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Friday, February 27, 2015

The DUFF Review: Mediocre Modernity with a Healthy Amount of Chemistry


Director: Ari Sandel
Writer: Josh A. Cagan
Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca A. Santos, Skyler Samuels
Rating: Three Stars out of Five

Timelessness is sometimes a tricky concept for movies to get across. You never want to come off as something not of your era, but you don't want to look hokey in 30 years' time, either. It's a balancing act that most movies do not negotiate well.

In this, The DUFF is not alone. It is a film that relies heavily on modernity, with numerous gimmicks about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like flying by at high speed. But those modern trappings are a crutch, an unnecessary one at that, because the heart of the story is a solid one.

In it, Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Parenthood) plays Bianca, a high school senior focused less on the surface-level things her peers are. She dresses in flannels and overalls, is proud of her idiosyncratic interests like horror films and journalism, and doesn't much care about social advancement – she's happy where she is, with two great friends (Santos and Samuels) by her side every step of the way. They're supportive of her, she's loyal to them, they cruise down the hallways at school being invited to parties and such. At one such party, Bianca's next-door neighbor, Wesley (Robbie Amell), informs her that she is the DUFF of her friend group, the “designated ugly fat friend.” She's the approachable one, not considered dateable by the guys at school because her friends are deemed to be more attractive than her.

Of course, it's silly to think of Mae Whitman as fat or ugly, but the movie asks you to bear with it for the sake of a positive message about accepting yourself. It even goes out of its way to say that the term is a “catch-all” and doesn't really have anything to do with body weight or whether she's actually pretty – it's all about the comparative perception. Not the strongest argument, but that's the point. Moving on.

Bianca doesn't take this revelation well. She dumps her unwitting friends under the false assumption they use her to make themselves look better, initiating the movie's most irritating problem. In their quasi-breakup scene, they perpetuate a tortured joke about all the ways Bianca is removing them from her life, with every version of “de-friending” imaginable mentioned. It goes on forever. It's an attempt to be of the times and comment on the ubiquity of social media in our lives, but it's lazy. The “social media is everywhere and pretty annoying!” jokes in real life are old the second they leave the joker's lips, which is partially a function of the instantaneous nature of the medium. When you put them in a movie, a project that takes at least two years from start to finish, those already old jokes become more than tiresome. It's a too-easy way to cram in some more gags to pad out the running time of a short movie, and the ungraceful way it's handled makes it feel like what it is: tacked on. There's nothing wrong with these characters utilizing social media – the movie accomplishes this just fine with the scenes involving the school's resident mean girl (Bella Thorne) filming her life as a perpetual tryout for a reality show – but to call it out so verbally violates the old “show, don't tell” rule that obscures the special parts of the movie.

And the most special of those parts is the chemistry between Whitman and Amell. He's a jock, sure, but he has a Ferris Bueller-style ability to talk with and get along with everyone. Because of this, she enlists him to teach her to be more attractive in order to reel in her big crush, a guitar-playing softie with Farrah Fawcett hair. He coaches her through the hardest parts of confidence building – he gives her quotas of guys to talk to and hit on at the mall, with her various failures serving as some of the best jokes in the film – and they have the kind of patter you'd expect for people who have known each other since they were in diapers. There's a real sense of comfort between them, which allows for Bianca to eventually thrive. This goes about the way you'd expect for a teen romantic comedy, with one more unnecessary, shoehorned plot contrivance regarding Bianca's crush – there's no plot-related need for him to be a jerk, essentially – but it provides a solid take on a well-worn arc. Whitman and Amell prove themselves to be big comedic stars in the making, the movie has some laughs, and in the end it's a commendable lark, if nothing important – a lesser entry in the Mean Girls-Easy A set.

Some Movies to See This Weekend, February 27, 2015

Only two new wide releases reach theaters this weekend, but with March becoming a reality on Sunday, these movies are part of a larger Hollywood trend in recent years. It's lately been in vogue for studios to release untested, “original” (re: properties that are not already huge money makers in other forms of entertainment) material to see what sticks. Younger filmmakers are given some more shots, oddball ideas are greenlighted, and we end up with some interesting movies – and usually very good ones – like Watchmen, How to Train Your Dragon, and an Oscar nominee from just last week, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writers: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez

Will Smith hasn't done a movie geared toward adults in a while. It's been almost exclusively blockbuster work for him since Ali in 2001, albeit with a couple detours here and there. So it's exciting to see him take on the con man genre with a hint of sleaze attached. Smith plays Nicky, a schemer and grifter who seems pretty adept at his job. An old flame, played by The Wolf of Wall Street's Margot Robbie, comes back into his life and things get wacky. It's well-worn stuff, sure, but there's a breezy gloss to the trailer that recalls Michael Mann and even The Sting. People get beat up and bleed here, they have a bit more snarl to them, they are a tiny bit rougher around the edges. This could be a solid entertainment for people who don't just want Smith's gargantuan charisma in movies where he has to save the world from aliens.

The Lazarus Effect
Director: David Gelb
Writers: Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater
Starring: Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover

The premise of The Lazarus Effect suggests a cheapie horror flick, but its cast is so wonderfully weird and talented. Duplass and Glover come from the comedy world and Wilde is one of the better dramatic actresses of our day. Wilde plays Duplass's wife/lover who suffers an accident in their Frankenstein-esque life regeneration lab. In his grief over her death, he hooks her up to the untested machine and poof, she comes back to life. But things are different about her. Stuff goes wrong. Her eyes turn ink black, which isn't good. There has to be something to this script or director Gelb's pitch to them that elevates this to something special, because it's rare for everyone in a cast like this to be slumming it just for a paycheck.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beauty Trends, Tips and Roundups - Hair, Skin & Lifestyle

Spring 2015 is right around the corner and with the spring comes a sense of renewal. That renewal typically brings about spring cleaning and more often than not, changes in our appearance. Those changes can vary from new cuts, styles or trying new types of makeup. It can even mean changing up our home or trying to make changes in our lifestyle.This trend spotlight and product roundup showcases some interesting products and trends for Spring 2015.

The Trends

Rockabilly Hairstyles for Men
You guys have heard and seen this look for some seasons now, but the rockabilly style for guys has kept a strong hold on the fashion forward men and now it seems that every dude is rocking the pompadour. This style is a throwback to the Johnny Cashes and Sinatras of yesteryear. A put together yet badass look for the man who isn't afraid to put a tad bit of effort into his look. 

How to achieve the look: After washing your hair, blow dry your hair to give it some body. Then, grease your hair properly with pomade. Create a deep part on the side of your head that is most fitting for your faceshape then comb your hair back. Pull slightly on the front of the pompadour to lift it a bit. When you look at your hair from the side, it must take on the shape of a wedge.

Product to use: Layrite Pomade is a great product to use for this look. It is an extremely versatile pomade that provides excellent all-day hold for short, fine, or normal hair can be used to create put-together or messy styles with a medium shine. It is definitely a traditional pomade that is easy to spread and gives a slightly wet look. The hold is dependant on how damp your hair is when the product is applied. So, for a better hold - apply to drier hair. The best part about this product is that it doesn't flake and is water soluble and washes out easily. 

Thick luscious locks for Her/Undone hair
Long hair is making a come back for the ladies. Lobs were everywhere last year, but one trend on the runways this past season that made some serious headway was length. It was seen in long pony tales, thick luscious waves, pulled high or slicked back. The length and volume shown on the runways was absolutely vivacious. 

How to achieve the look: You don't have to have naturally thick hair to achieve this look! The easiest way to get that volume is through blow drying and product. First thing, spritz a heat-protecting leave-in conditioner through damp strands from roots to ends. Then divide your hair into sections. Starting at the back lowest section, blow-dry and wind small sections of hair from the ends up to the scalp around a ceramic brush and hit with the heat until dry.

Unravel hair from the brush. As you do, rotate your wrist so the hair curls on itself, forming a loose ringlet. Repeat until all hair is dry. Flip your head over and mist hair's underside with a texturizing spray. Use your fingers to massage the roots, then flip back up and finger-comb into place.

Product to use: Sure Thik has a great range of products meant to help thicken up those locks. If you are facing some hair thinning it may be a sign of hormonal issues or it could also just be oil from the sebaceous glands, mixed with dead skin cells and the residue left from most hair products, clogging your hair follicles. This can cause blocking of hair growth.

Without adequate circulation, vital oxygen and nutrients cannot pass through the tiny blood vessels to the hair follicle and you'll notice thinning. After about 2 months utilizing the root penetrating shampoo, I saw some noticeable regrowth. I utilized this product 3 times a week as I felt every day use for myself left my hair feeling a bit dry. I combined a weekly conditioning treatment to help add moisture and my locks were feeling luscious after about 2 months. The product is sulfate-free, paraben-free and dye-free and makes for a great conscious buy.

Yet, if you are looking for that instant gratification, the brand also carries a line of hair thickening fibers. All you do is shake a bit on any thin areas and comb it throw and use a bit of hairspray to set. It gives a natural look without all the teasing.

Eco friendly products 
The idea of making trying to live more environmentally friendly isn't something new. Yet, it does seem more and more of the public are making conscious decisions to use products that don't leave a negative impact on the world around them. Personally, this idea was heightened the moment I became a mother. What I consume, use and do to the world can directly affect my children in the future. I've found that brands that take this idea into consideration, are brands that I tend to chose and support. Which is why I'm spotlighting two products that do just that.

Products to Use: Little Twig is one of those brands that just gets it and the product is amazing as well. The brand has a host of shampoos, conditioners, body wash and moisturizing products that are topnotch and smell amazing. Their lavendar line is perfect for the restless babies and moms. Lavender Scented Lotion or Oil is often very helpful in promoting a healthy natural sleep for both babies and their parents. Lavender has aromatherapy properties that are calming and relaxing.

Little twig also has a recycling program that was created to involve families in their efforts to reduce waste. It’s one simple way you can give back to the environment and get a little something in return.

Eco Me is a line of natural cleaning products that was born out of need and concern. The need to remove dangerous chemicals from homes and the environment and the concern that the toxins emitted from every day products has encouraged the rapid increase of disease in our society. I love their lemon dish soap. It's a pretty decent sized bottle and a little goes a long way! The smell is heavenly and it is super gentle on hands.

Learning to use the right brush for your product 
With all the youtube beauty gurus out there, ladies are learning more and more about professional proper techniques for makeup application. This spring it seems like technique is becoming more and more important. Rather than just slathering on makeup with your fingers, learning to use the right brush for the right product has become and important beauty tip. So, I've rounded up the brushes I've been using the last few months and absolutely love. You can get a brief rundown of how they work and what product you should be using them with.

SOHO Naturals 6-piece Makeup Brush Set has been a mainstay in my makeup bag. It comes with: foundation brush, highlighter brush, all-over eyeshadow brush, angled eyeliner brush, and a brush pouch. Then there is the Retractable Kabuki brush. The densely packed bristles of the SOHO Naturals Retractable Kabuki Brush pick up more product than a typical powder brush and provides moderate to full coverage. This is the perfect brush to use with mineral makeup, loose or pressed powder, and/or bronzer.

SOHO is yet another brand trying to leave the world better than they found it. The brushes all come with: bamboo handle, have cruelty-free nylon bristles and are packaged in recycled packaging

Tips for use: The Eye Shader brush is used for packing color on the lid. You can also use the tip of the brush to smudge color under the lash line, or to create a defined line in the crease. The highlighter brush has feathery, soft bristles to give a very nice finish to any product used with it. This brush is very easy to use when applying a highlighter to the top of the cheekbones. The foundation stippling brush is perfect for those of you who love a full coverage look to your foundation. The large flat head is specifically made for the liquid foundation to be stippled onto the face.

Showing some skin
Another trend that seems to cycle back around after the cold and as soon as spring hits, is to show a little skin. As soon as the weather starts to warm up dresses, shorts and skirts make an appearance. For women this means back to the shaving game. Hair removal can be tricky and difficult and staying smooth is often a short lived experience for some. Soften Her is a great new product on the market that makes prickly grown back hair an annoyance of the past. Keep in mind this doesn't buff hair away per se, but it does help soften the skin of the shaven area. It's a soft pad that you use to buff your shaven area and soften stubble.  It gently exfoliates and prevents in-grown hairs. I definitely noticed a decrease in razor bumps upon usage of the pad. The small compact size and shape makes it easy to use and discreet to keep in your handbag. They even have the Soft Goat for the dudes!

How to Be a Rich Bitch with Nicole Lapin

If you’re looking to take control of your financial life this year, Rich Bitch: A 12 Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life in Order...Finally is the book for you. Written by fun and fearless financial expert Nicole Lapin, Rich Bitch is a finance book you’ll actually enjoy reading and feel excited and empowered about your future. You can also listen to the full interview on the Halfstack Highlights Podcast!

Listen and subscribe via iTunes.

Courtesy: Nicole Lapin's website 

Nicole Lapin Lapin was never attracted to finances growing up. When her high school boyfriend said he wanted to be a hedge fund manager, she through he wanted to get into gardening. “We never had the Wall Street Journal laying around,” Lapin said. When she started on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, she realized money was a language like anything else. That was empowering for her. Even though she was the youngest anchor and worked on several shows, she felt all the information she had wasn’t reaching an audience that really needed it—her former self.

Courtesy: Nicole Lapin's website 

Lapin knew how she wanted to educate women about money. She wanted to create a “jargon- free zone” with her book because she felt the language of money intimidated women who want to take control of their financial lives. She wanted to stress aspiration versus desperation. “There’s a new normal, she said. It’s not the American dream. It’s your dream, your destiny. Rich Bitch is an unconventional word because it’s an unconventional book. Conventional wisdom no longer applies.” Lapin breaks financial freedom into easy to follow, accessible 12 step plan. You know why you’re taking these steps, when to take these steps, and what to look for. She also stresses these are suggestions, not gospel. “Personal finance is personal,” she said. “It is not one size fits all.”'

What I enjoyed most about the book was the tone. When you read some finance books, they can make you feel guilty about your choices and worry more about your situation. Rich Bitch was approachable and empowering. Lapin has been there and improved her situation. “There are no stupid questions because I’ve already asked them for you,” Lapin said. If readers laugh at her foibles but learn something, so be it. Fear of money is all in your head and Lapin sets you free. As money affects all areas of your life, she helps you see how your mindset influences your decisions. Calling how you organize your money a “spending plan” instead of a “budget” feels better just as calling a “diet” a “healthy eating plan.” This is a change for the long term. “You’re paying for your future self,” Lapin said. “Money touches every aspect of your life.” Rich Bitch will be one of your favorite books you read this year and not just because it will change your life. It's available wherever books are sold, or visit Lapin's website at www.nicolelapin.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TRUE Modeling Agency

Modeling is much more than most believe it to be. Many use their career as a platform to make a positive impact on the world. TRUE Model Management takes pride in the involvement of their models. Headquartered in New York with affiliates in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, this modeling agency is about professionalism and commitment. Numerous TRUE models represent Victoria's Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Zac Posen and other well-known brands internationally.

From the start, TRUE was launched as a fit modeling agency and were known for having the best fit models. Dale Noelle, recorded as one of the most successful models for nearly two decades, is the CEO and founder of this unique agency. In addition to the women and men divisions, TRUE launched the "Curves" print board to embrace beautiful models of all shapes and sizes. Not only does Noelle's modeling agency consistently gain positive recognition, but it has been announced as the "Full Figured Agency of the Year."

In the search for models, TRUE seeks for talent to be obvious from the outside yet just as beautiful on the inside. Having healthy and in-shape models is also important to the modeling agencyregardless of size. Psychologically speaking, they look for models who are aware that they are their own "small businesses," and it is pertinent that they conduct themselves accordingly. As TRUE is an international scope, their models consist of the classy men and women who can properly represent the agency worldwide.

Care to become a part of TRUE? Start your modeling career here

The Winner of the Red Bull Thre3style DJ Battle is Boi Jeanius!

Earlier this month, Chicago hosted the annual Red Bull Thre3Style DJ Battle at Concord Music Hall. The battle was pitted against six of the top DJs from around the Midwest in order to compete to see who is the best DJ in the Chciagoland area. After an intense competition between the six very talented DJs, the winner has been decided. The winner of the 2015 Red Bull Thre3Style DJ Battle is none other than Boi Jeanius, a DJ from Chicago.

Images courtesy of Redbull Presents

During the competition, the DJs were given 15 minutes to be judged on their technical ability, interaction with the crowd, and their ability to bring their own style into the mix. With Four Color Zack, M-Squared, and Trentino as the judges, you know that this battle was very competitive.

After winning the DJ battle in the Midwest, he will now be going on to competing in the national championship in Phoenix, Arizona this April. Congratulations to Boi Jeanius!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ann Taylor: The Bucket Bag Comeback

Looking to take your look to the next level? Bucket bags are back and in full swing! Ann Taylor is right on cue with this popular trend. There's no better way to jazz up your outfit than with the Python bucket bag by Ann Taylor.

Bucket bags have made a come back this season! This 1950's style was previously popular when carpet was not universally used in buildings. Many floors were wooded tile, and it was considered rude for women to walk on the soft flooring in their stilettos. For this, women carried an extra pair of flats that perfectly fit in their bucket bags. 

From Jennifer Lawrence to Miranda Kerr, celebs have been showing off the stylish accessory. This look is effortless and will give a new meaning to accessorizing like a celebrity. The Signature Mini Bucket Bag is the perfect bag to mix and match with a variety of outfits; mix it in with a colorful blazer, or match it with a sleek black ensemble to give off a luxurious look. Its drawstring closure provides easy access to your belongings to make life easier as you are running from place to place. Care to add a twist to your style? Check out the Signature Exotic Embossed Mini Bucket Bag to satisfy any snake print needs!

There's a wide range of styles in navy, tan, white and marbled python that cater to women of all sorts! Be sure to find what you're looking for here. Expect high quality and top fashions by Ann Taylor.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Melanie Martinez At Lincoln Hall

On February 10, Melanie Martinez held a concert at Chicago's Lincoln Hall as a third part and the final installment of her Dollhouse Tour. Her setlist was fun and edgy and her performance was mesmerizing. The entire audience was in the palm of her hands.

Before Melanie went on stage, the indie pop band AJR opened for her with a selection of songs from their EPs and new album. The three brothers were really able to interact the crowd. For their last song, the performed their most famous tune "I'm Ready" which is the song that shot them up into fame and recognition.

When it was finally Melanie's set, she came out strong with a new song off of her album called "Mad Hatter". She went on to sing a mix of new songs from her upcoming album "Cry Baby" and songs from the "Dollhouse EP" which was released last year. One of the highlights of the night was when she sang her song "Carousel", which was popularized after being used as promo for American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Ever since her debut on the television show called The Voice, Melanie became known for her unique and husky voice. Her one of a kind singing style also makes her distinguishable from other singers in the industry. Melanie's songs have a very distinct style. It sounds very sweet, but has dark undertones. Since her time on The Voice, I think that Melanie was able to truly grow as an artist and develop her own musical style.

Melanie's performance was full of passion. Her voice didn't waver at all while she sang throughout the night. My only disappointment was the end of her performance. She abruptly stopped her show and left the stage after saying bye. There was not encore and the house lights went back on after an awkward delay. This left the fans in a state of confusion and made the ending of the concert unsatisfying.

But overall, Melanie Martinez's concert was truly a unique experience. She really knows how to captivate the audience's attention and put her all into a performance. I thought that her concert was very enjoyable. I can't wait until she makes her way back to Chicago!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hot Club of Cowtown Review: Unique Blend Creates "Beautiful Music, Dangerous Rhythm"

A night with Hot Club of Cowtown is something special. The lyrics from “The Continental”, a song they played that evening, summarized the event: “beautiful music, dangerous rhythm”. It was held at The Club MAC, an intimate and friendly space at The McAninch Arts Center. The floor was littered with cabaret tables and listeners sat under the soft glow of paper lanterns.
Hot Club of Cowtown at The MAC l-r: White Smith, Elana James, Jake Irwin Soon after the trio of Elana James, Whit Smith and Jake Irwin took the stage, the world melted away as we were immersed in a timeless energy and transported by the voice of the violin, guitar, and standup bass to an evening of romance and imaginings. We could have been in the 1930’s. It was a treat for all ages, perfect for a family night out or date night. Fans got hear favorite tunes live and hear classics they never thought they’d hear live.
Hot Club of Cowtown at The Mac The group doesn’t have a set list for their high energy show, but it’s a mix of classics, like “Ida Red” and “Slow Boat to China”, originals like Elana James’ “Reunion”, and new material. It truly is a unique blend of music, a balance of rustic and elegance. One tune sounded like the theme to “Jeeves and Wooster” if it had been recorded today, another was a boot-stomping, skirt-swinging dance song. There was nod to gypsy violin with “Fuli Tschai (Bad Girl)”, a spunky, flirtatious melody. Then the audience was treated to something slower, but full of old world feeling, so we could catch our breath and dream. During the second half, they handled a deluge of requests. Their last number was “Orange Blossom Special”, a whirlwind of notes showcasing Elana’s skill, leaving an awed audience knowing they have seen something great. The band announced after playing together for eighteen years they have won their first award. They won Country Swing Group of the Year at the Ameripolitan Awards. Elana James also won Woman of Country Swing of the Year. After receiving a standing ovation, the trio was joined for their encore by the fourth member of their band, Eva, the beautiful band dog with a dazzling smile and stage presence. She curled up at the foot of the stage and enjoyed the songs with the audience.
Elana James after the show as Eva watches from stage Hot Club met with fans after the show, chatting and signing programs, albums, and tour schedules. They spread out to handle the hoards: Elana at the merch table, Whit stage right, and Jake stage left, fielding questions about his bass and set up. Fans waited patiently to share stories with the trio. One couple first saw them in 1994. Another first saw them at a festival and were absolutely mesmerized by their playing. Their passionate music and performance evokes loyalty and a cult-like following. The love and appreciation is reciprocated by Hot Club of Cowtown. Hot Club of Cowtown plays again tonight at the Mac. For tickets visit AtTheMac.org or for Hot Club’s tour schedule visit hotclubofcowtown.com

Welcome to the year of the Goat.

Happy Chinese New Year. Today, I write about the year of Goat (sheep) which is starting now in the world. Before that, let’s take a look on the Chinese Horoscope Calendar. Every year is ruled by a horoscope. The Chinese horoscope has 12 signs like the western horoscope. The Chinese horoscopes calendar begins with Rat and ends with Pig. Below is a breakdown of past and future years.

Fun history of the Chinese New Year

The beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian, or chinese dragon, comes on the first day of New Year to eat the villagers, especially children. One day, the villagers started to put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after Nian ate the food, it wouldn't attack people. A god visited a villager and told him to put red paper on their homes and to place firecrackers around. He told the villagers that the Nian was afraid of the color red. In the beginning of the New Year, villagers hung red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors frighten the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu's Mount.

Quick notes those born under the year of the goat.

Lucky colors : Brown, Red and Purple .
Lucky numbers: 1, 2 and 7.
Lucky flower: Carnation and Primrose.
Lucky direction: North. 
Lucky months: August and November.  

People born in the year of the Goat are generally more elegant, charming, gifted and very fond of nature. People born under this sign are also the most creative and artistic. They are also very delicate, good mannered and their charms always bring many admirers and friends.

Goat people are dreamers, but sometimes they are pessimistic. They can be lazy. If a person born under the goat sign has any choice, they would definitely choose to marry a wealthy person and sit back for the rest of the lives. They are obsessed with their appearance. Goats are insecure. They need to feel loved and protected.

Goat people are very romantic sensitive, sweet and darling. In relationship, they could be sometimes a little bit bossy and lazy, but with their gentle and caring nature, it will be hard to resist people born under this sign.

Like the rabbit, the people born in goat years tend to be kind and docile animals. They have low combat effectiveness and ask for nothing but live with the green grass peacefully. Because of their gentle nature, they are usually attacked by other animals. In the flock, they observe the discipline of the leader sheep well and hold the leader in the greatest esteem.

The people under the goat sign are most flexible and have bright expressive body language. The men may look slightly effeminate or have softer features. The women are born with a devilish charm to the opposite sex. They can be beautiful, plump to full figured, clear in skin but slim in waist… think curvy and buxom.

Birth times affecting the personality

Like the western horoscope, the people born in different periods of a day have different personalities and fortune (much like a western horoscope’s rising sign):

A person born during the morning hours during the year of the goat have a tendency to be more passive, conservative and lack independence. Their advantage is they are reliable. The women usually remain in proper and prim. They are conservative and reliable, centering their lives on the family. They are fond of studying cooking, flower-arranging, decoration and usually handle the home affairs well.

The people born at noon are irritable, unstable or spontaneous in character. Once they attain a small achievement, they will get easily excited. While meeting small setbacks, they will become seriously upset. So, there are always ups and downs for their fortune.

Like the people born in the mornings, those born during the evening hours are conservative. They usually do not excel at pioneering work as they are more methodological and analyzing in the pursuits of how work is done. As they are less skilled in social intercourses, they keep a fixed post instead of changing jobs frequently. Most of them can save up some money when young and live a good life. The women are good domestically, excel at managing financial affairs and providing order.

Now, the big question is:
Is there a parallel between Chinese and Western Astrological signs?

The answer to this question will take us on a tour to visit the 12 western horoscopes in the Goat year. So people who are born in the year of the goat can see how it will affect their western horoscope sign. This also includes those born this year in 2015. Here we go your both Chinese/Western Horoscope:

Aries Goat seems to appreciate everything and everyone around them and loves the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They will happily blend in with the majority of environments and social situations. As they are so naturally veracious, these people find it almost impossible to lie. This makes Aries fantastic partners that will usually be extremely faithful and devoted. They hate deceptions of any kind and will refuse to take part in one if asked.

Taurus Goat are mostly calm and collected in everything they do and the way that they interact with others. They generally have a cheerful and optimistic personality and seem to enjoy life and find navigating it fairly easy. A Taurus Goat looks at things and considers others impartially and with understanding. They are usually able to view an even picture of most people and the majority of situations. This helps them maintain a degree of harmony in their everyday life work and relationships.

Gemini Goat has a practical and methodical outlook on life. They like to keep organized and know exactly where things are. These Geminis can be rather fussy and sometimes a little bossy in their natures. They are home loving people who appreciate the security and companionship of family life and loyal friends. They tend to stick close to familiar surroundings and may sometimes suffer from homesickness if they are away too long. They are usually thrilled to be given things that incite their artistic side.

Cancerian Goat does not like to spend much of his time alone. These individuals are happiest when among a crowd. They still retain a high prominence of shyness and insecurity to their character and so normally desire company over solitude. As lovers, Cancerian Goats extend their loyalty to its limits. Once attached to a partner they are extremely devoted and protective. They make excellent providers (both financially and emotionally) within family environments. They take relationships, commitments and responsibilities seriously.

Leo Goat personalities are an excellent mixture of sensible and sensitive personality traits. The realistic common sense of Leo blends well with the perceptive caring qualities and characteristics of the symbolic Goat from old Chinese Astrology. The newer Western Astrology of Leo's character boosts the Goat's influence and gives Leo Goat personalities a bit more energy and a little less aggression. This balances out to produce very reasonable and responsible people who are highly conscious of the feelings of others. These are mild mannered Leos who are kind and generous with their time and patience.

Virgo Goat needs to feel loved and useful and can sometimes feel quite lost when leaving home for the first time. They usually greatly admire and respect their parents. They generally make excellent mothers and fathers themselves. When choosing a soul mate, the Virgo Goat occasionally looks for older people or those with mature and responsible attitudes. Like with everything in their lives, they make precise decisions when they are ready to commit and will stick to them.

Libran Goat is good at making decisions as they are inclined to give choices a lot of thought beforehand. Sometimes these people can do things without thinking first — this is rare however. It does not usually happen with important considerations but more with little decisions like whether to buy something extravagant or not. The Libran Goat can be an impulse buyer so is often best taking a close friend who can reign in a spontaneous shopping spree. They may be good at managing their money but have been known to overspend.

Scorpio Goat does not like to go through life on their own and place a lot of importance on personal relationships. They tend to put a lot into them and make highly attentive, considerate and committed partners. They will value the security, understanding and warmth that long-term soul mates and partnerships can deliver. Their sentimental approach to affairs of the heart helps them try to keep romance alive in a relationship. Unlike other Scorpios, these particular personalities will display and practice a huge amount of loyalty and fidelity in committed relationships.

Sagittarian Goats are quiet and bashful on the outside. On the inside they are emotionally very flexible and adaptable. A Sagittarian Goat may appear meek and mild initially but are quite multifaceted in their personality as you get to know them. These personalities are rather good at coping with and bouncing back from all sorts of situations. They tend to take life in their stride and tackle any problems patiently and calmly one at a time.

Capricorn Goats are sensible with a matter-of-the-fact attitude to almost everything. They see things in a logical way and can detach themselves from the materialistic labels or price tags. A Capricorn Goat does not often fall in love easily. They sometimes require a long process or passage of time before they begin to appreciate and rely on another. These personalities can quite often be as guarded in personal relationships as they are in every other area of their life. They will often only enter into long-term commitments if they are completely convinced that it is with the right person.

Aquarian Goat personality oozes with patience. This is the center of their character features that are affected by birth in these particular Chinese years. Typical Aquarians are not known for their composure. Those born during a Goat year are made exceptions. The level of eccentricity is slightly higher so Aquarian Goats tend to be more sensitive than other people. They crave a peaceful environment. Although they like the company of others, they will also feel the need for occasional moments of solitude.

Piscean Goat individuals are usually quite happy to take life in stride and go with the flow. These people love the security of home and family and are naturally compassionate in their approach. This makes them good caregivers. These Pisceans tend to like to stay in one place and often settle near their families when deciding on their level of independence. The Piscean Goat personality often opts to have two or three children when they form partnerships rather than just one. As partner's they are romantic, incredibly loving and responsive. They rarely can be accused of neglecting their mate's feelings or needs.

Written by:
Tareq Al Saud – HalfStack Magazine.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Movies to See This Weekend, February 20, 2015

Three new wide releases find their way to theaters this weekend, again continuing the odd eclecticism of this February. Sure, there are two comedies this week, but their goals and means are so highly different that they feel completely different. There's also a family friendly uplifting sports story, too, so lots of audiences can be satisfied by at least the premises at the movies.

Director: Ari Sandel
Writer: Josh A. Cagan
Starring: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell

Mae Whitman of Arrested Development fame – Ann Veal! – has an extensive résumé but has almost always been a side character. That fortunately changes with The DUFF, short for “designated ugly fat friend,” a designation that Whitman most certainly does not fit. However, the movie is a satire of the insane body image limits people put on themselves and others. It could go off the rails with saccharine platitudes, but Whitman's interest in the project alone, with her track record of focusing on jokes rather than vanity, puts this in the “go see it” category. The trailer offers promise of this being another entry in the line of great female-led high school comedies like Mean Girls and Easy A, with a similar bite.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Director: Steve Pink
Writer: Josh Heald
Starring: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott

I didn't see the original Hot Tub Time Machine, and I am frightened to learn it came out five years ago, and that I was well into college at that time. And now I am old. And I have gray hairs sprouting everywhere. And this preview is getting offtrack.

Adam Scott, one of television comedy's MVPs of the last decade, replaces John Cusack, playing Adam, Jr., who I assume to be the future son of Cusack's Adam from the original. Because they time travel in these movies. With a hot tub. You get it. The trailer made me laugh a few times, especially Craig Robinson's “original” songs. It'll probably be a little lewd, a little mean, and probably some fun. I doubt you'll need to have seen the original to get onboard with the sequel.

McFarland, U.S.A.
Director: Niki Caro
Writers: Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, Grant Thompson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez

Turns out this is a movie about cross country runners, not swimmers. Its poster, depicting a bunch of young men charging into the ocean, is misleading and it should be removed immediately because I cannot handle this.

However, continuing my “when I was in college” meltdown of this preview, the trailer for McFarland, U.S.A. features a song by Juanes, a man whose songs – especially “A Dios Le Pido,” the one here – I heard innumerable times in college Spanish classes. It was the Truman State University Spanish department's main quirk, in which every professor played that song so we could learn the lyrics for some reason. That guitar riff reverberates through my brain in my darkest times, making them darker/more annoying. I am less inclined to see McFarland, U.S.A. because of this insult.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review: Profundity in an Action Picture

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
Rating: Four and a half stars out of five

Utopian thinking is rarely as great for everyone as those spouting its rhetoric would have you believe. Perhaps it'll be great in the end, humanity will rise to previously untouched heights, and capital-P Progress will fix all the world's ills. But of course, there are sacrifices to be made to reach that level. And those sacrifices are usually a radical, blowing up the current system, a total departure from the good and bad of modernity. And people usually die as a result.

This is Matthew Vaughn's (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) thesis in his latest, Kingsman: The Secret Service, a James Bond, gentleman spy ode/spoof. But the movie is so much more than slick action set pieces and suave men conducting themselves in matters of derring do. It's a biting social satire about changing cultural norms and it's a refutation of cynicism, replacing that notion with an unwavering dedication to humanism, all wrapped in an action film so giddily violent and irreverent that it could very well prove to be the most entertaining movie of the year – no small task considering it's a February release.

Relative newcomer Taron Egerton, like an English Josh Hutcherson on charisma steroids, plays Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a London street urchin used to stealing cars, running from the cops, and wearing stupid hats. However, he doesn't know that his late father was a member of Kingsman, a secret, private spy/tailor operation in place since the end of World War I. He died on a mission when Eggsy was a child. His training officer, Harry (Colin Firth), feels terrible about it and tries to make up for it decades later by getting Eggsy out of a legal bind. Harry notices some off-the-charts smarts and supreme athletic ability in the younger man, however, and can't help but think Eggsy could join the ranks with some buffing out of his rough edges.

Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson's heavily lisped tech billionaire Valentine worries about climate change. He looks like a buffoon with his diamond cutter's glasses and dork's idea about what looks fashionable, and his inability to connect with others leads to some dire thoughts about the solutions to saving humanity from its carbon-emitting self. He begins kidnapping “important” people – heads of state, popular entertainers, scientists – in order to save them from his grand plan: the eradication of everyone else. The means for his plan add another satiric layer to the film, this time aimed at consumerism. But let's not worry about that for this discussion, because Vaughn is up to something deeper and more profound than one might expect for a little spy movie.

The constant speechifying Valentine does has a teenager's nihilistic view of humanity to it. Nobody but the chosen few are capable of fixing things, everyone is a fool but him and his puppets, and it's better to let the great unwashed destroy themselves so he can reap the benefits of having no competition. It's a warped view of altruism, a “burn it all down” mentality that, while utilitarian and coldly logical in some sense, causes more harm than good to reach that limited goal. Essentially, he longs for the ending of Fight Club, except with global warming action in place of the elimination of society's credit history.

And it's up to the posh, stiff members of Kingsman to stop him. They are men of distinction and rank, also holding themselves in higher esteem than the commoners like Eggsy. Those in the organization beside Harry resist Eggsy's inclusion every step of the way, belittling him and tricking him, but he's smarter and more capable than they can handle. He also has more heart, as what begins as one of the tensest scenes in recent film plays out in adorable fashion – you'll know what I mean when you see it. He is wiser than anyone in the film because he incorporates his heart with his brain, often choosing the conciliatory route despite his man-of-action attributes and profession. His is a “let's work together” attitude to build a solution rather than force one through global upheaval and genocide.

But none of these deeper themes would matter if the movie atop them was subpar. As a piece of entertainment, Kingsman is remarkably functional. It has simple, clear motivations for every key player. Humor is everywhere, with fish-out-of-water jokes, sight gags, wordplay, and more tossed into the blender to keep things bouncy. It has an unfussy, pedal to the medal quality to its cause-effect plotting.

The early action tips ever so slightly into being too glossy and manufactured, but before long it becomes outlandish, Looney Tunes-inspired anarchy in a wonderful way. Theme and function dovetail in spectacular fashion in a scene at a Westboro Baptist Church-esque revival meeting. Vaughn's evenhanded irreverence goes into overdrive here, taking on more than just utopians and aiming at the institutions those revolutionaries hate so much, too. The minister ignorantly blasts off at the mouth about gay marriage, the scourge of minorities, and more while an undercover Harry sits in the audience, a mixture of perplexed and disgust on his face. It's a way for Vaughn to say that pushback against these powerful institutions is plenty acceptable, but you need to find constructive ways to do so. This is when Valentine springs his trap, and a melee breaks out. It's one of the finest pieces of action choreography in years, up there with anything in The Raid. It's a hilarious, horrifying, lunatic's idea of a good time at the pictures.

And that's only the end of the second act. There's plenty more uproarious violence to come following that sequence, and while it's not quite on the same level of technical mastery, it pushes the right goofy buttons through to the final credits. The climax is a loving sendup of the Roger Moore-era Bond films and a comment on the darker path those films have taken in the last decade.

These meta and thematic convergences and good humor make Kingsman: The Secret Service something truly special. It's an action film with a beating heart, if not a bleeding one, and it has more on its brain than anyone would reasonably expect, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Best of All Worlds: Hot Club of Cowtown Performs at the Mac

If you’re looking for fun way to start your weekend, head on over to the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) this Friday and Saturday for Hot Club of Cowtown. Their unique blend of music draws inspiration from western swing and French gypsy hot jazz and the energy of their live shows are second to none.
Hot Club of Cowtown The name definitely piques people’s curiosity. A nod to two influences, it represents two worlds they combine in their music. “Hot Club” refers to Reinhardt and Grappelli's Quintette du Hot Club de France, a hot jazz venue and “Cowtown” refers to the American western swing of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. “People hear the name and they are afraid it’ll be hooky cowboy music,” jokes Elana James, fiddle player and founding member. “To those who know what the name means it makes perfect sense.”
Courtesy Hot Club of Cowtown website Hot Club has been together for twenty years. The start of the group was very serendipitous. Elana responded to an ad guitarist Whit Smith placed in the Village Voice newspaper in New York City. Elana and Whit played together and said it was apparent there was something special. Bass player Jake Irwin joined and they have played together ever since. All three provide vocals. Their intoxicating blend of music is something that will relax and inspire you. The feel is the perfect balance of rustic and elegant, something a little wild and something a little refined. Elana says their music runs the full gambit. “We have American fiddle tunes, which are very rustic, down to earth. You can see them being played around a campfire, to virtuoso gypsy music,” she says. “There’s something for everyone.” On a fun note, Elana has played these tunes around a campfire-- she is also a horse wrangler.
Courtesy Hot Club of Cowtown website While they have nine studio albums, Elana says the group’s strong suit is their live shows. “There’s something about the era of the music we remember in our blood,” she says. “You may have never heard it, but we remember on a physiological level.” Because of the nature of the music, no two shows are alike. Elana estimates about 70% of the live show is improvised. They will be playing new material this weekend as well. Having played at the Mac several times, they are thrilled to have a second night. “We feel really comfortable in the space,” Elana says. Hot Club of Cowtown plays this Friday and Saturday February 20-21 8pm at the Mac. For more information on Hot Club of Cowtown, visit their website at www.hotclubofcowtown.com. For tickets and information about the show visit the MAC website at AtTheMac.org.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Black History Month at Macy's - Inspiring Discussions on Black Style during the Soul Era

In celebration of Black History Month, Macy's continues to set the standards for cultural and historical relevancy in the fashion retail world by inspiring discussion on culture and fashion influence. Going beyond just shopping, Macy's is bringing together June Ambrose and Johnetta Boone to examine the soul era and how it influenced black style, trends and designers who have made an impact on the fashion industry as we know it today.

Celebrity fashion stylists and designers June Ambrose and Johnetta Boone will lead a panel discussion on Soul Era style and take a look back at the fashion, accessories and attitude that rocked the runways of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which had an undeniable effect on the way people look and dress today. June and Johnetta will be visiting 8 stores nationwide and will stop by Chicago's very own Macy's on State this Thursday February 19th at 5:30PM.

June Ambrose is well known for her role on VH1's Styled by June. She's a style icon, author and celebrity stylist who has worked with the likes of Zoe Saldana, Missy Elliott, Kelly Ripa, Kim Cattrall, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Estelle, Garcelle Beauvais and Ciara. In a world where image is everything, few stylists have the power of June Ambrose, whose agency the Mode Squad, Inc. is responsible for the stylistic evolution of some of today's most influential entertainers and recording artists. She is powerhouse of a woman and an inspiration to many young black women nationwide. 

Johnetta Boone has become one of Hollywood's most sought after costumer designers and has firmly established her credibility after 30 years in the industry. If you have seen films such as “Cadillac Records” and “For Colored Girls”, you've most definitely been exposed to her creative vision and body of work. Her experience and influence in the industry will definitely help to create an invigorating and exciting experience and conversation during the panel discussion. 

Following the panel discussion, Macy’s will host a customer reception along with an informal fashion show of recreated trends from the Soul Era. From February 1 through 28, visit macys.com/celebrate to enter for the chance to win a trip for two to New York City, the style capital of the world, a Macy's shopping spree and a makeover by celebrity stylist, June Ambrose!

"Primal Teams" by Jackie Barretta: Book Review

Jackie Barretta shares her secrets to creating and maintaining successful relationships in the workplace in her book, "Primal Teams". In her recently published book, the accomplished CIO consultant, speaker, and author, gives us an insight on techniques that can help us to use our emotions in a productive way that can benefit and strengthen any team.

Oftentimes, we are discouraged from sharing and expressing our emotions in a public setting. It is looked down upon because emotions are viewed negatively as a sign of weakness and is even considered unprofessional at times. In her book, Jackie Barreta shares that this is not the case. In fact, emotions are a positive asset to a workplace and can even be used as a strong, driving force that can improve a workplace setting and the relationship between colleagues. She explains that by harnessing our emotions, we can increase the power of group energy to help us as individuals and as a team.

However, the advice given in "Primal Teams" is not limited to just a professional workplace. Any reader can benefit from reading this book. The techniques that we learn from "Primal Teams" can be adapted and applied for any time, place, and situation. With the advice that we receive from the information provided in Jackie Barretta's book, we can utilize to help transform our negative feelings into productivity and positivity in order to better ourselves and our contributions to a group.

If these ideas are something that interests you, you can read more on the topic in "Primal Teams". Lastly, you can check out the interview that I had with the author, Jackie Barretta, in our podcast, Halfstack Highlights, either on iTunes or with the player below!

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