Monday, March 30, 2015

6 Offbeat Tips on Full Time Blogging and Getting Advertisers You -Haven't- Read

Full-time blogging would appear to be a dream job. Write what you want, set your own hours, choose your topic; bliss. If I get e-mailed questions about blogging they're more-than-likely asking how I got sponsors and readers. You do need readers to have sponsors, but let's focus on this advertising conundrum. Because it's not all it's cracked up to be, and you may be better without them.

1/ Don't Start a Personal Blog Just to Get Advertisers 

It always surprises me when a brand new blogger asks how to get ads. Personal blogging, first and foremost, should be an outlet to express yourself. It's where you explore your hobbies and connect with others. I started my blog because of a passion for writing, photography, design, sustainability, and creativity. I never dreamed it would become a huge revenue source.

If you set out from the start to make your blog a profit-making enterprise it takes the "personal" out of it. You'd have to run it like a business, making a business plan from the get-go. You may need start-up capital so you could advertise or cross-promote with bigger blogs or a loan/savings amount to pay bills until your blog's making that green.  It's very difficult to make a living from your blog, and it takes a long time to build your audience. (I have been blogging under this name since 2009, I didn't think about ads until at least two years in.) Start your blog from a place of love and passion instead. And that leads into a 2nd, and better, way to earn income from your blog...

2/ Focus on Connected Shops, Opportunities, Networking

Running Thrift Core directly led to my ability to be self-employed. It was not via the advertisements. Instead, Thrift Core made me money by bringing buyers to my online shop and introducing me to marketing clients. I continue to learn from my generous readers. More important than the ads, a blog is a valuable selling and networking tool.

3/ Think of Your Theme

If you want to have advertisers, you may have to pigeonhole yourself a bit. Brands want to advertise on a page with a clear identity. This is another pitfall of starting a blog for advertisers or hinging your living on them; it can limit your blogging creativity. Think of a short slogan for your blog (let's say, 7-11 words max, as limits force creativity) to help you narrow your focus.

4/ Grow Your Readership Authentically 

A blog needs readers to sell ads, because these individuals will click through and support your sponsors. A brand new blog, devoid of daily visitors, shouldn't think about ads for this reason. The best way to grow your readership is by posting genuinely helpful, entertaining, quality content. Write the content you would want to read, do it to the best of your ability. Make genuine connections with honest, helpful comments on other blogs and forums. If you build it, they will come.

5/ Ignore Counters, Stats, and Numbers (at least for a while)

When I first started blogging it was random. When I decided to take it seriously a year in, I put all of the skills I learned working as a web marketer/copywriter to the test. I wrote in a specific way, I networked, I social media'd. I looked at what posts were popular and created new posts based on those. I checked my counters, google analytics and stats daily. With that single-minded focus on traffic I got stuck in an unwanted direction (thrifting versus the intended lifestyle theme), because it was popular.

Now I check none of that. I casually blog and write, I'm back in my experimental phase. It's more important that I share exactly what I'm passionate about to keep this space sincere. I highly recommend anyone go through this path of discovery at the start, and it's easier to do this when you ignore the numbers.

6/ Don't Compare. Don't Copy. Be Yourself Completely.

I know it's hard as hell to get out of the comparison rut. You see bigger blogs, you want their ads and clicks. You may be jealous they can seemingly make a living from blogging so effortlessly. Seemingly perfect lives are photographed, shared, sold, and set on pedestals to emulate.

But you know better. If it looks too good to be true, it is. They're not sharing the arguments and frustrations going on behind-the-scenes. Running the biggest blogs requires a huge commitment of time and energy, believe me, they are just as stressed as you are. There are lovely perks, like setting your own schedule and working at home, but it has soul-crushing moments. Stay in your lane, focus on making your work the best it can be. Make it exactly like you want to without emulating another. Like my favorite artist quote says, this is a reward in itself.

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I'm not sharing this advice to be discouraging, quite the opposite. It's my firm belief that everyone should blog and/or keep a journal. But I want to be real and honest, blogging for pay is hard, trying to blog for a full time living is harder. But there are many examples that it can be done.  I have marketing services and ebooks on the way for indie business owners that need help, but, as always, feel free to comment below or e-mail me if you have any questions.

Let's Discuss: What do you think makes a good blog? What do you like to read? Do you feel like advertisers take away from the experience? 
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Keep Your Houseplants Alive and Healthy: Learn The Top 10 Houseplant Killers

Who doesn't adore house plants? Greenery love is innate, stemming from hunter/gathering times. Surrounding yourself with living (not fake) plants reduces stress and purifies the air.   NASA has even used them to filter air in space facilities, which makes sense in the cramped quarters of a space station; pollutants can be trapped and become more toxic than outdoor ones! Add plants next to your bed or desk, and the space will immediately feel more homey and relaxing. If you're a black-thumb, I've got tips to help you keep them alive! Let's identify and avoid the top plant killers:

Plant Killer 1/ Wet Roots

If your plant takes in too much water without proper drainage, the roots will rot and your plant-child will perish. Make sure your planter has plenty of drainage. Add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the planter to help with drainage if there are no holes.

Plant Killer 2/ Direct Sun

Many houseplants are tropicals, appropriated for interior use. Exotic tropicals evolved to thrive in the partial light received from beneath a thick forest canopy. If you're seeing random brown spots on your plant, it could be sunburn.

Plant Killer 3/ Not Enough Sun

Some plants, like herbs, prefer ample, full daylight. Cacti are extremely hardy and do well even in the partial sun indoors versus the blazing elements they evolved for. Succulents, however, no matter how trendy for indoor use, can be tricky to grow inside because they're desert plants that crave sun.

Plant Killer 4/ Choosing the Wrong Type

Don't go with what's trendy-- go with what will live in your space. If your space is dim and humid, go for tropicals. Bright and sunny? Succulents and herbs may work for you. If you're a noted plant killer, start with a very hardy cacti.

I'm dying to add some hanging plants to every room's corner! I will follow-up with plants for air purifying and hard-to-kill plant recommendations in future posts. 

Plant Killer 5/ Doomed From The Start

Big box retailers like Home Depot may be your only option for plants. Unfortunately, these plants are uprooted from greenhouses and shipped over long distances. They've already faced environmental changes that put a plant into shock: movement, light/soil/humidity changes. Always take the time to select the healthiest-looking specimens. But beware, even shining examples hide unseen ailments. If you were careful to select the right plant for your space and took care of it according to its needs only for it to perish, it may have been doomed from the start. (This isn't to say you shouldn't buy plants from Lowes, Home Depot, or even Walmart. I have. Just buy with care. And don't beat yourself up if it dies, it may not have been your fault at all!)

Plant Killer 6/ Wrong Care / No Research

Plants come from different biospheres around the world and require different soil types, humidity levels and moisture levels. Cacti prefer sandy, well draining soil. Herbs and vegetables need extremely rich nutritious soil to produce food. Look up what your plant's needs and deliver.

Plant Killer 7/ Not Enough Water

Just like too much water, no water, of course, can kill. Water according to your plant's needs. Even your cactus wants a deep drenching (like a desert rain) every once in a while.

Plant Killer 8/ Not Transplanting / Careless Transplanting

Your plant will eventually outgrow its home and need a new pot. Don't wait too long before upgrading your plant or it will become root-bound (the roots have no where to go in the pot) and die. I'll cover it in a future post, but some houseplants are idiot-proof in this regard because they don't mind being root-bound! (Cacti and succulents are in this camp.) When you transplant, don't rip at the precious roots! Would you like your toes ripped off? Shake the roots loose carefully and don't bury your plant's trunk below the soil line (unless it's basil or tomato, which can grow roots from the stem) or you could rot the stem/trunk.

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I hope this helps you fill your home with beautiful plants while keeping killing at a minimum. Even the best gardeners sometimes kill a plant; truly, all gardeners are accidental murderers. My beautiful tree from IKEA in this post bit the dust, and I've been growing since childhood. Remember, your plant baby may have been abused before you had it. Each one is a unique organism with its own quirks. Don't let mistakes discourage you from this beautiful, life-giving, planet purifying hobby. I come from a long line of gardeners and I'll never stop growing. It's such a pleasure to nurture a plant and watch it thrive.

And if you believe dated interior design books that write-off a plant as simple decor to be replaced if it dies (tee-hee, their vapid tone reads) Poison Ivy will find you and smite you for that arrogance!

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See Also: Step-by-Step Tips for Planting Succulents • Master Gardener Seed Starting Tips  Tips for Using Vintage Planters  Succulent Still Life DIY  Violet Planter Ideas  Herb Growing Tips + Planter DIY  Garden Dreams Beginner Veggie Gardening Tips

Inspiring Gardens: Terri's Comfortable Neptune Beach Garden • Our Food Park Opening  My Grandparent's Colorful, Plant-Filled Puerto Rican Bungalow  The Real Puerto Rico: My Grandparent's Barrio • My Old Apartment Garden • Permaculture Gardening Updates •  Maggie's Herb Farm • Urban Garden Inspiration

Got any more questions or tips? Let's discuss in the comments. I'll be following up with plants for air purifying and my favorite die-hard varieties.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Exploring Jacksonville Florida's Eco Relics: Curious Salvage and Vintage Objects


My art teacher friend Jill was recently on Spring Break, so we made sure to plan a "photo adventure day" last week. We stopped by some interesting recycling centers (no photos allowed) and then Eco Relics, a massive nearby local warehouse with a green theme. In their words:

"We are an eco-friendly business that is committed to reducing building and construction waste in landfills."

I don't know anyone more dedicated to conservation and recycling than Jill, we roamed the massive halls excited that everything within was being saved from polluting the planet. Time stood still we may have explored for an hour or two, lost in the labyrinthian halls.

Eco-relics is geared toward interior designers, collectors, builders, and creatives. Some of the retro items may seem pricey compared to, let's say, the Thrift Store or even antique malls where vendors frequently mark thing son sale. I'd say for the type of place it is the prices weren't bad at all, especially on large items. There were lots of things, like cute illustrated books (no. more. I have a bin full to "make art from" one day) and pretty jewelry (nope. will lose.) that I had to resist. It's the perfect place for a designer on a budget to find statement pieces with character for their client's home.

I was tempted by these lockers. Not vintage, more standard variety officey ones, but they were nice and light. I love light furniture I can easily carry upstairs by myself.

I resisted everything in the record wall. I have a stack right here next to my head as I type who's photos I haven't finished editing to list on Etsy yet! No more! That's the theme for this former reseller, no more stuff!

The assemblage piece above is exactly what I'm trying to get into making next. I have three bins of saved bits to play with when I make myself a work station.

Toward the back there were beautiful vintage appliances: sinks, stoves, refrigerators and more.

In addition to the theatrical items there were building applies aplenty for lower prices, like tools, lumber, and PVC pipes.

Had to throw in a photo of the creepy-ass doll, she startled us at first glance! Eco-Relics is a wonderful place to explore or even hunt for unique items, the deals are there. I left with a unique book and some pieces for an artsy gardening project I'm working on (will share both in future posts). I'll be re-visiting Eco Relics in a future post to share their gorgeous garden, next!

Objects from the fast will always fascinate and inspire, I'm glad there are businesses like eco-relics to preserve the past and protect the future.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Leaving the Day Job, Setting Your Own Hours, and Raising Pay

Questions about self-employment are among the ones I get most frequently. (The first most-frequently asked question for this blog is, "Is 'insert item' still available and for sale?" It, weirdly, never is.) I understand what it's like to work an unfullfilling day job. I was there, dreaming every day of being self-employed. Small business ownership ain't easy. I once read that self-employed people are the only ones crazy enough to trade working a 40 hour week for an 80 hour one...with a big pay cut. It's always more work than your expect and it's not a path for the weak. But. If you have a burning desire to do it, I urge everyone to try. Here are posts I've written over the years about my journey and information to help others who are on this path.

Photo taken my first week of self-employment in my previous apartment. Aw, baby Yuko!

A favorite place I'd like to send you to start is Be Patient Young Grasshoppa, this stuff takes time! Then there's my Personal Timeline to Self Employment that shows a realistic summation of years it took to arrive where I am. The skill practicing process started in 1998, perhaps before that if you count all the years as a child spent honing hunting skills with my mom! Again, Takes time! And finally here's an post to help you conquer fear, since, after all, starting a new path is terrifying!

Answering Your Questions: The First Step to Starting Your Business

Let's Talk About Money: How to Earn Exactly What You Want

Damn, I Made it Look Too Easy. Getting Real About Leaving the Day Job

5 Vintage Life Lessons, What I've Learned Running a Creative Business

The Loudmouth Lifestyle and Thrift Core's 10 Tips for Entrepreneur Money Pains

Let's Talk About Money and Biz Probs: A Candid "You Shouldn't Talk About This" Post

Wake up And Live: A Story From my Marketing Nadir

Freelancer Update: What To Do When You Hate Your Job

/Comments Off for this post, but e-mail me or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram if you have any questions. I offer advertising, consulting, blog set-up, graphic and web design services for newbies in need as well.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Desert Island Survival Product #3: Raw Honey for Healing, Luminous Skin, and Yums

I'm currently working my way through herbalism courses aplenty and testing different skin care products and techniques. My skin looks its best when I'm playing with homemade soaps, toners, and serums, but you don't even need that much for all of your skin care needs. In life, less is more. I've covered Baking Soda and Coconut Oil, now let's look at all the uses for honey! Like the previous two, it may be all you need if you were suddenly stranded on a tiny tropical island in the South Pacific.

Cell proliferating Calendula petals and honey on sprouted wheat toast. Calendula tastes richly nutty.

Make sure you only use honey that is pure, raw, and/or unpasteurized. Pasteurized honey is boiled at high temperatures that kills all of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes in this super food!

1.) Face Wash: Honey is an anti-microbial, it's an ideal blemish protecting wash. Use about a tablespoon. Massage into your skin as you normally would, rinse.

2.) Moisturizer: Honey is a humectant. It super-moisturizes your skin by pulling moisture from the air and distributes moisture from the outer layers toward the inner layers of your skin.

3.) Anti-Ager: Humectants make skin flexible and pliable. The result: less wrinkles. Honey contains antioxidant vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and manganese which fight aging free radicals in your body.

4.) Skin Protector: The humectant properties of honey also help protect skin from environmental damage, like everyday pollution we're exposed to from being outside.

5.) Face Scrub: We're cheating here, but mix with some ground herbs and/or oatmeal for a healing, moisturizing, exfoliating face and body scrub.

6.) Face Mask: Don't want to wash with honey daily? Try a mask instead. Apply, let it sit, then rinse off. You'll get all the same benefits. Try this if you're having a break-out to kill it dead.

7.) Internal Healer: Increase anti-aging, anti-microbial factors internally by healing at least a tablespoon of unheated honey a day. It's amazing at preventing colds and other illnesses.

8.) Pain Prevention: Mix your honey with lots of cinnamon, turmeric, and maybe some black pepper and garlic if you're adventurous. Take at least a healing tablespoon a day. We've tested it in class and it's a powerful anti-inflammatory pain aid. Try it the night before, wake up pain free!

9.) Cold Prevention: Honey kills the microbes in your body as well as in your face. Try the mix above and definitely throw in that garlic. You can try other anti-microbial herbs like lavender. Take daily during your cold-prone seasons.

10.) Hair Lightener: One reason honey is anti-microbial is because it contains natural hydrogen peroxide! Honey makes a wonderful mild natural hair lightener. Mix with cinnamon and olive oil (natural peroxide boosters) and apply where wanted on your hair. Apply about 10-15 times (different days) to gradually lighten your hair to the desired level.

11.) Cough Syrup: Mixed with infused cold-fighting berries like elderberry and herbs. Take to sooth your sore throat during a cold. See: Elderberry cough syrup

12.) Allergy Fighter: Use caution if you're very allergic to pollen, but consuming local honey and/or bee pollen can help you adjust to and be less affected by your local allergens.

13.) Food: Honey is delicious in your tea, coffee, as a syrup replacement or sweetener.

Never Expires: Honey is a special desert island survival product because it lasts forever. When the universe expands until it is no more and the stars have all died, honey will still be here. The ratio of sugar to water molecules in honey makes it impossible for bacteria or mold to grow in your honey. They've found honey in ancient Pharaoh's tombs, still perfectly eatable! It may crystalize, but you can still eat it! Honey is a prized treasure for a reason! Its use predates written history. Before the first known civilization settled in the fertile crescent, people used honey. Honey is eternal!

As for the vegan/honey and ethical dilemma... I never understood why having keepers care for our friends, the bees, is a bad thing? Especially when they're endangered. Even my most militant ethical-vegan friends all use honey.

Seek some local honey (supports your community and it's created with local flora, which is good for your immune system), rub it all over yourself like a crazy person, and enjoy. Yes, if you have a lover and they come home and see you with honey dripping from your face you look like Hannibal Lector when he skinned and wore a cop's face. It's okay. Your skin will be so plump, firm, and radiant afterwards that it's worth it to look psycho.

Got any other questions or tips for desert island products and/or honey? Let's discuss in the comments.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Floridian Dream Retro Camper Revamp and More Indie Goodness at Natural Life Music Festival


Ah, Spring gets ever-closer! It was in the eighties yesterday and it looks like it will be in the seventies and eighties all week. I've packed up the winter clothes and I'm ready to be outside as much as possible. It was a particularly busy non-stop-moving crazy week and I was grateful to spend all day yesterday outside enjoying the perfect weather at the free Natural Life Music Festival.

There was a plethora of the handmade, art, and vintage that I love to see at outdoor events. I bought a few things from charitable causes I support hat I'll have to share in a future haul post, I ran out of daylight to take shots by the time I got home.

And I enjoyed some new vegan food truck offerings. The Hyppo is an ambitious local popsicle business that started in St. Augustine and now is in three cities with various locations. This was my first try, I will certainly be buying one every time I see their truck now. A new addiction is born.  The pineapple cilantro pop above was refreshing on the hot (technically, winter) day.

Lovely live music filled the air. There stations with dancers, crafters, and even an area to practice yoga.

And my favorite surprise was this refabricated retro camper, done up Floridian style and stationed with tropical popped palms, bright gerber daisies, patio furniture, and of course, kitschy pink flamingos.

The owner travels around Florida in here little camper, and you can tell it's been revamped with love. I'm positive the little seashell touches were collected at different beaches.

"Lucky" is right! This is the left side, a sleeping nook I assume. Beautifully appointed. Love the outdoor tiki theme with the torches.

The owner was at her tiny kitchen (with little stove and sink!) making iced pink lemonade.

To the right there's a colorful breakfast nook. I love the cabinet nobs with mermaids and starfish and the playful mix of beachy textures.

Even the floor is appropriately "sandy" and very well updated.

And is that a little TV?! Love that perfect light fixture above the sink, too.

The Florida-shaped cutting board is rather perfect, too.

I had already made up my mind to travel the USA in an RV, hippie van or something similarly kitschy but it didn't hit me until I saw this van at the festival that I can take my crafts and upcoming natural skin care line on the road in one. Somehow I've got to try to make this happen!

The festival was inspiring brain re-boot for my upcoming businesses and a reminder to make these things happen so I can fund what I love the most; traveling and simply, truly, living.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What I'm Watching / Netflix Picks: Sexuality, True Love, Covert Feminism, and Funnies

Watching movies at random can yield experiences you didn't expect. All of this months picks turned out to be unexpectedly touching. Excepting the last two comedy sitcom picks, each movie was about sex to a degree. I dub this the sex/feminism movie review romp. With laughs, because you have to take a break from the analyzation and laugh 'til you cry at family disfunction every once in a while.

Don Jon 

On the outside Don Jon appears to be your average rom-com. What we get is a character study and commentary on the harmful affects "informed" sexuality in our media. The lead, Jon, is a fit, attractive, single bartender that easily brings home a new lady every weekend. A macho, alpha, Joisey guido, he's not the typical picture of a porn addict. And being a touch dim, he doesn't realize how unhealthy it is that he prefers time alone with porn better than the "hassle" of real sex with real women.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who stars in and directs the film, leads with a montage of footage of sexualized women; from seemingly innocuous characters like Minerva Mink from Animaniacs to commercials and pornography.

Women are portrayed as sexual objects in our cartoons, comic books, commercials and movies. They're the eye candy, prizes to be won, and not as frequently, the protagonists and heroes in the story. Women are not the only victims of this and Don Jon is extremely fair in depicting how these fantasies harm both genders. Jon's sex life and relationships are stunted because media and porn has helped him form a very specific idea of what sex should be. (For instance, he hates missionary because the woman's breasts are "flattened", probably because in porno most breasts are fake and don't have this "problem." And because missionary is rare in pornography.) He's never made a genuine connection. Similarly, his love interest in the film is addicted to romance films and bases her relationships on similarly unrealistic standards, demanding Jon attend a community college class just so she can tell her friends "he's in school", among other unreasonable requests. It fits her fantasy of what a relationship should be. Her bedroom is filled with posters of romance films, white swans, and pink and red roses. There's also a hilarious film-within-a-film on Jon and Barbara's first date that mocks typical boy-meet-girl love-at-first-sight movies.

Don Jon's full of laugh-out-loud moments, excellent acting (Scarlett Johansson goes against type as bitchy Jersey blond and nails it) and truly sweet moments in the least traditional ways. We watch a jerk-ass kid take steps to become a real man and learn to forge his first genuine connections. Gordon-Levitt's doesn't miss a beat and is completely immersed in the role. For anyone in fear of the subject matter, this is a movie about sex that isn't raunchy. To go with the theme of depicting "real" connections and sexuality, only the pornography the character watches in the film is explicit, and every other sex scene is shown obscured or even fully-clothed. It's a fun way to play with the conventions and hammer in the point that the reality of sexuality is completely different than it's nearly-always seen in the media.

A Life in Dirty Movies

I'd never heard of hipster-darling director Joe Sarno until I randomly stumbled upon A Life in Dirty Movies on Netflix. A character in Don Jon, concerned about Jon's porno addiction, recommends a more cerebral, sensual film for him to watch to help him understand sexuality is more mental than visual. These were the types of films Joe Sarno made at the height of the "sexploitation" film era in the mid to late 1960s.

The film opens with a meticulously lit and staged scene in black and white. There's a director coaching two drop-dead beautiful young women against a pristine white backdrop. I think I'm watching a modern re-creation of how Joe Sarno would have directed his films, but soon discover this is a clip from one of Sarno's movies! That's how "ahead of the curb" his style was. He had an incredible eye for light and shadow, borrowing from the famous king of chiaroscuro and angst, Ingmar Bergman. His films look clean and modern, you can immediately see why there's a revival of interest in his creations. His "sex" movies, made for the "raincoat crowd" (worn to hide certain activities in the movie theatre) were theatrical and arty. They were heavy on characterization and dialog. Against conventions of the time (and even now) they were all female led. Sex scenes weren't explicit and anachronistically, Sarno voiced his preference for showing woman's pleasure, fascinated by woman's capacity for imagination over visuals for arousal. A film historian notes that the female leads in his movie use their men as objects for their gratification. Men took the back seat and orbited the women in the story. This is still rare, way before a time with big names like Cameron, Miyazaki and Guillermo Del Torro made strong female leads their trademark.

This isn't a film merely about a feminist director before-his-time. It's about modern-day Joe Sarno, his supportive wife Peggy, and their quest to make a final film in world where there's no market for it. He tries to dirty up the dialog in his script, making it more sexuality explicit, but no one will fund his old-fashioned flick.

The heart of the film is the connection you feel between Sarno and his wife. They met and fell in love on the set of one of his films and spent their lives together happily working on his projects. Despite extreme disapproval from her well-to-do-family, she helped with props and costumes, flew with him to Switzerland to film, and supported Sarno through his every peak and fall. It's incredibly touching to see a couple so in-sync and supportive. Even when his style fell out of vogue and "hardcore" films made Sarno's type of film completely unprofitable in the 1970s, she never stops supporting his original vision.

This is a movie for every artist, wanna-be film maker, or film lover. Sarno never became mainstream--famous. Even with the decent-sized underground revival of his work, the Sarnos were deeply in debt. Through it all they didn't abandon their dreams, they didn't stop creating exactly like they wanted to. That is life well lived.


And while we're on that sex kick! Starlet is a charming indie film that has a sexy surprise as a little blip to ponder mid-film. It's not as multi-layered and sophisticated as Don Jon or as sweet as A Life in Dirty Movies. Regardless, it's a movie that stuck with me. And like the others, it turns your expectations upside-down and throws in surprises. Starlet is, at its core, a simple movie about the unlikely bond that forms between a listless, leggy Californian 21-year-old and a grumpy 85-year-old woman. For a movie with a provocative surprise and undercurrent, it's very understated. This is a day-in-the-life look at an apathetic, bored young woman. We watch her animate and revive the closer she gets to Sadie, a cantankerous old woman who is, of course, more than she seems. The story's been told before, but Starlet's take is refreshing. There's no melodrama and few Hollywood cliches. The characters just are, and it's enjoyable to watch their lives and stories unfold. The sunny setting perfectly matches the languid pace, Starlet feels like one perfect, breezy California day. The film captures our current late-teen, early-twenties millennial dilemma in subtext.

Oh, it must be hard to be young and pretty with all the options. And no options. Oh, the agony. Can't. Get. Off. Couch.

College doesn't guarantee work, there's minimal job security and no promise for social security. What the hell is there to work hard for now-a-days, in the eyes of a confused young person? One nitpick I have is a central conflict being resolved too easily, but overall, it's just a pleasant story to get lost in.

Love Hotel
The bed, he spins! I must stay in a campy themed Love Hotel one day...

Love Hotel is a documentary that touches on universal aspects of sexuality as well as sexuality within the confines of Japan's reserved culture. I'm fascinated by sexuality in Japan. The country's population is "aging;" with few young people having children, there are more elderly than young people in Japan. Japan's citizens are incredibly industrious, but it has a price. Teen pregnancy rates are among the lowest in the developed world, when you're going to "cram schools" to prepare for your college exams after school for years there's less time for social interaction. The result is a growing amount of youth that's content to stay single, partly because of diminished social skills, and partly as rebellion. These young people are known as "parasite singles" in Japan. Men who refuse relationships and pursue their hobbies (sometimes ones deemed "feminine") with free time are called, hilariously enough, "Herbivore Men." (Because if you don't eat meat you're not a virile man, of course!) If you're a fellow Japan-o-phile and want to known more, pursue Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage & Sex in Contemporary Japan.  None of this is covered in the documentary. Love Hotel instead focuses on clients of one Love Hotel in Osaka, Japan. It explores how patrons use the rooms to role play, spice up their sex lives, and provide respite from busy lifestyles. An adventurous middle-aged couple, a pair of male attorneys fighting gay-rights cases in Japan (also a couple), and a free-thinking dominatrix are the characters we follow the most. In a sweet moment, we also see an elderly couple who rent a disco themed room just to dance together.

Love Hotels, for those not in the know, are elaborate, usually kitschy, themed rooms you rent by-the-hour for sexy times. We have some in the USA in cities like Miami and I shall rent one before I die for the experience, but I doubt the ones in the US would have anything as nifty as sex toy machines within! A wave of neo-conservatism is closing Love Hotels across Japan, and in a fair, unbalanced way, Love Hotel shows the benefit of this ancient tradition as a respite from the busy and restrictive Japanese lifestyle.

Arrested Development

I have crawled out from under my rock and finally watched Arrested Development, a cult comedy that was rebooted for new seasons on Netflix. Because like the first run of Family Guy, it's just that damn funny. Ahead of it's time as a comedy of errors mirroring America's financial crisis in 2004, Arrested Development is about a wealthy family trying to keep it together in hilarious fashion after their sole provider and patriarch gets sent to jail for shady business deals. The dry narration for each episode pieces the show together like a documentarian reading case files. It's a unique touch. I loathe most sitcoms for the plot predictability. Even the laugh track grins me. It's refreshing to watch one that tries new things.

The Boondocks, Season 4

I am a huge fan of Aaron McGruder's national newspaper comic strip turned TV series, The Boondocks. A few of my friends find it's too abrasive. If you hate liberal cursing, this isn't for you. If you wouldn't tolerate almost record-breaking (is it in Guinness yet?) use of the N-word, this show isn't for you. If you crave hilarious social satire on all things modern politics and pop culture with references to anime and kung fu movie galore, watch on. I'd urge anyone who's uncomfortable to give it a chance. If you, too, were raised by often-angry, cheap parents, you'll relate! The Boondocks is what my childhood sounded like! Nostalgic and funny, can't beat it! I've watched Season 1 enough to quote it, so it's weird that I haven't watched Season 4 until recently. Season 1 was limited on action because of the show budget and difficulties, making it very dialog heavy, but it still remains my favorite season followed closely by Season 2. I feel like the budgetary restrictions with these seasons forced some deliciously creative writing in the script. Season 4 was still enjoyable, but it hasn't measured up to the pedestal I placed Season 1 upon. While watching, this season 4 felt different. Upon research I discovered McGruder left the show mysteriously, alluding that it was to work on the live-action show Black Jesus for Adult Swim (to avoid the controversy he constantly had to dodge while working on The Boondocks, he jokes.) It's sad that this was the final season of a show that really pushed the envelope with its satire and humor, but I can respect an artist's need to move on after nearly two decades of working with the same characters! I'll enjoy watching his creation for years to come.

And that's it for now! I could hold back my movie nerd ranting no longer, this month's picks had too much substance to hold back. Got any related picks for me or thoughts to share? Let me know in the comments. I think next week I'll focus on more visual arty films...
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