NYPD & FDNY 2020, The Cat & Dog Edition (Concept Art)

On June 14th, the smokin’ hot men and women of the FDNY returned with a new calendar for 2020; this one features dogs and cats adopted from the city‚Äôs Animal Care Centers(ACC).

FDNY Cats-1

Did my 2019 FDNY Cat Calendar Art have anything to do with it??¬† Either way, I’m psyched that the FDNY partnered with Animal Care Centers. For each month, FDNY members are posed with animals who have been adopted through ACC in an effort to promote pet adoption throughout New York City.

Then, I thought, “Don’t our K9’s in blue deserve some love?”¬† Thanks again to Photoshop magic; I created calendar covers for the heroic animals of the NYPD & FDNY.


This NYPD Dog Calendar features a stunning German Shepard. (Technically, an NYPD K9 calendar debuted in 2017, but it’s uncertain if the New York Police Foundation still prints them.)

Last, but not least, The 2020 FDNY Cat & Dog Calendar Covers (Concept Art)…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first cover showcases the adorable fire-dog, Ashley(@probyash), who’s been featured numerous times on @fdpup, an Instagram account of photographer, Emmy Park.¬† Gracing the second cover is fire-cat, Pickles(@eastside_pickles_fdny), from the Upper East Side, who’s hard at work and also loves to visit the 19th precinct.

Please visit FDNY Shop to purchase an Official 2020 FDNY Calendar.

All proceeds from the sale of the calendar directly benefit the FDNY Foundation, the not-for-profit arm of the FDNY which was established to promote fire safety education for residents of New York City and to provide professional development, training and education for FDNY members.

Looking for a furever friend? Then, check out Animal Care Centers(ACC).

Photo credits: @nypd (via @lawenforcement__), @probyash and @eastside_pickles_fdny


St Marks Comics closes on Feb. 24th

St. Marks_1

February 17, 2019 :: Sara Barton

After 36 years, the iconic comic book store, St. Marks Comics(at 11 St. Mark’s Place) announced its upcoming closure on January 30 via Facebook and Twitter.

Mitch Cutler, the owner, offered final thoughts about why they were closing: “There are lots of obstacles to running a retail storefront in NYC; too many of them at once to fight, and after 36 pretty intense years, not enough left to fight them.”

“We’ll see you soon to say goodbye and share a good memory,” he added. “Let’s make this month a wake, not a funeral.”

It signals the end of an era, as St. Mark’s comics follows in the footsteps of the departed legends, Trash & Vaudeville and Kim‚Äôs Video. From the 1970s until the early ‚Äô90s, St. Mark‚Äôs Place in the East Village was a street like no other; a punk rock mecca,¬† filled with fetish-wear shops, record stores, cheap eats, and underground clubs. Then the rent creeps up, the clientele changed, and the colorful strip of 8th Street morphed; it’s now lined with trendy Asian fast food joints, bubble tea shops and of course, bongs. Even stores that aren’t bongs stores sell bongs.

As St. Marks Comics goes on it’s Farewell Tour; back issues are 50% off, and everything else is 30%. Be sure to check out their vintage stock of Bronze & Silver age comics. The last day is Sunday, February 24th, closing early at 6 PM.

St, Marks_2

The Life Lessons of Superbowl LIII

Feb. 5, 2019 :: Sara Barton

Superbowl LIII goes down as the lowest scoring Superbowl in history. Publically, it’s been called the most boring game of all time. When the question was posed was there ever a game more boring than this?¬†Superbowl 48 (Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos) was mentioned as it was uneventful, with the Broncos barely scoring. I cleverly countered by saying that it taught us valuable lesson, never underestimate the power of a well-executed defense.

The first, the power of the WhoDatNation (Saints Fans). The injustice of the New Orleans Saints v L.A. Rams playoff game, caused by a missed call, lead to a lawsuit, then escalated when NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell didn’t address the situation in a timely fashion. In classic NOLA fashion, Saints fans channeled their frustration into a positive outlet. New Orleanians boycotted the Superbowl, by throwing an epic Anti-Superbowl Party, also known as, the “Boycott Bowl” causing a drastic drop down in TV ratings<1>.

As a Saints, fan myself, I had been looking forward to seeing the match up between Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Who wouldn’t want to the two GOATs’ (Greatest Players of All Time) who have defied age, (playing at 40 years old), go at it? It would have been a battle of epic strategic wits, Bill Belichick/Tom Brady v Sean Payton/Drew Brees. Nevertheless, this game will have to wait.

For the 1st time, I didn’t want to watch the Superbowl. As I scrolled through my iPhone, it was flooded by photos and videos of The Anti-Super Bowl Party. It looked like a good time. Unfortunately, living on the East Coast and going back to college didn’t give me the opportunity to attend.

This any given Sunday was hanging in uncertainty. After hearing that St. Mark’s Comics was closing, I paid a farewell visit; and bought comics at discount prices. Then I headed off to Bubbleology, which recently opens it’s first New York location. (As they say, it never hurt to have a backup plan).

When I got home, to my surprise, my Mom was watching the Superbowl. (She doesn’t share my passion for sports.) I took a page out of Drew Bree’s book. As a class act, his conduct during multiple interviews regarding the playoff debacle is a sight to behold.

‚ÄúDo I really want to be in a position talking about this over and over again? No, but I have to stand up and do it because I have to represent my team, represent the ‘Who Dat nation,’ and that‚Äôs my responsibility.” – Drew Brees

I decided to demonstrate good sportsmanship and watch the rest of the Superbowl with my mom. Perhaps, it could be a beautiful family bonding moment? The Halftime Show was coming up; there would be a tribute to Steven Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants<2> Amidst it all, I tried to find the positive. Alas, like the Halftime Show, it was disappointing. (One day the football bug will bite my mom.)

The second, if you can manage to find the bright spots in a situation that continues to be utterly disappointing; then you’ve won. I found three.

3) Julian Edelman Wins MVP Award
The first time I saw Julian Edelman play was during Superbowl 49 (New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks). It was a fantastic game, lots of twists and turns; down to the wire. I remember the commentators mentioning that one day he’s going to win the MVP award. Guess what? He did, and it’s about time too! (Also, I’m a tad partial, because that game was one of the inspirations for my detective screenplay. One of the characters is NYPD Detective Lt. Derek Edelman. It’s a clever sports pun.)

2) Tony Romo, Sportscaster
Tony Romo was surprisingly delightful, he provided insight and much-needed humor making this game (almost) bearable. We know the memes, how Tony’s injuries kept postponing his NFL career. It’s incredibly frustrating. (I’d know. I’m currently preserving through my own.) When a door closes, a window opens. Good Luck, Mr. Sportscaster.

1) The NFL 100 Commercial
The Superbowl is famous for its commercials. Yes, there were some good ones this year, but, this one was pure gold! The funny one-liners, the legendary cameo appearances, including Joe Montana passing to cornerback, Deion Sanders (Primetime, struts his stuff baby!) In case your wondering, the young lady in the red dress is Utah Girls Tackle Football League running back and football activist, Sam Gordon. Is the NFL hinting that the future is female?

Bonus: Verizon’s “All Our Thanks” Commercial¬†
Verizon used this year’s Superbowl commercial to honor our nations 1st Responders. “The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here”- A series by Peter Berg. 12 NFL stars(11 players and 1 coach¬†– NFL Head Coach, Anthony Lynn) owe their lives to first responders who answered the call. Go to allourthanks.com¬† to watch all 12 inspiring and heartwarming videos. (See the full documentary on FIOS On Demand on February 8th.) Don’t forget to share the page and hashtag #AllOurThanks; Verizon will donate $1 to 1st responders<3>.

Bonus Life Lesson: Good Morning America(GMA) Interviews Cardi B.

Cardi B displayed wisdom well beyond her years. When ABC News’ T.J. Holmes, asked why she declined to perform at the Superbowl Halftime Show?<4> Her response was honest, sincere and deeply thoughtful. The mood broke when Cardi B’s natural charisma caused T.J., to blush and giggle. Her dignity and grace are reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It’s a teachable moment. Life is full of tough decisions if you approach them with honesty, sincerity, and dignity; it will be OK.¬† Remember if something feels deeply conflicting and uncomfortable, then take it from Cardi B’s book, hold your head up high, say, “NO” and walk away.

<1>Saints fans sink New Orleans’ Super Bowl LIII overnight TV rating to historic low, per report¬† <https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/super-bowl/2019/02/04/super-bowl-2019-tv-rating-new-orleans/2766927002/>

<2>The tribute came following a Change.org petition that asked for the NFL to honor Steven Hillenburg, who passed away in 2018.

<3> Verizon partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation’s First Responder Outreach. Each time you help us recognize first responders by sharing #AllOurThanks on social media we’ll donate $1 to the foundation.

How the Gary Sinise Foundation supports first responders
The Gary Sinise Foundation serves our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. Through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s First Responder Outreach, they build specially adapted smart homes for severely injured heroes, as well as provide critical funding for emergency relief, training, and essential equipment to ensure these heroes perform to the best of their abilities.

<4> The short version: Cardi B, declined to perform at the Superbowl Halftime Show in solidarity of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and racial injustice. He then found himself unsigned and is currently pursuing legal action against the NFL and its owners for preventing him from playing.

Defiantly Different, Defiantly Proud!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

I was eight years old the first time I saw the Pride March(also affectionately known as the Pride Parade). My mom and I had gone for a walk. When I overheard upbeat dance music; I rushed over and saw a bunch of adults in sequence costumes. Excited, I turned to my mom and said, “Look it’s a costume parade for grown-ups!” However, my mom was at a loss for words; unsure how to explain what was transpiring. As soon as I saw two men loving holding hands and supporting their fellow LGBT compatriots for being out & proud- it hit me! I realized what the parade meant.

The positive energy was contagious as I cheered alongside them. It was the early 90’s. Thanks to a PBS medical documentary, I’d learned about HIV/AIDS and the cruelty of homophobia. As I observed the crowd cheering; I felt that it was a golden moment. A moment to live openly; before going back into the closet the next day. After 20 minutes, my mom quietly told me it was time to go home. I wanted to stay. It wouldn’t be until years later that I learned certain parts of the parade aren’t meant to be viewed by young children. ¬†

Of course, times have changed. There have been great strides in LGBT civil rights, including the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and creation of the Stonewall National Monument in 2016. There have also been a few steps backward, including the recent Supreme Court’s decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; giving creative professionals the right to refuse service based on religious liberty.¬†It’s moments like these in LGBT history that feels so close yet so far.¬† Only echoing the cry of frustration, “I didn’t come out of the closet for this shi*t!” There’s also the additional backlash “Why isn’t there a Straight Parade?”Pride is just a big party. This year’s Pride theme, “Defiantly Different” is a call back to Pride’s protest roots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One early morning in 1969, police raid the Stonewall Inn; a Greenwich Village bar was a staple of the NYC underground gay community. This time, enough was enough as community members fought back, hence the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots are considered the birth of the modern LGBT movement.1  Today, both marchers and spectators showcased signs of love & solidarity along with signs of resistance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the NYPD motorcade entered the streets; the four Grand Marshalls, tennis legend, Billie Jean King; LGBT civil rights law firm, Lambda Legal; and activists’ Tyler Ford and Kenita Placide kicked off the 2018 NYC Pride March.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A yellow truck; with a rainbow banner stating, “NY State Leads The Way” ¬†opened the path for numerous New York local and state politicians. All demonstrating their unwavering commitment to the LGBT community. Riding the rainbow wave was Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, with his wife, First Lady, Chirlane McCray, Senator, Brad Hoylman along with New York City Council and many others.


Cynthia Nixon, actress turned democratic governor candidate, stole the show as she marched and took the time to greet spectators on both sides of the barricade.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the sun shined brightly, there where water tables set from the 10-13th street. Volunteers holding trays walked the route handing out cups to kept marchers, press, anyone else who needed hydration. (Thank goodness too. I almost passed out from the heat.)


Pride 2018 adheres to its protest roots, yet, this year, it’s traditional route was changed is to prepare for next year‚Äôs massive, month-long World Pride event.2¬†Along with¬†celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It’s the first time World Pride¬†will be hosted in the US and more than 3 million people are expected to attend. The Pride March went in the opposite direction starting in Chelsea, looping through the Village; going past the legendary Stonewall Inn, then heading uptown through 5th avenue finishing on 29th street. The NYPD also added extra pedestrian crossings and placed helpful blue flags to mark them.


Pride Fest location was changed this year as well, relocating to University Place. It was a smart move; spectators could watch the march and go to the festival without the hassle of going through multiple pedestrian crossings. I remember Pride Fest 2012; I had to go through an epic maze of barricades throughout the West Village. It felt like an impossible task. (At one point I got trapped on Christopher Street.) The new location is ideal for movement; the drawback, there wasn’t enough space, it became overcrowded very quickly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To help marcher with the new route, volunteers held signs from 26-29 street. As FDNY marched to towards 29th street, a few EMT’s smiled and waved me, saying, “Happy Pride!” For a minute, I forgot that I was press, removed my hand from the camera and ecstatically waved back in acknowledgment. They seemed surprised. I think they wanted me to shoot their photo. I goofed, even members of the press needs a moment to celebrate.

Since I first saw the parade, I knew I wanted to be in it. Of course, back then, I had no idea how it was going to happen. When I became a journalist, I’d asked to cover Pride, only realizing that I didn’t have NYPD press credentials.3¬†I registered to be in March a few times, only to be struck by medical misfortune. In 2017, I finally got my NYPD credentials; yet I had to watch from the sidelines once more; I was in agony from an old injury.

This year I was determined. Yes, I had to go back to physical therapy again, but it was the last straw. I prayed, give me 4-5 good hours to run the route, let me work my journalism magic. I did it! I showed my NYPD Press Credentials; walked through the barricade, then shot the breeze with the top dogs, press photographers from The New York Times, The Advocate, etc. As the action started, I got a piece of advice, “Don’t overthink it, Just dive in!” ¬†That’s what I did; I was out in the sunshine and shooting photos of marchers. I was happy; childhood moment achieved. It was the best day of my life!


published via Samurai Beat Radio

Special Thanks to guest editor Flip Sarta

<1> source: https://www.nycpride.org/about/

<2> What is WorldPride? WorldPride is a culturally-diverse expression of the quest for equality and liberty of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people worldwide. It exists to rally the LGBTI communities on a global level, thereby promoting our universal quest for freedom and human rights. (source: InterPride WorldPride committee)

 <3> NYPD Press Credentials are a requirement for the press to cover events that have police or fire lines/restrictions established for security or crowd control; such as parades, protests, emergency or breaking news events.

Coming Soon: The Go-Green Series


For the past few weeks, I’ve been conducting research on recycling, zero waste and food waste/composting. I’ve been debating on how to best present it, is it an article, op-ed or videos? Then I realized that it’s a series… The Go-Green Series.

The Go-Green Series will feature 3-4 pieces on:

  1. Medical Recycling/Safe Deposal
  2. The Great Compost Adventure (DSNY East River Park Compost Site)
  3. Zero Waste Tips for People with Disabilities
  4. The Plastic-Free Paradox

It will run during the summer. So stay tuned, until then reduce, reuse and recycle…


The 3 R’s of BOBA


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-April 30, 2018- Sara Barton

Anytime is a good time for bubble tea, also affectionately known as, boba. It’s delicious whether it’s hot or cold. There’s now, light bulb tea, popping bubbles, boba tea ice cream, and floats(sold by Bar Pa Tea): cheese tea is now sold in¬†Greenwich Village, thanks to¬†Debutea.¬† As the weather is getting warmer; the refreshing drink paired with tapioca bubbles has become a city staple, especially in hot weather.

Amidst society’s growing eco-consciousness; it’s common to see reusable coffee cups, water bottles, grocery bags, and straws. Recently, I saw boba tea patrons toss their plastic cups in the trash, questions arose. Are boba tea cups recyclable? Can they be reused? Does a reusable boba-tea cup/jar exist?

I’ve divided the answers to these questions into the classic 3 R’s: Recycle, Reuse and Reduce.


Yes, boba-tea cups are recyclable! Disposable plastic cups that are marked with the resin identification codes(RIC)¬†# 1 (PETE/PET-polyethylene terephthalate) and # 5 (PP-polypropylene); mean that they’re both are recyclable.(1)¬†RIC’s are typically located at the bottom of the cup. If the lid is made from a different material, it will have it’s own RIC.


Recycling varies from state to state, so please check for the appropriate bins or drop-off centers. Also, researching your cities, towns or states recycling programs can unveil a great resource. Some cities, do give away free reusable items, such as water-bottles and bags.


If you live in NYC, toss your empty boba-cups/straws into the blue bin, and you’re good to go.


Also, Preserve’s, Gimme 5 Program (nation-wide) accepts #5(PP-polypropylene) plastic. You can either drop it off at a location or send them by mail. Preserve recycles them to make toothbrushes, flatware, cups, bowls, and plates.

When it comes to recycling straws; it’s complicated. They’re made of recyclable plastic, usually #5 (PP-polypropylene). However, it’s difficult to recycle them due to their small size. Very few facilities have the necessary equipment.¬†(2)¬† Similar to how plastics bags are recyclable, but they’re cumbersome since they clog the machines.


Surprisingly, in a piece by PureWow, apparently, NYC recycles straws.


There are tons and tons of ideas on how to reuse, repurpose or upcycle your boba-cups. If you love crafting or DIY projects; then these cups aren’t trash, they’re art supplies. I repurposed my boba-tea cups into pencils/pen holders. Also, I’ve re-used my boba-straws in my NFL & Fine Arts Project.

Here’s a nifty DIY video with some unique ideas on how to reuse plastic cups.

Unless you’re supercyclers, such as, designers, Liane Rossler and Sarah K who’ve taken it to the next level.


These cups are constructed from reused plastic. It’s all about letting those creative sparks fly. Think of your next cosplay or Halloween costume? Boba cups and straws are excellent materials.

[Please wash and clean plastic cups/straws before reusing.]


While reusable coffee cups are widely available; the boba industry faces a unique set of challenges for its reusable options. You can buy mason jars with straw attachments. However, they’re not big enough for boba straws. The same issue goes for reusable straws. Biodegradable plastic straws aren‚Äôt available in boba-size; paper straws quickly become saturated with moisture, and boba-size reusable straws are very expensive.

According to Grub Street,¬†Taiwan, (the birthplace of boba), has set out an aggressive plan to eliminate disposable plastic.¬†In 2019, plastic straws are the 1st on the chopping block. Economically biodegradable alternatives aren’t widely available. How the boba industry will adapt remains to be seen.

Yet, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, Loliware,¬†a U.S.-based start-up that introduced compostable seaweed-based cups in 2015, has launched a successful Indiegogo campaign for ‚Äúthe world‚Äôs first edible, hyper compostable straw aimed at replacing plastic straws.” Guess what? They plan on making boba straws and cups.

In the meantime, here are some options:


Boba Guys, located in San Francisco and NYC, sells their version of a reusable boba-mason jar.

Kung Fu Tea sells reusable boba-tea tumblers.

All US Boba chains are unique, Vivi Bubble Tea and YaYa Tea also sell their own reusable cups/tumblers.

Rather DIY a reusable boba-tumbler?

Check out this tutorial from Angel Wong’s Kitchen

Last but not least, Homemade Boba Tea¬†and it’s easy to prepare. It merely requires purchasing tapioca bubbles at your local Asian grocery store or order them online; and a boba recipe. Think of it as a fantastic opportunity to express your mixology skills. Create a boba flavor that’s “off menu” perhaps blueberry lavender, sweet & spicy or if you’re 21, add alcohol.

Plus, it has the added benefits of being healthier. Recent reports summarized by The List stated that certain types of boba tea are equivalent¬†to high-calorie desserts due to their excess sugar and carbs. Homemade, gives you the option of controlling the ingredients, and it’s especially helpful if you have food allergies or dairy issues. While milk tea boba is delicious, not all boba chains have the option of dairy-free, lactose-free or nut-free milk alternatives.

Here’s a recipe from The Omnivore’s Cookbook.

How about this easy recipe from the birthplace of boba, Taichung, Taiwan?

Overwhelmed? Try a Boba Tea Kit. They include both tapioca bubbles and tea leaves/mixes.

uncommon goods boba

Check out this Boba Tea Kit from Uncommon Goods.

Looking for a reusable boba straw?


These plastic/silicone reusable straws are made from Grid Gear and can be purchased on Amazon. (They’re decently priced too).¬†¬†Etsy has a variety of stainless steel boba straws.¬† Not ready to purchase a reusable straw? Then a spoon works too or reusing your regular boba straw (plastic straws can be safely reused 1-3 times.(3) As¬†long as you clean them).

What is puzzling is why US boba-chains haven’t gone the route of coffee-chains? Starbucks and Donkin Donuts both sell coffee and beans. Personally, I’d love to see Kung Fu Tea sell loose leaf Oolong tea. It has a rich and bold flavor. So far, I’ve haven’t found a brand on the market that compares.

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Boba cups are recyclable; you can reuse them, and you can reduce by either making a reusable cup or homemade boba tea.

Don’t forget: April 30th is National Bubble Tea Day.¬† Enjoy and Recycle!

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).

‚ÄúNo one ever said Doritos made them sick. Look on the package. There‚Äôs MSG.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ 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‚ÄĒglutamate or glutamic acid has nothing to do with gluten.” Thankful there are now several articles and celiac forum posts dispelling this misinformation.6

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. And, Yes, David, I’ve gotten very sick from eating a bag a Doritos.)

Allergic reactions to corn and corn products may range from mild to severe/life-threatening. Yet, 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 MSG can actually be harmful, is surprisingly 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 C√©sar¬†(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 Phoenix Rises, Anime NYC Debuts!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-Nov. 21, 2017- Sara Barton

This weekend, Anime NYC made its debut. It‚Äôs been seven years since an anime convention has graced the Jacob Javits Center. In 2007, Reed Exhibitions¬†created New York Anime Festival(NYAF). However, in 2010, it merged with New York Comic Con (NYCC). The concept of combining the two pop-cultures frustrated fans. The end came in 2012 when NYAF was integrated into NYCC. Anime NYC reignited the aspirations of fans; like a phoenix, it’s risen and better than ever!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Crunchyroll and  LeftField Media wove together a beautiful mosaic of Japanese pop-culture, tradition, and creative innovation. Along with the Full Alchemist (US Premiere), NYC Ramen Summit and Sailor Moon Day; in the midst of cosplayers, there were patrons dressed in traditional Yukatas and Kimonos. Across from the Tokyo Attack Arcade, booths sold yakisoba, snacks, Japanese household items, tea cups, and dishware.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The anime scene has changed since 2007. Anime NYC is a reflection of that; especially in artist alley, amidst the fan-based pop-culture items; one could also find Japanese prints, charms, and keychains. Sellers often commented that it was their charms that sold the most. Manga artist/illustrator, Hiroki Otsuka, said, “It‚Äôs a cross between Flame Con and Anime Fest.”

What makes Anime NYC different is its brilliant utilization of the Jacob Javits Convention Center space. Unlike NYCC, there were Security/Prop Check tables at each entrance, the Expo Hall, and panels to avoid massive entry lines. There were open spaces for photographers and to prevent over-crowding. An attendee in a giant Pikachu costume took advantage to entertain patrons.

This reporter appreciated that the Press Room was in private room on the second floor. It was a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle.


Also, Anime NYC strategically placed the gender-neutral bathrooms in the Expo Hall, where there was a high volume of attendees, cutting down on long lines. (Remember fellas, please the put the seat down. It’s courteous and it speeds up traffic.)


Deadpool crashes Anime NYC

NYCC has a reputation for being very crowded which can be overwhelming for patrons. Although Anime NYC had 20,000 attendees in comparison to the 180,000 at NYCC; it gave the feeling of a smaller and friendlier convention. This lead to an opportunity to socialize and meet new people, which attendees greatly appreciated.

It’s only the beginning; Anime NYC will become an annual affair (as of Nov. 16-18, 2018).

Visit animenyc.com for updates.

Facebook: facebook.com/AnimeNYC.

Twitter: @AnimeNYC.

Instagram: @AnimeNYC


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