Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy and the Brain

Written by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

What would happen if you could use more than 10% of your brain? This is the interesting question posed by the newly released film, "Lucy", starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Due to popular belief, humans are not allowed to use more than this amount.  The problem with this belief is that it is fictional, an urban legend. Humans, at different times, use all of our brain matter.  American writer, Lowell Thomas, misquoted psychologist Dr. William James and was the first to pen 10% as the capacity of human brain use.  Now back to Lucy. 

Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy, a woman who ends up forcibly transformed into a literal pack mule for a Chinese drug lord. When the drug bag she is carrying in her abdomen tears and releases the drug into her system, she is placed on a collision course where her brain gradually unlocks to its full potential.

While the film has an interesting premise, too many times I thought I was watching the Exorcist meets Paranormal Activity meets Salt.  While separate, these three movies might have been entertaining.  Together, it was just a mess. The choices of the director made the film come off fascinating at times and just plain wacky at others.  Also, the hyper-focused look on Scarlett Johansson’s face appeared to be more of a dumb, blank stare than one of a super smart person.  I read that Angelina Jolie was originally signed as Lucy but she later dropped out of the project.  She must have read the full script.

Morgan Freeman plays the scientist with the foremost knowledge of unlocking the brain’s potential whom Lucy tracks down to help her.  He was well casted but his part was minimal at best.  I know that the writers wanted to make a profound statement about humans and our potential to stop all wars and injustice as we allow our minds to develop to its full capacity in knowledge but that message was lost in translation.  The whole film was a convoluted mess.  I was excited about Lucy ever since I first saw the trailer months ago.  Boy was I disappointed.  After I saw the film, my brain activity decreased to 2%.  Be warned.                     

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cupcakes Grow In Brooklyn

 by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

So I finally made my way to Williamsburg to try out the new sensation-Brooklyn Cupcake.  I have seen it before and heard of it but I didn't have an inclination to jump on the bandwagon. Why? Because as a born and bred Brooklynite, I have built up a distaste for every business that I see popping up with the word Brooklyn in its name.  Non-Brooklynite entrepreneurs throw the name of my hometown around so loosely that it comes across as a cheap gimmick.

Upon watching a Sunny Anderson (Food Network chef) interview with the owners of Brooklyn Cupcake, I was happily surprised to find out that they were actually from Brooklyn. Carmen Rodriguez started the business with the help of her family when she was abruptly laid off from her job.  It is a heart-warming story of beating the odds and turning lemons into lemonade.  See the link to the interview below.

Now, to the Cupcakes!

There are over 20 flavors of cupcakes and I wanted to try them all, but alas, I narrowed it down to a few flavors - French Toast, Vanilla, Flan, Tres Leche and Coquito. I must tell you that when you bite into one, there is a burst of rich flavor that you are not expecting. I first tried the Tres Leche. It was heaven! Then the Coquito. The scent of rum is unmistakable. Of course heat kills the toxicity but it leaves behind that flavorful rummy taste. This cupcake was delectable. I bit into the Vanilla which was okay and then the French Toast.  It definitely lived up to its cinnamony name.

My favorite? Tres Leche! Coquito is a close second. Interestingly, Tres Leche is a popular Latin cake made of 3 milks, as its name indicates. Coquito is a legendary Puerto Rican drink made of, among other ingredients, coconut milk and rum. Yum!

My little outing to Brooklyn Cupcake was well worth the visit.  I will return to tackle the other flavors (after a little jog and a push up or two that is). Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lots of Fires and Lots of Howling!!

Blood Moons and Other Natural Things

When we look at the full spectrum of human life and universal existence, we see over the time of humankind on earth the great influence of nature upon that relatively short span of time.

Taking the Blood Moons as just one example and working back, we know there is a natural phenomenon that causes the moon to take on certain appearances at certain times.  We also know that certain appearances of the moon evoke certain reactions or contribute to the understanding of certain people of events in the movement of humankind through time.  So, the rare occurrence of a Blood Moon Tetrad (or other types of moon configurations and colors) signals a reaction which stems from a belief system, a culture or way of thinking that has been passed down as religious doctrine, historical association or folk lore.

What makes such natural events so intriguing is that there have been and probably will be actual events that coincide with these natural events.  Is this happenstance, religious inflection, nature's actual influence on life or an interpretation of ongoing man-made issues arriving at a certain point in their genesis as natural events arriving at the same time? 

I think if one looks at the development of humankind from small foraging groups to incredibly large, distinct and diverse societies, it is a clue to the dependence of man upon nature for life and guidance.

Earth's creatures preceding man in all likelihood did not look to the sky for signs or guidance.  Once humankind evolved and began to think cognitively, the sky became the mystery it remains today.  Tribes became kingdoms, villages became cities, and soon man was looking to the stars for gods and legends.  The sky influenced seasons, traditions and behavior.  Man moved away from mythology to prophets and from prophets to a singular concept of an all-powerful God, and then to many, many sects that each interpreted that one God differently.

There is a competition of thought or belief, if you will, like money or land or resources, beliefs create lines between people and lines lead to political struggle, prejudice, hatred and war and we still look to the sky for signs of warning and signs of hope.

We have not completely shed our pagan ways.  A Blood Moon in the sky stirs in some emotions, remembrances and fears.  In others, it stirs scientific curiosity.

Nevertheless, one thing it does in all of us, no matter our beliefs or preconceived notions; it makes us look to the sky and wonder.

Photo credit: "lunar eclipse of 10-27-04" - the blood moon by Peter Gustafson, Colorado
Links - read more about the Red Moon theories:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game of Thrones:The Death of the King

Nicole Richards-Sharpe

Spoiler Alert!
If you have not seen tonight's episode of Game of Thrones, read no further.

Tonight, the moment I have been waiting for, and no doubt, every other GOT addict, has finally happened. It might sound heartless and vile but the king of Westeros, King Joffrey, is finally dead; by poisoning no less.  I have thought about this day and how it would play out.  Tonight took me by surprise though, as so many moments have in the Game of Thrones tradition.  Being unable to predict outcomes is one of the many great features of the series. 

At last, a murderous, cowardly and abusive character that is deserving of all the evil he has dished out, is killed. Now the question is, who dun it?  For the moment, his uncle, Lord Tyrion Lannister was seized as the murderer but I don't think he is guilty.

There are a host of characters who fit the description.  My line up of suspects are as follows:

1) Shae
 90 percent of me believes that Tyrion's former whore turned Love of his Life, is the culprit.  She has a fiery disposition that can not be quenched.  Even Tyrion didn't believe that she went quietly on the boat that he prepared to send her away on. For her to leave, she would have to go out with a bang.  Poisoning the king and having Tyrion's head roll for the murder would be the perfect revenge for a woman scorned.

2) The former Knight forced to be the king's fool-I don't know his name but he has an axe to grind on Joffrey's head for stripping his noble title as Knight and forcing him to be his fool, subjected to his abuse in front of throngs of mocking idiots.  In the last episode, he returned to give Sansa a beautiful heirloom necklace for saving his life from Joffrey.  In an earlier episode, Joffrey forced him to drink wine to his death until Sansa stepped in and stopped it.  In tonight's episode, immediately after Joffrey dies, he shows up to offer Sansa safe passage away from King's Landing. Suspect...

3) Sansa
 She has many reasons to get rid of Joffrey, including beheading her father and forcing her to stare at the head as it rotted on a spike in the heat of the day. Also, being a conspirator in the murder of her mother, brother and his pregnant wife at the infamous "Red Wedding". 

4) Arya 
Let us not forget the young dire wolf who has a very peculiar friend (indebted to her for saving his life) with the power to kill at her will. In the last episode, she whispered the name of her next victim for him to take care of as she did twice before.  This was inaudible, which leads me to believe that Joffrey was that name. 

5) Prince Oberyn of House Martel

He took his brother's invitation to Joffrey's wedding and basically crashed it.  Every moment he got to speak, he spewed hatred for the Lannister's for killing his young Targaryan niece and nephew.  Unknown to him, his niece, Danerys is still alive and well across the Narrow sea.  His "Hotspur" like spirit and thirst for vengeance dominates every scene he is a part of.

Although there are many who would love to see Joffrey dead, these are my suspects.  And The Game continues...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring is here so get Coat!

Ahhhhhhhhh....Mother Nature.

Spring is here and it is still ((Brrrrrrr)) outside. You've just gotta love Mother Nature's sense of humor.

May the spirit of spring and all things brand new bring you a multitude of blessings and happiness.

Welcome Spring!!

Photo: "Spring" by Radoslava Todorova

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Foggy Tuesday

Time sprung forward last week and my mind is still in a fog. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Don't forget to wear GREEN today because...

Gra' agus Suiamhneas  
(A wish of love and peace on this St. Patrick's Day.)

More about St. Patrick's Day
Photo "Irish at Guinness Museum" by Mark McGrath, Barrie, Canada

It's HOLI - Let Celebrate

Wishing everyone a Happy and Colorful (rainbow filled) HOLI.

Holi Dates
Festival of Colors 
What is HOLI 

1st Photo "Paint People" by Shadow 567
2nd Photo "Natural Dry Pigments" by Nikita Golovanov, Moscow

Monday, March 10, 2014

WINE and War

Such an interesting little book..........

When one looks at commercial wine that is available to us in the US, and even our California and Long Island wines, to just briefly review what is produced in France is mind boggling.  Some 7 to 8 billion bottles of wine are produced every year.

There are 56 varieties of wine grapes in France, produced in 17 regions from the German border to the borders of Italy and Spain.  So you can just imagine the many varieties of wine within the many varieties.

Only 30 percent of French wine is white, and I think most people associate French wine as something red poured from a dark green bottle.

And for the French (and perhaps as a word to the wise) the experience of drinking wine is not just the wine itself, although that can be quite an experience.  For the French what you have with the wine, in terms of food and personal company, can make an ordinary wine extraordinary, and that says a lot for their views on life.

As the book illustrates, had the French put in the effort to protect the Maginot Line from the Germans that they put into protecting their wine after Paris fell, they would have won the war before it began.

Nevertheless, I raise a glass to them for this story, for it highlighted how far a way of life will go to preserve itself against even brute force and near ruin.  

For such history inspires in all of us the goal of a life where a glass of wine, a good meal and good company can trump our daily fears and stresses, and can leave us to our whimsical thoughts and dreams.

We only pass this way once after all.................L.S.

Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure written by the Kladstrups is available on Amazon

Photo "Wine Rack 2" by MaarteenVan Bemmel

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And the Award Goes To....

We called it! For the most part, the Verbal Honey editors called the winners from the major categories at this year's Academy Awards.  12 Years a Slave won for best picture and Director Steve McQueen literally jumped for joy.  Lupita Nyong'o won for best supporting actress.  There was no competition for Lupita in that category.  Jared Leto transformed himself in his realistic, heart wrenching portrayal of an AIDS ravaged transvestite and for this, he deserved the best supporting actor award.  His big screen cohort Matthew MacConaughey won the big award for best actor as we thought he would.  I would have loved for Leonardo DiCaprio to finally win his Oscar but sadly, it eluded him once again.  Don't worry for Leo though.  He earns more per film than most Oscar winners.  He earned $50 million for The Wolf of Wall Street. And he also received the Verbal Honey Bee so he will be just fine.

The only category that we at VH did not call was Best Actress.  Cate Blanchett beat out our pick, Sandra Bullock but from what I hear, it was a well deserved win.  We didn't have the pleasure of seeing Blue Jasmine (but maybe one day, someone would be kind enough to send us to all of the movies so we could sit comfortably with a laptop in review heaven all day...hint...hint).

This Academy Awards show was actually the best I have ever seen and I have never missed an awards show since I was a toddler.  And for this, the biggest award for the evening went to Ellen, for being the best host ever.  Her antics of buying pizza from a real local pizzeria and sharing it out to A-list celebrities was classic.  And her ingenious idea of the impromptu Selfie, photo bombed by the Beautiful People that "broke" twitter as she put it, was absolutely entertaining.  Who would have thunk it? Ellen.  And the best part is, unlike her stuffy predecessors over the years who set out to wow and amaze with over the top performances, Ellen is simple and free.  She has the knack for creating a comfortable atmosphere ripe for organic entertainment.

Next year, you never know, the VH Editors might be in the Oscar audience passing pizzas and taking Selfies with the rest of them. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fancy Schmancy Fashion

VSJ Original 1999
Madame American Starlet: I wouldn't be caught dead in that - well at least not tonight!!

Seasoned Stylist (Exasperated with French Accent) : Oui Madame, mais...we have looked at over 100 dresses, what exactly are you looking for?

Madame American Starlet (Southern Drawl):  Well, I want it to be elegant but different, on trend but not common, memorable but not ugly, simple but not boring, modern but classic, bold but subdued, easy to walk in and not wrinkle when I sit, flattering to my body shape and coloring. Do you understand? I need to be on the best dressed list!! Oh and have pockets - very important!

Seasoned Stylist: d'accord...sigh!

What will we see tonight at the Oscars?
Bold Bright Colors, Yellow, Orange, ORCHID -Black and White - We know the Cobalt and Cherry colors are a definite. Will anyone dare to go with Tribal Patterns, Geometric or Artistic Abstracts? Please leave the Animal Print home - Floral - YES I am hopeful - the younger ladies can pull this off! Lace? Gold? or any Metallic for that matter - Pleating - ahhh yes - soft symmetry, long lines - mathematics people!!

Hair - Safe to say Sleek and Straight,  Bobs, Braids and Waves are always in - suppose the trends will all get a pass.

Make-Up - all I ask is that they are able to move their face and lips - too much is just too much.

Bling - must have from head to toe.

Her Date: Suit - can't go wrong - lol - If they are bold enough - maybe Asger Juel Larsen!*

I know we will see the usual Valentino, Oscar, Givenchy, Balmain, Carolina Herrera, Armani, Versace, Reem Acra and the list goes on - you know who you are - but would love to see designers like Clover Canyon, Dion Lee, Dennis Basso and Charlotte Licha.

Shout OUT and totally unrelated:
Altuzarra - I love your coats!!!!!
*Where are the Scandinavians???