Monday, May 25, 2015

Favorite TV Shows: May, 2015 Edition

Favorite TV Shows: May, 2015 Edition

 (Previously: January, 2011, May, 2012May, 2013, May 2014

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My Top 5 Shows That Are Currently Airing (Or Have Aired Within The Past 6 Months), Regardless Of Whether Or Not I'm Caught Up With All The Episodes...

1. Community (thanks Yahoo!)
2. Call The Midwife
3. Reign
4. Jeopardy
5. Rick Steves' Europe
Honorary Mention: Grimm

What The Above List Looked Like Last Year (May 2014):

1. Community (-TIE-) Call The Midwife
2. Jeopardy
3. Rick Steves' Europe
4. Antiques Roadshow
5. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Guilty Pleasures I Like To Watch On Cable When I'm Housesitting:
1. Love It Or List It Too
2. American Pickers
3. Property Brothers
4. Flip Or Flop
5. Love It Or List It

Shows I've Been Watching Via Netflix Lately:
1. Community (Seasons 1-4 in the past two months)
2. ANTM Cycle 1 (oh, the good old days!)
3. Rick Steves' Europe
4. Merlin (finally finished the series!)
5. Reign (season 1)

Shows I Need To Catch Up On/Finish Watching:

1. Call The Midwife (I've been ignoring it this season, but I plan to binge-watch it on DVD at some near point.)
2. Reign -- I haven't seen the last two episodes of the season.

Shows I'd Like To Check Out:

1. Firefly
2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (I guess because everyone says it's so great?)

Shows I Said I'd Like To Check Out Last Year:

1. The Tudors (Tried it; didn't care for it.)
2. Reign (Tried it; enjoyed it in all its crazy splendor.)
3. Firefly (Still haven't watched it!)

Technology And This 80's Baby

Why 80's Babies Are Different Than Other Millennials: This PopSugar post has been shared on my Facebook feed many times this week. This 80's Baby was all over that title before I even got to the article, because hello, duh, of course we're different (AND SPECIAL. AND UNIQUE.) You must never link me, of the DuckTales generation, to kids born in the Quack Pack era, because riots will ensue.

Actually, the article originally came from, with a comparatively boring title: The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before And After Mainstream Tech.

Whatever name it's got, I thought I'd use the article to share some of my own experiences of growing up in this strange period of time.

If you can distinctly recall the excitement of walking into your weekly computer lab session and seeing a room full of Apple 2Es displaying the start screen of Oregon Trail, you’re a member of this nameless generation, my friend.

My first computer lab experience was actually with a roomful of Commodore 64s, not Apple IIs. Our elementary school had ONE Apple computer... this arrived around 1988-89, maybe. Our librarian was the one who taught us such necessary skills as "dragging" and "dropping." (Not to be confused with the ever-important "Stop, Drop, and Roll.")

Oregon Trail was around in middle school, I remember, but the game that got me the most excited of all was Sim City. Give me floods and tornadoes over snakebites and cholera any day.

Did you come home from middle school and head straight to AOL, praying all the time that you’d hear those magic words, “You’ve Got Mail” after waiting for the painfully slow dial-up internet to connect?  If so, then yes, you are a member of the Oregon Trail Generation.  And you are definitely part of this generation if you hopped in and out of sketchy chat rooms asking others their A/S/L (age/sex/location for the uninitiated).

We did the AOL Free Trial when I was in 9th grade. It was only "free" for so many hours; then you got charged. (Woe the day my parents got that bill in the mail.) In 10th and 11th grade, we had Compuserve, the scruffy cousin of AOL. On both services, you got 10-20 hours free per month, but then paid $2 an hour thereafter. Finally, in 1997, AOL began offering unlimited use internet, and we switched to that for the next decade.

I did pop into a few chatrooms during those early days. One laughable memory: me PMing (IMing? What did we even call it then?) my home address to a young man, because I wanted to stay in contact with him (through letters) and I had to get offline rightthatsecond. (I never did get a letter from the fellow.)

We were the first group of high school kids to do research for papers both online and in an old-fashioned card catalogue....

Making this transition was a bit annoying, actually. I was quite adept at using the card catalog. Why mess with a good thing?

Speaking of research papers, there was this terribly awkward period during which teachers would tell us that our papers had to be typed, yet to do that required either using an electric typewriter, having a computer at home with a printer that hadn't run out of ink, or staying after school to use the computer lab (which was impossible if you were a bus rider, like me.) This caused lots of stress.

By the time I was in college, there was the option to turn your paper in via email or via a flash drive.

For today's kids, Google Drive saves the day.

The importance of going through some of life’s toughest years without the toxic intrusion of social media really can’t be overstated.  Myspace was born in 2003 and Facebook became available to all college students in 2004.  So if you were born in 1981-1982, for example, you were literally the last graduating class to finish college without social media being part of the experience.

It's true that Facebook was born after I graduated college. But social media was still in place. We may not have had Facebook, but we did have group emails and group chatrooms, IRC (internet relay chat) and plenty of message boards where we talked about any and all of our interests. I had a personal website, a "Home Page" as it was sometimes referred to, where I had my photo and information about me. Honestly, by the time Facebook did rear its head, linking everyone together, my reaction was basically: "Well, it's about time." (And then it was only available to college students for the first few years, and since I'd already graduated, I was shut out of Facebook then.)

When we get together with our fellow Oregon Trail Generation friends, we frequently discuss how insanely glad we are that we escaped the middle school, high school and college years before social media took over and made an already challenging life stage exponentially more hellish.

Indeed. In those days, I connected online with people from other cities, even other countries, but it was unlikely I'd ever connect with someone from my own school, save for my best friend at the time. We might act like immature jerks, but we were acting that way with people from Australia, so somehow it didn't seem to matter. (No offense meant, Australians.)

But unlike our older Gen X siblings, we were still young and dumb enough to get really into MySpace and Facebook in its first few years, so we understand what it feels like to overshare on social media and stalk a new crush’s page.

I came to the Facebook table a little late in the game (2007), but MySpace, oh, MySpace. How often did I sit around, rearranging my Top 8 Friends? Man.

This article neglects to mention LiveJournal or other blogging sites. From 2003-2007, "LJ" was my social media platform of choice.

Time after time, we late 70s and early 80s babies were on the cusp of changes that essentially transformed modern life and, for better or worse, it’s shaped who we are and how we relate to the world.

True enough, but honestly, I don't think our "changes" were as drastic as the ones experienced by the generation of kids currently going through school. 

A kid who's 16 now was born around 1998 or 1999, when her own parents possibly didn't have a cell phone yet... and if they did, it was one that made calls and maybe texted. Now, it's probable that this teenager not only has a cell phone of her own (and so do her parents) but that she has a phone that can take photos, browse the internet, and do so much more.

A kid who's 16 now probably had her baby photos taken with a film camera, her preschool-elementary school photos taken with a digital camera, and her most recent photos? Selfies. Thousands of selfies.

Kids nowadays have access to thousands of free games on the internet... available with just a click, and maybe a Flash update. Recently I was attempting to explain to some of my fifth-grade students how we used to "game" when we were their age. "So you'd take these six 5-inch floppy disks and install them one after another..."

With each generation, technology marches on. And thank goodness for that.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bricks Cascade '15

Portland's 4th Annual Bricks Cascade came and went -- two months ago -- and I have been putting off blogging about it for reasons unknown. Well, here I go.

This year's convention was the first in which I was a theme (co-)coordinator. What a job! Instead of getting to just relax and enjoy the convention, take lunch breaks whenever, and come and go as I please, I had to be present, engaged, and organized. I was one of the coordinators of Town & Train, which is usually one of the biggest themes with the most MOC entries. While I definitely know ways I could make things run more smoothly in the future, I don't think the endeavor was a disaster. Trains ran, the town stayed standing, and the MOCs on our tables brought smiles to many faces.

One of the jobs of a theme coordinator is to build trophies, and then, during the convention, look at all the MOCs in our theme and pick winners for various categories. Here are the two trophies I built:


Judging was tough! I did not want to do judging alone, so it became a team endeavor (me, my co-coordinator, and another AFOL friend) and these three builds came out on top this year...

Structurally Sound (Best Building) went to The Ridge by Paul Hetherington. Both the outside and the inside (yes, there were things going on inside!) looked great, and there were so many cool details. One of my favorites was the blue fish "fountain".

Moving Right Along (Best Train or Vehicle) went to the Post Zombie Apocalypse School Bus, by Cory Janssen, which I'm sorry to say I didn't get more photos of, because the back looked really cool as well. This Moc stood out because it was unique (not  your typical yellow school bus) and it had a story connected to it (zombies!)

Stellar Scene went to the Octan Motorsports Park by the Olson brothers. What ultimately set the Octan Motorsports Park apart, for me, was its cool details that kept bringing me back to look at the setup again and again. 

I especially loved the concession stands/shops... that hot dog shop! That pretzel shop! 

Some other Mocs that were definitely in the running (and are making me think we need to have more awards/trophies next year) include this fantastic house by Allen Smith:

And this one by Lori Clarke... (those gables! that roof!!)

And this charming cabin by Laura_KQB and Arwyn...

Below is a video I made of some of my favorite Mocs from throughout the show (yes, it includes some of the ones seen above). Hmm... I can make a video faster than I can do a blog entry, how 'bout that?

Finally, here are some of the things I made & brought:

I know I'll need lots more tan if I do an Old West Town layout again, but I worked with what I had....

I made most of these buildings (the hotel/saloon, sheriff's office, bank, church, barn, and shed) in the month leading up to the convention. The train station & the haunted house were already built.)

"Look! Woody!" is the comment I heard by far the most often during the public show.

I also brought some of the items from my Washington Square Lego Store display, along with my Lego-made word "Creativity". 

Each letter on the word features a different creative medium: C: woodworking, R: sewing, E:  writing, A: music, T: filmmaking, I: painting, V: sculpture, I: cooking, T: science experiments, and Y: computer programming.

I also finally made a Moc that I'd been wanting to make for years: 

I did this one last-minute, so I'd like to improve on the floor and do the right & left - side walls/scenes eventually, but I think it turned out okay. Eventually I'd like to do many more scenes from Last Crusade, including the booby traps, the train from the beginning of the film (lions! snakes! magic!), and perhaps the zeppelin ("no ticket!") (There are three official sets for the movie. There need to be more is what I'm saying.)

In conclusion, while my 4th Bricks Cascade convention felt a little "different" to me, it was still enjoyable, and I plan to be there again next year!

Happy building, everyone!

Grimm III

At the beginning of April, I got a call to work on the second-to-last episode of the fourth season of Grimm. I had already worked on one of the earlier episodes this season (well, "worked" is an overstatement; mostly I sat), and I did an episode back in season two where I got to drive a bit. 

This was going to be a night shoot, on a Thursday night, but as luck would have it, Friday was a non-school day, so I didn't have to worry about zombieing through the next day, or worse, having to call in "sick" (read: tired.) 

I showed up on set around 6:00pm. Just like last time, we sat around, got our hair done, then had a delicious dinner. After about two hours, they handed us maps to drive to a downtown filming location, and we all departed.

Annnnd then I got lost.

I was supposed to turn onto Front Ave./Naito Parkway, but I got on the 405 instead, which put me about 12 blocks from my goal destination. Ugh! Downtown Portland is an absolute maze. A bunch of streets are one-way. Other streets have "no turns" signs. Even more are blocked by construction or Max (train) tracks. It's bad enough during the daytime. In the dark? Time to panic!

Luckily, I knew where I was going, it was just a matter of navigating the labyrinth and getting there. Finally, after some fervent prayers, I made it. As it happened, out of the seven or so drivers, I was the last to arrive. They told me where to park. Then I went to Extras Holding, which was a coffee shop. I settled at a table, took a few deep breaths, and proceeded to try to relax while I awaited further instructions.

My first instruction was to move my car forward about thirty feet. So I did. I was now parked just outside the coffee shop. Several times, a big truck came by and sprayed down the street (and my car!) to make it look like it had recently rained (how Portlandesque!) 

Back inside, I sat, read Harry Potter, and sipped chai and drank coffee for the next eight hours. I was never asked to be on camera. All they ever wanted was my car.

Hey, I'm not complaining. It's fun to get paid to sit around and veg, even if it is the middle of the night and you're already exhausted from working a regular 8-hour day. Especially fun (well, interesting!) when you get to share a coffee shop with a half a dozen other extras, three ladies dressed like Pretty Woman, and actors David Giuntoli, Reggie Lee, Russell Hornsby, and Sasha Roiz.

Yes, those four handsome gentlemen were all there, coming in and out of the coffee shop throughout the night. Not knocking the others, but David G. is especially attractive, and this is the first time I've gotten to see his face IRL (as opposed to the back of his head, which isn't half bad either.)

Towards the end of the shoot, I asked a PA if I could go out and watch some of the filming, and was given the OK. It was freezing outside, but I did watch part of the scene where Nick & the others stop Captain Renard from doing a very bad deed. (I guess should be all "spoiler alert," but the episode ("Headache") aired this past Friday, so whatever.)

OMG this episode. Wow. The other episodes I participated in ("Nameless" and "Dyin' On A Prayer") were pretty benign compared to this one. "Headache" was totally gruesome! PG-14V indeed!)

 That's my car on the right... just in front of the silver car. You can see it better in this next pic, there on the left...

That gray building is the coffee shop we were all in. Floyd's Coffee Shop in Old Town! Go visit and buy some chai!

My last instruction of the night? "Leave." At 4am, the episode wrapped, and we all go to go home and sleep for a very long time.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mr. Blythe

I used to hate broccoli.

Not anymore.

I also used to have an aversion toward the 1985 Anne Of Green Gables movie. I was six or seven years old when I first saw it, and, I'll be honest, it frightened me. It had a lot of scary parts. Anne falling off the roof... Anne falling down an old well... Anne getting in trouble over and over and over. I used to hate it when kids in movies got in trouble. Trouble was worse than monsters or volcanoes or sharks or even whirlpools.

But after I graduated high school, I began to take a second look at Anne. My mom checked out the audio book of Anne Of Avonlea from the library, my family listened to it on a cross-country road trip... and I found myself laughing. Back at home, I dug out our old VHS tapes of the movies (complete with breaks for the dreaded PBS pledge drives) and began to immerse myself in the two films (the third one was still a year away and... well, that's a whole 'nother topic.)

From there I...
  • Read the novels (some multiple times).
  • Began watching Road To Avonlea, a spinoff TV series that featured Marilla Cuthbert, Rachel Lynde, and many new characters.
  • Planned and took a trip to Prince Edward Island and visited all the Anne-related sites.
  • Made this.

As an adult, I looked at Anne much differently than I had as a kid. My seven-year-old self had seen Anne getting into terrible, scary situations. My twentysomething self saw Anne getting into awkward, hilarious predicaments. The plots didn't change... but my perspective did. 

I've had several friends over the years who've been Anne fans alongside me, but Jenn is probably the one with whom I've had the most Anne-related conversations. I remember going to her place a few years ago and watching Anne Of Green Gables: The Sequel... and fast-forwarding through all the Kingsport parts and only watching "the Gilbert Scenes." Anne Of Green Gables: The Gilbert Blythe Edition. This method cuts an hour and a half off the movie, but it is oh, so delightful.

Jenn and I are not alone in our love of Gilbert. He has admirers all over the world. Heck, there's even a song about his awesomeness. And although several actors have portrayed him over the years (for instance this guythis guy, and also this guy), the only one we truly cared about was this guy.

Jonathan Crombie was Gilbert Blythe. Jonathan Crombie was to Gilbert Blythe what Colin Firth was to Mr. Darcy. Sure, other people have played the character(s), but they were mostly forgettable. Jonathan Crombie was unforgettable. He made Jenn and me smile and *squee* and, on occasion, send each other pictures of him wearing adorable hats.

On April 18, 2015, Anne fans learned the sad news that Jonathan Crombie had died three days prior.

Our hearts were collectively broken.

No, I didn't know Jonathan Crombie. I'd never met him. I know it may seem strange, my sadness. But Jonathan's performance in the Anne movies has amused and entertained me for so many years. I've come to adore him. And now he is gone... his memory forever preserved in two wonderful films and a third film that's... well, nevermind. It exists. I usually avoid it. Moving on.

As Anne and Gilbert's teacher Mr. Phillips once said, "Let us not have tears. Partings are a natural part of life."

And perhaps they are.

But I just know the next time I watch Anne Of Green Gables (and, knowing me, that'll probably be soon)... it's going to be tough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fuller House? Oh, Puh-Lease!

I grew up watching and loving Full House, so whenever I hear rumors of a reboot, a little part of me gets excited... but the better part of me screams NOOOOO, DANGIT! (I also get this way when I hear people talking about a 4th Back To The Future film, a Goonies sequel, and/or a Harrison Ford-less Indiana Jones. Bad. No. Do not want.)

I'm not sure if a Full House reboot is something I would want, though I will admit that when it was cancelled in 1995, I was quite surprised. I spent many hours thinking of what the Tanners might be doing "in the future." The show was actually doing quite well in the ratings when it was canned. Sure, its quality had deteriorated, and they had started recycling plot lines and throwing continuity out the window (ie Becky is a great singer during the telethon episode, but singing to her kids at bedtime four years later, she's awful) buuut it's a show that I loved... and if shows that I don't love can get reunions and reboots and revivals, why can't Full House? I mean, it's only fair.

The thing is, though... they're saying this show might be on Netflix and that it might be called Fuller House and that it may be about D.J. and Kimmy bein' chums. Don't get me wrong. I like D.J. and I like Kimmy. But is that really the best they can come up with?

Because I've been thinking about this. And I have a few "Full House Reboot" ideas of my own....

Full House Of Friends

Michelle Tanner, now in her 20s, is just trying to make in the big city. She's roommates with Lisa and Denise, and they live next door to Teddy, Derek, and Aaron. Everybody dates everybody else. Romantic complications abound. Similarities to Friends are entirely coincidental. Elizabeth Olsen stars as Michelle. 

Projected Success: 3 seasons on FOX

Empty House

Poor Danny! Everyone has moved out, leaving Danny all alone
in that great big house of his. What's a guy to do? After putting an ad on Craigslist, looking for roommates, Danny is inundated with visits from all kinds of wacky characters, including a guy who just doesn't respect Spring Cleaning Season, and a lady whose red hair reminds him too much of Vicky, God rest her soul. Will Danny find the perfect roommates, or go insane trying? Wanda Sykes and David Spade co-star. 

Projected Success: 1 season on ABC

Full Mansion

After winning the lottery, D.J. and Steve get married and have nine children and move to Beverly Hills. Stephanie, who has been estranged from the family for some time thanks to some really terrible decisions, disguises herself in order to apply for the role of the family's maid. She gets the job, but will she be able to keep her true identity under wraps?

Projected Success: 4 seasons on ABC Family

Full Apartment

Michelle is having great success in the fashion world, and lives in her own place in New York City. She even has a great boyfriend. But her life is thrown for a loop when Stephanie shows up on her doorstep one night, holding nothing but a hamster cage and a hatbox, and convinces Michelle to let her spend the night. One night turns into six months. Things get even crazier when Joey shows up.

Projected Success: Thirteen episodes on NBC

Full-On Crazy

After a painful divorce, Stephanie accepts an invitation from Cousin Steve (Kirk Cameron) to move to Baltimore and become an au pair for his three kids. When she arrives, she's surprised to learn that the kids are huge brats. Can she tame the younguns with her smarts & savvy? Will she successfully teach them how to tap dance and sing Baby Beluga? Hello, is her last name "Tanner"? Well then, of cour-- oh, nevermind, she changed it.

Projected Success: 1 season on The CW

Full House: Seeing Double

Nicky and Alex Katsopolis are all grown up and married, and they both have -- you guessed it -- twins! Naturally, their families all live together -- along with Danny, who has no place else to go after a ne'er-minded pot roast causes his house to burn to the ground, taking all the neighboring homes with it. (He is subsequently run out of San Francisco by an angry mob.) With three sets of twins under one roof, life is never dull. 

Projected Success: 3 seasons on The Disney Channel

Reawaken, San Francisco!

In a post-apocalyptic world, the Tanners are scattered across the globe, trying to make it back to San Francisco in time to say good-bye to Danny, who has contracted a deadly flesh-eating virus. A nuclear waste spill causes Michelle to gain superpowers, and that causes Stephanie to become jealous. Joey, who has spent a lifetime being the joke finally becomes a hero -- and then a zombie.

Projected Success: 1 season, straight to DVD

Which of these would you be most eager to watch? Leave a comment if you dare.

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(in case it wasn't clear, i am, in fact, joking)

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.