Sunday, June 30, 2013

In which I encounter Bing Lee giving a piggyback ride to Peeves... and then some: Harry Potter Con, Day 4



Today, Day 4 of the Harry Potter convention, was the shortest -- and, perhaps, the strangest.

I hadn't been in the convention center two minutes when I encountered three of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast members. They were taking pictures with people out in the hallway. I watched them for a minute, then gathered up the courage to go for a pic. So here is a picture of me with -- never thought I'd say this -- George Wickham, Lydia Bennet, and Bing Lee (Mr. Bingley). HOW CUTE ARE THEY?


Then I went to the vendor exhibit hall for a while, bought a couple more buttons (Snape & the Hufflepuff badger.. add those to my Luna and Ginny ones and I can now represent each Hogwarts House!), and then headed upstairs to listen in on a panel about video games.


Unfortunately, the panel before it ran late, and then the poor guy leading this one had technical difficulties with his presentation. There was some problem with the Wifi at the convention center, and at one point his -- I think it was a Playstation -- wanted to do an update, and it was sooo slow. The update stayed on 0% for quite a while. When it hit 1%, people cheered and clapped. Same when it hit 2%. At 3% I left and went back to the vendor hall. :(

And wow am I glad I did. When I walked in the hall, I saw even more Lizzie cast members gathering for pictures! All my nerve was now gone, though, so I didn't get IN any of the pix, just took some...


Darcy, Lizzie, random fan, Mr. Collins, and Georgiana. Side note: Darcy is totally handsomer in person than in the videos.

Jane was off to the side, by herself, posing for photos....


(I do realize these actors have actually names, which you can find here.)

THEN... In walked Seamus Finnegan!


 (Guy in white/black polo shirt)


And while I was trying to get a photo of him (it was hard, since he had a crowd around him) I spotted Bing Lee giving Peeves the Poltergeist (or at least a kid who'd spent the weekend dressed as him) a piggyback ride around the venue, and they were pranking people and stuff. So while trying to get a shot of them...


... I managed to, unknowingly, get a picture of Young Lily Potter.


(Purple shirt, with the doe patronus and the word "Always." Side note: AWWW.)

I feel bad now because I didn't even see her at the time. But hey, my powers of observation can only do so much!

The hall closed at 2, and we were all supposed to go to the the big auditorium for the closing ceremonies. 

Which were... not what I expected.

I guess I was expecting to see a video recap of the weekend or at least a slideshow, but nay... instead we were treated/subjected to a live webcast where people sat on stage and discussed Harry Potter and themselves and occasionally took questions from the audience for two hours.

One bit of amusement occurred when they announced which couple the con-goers had voted on to "get married" at Leakycon. The fans had chosen Lupin and Sirius. Sirius was wearing his Azkaban clothes, but was bald. They were married by Dumbledore, who introduced the process by going: "Mawidge... is what bwings us togetha today...."

A lot of the audience burst into cheers, though not the man and woman two rows ahead of me who looked at each other and shrugged, then got up and left during the wedding itself. 


Wuv. Twu wuv. (I thought Lupin was married to Tonks? Oh well!)

And then we got that webcast, which I thought would never end. I probably didn't enjoy it that much because I wasn't familiar with the cast. But I did end up walking out early, so maybe I missed the part where it got awesome. AGAIN, OH WELL.

SO.

Overall, was the con worth it?

Yeah.

I didn't have the best time I've ever had in my life or anything. Maybe because I get super reserved when I don't know anyone and none of my friends apparently wanted to go, or could afford to go, and I was a little bit lonely. 

But I did really enjoy the panels, especially:

*Snape's Q&A sessions
*The Pride & Prejudice/HP discussion
*Getting to see & hear Devon Murray, Ellie Darcey-Alden, Scarlett Byrne, Amber Benson, and the LBD cast in person
*Checking out all the cool HP merchandise
*Getting inspired re: some of my own creative pursuits
*Getting to be geeky for four days straight

So yeah. Overall? Good. :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"I joined this club... it had the word 'eaters' in it... I thought that there would be cake....": Harry Potter Con, Day 3

Day 3 Of The Harry Potter Convention...

First off is a panel on the similarities between certain characters in Harry Potter... and other certain characters on Buffy. Now, if they'd done this panel 11 or 12 years ago I'd have been even more enthused, as I was a huge Buffy fan back in the day, but the fact is, it's been that long since I've watched anything past season 3. Oh well; it's still interesting... even if I have no idea who "Kennedy" is and my memories of "Andrew" are wispy at best.

Here are a few of the "pairings" (similar characters) that the mods and the audience members came up with: Faith & Neville, Angel & Dumbledore, Dawn & Ginny, Drusilla & Bellatrix, Wesley & Neville, Tara & Luna, Andrew & Ron, Cordelia & Draco, Tara & Cedric, Tara & Sirius, Darla & Voldemort, Jonathan & Percy, The Mayor & Umbridge, Principal Snyder & Cornelius Fudge, Spike & Dobby, Giles & Lupin, Cordelia & Hermione, Cordelia & Fleur, Darla & Narcissa Malfoy, Harmony & Lavender, and Ethan Rayne and Grindelwald.

If you know who all those characters are, I salute you, totally.

I then head over to LitLand for back-to-back panels; one on publishing, and another in which four writers read aloud their "embarrassing" scribblings from their teen years.



Only... some of the selections -- save for a few funny word choices and unintended double entendres -- really aren't that bad. Really. They had talent, even then. But the stories get some laughs -- mostly because the authors read their work in mocking voices -- oh, and those double entendres I mentioned. (Cover your ears, underaged wizards!)

Next up, a round-table (round-floor?) discussion on which Hogwarts House the characters of Pride & Prejudice would be sorted into. (Ulltimate geekery, amirite?)



Here's the consensus:

Elizabeth Bennet: Either Ravenclaw (because of her wit and smarts) or Gryffindor (because of her bravery). [I had penned her as a Ravenclaw.]

Darcy: Slytherin or Gryffindor. [Slytherin? No way. Darcy is not a Slytherin.]

Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet: Pretty much everyone agreed on Hufflepuff. [Yep.]

Lydia: Lots of discussion about her. Survey says? Slytherin or Gryffindor. Others say she's too airheaded for any of those, so she'd probably end up in Hufflepuff because that house will take anybody. Another person offers that Lydia might actually just be a squib. [I would actually give Lydia the benefit of Gryffindor because she reminds me a lot of Lavender Brown.]

Charlotte Lucas: Ravenclaw or Slytherin. [I would lean toward Ravenclaw, because while her snatching up Mr. Collins was pretty cunning, I don't think that act alone should define her.]

Mr. Collins: Slytherin or Hufflepuff. [I'm certain he's a Slytherin, the way he always name-drops Lady Catherine and tries to make himself sound awesome by association constantly. (Then again, he's very much like Peter Pettigrew, who was technically a Gryffindor, though perhaps a misplaced one.)

Mr. Wickham: Slytherin. [No kidding.]

Mr. Bennet & Mary: Ravenclaw. [Fair enough.]

The hour ends just as we were trying to figure out Mrs. Bennet. [Probably for the best; is that woman even... figure-out-able? She'd probably cause the sorting hat to need therapy.]

As we get up to leave, I ask a girl to let me take a picture of her awesome shoulder bag:



I want it.

I decide to take in one more panel before I break for lunch. At first I sit down in a room that's going to show a documentary, but then I decide I'd rather take in Ladies Creating Content For Youtube (because... hey, I used to do that!), so I make my way across the venue and sit in for that panel, which proves to be interesting, though I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with any of of the ladies' youtube channels. (But I do love me some youtube!)



Lunch at Burgerville (yay!), then I walk to a nearby Walgreens for some stuff. I walk six blocks and I pass, I kid you not, three Starbucks. Here is proof:



Is this necessary? It must be to somebody....

 I head back to the convention center for one last panel of the day... and it's more Snape! Yeah, I know I went to one of his panels yesterday, but he's hilarious, so I need more!


Today the audience is smaller, so more people get to ask questions.

I ask if Snape had a pet when he was young. He says no, but that he knows of a fanfic in which he has a cat.

Later I ask about the Hogwarts' professors' sleeping quarters, as we never got to see them, only their offices. He replies that his room at Hogwarts was "small... dark... walls of books and potions... the bed is long...." He then mentions that he does not care for hotels with their short beds and tiny showers. 

He gets everyone to break into a rendition of this by simply making the ticking sound. Oh yeah. We're all crazy.

Later, he dances, per someone's request.


After Snape's Q&A session comes to a close, I wait in line to get a photo with him, then head home. That's it for me, at least for Day 3. The con wraps up tomorrow. I may go. I'll probably go. There isn't much on the schedule but I kind of don't want to miss my last chance at Potter immersion. It is, after all, quite fantastic.

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Don't you DARE victimize Severus Snape!": Harry Potter Con, Day 2

Day 2 Of the Harry Potter Convention...

9 am: I head to my first panel of the day: How Do You Leakycon? This is a seminar for HP convention first-timers (like me!) Those who've blazed the trails before us give tips and advice on convention etiquette and things to expect. People here have a  lot of questions. I learn... well, I swear I did learn some things, but I can't remember what any of them were. (ETA: Oh! Yes, now I remember, this is where I learned about the Snape panel. It wasn't in the con booklet and I might I have not gotten to see it! Thanks, HDYL!)

None of the 10:00 panels really interest me, so I wander around the vendor hall for a bit... and lo, off to one end of the hall, a game of Quidditch breaks out! I always did wonder how people (well, Muggles) played this game. The brooms don't really fly, so technically, they're totally pointless. The players just run around with one between their legs because... whimsy? I guess?


Not gonna lie... it looks seriously strange.

Soon I head upstairs to get in line for the 11:00 panel of Lizzie Bennet Diaries writers. Because I'm interested in adaptations of classic works, y'all. There are five writers, and one of them admits she's never read Pride & Prejudice (the book on which LBD is based, in case that isn't obv.) Yet... she was responsible for the writing of Lydia on the web series. And somehow, after having viewed Lydia's vlogs, I can't say this admission particularly surprises me, as LBD's Lydia deviated more from the book than any other character, in my opinion. Except for maybe Charlotte. And Mary. And... oh, nevermind.



After that panel ends, nearly everyone there treks across the convention center to the main hall, where we will get to listen to a panel of the Lizzie Bennet actors! Lizzie, Jane, Lydia, Charlotte, Darcy, Bing, Gigi (Georgiana), and Mr. Collins are all present. It's interesting enough, but I end up ducking out halfway through and heading to some of the Lit panels. I paid extra for them; I am going to experience them, darnit.


Did I mention there are up to 9 different events going on at any one time? That may not sound like a lot to seasoned con-goers, but I am just one person! I can not go to more than one at a time! 

And decisions are hard! :(


The second Lit Panel I sit in on, What's It Like Being A Writer? intrigues me. Authors Andrea Cremer, Amber Benson (Tara!), Heather Brewer, and Matt De La Pena talk about themselves and answer questions about life as a professional author. Listening to writers speak about their craft always makes me want to go home and start typing. 

But do I? 

DO I EVER?

 (Okay, sometimes I do.)

After that I attend part of a panel on book covers and why so many of them have headless models on them. But I shoot out early, because I want to make sure I get a good seat for Professor Snape: Out Of The Darkness And Into The Shadows, in which an Alan Rickman doppelganger poses as Snape and answers questions from the audience, in character. (Seven hours into the Harry Potter convention, and this (aside from watching two minutes of Quidditch) is my first Potter-related event. Odd.) Snape is very entertaining, but when he is talking about how James and Sirius bullied him, the girl to my left begins to cry out, "No! No! Don't you dare victimize Severus Snape! He was not a victim! He retaliated!" She repeats some version of this lament about six times over the next few minutes, but never loud enough for Snape to actually hear. She might as well be shaking her fist and going, "Why, I oughta..." I kind of want to slap her.


After the Snapefest, I get dinner, then make my way over to a 5:30 panel. On my way I'm distracted by what's happening on the main stage. I enter and sit down. There are the three actors from the HP movies, Ellie Darcey-Alden (young Lily), Devon Murray (Seamus), and Scarlett Byrne (Pansy Parkinson). Now, I know I said that the HP-actors lineup for this con wasn't as impressive as it could be, but I guess I take it back, because those three were very cute and funny and, heck with it, if we can't get Jason Isaacs, well... 


I swear, they were there. I know cell phone pictures suck.

The actors were great. Really.

And so ends Day 2 for me, even though there's a Wizard Rock concert later. I opt for some R&R instead, back in my own home and bed. (Really, I don't envy all these people who came to Leakycon from other cities. Except I kind of do, because they're getting to explore a new city, and when isn't that fun? Vac8ion!)

Day 3, tomorrow: that Snape guy's going to be reading from Tales Of Beedle The Bard. I am so there.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oh, just people wearing wizard hats, move along, nothing to see here: Harry Potter Con, Day 1

Day 1 Of The Harry Potter convention (Leakycon 2013)...


At the Convention Center, appropriately

I pick up my name badge and swag bag


It contains stuff


This place is pretty crowded.


Some of these people are buying Butterbeer.

I do not buy Butterbeer. I buy pins!


Snape is here.


 And here...


Time for a Wizard show!


 Yay I can almost see the stage!


 A musical has broken out. It includes Frodo, Samwise, Belle, Dr. Who, and oh my god it's Loki. My night is ruined.

Back at the vendor hall...




Wands!


Is it weird that I don't want a wand unless it can actually do stuff? Like accio people for me?

Well, pretty tired now. More con tomorrow....

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All About Everything - Week of June 25, 2013

This Week's Topic: Warner Bros. Studio Store

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Warner Bros. Studio Store was a chain of retail stores selling Looney Tunes and other merchandise based on Warner Bros. films, similar in style to The Disney Store. They first opened in 1991 and when Warner Bros. owner Time Warner merged with Turner Broadcasting (which owned Hanna-Barbera and the pre-1986 MGM library) in 1996, merchandise based on Turner properties were added to the product lines. In 2001 all Warner Bros. Studio Stores went out of business after just ten years but in 2006 the stores were reopened in China when Warner Bros. Consumer Products partnered with PMW Retail.

* * * * *

In the mid-90s I had a thing for Superman. Okay, I still do. But back then, it wasn't very easy to procure Man Of Steel merchandise. You couldn't find it in regular stores (believe me, I tried. Not until about 1997, when the animated series caught on.) And online shopping wasn't a thing yet. Internet merchants existed, but you usually just had to ask them to send you a paper catalog. So I was sad. I had a meager allowance and dangit, I wanted to spend it on Superman stuff! 

One day, I learned about a thing called The WB Store, aka the Warner Bros. Studio Store. And I learned that there was one in a mall across town. I begged my mom to take me there, and she did. I remember walking into this giant room just full of... okay mostly Looney Tunes stuff, but oh, there were other things. There were Animaniacs. There was Batman. And there was Superman.:)

There was never a lot of Superman stuff. Usually there'd be three or four things each time I visited. And I would buy one or two of them. I managed to convince somebody to take me there at least two times a year for the next few years. After high school, I discovered how to get there via public transit (it only took an hour each way!) and would often bring a friend. 

In the late 90's, the WB Store started selling Buffy merchandise, so I began branching out with my purchases. In 2001, they even started offering Harry Potter stuff. Strangely, that's the year the WB Stores all closed. I guess the company figured they could sell the same stuff online, but... it would never be the same for me.

Sometimes I still visit that mall (Washington Square, near Tigard, OR) and gaze longingly at the space the WB Store once occupied (I think it's a clothing store, now.) I remember the excitement I used to have at the mere thought of going there. Then the sheer bliss I felt stepping through the doors and into a world of things that I loved. The fun of choosing something cool, buying it, and bringing it home to add to my collection.

I miss you, WB Store.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Juror

The Juror

(Or: My Week On Jury Duty)


Monday

Today I'm off to jury duty. Yeah. They got me. Again. This is my fourth time being summoned. And I happen to know people who've NEVER had to do it. Justice indeed....

The last time I had to do this it was only for one day -- one long day of sitting around in the "jury room," unable to read a book because of the giant TV blaring over on the left, subsisting on snacks from the vending machine because I wasn't familiar with the neighborhood and didn't know I was a mere six blocks from food stands galore. They've upped it to two days, now. Oh well. At least they're gonna pay me. Like, $10. MONEYZ! :/

Jury room, 8am: I find a seat and begin what I'm sure will be a day of boredom. And then, in comes Stephanie*. I don't know Stephanie, but within half an hour I will know about her childhood, love life, medical issues, hopes, fears, dreams, and the criminal histories of her nearest and dearest. And it's not that Stephanie is even talking to me. Actually, she's sitting six feet away, talking to some other people. But her voice carries. I'm glad I'm not friends with this woman; she sounds utterly tragic.

By 9am, I have to go to the bathroom. The jury room bathrooms have the advantage of containing a speaker so that if there are any important announcements, even those going about their business will hear those announcements clearly. Problem: I am in the midst of -- well, you know -- when some important lady gets on the loudspeaker and says she's about to call a bunch of names for the first jury selection of the day. And if we hear our name, we must reply "here!" loudly. I panic. I better hurry up and get out of here; what if she calls my name? Oh, she won't... I mean, what are the odds? There are two hundred people in that jury room and she's only going to call about twenty names, so....

Yeah, she totally calls my name. And then again. And again. I rush out of the bathroom just as she's saying, "Well, maybe she's in the bathroom." I call, "here!" Laughter from the audience. I laugh along. Ha ha ha. It's so funny. It's not, really, but I figure if that's the worst thing that'll happen to me today, I'm okay. 

Up we go, the twenty of us, to a courtroom. Stephanie, the tragic chatterbox, has been called, too. Lord, if I get stuck on a jury with that girl, I'm going to throw a shoe. 

Inside the courtroom there are two lawyers. The plaintiff's lawyer is short and balding and reminds me of one of my college professors. But since you don't know who that is, I'll just call this guy George. The lawyer for the defense is a bit older, with glasses, and he's dressed very sharply indeed. I'll call him Paul.

The judge is a lady. She welcomes us to her courtroom and then asks each potential juror to reply to some questions from a list that she has on a big poster, things like our name, occupation, who we live with, and if we've ever been involved in court proceedings before. I've done questionnaire stuff in the past... the last time I was on jury duty. I wasn't invited to actually join that jury, however. I just got questioned and dismissed. I'm hoping my luck will continue today, especially when the judge says that this case is probably going to go all week. I don't want to spend the next four days here! Some of the other potential jurors must feel the same, because a few of them give excuses as to why they can not stay. The judge dismisses several folks, including Stephanie The Sad. I am relieved.

Then we are individually questioned by the lawyers. In the midst of all this, we learn that this is a civil case and, as Lawyer George puts it, his client is asking for "a big number" when it comes to money. (Later, we learn that this so-called big number is roughly $3 million. $3 million is a big number? Maybe I'm just jaded from watching too much television, but people get ransomed for more than that. This choice of wording is the first of many choices that will lead me to believe that George (and, for his own part, Paul) are trying to manipulate my mind with their lawyery tomfoolery. But more on that later.)

In the end, I am selected for the jury. There are twelve of us in all, plus two alternates. The alternates don't know who they are, but they are among the last seven that were chosen. Since I was chosen fifth or sixth, I know I am not an alternate. Which is good because I would be pretty annoyed if I spent the whole week listening to testimony and then was sent home without getting to do some judgin'.

Opening statements. Then lunch. They hand out notebooks and pens to all the jurors. Notetaking, yeah!

In comes the first witness. I'll call him Walter. Walter's wife is the plaintiff. I'll call her Mary. She's the one suing for $3 million. Walter takes the stand and says that Mary has been different since The Accident. She suffers from ailments aplenty. Sometimes, says Walter, when Mary is speaking, she forgets the names of everyday objects. This, according to Walter, is highly distressing for all. My ears prick up. Shoot, I forget words all the time. And they want HOW much money for this?

Other afflictions of Mary's include a lack of interest in the hobbies she once loved, a change in her eyesight, a twitch of her head, neck soreness, etc. Well. None of those sound that out of the ordinary, especially when you're in your sixties, as Mary is. And her lawyer says that these afflictions were all caused by The Accident? And that the causers of the accident (the defendants) should pay? Oh, this is gonna be a long week....


Tuesday

Today's first witness is a doctor for the plaintiff's side. He says that after The Accident, Mary did not get a CT scan at the hospital. Darn hospital, if they would only have done one (though they had no real reason to) they would have seen that Mary had been physically damaged by The Accident. BUT NO. FOOLS.

A friend of Mary's takes the stand. She says she has known Mary for about ten years, through their joint hobbies. Her testimony, as a whole, seems pretty useless, but on her way out of the courtroom she gives Mary's shoulder a squeeze. I feel for Mary. I feel for this lady. Twinge of sadness. EMOTIONS, NOOO!

Next witness: Mary herself! She doesn't sound like she has a difficult time speaking... at least no more than your average introvert would...  and mentally, she seems pretty with it. And then, a possible flub. We know that in a deposition Mary gave, she stated one thing about her post-accident physical activities -- but here on the stand, she says the opposite. Did the other jurors catch that? I write furiously in my notebook.

Throughout the day we learn all kinds of stuff about Mary and her ailments, all of which leave me going, "but that's easily treatable! And so's that! And that!" We hear that Mary doesn't exercise anymore. That she doesn't follow a doctor's diet but one she came up with herself. And that she doesn't take prescription medications, ever, if she can help it. 

So if not for treatment, just what ARE you planning to use that $3 mil for, Mary? I begin to feel bitter. I want good things for Mary, but only if she can be HELPED. If she's not willing to... oh, I don't even know anymore.

One thing I can say, though, is that this trial... this process... is so interesting. I had thought that sitting and listening to blathering testimony for four or five days would be mind-numbing, but it really isn't. It's like watching a crime drama on TV... okay, a poorly-edited, mediocrely-acted one, but a drama nonetheless. This... dare I say it... is actually kind of fun!

Plus, I love getting to eat lunch downtown each day. So many dining options! I think of how I could be at work instead, eating another cold, packed lunch, sitting in my dimly-lit room at my cluttered desk. Instead I get to eat out in the sun, by a fountain. Yo ho, yo ho, a juror's life for me!


Wednesday

The day begins with a video witness, which in reality is just a witness who wasn't able to come to court, because of his doctorly duties, I presume, but it feels kind of special, like a Video Daily Double on Jeopardy. I mean, sure, videos slow the whole process down, but then they don't happen every day, so.... 

Video Witness shows us brain scan after brain scan from an MRI of Mary. Wow. Photographic slicing of the head. This is really awkward, especially considering Mary is sitting right over there. According to VW, Mary's brain looks pretty dang normal for a person her age, so it is unlikely it got damaged in The Accident at all.

Two more witnesses -- one a doctor, the other, a nurse practitioner. The doctor proves to be an amusing witness because he gets very cranky when being questioned by Lawyer Paul. He starts to act all testy, and I wonder if he will explode with anger. I wonder if it'll be like on TV where he's called a hostile witness, dragged out of the courtroom, and sent to a holding cell until he's cooled down. Or... if none of that actually happens and I'm just crazy. Probable.

We learn that Mary has been prescribed many, many medications of the years, and has taken many of them. So wait... what was she saying yesterday, about not taking medications? WHY DOESN'T THIS MAKE ANY SENSE? Maybe it's the Lit major in me, but I've always been fairly good at spotting inconsistencies when presented with a bunch of information. And I'm spotting them here, definitely. I wonder if the other jurors are catching all this? MARY, WTF, YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE THIS CASE IF YOU KEEP THIS UP. Okay, well, carry on.

We learn that Mary's cognitive abilities have allegedly diminished since The Accident. To prove this, Exhibit #4.7 or whatever is... I give you... Mary's high school and college transcripts. We're talking transcripts from the 1960's. Back then, Mary got mostly A's and B's, proving (?) that she was once highly intelligent. Heavens, if I ever make it to my sixties and wind up in court and have MY TRANSCRIPTS displayed as evidence with me sitting right there, I will just die. But then, is that really worse than an entire roomful of strangers being treated to scans/pictures of the interior of your head? I'll have to think about that one.

By the end of Wednesday I have not heard a single thing that has convinced me Mary's current troubles are a direct result of The Accident. And that's what Mary's lawyer George really needs to prove. Oh, George... it's not looking good, pal. With two days to go, and mostly witnesses for the defense to hear from -- I wonder if my mind can and will possibly be changed by Friday. I wonder if the other jurors are thinking the same thoughts I am. (We're not allowed to discuss the case with one another.) I wonder what will happen in the end?


Thursday

We start at 9. We hear the testimony of two doctors who are witnesses for the defense. They both seem very intelligent, but as this is the fourth day of testimony, we jurors are hearing a lot of repeat information and I'm beginning to grow tired. I keep waiting to hear that ONE key piece of evidence that might sway my current opinion on the case. I keep waiting....

Meanwhile, I am becoming acutely aware of the way the lawyers word things. The way that a seemingly simple sentence can have undertones and overtones and that each word is calculated with the ultimate goal of reaching into my brain and manipulating it to respond accordingly.

It feels strange to me, too, that I will get to play a part in the outcome of this case. It's not like watching a law show on television, where you can root for one party, but you have no say in how things turn out. Here, the things I am hearing are things that it is MY responsibility to process. I am going to have to make a big decision soon. And these lawyers, seriously, need to stop trying to get in my head, because I'M ON TO YOU, AND YOU ARE MAKING ME MAD.

Today we are granted a two-hour lunch. I grab a sandwich at a local shop, then hitch a ride on the streetcar to Jamison Square. JS is home to a fountain that serves as an urban swimming hole for hipster toddlers. Today is no exception; the preschool set is out in droves. I eat, and then go hang out at Powell's for a while. Two hours to kill downtown. Man, a girl could get used to this!

After lunch, another witness, and then... that's it! For witnesses, at least. The judge then reads us jurors a booklet of information. Closing arguments: George keeps it simple; Paul drones on. Then it's time to deliberate.

The two "alternate" jurors are dismissed without ceremony. I'm sad because they are two people I kind of liked. The rest of us are put in a small room next door to the courtroom. We're supposed to choose a "leader," or at least someone who can hand the judge the verdict in the end. Some of the others immediately turn to Redshirt, a guy who has been making a lot of small talk over the past few days. Redshirt agrees, and power immediately seems to go to his head. Around the juror table, people all keep trying to talk at once, but instead of trying to moderate the mayhem, Redshirt joins the fray. Finally we agree to use a freaking talking stick... of sorts.

It takes more than an hour for us to go around the table and for each person to have a chance to speak his piece. I'm growing frustrated because I'm starting to see that some people weren't listening to the proceedings as closely as I was (I took nine pages of notes, dangit!). When I bring up some key connections and contradictions that I saw throughout the trial, a few people nod in agreement but others look at me like "What? I didn't hear them say those things!" WHY WERE NOT YOU LISTENING? Roar.

It's nearly 5 o'clock, and we're nowhere near agreeing on anything, so we decide to reconvene Friday morning. I spend half of Thursday night in agony because I suddenly remember that I think we all overlooked a key component of the case. Perhaps that can be remedied in the morning (it is), but until morning comes, I am distressed.


Friday

I don't particularly like riding the Max. Lest I be a traitor to the coalition for a greener Portland, I find it to be mostly bothersome. Bumpy, pungent, and too many stops. On the plus side, I can now say, "This is a Green Line train to Portland City Center and Hillsboro" en EspaƱol, so I suppose its nothing if not educational. I've learned some other new words, too, but alas -- they are unprintable. ;)

Back to deliberation in the jury room. Opinions all differ, but we have a job to do... and that is to decide what damages -- meaning money -- we should award Mary (if any). We all know there WAS An Accident, but that was three years ago. Mary is currently suffering, but how much of that pain and suffering was BECAUSE OF The Accident? How much money should she get? We all seem to agree on what to award for "economic damages" (she had actual medical bills that, I guess, insurance didn't cover, right afterward) But the "noneconomic"? The good ol' "pain and suffering" stuff? Not so easy. I'm rather inclined to think that Mary and her lawyer deserve nothing because, let's face it, they didn't prove their case. Not by a long shot. But some of the other jurors are throwing out bigger numbers, ie $500,000. I'm appalled. It's not that I think large amounts should never be awarded in civil cases; but in this case? No, no, no.

We try to compromise, first with everyone throwing out an amount and someone calculating the average, then everyone adjusting their figures. Then informal voting. Only 9 out of 12 people need to agree in order for the verdict to be official. After nearly 2 hours, enough of us agree on an amount. It's far more than I would have wanted to award, but much less than half a million, and much MUCH less (of course) than that $3 million they wanted. Thank. Goodness. For. Reason.

Redshirt takes a note to the judge to say we're ready. Now we can relax and talk about anything. Someone brings up the subject of Stephanie. Remember her, from Monday? Apparently several of my fellow jurors were also privy to her many complaints and woes. Girl sure made an impression! I wonder where she is now? Hmmm... wait, don't care.

Before too long we're called into the courtroom and the judge reads the verdict aloud. I try to gauge the reactions of the lawyers, Mary, and the others involved, but everyone appears stoic. Neither George nor Paul bursts into tears, so... that's good? Guess no one's exactly happy with the amount, though... George wanted it to be more, Paul wanted it to be less. Now, come to think of it, Mary's husband looks pretty dejected. Well, I'm sorry for your wife's troubles, but I'm also sorry this whole crazy thing had to go to trail. Also sorry your lawyer didn't prove your case.

Afterwards, as I head home, I begin to have doubts. Was I wrong in not wanting to give Mary much money? Sure, her lawyer didn't prove her case, but... she's probably upset with the amount. After having to go through so much... The Accident, this lawsuit... having her brain scans, medical problems, even her high school transcripts presented to a bunch of strangers... could any amount of money make her feel better after all that? Did I make the right decision? Did we, the jury, consult ALL the facts? Did some people act on emotion? OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE???

Being a juror is interesting, but it's also kind of powerful. You're basically a judge divided into twelve parts. And I really don't like that power. I should... I mean, I should at least feel honored or satisfied that I did this, but... guh, it's so annoying to be left with that feeling of Did I do the right thing??? especially when it's concerning someone else's life!

Well, overall, the week wasn't bad. I enjoyed being downtown, I liked being in the courtroom and learning a bunch of interesting things from the doctor-witnesses. I did not like deliberating with a bunch of people, some of whom were dominating and loud-mouthed. I did NOT like having to make a huge decision. I did not like the feeling I had afterward.

And now, thank goodness, I've got three long years before I can be called for jury duty again. I'll cherish those years.

But I may head downtown for lunch a little more often in the future.... :)


*All names have been changed.... I think.



Friday, June 21, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of June 18, 2013

This Week's Topic: Malbone Street Wreck


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Malbone Street Wreck, also known as the Brighton Beach Line Accident of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), was a rapid transit railroad accident that occurred November 1, 1918, beneath the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Malbone Street (now known as Empire Boulevard), in the community of Flatbush, Brooklyn. At least 93 individuals died, making it one of the deadliest train crashes in the history of the United States.

The wreck occurred the evening of November 1, 1918 at 6:42 PM, during the last days of World War I. An elevated train, consisting of five cars constructed primarily of wood, entered the tunnel portal beneath Malbone Street going toward the Prospect Park station, negotiating a curve designated to be taken at six miles per hour (9.6 km/h) at a speed estimated at between 30 and 40 mph (48–65 km/h). The trailing truck of the first car derailed, and the two following cars completely left the tracks, tearing off their left-hand sides and most of their roofs. The first and fourth cars sustained relatively minor damage, while the second and third cars were severely damaged, the third so badly that it was dismantled on the spot. The fifth suffered no damage at all. The motorman was not injured and left the scene of the accident.

.....

The motorman was Edward Luciano, a crew dispatcher with light experience operating elevated trains, who was pressed into service during the strike emergency. He had never operated an elevated train in passenger service before. He was not familiar with the Brighton Beach Line, and his only experience moving trains was parking non-revenue trains in a train yard a year earlier. He had been taken over the line earlier by a motorman-instructor as part of his two hours of training prior to the disaster. Normally a motorman in that era received sixty hours of training before being allowed to control a revenue-generating train.

.....

In the wake of the tragedy, Malbone Street was renamed Empire Boulevard, a name it still bears today.

*****

I find this last fact to be creepy... deliciously so. You could walk down Empire Boulevard today and not know about the events that happened 95 years ago in that very place. It's like when a building burns down and a new one is built there. Or when someone builds a house and later they find out they built it on an ancient burial ground. I don't know why that fascinates me. It probably shouldn't. Oh well.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Brick Critique: Minifigure Birthday Set

Once upon a time, there was a minifig named Johnny.

Johnny's tenth birthday didn't go quite as he had imagined and hoped.

For one thing, Johnny's parents forgot their son was even having a birthday until the night before. Once they realized their error, they made a mad rush to throw a last-minute bash, but alas... all of Johnny's friends were already busy, and every decent entertainer in the city was already booked. Everyone, that is, except... 

Brocco the Clown.


Brocco, short for Broccoli, came highly unrecommended. Brocco's moniker had something to do with the vegetable-green wig he always wore. Or WAS it a wig? Some had their doubts. Brocco's act was simple: blast a bugle, dance on pies, and make the children laugh, whatever it took.

And so Brocco was hired to entertain at Johnny's birthday party, but Johnny's parents still had a problem. Birthdays required presents, and they had no presents to give. But they did have wrapping paper and some miscellaneous trinkets in the attic, and so, after Johnny went to bed, they wrapped up a few of the salvaged goods.

At long last (roughly eight hours later) the big day arrived. Johnny was thrilled to walk into the living room that morning and see a a bunch of balloons waiting for him, along with a white banner bearing... hmmm, that was strange... there was nothing on it. Puzzled as he was, Johnny chose not to mention it.

"Happy birthday, son!" his parents cried. "Boy, do we have a big surprise for you!"

"What is it?!" Johnny gasped.

"You'll just have to wait and see," his father said cryptically.

The doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" Johnny's mother sang. "Johnny, why don't you go see who it is?"

Johnny made a dash for the front door and flug it open. And then....

A primal scream could be heard throughout the neighborhood and into the neighborhoods beyond. 

"Be polite!" Johnny's father hissed to his son, as he elbowed him in the ribs. "We paid good money for this -- uh, I mean, he's a very special guest."

And so Johnny, not wanting to make his parents feel bad, pasted a smile on his face and forced himself to pretend he wasn't utterly terrified of the sight he saw before him: Brocco, holding a pie in one hand, a bugle in the other, his face shining with pure, unadulterated glee.

"Come in, come in," Johnny's father said to the clown, ushering him into the house.

For the next half hour, Brocco played his bugle, danced a jig on the pie, and performed several scenes from It.


Johnny's plastic smile wavered more and more with each passing moment.

Soon it was time for presents. From his parents, Johnny received several Christmas ornaments and some Kenny G cassette tapes. When he was finished unwrapping these gifts, Johnny looked to his parents. "Mom? Dad?" he asked. "Can I go take a nap now?"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Brocco. "There's still one present you haven't opened! It's from meeee!"

Fingers trembling with fear, Johnny took the colorfully-wrapped box from Brocco and began to tear the paper off. After removing multiple layers of wrappings, he came to the inside of the box. And there within, he saw something brown and fuzzy.

 "What is it, Johnny?" asked Dad.

Johnny gingerly removed the object from the box and held it up for everyone to see. "Um..."

"Why, it's a wig!" cried his mother happily.


"Try it on, Johnny!" Dad urged.

"But DA-AD! It's a GIRL'S wig!"

Johnny's father looked stern. "Now, Son, Brocco was kind enough to bring you a present. Don't be rude, now. Try it on."

Johnny looked at his father. He looked as his mother, who was nodding encouragingly. And then he looked at Brocco.

And then...

 he snapped.


That was the last anyone ever saw of Brocco, and Johnny and his parents aren't talking.

Now YOU can recreate the tragic story of Johnny and Brocco with Lego's Minifigure Birthday Set for only $9.99! It comes with Brocco, Johnny, presents, a paper banner, and a female wig. Johnny's parents not included.


Thoughts on Man Of Steel

Thoughts on Man Of Steel.


Welcome to Krypton, where there are... dinosaurs? And the TV images look like they're made out of molten lead. And there are babies floating under water in bubbles.

Meanwhile, a woman is having a baby and he's got a funny-shaped head and this is Kal-El.



Russell Crowe is this baby's father. He should be happy, but he is not because there is a new villain in town who kind of looks like Joaquin Phoenix and is one horn helmet shy of being utterly lame. This villain's name is General Zod.


Zod is dealt with (Phantom Zone! Buhbye!) but Krypton is doomed because its core is going to explode in a couple weeks, so Russell Crowe and his wife send their baby to Earth and he grows up to be a hot sailor named Clark Kent. 


One day, Clark jumps aboard a burning vessel, shirtless (but not... pantsless) to save some other dudes, and he's all on fire but the fire can't burn his chest hair or beard because it is just that badass


Seriously, why lose the shirt but not the pants? Are the pants flame-retardant? Oh well, so he saves the in-peril sailors and then he comes ashore and steals some guy's laundry so he won't be walking around all shirtless and buff (because that would be... bad?) Then he goes to work at a bar where customers are mean, but instead of punching the crap out of one of the meanies (as he did in Superman II) he simply ties the guy's truck around a pole. Funny. Mean.

Flashbacks galore! When Clark is a young boy he suffers from sensory overload issues that land him in a closet, ala that kid from The Sixth Sense. The other kids think he's a freak. Little Clark can't see dead people, but he CAN see your still-beating heart, Teacherlady, and that's pretty gross, so he'll go hide from you now. Martha Kent arrives to calm her son down. "Focus on my voice," she says. He does. All is well.

Later, Teen Clark saves a bus full of kids after the vehicle plunges into a lake. (Where were you in The Sweet Hereafter, Clark, I ASK YOU?) The other kids see that he has amazing gifts. They tell Clark's parents. Dad, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner, lectures Clark and tells him that it may be better to just let people die rather than reveal his secret because the world just isn't ready for big fat alien secrets. This turns out to be IRONY FORESHADOWING.


So then Clark is an adult again (beard!) and he's found out about some unusual thing up in Polar Bear Land, so he heads up to the area where the government yokels are investigating. Lois Lane is there, too, and when she spots Clark sneaking up into the top-secret... stuff... in the dead of night, she follows him. Turns out Clark has found a Kryptonian... ship thing... anyway, long story short, Lois almost gets dead but Clark saves her and then takes the Kryptonian ship and flies off with it. Oh, and Russell Crowe talks to him from beyond the grave and is all Kal... I am your father... here's a headless suit for you to weaaarrrr.... That's nice that Martha doesn't have to sew it.

Afterwards, Lois is intrigued because this dude with glowing red eyes has saved her life, so she decides to write an article about her "guardian angel," only Perry White, aka Laurence Fishburne, aka Cowboy Curtis from PeeWee's Playhouse, won't run the story because Aliens. Lois does some further investigating -- talking to a bunch of people who've witnessed miracles from a mysterious dude, and, without a whole lot of effort, finds her way to Clark.

Clark decides to flashback to how his father died. Apparently it happened when he was about 18. The Kent family's all driving along and Clark plays the "you're not my REAL father" card. Anyone who's familiar with Superhero movies knows that you might as well just kiss Dad goodbye at this point. So in comes the obligatory Killer Kansas Tornado and Jonathan tells Clark to take a small girl to safety, then he runs back to rescue their dog. 


But then he gets hurt. And Clark just stands there. Jonathan manages to stand up, but his leg is injured and here comes the tornado. Clark just stands there. Jonathan holds up one hand as if to say "I'm fine, don't save me, this is for the best." So Clark just stands there some more and watches as his father gets sucked up by a tornado because that's what his father wants. THIS IS DISTURBING. Why doesn't Clark have super breath in this movie? Just blow the tornado away. OMG why are you just standing there? Now you've killed him. Great. Happy Father's Day, everybody!

Back to the present. So because Clark accessed that Kryptonian ship earlier, General Zod is alerted to his presence and comes to Earth to find him. Zod hijacks all the TVs, Twilight Zone-style, and threatens everybody with certain doom if they do not turn in The Alien. Clark doesn't trust Zod, but he also doesn't want the Earth to be in peril, so he goes to Zod, and Zod demands Lois Lane as well. They go aboard this ship. 


Lois has to wear a special breathing helmet but Clark does not; however, Clark goes all ill because he's not used to this new environment. The baddies scan their brains and learn where Clark lives, among other things. Oh, and earlier Clark handed Lois a S-shield-shaped key thingie and she puts it in a slot which summons the ghost of Russell Crowe, who helps her escape. And then Clark escapes. And then he saves Lois who is falling toward Earth and things are all cute for five seconds, until Clark realizes oh no, Zod knows where Mommy lives, so he goes there and, yep, sure enough, the bad guys are there, so he attacks (you don't mess with mamas) and then fighting commences.

So for the next hour, we have Clark fighting the bad guys, one after the other, but mostly Zod and this other lady. Somehow they move the fighting to Metropolis. Oh, because I guess Zod is trying to reformat the Earth or something. Cars and things get sucked up and spit back out. Buildings crumble. People scream and run for cover. Well, most of them do. Some just stand there like "hey, that's kinda cool." WHAM! BIFF! POW! More explosions. Hey, wasn't this the plot of The Avengers? I'm tired of seeing these movies where cities are destroyed and thousands of people die. Like, how is this entertainment? Thinking of Dark Knight and the Iron Mans too. If these movies were all in the same universe (and I realize they are not) we wouldn't HAVE any more humans, they'd all be smushed and/or incinerated, but whatever.

Also, didn't Superman II have a helluva long scene where Superman fights Zod and they destroy a bunch of stuff? And wasn't it tedious and dumb then? Yes.

Okay, so while all this is happening, Lois is somehow managing to stay within eyesight of Clark. Oh, first she figures out a way to stop Zod using the ship Clark came to Earth in. That's good. So the government dudes work on that plan. Meanwhile we keep switching to the saga of "what's happening to the Daily Planet employees in all this?" 


Oh no, Jenny is trapped beneath some rubble! Wait, who the hell is Jenny? I think they changed Jimmy Olsen's gender. Why. Oh good, she's okay. Perry's okay, too. Whew, I guess. For a minute or two, things get calm and Lois and Clark kiss and it's cool and all but then he's like "NEED MOAR ACTION" so he leaves to go hulk smash Zod some more.


Superman finally gets the better of Zod by doing the one thing Superman is never ever supposed to do. (Sadface.) Now Zod is dead. And now everyone is safe... except half the city is in utter ruins. Huzzah?


Epilogue. Clark decides to become a reporter, so he gets a job at the Daily Planet (which is still, remarkably, intact), and, of course, Lois is already working there, and she totally knows who Clark is so this is a big change from the norm. Lois knows the secret! She is not dumb! Yayyy!

Yay....

So, I don't know what to make of this. Sorry I'm leaving out a bunch of things, but here's the gist: If you like movies where STUFF BLOWS UP, you will be all over this. If you're in it hoping for a lot of relationship stuff, you're going to get some, but not enough. 

High Points:

*Kevin Costner is awesome. Fact.
*Henry Cavill is hot. He looks great in the suit.
*Young, wayward, bearded-Clark stuff is fun to watch, even if it's short-lived.
*Lois gets to be smart.

Meh Points:
*Music isn't memorable. No John Williams fanfare-type stuff.
*Special effects are top-notch but some of the ships look goofy.

Low Points:
*Seemingly endless action and destruction.
*Awkward dad-death scene.
*Not enough relationship stuff.

But... sequel potential!

You know, in 3-4 years. :(