montreal for a much needed change of scenery and to visit a few friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. Dr. Digital took me for grilled cheese at Lapin Pressé. We caught up over his mocachino and my grilled cheese à la guyère and onions. Most delicious indeed! It was really great to see him again after about a year. It’s great having friends that you don’t need to see often, but that you can pick up right where you left off as soon as you meet.

Between my breakfast with Dr. Digital and before meeting up with Ctwister, I decided to venture into the Museum of Contemporary Art. They had three exhibitions: Valérie Blass, Wangechi Mutu, and Ghada Amer. I had completely different opinions for each exhibition.

To be very straight-forward, I didn’t understand a thing with Valérie Blass. I could read up on her work and then write about it, pretending like I was really smart, but I respect you (the readers) and myself too much for that. Her exhibition consisted of many different types of sculptures. What did they mean? I have no idea! If you’d like to know more about this artist, click here.

Valérie Blass

The second artist at the exhibition was named Ghada Amer. I did not enjoy her works one bit, at the exception of Revolution 2.0. Everything else was just not what I considered art, but could easily be debated as art… but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Revolution 2.0

Revolution 2.0 by Ghada Amer

Ghada Amer is an artist that mixes brodery and paint on canvas as her main art materials. What I enjoyed so much about Revolution 2.0 was the sense of movement in the piece with the brodery, the second movement created by the use of colours, and thirdly that you can tell approximately where the explosion is coming from, but you can’t pinpoint the exact location. I found the piece to be well thought-out and executed. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to it, but I examined it as an instrumentalist piece, in which the forms and lines themselves made into art.  Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the rest of exhibition. Since I have been typing this entry at work for the last 5 days during my lunch breaks, I will not post an image of another exhibited work because it is of a pornographic nature. So let’s save me from getting fired for looking up what can be considered artsy pornography, and also save the eyes of any readers who happen to be reading this at their job. If you would like to see more works from Ghada Amer, click here for the artist’s website. Many are included in the Paintings section as well s the Drawings & Prints.

First of all, the main reason why this exhibition upset me was the fact that there was no warning prior to entering the area that there was pornographic content in the following art pieces. As a result, I was viewing the exhibition alongside a mother and her two 6 to 8 year old children. I overheard them talk and the youngest had a lot of trouble understanding what she was seeing, as well as asking why the women in some paintings were in pain (remember the reference of sex being naked wrestling in the eyes of children? oh the innocent!). I strongly believed that a sign with a warning of adult content should have been presented at the beginning of the exhibition. PLUS, you had to walk through the Ghada Amer exhibition to get to Valérie Blass, so you can’t even skip it to view the other artist if you wanted to. I found this to be incredibly irresponsible on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal. They are allowed to show pieces called art with pornographic images, but they are a family museum. I feel bad for any parents who brought their kids into the exhibit not knowing what to expect. Moving on!

In my eyes, the works of Ghada Amer presented are not considered art (at the exception of her works similar to Revolution 2.0). In my opinion, in order for something to be art, there has to be a well thought-out play of colour, light, shape, form, lines, movement, cultural significance, or meaning. Seeing images straight out of a porno magazine of women masterbating and eating each other out was not the case. If I really wanted to see that, I’d open a porno mag, not go to a museum in the company of children. You could argue that her ability to master the craft of broidery is what makes it art, but I would have been far more impressed if there was some originality behind her works, if she presented women in sexual acts without exploiting them. It really looked like she copied images out of her husband’s (or her own, let’s not judge sexual orientation here) magazine.

After that lengthy paragraph, I can not deny that a lot of works we consider as art today were once considered to be pornographic at the time. Many of the depictions of the goddess Venus/Aphrodite are of her naked and in some compromising position. However, I feel like these are art because thought has been put behind the lines of her body, the way the scene is lit, and the story it tells.

The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel, 1864

 

The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, 1486

To be quite honest, I could go on forever between the debate of what is considered pronographic and what is considered art. The truth is that the definition of art is so open to interpretation that a red circle on a blank canvas is considered art. I can only leave you to form your own opinion.

The third artist I saw was named Wangechi Mutu. She had 2 scultptures, 2 installations, 1 mural (if that is what its called) and 6 collage works. To be quite frank, I did not understand anything except for the collages. Perhaps if I had joined a a tour group I would have been a lot more enlightened by the works, but I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next tour guide’s shift to begin.

What I enjoyed so much about Wangehi Mutu’s collages was her portrayal of women and

Wangechi Mutu

In Killing Fields Sweet Butterfly Ascend by Wangechi Mutu

beauty in her works. Mutu cut out eyes, noses, ears, mouths, and other parts of the body (legs and hands) who on their own are seen as beautiful. However, once she puts them together on the canvas, all of these singularly beautiful traits look strange and distorted together. I interpreted that the image of beauty in women is itself distorted. She occasionally mixes the images of human shape and beauty with metal and manmade objects, perhaps to indicate man’s desire to constantly change what is natural.

The truth is, there is no way for me to really explain the works of Wangechi Mutu since there were no explanations next to the pieces. I’m also sure that there are images and symbols related to African culture, that are unfortunately lost on me. What is important though is the fact that I found her images evoking enough for me to lookup more information about her works, her culture, and her life. Despite my lack of knowledge towards Mutu’s culture, there was still something in the pieces that I could relate to: it carried something universal. One day, I would really like to see an exhibition of her collages and see the progression of her career through the various themes she presents.

I will leave you with this last piece by Wangechi Mutu.

Happy Friday (I can’t believe this took me a week)!

Double Fuse (detail-left), mixed media on mylar, 2003

Double Fuse (detail-left) by Wangechi Mutu, mixed media on mylar, 2003

Thrifty times and theft talk

by Nomes

So today is a day off, one of many this week, wherein I fill my days with auditions, friends, basking in the precocious sun and trying to ignore that nagging fear that the world will end in mere centuries with this weather situation as it is. 27 degrees in March? Beach days and rooftop patios in March? Straw hats in March? Sweating in a cardigan in March? Scary.

That being said I decided to go shopping thriftily for required apparatus (such as work clothes… let me tell you, finding a black vest is a preposterous thing). One thing I have needed ever since my previous two pairs suffered degradation followed by destruction, due to my shoving them in my overstuffed backpack and landmine ridden purse: a new pair of sunglasses. Today was the day for them… so off to Winners I go. I could write a song about how much I love Winners but let’s not get too creative.

So I get there and find the sunglasses racks of discounted wonders for me to rummage through. A few pairs in, I realize they are cheaper than I expected (!) but that this would prove to be the hardest decision I make today (…first world on holiday, problems). So I spend what seems like several hours (but was probably more like 5-10 minutes) sifting through many pairs until I find the perfect one… and it’s 100$. Wait. What? But the other ones were around 13-17 dollars! Where did YOU come from? CURSE YOUR BEAUTY! And on and on it went until my silly undecisive mind settled on a lovely pair: cheap and by a favourite designer of mine. Perfect. I proceed to the cash, get some healthy alternative snacks for that evening’s cast party festivities, and have a nice chat with the cashier about the affordability of these glasses and how I’m an idiot and can’t insert my credit card chip properly (struggle!!!!).

As I am exiting, the sensors go off, but I’m pretty sure they went off a few seconds before I walked by them and it was just as a group of ladies walked in so..anyway, ignore. Besides, I ain’t got no sensors on my lentil chips, cheese grater and sunglasses! And those sensors go off at anything: no one even checks anymore; I’ve given up a while ago, running back to the cash to make sure it wasn’t me.

So down to the grocery store for some vegetables, I go. Here’s where I start texting my friend as I walk through the aisles, trying to be aware of a. my conversation. b. sweet produce sales and c. other shoppers. So I grab a cheap cucumber and pause there to finish my convo, with cucumber under arm, sunglasses in hand (so as not to have them be CRUSHED in my purse, like its predecessor) and texting underway….

Out of the corner of my eye I see a woman approaching. Thinking she wants to get at the dates right beside me, I look up only to see her look straight at me and have this conversation with me:

Lady (looking pleasant if wary): “You know you’re gonna get caught one day.”

*My inner confused thoughts: Uuuuh, like being in the way while texting? …. does she mean that cucumber I’m holding?..what the….. Oh my sunglasses?*

Me out loud: “Umm, these? I paid for these. I just didn’t want to put them in my purse so they don’t break.”

Lady: “I saw when the beeper went off.”

Me: “No I definitely paid for these… I have the receipt in my purse if you want proof.”

Lady (still very much disbelieving): “Oh I don’t need proof. It’s not my store. “

Me (as the lady starts to walk away): “Ok. I didn’t steal these… I’m not that stupid.”

Lady: *unconvinced and disapproving look whilst walking away*

Me: “……………………………………………………….”

This is my life.

And after that I felt, of all things, GUILTY! Like somehow I had done something wrong!!! What!?!?! Holy jeebus.

Looked around the store a bit, distracted as heck and kind of half looking for her so I could give her a piece of my mind. But then I decided that I don’t want to give her more of my time…. which ironically is what I’m doing now by writing this down…. hah!

Got to the cashier at the grocery store and I just had to tell her what had happened; to relieve my guilt, I guess. In any case, I feel better now.

Strugglebot Nomes-out.

Image

Beep Went the Crazy

by PenRei

It has been 48 hours now and the beeping won’t stop. It just won’t stop! Every 1-2 minutes, something beeps near my unit and it’s slowly driving me insane. It might be faint, but the sound is so encrusted into my brain that I can’t just ignore it anymore. I had a maintenance guy come over last night, but he didn’t know where it was coming from. He told me to fill out an official work order today so that he could have management’s permission to look around and maybe knock on some of my neighbours doors to see if it’s coming from then. I did this morning, but NOTHING has changed. It’s still driving me crazy! And I don’t need to feel crazy while I’m resting at home and getting over the worst cold I’ve had in years. I can even hear it while I watch tv. Ugh! Why can’t they just make it stop?! I can’t even sleep properly because of the beeping. Earplugs can only do so much!

Sticky Rice: My Ultimate Comfort Food

by PenRei

For many people, comfort foods while being sick or upset include:

  • Mac ‘n cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Chicken potpie
  • Meatloaf
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Anything chocolate
  • Ice cream

I definitely agree with this list, but there is one food that comforts me more than anything else: savoury sticky rice. Mmm mmm mmm! So good!

Having grown up with a Chinese mother, Chinese food wasn’t only for special occasions in my house. In fact, when it came to the homemade stuff, it wasn’t referred to as Chinese food, but simply as food. Lucky me for growing up with the delights of two food cultures in my house (my dad’s pretty good too).

Zong Zi

Zong Zi

But on to the subject at hand. Sticky rice! There are two kinds available: sweet and savoury. The sweet kinds that I know usually contained red bean, lotus, and occasionally peanuts. The savoury ones often have pork, egg, chestnuts, or many other varieties of deliciousness. In Chinese, it is called Zong Zi (粽子).

Since I love sticky rice so much, and an entire country loves it a well, let’s find out where they came from. Food journey time!

Zong Zi are usually eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated between late-May and mid-June pending the lunar calendar year.  It is a celebration of one of China’s most famous poets, Qu Yuan (屈原), from the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States period (from about 475 BC to 221 BC). During this period, China was in fact comprised of many countries who were in a constant state of war for reasons of expansionism, resources, wealth, and politics.

Qu Yuan was born in an aristocratic family in the Chu state. He served as the chief assistant to the king. He carried out political reforms, set a

Qu Yuan Portrait

Qu Yuan Portrait

strict legal system, and gave full opportunity to the able. These decisions of his were met with strong opposition from the aristocrats. (R) Qu Yuan had tried to warn his king of the growing menace of expansion from the Qin neighbours, but the king did not believe him due to a plot derived from the Qin to bribe the king’s brother into speaking ill of Qu Yuan. As a result, Qu Yuan was exiled from his state. It was during his exile that he wandered the countryside and wrote his poems still known today.

The day the Qin army took over the capital of the Chu state, Qu Yuan, having loved his country so much, threw himself in the Miluo River and died along with his country. According to legend, villagers raced out on the water to try and save him, but were too late. They then splashed their paddles and beat their drums to keep the fish and evil spirits away from Qu Yuan. They also threw rice into the river to nourish his spirit, helping him passover. That night, Qu Yuan’s spirit visited one of the local fishermen and told him that the fish were eating the rice, thus they had to wrap the rice in silk to protect it. Eventually, the silk was replaced with bamboo leaves.

In another version, the fishermen were throwing rice packets into the river to distract the fish away from his body so they wouldn’t eat it. I’m not sure which version is the true one, but either way, that is where the idea of rice wrapped in bamboo leaves come from.