Let’s talk about MSG…

Ugly Delicious is the latest culinary splash on Netflix. (Still, haven’t watched it?  Check out VODzilla’s, “9 Reason You Should Be Watching Ugly Delicious“.) In Season 1, episode 7, “Fried Rice,” host David Chen tackles the myths surrounding MSG.

Growing up, I remember MSG as the hot-button medical story on the local news. “Is good or bad for you? What you need to know! Tune in Tonight.” Chen discusses the prejudice behind MSG and Asian cuisine. To learn more, I highly recommend Anna Maria Barry-Jester, article How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia.



Image: skepticalraptor.com


What is MSG? Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a combination of an amino acid called glutamic acid that’s stabilized with to sodium(salt); creating a white crystallized powder. Glutamic acid naturally occurs in foods such as mushrooms, aged parmesan cheese, tomatoes and fermented soybean products like soy sauce. Also, it’s naturally present in our bodies.1

It’s a flavor enhancer that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food. Otherwise known as the 5th taste, umami; in which a person’s taste receptors that typically respond to glutamate. (The rest are salt, sweet, bitter, and sour.)

Chen points out that most Americans strongly associate MSG with Chinese-American Takeout. While few are aware that it’s also in processed foods we eat every day, including salad dressing, barbecue sauce, bouillon cubes and canned soups and vegetables.2 It’s also a stabilizer in some vaccines.3 To protect them from being altered if it’s exposed to heat, light, acidity, or humidity.4

Here are a few familiar names for MSG:  

Sodium 2-aminopentanedioate
Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, monohydrate
L-Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, monohydrate
L-Monosodium glutamate monohydrate
Monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate

Ingredients like hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate, soy extracts, and protein isolate are all pseudonyms for MSG.5

In the episode, food historian, Ian Mosby, (also cited in Barry-Jester’s article) makes an appearance. He and Chang feed Doritos to an assembled group of people who claim to have adverse reactions to the MSG when they eat Chinese food. Mosby explains how MSG is also in several packaged foods (i.e., your favorite junk food).

“No one ever said Doritos made them sick. Look on the package. There’s MSG.” — David Chang.

I would have loved if the food science segment had continued, alas David had to get back to the mouth-watering cuisine. Nevertheless, I’m going to pick-up where he and Mosby left off.

In 2008, when I was undergoing tests to find out if I had celiac disease or a gluten allergy; I came across statements saying that MSG is made from or contains gluten. That’s not true. To quote the FDA, “No—glutamate or glutamic acid has nothing to do with gluten.” Thankful there are now several articles and celiac forum posts dispelling this misinformation.6

Then, where does MSG come from? In Asia, MSG is derived from beets, sugar cane, tapioca and sometimes molasses. However, in the United States, it’s extracted from corn. If you have a corn allergy, you shouldn’t eat MSG, because it could trigger a reaction. It’s on a very long list of the foods and additives that a person with a corn allergy should avoid.

Also, corn-based ingredients are found in non-food items such as shampoo, toothpaste, IV solutions, medications, vitamins, cosmetics, dishwashing liquid, clothing, paint, plastics and pet food. Cornstarch, for example, is used in cooking but it’s also in disposable diapers and adhesives. Living with a corn allergy is very complicated. (I’d know. Yes, David, I’ve gotten very sick from eating a bag a Doritos.)

While allergic reactions to corn and corn products may range from mild to severe/life-threatening; there’s a striking similarity between MSG side effects and corn allergies; such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, flushing, rashes, feeling tired, and tingling in the mouth.

The fact that corn allergies remain unacknowledged in the overall MSG conversation is puzzling. The question of a glutamate sensitivity often pops up. 7 However, a sensitivity and an allergy are two different things- an allergy can be life-threatening.8 The one instance where it’s harmful to ingest MSG is left out. Instead of debating, the good, the bad and ugly surrounding MSG. The conversation needs to change. It’s time to start asking is it possible that people experiencing symptoms to MSG might have an undiagnosed corn allergy?

If you suspect, that you have a food allergy, please make an appointment to see your doctor, who can refer you to an allergist (a doctor who specializes in food allergies).

In addition, it’s helpful to keep a food diary to track of any reactions.
If you react, you should note:

  • What (and how much) you ate?
  • When did symptoms start?
  • What you did to alleviate the symptoms?
  • How long it took before the symptoms were relieved?

Want to learn more about MSG? Check out this video from Brit Lab.


    1. https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm328728.htm
    2. https://www.thespruce.com/monosodium-glutamate-or-msg-996134
    3. http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2012/10/demystifying-vaccine-ingredients-msg.html.
    4. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm
    5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate
    6. https://www.msgdish.com/msg-gluten-the-confusion-stops-here/
    7. https://www.livestrong.com/article/543179-low-glutamate-diet/
    8. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/food-allergy-sensitivity-difference



Le Grand Mechant Renard at NYICFF

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

March 11, 2018

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon as the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) held a special screening of Le Grand Mechant Renard(The Big Bad Fox), along with a Q & A/Interview with its director, Benjamin Renner.

I saw the original French trailer over the summer. When I heard that NYICFF was showing the film this weekend; I was ecstatic. So, this journalist hung up her press pass and purchased a ticket.

Click here for Trailer with English Subtitles

Of course, old habits die-hard; as I ended up taking photos and giving my business card to Mr. Renner. For those unfamiliar with his work, Benjamin Renner is also the director of the Oscar-nominated film, Ernest & Celestine(2012). My colleague, Anita C.Wang and I covered the film for Samurai Beat Radio at NYICFF 2014.

Ernest and Celestine- English v French?

The Origins of Ernest and Celestine

The Q & A/Interview deeply resonated with me. Mr. Renner shared that the film is based on drawings that he did as a teenager and gave to his family as gifts. As a film/animation student, I see similarities with my work. My superhero short film,  The Return of The Royals(ROTR), is based off a superheroine character I created when I was a kid.

A childhood visit to a farm inspired the plot of Le Grand Mechant Renard(The Big Bad Fox). Mr. Renner wanted to see the chicks hatch. However, his Dad wasn’t sure when they’d hatch. (It could be a few hours, days or weeks) His Dad, cleverly told him that once they hatch, that if they saw him, the chicks would think he’s their mother. (This is known as imprinting.) He’d have to get a job, feed them and take care of them. Mr. Renner then joked that at 6 years old, he wasn’t ready to be a single parent. Years later this would lead to an idea, ‘What would be unlikely “mom”?’ Hence, a fox taking care of 3 young chickens.

Mr. Renner later commented that ‘it felt weird to win an award for childhood drawing that I only shared with my family’. He was humbly referring to the 2018 César (France’s Prestigious Academy Awards)

Renner signs my sketchbook

la pièce de résistance

After the Q & A/Interview, Benjamin Renner drew in my sketchbook. Hearing him discuss animatics; I excitedly told him about my animatic assignment. It turns out were both animating humans for the 1st time.

I’m very thankful that NYICFF continues to show French animated films. It’s inspired me to create more bilingual work, whether it’s a film or comic strip.

Chibi Super Toy Joue Au SuperBowl

C’est ne pas mal du tout…LOL

The Return of The Royals(ROTR)

The Guardians’ of the Universe return to protect the fabric of the cosmos from disintegrating after a magical toy has been stolen.

The Return of The Royals(ROTR) is a labor of love. The idea for this superhero short film came at the beginning of 2016 during Production class. I had finished my first assignment, a short vignette, a combination of a song and visuals that reflect who we are. It’s only afterward, I realized the film that I should have made. Thus, the superhero short was born.

ROTR is mash-up of The Royals, a graphic novel manuscript (co-written by my spouse & I); an ode to 90’s cartoon nostalgia, and of course sports references. It’s an amalgamation of the past and present; the cartoons and animated films that inspired me as a child to create my own original superheroes and my current inspirations. Most of all, it’s a dedication to the love of my life.

I’m very thankful to have been given the opportunity to create this film and for all the love, support, and encouragement. “Producing a film, like playing football is truly a team sport.” We encountered several challenges and obstacles along the way, such as a mini-tornado, re-shooting, multiple re-writes due to injuries, no lead actress (I cameoed). In the end, I think it was my spouse and universe saying, “Sara, go back into acting.”

Nevertheless, we worked together, rose above and pulled through- as a team. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the cast & crew, and everyone who helped along the way.

Thank you for helping me bring this film to life!

4549312054 2015 1325 4118121147 8211921144



James McKinnon as Super Toy

Jason Russell (Guest Star)

Sara Barton (Cameo)

Katie Gray

Brett Bullard

Jo Ambrosia as Sailor Moon

Chris Hughes

Dillon Herbig

Head Director: Sara Barton

Co-Directors: Paolo “PJ” Piccolo and Nicky Mudryy

Screenplay/Story: Sara Barton

Editors/VFX: Paolo “PJ” Piccolo, Sarah Beim(Vellichor Productions), Sara Barton and Anna Lee Hewing

Executive Producer: Sara Barton

Co-Producers: Pocky Southmayd, Nicole Hope Caliendo, April Twist


Official website: https://rotrfilm.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ROTRFilm

Instagram: @abartons.studios


Why Press Should Cover Flame Con


Whether it’s your first time covering the comic convention circuit or you’re a veteran; as soon as you hit the Press Room, it’s common to exchange ‘war stories’ among colleagues. Which con had the longest Press check-in line? or the eternal question, Why don’t Press Room’s have food or drinks? However, after covering Flame Con, the game had changed. Flame Con is journalist’s dream!

Here are The Reasons Why:


photo: Flame Con

The Super Staff & Volunteers

As soon as you walk into Flame Con, you’re warmly greeted by staff and volunteers who are eager to help make your convention experience a blast. It’s one of the important aspects that give Flame Con it’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The Press check-in is speedy and efficient. (This also includes applying for a badge.) This year we received a super helpful “night before” email from the new PR Director, Michelle Rose Micor, which also included a map.


The true heroes of Flame Con and they even wore capes



The Press Room

The Press Room gets better and better every year. Last year it was luxurious. This year, it’s not only gorgeous, it 2.5 times larger in order to accommodate for interviews. One of the challenges of conducting interviews at a comic convention is either reserving or finding a quiet space. If you’re small or medium Press Corp, you won’t always get a chance to reserve a space. You’ll most likely have to conduct interviews on the floor, where it’s very noisy. In this case, Flame Con staff went out of their way to make sure all Press got the opportunity to use the space.


Food, Snacks, Drinks, WiFi …Oh, My!

It just keeps getting better, there were water bottles and snacks in the Press Room! Most comic conventions do offer free WiFi, yet, the free lifesavers on the table were a delightful touch. (You might say it’s a clever pun). While the snacks went by fast, don’t worry, the Press Room wasn’t the only place that had food. Several booths gave out free candy and one vendor offered bagels and danishes! A happy journalist is a well-fed one.



Have you developed an interest in politics? Then, Flame Con is a great springboard. It’s a wonderful place to meet people who’ve taken a creative approach to our current political climate and a great way to get involved in the LGBT community. Flame Con hosted a twist on last year’s Geek Activism panel, called “Queering Activism” along with other panels and workshops on diversity & representation in media. I even received a free button saying “Bisexuals Against White Supremacy”.


The Press Room Sign

Flame Con is well-known for its pop-culture style signs. Whether it’s the Flame Con logo, Cosplay Repair Station or the Gender Neutral Bathrooms; each booth or room has its own unique sign based in the spirit of comic book tradition. The Press Room Sign is reminiscent of Clark Kent’s Press hat from The Fleischer Superman Cartoons (1941).  Alongside Ironheart(Cosplay Repair Station Sign) and Snorlax(AFK Lounge Sign); this journalist felt like a Superhero.

Last, but not least…

Flame Con is Fulfilling!

Covering Flame Con is one of the best assignments I’ve ever had. It’s more than just a job; it’s rewarding. I feel that I’m part of a growing community and that I’m making a difference- That’s priceless!

Still not convinced? Then check out my Top 5 & Top 10  lists on Flame Con and Flame Con 2: 2 Fierce 2 Fabulous.


What is International Women’s Day? It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.[1] Since 1975, the UN began celebrating International Women’s Day, along with a theme and events to empower women around the world. Yet, its history is unique. International Women’s Day has it origins as a socialist/Soviet holiday dating back to the Russian Revolution; it was originally a day to celebrate women’s rights and women’s liberation from being second class citizens. It was customary for women to receive flowers or gifts or get the day off from work. Russia and several former satellite states still carry out this tradition. Ironically, the first Women’s Day Observance was held in 1909, in NYC by the Socialist Party of America.[2]

On March 8, the organizers of the Women’s March harnessed the symbolism of International Women’s Day to create “A Day Without A Woman.” A protest that symbolizes unity and to “highlight economic power and significance that women have in the US and global economies.” The march was inclusive calling attention to the injustices cis women, trans women and gender non-conforming people continue to face. Marches were organized on a global scale.

Since the early 20th century, Washington Square Park has been synonymous with activism. In 1912, 20,0000 workers rallied in response to the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire to protest for better working conditions. In 1915, Women marched through Washington Square Park for their Suffrage. In 1917, the Arch Conspirators declared Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village a Free and Independent Republic. This vibrant history of free speech continued on into the 60s and 70s, the anti-Iraq protests of the early 2000s; and today it was the perfect location for “A Day Without A Woman.”

Here are the voices of Washington Square Park told through photographs.

Pop-culture as a reflection of current events



Great sign (and great advice!)



Black Lives ALWAYS matter!



  The question we should ask—regardless!



It was good timing, as representatives from What’s In Your Box (an organization on promoting sexual health and empowerment) came to show their support. A woman carrying a sign saying “Queer Power” stood in the middle. Perfection!



Last, but not least your moment of zen as the NY State Nurses Association shows their support!


All photographs and video: Sara Barton

originally published via GeeksOUT!


On January 21, millions gathered around the US to advocate for equality, health care, love, and solidarity for the Women’s March. What originally started as a march on Washington, DC spanned nationwide from New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Austin, Chicago, and Minneapolis, to name a few (there were at least 673 “sister marches” across the county), making it one of the biggest one-day protests in US history.

While this journalist has been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, lately it’s been quite a struggle. This brings up an interesting question, how do you fight injustice when your chronic illness or invisible disability (1) becomes cumbersome?

NY Mag wrote a comprehensive guide for prospective marchers that included information on the Women’s March-DC- Disabilities Caucus and how to receive accommodations. An estimated 45,000 people with disabilities showed up, which the largest assembly of people with disabilities in US history (4). What about those who are unable to attend the Women’s March?

Suffering the Silence developed an ingenious solution, called #MarchingWithMe. In collaboration with the Women’s March, people who were unable to attend sent a photo of themselves and were paired with a marcher. The marcher would wear or carry their picture as a sign of solidarity and to raise awareness for chronic illness and disability rights.

“Suffering the Silence (STS) is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to leveraging the power of art, media, and storytelling to raise awareness around the life experience of people living with chronic illnesses.” What started as a book by Allie Cashel, describing her experience with chronic Lyme disease, has blossomed into a mission to empower others with chronic illnesses, build a community, and transform medical and social perceptions of them.

I was excited to participate, but I’m very camera shy (the irony!). So, I asked Suffering the Silence if there was an alternative and they were kind enough to accommodate. After much debate, I sent in my favorite photo; which was taken by Village Voice photographer, C.S. Muncy when I covered NYCC this year (3). I was cosplaying as Radio Times reporter, Jilian Holtzman, from Ghostbusters (2016). I couldn’t have asked for a better photo and the queer feminist pop culture reference was the icing on the cake.

This isn’t the first time I’ve volunteered for Suffering the Silence. Over the summer, fellow spoonies (2) and I participated in photo-shot for their campaign to help them become an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Mission accomplished!

IMAGE: Amanda Crommett

 In addition to taking our photos, we’re asked to pick a quote or mantra that inspired us. I chose, “Suit Up, Again!” from the Toonami promo for the anime series, Gundam Wing. (They loved the reference!) It was a pleasure to work with them, and I was ecstatic to help out again.

IMAGE: Susan1087

I received an email from Marching with Me coordinator, Jacqueline Rasposo. I was paired with my marcher, Susan, who attended the Women’s March in New York. We exchanged social media handles in order to hashtag and share photos to spread awareness. I loved how she ended each email with, “In Solidarity with the Resistance!”

Joining Marching with Me gave me an option to feel included and empowered. Yes, I would have loved to have marched or to have covered the protest in person. Nevertheless, Suffering the Silence gave me a unique opportunity to be a part of a dedicated community striving to make a difference. In journalism, we strive to be objective, yet this was my time to strive to be personal and share my story.

The Gundam Wing quote has deeply resonated with me throughout the various phases of my life. When I developed my invisible illness, it became the mantra I think of every-time, I have to head to the ER. Every time, I have to suit up, again and again, to fight another medical battle. Now, after the Women’s March, I see it with another layer of context. It’s a sign of the times, that in order to protect our rights, we’re all going to have to “Suit Up, Again!”

Dedicated those who “Suit Up, Again” to fight injustice


(1) Chronic illness/invisible illnesses/invisible disabilities: are interchangeable terms to describe illnesses that are often invisible (to most people). The daily feeling of being invisible can be one of the most challenging parts, especially since one can appear healthy and able-bodied. Invisible illnesses can range from asthma, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, or brain injuries, and also includes mental illness such as G.A.D, PTSD, bipolar, and depression.

(2) Spoonies: A person living with chronic illness who identifies with Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory. The Spoon Theory measures a person’s daily abilities much as one would measure the proper amount of spoons needed for an event or occasion, sometimes having an abundance, other times coming up short.


(3) SBR journalists make The Village Voice NYCC 2016 Cosplay List!

(4) Women’s March expected to be largest gathering of people with disabilities in US history


Suffering the Silence-STS
STS Facebook
STS Twitter
STS Instagram
Women’s March

The resistance continues: 10 Actions / 100 Days


published via GeeksOUT!

Behind: Stabbed!

“Don’t piss-off Miranda!”- A film by Sara Barton

Behind: Stabbed! 

Stabbed! is an homage to the infamous shower scene from the film, Psycho, the gritty look of the 1970’s and early 80’s slasher films and the Looney Tunes cartoon, “Falling Hare”(1943), starring Bugs Bunny.

I started writing the script for this film a few weeks after I finished post-production for  BB-8 Goes to Washington for Adobe Premiere Editing class in Spring 2016. My professor, Olivier David loved the idea and this would be Miranda’s 1st starring role. (I admit it, even though I transferred into film, I’ll always be animator at heart) I had intended to film it over the summer, unfortunately, the weather made shooting unbearable. (It felt like 100 degrees F in my apartment)

I did what any good screenwriter would do. I hung on to the script until an opportunity arose, and it did! It was Fall 2016, Production class; Sal Petrosino thought it was hilarious. Except, I had to change the ending, it was extremely bloody. In the original ending, Miranda jumps on top of its owner; it’s the final stab and blood explodes everywhere. I relished the idea of creating a blood bomb for the special effects. Yet, looking back, if I’d gone through with it. There would have an epic mess in my bathroom. The difference between a film set or your own personal space- clean up!

With the script tweaked, now came the fun part; the fake blood. Like any aspiring prop and special effect builder, I started working on this over the summer. I wanted to create fake blood that was free of red dye and could be made from simple cooking ingredients. I test a bunch of recipes, some involving raspberries and coffee grounds. However, I had hit a roadblock.  I wasn’t getting the right color.

During the Fall semester, I brainstormed a solution in Food & Bio-Art class, my co-professors, Sally Bozutto and Kirby Gookin were intrigued. After some trials and errors, I found that beets produced the perfect color to resemble blood. Another issue arose, the color only lasted a few weeks, our science advisor, Sebastian C. Cocioba, recommend sodium benzoate, a preservative, commonly used to make pickles. While I’d had solved the dye issue, the base was another. In fake blood, there’s a corn syrup base. This can easily be resolved by making a simple syrup (It’s made of sugar & water).

So, I had the dye and the base, but when combined it was still too liquidy.  When I changed the ratio of sugar to water, it either turned to candy(it delicious, but not useful for my film) or resembled human tissue. It was an unexpected surprise, nevertheless, I added it to my film. I still wasn’t able to solve the problem. Ironically, when it was time to shoot; I had to use the simple syrup and regular red food dye (which I’m allergic too). It’s not a fatal allergy, but it leads to itching, a rash, mild swelling. The situation would have been worse if it was ingested.

Production went smoothly, Kharise and I worked well together as co-directors. The stabbing effect was thanks to Cameron and the fake prop knife. (It has a plastic retractable blade) We all did a really good job that day and wrapped early. However, I did make one last minute change to the script. The victim arrives from the beach. I realized I wasn’t comfortable being filmed nude and in this scenario wearing a swimsuit is more plausible. If you notice on the set, I hung my mom’s Gloria Gannor vinyl, “I will survive”; to hint foreshadowing.

Post-Production is where the magic happens. Sarah Beim and I always work well as a team. Initially, we wanted to replicate the Psycho shower scene, but we decided to cut the footage differently and be as original as possible. It was filmed in color, but we used filters to change it to black and white and replicate the gritty 1970’s effect for the beginning. While, cutting, Sarah thought that Miranda was too cute to be scary. It wasn’t my intention, but it’s true, Miranda is adorable. The filters take the audience through 3 decades, in the beginning, is the 1970’s, then the 50’s- 60’s and the ending is more contemporary.

In the ending of the original script, Miranda is supposed to put on a pair of glass, as an homage to the film, “Pulp Fiction”.  It was difficult to do this as stop-motion, yet Sarah came up with a brilliant idea to use the Thug Life black shades. It was a nice touch.

One last thing, wondering what inspired the G & R card joke? Watch the cartoon.

In case you haven’t figured it out; the G and R card are a reference to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating system.


Miranda, Sara Barton and Cameron Xing (the one who stabbed me!)

Kharise King & Sara Barton

Screenplay- Storyboards:
Sara Barton

Cameron Xing

Sarah Beim(Vellichor Productions) & Sara Barton

Prop Design: Sara Barton
Miranda is manufactured by Monster Factory

Music Credits:
Psycho-OST- Bernard Herrman(1960)- 15)Peephole & 17)The Murder
Kill Bill: Vol.1 OST- Quincy Jones 16) Ironside
Pulp Fiction OST- Dick Dale & His Del-Tones 1)Misirlou
More Dirty Dancing- The Surfaris(1988)- Wipe-Out
Hot Butter(1972)- Pop-corn

Special Thanks:
SVA Bio-Art Department
Prof. Sally Bozutto
Prof.Kirby Gookin
Sebastian C. Cocioba
and Prof. Olivier David for his encouragement

Dedicated to Tony Perkins and his fans