Tuesday, February 26, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of February 26, 2013

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samantha Reed Smith (June 29, 1972 – August 25, 1985) was an American schoolgirl, peace activist and child actress from Manchester, Maine, who became famous in the Cold War era United States and Soviet Union. In 1982, Smith wrote a letter to the newly appointed CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov, and received a personal reply which included a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union, which she accepted.

Smith attracted extensive media attention in both countries as a "Goodwill Ambassador", and became known as "America's Youngest Ambassador" participating in peacemaking activities in Japan.[1] She wrote a book about her visit to the Soviet Union and co-starred in the television series Lime Street, before her death at the age of 13 in the Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 plane crash.


A few years ago while going through old kids' books at the library, I came across an article about this girl, Samantha. She became famous in the early 80's for her goodwill ventures to the Soviet Union. She was interviewed by Johnny Carson and Ted Koppel. She hosted a TV special and wrote a book. She then began filming a TV series. And then, all of a sudden, she was dead at thirteen years old. 

And all those things are intriguing enough, but the weirdest thing of all? I'd never even heard of her.

Sure, this all happened when I was in preschool. It's not like her ambassadorship/fame/death was relevant to me at that age, even if I had heard people speaking of it (which I don't know as I did.) But I still think it's strange how some people get remembered -- on a national or even worldwide level -- and others don't. I think of another person who worked for peace and died tragically -- Martin Luther King Jr. We celebrate his birthday every year and some of us even get the day off (thanks, Martin!). And yeah, I think he's totally worthy of it all, but why just him? The Presidents of the United States have to all share a day, and Martin gets his own holiday? Seriously, are there any other people that get their own holiday in the U.S.? (Besides, you know, Jesus?) 

Leave a comment if you know.

I think of other notable humanitarians -- Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi. They're household names. They are, or will be, remembered. And what about Anne Frank? She, too, was a young teenager when she tragically died, and even 70 years after her death, people travel to Amsterdam to see where she lived. Granted, her diary is inspiring and wonderfully written, but... why her? She was one of millions of Holocaust victims. I can't name many of the others.

So who gets remembered? And why? Can one human really more worthy of "being remembered" than another? Does it have something to do with their popularity while alive? Their achievements? How often the media drags their name back into the spotlight? Take Marilyn Monroe. She's not going to make any Best Actress lists. Most people can't name any of her films. But she's freaking famous, years and years after her death, because certain people keep pushing her back into the limelight. Why was it a big tragic deal when Heath Ledger died, but not when Brad Renfro, another young Tiger Beat cover-gracing actor, died around the same time? Because The Dark Knight was coming out? Because....?

Well, who knows. What I do know is Samantha Smith did great things in her young life that are worthy of recognition. I will remember her, even if few other people do.

Here's to you, Samantha....

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of February 19, 2013

Last year I did a regular feature called There's A Trope For That, where I highlighted a page from tvtropes.org a few times a month. I won't be doing that regularly, anymore. Instead, I would like to draw weekly inspiration from that OTHER great internet timesucker, Wikipedia!

Each week I'll share something interesting I've found on there. Interesting to whom? Well, to me, honestly. But... maybe to you! It will be called All About Everything, unless I grow to despise that name, in which case it'll be known as Stuff From Wikipedia And Stuff


Today's Topic: Jamais Vu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In psychology, jamais vu (pron.: /ˈʒɑːm ˈv/; from French, meaning "never seen") is the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognizes in some fashion, but that nonetheless seems very unfamiliar.
Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before.

Jamais vu is more commonly explained as when a person momentarily does not recognise a word, person, or place that he or she already knows.


Gah, this happens to me all the time. You know what's even worse, though? When a friend or family member talks about something the two of you did together once upon a time, and they remember it in complete detail, yet you have absolutely no memory of it. And the more they talk about it, the more you become convinced that A) This person must be confusing you with someone else; B) This person dreamed it all up; and/or C) It all actually happened -- and to you, in fact -- but you must have recurring bouts of amnesia. Which would actually explain A LOT.

EVEN WORSE is when you're re-reading your journals from five years ago, and you have no memory of the events you described in those journals actually occurring. Yeah. The events that happened TO YOU and that YOU wrote down. Nothing.

Goin' senile at 32. Who's with me?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Molly Reflects


So it's been six and a half months since my last radiation treatment. The paper certificate congratulating me on my successful completion of that hullabaloo hangs proudly on my bedroom door. I've been given a few certificates in my lifetime, but never has one meant as much to me. I didn't just deserve this one; I flipping EARNED it.

But now comes a weird time when I feel like I want to talk about what happened, but I don't know how to bring it up and rarely does anyone ask.Who wants to dredge up the subject of cancer when someone's technically in remission, right? That's just... well, even I think that's kind of awkward. And remission, for what it's worth, doesn't mean much besides "I am currently not being actively treated." It doesn't mean it's 100% gone for sure or that it won't ever come back. It just means... wait and see. So it's confusing and lame and I don't blame anyone for not asking because really, what would you say?

So... um... here are some facts in case you happen to be interested.

*The cancer was in my parotid gland. Read all about if you're not too squeamish. Yes, you have a parotid gland, too! Actually, two of them!

*My scar (from the surgery) is still vivid but it usually doesn't hurt, except when Voldemort is angry and/or near.

*The official ribbon for throat, neck and head cancer (they're a team!) is sort of white and burgundy, and I have a .jpg of it on the left side of the blog. Holla.

*During radiation my taste buds went wonky, but they have fully recovered and I can enjoy all manner of good and delicious foods again.

*I can wink, blink, and do all that facial stuff again. The two halves of my face aren't entirely uniform -- perhaps they never will be -- buuut I don't think it's a big deal anymore. One thing that really bugged me in the months after the surgery was not being able to close my eyes tightly. I had to be so careful when taking a shower because I just kept getting soap and shampoo in my eye. And that was painful. It's funny how you sort of take "being able to close your eyes" for granted. It's easy to forget that for a few weeks I literally had to tape my eyelid shut at night because it wouldn't close on its own. (Sorry. Even I think eyeball convos are gross. I will stop talking about that now.)

*School/work resumed roughly one month after treatment ended, and since then I've missed ONE DAY of work.  I do get colds, and I always have had allergies, but they haven't been bad this year. It's as if my body has decided that if it's going to get sick at all, it's only going to get REALLY SICK... and if not, then why bother?

*I do fear and expect to have a recurrence of cancer at some point within the next decade. I don't want it, but I am not naive enough to think that one surgery and two months of radiation have cured me from ever having to think about cancer again. It's not like when I was a kid and had Chicken Pox and then knew there was only a microscopic chance of me ever getting it again, because having it typically makes you immune to it. And, for the record, I HATED having Chicken Pox, and I'm so glad there's a vaccination for it now, and really think those parents who skip the vaccine and purposely expose their kids to it are... well, kind of jerky. Perhaps they've forgotten about the intense itching and the fever and the horrible feelings of crappiness. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOUR CHILD? RAWR.

*Also, both my dad (age 43) and paternal grandmother (age 68) died of cancer. So I'm just like yeah, whatever. Bring it on. I'll fight it. What else you got?

*An apple a day does NOT, as the saying suggests, keep the doctor away, as I literally did consume an entire apple every day for lunch in the nine months leading up to my diagnosis. Just in case anyone actually believed it would. Nothing against apples, though. They're still delicious. I just would like to debunk that myth.

*I never did post a picture of my radiation mask because even I have standards, and that thing is creepy, yo.

*I am so grateful to the people who were extra kind to me as things were happening last year. People that come to mind as doing something specific that meant a lot to me are my cousins Amy and Patrick, Emily and Thom, Shannon, Jenny and Chris and their kids, my Aunt Laura, my uncle John, my Grandma, my neighbors Jim and Beth, my mom's friend Fran, Peggy S., Karen & Linda L. & family, and everyone who prayed for me, which I think was a lot of people. I am very grateful and I did feel the effects of that because honestly, all the bad things they say about treatments? They were never as bad as they could've been, and I felt that I was getting these rushes of extra strength from somewhere, so thank you.

I love y'all, even if I didn't mention you specifically.

Okay. So enough about that, I guess.

I leave you now with some random photos off my hard drive. Because I care.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Score And Seven Years Ago...

It's time for another classic cartoon column! This one's from 2006.

Valentine's Day -- they say you either love it or you hate it. Which camp do you fall into? Take this fun & simple quiz to find out!

1. Your most recent online purchase was...

A) A dozen red roses from FlowersRUs.com, which were delivered to your sweetypookins at noon on Valentine's Day, along with a special note adorned with X's, O's, and other romantic crap.

B) A set of garden raccoons you got your mom for Christmas, which are currently freezing their butts off on your back deck.

C) An express delivery from VoodooDolls4You.com, a doll which you are, at this moment, in the process of stabbing while listening to your Songs About Death and Destruction mix on iTunes.

2. Today at work, you...

A) Called your significant other 45 times to say you loveeeee him/her sooooo much and thank you for the flowwwwwers and you can't wait to go out tonight oh and thanks for the gigantic stuffed armadillo, you have no idea where you're going to put it, but hey. The thought... it counts... uh huh.

B) Passed out lard-filled chocolate hearts to 25 hungry, soon-to-be-totally-sugar-hyped seven-year-olds.

C) Witnessed someone who would have answered "A" being mushy and disgusting, and spent the rest of the day in the bathroom stall.

3. If you had your way...

A) It would be Valentine's Day EVERY day!

B) Valentine's Day would be declared a federal holiday so you could stay home and watch movies.

C) Valentine's Day would be declared a national day of mourning, and anyone seen having any semblance of fun would be arrested on the spot.

4. Jewelry commercials make you...
A) Go "Awwww I hope my honeybumpkins does that for ME this Valentine's Day!"

B) Want to rob a jewelry store. Not so you can have the jewelry. So that no one else gets any this year! HA HA HA.

C) Want to rob a jewelry store during business hours and take no prisoners.

5. Your thoughts on hearts?
A) A symbol of love!

B) After tracing 32 of them so that a bunch of kids could make mutant Valentine's sacks, you're sick of looking at the colors pink and red.

C) You wish you could remove someone's still-beating one and stomp on it with the universe.

Now let's see how you scored!

If you answered Mostly A's -- Congratulations, you romantic sappypuss, you! You LOVE Valentine's Day. Beware of all the people who completely hate you right now. You are in grave danger and may meet your end soon.

If you answered Mostly C's -- Congratulations! You hate Valentine's Day, and it's obvious. Think of it this way, though -- tomorrow all that Valentine's chocolate will go on sale. You can buy it at a discount and fling it at anyone you see committing acts of affection in public. Aim true!

If you answered Mostly B's -- Congratulations, you're me!

I used to be a C. A bitter, angry C. I had my reasons, and I still think they were valid. And I'm not saying I won't be a C again by next year, but this year... I don't know, something feels different. I don't even want to go into why, because seriously -- I don't know. My love life hasn't changed. February 14th hasn't changed. Last year I almost got run over by a garbage truck and this year my car battery decided to call it quits, so that was fun. But no -- somehow I'm just not bitter this year. Same thing happened with the 4th of July in 2005 -- the old I hate this holiday attitude just wasn't there.

What is happening to me?

When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was the best. At school, we got parties with games, cupcakes, prizes, red punch, and bags full of He-Man and Ninja Turtles Valentines. Our teachers always insisted that we bring Valentines for every kid in class, so it was always a challenge trying to make sure you gave the Garfield You're Pawsome Valentines to the kids who would make fun of you if you gave them anything remotely mushy. ("You're sweet? Oooooh you've got a CRUSH on Jon! HA HA!") Bite me.

And now I work in a school, where not a week goes by that my brain doesn't randomly recover some long-repressed elementary school memory. Today, the smell of fruit roll-ups brought on a memory of our first-grade room mother, the mom of a boy I was friends with back then, who I haven't seen since high school, despite the fact that his mom and my mom are good friends. I don't know where I'm going with this. Uh... I miss first grade. And stickers. And fruit roll-ups. I miss being a kid.

Here I am... Valentine's Day, 1987...

(Could I possibly sit any closer to that kid? I've practically left my own chair! I liked him. I remember because I took his name and turned it into the surname of my Hello Kitty dollhouse cat family. Now that's an honor.)

Fast-forward 19 years...

It's easy enough to pretend I'm a kid again, now, working with all these second and third graders -- that is, until one of them asks me some dumb question, usually pertaining to my marital status, my schooling ("are you in high school?") or my age ("are you sixty?"). It's especially easy on days like Valentine's Day, when things are exactly the same as they were when I was six -- well, except that now I get those big "Teacher" Valentines. And He-Man's long gone. But some things never change, and my nostalgia-meter was definitely working overtime today....


Nineteen years later, the punch is still red. Because hearts are red. Kind of gross if you think about it. It tastes like the lovechild of fruits that never should have gotten together. The cookies? Store-bought, of course. Some outbreak of one of those contamination diseases... ecoli... eboli... the plague... back in my day brought forth this Must be store-bought rule. The cookies? Still heart-shaped. What else would they be?


There are now 571,316 school-kid-friendly Valentine's activities out there, everything from Valentine-shaped mazes, to dot-to-dots of still-beating internal organs, to color-by-number cupids. Not to mention the making of Valentines, a not-so-long-lost art form.


Store-bought pieces of pop culturey paper can be purchased by the boxload, with the to and from already imprinted on them, same as always. All you've got to do is sign your name on twenty-six of them and have your mom write out the kids' names direct from the class list your teacher sent home. Then you can hope & pray that none of the boys notice you have them a Barbie Valentine because darnit, your dad didn't take you shopping until the night before, and that was all that was left, except for Garbage Pail Kids and everybody knows that only gross boys like Garbage Pail Kids. And the last thing you want is to win the approval of a gross boy. Ew, cooties!


Valentine Bags are a necessity, because they enable you to hoard the Valentines as you're collecting them from your classmates, and then open the bag like it's a big birthday present... paw through the cards, searching for candy... and then, because there's nothing else to do, meticulously read each and every Valentine, stopping only to wonder why you didn't get one from Jeremy A., which normally wouldn't bother you because Jeremy A. is gross, but Jeremy A. was giving out lollipops with his this year, no fair. 

* * *

After spending a day surrounded by all of this Valentine's stuff, I am surprisingly calm. Almost... dare I say it... happy.

So I'll admit it -- a year ago, I was anti-Valentine's day, ready to murder anyone who even so much as mentioned it. Don't worry, I haven't converted to a Type A or anything. I was probably the only person who didn't wear red or pink to work today. I wore my Indiana Jones shirt instead. Screw this lovey mushy stuff. I don't have a boyfriend, but I don't really care. Maybe next year, maybe never.

It's hard to be miserable when you spend the day watching sixty kids go absolutely happy-crazy over the holiday. Unless of course you start thinking too deeply about how ninety-nine percent of them will be thwarted in love and be absolutely heartbroken at some point in the next twenty years thanks to a significant other-turned-jerkazoid.

Still, it's hard to be depressed when kids give you Valentines they've hand-written that say things like I'm glad you're my teacher!

Or when they give you chocolate.

Any holiday that encourages the giving of chocolate is officially all right by me.

And if nothing else, it makes for good ammunition.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Things I Enjoy Liking On The World Wide Web: A List

Things I Enjoy Liking On The World Wide Web: A List

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How many U.S. States can you name in a minute? How many countries can you name that have a population of under ten million? How about baby names beginning with Z? How many of those can you list? Zara, Zane, Zachary, Zelda.... Well, nice try, but there are actually 297 Z names, and you have 20 minutes to think of them! AND YOU ARE SO GONNA FAIL!!

Welcome to Sporcle, a site that can quiz you on just about anything. Can you identify 36 Star Wars characters by just looking at a portion of their face? Can you name thirty 80's songs after only hearing a 3-second clip of each? Can you list the U.S. Presidents backwards in under 5 minutes? Well? CAN YOU??

So good luck with that. And good luck not wanting to spend hours upon hours on this site once you're hooked. I mean, seriously... beware.

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(comic series)

Ever wonder what superheroes do when they're not... well, being heroes? Have you wondered how their love lives might be hampered by the fact they wear spandex, possess crazy powers, and are constantly saving the world? Love And Capes is a fun romp that follows the lives of Mark/The Crusader, Abby, Charlotte, Darkblade/Paul, Amazonia, and their friends and family. The storylines mostly focus on the relationships and the quirks of dating -- or being -- a superhero, but there are some classic comic-y moments every now and then (evil clones, time travel, alternate realities, etc.). The series is well drawn, cute, funny, and a lot of fun.

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I love this site because it teaches so much about story structure and arcs, plot devices, character traits, and -- my personal least favorite -- cliches. It lets you compare an element in, say, your favorite movie, to all the other works of fiction in which that element is also present. Aaand it's a total time sucker.

A writing teacher once told our class that there were only two possible plots or subjects in all of writing: Love and Death.

Tvtropes says otherwise. Way otherwise.

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GFY makes fun of celebrities and their fashion choices, gathering photos from awards show red carpets, premieres, and fabulous parties -- and providing hilarious, biting commentary. I've been visiting this blog off and on for almost eight years, and the snarkiness never subsides.

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Stump The Bookseller

I guess I chose a bad time to highlight this website, since it looks like it has gone on one of those eternal sabbaticals websites are sometimes known for. (Right now the main page says "Stump the Bookseller will be on hiatus until January 15, 2013." That was three weeks ago.) But assuming it comes back, STB is really a neat site. This person in charge of it collects book "stumpers" from people who remember vague (or even clear) details about a book they read once upon a time but just can't remember or find. Readers to the blog then can go through all the stumpers, and if they see one they recognize, they can send in the author & title -- and save the day! There are other sites that do this (the Livejournal group "What Was That Book?" is another) but this one has been going for many years, and I've found myself immersed in all the book descriptions, longing to find out what the titles are so that I can read them, too, because, hey -- that plotline sounds pretty interesting! NOW WHAT THE HECK WAS IT CALLED??

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Nostalgia Critic

I adore 99% of the Nostalgia Critic videos. This guy picks apart and mocks (or raves about) old movies and shows -- mostly stuff from the 80s and 90s, but not always. And when he hates a film, he HATES it -- he's merciless. And hilarious. Look through his list of videos and find all the movies you remember watching as a kid. Watch those. Then watch all the videos of movies you always meant to see but didn't. (Most of the time, you'll be glad you didn't.) Then when you've exhausted all those options, just check out some of the others and learn about movies you'd never considered. The Critic is bright and funny, and the reviews are creative and well-produced. He went on hiatus for a while, but he's back! (There's also a Nostalgia Chick, who's a little less funny, but also has a film degree and knows her stuff.)

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If you're a fan of Harry Potter who has not experienced the wonder that IS Potter Puppet Pals, you're in for a treat. The characters are, of course, puppets, and they're a little tweaked -- Harry is a bit of a self-absorbed jerk, Ron's an idiot, Neville's a walking squash, Dumbledore's insane, and Snape... well, Snape is still Snape. The vids crack me up, and I wish there were more.

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Fun With Shorts by Josh Way

Fun With Shorts is a series of videos that mock those old film "shorts." As the short plays, this guy can be heard cracking jokes, pointing out absurdities, and bashing every goofy element of the production. (And there are many.) The projects are no doubt inspired by -- and are similar to -- Mystery Science Theater 3000, and its unofficial offshoot, Rifftrax. And at first I thought this guy was just a lowly imitator. It sounded to me like he was reading a script rather than jovially riffing. But before long, Mr. Josh Way grew on me, and I began LOL-ing regularly. Some of his jokes really are MST-quality, and the best thing about it all is that -- unlike Rifftrax, where you have to pay a dollar to download each short -- all his videos are free on Youtube. They're a lot of fun and I definitely think they deserve more views.

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First off, Lego.com is dangerous, especially if you have access to a credit card and happen to love those dang pieces of beautiful plastic. But assuming you can stop yourself from buying a shiny object each time you visit, the website also offers a lot more -- there are games and videos, building ideas and more. Plus it's the only other place (besides the not-in-every-city Lego Retail Store) to see exclusive items that can't be found at Targets or Toys R Uses. It's also entirely kid-friendly... that is, unless that kid has a credit card. In which case, we should all be afraid.

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Don't get me wrong -- I generally like kids. And I love that several of my relatives have blogs where they post photos of their little guys bein' cute. That's great. I can choose to look at them or I can choose not to. I also have a lot of respect for most of my friends and loved ones who have become parents.

But then there are the exceptions. They make me want to scream. You spent HOW much on your kid's birthday party?? You're planning to post a tummy pic on Facebook for every day of your pregnancy? You just shared an entire album devoted to your afterbirth?

NO. No no no no no.

But fear not, for there is STFU Parents to save the day (or the sanity). It takes all those outlandish, awkward, and downright horrific parental updates from social media... and mocks the heck out of them. Then people can leave comments, a fact which often leads to long (and sometimes not-very-nice) discussions about related topics, which can be interesting, insightful, or enough to make you want to cancel your internet.

Overall, though, a fun place.

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Tiny Fuppets

How to explain Tiny Fuppets? Well, start with The Muppet Babies, but pretend they're in an alternate dimension where their native language is Portuguese. Then add loads of absurdist and ironic humor and... that might begin to describe it.

While there aren't a lot of videos, the ones that exist are just so great. The fact that Tiny Fuppets exists is also a delight to my very soul. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life In Plastic, Not Fantastic

On Saturday I wrapped production on anneofgreenbrickgables.blogspot.com. At last. Seven months, hundreds of photos, and thirty-eight chapters -- complete.

I'm happy this project has been put to bed, but I was actually feeling pretty emotional while compiling the last two chapters. Partly because the project was ending... aaaand partly because, in the second-to-last chapter, Matthew dies. I've watched him die in movies, experienced it in the half-dozen times I've read the book, and let's face it, this guy has been a goner since the author first put pen to paper back in nineteen-oh-something.

But somehow it just didn't sit well with me this time. I kept having to tell myself, He's just a minifig. Minifigs can't really die.

I told myself this as I assembled Matthew's headstone out of gray Lego and positioned Anne in front of it, looking weepy.


R.I.P. Matthew Cuthbert Minifig
I Will Never Forget