12 Days of Giving: The Peace Project

December 17, 2014 at 7:00 am in Blogging (in) LA, culver city, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

2014 has been a great year for my family.  It wasn’t always like this.  We’ve had some pretty lean years in the past but hard work, faith, and determination put us on a blessed path.  There are plenty of places in the world where, no matter how hard citizens try, those qualities still don’t offer up a dream life.  This year, I felt it was important to give back to the universe that has created joy and plenty in my life but still finds so many people suffering around the world.  My husband and I both come from from traditions of charitable giving and volunteership.  No matter how impoverished we’ve been, we could always put food on the table and our parents taught us that meant we were still fortunate and it was our duty to offer assistance to those without.

So our regular checks to charitable organizations weren’t good enough this year.  A stellar year means we’d have to reach a little deeper.  But I’m lazy and volunteering with an infant while my husband is working overseas is more difficult than I can manage.  Instead, I found a great way to give while doing my regular weekly shopping at the Culver City Farmers Market.  The Whole 9 Gallery had a booth I could not avoid.  So many cute and cool things to buy!  And what’s this??  The money spent helps to support their charity The Peace Project??  Perfect!  Holiday shopping AND charitable giving, combined!  I bought more gifts than I had people to give to just so I could throw more money at a worthy cause.  And all of it was reasonably priced and very well made and unique.

The Peace Project is an effort by The Whole 9 online creative community to transform lives globally.  Started in 2010 by the community’s founder, the project has distributed crutches to amputees and victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, sponsored educational grants for African school-age children, built houses for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines, and been the benefactor for several artists on six continents.  Through their works, they’ve used art to bridge the gap between necessary resources and the community members who desperately require them.  The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City sells the wares for several artists whose proceeds fund these works abroad.

To learn more about The Peace Project or to donate directly, visit http://thepeaceproject.com/donate.php.  Just want some last minute gifts that will fund the future happiness of others in our world?  Check out The Whole 9 Gallery at 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232.


The Kids Are Alright…But Life Is Hard. Cobalt Cafe to Close After 23 Years

December 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm in Books, coffee, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Music, The Valley

The beloved all-ages venue in the far west Valley that has given thousands of local kids their start in music, tens of thousands of poets a chance to read their work, and probably millions of young people to tag/sticker bathrooms (and hallways…and sidewalks…and rear exterior walls…and everything else), and just generally get the F outta the house without having to go to the mall–will be closing at the end of the month. I regret to pass this news on so late but I only just found out myself.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

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Extremely patient and awesome owner Dave Politi founded the Cobalt Cafe coffeehouse in 1991. Grunge was a rising tide, emo was in its early stages, weird ska/funk/pop-punk hybrids particular to the Valley and south LA in general were bubbling up from high schoolers’ garages, and Starbucks wasn’t here.
I was a high school goth chick, shy as hell and loathe to speak to anyone. My friends’ bands played the shows. Seeing them, their openers, and those for whom they opened, up close and personal on a stage about a foot off the ground and approximately three feet from my face so their sweat flew in my eyes, lit off a fuse within myself that altered my DNA, transformed my passions and creative dreams forever. I got up the guts to read my mediocre emo high-school-girl poetry at the weekly poetry readings.

Credit Cobalt Cafe. Artist & photo unknown, obtained from Wikimedia Commons via Creative CommonsI got to know people. I became a regular. I met my first long-term boyfriend there, played chess there, bought punk records from unknown bands there from small private presses before records were collectors’ items, met some of the folks I’d run into long, long down the line ten years later in Silver Lake at Spaceland (and in other rooms), watched the comfy overstuffed furniture go the way of the dodo (too many episodes of puking, sweating and cigarettes leads them to an early grave), giving way to a more Spartan interior.  People liked my poetry enough that I got a featured reading at a coffeehouse on Sunset Blvd, and I kept writing long into my late 20s. I sometimes wonder if all that writing didn’t lay the groundwork for my public blogging and journalism career, which itself has led to experiences and interactions that could never have been imagined by the mind of a repressed, shy 17-year-old black-lipstick-wearing girl in 1996.

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Photo credit Cobalt Cafe.

R.I.P. overstuffed chars and couches.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Every time I have returned to the Valley to see a line of self-conscious green-and-black-haired high schoolers goofing off with each other in front of the venue, or bros in short pants and Deftones t-shirts unloading a 350 Ford, I have smiled to myself, grateful that sometimes, good things don’t change, and that there’s a place for us weirdos to go–still. Yeah, sometimes the music sucked. Well, usually it does when people are that green. But it was music, and we–now, they–were and are making it. Some of them got really, really good. Some of the poets went on to long careers as luminaries in the poetry arts scene throughout the US. Records were make, books published. Creative dreams came true.

The cool blue light and scrawled-upon bouncer's desk in front of the venue.

The place reeked of sweat, coffee and cigarettes; the bathrooms are an archaeological dig though layers of paint, Sharpie, and stickers; sometimes the baristas were overwhelmed or had a ‘tude (as is proper, whiners!), but that all just made it better. I have been everywhere, man, and seen a lotta shows, but the Cobalt was the most genuine, unprepossessing, free-spirited creative fermentation machine I had ever seen. You did not have to be hip to walk in. You did not have to wear the right clothes. In fact, it’s still pretty hipster-repellent.

Sadly, Dave’s got his own Life S**t going on these days, and there’s less and less money coming in the doors with promoters and bookers being less supportive than they used to be; and let’s face it, non-Starbucks-priced coffee will never keep an indie business afloat, especially when your clientele is allowed to just hang out and buy nothing the entire time they’re there.

Dave Politi should be lauded for giving so much of his life and energy to a cause–“the kids” and “the music” and “the words”. The longtime host of Tuesday Night Poetry–he’s been doing it almost as long as the Cobalt was open–Rick Lupert–should be thanked, and I encourage you to see him read his funny and thoughtful work at other venues around town. All the hosts of Monday night open mics, all the baristas who endured patiently for many years, every doorman who had to bust kids doing the things that kids do–thank you, one and all. Here’s to the Cobalt Cafe. From such a humble little corner of the West San Fernando Valley, her influence has already spread around the world. Dave and the Cobalt are studies in how simply making space for others to be themselves, can ripple outwards in a quietly irresistible wave of transformation.

Hover over photos for Creative Commons/other photo credits.

 


12 Days of Giving: Help A Mother Out

December 16, 2014 at 7:45 am in FEATURED, Holidays, Social issues

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart.  Its not always about monetary donations for these groups. Tight on funds?  They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well.  When its all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out.  And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah or Pagan rituals?

HAMOlogoNo matter their race, gender, or income level, all babies have one very basic thing in common: They Need Diapers. And lots of them. For YEARS. One in three families in the US struggle to afford diapers and 22% of children live in poverty. Diapers are not cheap and they are not covered in any public assistance programs – not even WIC (Women, Infants and Children). How much? Diapers can cost on average $75-$100/month. And most childcare facilities require parents to supply diapers every day for your child. If you are a poor working parent, childcare is critical for you to be able work. If you can’t afford diapers, you can’t use daycare and if you can’t use daycare, how can you work? Vicious cycle.

“Diapers are a must-have. You can’t skip them like you can breakfast. Getting donated diapers has helped me because I don’t have to have my child do without other things, such as food.” ~ Mom, Center for the Vulnerable Child

This is where Help A Mother Out comes in. Their sole mission is to provide diapers to families who need them. They do this by raising money, raising awareness and working to change laws specific to diaper needs in public assistance programs. And they need your help. Families and babies need your help. They are based in the Bay Area, but they have a small volunteer crew here in Los Angeles who run diaper drives and distribute diapers to various organizations in LA County.

Please click through to read more and to find out all the ways you can Help A Mother Out.

Who are these families in need? They can be anyone. Families hit hard by the recession. Families whose circumstances have changed unexpectedly due to a health crisis. A mom and her kids escaping domestic abuse with only the clothes on their backs. Homeless families trying to get on their feet. Working families barely getting by. It’s not just one type of family that needs help. And clean diapers mean much healthier and happy babies. Parents who can’t afford diapers often leave their kids in dirty diapers for ong periods of time. This can cause sever diaper rash and could even lead to infectious diarrhea, Hepatitis A and viral meningitis. Clean diapers help the whole family and the community.

“With the help of diapers, I am able to use the little money I have on food and other important necessities for my kids.” Mom of two, Women’s Daytime Drop in Center

How can you help? You can donate money online, you can host a Diaper Drive, you can also donate diapers, you can even buy diapers on Amazon to ship directly to a local organization. Do you have a child who has just potty-trained? Fist of all, congrats! Second – do you have a half opened pack of diapers in the closet? Help A Mother Out will take those too. You can find out how to help here. You can also make it really easy and contact me. I’ll come and get your leftover diapers personally to deliver to a local shelter or organization that needs them.

(You’ll notice these donated diapers are the disposable variety and many of you might have environmental concerns. Homeless and poor working families often have limited or even no access to laundry facilities on a regular basis and cloth diapers require much laundering as well as the soap to go with it. Just something to keep in mind.)

Click here to see specifically who Help A Mother Out serves in California.

Every baby deserves a clean diaper. Period.

 

 

 


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12 Days of Giving : Anteaus Theater Company

December 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm in Entertainment, LA, News, People, Seasonal, Social issues, Theatre/Stage

Live theater in Los Angeles is a tough gig. Anteaus in Noho is no different than the rest, to bring quality theater to the community they need help. Volunteers and tax deductible cash donations are welcomed.

To donate and learn about them visit Anteaus.org.


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Nixle alerts coming DUI Enforcement Road Blocks

December 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm in Driving, News, Social issues, Which Side?

DUI Enforcements 2014Its that time of year again.  A few of us will get tanked and get behind the wheel, a few will get caught, a few will pile up their car and maim themselves or others.  LAPD, L.A Sheriff, CHP and local police agencies get huge grants to fight DUI and hopefully stave off the worst of the consequences of drunk drivers.

Here are two alerts by LA Sheriff on the for this coming weekend addressing the DUI/CDL Checkpoints for this weekend in Norwalk and Paramount.

I suppose we can thank the ACLU, but in CA when the DUI Enforcement zones are announced and road blocks are going to be included in the program they have to announce date and time.  Nixle is a great way to make sure you get alerts of when these DUI check points are going to in place and what times.  Make sure your designated driver has been a tea totaller and you’ll be fine.


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Beauty Unbound and PROco get invited to first film festival

December 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm in Entertainment, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, News, People

Yup, its a big deal for your first venture.  A Sunny Christmas is based on the art of Joseph R Davis and animated by him and Brian Gerson. They were invited to submit this to the 5th Annual ACRS Film Fest, they did and its been accepted.  Nice to see new talent here in L.A get recognition beyond our borders.


‘Tis the Season for Crowds: Krampus on Parade & Renegade Craft Fair

December 13, 2014 at 11:17 pm in Art, Crafts, Downtown, East Side, Entertainment, Events, Fashion, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

I braved not one but TWO crowds today.  First up…  The Echo Park Holiday Parade!!!  I had high hopes for this because I’d heard a bunch of Krampus revelers were going to be there and I was not disappointed.  If you’re one of the uninitiated, “Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved… Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.” (wiki)

Krampus was made popular a couple years ago by a viral video of hairy-costumed nightmares rampaging through a northern Italian mountain community and beating the ever-loving crap out of passersby.  I needed the little one to see this so she’d be on her best behavior for the next couple weeks.  But unlike Italy where it is apparently legal to beat innocent tourists, it’s frowned upon here, especially for 6 month olds.  That’s probably for the best.

There were other parade participants but I honestly can’t remember who they were after seeing the Krampus steam engine car built by Bay Area artist-engineer Kimeric Smythe.  Also several members of the Salzburg-area Alt Gnigler Krampus and Perchten Troupe joined the parade of domestic brand Krampus… Krampuses?  Krampen?  Krampai?  Whatever.  It was a hoot.

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As if seeing Krampus in Echo Park wasn’t enough, I dragged the kid downtown to Grand Park for the Renegade Craft Fair.  It’s one of my favorites.  Although I had nothing to buy this time (poor wallet…), I got to see some new friends like the ladies at Ave Dee.  I bought a fanny pack from them at the Patchwork Show in Long Beach and it’s been my saving grace on short outings with the kid.  Contrary to what movies tell you, you do not need to travel everywhere with a full diaper bag breaking your back.  Sometimes you just need your wallet, cell phone, car keys, and an emergency pacifier.  Maybe some chapstick.  Ave Dee’s fanny packs are the perfect hands-free device for busy mommas like me.  And they’re cool!  Anyone who says fanny packs are lame are probably pretty lame themselves.  And I guarantee you they’re carrying around way too much crap.

I also stopped in on good friends and former roommates extraordinare from Outlaw Soaps, Russ & Danielle Vincent.  These amazing villians started their business in our house just a couple years ago and look at them now!  Masters of saponification.  Lauded by the mighty Oprah herself, even.  I highly recommend you jump on their bandwagon, stat; they’re moving their productions from Oakland to a little parcel of land just southeast of Lake Tahoe and they’ve quit soap making until the new digs are up and running in January.  When I saw them today, they had very little stock left.  That’s what happens when your goods are being bought for wholesale by the likes of national retailers like Urban Outfitters and ThinkGeek!  I’m so proud of them, I could scream.

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12 Days of Giving : Foothill Unity Center

December 12, 2014 at 9:00 am in Entertainment, Events, FEATURED, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping, Social issues

wrapped GiftThis is the first of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit  causes near to our heart.  Its not always about monetary donations for these groups.  Tight on funds?  They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well.  When its all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out.  And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah or Pagan rituals?

One of the charities that I help when I can is the Foothill Unity Center.  This group is headquartered here in Monrovia with a satellite office in Pasadena.  Year round they service the hungry, newly homeless, newly jobless or whatever other suddent tragedy that hits their home leaving them in need of help.  They need volunteers for several upcoming events, money to support their programs, food donations, clothing…whatever you can help them with. Visit their web site linked in here for more information on what you can do to help them.  After the jump you can learn more of their immediate needs. Read the rest of this entry →


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Paint n Play offers up Winter Art Camp for Holiday School Break

December 11, 2014 at 8:06 am in Crafts, Entertainment, Events, People, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping

Paint n Play Winter Art Camp application, click to embiggen and print

Paint n Play Winter Art Camp application, click to embiggen and print

Winter Art Camp has got to be one of the best things going in the SGV if you have school age kids and you lose your usual day care during the Holidays.  I’ve witnessed the activities that Lisa Barrios and her crew at Paint n Play Art Studio and Gallery here in Monrovia line up for the kids and its pretty amazing.  Tons of ceramic crafts for the kids to do every day with expert instruction by the staff at Paint n Play is included in the price of your childs time at Winter Art Camp.

All you need to do is pick out a week and its M,T, F they provide Art Camp for either Christmas Week or New Years week.  Monday and Tuesday be sure to pack your kids a sack lunch.  Friday no worries, its Pizza Party day.

Space is limited and you do need to apply early.  Click on this application to embiggen and print and bring it in to Lisa and gang at the store.

Deets.  Week one 12/22, 12/23 NS 12/26,week two 12/29, 12/30, 1/2.  418 S Myrtle Street, Monrovia CA 91016 626-256-4848


11th Annual L.A. 3-D Movie Festival This Weekend!

December 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm in Entertainment, Events, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, LA, Movies

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It’s that time again! The LA 3-D Movie Festival is back this weekend! For the 11th year, this festival is showcasing the best independent stereoscopic 3-D filmmaking from around the world. This year’s event, taking place Friday, December 12th through Sunday, December 14th at the Downtown Independent features an eclectic variety of 3-D entertainment.

The festival opens Friday, December 12th at 8pm with An Evening of 3-D with OK Go. The popular rock band, and several of their creative collaborators, will screen their 3-D music videos and other special surprises.

Saturday, December 13th is 3-D Comic Book Day starting off at 4pm with a documentary called Cosplay Dreams 3-D , which features the fun lifestyle and incredible artistry behind the global phenomenon of  “Costume Play.” The festival’s centerpiece event is a catered Holiday Reception at 6pm, followed by a live performance by Captured Aural Phantasy Theater, who combine the art, drama and comedy of a vintage radio program with the live entertainment of a variety show. This special show is built around performances of 3-D comic book stories. The night will wrap up with a late night screening of Hackin’ Jack vs. the Chainsaw Chick, the latest film by 3-D cult movie director Norm de Plume, at 10pm.

The festival wraps up on Sunday, December 14th with three blocks of short films, one by students, and two by international 3-D filmmakers in competition starting at 1pm. The shorts are followed by an Awards Ceremony and the closing night feature Above Us All, a film by Eugenie Jansen based on an idea by Kim Niekerk.

Full schedule, festival passes, and tickets to individual events can be found HERE.

The LA 3-D Movie Festival is presented by the LA 3-D Club, 3-D SPACE, and Stereo Sisters.

The 11th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival
December 12th through 14th, 2014
Downtown Independent Theater
251 S. Main Street, Los Angeles 90012


See’s Candies Holiday Pop-Up Shops

December 10, 2014 at 11:01 am in Food & Drink, History, Holidays, LA, Seasonal

See'sPopUpIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you love Los Angeles native, See’s Candies! They are putting up pop-up holiday shops around town so you don’t have to brave the mall when you get invited somewhere last minute and don’t want to arrive with your hands hanging. They are selling only boxed chocolates, no candy counter full of individual yummies to mix and match. But when Aunt Gertrude is stopping by and you’ve accidentally left her off your list, you can race in for that two pound box of dark chocolate nuts and chews she loves so much.

Check locations here.

And there are two more days to enter into the See’s Candies For Life contest!

My personal favorite – Scotchmallows.


Unique LA

December 9, 2014 at 12:36 am in LA

Sunday was the final day to throw money at people at Unique LA.  Their Winter show seemed more chock full of shoppers than the Summer event, much to my kid’s wide 3-wheeled stroller’s dismay.  Navigating the aisles proved to be a practice in patience but there was so much eye candy, I was able to suck it up and toured the whole thing.  I even managed to buy some goodies and run into an old acquaintaince.

My first stop was the booth of my friend Miriam Dema to pick up a hand dyed scarf – the last gift on my shopping list. She’s a screenprint goddess selling felt pennants, coasters, posters, and a few handmade leather goods.  Next, I ran into Mark Brunner, an LA artist I first became acquainted with a few years ago through a mutual friend.  The last time I saw him, he didn’t have a beard and I didn’t have a kid. Ah, how life changes things.  I bought a very nice piece from his human robot series for my kid’s bedroom.  It’s her first original art!

Miriam Dema, maker of good things

I managed to sneak by the remaining vendors without opening my sad, depleated wallet.  All except one.  I lost the business card so I can’t rave about her but she made cute felt stuffies and there was a dinosaur named Coco that demanded I take him home.  Of all the edible delights, designer fashions, and trendy housewares on sale, hers was my favorite find.  Coco now lives in the kid’s crib and has been lovingly chewed and soaked with saliva.  I’m looking forward to the next Unique LA so I can buy a friend or two for him.

Coco is our friend

Coco is our friend


Artisanal LA

December 7, 2014 at 7:01 am in Crafts, Entertainment, Holidays, Seasonal, Shopping

Artisanal LA Holiday City Market – Pasadena

I had no intention of going to Artisanal LA‘s holiday market in Pasadena but I found myself there anyway on Saturday.  It was ok.  Most  of the vendors didn’t really speak to my holiday shopping needs but I did manage to get some high falutin’ chocolates from Marco Paolo and a jar of Indian spiced tomato sauce from Mee’s Kut.  The chocolates will be given as a gift but the tomato sauce is mine, all mine!  I will probably eat it all in one sitting with a very large serving spoon.  Possibly a bib.  Also, a shout out to the ladies at Bond Bar…  Thanks for the 5lbs you’ve added to my hips in samples.  I appreciate your efforts but I was serious when I said I’m avoiding you.  My fu is stronger than your tasty treats!

The highlight of the event and the whole reason for the spontaneous visit was seeing Santa!  My little one had never met the big guy and I was nervous about her reaction so I went with a friend as a precursor to our real Santa excursion next week.  My darling daughter is a huge flirt though, so it was an instant love fest.  After a short wait to get him sprung from jail (he was stuck in a parking lot), she took up her seat of honor on his knee and stared longingly into his twinkling eyes while tangling her fingers in his beard.  Sadly, the pictures include a crummy tent tarp background in a lackluster general environment.  We’ll still visit a higher end Santa next week but for 5 bucks, Artisanal’s Santa experience wasn’t awful.

Santa made it onto his own naughty list.

Santa made it onto his own naughty list.

"Psst, big guy...  I have a present for you in my diaper!"

“Psst, big guy… I have a present for you in my diaper!”


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I told you we had a Christmas Parade

December 6, 2014 at 11:59 am in Entertainment, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Well the city renamed it “Holiday Parade” but that doesn’t matter, Santa Claus brought up the rear, not kwanza claus.


Holiday Vomit Lights, An Appreciation

December 6, 2014 at 9:08 am in Seasonal

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Pictured above (appropriately snapped without care for composition or focus), is without question in my mind: The Worst Christmas Decoration In The City — and The Best. Sure, they’re everywhere, but this particular installation in the Pico-Union district of town is a shining and glorious example of what I affectionately call “vomit lights” because, well, look upon them. It’s as if someone straight-on upchucked ‘em (that or maybe this is how taggers do it during the Christmas season, with a spray of lights instead of paint).

Not only is this anarchic sub-style of seasonal illumination an affront to holiday decorating perfectionists everywhere, but I’m sure this silly string of twinklies goes against some sectional statute buried deep in the freakin’ Code Of Nature, itself — which are two reasons this display that I abhor also happens to be my favorite holiday lighting in the city. I hold them in the highest disregard. I love them unconditionally.

Full disclosure: Those perfection-minded decorators I mentioned above? Oh yeah, I’m soooo one of that legion. Every year when I climb up on the roof to risk serious bodily injury hanging up the lights at my house (always during the weekend after Thanksgiving  — always!), I’m faced with a design dilemma. See, the three strands of icicle lights that go along my 30-foot rain gutter measure 27 feet. Inevitably during my initial placement they end up off-center and I kid you not, I will literally take the ridiculous amount of time and further risk of falling off the roof required to physically move the lights one way and the other until there’s an almost equal 1.5 feet of unlighted rain gutter at either end. It’s called idiocy, I know. It’s also called symmetry, people. And I’m a slave to it.

After the jump you can see what I mean. Seriously, even the reindeer are mirroring each other. To some that’s a cry for help. To me, a call of duty. But I digress…

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