Wednesday, September 11, 2013

30 Days of Lists - Week 1

It's that time of year, y'all! (For me to be woefully behind on my 30lists). For those of you who don't know, 30 Days of Lists is an awesome web community project, headed up by Kam and Amy, wherein we make lists based on prompts and share them. It seems simple and fun, yet I have actually met some very good online friends this way, comparing lists and finding common ground. My bestest one is definitely Mandy from Chocolate and Cream Cake, who I befriended after she listed that she wished for "an adipose invasion". Yes, for so many reasons.

Here are my first six for this year! I am going all digital because it's easier for me to do them on my phone while commuting.

30 lists Sept 2013 Day 1

#30lists day 2!


#30lists #day4 #timewasters

#30lists #day5 #worries

#30lists #day6 #rulestobreak

Look for me on the web someplace magical this week! I will be linking to it here on Friday. Have a good one!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ballet on the Screen: Breaking it Down

You may not know this, but I actually took ballet classes between the ages of 4 and 16, continuously. Ballet is probably the only extracurricular activity that I truly loved that I also was not very good at. Usually for me to like doing something, I have to be able to excel, but this was not the case with dance; I loved it unconditionally. I cannot remember choreography to save my life, and I'm sort of naturally clumsy and awkward. I was also unfortunately tall, so they would always stick me with the beginner/intermediate classes for older age groups, rather than advancing me with my with shorter peers into the higher-level classes, mistakenly thinking I would just want to stay with "people my own age". Oh well, it's all in the past now. On the positive side, I made friends with all the older cheerleaders at my high school through the dance studio, so I almost never got picked on by mean girls. Bonus.

**This space reserved for a picture of me doing ballet, to be scanned when 
I'm in Prescott next week**

My friend Meg and I were texting about ballet TV shows and, as I was making my recommendations, I realized just how much is out there now. Is ballet trendy? I prefer to think of it as timeless and beautiful, and I'll pretty much watch as much as I can, in any form. Bring it on. The trend of ballet in its various forms on TV gives me this opportunity, and I thought I would share a sort of summary and some thoughts on each program, just in case anyone else wanted to check them out.

I think I love watching a sort of behind-the-scenes view of ballet because these dancers work so hard every day and they have very little chance of success and everything to lose. This makes me feel better about my life choices and challenges, you know? At least I'm not as stressed out as I would be if I were a ballerina!

First off, we have some of my favorite ballet documentaries, both of which have very punny names:

First Position

This documentary follows several different young dancers in the lead-up to a national dance competition. These range from a young prodigy, a young Columbian dancer who fought to dance despite the perception back home that "dancing is not for boys," and a teenager adopted out of Sierra Leone, fighting stereotypes about black dancers, whose mom stays up late dyeing the "flesh-toned" straps on all her costumes dark brown. It combines the beauty of dance with the drama and stress of competition and, let me tell you, these kids are amazing. They will take your breath away. Especially the young prodigy, Aran. I think the exploration of what all this dancing does to a child's body and life, and how hard they work are some of the most intriguing parts of this.

This documentary is available on Netflix streaming, along with several others that I have yet to watch. If anyone has seen anything else they love, please share!

Breaking Pointe

This documentary-style reality-ish show airs on the CW and follows several members at different levels of their careers at Ballet West, a professional company in Salt Lake City. The first season is amazing, with competition, suspense, drama, and beautiful dancing. The beginning of the second season reminds me a little more of a reality show, which is not something I would usually watch. The popularity of the show's first season brought in some new characters, who seem to espouse the classic reality tv belief that more drama = more screentime, which unfortunately proves true. After the first couple of episodes, though, it becomes more about the ballet again, and that's the part I love! I really like watching this show with my husband because I will gasp when they make a mistake and he's like "What? What happened? What's wrong?"

On to the scripted TV, which I also enjoy:


Cancelled after one season, Bunheads (on ABC Family) was a show that I definitely watched, but I was always sort of conflicted about. This show was the brainchild of Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls, one of my favorite shows of all time. A lot of aspects of Gilmore Girls are echoed in Bunheads: sped-up talking, small-town characters, comedic allusions, and a strong female central character. The dancing was always enjoyable and the show was funny, but the characters, especially those of the girls in the dance class, left something to be desired for me. They never seemed as comfortable with their fast-talking sassiness as GG characters, and sometimes interactions came off as pure reading of lines, rather than meaningful dialogue. Reading really quickly, but reading nonetheless. The problem with the show being cancelled is that now they will never have a chance to really come into their own as characters. I also never really enjoyed that some of Michelle Simms's lines and references were ripped straight out of Lorelei Gilmore's mouth. For dancing, however, it is always entertaining, and if you have never watched Gilmore Girls, you would probably enjoy it more than I do because you wouldn't have the comparison in the back of your mind.

Dance Academy

Dance Academy is definitely a teen drama, which is a genre I usually tire of quickly. I get sick of the same people breaking up and getting back together again and usually give up after a season or two. With Dance Academy, however, you also get DANCING! Really good ballet and hip hop dance! And did I mention they live in Australia? Cool accents and wallabies and dingos and stuff. Well, it takes place mostly in Sydney, but still, Australia is cool, with or without dingos. And there are kangaroos at one point, trust me. This is the first Australian TV show I have ever watched and it's pretty darn fun. Look for earlier seasons on Netflix streaming.

And lastly, the movies, throughout the ages:

The Turning Point

This is the classic award-winning ballet flick. The story is of the daughter of two ballet dancers turned studio owners who goes on to become a professional dancer in her parents' former company. It is a tale of jealousy, heartbreak, and beautiful dancing. High, high recommend. Mikhail Baryshnikov's character in this movie, combined with his role in Sex and the City, always makes me wonder if he is kind of a dick in real life. His dancing is so beautiful though, who cares? Along with him, this movie stars some awesome people including Shirley MacLaine and Tom Skerritt as the retired dancer couple and Anne Bancroft as the aging prima of the company. The up-and-coming daughter, played by Leslie Browne, is a bit annoying, so be prepared. She is proof that being really good at ballet does not necessarily mean one can act. Also in the category of older classic ballet movies is The Red Shoes, a tragic love story set in a ballet company. The Red Shoes is much more of a tear-jerker, so have tissues on hand.

Center Stage

This is a fun little rom-com type movie that actually repeats a lot of the same plot points as The Turning Point. You'll see what I mean if you watch both. It is a bit less sophisticated, but still fun. Center Stage is one of my favorite movies to watch when I'm sick, or when I need a little pick-me-up. Also in this sort of fun movie + ballet category is Save the Last Dance. Center Stage has better ballet, but Save the Last Dance has really fun hip-hop dancing too.

Black Swan

Black Swan is sort of the black sheep of this set, being a psychological thriller. Natalie Portman is phenomenal in the lead role, and she is surprising good at ballet. Usually, when the studio announces that the actress had never done ballet before I'm thinking duh, she was not that good and I could totally tell when her ballet double was dancing (see Save the Last Dance). Portman, on the other hand, was able to actually give off the air of a real ballerina and had the dancing to back it up. This movie has the added bonus that other, non-ballet-obsessed people will want to watch it because it's really cool and kind of scary.

Back to school work, but I have told myself if I finish all my reading, I get to watch one of these tonight! Let me know any others I may have missed in the comments.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How To Fix Comic-Con (tales of a frustrated attendee)

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, something occurred that has not happened to me since my first year: I missed a panel that I stood in line for. Somehow, between people talking about camping out last year, panicked first-year attendees, and social media, most people got it into their heads that, in order to see a panel in Hall H, one needed to camp out all night in line. By assuming this to be true, it became true. With everyone camping out, those of us who had the savvy plan of sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and getting up very early to go stand in line got shafted. Every other year, this so-called savvy plan has worked. Let me illustrate:

The lineup for Sunday in Hall H was very similar in both 2013 and 2012. Last year, I was cosplaying Idiot's Lantern Rose Tyler, a complicated costume that required makeup, hair color change, fake eyelashes, and a problematic french twist. As a result, we didn't make it into line until 6:30 or 7 AM. We got into Hall H with no major hiccups, and ended up about halfway back in the crowd. Very reasonable, decent seats. This year, same lineup, easier Rose cosplay, and we got in line between 5 and 5:30 AM. We barely got in the room for the first panel, Supernatural. We were at the very back and there was no moving up. On Friday and Saturday, members of our group did not even get into Hall H at all, despite having waited since the early morning.

This culture of sleeping in line has negatively impacted the Comic-Con attendee experience. Why do I pay for my very nice hotel room for my 3-4 hours of sleep if I have to sleep in line to actually see anything? I might as well just camp out for the whole weekend. Some dry shampoo, a ho bath in the convention center restrooms, use of the bag check and backpacking gear, and I might be good to go. All this does, however, is perpetuate the problem (and not just the problem of attendee body odor). This culture of sleeping in line needs to be corrected. Something needs changing so we can see the panels we want without acting crazy.

My friends and I usually spend our time in line chatting, napping, reading, playing games, and tweeting, but instead a lot of time was spent talking about how to fix these problems.

Here are some potential solutions, or at least basic idea kernels:

Front-load the Popular Stuff

Game of Thrones should be the first panel of the day, not the last. Same with The Avengers, True Blood, Doctor Who, and any of the other big crowd draws. This way, the big line will dissipate and people will be able to get into the things they like, even if they cannot get into the big ticket items, because the line will actually move.

This solution seems simple, but I'm sure it's not. I have no first-hand familiarity with the politics of scheduling, but I'm sure the reason these things are last is because new shows and less popular movie franchises want to go first to attain exposure to a guaranteed large audience. My argument to them is that the comic-con attendee populace is enormous, so you would probably have a full house no matter what. Plus, wouldn't you rather have a crowd full of people there to see you rather than bleary-eyed campers who are just biding time until Loki shows up*?

Develop a Lottery System (so we can all get on with our lives)

Comic-Con is really fun, but truly stressful. There's very little sleep involved, which makes it even more anxiety-producing. A lot of it is a game of weighing opportunity costs. For example: If I stand in line for the Hall H panel today, I will miss anything in Ballroom 20, but I may get into Indigo for a smaller panel at the end of the day. Plus, if I end up sitting in panels all day, I will not make it to the floor to snap up that exclusive item that they were out of yesterday, and I would miss the chance to get that one awesome author's autograph.

So much of attending SDCC is up to chance, including whether you can get a ticket at all, so we grasp those things that are actually our choice and hold on tight. Giving up a little of this choice would be hard, but it would also be freeing. If we entered lotteries for panel passes, there could be extra perks like, if you had been to Comic-Con before, you get two entries. If you also attended the other Cons under the Comic-Con umbrella, you get extra entries. However they want to do it, at least you would know whether or not you were getting in and, if not, you could just move on and see something smaller that you might not have checked out otherwise. This would also lead to better exposure for smaller events and things outside of the Con itself like the Geek & Sundry hangout, Nerd HQ, and w00tstock.

I'm sure people would complain about this as well, and how unfair it is, and how they are so unlucky if they don't get into panels, but I still think it's worth trying out, at least for big-ticket items.

Separate ticketed events and/or line priority

The problem with Comic-Con's policy of not clearing the room after an event is that there is no hope if you come at a reasonable time to get in line and you don't happen to get in for the first couple of panels. Although the non-clearing policy is great if you are dedicated to getting into Hall H or Ballroom 20 and if you are, like me, there to see more than one thing. Personally, I'm not going to get in line if I only want to catch one panel. If it is continuously as crazy as it has been, however, they might have to start clearing rooms, and that would lead to something like separate lines. You can get in the Game of Thrones line or the line for something less popular, and then you have made your choice and this makes it possible for everyone to see what they care about most (or at least many can). Without clearing, there might be a way of issuing tickets or something, but having people to monitor whether or not you have a ticket to the next panel is problematic unless there is some sort of fancy technology available for that.

Petco Park

There is a huge venue right next to the convention center. Let's move the really big giant panels into Petco Park. The whole convention should probably get in there and watch it. There are probably a dozen bureaucratic reasons why this isn't workable, but I like it. Let's make it happen.

*No, we weren't there. :(

Monday, August 19, 2013

All the Latest T-shirts on Nerdified Shirts

Since I have not blogged here regularly in a while, anyone reading this might not have seen all the latest designs over at Nerdified Shirts!

First up, I have made some modifications to the font and design of the Jayne Hat Series and introduced several new Jayne quotes to the collection!

I had so much fun designing these! Jayne is such a great character. I probably could have done twenty Ts. Maybe someday!

Inspired by the Buffy Singalong and the new Veronica Mars movie, I have also introduced some new lyric Ts.

I'm considering sending one of these to Nicholas Brendon. I think he might appreciate it.

If you are a fan, make sure to like Nerdified Shirts on facebook and follow the NS Blog!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vaginal Fantasy... it's not what you think

Me: Goodreads says I'm 13 books behind on my goal. I've never been behind on a reading goal! I have been watching too many awesome youtube shows lately.
Mike: So, it's all Felicia Day's fault?
Me: Well, if you blame her, you have to also give her the credit for bringing me back to reading with her awesome book club. 

I love to read, I really do, but sometimes I just stop for a while. I watch TV, play games, hang with friends, get really wrapped up in work or school, and I just stop reading for a bit. Then, suddenly, I come back to it, full force, and read like 10-15 books in two weeks. It's just my weird brain being, well, weird.

When I first became Felicia Day's goodreads friend, I noticed she read a lot of what she deemed "Vaginal Fantasy" and I sort of assumed that those were just generic romances and guilty pleasure books. What I have since discovered, is what she was actually reading were series that I enjoy too, like the Sookie Stackhouse books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and others that have a romantic element (not necessarily sexual, but usually), but feature strong world-building, interesting characters, and paranormal or science fiction elements.

After discovering this, I have jumped on the bandwagon over a year late, and joined her book club. The club is very successful for a number of reasons. First, they have embraced the live google hangout in conjunction with a goodreads forum. I am technically a member of 4 or 5 book clubs on goodreads, but I don't really participate or feel the need to read the book by the deadline. I use these more for lists when I'm looking for something to read. With Vaginal Fantasy, on the other hand, Felicia hosts a monthly get-together with some awesome people on the internet, including Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton, and Kiala Kazebee. They talk about the book in a live google hangout and we at home participate via twitter, chat, comments, and goodreads forum. This month will be the first one where I am participating live via twitter and chat, and I have watched all other archived hangouts in anticipation and they seem so fun! I now have a huge list of books to read based on their past selections and recommendations given in the hangouts and on the goodreads forum.

Bonus: they drink throughout the show, and they sometimes get pretty drunk/tipsy by the end, so entertaining!

Note: You don't necessarily have to have read the book to watch, but be wary, they do sometimes spoil things.

Next up, I'm going to check out Sword & Laser!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Series on Youtube You Should Be Watching*

One of my favorite pics from SDCC 2013, even though I look weird and giant and like I haven't slept in days (accurate). The perfect lead-in for a post on awesome web series!

Hi guys! What? You say I haven't blogged in eight months and you have completely forgotten about me? Well, that sucks. I am not a fan of entries that start off with all the reasons the blogger has not blogged, so let's skip right to the content.

When I say that I'm not a youtube person or an internet meme person, you should take that to heart. Whenever someone asks "have you seen __________ on youtube?" my answer is almost always "um ... no." I didn't watch Gangnam Style until it already had well over a million (or maybe two million or three) views, but thank god I did, because the DJ at my BFF's wedding played the song twice and I would have felt so lame not knowing the dance.

I also tend to ignore videos when people blog or share them. I can spend many hours playing Warcraft III or marathoning Supernatural, but your three-minute youtube video is so not worth my precious time. This makes no sense, of course, but my brain is weird. Anyway, if you're like me, I hope that you give at least one of these series a chance anyway.

Here are several series that I absolutely love and watch regularly! Frankly, I'm glad I'm late to the game on these, because that means more episodes for me!

First off, there is the Geek & Sundry channel, brainchild of the Internet Geek Goddess, Felicia Day. I honestly do not know how this girl has time to do all the things she does. She reads extensively, as well as plays multiple immersive video games, and still has time to act and run her own youtube network? She really is some sort of magic-user.

My favorite series on this channel so far are Tabletop and Co-Optitude/The Flog. Tabletop is the creation of Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, and features Wil hosting various geek icons playing tabletop games. At first, this might sound strange, but it is so engrossing. As a result, Mike and I have acquired several new tabletop games and multiple mobile app versions of these games. It is incredibly entertaining, but also provides a great introduction to new games. I want to have a Settlers of Catan game night, and I plan to show that particular episode to newbies to help explain the rules.

To introduce you to Tabletop, here is one my favorite episodes, mostly because of the interplay between some of my favorite actresses and Wil.

Next up, we have The Flog, which is Felicia's vlog. This show also spun off Co-Optitude, which I will talk about below. The Flog is basically Felicia's personal show, in which she does all sorts of things like cooking segments, girly crafts (she drags Colin Ferguson to go crocheting), recommends games, and tries things way outside her comfort zone. To illustrate this last point, here is the episode when she tries parkour.

I just have to say that Luci must be really tiny, because I've stood by Felicia,** and I've never felt so giant, except maybe when I met Sandeep Parikh.***

Felicia had a regular segment on her show where she played old console games with her brother, Ryon, for the first time. And, they sort of suck at them, given that they never played them as kids. This spun off into the show Co-Optitude. It reminds me of playing video games with my brother. That's probably why it appeals to me so much, I can totally relate. A lot of people get annoyed with Felicia and Ryon for criticizing their childhood favorites, and I have to admit that the episode where they played Sonic really got to me. They did not really understand how awesome this game is, or how to play it, and totally need to give it another shot.

I still love the show, though, and here is an episode where they played Goof Troop, and it's one of my favorites. Who else totally watched that cartoon? Anyone?

Also, it goes without saying, that if you're not watching The Guild, you should be. This hilarious webseries, which rocketed Felicia Day into geek stardom, is appealing even if you do not play MMORPGs (or even know what that is), trust me.

Note: if you watch this on an ipad, the annotations will not show up. You can also watch these individually on the Geek & Sundry channel without annotations.

Moving on from Geek & Sundry, I have two final series that are actually some of the best TV I have seen in a while. Not just internet TV, but TV as a whole. The first is the series Husbands, a collaboration between one of my favorite TV writers of all time, Jane Espenson, and Brad Bell, who stars as Cheeks. It is a series about a high-profile gay couple who get married in Vegas and who decide to stay married as they do not want to be famous for "the first gay divorce". The series features tons of cameos, including Nathan Fillion as a newscaster and a recurring character played by Joss Whedon. I found out about this series at Comic-Con from Jane Espenson**** herself, and was a bit ashamed that I had not watched it before, since I love her work so much.

And last, we have my absolute favorite, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I am a sucker for anything Pride and Prejudice-related, but this may be my favorite adaptation. Truly. It is a re-imagining of the story as Lizzie's vlog and it is amazingly wonderful. Go watch it!

Go forth and enjoy these series, and let me know if you do!

*A post in which I shamelessly namedrop like I'm actually somebody. I'm so lame.
**Oh god, the name-dropping

***There it is again. Just for clarification, he totally talked to me. Like, came up to me on the street. True story.
****Last time, I promise.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Travel tip: the versatile contact case

Blah blah blah. No posts for a while. Life gets in the way! Anyway, as I prepare for yet another adventure, I have a super awesome travel tip for you. Say you have just a little bit of something for a trip that you need to squeeze into your carry-on 3-1-1 bag. Like, for instance a hair product you use sparingly. I bought a multi-pack of contact lens cases to transport the stuff! At $1 apiece and water-tight, they can't be beat! Just don't use them for contacts later.

Enjoy! Hope the holidays were wonderful!


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