Thursday, February 4, 2016

Better Be British

"Do you watch Downton Abbey?"

...I seem to get regularly asked this.

My standard response: "Not since season three." (Or, more accurately, "not since bloody season stupid 'murdering Matthew' three, thanks.)

This is often followed by ME asking THEM, "...but have you seen Call The Midwife?"

"Call the what?"

"MIDWIFE," I say, looking nervously around at the other restaurant patrons.

"Miffelwhat?"

"M-i-d-w-i-f-e. Call The Midwife. It's another British show on PBS, and it's much better than Downton."

This is inevitably followed by looks of bewilderment, promises to "Google it," and then either a change of topic or a remark about how it's too bad I don't watch Downton anymore, because that Mr. Bates is being accused of murder again, and shit is getting REAL.

I'm thinking of having some cards printed up that I can hand to people in these situations, explaining that this OTHER British period drama, which I happen to like better, is currently available on Netflix instant, and that there's still time to calmly watch all four seasons (they're short) before the April 3rd 5th season/series premiere on PBS.


Because that's what I'm doing, and I'm rather enjoying it!
 PBS.org: About Call The Midwife

Thursday, January 14, 2016

When I Try To Be Helpful, Things Tend To Go Wrong: Part 3/3

So then there was the time I caused a massive sinkhole in my Grandma's front yard.


It was about a year ago. It was raining really hard that day. My uncle, who lived with my Grandma, had died unexpectedly a few days prior, and my mom and aunt and others had gathered at my Grandma's house to help with things. My mom had asked me if I would come over for a few hours to help with some sorting of papers. I agreed.

When I arrived, there didn't seem to be any place to park at first. Grandma's driveway was blocked by my uncle's trailer and another car, and the front lawn (where guests  often parked) had my uncle's truck and 2 other cars. There really isn't a shoulder on this street for parking, either.

I did see an open spot on her lawn, though. It was closer to the house, and could only be accessed by using the neighbor's driveway (which borders my Grandma's yard.) But I thought, hey, I need to park, and that's a nice spot!

So I parked and went into the house to help sort the paperwork. An hour or so later, I was ready to leave. When I got to my car, I discovered it was sitting really low, as if a tire had gone flat. The driver's side door practically scraped along the ground as it opened. I got in the car and started the engine, hit reverse, and realized... I was stuck. 

I got back out of the car. That's when I noticed the front tire had sunk about six inches into some mud, but worse than that, it wasn't just mud... it looked like water was draining down into it... as if it were a hole....

I went back inside the house and sheepishly explained the situation to some of my relatives. My mom's cousin hooked up my car to his with some cable, and said he could pull my car out... but I still needed to sit in the car and put it in reverse and give it some gas.

This I did, but all the while, I was imagining myself climbing into the car and then -- whoosh -- disappearing forever into the bowels of the earth, like that poor Floridian guy. My only hope was that at least (if that happened) my car was tethered to another car. Maybe I'd be able to climb out.

But huzzah, my car was freed and pulled out safely. Happy ending!

Over the next few weeks, we learned that a leak in my grandma's plumbing had actually caused all this erosion, causing this sinkhole to form. It turned out it was around eight feet deep. Left undiscovered for more time, the sinkhole could have expanded and swallowed up part of my Grandma's house's foundation... or someone could've been walking there and fallen in....

So the leak had to be fixed and the hole had to be stabilized and fixed, which cost a lot of money, and, naturally, I blamed myself because I was the dope who parked up far on the lawn, in the rain, whose car had gone in and started the whole thing in the first place.


Life: never dull!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When I Try To Be Helpful, Things Tend To Go Wrong: Part 2/3

My Grandma, age 94, has lived in the same house since the 50s. Not being as spry as she once was, household repairs and cleaning have gotten more difficult, and some aspects of cleaning have been abandoned altogether.

For example, her basement. A few months ago, I went down there one day and noticed that there were cobwebs all over the place. My Grandma does her laundry down there, so I felt that was unacceptable. So on my next visit to her house, I brought my vacuum, and began to suck up years' worth of former spider homes, dust, and so on.

This took about an hour, and I won't lie... I enjoyed every minute of it. I have this weird thing about vacuuming.

When I was finished, I guess I was feeling pretty proud of myself, because I really wanted to do more good deeds. 

Upstairs in my Grandma's hallway, I saw a cobweb on the ceiling, and removed it. Then my eyes beheld her smoke detector. I asked if I could check to make sure it worked, because Safety. I was given the "OK".

Now, there are many types of smoke detectors. Some you can test by pressing a button. Others you have to test other ways. This one seemed to have no buttons, so I took it off the ceiling to examine it.

Suddenly, a loud wailing noise burst forth, filling the entire house.

It turns out my Grandma had this elaborate security system that was wired to the smoke detectors.

Because of course she did.

I immediately put the smoke detector back, but the alarm continued. I ran to the security system panel to see if I could do some disarmin'. After a minute, the sound went away. Then the phone rang.

"I'll get it!" I called, feeling mortified. I figured it would be the security company, and it was. 

"Everything's fine," I told the guy on the phone. "I accidentally did something with the smoke detector. But everything's fine here." The guy said OK, and I hung up.

TWO DAYS LATER, I was over at my Grandma's again, when there was a knock at the door. Her brother had come by the house to see if she was all right. He said that whenever he'd tried to call my Grandma in the last day or so, all he ever had gotten was a busy signal.

Long story short, when the security company called my Grandma's house to check on her after the smoke detector incident, they apparently also hijacked the phone line, and inadvertently continued doing so for two whole days. I don't know how, but that was the story. We had to to pay some phone repair guy $93 to come over and figure that out.

In the end, my Grandma decided the security company was more trouble than it was worth (one burned pizza in the oven could summon the fire department, if my hearing-impaired Grandma didn't hear the phone ring, for example.) So... no more security... one less expense every month. 

So I guess some good came out of it. But I sure caused a lot of trouble. All because I just couldn't help trying to be helpful.




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When I Try To Be Helpful, Things Tend To Go Wrong: Part 1/3

I have a third-degree burn on my finger because I decided to clean the dishwasher.


You might think dishwashers clean themselves, but this is not true. Gunk gets into the parts around the places that seal tightly during a cleaning cycle. Also, you know the part on the bottom where the water drains out? Apparently that's a lot like a sink drain. Grime begins to collect there as time goes on, until it looks... well, a lot like a sink drain.

That's right. Step away from your computer and go check out your dishwasher, now.

You're welcome.

(Also, check under your fridge and behind your stove sometime. You'll be properly horrified.)

But back to yesterday. I was putting a bowl in the dishwasher when I noticed some grime. So I did what any sane person would do; I took out the bottom rack of the dishwasher and sat on the floor with a spoon, a pair of tweezers, a couple of paper towels, a bowl of water, and an old toothbrush, and went to work scraping off a bunch of ick.

When I was finished ("eh, clean enough!") I decided I should probably run a rinse cycle, just so that if I'd kicked up any dust or grossness while cleaning, it would get flushed away. 

Our current dishwasher was installed in the late 90's. It has a dial and a row of manual buttons. Every time we've ever run the dishwasher for the last 17 years, we've kept it on this one setting -- two buttons pressed in, and the dial turned to "normal wash." (No fancy washin' for us!)

Except I didn't want to run through a whole normal wash cycle, because I'd taken the dishes out, and besides, The Environment. So instead of turning the dial to "normal wash" I put it on "quick rinse."

About two minutes in, there came a burning smell... like the smell that comes when you spill something on a stove burner. Only that smell really isn't supposed to come out of dishwashers. I stopped the cycle and opened the door slowly (unsure if water would rush out at me... it didn't.) There was only a little water, at the bottom. And there was a piece of gunk that had emerged from some crevice and was sitting there. Naturally, I went in after it... and accidentally brushed my finger against the metal heating element. THE THING THAT IS REALLY REALLY HOT. APPARENTLY.

Now, normally when I get burned (and let's not dwell on how often that is) I run the wound under cold water. But I didn't this time because I was too preoccupied with wondering if the dishwasher was going to spontaneously combust.

After a few minutes, the smell died, and I decided to let the dishwasher have a second try. It was then that I tended to my finger (too late) and went about my business, waiting for the so-called "quick rinse" to complete.

An hour later, I had to manually stop the dishwasher because it was still going. When I opened the door, I saw that the soap had never even dissolved. It was just sitting there in all its powdery glory.

But by gum, the dishwasher looked a lot cleaner.

There's just a small chance of the appliance never working correctly again....



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why 'Fuller House' Kinda Freaks Me Out


The more I hear about the forthcoming Netflix-produced series Fuller House, the more freaked out I get.

This is probably not a statement you'd expect to hear from a girl who spent many of her formative years obsessing over Full House: admiring DJ, trying to be like Stephanie, and resisting the urge to reach through the TV screen and strangle the oft-bratty Michelle. I loved the show, and when it went off the air in 1995, I was disappointed. Even though the eighth and final season was pretty awful, the cancellation of the series meant the end of the familiar Tanner Family saga. The Tanners would now only live on in our minds (and perhaps, crappy fanfic.)

I've lost a lot of TV shows over the years. I've bonded with the characters and obsessed over the story arcs, only to have the series swept out from under me by cruel, greedy, and possibly evil (in my mind) network executives. The first few times it happened, I mourned my beloved shows bitterly. But soon I came to realize that I should never get too attached. The TV environment is too uncertain, too brittle. (For what it's worth, I watch very little TV anymore.)

When we last left the Tanners in 1995, Michelle had fallen off a horse and gotten amnesia, but regained her memory before the end of the show. Stephanie and Danny were both (separately, I hope) dating. DJ had broken up with Steve a year or so before, but in the finale, he made a surprise appearance and took DJ to her senior prom. 

And then... that was it.

In the 20.5 since Full House went off the air, I've gone through high school, college, and several jobs. I've watched half my friends get married, and seen half of those friends have kids -- some of whom are now the same age I was when I discovered Full House. In those two decades I've experienced the loss of multiple relatives, two cats, and a plethora of small pets. I've published a novel, produced a web series, maintained a website, built a backyard playground structure, constructed a chicken coop, traveled to many places, seen my little brother get married, and enjoyed the addition of a baby niece.

Meanwhile, the Tanners remained stagnant, frozen in time, in a distant memory where they were all standing in their kitchen, bidding the audience goodbye.

Only it turns out, it wasn't the last time. They weren't frozen. They were still living their lives, parallel to mine, only I wasn't aware of it.

Thanks to Fuller House, we'll see that (spoiler alert?) DJ Tanner is a widow with three boys, Kimmy Gibbler has a daughter, and Stephanie is... well, I'm not really sure what. And they all live in the same San Francisco house.

I know it's fiction, I know the Tanners aren't real. But the actors are. How surreal must it be for them to be back on a familiar set (well, a new set built to resemble the original set) with familiar people who they must have regarded as family for eight years, but then had ripped away from them? Yeah, I know most of the cast has kept in touch over the years. Photos of mini-reunions have been frequent. But now... to be back... working long days, with the same people... as if nothing ever changed....

But it has changed. Candace Cameron Bure (DJ) may still be a TV-movie princess, but she's also a married mother with a 17-year-old daughter and two younger sons. John Stamos is still considered something of a heartthrob, but there was that whole marriage to Rebecca Romijn that's been over long enough for Rebecca to be remarried and have 7-year-old twin daughters. The Olsen Twins have made a dozen movies, gone to college, started a fashion line, and somehow also found the time to genetically manufacture a sister to take their place in Hollywood. Bob Saget finally escaped from America's Funniest Home Videos, but I'm not aware of any career he has had beyond stand-up comedy. And Jodie Sweetin, well....

Although I admired and looked up to DJ, Stephanie Tanner (as played by Sweetin) was my favorite, probably because we were close in age. After Full House ended, things kind of went south for Sweetin, as she explained in her memoir UnSweetined. Losing the familiarity of the Full House family contributed to her drinking, which led to drugs, which led to a full-on meth addiction. She has been married and divorced three times. I don't wish to judge her by any means, the knowledge of these things certainly affects how I see her, and even how I see Stephanie.

It's been 20 years. We've all grown up. A million things happened. Yet for the Tanners, a family we said goodbye to, life has apparently been chugging on, unbeknownst to us. And next month, they will once again open their doors and invite us to share in the ups and downs of large-family life in San Francisco.

As if nothing has changed...

...except everything has.



------------




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Grimm", Take 4

One thing about this extras casting company I belong to... First they send you an email telling you you're being considered for a role on a date in the near future (usually within the week). You declare if you are available, yes or no.

If you get another email that evening or early the next day, it will usually be "You got the job!" and you'll get more details on the booking. If you haven't heard back within 24 hours, you can assume you didn't get it; the email telling you "sorry" typically won't come as quickly (as if you had gotten the job.)

In early December I got one of those sadder emails, telling me the roles had been booked and I could move on with my life. But then, that evening, I got another email, asking if I could be on-call as a backup for the same shoot, the following day. It said I might get a phone call at any time, even at 5 or 6 in the morning.

At 7am I got the call. Could I come in at 10:30? Of course I could!

You may recall how, when I worked on my first Grimm ep, back in 2013, that I wasn't really into the show... I'd only seen a few episodes. That has changed, though... I've now seen many episodes, and I really do enjoy the show. I especially enjoy David Giuntoli. He's so dreamy!

The bad news about THIS particular shoot was that (as I quickly discovered) David and the other regular castmembers were not on set and had nothing to do with the scenes being filmed. Instead, we got a couple of guest stars... one of whom I'm sure is wesen. Er, playing a wesen.

We convened in Northish Portland and were bused (on school buses, no less) to the filming location, at the University of Portland. They had huge white tents set up, with generators and heaters to keep us warm (and keep us slightly meh, thanks to the diesel smell.) They'd laid some kind of material, like a carpet made of artificial turf, on the ground. Since it had been raining (and still was) the ground was wet, which made the carpet wet, and mud seeped in through the gaps. Still, we stayed warm and mostly dry.

The scenes we shot that day (two wrestling matches) required around 200 extras to fill the stands and act as fans. Since we were all packed into one holding tent, it was pretty crowded and difficult to move around. After going through wardrobe, passing hair and makeup ("you look fine" -- that's a new one), and changing clothes, I managed to snag an empty chair and found myself at a table of snobby girls straight out of a junior high cafeteria. The things I heard escape their lips that day, I'm surprised they didn't straight up tell me I couldn't sit at their table. Instead they mostly ignored me, and I read the novel I'd brought and tried to ignore them. (I could have moved, but that place was so crowded... and pack o' Bingley Sisters aside, it was a nice spot.)

Apologies if I can never keep Catering and Craft Services straight, but... one of them... had set up a nice table full of fruits and cheeses and other snacks, which they kept stocked and tidy throughout the day. One thing I've learned (and I'm not even beginning to suggest I know a lot, but I've learned some) is that if they feed you? You should eat. Hunger leads to crankiness. Long and repetitive takes lead to crankiness. Eat whenever you can.

While we were waiting to go on set, nearly everyone was given props to take into the "wrestling match." Some people were handed bags of popcorn; others, drink cups; others, pompoms or those giant hands. I got 2 skinny, red balloon-like things, which could be waved or banged together. They had to be inflated, and between the time they handed those balloon things out to people and the time walked on set, several people had managed to pop theirs. One of mine deflated.

The wrestling match scenes took many hours to film... but luckily, most of us got to sit in bleachers. Some people had to stand though, and that would've sucked. There were a couple ladies who had to play dancers, and their outfits were "bathing-suit" levels of revealing... again, glad that wasn't me.

So what did we do all day? We listened for our cues, and then we cheered. We had to react to the "wrestling match"(es) we were seeing. Sometimes we had to act surprised. Or happy. Or ecstatic. We had to wave our props around and act like we were having the time of our lives.

Around 6:30pm, they gave us dinner... catered lunch boxes....


Not too long afterward, we wrapped the scenes in the wrestling arena. They did some close-up shots of one of the bleacher sections (not mine), and, soon after, sent about half of the extras home for the night.

I got to stay for one more scene, an outdoor establishing shot, where the wrestling fans are waiting to go into the venue. One of the extras pointed out (and I'd been thinking this too) that this scene was going to look unrealistic, because nobody was holding their phones or looking at their phones, as people would do in real life. Oh well!

It was all over about 10:45pm. We got checked out, piled back on the yellow school buses, and were taken back to our cars.

A fun day. Lots of sitting, so not too exhausting. It was nice getting to do a couple of long scenes, but a little disappointing to not see any main cast members. Oh well.

The episode in should air sometime in early 2016 and is titled "Silence Of The Slams."



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 29 - Happy Rainbow Stacking Toys


Day 29:
Happy Rainbow Stacking Toys



(Sears catalog, 1964)

God bless Fisher-Price, but I can make a definite case for their toys getting worse over the years. Little People are one example. These stacky things are another. Look how tall they used to be. ^^

Look how short they are now.


And do they have something against purple? BRING BACK THE PURPLE RING. 

BE THE COMPANY YOU ONCE WERE, FISHER-PRICE!

Monday, December 21, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 28 - Fisher-Price Toy Circus


Day 28:
Fisher-Price Toy Circus



(Sears catalog, 1964)

I like how the camel and the tiger (lower right) look like they're having a personal, semi-snarky conversation while the circus rages behind them.

Tiger: "Ughhh. This is such crap. I am so much better than this."

Camel: "I know. I feel like a fool standing here on a 2-foot-high block while that show-off elephant gets to be on the top of the tower. And I'm sure we'll have to hear about how great she is later. Oh brother. Listen to those people clapping."

Tiger: "Fools. Sheep. Imbeciles. ENOUGH! I say we blow this joint. Tonight!"

Camel: "But our cages! How!?"

Tiger: "THINK, Camel! Look how far-spaced the bars are! Look how practically two-dimensional WE are! Have you ever even ATTEMPTED an escape?"

Camel: "It never occurred to me. If I did escape tonight... would you go with me?"

Tiger: *licks lips* "Oh yeah. Totally with you!"



Sunday, December 20, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 27 - Fisher-Price Kitchen Set


Day 27:
Fisher-Price Kitchen Set



(Magazine ad, 1981)

Okay, this thing was freaking cool. It really did look like the burners were lit up when you turned the knobs. Combine this with those baby bottles whose milk "disappeared" when you tilted them, and you had a truly magical kitchen experience indeed.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

30 Days Of Retro Toys - Day 26 - Stix Stax


Day 26:
Stix Stax



(Magazine ad, 1986)

Because every kid wants a toy that lets them imagine they are picking daisies. That's alllmost as fun as pretending to go to the moon....