Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lego Projects:"Fun House" (2012) & "Fun House 2.0" (2013)

In 2012, I decided to build a Lego fun house to take to BrickCon. It was going to be colorful and zany and would even have moving parts, by gum! 

So I did. And this was it.  (Pardon the crappy cellphone photos.)

I rigged up the motor and the technic elements so that the wheels on the side of the house would spin, and the duck would go round & round on top. I had wanted the "Fun House" sign to also bob up and down, but at the time, I couldn't figure out how to make that work.

I was proud of my colorful creation, and I took the fun house to BrickCon. But I made a mistake. Not a big one, but a mistake nonetheless. There was another Fun House at BrickCon, 2012. And when placing my Fun House, I saw the other one, and thought, "Oh, hey, they should go together!" because, I don't know, fun houses of a feather or something.

Little did I know, that other Fun House had even more mechanical bells and whistles and moving parts and was four times as cool as mine. Even in size it dwarfed mine considerably. Awkward!

Oh well! I was still proud of my little fun house.


Still, I felt I could do better. So five months later, for Bricks Cascade, 2013, I gave it an overhaul:

... and renamed it (Fun House 2.0, of course.) It was bigger, zanier, and more colorful, with more things going on inside (but fewer moving parts outside.)

Meanwhile, the duck graduated to the roof.

And I made sure that this time, it wasn't next to any other fun houses at that con. (Actually, I don't think there were any other fun houses that year.) Nay, I placed it between a haunted house (asylum?) and an Indiana Jones temple (also one of my MOCs.) Because... DIFFERENT!

Here's a video.


 Sadly, both versions of the Fun House have now been dismantled, their parts put to other uses and projects.

Maybe someday I'll make another one.

Fun House 3.0.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lesson Learned (Or, Why You Probably Shouldn't Show Kindergarteners Videos Off The Internet)

I work at an elementary school. Kids come in my room, I teach them stuff, and sometimes they even learn something. Some days, though, I do. And some days I just need a break. That's when I put on a video. My rationale is that I don't do this very often -- at least, not as often as I recall my elementary school teachers doing it. Besides, you can learn things from videos -- yes, you really can!

Today, in a rush, I was trying to put on a video for a group of about 15 kindergarteners. I went to pbskids.org, which is a big, fun website with lots of games and videos that are perfectly appropriate for that age group. I spotted Daniel Tiger. You remember Daniel? Cute little fuzzy tiger puppet from Mr. Rogers who wore a wristwatch and went to school with Prince Tuesday and the platypus kid? 
D'aw, so cute!

I knew they'd given him his own TV show, that he was now animated, and that he was, erm, apparently living in Mr. Rogers' old house and wearing his clothes and basically stealing his shtick... but I figured it was all harmless. I don't buy into the theory that Daniel ate Mr. Rogers so he could replace him. 

Not really...

What I did NOT know was that Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is not geared toward kindergarteners. It's meant for toddlers.

I discovered this fact just a few minutes into the video -- the first video I came across on the Daniel Tiger portion of pbskids. I just clicked on "videos" and it did the auto-play thing and I didn't stop to look at the episode title, which in retrospect I realize wasn't wise -- aye, I fully admit I did this to myself, but yeah.

This was the episode:

Did Daniel really go to the potty? WHY YES HE DID! Twice! As this kid does not wear pants, he suavely hopped onto the toilet(s) without a fuss, did his business, and sang about the experience. On one instance, he even managed to hallucinate (imagine?) that all the bathroom fixtures and decorations were dancing! Afterwards, he always remembered to wash and dry his paws.

Now, I have to hand it to my kindergarteners. They're at a special age where they know what they're watching is ridiculous, yet they're not to the point where they'll actually start a riot over it. First graders would've booed Daniel right out of the loo and off the screen. Kindergarteners will at least politely tolerate 12 minutes and 16 seconds of insanity. 

I challenge you to watch the video and not laugh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSFLO1YubW0 (If that link is broken, try finding it on pbskids.org.)

I may have been the only one in the room laughing (and going What. Have. I. Done?) But there were plenty of other reactions happening. Some "ews." Some awkward fidgets. Several of the kids put their hands over their eyes when Daniel hopped on the toilet. 

But the funniest comment I heard a kid make was actually during the part where Daniel and his dad are talking to the guy at the music shop. An annoyed: "Why would that guy be talking to those tigers? Tigers can't talk."

There's another video on pbskids... called Prince Wednesday Goes To The Potty. Was Daniel not convincing enough? And who the heck is Prince Wednesday? Did the king and queen have another child?

THESE TWO PEOPLE had another child?

Okay, well, at least he wears pants.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movies I'm Excited About - 2015 Edition

Confession: I don't go to "the movies" that much anymore. I'm content to wait a few months after something's been released and let Netflix ship the movie directly to me. Maybe I'm just lazy, or maybe the way I do things is awesome. Either way, there are a few films coming out in the next couple years that I'm more or less excited about and may actually go see in the theater. These are them....

Release: Summer, 2015
Peter Pan adaptationish thing starring Hugh Jackman, (not to be confused with Peter Pan Live! with Christopher Walken.)

The storyline -- and I've only seen the trailer and I don't want to be spoiled too much, so this is vague at best -- revolves around a young Peter and a young Hook but also some other pirate and, I dunno, I guess they're twisting Peter's origin story a bit. Also Tiger Lily is white, so I'm not sure what that's about.

Side note: It's funny how many Peter Pan-esque things we've been bombarded with since the novel went into the public domain awhile back.... Peter and the Starcatcher(s)Jake & The Neverland Pirates, the story arcs on TV's Once Upon A Time, and all those Tinker Bell movies, to name a few. But hey, I really liked the 2003 film (Peter Pan) so I'm interested to see what surprises 2015's Pan will hold.

Beauty And The Beast
Release: 2016?
I love Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast. I've seen it roughly 1500 times. I love the Broadway musical. I've seen that (a more reasonable) four times. Now they're making a live-action version! With Emma Watson confirmed as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, I'm thrilled with the casting choices. Meanwhile, there's a thread on the film's imdb page titled: "Colin Firth As Belle's Father." Wouldn't that be cool? Heck, give Colin Firth any role in the film and I will be die of happiness. I repeat, die. Colin Farrell, on the other hand.... #no

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Release: 2016
A new movie set in the Harry Potter universe? I don't even care what fantastic beasts it includes*, I'm there.

*Okay, there had better be owls....

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair
Release: 2017? Ever?
This was announced in 2013, and there has been no word on casting or anything since, so I won't hold my breath, but I'd love to see another Narnia movie come to the big screen. Such a shame that they only made the three films when there are seven books in the series. Come on, guys!

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
Release: 2015
I don't know. Maybe I'll hate it. The jury's still out on the actor playing Darcy -- he looks like the lovechild of Leonardo DiCaprio (in The Man In The Iron Mask) and Dr. Will from Big Brother, with a pinch of Dominic Cooper thrown in. Bingley's a touch better-looking, but he also kind of looks like Keira Knightley (oh hello, it's Pip from Great Expectations! Oh this is gonna be good. Or terrible. Train wreck? I'm so there.)

The Walk
Release: October, 2015
The story of that French guy who tightrope-walked between the twin towers back in the day.
It's directed by Robert Zemeckis and it's not suspended anicapture or whateverthefudge that freaky animation thing is that he does these days, so I will buy a movie ticket to support that.

Community: The Movie
Release: ???
Well, we're honest-to-goodness getting that sixth season -- now we just need "a movie"! Kickstarter, anyone? TAKE MY MONEY.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Movies I am NOT excited about...

Maggie (2015)
Description: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side. Starring Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

VANish (2015)
Description: A kidnapped young woman is forced on a road trip full of murder and mayhem that takes place entirely in her captor's getaway van. 

Hansel Vs. Gretel (2015)
Description: When Gretel falls under a dark spell and organizes a coven of witches, Hansel must find the courage to fight his twin sister and the sinister forces controlling her.

London Fields (2015)
Description: Clairvoyant femme fatale Nicola Six has been living with a dark premonition of her impending death by murder. She begins a tangled love affair with three uniquely different men: one of whom she knows will be her murderer. Starring Theo James, Amber Heard, and Johnny Depp.

31 (2015)
Description: Five people are kidnapped on the days leading up to Halloween and held hostage in a place called Murder World. While trapped, they must play a violent game called 31 where the mission is to survive 12 hours against a gang of evil clowns.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Lego Projects: "The Art Of Creativity" (2014-2015)

I have a display at the Tigard, Oregon, Lego Store this month (January, 2015). If you get a chance to stop by the store in the next week or so, check it out! If you're nowhere near Oregon, well, here's a picture!

This is a actually picture of the display before I had to move it to a different display case, one with a green background, during which I decided to flip over the snowflake (it's white on the other side. Surprise.)

The snowflake is actually how it all started. My young cousin gave me a small Pick-a-Brick cup as a gift last spring, and it contained a bunch of white flowers and trans-blue 1x2 tiles. Playing around with these pieces, I quickly realized I could hook the flowers together with the blue tiles, and before I knew it, I had a snowflake, which is actually quite sturdy and could theoretically be hung vertically with fishing line... if the need should arise.

Once I had the snowflake, I decided to build some Lego scissors to go with it. I have seen other builders make Lego scissors, but I didn't follow their patterns... I pretty much just took a pair of real scissors and tried to copy them. One question I get asked a lot is "Do they work?" They don't really cut, but they do bend!

After the scissors came the glue bottle and the crayon box. For both I used the real objects and modeled my builds off of them. It was fun trying to think of an art supply and then trying to create it out of Lego. One challenge I had was with the paint brush (which you can see better in one of the photos below.) I tried many different methods and piece combos, but finally ended up folding up a black Lego net, then using black Lego string to tie that around the brown handle. (Lego = versatile, my friends.)

After I had made all these supplies, I thought it would be interesting to have them set up around some "paintings." I had acquired five 16x16 white plates, which seemed like they'd be a perfect Lego "canvas." 

I had a few false starts, but on my third or fourth attempt I came up with Brown Bear Goes For A Stroll:

Which earned an Honorable Mention at Bricks By The Bay!

From the side, it looks sort of weird...

But from the front... hey, a bear!

And even though it doesn't have quite the same 3D effect, I like the way the tiger turned out, with its eclectic mix of Lego pieces both old & new.

I'm not sure if I'll bring this display to Bricks Cascade (March 14 & 15, 2015, in Portland, OR!) but I'll definitely be bringing other projects, so I hope you can make it if you're in the area!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Diary Of A Young Dork (Ages 10-11)

I'm currently reading a memoir I stumbled across on the Kindle Store: Mary's Diary: A Secret Journal Of The 1930's. A woman in her 80s rediscovered the diary she wrote as a teenager. Even though the entries were only a few lines each, Older Mary was able to expound on many of them, turning short entries into "prompts" which opened the floodgates of memories. Though the final product isn't totally polished, it's an enjoyable read.

Reading Mary's Diary has made me feel nostalgic about my own youthful writings. Last year I did a post about the diary entries I made when I was sixteen. That's the year I began journaling regularly -- something I'm glad I have done, even though I sometimes go months without writing anything. It's weird to think I've been journaling for 18 years, in one form or another.

Sometimes I wish I'd started earlier than sixteen. Actually, I tried to. When I was in fifth grade, I asked for a diary for Christmas. I wanted one partly because the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club were always keeping journals and diaries, and partly because my dad had been keeping one for several years. My dad's journals, which began in 1987, were mostly "here's what we did today" type things. He let my brother and I read them if we liked. I liked. And I wanted to do it, too. So for Christmas, 1990, I asked for and received a diary of my very own.

And then proceeded to hardly ever write in it.

But when I did write in it, oh my. All I can say was, boy, was I young and weird.

Below are about 85% of the entries. (Some are just too weird to post!) The words in bold are the words that I wrote in the diary back then. Everything else is my current commentary.

* * * * *

January 1, 1991
Today I went to Emily's house. I spent the night there. Most of the time, we played with Barbies. We also played a few games of Life, all of which I won. I have a sore throat. Mom thinks I have a fever. I am very tierd.

Emily is my cousin, five months older. When our families would get together, oftentimes one of us would go spend the night at the other's house that night. Emily's family had The Game Of Life, which we thought was very fun, even though I don't think we ever paid attention to the "taxes" part of it. And yes, that's how I spelled "tired."

January 2
Today I felt very sick. My temperature was normal, but I still stayed home from Pioneer Clubs. Tina is driving me crazy! You see, my brother didn't think I was sick. Anyway, he went over to Brandon's. Then, around 4:30, Tina called, asking to play. She didn't believe me when I told her I wasn't feeling well. So she asked Stan, and he said I wasn't sick. This night at dinner Stan asked dad if I was really sick and he said "Yes!"

Tina and Brandon were our neighbors. Tina was my age and Brandon was my younger brother (Stan)'s age. On Wednesdays we all went to my church for this kids' club known as Pioneer Clubs. It was sort of Girl Scout/Boy Scout-ish, with added Bible fun. This entry amuses. Maybe it was because I was feeling sick that a small amount of skepticism exhibited by a friend could induce me to say she was "Driving me crazy!"? Crazy, indeed.

January 4
Diaries are panes pains. But I'm determinde.

Not only was I merely four days into the year and tired of keeping a diary, but I was also apparently channeling Claudia Kishi's spelling prowess.

January 7
I am so sick! I think I'll die. I've been coughing like crazy!

Dear Diary, you are the only one who cares. I fear the end is nigh. I'm not being dramatic or anything.

January 16
Boy, I havn't been writing in here for a long time.

9 days! Bet you thought I really had died, huh, Diary?

January 18
The usual. Mr. Beeghly. Why did Mr. Stevens have to desert us?

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Stevens, was one of my favorites. That year, he decided to take on a student teacher, Mr. Beeghly. I think Mr. B. was only there for a few months, and of course Mr. S. would've been in the room the whole time, just not doing the teaching. I seem to remember thinking Mr. B was okay, but having a student teacher or a sub was always challenging, and I'm sure I struggled with the transition.

January 25
Today we took Popoki in for a booster shot. He was very scared. He tried to attack the vet with 4x4 gloves!

"Popoki" was my dad's nickname for our cat, Darlyn. (Apparently, and I'm just now learning this, it's Hawaiian for "cat." My dad wasn't Hawaiian so that's... interesting.) At some point later on, I'd revised this entry to read, more accurately:

  "He tried to attack the vet, who was wearing 4x4 gloves!" (Darlyn didn't have the gloves.)

4x4 gloves? I guess heavy-duty gloves. Darlyn could be extremely wild.

January 29
I miss Sarah already!

Considering that my cousin Sarah had already been gone for a month at this point (her family had moved to Massachusetts), it hardly seems surprising that I would miss her "already."

February 1
We went to Janzen Beach tonight and I rode the merry-go-round. Stan left for Ryan's beach house this afternoon. Today I got two fish, BG and Golda.

Ryan was a friend of my brother's. BG and Golda were my first fish. Janzen Beach used to be awesome. I never felt like I got too old for that merry-go-round.

February 4
Things haven't been going well in this diary.

Two blank pages! Oh, the shame of it all.

February 6
Sarah's birthday! We called Sarah around 5:30, but according to Eastern time, Sarah was in bed. We had a nice chat.

I guess they got her out bed. That'll be the last of your according things, Eastern Time!

February 8
We stayed overnight at GG's house. Mr. Beeghly's last day was today. Mr. S will be back monday. Yes!

Try as Mr. Beeghly might, he could never be Mr. Stevens. 

GG was/is my maternal grandmother. She lived closeby. Overnighters were not uncommon.

February 9
Today I played with Tina a little. We changed BG's and Golda's tank. Darlyn's B.D.! We gave him a can of wet catfood, and he was in heaven.

We got Darlyn in April of 1989. So this particular year, he would've been turning two. He had a long life, passing away just before I graduated from college.

February 11
Today I lost my flute (on the bus?) and mom is sure worried.

Yeah, mom would've been worried. I, on the other hand, was probably wishing the flute would stay lost. I could never get more than about three notes out of that instrument.

February 12
Today I lost my coat, and I havn't found my flute yet.

Oh no, things were getting worse!

February 13
Today started out bad. B.G. died! Stan + I flushed him down the toilet. Boy, is dad gonna be mad. 


Apparently, dad wasn't mad, but he was concerned. I found my flute and my coat today.

I guess I thought my dad would be mad about B.G. dying because that was the fish he had named, and was more or less his fish, I suppose. It was a lesson in fish mortality (he lived fewer than 2 weeks!) though I recall his sister Golda living for 4+ years.

February 14
Today was Valentine's Day. At our class party, I won a heart-shaped cake and gave it to dad.

It's a wonder I didn't just eat it. Hello, cake! Oh well, Valentine's generosity I guess?

February 23
Feb's just not going fast enough!

And it's the shortest month! What was the deal?

March 8
Today, we all (well, I) felt horrible. Mr. S. is so strange.

I wish I'd expounded on this. Why was my teacher so strange? Why did I feel horrible? The mysteries.

March 17
Church, again. We played 4-square with Tina and Brandon. 

Blah, blah, blah.

St. Patrick's day. I wore green. Some people cheat and wear, well CARRY a piece of green paper around.

Such cheaters! How dare they go to such lengths to avoid being pinched!? I'll bet they're not even 1/16th Irish, the posers.

March 18
Okay. Spring break. Today we just lazed around.

March 19
Noth. new to rept. I'm fine. no nd. to wry. about me. We went to Emily's house and she and Amy spent the night.

I'd taken to doing abbreviations. Laziness? Trying to be cool? Oh well. Amy is Emily's older sister, so, also a cousin.

March 20
Today we saw "Home Alone" with A + E. I loved it.

Yeah, that's a good movie.

April 3
Today was ok, like usual.

Tell me more.

April 5
Today I went to Skills Camp. I'm doing xylophones and drama!

Skills Camp was an offshoot of the aforementioned Pioneer Clubs. We'd go to this camp-type place and spend one night there. We'd get to pick three activities to do. If ever there was Cake Decorating, I was always in on that. But this particular year was notable because we actually made a xylophone out of old pipes. I was so proud of that thing. I immediately became interested in playing it in the school band. Playing that led to playing the drums and other percussion instruments. And that is the (extremely abbreviated) story of how I stopped playing the flute, which I never liked to begin with.

April 6
I think of a diary [as] something you record THINGS in. 
Is that what I'm doing-
often enough?
Xylophones was the best EVER!

It was pretty awesome. But I wonder what I meant by "THINGS"?

April 11
We had a half-day of school today. I got out at 12:00 and we went to McDonald's. Then we ran some errands. We even went over to R.A.C. to get dad's check.

I think R.A.C was meant to stand for Reynolds Aluminum Company. My dad worked there back then.

April 12
Half day again! We worked at GG's this afternoon.

Working at Grandma Gus's in April probably involved yardwork. Maybe housework.

April 14
Nathan and Matthew stay[ed] with G+G (their parents had an anniversary). We went up to the 5th Floor of the church. Also, I saw the old pipe organ.

Nathan and Matthew were my cousins on my dad's side.  G+G (not to be confused with GG) were my paternal grandparents. My grandpa, for a while, was a custodian at our church, and had keys to all the locked rooms. The day he took us to the pipe organ room and the never-before-beheld fifth floor would have been a good day indeed.

April 15
Today I saw BETH. We played together for a while. Stan played with these two boys from school, one of which has very long hair (longer than mine), and an earring in one ear! I hate them both. In Volleyball, I made a score for our team! We had an extra recess today. I, however, did NOT play basketball. I found out my new elective - journalism! I played with Tina a little.

Wow, where to start? Beth was the granddaughter of a neighbor, and we had played together quite often as preschoolers, but by 1991, I guess we didn't see each other all that much. 

I don't know the names of the two boys, but I remember not liking the long-haired boy. However, the fact that his hair was "longer than mine" wasn't much to consider, because I had short hair (above my shoulders) in fifth grade. Oh well... get a haircut, hippie, I guess.

I also don't know what was significant about my NOT playing basketball, except that maybe I'd been doing it a lot lately?

Oh, the electives! I seem to recall that we had band two days a week during the last hour of school. The other two days, you could do choir. But I wasn't in choir, so they started offering "electives" to the 5th and 6th graders. I chose journalism because I loved to write, and had even written some fake newspapers for my family to enjoy. My memories of this elective involve writing a story about the soon-to-be-new playground, dealing with the snotty sixth-grade girls, and learning how to type on a computer for the first time. (No, no, you DON'T have to hit return at the end of a line! The computer will do that for you! Oddly enough, it's something I still have to teach my students in 2015.)

April 19
Today was twin day. Tina + I were twins!

I remember that we wore our (matching) Pioneer Clubs T-shirts to school.

April 21
I can't keep up with you diary, and now I feel guilty.

I wonder if I really felt guilty, or if this was like something a Baby-Sitters Club member would have said in her diary, so I felt it was appropriate?

April 28
Mom's BD. No rep. ness.

No report necessary? Way to abbreviate.

My mother turned 39 that year. Such a young lass.

May 1
May Day! Today I was sick, I couldn't go to school!

Fifth grade: The only year after Kindergarten, probably, that I would have considered this a bad thing.

May 10
Tina's BD. With chicken pox all week, I thought she wouldn't be at school today, but she was.

Ugh, the dreaded chicken pox. By then, I'd already had them. Poor Tina.

May 17
I went to a party for Tina's BD today. I gave her a notepad, a pen, a ball, and some candy.

In my defense, I think the pen changed colors or lit up or something.

June 8
Piano recital!
I played Spinning Song and Mexican Hat Dance.

Funny that piano doesn't get mentioned once until June 8th, considering I had lessons nearly every week. I loved Spinning Song. I got quite good at it, and felt like it was my own personal song, for some reason. You can imagine how devastated I felt when I heard another kid playing it one time. That's my song, dangit! 

I've now forgotten how to play it.

June 10
Today was Beth's birthday! Today was the talent show. I played "Whirling Leaves" and got TONS of compliments.

Two piano-related entries in a row! As much as I loathed piano lessons and practicing, I did enjoy performing and getting compliments. Typical.

June 12
Last day of school. Field day. boring.

Field day used to be super fun, but I guess by 5th grade, the novelty had worn off.

June 23
What I think is that -


July 4
Picnic at U.D. today.

My uncle Danny's, where we go nearly every year for Independence Day... still!

July 5
I miss you. Here is a song for you-

VERSE 1: I'll be thinkin of you
Every day when I'm blue
And when the sun just don't shine-
And things don't seem

Annnnd end song. Well, I really did miss you, Sarah! Just not enough to write a whole first verse, apparently.

July 24
I am NOT sorry about not writing in you. You are a pain.
I MAY get back to writing in you.
(Went iceskating.)

You think I could have written more about the ice skating instead of whining about having to write anything at all.

August 4
I went to a JH activity - be cool. We had fun with ice + water.

JH = Junior High, meaning our church youth group. It's strange to think that I was already starting to participate in "junior high"-type things, since I wasn't even yet 11, and, at least then in our school district, middle school didn't start until 7th grade (so I had another year to go.)

I recall this event vaguely. We went to somebody's house and they had this big ice block that we could sit on and slide down a small hill.

August 6
Saundra's BD.
Went to a sleepover, had fun.

Saundra was my best church friend, and probably my best non-family friend at the time as well. She had a big family and shared a room with three siblings, so, as I recall, when we did sleepovers at her house, we usually camped out in the living room, or in a tent in her backyard.

August 10
Keeping a diary is such a drag. Stan is a jerk! Mom and Dad are in bad moods.

Sorry, Stan! Probably you weren't sharing your Lego with me, or you were showing off, or you tattled on me, or you were just being an 8-year-old boy. As for my parents being in bad moods, I'm suddenly tempted to find my dad's 1991 diary and look up August 10 and see what was going down. (Okay I'm back from doing just that, and I guess my parents did have a few things on their minds at the time (I had to go back several entries to find out what) but there's nothing to explain there why Stan was a jerk. So Stan, I guess you are forgiven!)

September 3
First day of school! Mrs. Young is my teacher. She's ok.

And sixth grade had begun! My memories of Mrs. Young, to this day, are that she was "o.k." I remember on the last day of school, she was cleaning out her cupboards and let us have things for free. I chose a dog brush. I didn't have a dog, but I was kind of hoping having the brush would lead to me acquiring one, somehow. (Still waiting.)

September 4
My birthday. Got a red binder from GG, and crayons and a playfood set from GG. I got a travel game from Canby C. And a watch, a wallet, and some other do-hickeys from Sarah + fam. I got a big bag for summer camp, a light-up ornament, and some other neat stuff. Guess what! The camp bag had about 6 little wrapped presents inside it! Cool!

I would have adored the play food set, even being 11 years old as I was that year. Don't judge me.

October 6
I left for Outd. Sch. today. My cabin partner is Sara W. I went to Camp Collins O.S. It's by Oxbow Park, about 30 min. from here. There are 4 other girls in the cabin besides S & me. We have 4 resources. We got to a resource every day. The food is OK.

October 7
Today we did plant recource. We took a hike and learned about many different plants. we even saw a hollow tree. TREE, the plants tour guide, showed us how to drill in a tree to get layers of bark. We had a picnic lunch in a park. We played on a cool playground.

October 8
Today we had water recource. We made a water tunnel and we got to go in the water + look for tiny animals. Our guide was, like, CHILLI BEAN, or somethin.' Every night we have a camp fire. We sing many songs. Every day we have recreation, too. On Monday, my rec. was archery. On Tues. (today) it was crafts. We made paper beeds.

October 11
Today I got back from outdoor school. Councelors - Raven, Ducky.

Sad that I only kept up my Outdoor School diaries for 3 out of the 5 days. I remember that we made little stoves out of coffee cans and tried to cook something one day. We got served milk in cartons that had Where's Waldo pictures printed on them, which I wanted to save for my brother because he liked Waldo. One of the other schools that was at camp with us (I think there were 3 other schools), their teacher was Mr. Beeghly. I don't remember if I actually saw him there, or found that out some other way. I didn't like my counselors. I didn't like that you had to wake one of them up in the middle of the night and that they had to accompany you to the bathroom. I drove Sara W. crazy after about the first day and she was mad at me for most of the week. My favorite day of all was the last day, when we got to do fun games, like tug-of-war, and then go home.

I still have my Outdoor School nametag and the beeds (beads.)

October 12
I am cleaning my room. Boring, yup. Organizing - HMMM...

October 31
Menlo Halloween Party.
I was a cowgirl this Holloween.

And with that, I was done writing in the diary for the year.

And now, back to reading Mary's secret 1930's diary....

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movies I Saw In 2014

Movies I Saw In 2014

* * * * *
The Adventures Of Tin Tin (2011)

Halfway through this film -- somewhere in the midst of the wild action, goofy mystery, and John Williams score -- a thought struck me: This kind of reminds me of an Indiana Jones movie. And then another thought came: Yeah... but so did Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls. Then I realized... why, maybe Tin Tin is the movie Spielberg wanted to make all along! Like, he was dying to make an action/adventure/mystery where the characters could move through the world like cartoons, where pesky things like physics and logic didn't always apply. Problem is, he did that with Crystal Skulls. Bad move. Bad movie. Here, because Tin Tin is all motion-capture animationy, it's acceptable. It's kind of fun. And also kind of odd.

* * * * *
Hugo (2011)

Visually, Steampunk Mordred Hugo was very pleasing. Plot-ually, I'm undecided. There are a lot of really cool, fun moments, but as a whole I was left feeling kind of disturbed and dissatisfied. Maybe that'll change upon a second viewing of the film? +Points for Ben Kingsley, -Points for Borat.

* * * * *
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Having been a big fan of Mary Poppins and all things vintage Disney, you'd think I would be all over this film -- and yet, because of my love for both things, I was actually not eager to see this. I had already heard/read/seen lots of information about the Disney-Travers acquisition. But it turns out the movie isn't just about that -- it's got this whole time-shifting parallel storyline o'fun about PL Travers as a little girl and her relationship with her father. Which I might have been more keen on, had the father not been played by one of my actor nemeses (Colin Farrell, why?). That said, the Farrelldom is canceled out by the inclusion of one Mr. Paul Giamatti, who plays a driver to Mrs. Travers. In the end, the Disney parts were watchable, and the Mary Poppins-references were fun, but this isn't one I'd watch again.

* * * * *
Frozen (2013)

I wanted to like Frozen. I wanted that very much. And I didn't hate the movie or anything. I actually loved the animation and all the icy effects. Olaf was great. But I sometimes wonder if I'll ever love another animated Disney movie the way I love(d) Beauty and the Beast. The silly thing is, many of the problems I had with Frozen (such as characters using modern catchprases rather than acting all old-timey as they friggin ought) are things that also happen in BATB. Then there are the plotholes. One viewing of Frozen, and I found the plotholes terribly obvious. BATB has those, too, but I didn't notice them till my 40th viewing. So that's the difference, I guess. Also there's nostalgia, too, of course. Or maybe I'm just too dang old & jaded.

* * * * *
The Lego Movie (2014)

The only non-Rifftrax movie I saw in a theater this year was The Lego Movie. I knew nothing about the film going in (well, except, you know... Lego.) I went with my four little cousins and we laughed throughout the film. It was very funny and clever. I've tried to rewatch it since, though, and it doesn't have quite the same effect.

* * * * *
Dirty Dancing (1987)

I may be the one child of the 80's who had never ever seen this movie until this year. I didn't even know what it was about, save for the fact that it had Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze and they danced, supposedly dirtily, and maybe fell in love or something. So I finally rented it. I thought the first half of the film dragged. When the two leads started dancing together, things got a bit more interesting. I can definitely see the appeal when it comes to Patrick Swayze being all hot and yummy. But as a film, I dunno. Not overly impressed.

* * * * *
The Giver (2014)

I first read the novel about a decade ago, then again last year -- along with the three other books in the series. I was excited to see the film, even though I knew they'd cast two entertainers/actors I really don't care for (in minor roles, but still.) I was a little nervous to see what changes they would make in the film. That said, I thought it was a good adaptation, although... well... seeing certain things as opposed to reading them can be a bit overwhelming... and certain portions of the movie, though they mirror events in the book, are disturbing. I ended up watching it twice and found myself enjoying it more the second time.

* * * * *
Amelie (2001)

I avoided this film for ages because I'd heard how quirky it was, and generally I try to avoid excessive amounts of quirky. But I'm glad I finally watched it because, while it does have quirkiness, it's also kind of dark, and it's also really fun to watch. The character of Amelie is a lot more likable than I was expecting her to be. She's no saint, but she's no demon either. The whole movie is in French, which somehow I didn't know. And would you know that's not the first time I've inadvertently rented a movie in French? Roll on, subtitles, roll on.

* * * * *
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

I never would've watched this, except my mother insisted I rent it for her. Attack of the British Honored Citizens: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and then some! It was a moderately enjoyable film with multiple storylines that seemed a bit confusing at times. I'm sure a second viewing would clear most of that up.

* * * * *
Flipped (2010)

This is a cute film directed by Rob Reiner that's kind of Stand By Me meets The Wonder Years. 1950s & 60s period pieces about kids aren't my favorite thing to watch... I'm trying to put my finger on why. I've seen a bunch of them. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm watching a movie about my parents or something. Well, whatever. This is the story about a boy named Bryce who is arguably more stupid than Kevin Arnold; Juli, who is a bit smarter than Winnie Cooper; and their bumpy, silly, teenage relationship. If you're into nostalgic, awkward coming-of-age movies, you'll probably enjoy it.

* * * * *
Pride & Prejudice (1980)

My unofficial quest to watch every Jane Austen-related movie ever made continues. As far as P&Ps go, while this is nowhere near as good as the Colin Firth version (nothing will ever compare, mind you), it's at least more faithful to the book than the Keira Knightley or the Laurence Olivier versions. However, it also seems low-budget... not surprising as it was a TV movie made in the 70s.  Still, it was fun to see a different adaptation, and I especially enjoyed seeing Judy Parfitt in her portrayal of Lady Catherine.

* * * * *
Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)

This was another one I'd heard about for years, and kind of avoided for whatever reason. I really don't know what to think of it, now. It was a good film, and Heather Matarazzo was great. But maybe because of the time period it was set in (early-to-mid 90's) and the behavior of her classmates, it struck a nerve... it felt disturbingly familiar. At the same time, I was shocked by the way the main character acted sometimes. Like, one minute I'd feel sorry for her because her family was terrible and she was bullied by pretty much everyone. And other times, I was like... girl, you're horrible, no wonder no one likes you. Then I felt bad for thinking that.

* * * * *
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

I'd been wanting to re-watch this for a while, since I follow Lisa Jakub (Lydia Hillard) on Twitter and she is super cool. (And, you know, Robin Williams, R.I.P.) When I finally sat down to watch it, though, it occurred to me that I don't think I'd actually ever seen the whole movie. Maybe I'd just caught parts of it on TV over the years. Anyway, I finally watched the entire thing, and I found it kind of hard to watch. Daniel Hillard's character tries to be funny, but he is just so unlikable. If I were Sally Field, I'd dump him, too! And the things he does in the film are really weird. Dressing as an old woman would be one thing. But lying, manipulating, having woman-to-woman talks with his ex-wife about really intimate things... and trash talking the Pierce Brosnan character constantly. I can understand why he does it, but it's pretty awful. And it's supposedly funny to throw fruit at his head or put pepper (which he's allergic to) on Pierce's food? Daniel is really sadistic. But he loves his kids sooo much, so it's okay? Hmm. I won't be in a hurry to watch it again.

* * * * *
Life Of Pi (2012)

I had a hard time with this film, because I love animals, and Life Of Pi isn't always very nice to them. It respects them, sure, okay, but it also shows several of them dying (and implies the deaths of many others.) Animal tragedies, nooo! But IF you can get past the first, oh, thirty minutes of the film without having a massive panic attack due to animal perishment, you can settle in, relax, and rest assured that things will just be less dreary from there on out. Pi is a survival/adventure story with some spirituality stuff overarching. And there's a tiger. And while he never (spoiler alert!) actually eats Pi, you're always kind of wondering if he might. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just Your Average Teenage Musical Awakening

When I was 15 years old, I discovered pop music...

...and it was glorious.

As a wee lass, I lived in a world mostly devoid of pop. My parents didn't listen to it. If the radio was ever on, it was usually tuned to an oldies station... and not even the kind of oldies station that played The Beatles and stuff like that... no, the kind that played dentist office music, as I called it.

We owned a record player and a tape deck, but aside from a few "Wee Sing" tapes, none of the music was really mine. I grew up listening to my parents' music -- the folk, the gospel, the Streisand. I knew the words to a dozen show tunes. And if ever there was a song that was sung way back when on the prairie, I probably knew it... and all its verses.

Sure, I was aware of pop music. Sometimes I'd hear it at friends' house, or when we went to the skate rink. If a song was really popular among the other kids, I usually knew about it. In fourth grade, I could name all the members of New Kids On The Block, not because I listened to their music... because my cousin loved them and taught me all she could. I knew about Counting Crows thanks to Full House. I was cognizant of Nirvana and Pearl Jam because kids at school talked about them. 

But when I was fifteen, something snapped. 

My sophomore year of high school, I was at home sans parents more often than ever before, and I began listening to the radio on my own. I started with the semi-cool oldies station, because many of the songs were at least mildly familiar to me, having heard them in movies and commercials. After a few months of listening to oldies, I began tuning to Z100, our go-to station for all the hit pop songs of the day. When Z100 went to commercials, I'd switch to 106.7 for soft rock. And when I became friends with a girl who loved country music, I started listening to country, too.

My mix tapes from 1996 would give you a good sampling of the kind of things that I enjoyed listening to back then.  I was so proud of my ability to make mix tapes. I didn't even know they were a thing that other people did... I just knew that if I hit "record" on the tape player while a song was playing on the radio, the music went onto the tape forever. If I liked a song very much, I'd let it find its way onto multiple tapes. Then I could take those tapes anywhere I wanted and listen to them with my Walkman.

And so, within months, I went from not caring much about popular music to wanting to listen to it whenever and wherever and however I could. 

When I think back on those days, it occurs to me that my sudden, intense love for pop music (and to some extent, my love for country and soft rock) wasn't just about the music. There was something else. Something that only radio (and maybe MTV, which we didn't have anyway) could give me at that time....

*If I knew the popular songs, I'd have something to talk about with other kids at school (and/or not sound like an idiot.)

*If I listened to the DJs talk, I could find out what things were currently happening in the world of entertainment, and learn which artists were cool.

*If I paid attention to the lyrics of the songs, I might just stumble upon some hidden gem of knowledge that my parents were keeping from me. (A nice thought, but it turns out I didn't understand what 1/4 of the lyrics really meant anyway, and wouldn't figure out most them until my 20's; thank you, Internet!)

Besides those things, pop music was something that the other members of my family weren't familiar with... this was something all my own. My parents were stuck in the 70s, music-wise. My younger brother eventually became a fan of heavy metal and alt rock, but circa 1996, he didn't appear too interested in the music I loved. So this was something that was mine. As a teenager struggling to find my place in my family, school, and world, I needed things of my own, or at least things that felt like they were my own.

Nowadays, I hardly ever listen to pop music, I dislike modern country music, and my favorite genres are actually Classical and 80's Rock. Funny how things can change. But just because my tastes run a little different, now, doesn't mean I don't like to occasionally listen to music from "the good old days."

Today I happen to be poring over the Top 100 Billboard Songs From 1996. Join me as I reminisce!

#1 On The Charts That Year: Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) - Los Del Rio
Friggin Macarena. Okay, so I knew the dance, but only because if you didn't know the Macarena, you were nothing.

#3: Because You Loved Me - Celine Dion
Celion Dion, then known to me merely as The Other Lady Who Sang "Beauty & The Beast," was a Z100 staple that spring. The movie Up Close & Personal came out in March, and that song was its anthem. Two years later, we would be inundated with My Heart Will Go On.

#4: Nobody Knows - The Tony Rich Project
This was one of the first songs I ever put onto a mix tape, so I listened to it many times that year.

#5: Always Be My Baby - Mariah Carey
I loved Mariah Carey's voice and her music back then. But it occurs to me now that a lot of her songs have really great intros/beginnings... and then sort of go south. Oh well... the lady can sing!

#8: I Love You Always Forever - Donna Lewis
Notable because I could not get enough of this song in the summer of 1996.

#12: Missing - Everything But The Girl
Because when you miss something like the deserts miss the rain, you aren't kidding around.

#13: Ironic - Alanis Morisette 
Alanis was huge that year. "Ironic" wasn't my favorite of her songs, but it got so much playtime that I can't help but feel nostalgic when I hear it. Annnd sing along.

#15: Follow You Down - Gin Blossoms
Yet another one that just screams "1996" to me. 

#18: It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Celine Dion
If "Because You Loved Me" was the anthem of early spring, IACBTMN was that of mid-to-late summer. With two great songs to her credit, I decided I needed to buy a Celion Dion cassette tape to own. And so I did. Yes, I still have it.

#19: Change The World - Eric Clapton
I actually didn't care for this song, and still don't, but hearing it definitely takes me back to warm summer days.

#22: Insensitive - Jann Arden
Another song that takes me back to summer '96. 

#24: Name - Goo Goo Dolls
This is one song (the others being #39 and #41) that I still really enjoy listening to today.

#25: Who Will Save Your Soul - Jewel
I liked this song because I could make my voice sound like Jewel's, all raspy. I thought I was so cool. Jewel would probably disagree.

#26: Where Do You Go - No Mercy
This song was used in a special promo for my favorite show of that time, Lois & Clark. Legend has it that this particular promo only ever aired twice. It didn't save the poor show from being canceled a year later, but dangit if I didn't fall immediately in love with this song because of of that silly (awesome) promo.

#39: Breakfast At Tiffany's - Deep Blue Something
I still love this song!

#41: The World I Know - Collective Soul
And this one!

#53: Mouth - Merril Bainbridge 
We all liked this song... and I don't know why. I think it felt kind of edgy? I don't know. Now I think it's kind of ick.

#54: The Earth, The Sun, and the Rain - Color Me Badd
A minute ago, I was like, What was this song? Do I remember this? So I found it on youtube and within thirty seconds I was singing along. SINGING ALONG. Hahaha oh wow. My crazy brain.

#55: Hook - Blues Traveler
I loved Blues Traveler. And this song was so fun, with its super-fast part with the words we all pretended to know. (Apparently the lyrics are "Anne Boleyn," not "in Berlin." How do you like that?)

#76: As I Lay Me Down - Sophie B. Hawkins
I will not attempt to try to explain to you how much I loved this song. 

#81: Unbreak My Heart - Toni Braxton
One example of a song that played too often that year and that I got totally sick of.

#82: This Is Your Night - Amber
One of the songs I used to dance/work out to. Dabah dabah dah dip-doppa-thay! Also, the video for it is officially crazy.