On Stranger Things

by Bushra on August 27, 2016

It has been over a month since I first watched Stranger Things the day after it was released on Netflix. I had plans to hang out with a friend but it had been a long and busy week and so I decided to stay in and just relax. [Side Note: Quick shout out to awesome friends who are completely understanding if you cancel plans because your introverted self needs some time on your own, even when they know that all you’re doing is sitting around in your pajamas and watching TV while most likely partaking in some ice cream.]

Stranger Things Logo

Stranger Things Logo

I wanted to write about it when I first watched it but as it was during a time when I was unable to do the thing with words in which you write them out and they tell people things, I never got around to it. And then, I have this thing that if too much time passes, I feel as if I can’t write about anything anymore. With a show on Netflix, people tend to binge-watch it, talk excitedly about it for a week, and then any kind of buzz goes away because anyone who really was going to watch it passionately has ultimately already seen it.

But not with Stranger Things. If anything, it started off with almost no buzz (my opinion) and just has gotten bigger since it came out. It takes place in a small town of Indiana in 1983 and is about a boy who goes missing and the people in the boy’s life that try to find out what happened to him. Meanwhile, a young girl mysteriously shows up and there may be a connection between her and the missing boy.

The show is just 8 episodes for the season at less than an hour per episode, the length of which ensures that no episode is filler as the story moves along at a pace where things actually happen. Also, the 8 episodes allow for one to binge without having to compromise one’s hygiene.

One more episode…

There are so many reasons why I have become so attached to Stranger Things. One of the reasons is that the boys in it seem like real-life boys who are the best of friends, never coming across as actors playing parts. They reminded me so much of the kids from Stand By Me that I loved the show based on just that. And then when I read that the kids auditioned using scenes from Stand By Me… that made the show that much more awesome for me.

There’s a line in Stand By Me where the character Gordie as an adult types out on his computer: I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone? *

[Sits down in rocking chair, rocking back and forth, whittling] When I was 12, I was in a junior high school that most of the kids from my elementary school did not transfer to so I had to find new friends. I was never good at the friend thing though and it took a while but that was fine because the school library was well stocked with books. That was the grade when I got into Dean Koontz and Stephen King. King is definitely noted as as a major influence for some of the material in Stranger Things, but it was one book by Koontz that was the first time I learned about something that turned out to be a major part of Stranger Things (purposely keeping it vague here as to not spoil anything). In essence, Stranger Things represents a lot of the stuff I used to read when I was the age of the main characters.

Stranger Things is one of those rare shows that improves upon reflection. I liked it plenty when I first watched it but there’s something about it that makes it better as time passes. Only afterwards do you realize that there were so many opportunities for this show to have gone the way of cliché with its premise and characters and yet it deftly dodges it all. Even the setting of 1983 could have come across as dated but instead, it all feels fresh. If you haven’t watched it yet and don’t get creeped out too easily, check it out.

Random Confession: One 80s film that is hard not to acknowledge as an influence for Stranger Things is E.T., the quintessential Steven Spielberg movie about a boy and an alien. While most people my age have a fondness for this movie as it was something they may have watched multiple times when they were a kid, I only recently watched E.T. in its entirety. I had always associated the film as something I watched at fundraisers – where there was a separate room deemed “babysitting” in which the organizers would put on this movie for kids and call it a day. I actually grew to have a dislike of the film because it reminded me of boring events where my siblings and I were sequestered into a nondescript room with a TV and VCR that played E.T. with a bunch of other kids at the event. Fun times.

*Forgive me, I don’t remember if that line was originally in Stephen King’s story The Body, which Stand By Me is adapted from, and my copy of it is somewhere too far away from me at the moment to check it.

Strangify anything - www.MakeItStranger.com

Strangify anything – www.MakeItStranger.com


Upping my Coffee Game with a Chemex

by Bushra on August 24, 2016

I found myself at the register at Whole Foods in Oakland without any food but instead, an 8-cup Chemex, a box of filters, and a bag of Ethiopian coffee beans. As the guy rung me up, I couldn’t help but feel like I had to explain: “I want to be able to make good coffee for a lot of people” was along the lines of what I said. With complete sincerity, the guy said that he hopes everyone enjoys the coffee I make for them.

I had been thinking about getting a Chemex for a while now. You may have seen one in a coffee shop – it looks like a beaker and makes the coffee the barista is making look like a science experiment.

A Chemex!

A Chemex!

I’m pretty happy with the pour over I use every morning, a gift from friends a few years ago. But, the pour over is not meant for more than one cup of coffee at a time and I become unsure of my coffee making skills when it’s not about me. I have found myself in situations where I try to make coffee for more than one person and it doesn’t work out too well, like taking a 1/2 hour to make coffee for 5 people.

Over the last week, I volunteered for coffee duty at one place where I take spiritual classes as they held one of their workshops. My task would be to make coffee during a few of the sessions for the teacher and the students who had come in from around the country/world to attend, including during their 5am morning sessions over the weekend.

This was my chance. I could totally use this opportunity to get a Chemex! But, there was that pesky little detail of having no idea how to use one.

For starters, I couldn’t just buy a Chemex and call it a day. I knew enough about the thing to know that I would need to invest in a digital scale and a proper kettle to allow me to control the amount of coffee and water used, in addition to the flow of water over the coffee. I never got these items for my pour over, even though they would’ve been useful – I have been eyeballing how much coffee I ground like a rebel this entire time while using the regular kettle in the house. But if I was going to get a Chemex, I wanted to do it right.

So I got everything I thought I needed: the Chemex, the right filters, a digital scale, the gooseneck kettle. Then, I sought out the owner of one of my favorite cafes in Oakland, hanging around until she had a moment for me to interrogate her on the best practices of using a Chemex. She gave some really good tips and tricks and suggested Stumptown’s tutorial on how to use a Chemex, as it was meant to be pretty straightforward. No “one half, counter-clockwise turn with a wooden spoon after 5 clockwise turns during specific phases of the moon” in this particular tutorial, for which I was grateful.

However, I couldn’t have the first time I used a chemex be for the workshop so I took everything to work and made coffee for myself and my manager/coffee buddy. I made it in my cubicle, having filled my kettle with the hot water in the break room and got started, ear buds in, watching/listening to the tutorial as I was making the coffee, syncing the start of the stopwatch on my phone with the time the dude on the tutorial started his timer, pouring the appropriate number of grams of water over the ground coffee at the suggested increments of time. It was a bit nerve-wracking.

After about 4 minutes and a messy cube later, I got it done and the coffee tasted pretty good! There was definite room for improvement but I knew where I had made mistakes and would know then what I could do to make it better.

My cubicle, post-coffee

My cubicle, post-coffee

I ended up using the chemex a few times over the past week and each time, it got easier and easier to make. Just to make sure it tasted fine, I had to consistently sample my own supply to ensure the quality of the product. I was pretty happy with the results.

Brewing Coffee

Brewing Coffee

I may make coffee at work for tips until I make back the money I spent on all the coffee paraphernalia but I really do like the fact that I can now officially make coffee for more people than just myself. Looking forward to sharing the coffee love, InshAllah.

If you’re interested on how one brews coffee on the Chemex, check out the Stumptown tutorial.


Suicide Squad, Or: What Was It I Just Watched?

August 22, 2016

They should do this thing with DC movies that every time they release one, they should tell you which episodes of a DC animated series you should watch afterwards to reassure yourself that there are good stories with the characters they just messed up on the big screen. To rid oneself of the taste of […]

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A Note About Not Writing

August 22, 2016

I haven’t updated this blog in a while. Every time I wanted to write a blog post, most likely about something specific going on in the world, something else terrible would happen and the right words wouldn’t come. Nothing I was writing seemed good enough. I felt as if I had to address the craziness […]

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On Werewolves and Monsters. And Muslims.

June 5, 2016

In Stephen King’s classic book It, a group of children in Derry, Maine go up against an evil entity of some sort that at times takes the form of Pennywise the Clown (the reason many folks have an inherent fear of clowns). One of the kids Ben has an idea of fashioning silver slugs to […]

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Finding the Ideal Hero in Captain America

May 9, 2016

Superman: No one stays good in this world. – From Batman V Superman Steve Rogers: I don’t mean to make things difficult. Tony Stark: I know. Because you’re a very polite person. Steve Rogers: If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could. Tony Stark: No, you don’t. […]

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George!

May 4, 2016

Last year, when Ramadan ended and I was celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, the holiday that comes after Ramadan, with my family, I saw this picture on the internet with the Sesame Street muppets that said “Eid Mubarak!” I watched a lot of Sesame Street when I was little and the fact that these muppets were wishing […]

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Batman V Superman V Me

March 29, 2016

(Initial discussion has no spoilers. There are some spoilers at the very end, clearly marked) Folks, Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice came out this past weekend. Due to the reviews, I had low expectations for the film. I had to watch it, of course, as I am a Superman fan but I couldn’t muster […]

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Hanging in a Muslim Neighborhood

March 25, 2016

Back in December, I went to see a play at the Berkeley Rep called “Disgraced” by writer Ayad Akhtar. It’s a bit hard to explain what it was about except to say that it has Muslim-y themes about religion and identity. I really enjoyed it but took it for what it was. Meaning that my […]

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Coffee With Crema

February 29, 2016

One of the cool things that came out of attending the Caffeine Crawl in San Francisco a few years ago was getting to know Emily McIntyre, who worked for The Lab at the time and took part in organizing the event. We stayed in touch over the past few years, our paths crossing in Sacramento […]

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