Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Netflix’s New Baby-Sitters Club Series Might Be Just What We All Need

(Warning: contains spoilers)
The Baby-Sitters Club' Netflix Cast Is Full Of Promising Up-And-Comers

Netflix recently released a 10-episode series called The Baby-Sitters Club, based on the book series Ann M. Martin began penning in the mid-1980s. As a fan of the books, I was intrigued when I learned this series was in production. After watching the first season in its entirety, I am nothing but pleased.

So... I’ve been a BSC fan for a while. Thirty years, in fact. By the time the summer of 1990 rolled around, I had read at least half of the books and was well on my way to reading all 38 of them. I frequented the local library, checking out any BSC book that was available, and consumed them one after another. Order? I didn’t care about chronological order! So Stacey moved back to Stoneybrook, then left it... it didn't matter. 

Eventually, my parents grew... curious... about my latest interest. After several months of me reading these books (and, likely, nothing but these books) they asked if they, too, might read one of them, to see what they were all about. I happily handed over the one I’d just finished, Mallory and the Mystery Diary. Alas, this turned out to be a poor choice. How was I (a naïve nine-year-old) to know that certain parents might view a see-ants as something potentially sinister? Oh... séance... that’s how you pronounced that? C'mon, all I knew was that Mallory and her friends had attempted to contact a departed soul, had failed at the task, and had moved on. My parents, having only read this one book, were suddenly left wondering if the entire series wasn’t about a group of girls with equal interest in both baby-sitting and the occult. 

Luckily, I was able to convince them that this was the only BSC book to feature a see-ants, and the other 37 books were all about baby-sitting, weddings, beach trips, beauty pageants, secret passages, and trouble with twins. To their credit – and my relief – they believed me. My parents were, to put it nicely, conservative, and if the books had been anything like this new Netflix series, I fear they would have forbidden my watching it. Which is to say, the Netflix series is progressive, avant garde, and exactly what our world needs right now. So I like to think even little nine-year-old me would have found a way to watch it anyway.

The Baby-Sitters Club began in 1986 with five books written by Ann M. Martin. As more were released, the series began to soar in popularity. Eventually there would be over 200 titles, including the regular series, Super Specials, mysteries, and more. This number doesn’t even include the multiple spin-offs, including Baby-Sitters Little Sister and the California Diaries. Of course, Martin didn’t write them all, even though all the covers bore her name. She had some help. The regular series ended with a fizzle (and a literal fire – R.I.P., Ghost of Jared Mulray), and a short pseudo-spin-off called Baby-Sitters Club: Friends Forever commenced for a short while. The only thing people seem to remember about that series is that in it, the girls finally got to graduate from the 8th grade.

Over the years, attempts were made at successfully bringing the series into other types of media. There was a short-lived TV series in 1990 and a low-grossing feature film in 1995. In 2006, Scholastic began publishing graphic novels based on the early BSC books. Raina Telgemeier illustrated the first four books, then passed the torch to Gale Galligan, who has produced three more (with a fourth coming in September). The graphic novels have mostly been faithful to the original series, with a few exceptions, such as bringing Mallory Pike into the BSC much sooner.

Netflix’s new series seems to take a cue from the graphic novels, at least as far as method is concerned. In the beginning, both the graphic novel series and the Netflix series appear to be trying to stay as close as possible to the original book series. However, they soon started carving their own paths. BSC purists may gasp and clutch their pearls (jelly bracelets, charm necklaces, whatever), but the changes are actually quite refreshing, especially as they pertain to making the show relevant and appealing to GenZ/Zoomers. 

Below are a few differences between the new Netflix series and the original books...

*The baby-sitters now have cell phones!

*Stacey’s diabetes treatment is so much better. She wears a glucose monitor/insulin pump instead of having to poke herself. And she can have sugar now!

*The girls’ parents play bigger roles. For example, when Kristy visits Dawn’s house for the first time, Kristy's mom brings her over and stays to converse with Dawn’s mom. This is a far cry from the 1980s protocols, when Kristy might have casually mentioned she was going to a new friend's house after school... but then again, as long as she was home in time for dinner, who cared?

*Diversity is everywhere in the series, and the beauty of it is, they don’t really call attention to it. In the books, it was a big deal that Jessi’s family was Black. Aside from the girls in the BSC being cool with Jessi, it seemed half of Stoneybrook consisted of racists, most of whom took a long while to warm up to Jessi’s family. Moreover, in nearly every book, during the dreaded “introduction” chapter (usually chapter 2), the author would remind us of Jessi’s skin color. Every girl had a thing: Kristy is bossy/likes sports, Claudia likes art and is bad at school, Stacey’s sophisticated, Dawn’s a California girl, Mary Anne’s shy but has a boyfriend, and – oh yes, turn that page!  Mallory is White and Jessi is Black! But don’t worry, they’re best friends despite this maaaajor difference.

The Netflix series has no time or patience for that over-the-top “this person’s different, but we love them anyway” nonsense. Here, Mary Anne is played by a mixed-race actress and Mary Anne’s ethnicity has thus far not been mentioned. Dawn and her mom are Latina. Jessi (who doesn’t appear until the end of the first season) is Black, yes, but nobody bats an eye when she’s introduced, already firmly established as Mallory Pike’s best friend. (I do hope that if this series gets a second season, there’s an episode that addresses racism, because to pretend like Jessi never experiences it, even in this new-and-woke Stoneybrook, would be jarringly unbelievable, sorry to say.)

The diversity doesn’t end with race, though. In the episode Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, we’re introduced to Charlotte Johanssen’s two mothers. In Mary Anne Saves The Day, we learn Dawn’s dad is gay – and Dawn is upfront about this, seeming to see her parents’ recent divorce as an inevitable step in allowing both adults to become their authentic selves. Later in the episode, Mary Anne babysits for a little girl named Bailey, who we soon learn (in a very tactful, even subtle way) was assigned male at birth, but is now happiest when wearing princess dresses. Mary Anne never seems fazed by this, and at one point schools some older people who carelessly use the wrong pronouns when referring to Bailey.

Each of these character introductions is handled smoothly and nonchalantly. Transgender babysittees and gay clients? Not even a small deal to these GenZ/Zoomers. This is Stoneybrook of the 21st Century. Gone are the days of people losing their minds when someone who's different comes to town.

*The Netflix series doesn’t erase the social issues presented in the books; in some instances, it even emphasizes the already-established ones. Kristy still fights against her mother’s engagement to Watson Brewer, all while trying to reconcile the fact that her father never calls or writes anymore. But whereas in the books her sadness is mostly only hinted at, in Dawn and the Impossible Three, Kristy punches a bag of chips in anger, lamenting the fact that everyone else seems to have a dad who cares – everyone but her. 

*Remember the Brewers’ next door neighbor, Mrs. Porter, whom Karen Brewer always insisted was a witch by the name of Morbidda Destiny? Now a fleshed-out character, it turns out Mrs. Porter is Dawn’s great aunt (which makes sense, because Dawn’s mom’s maiden name was always Porter!), and Mrs. Porter doesn’t mind being called a witch, though she prefers the term “spiritual healer.” 

*Claudia’s sister Janine has been transformed from a stodgy genius into a tech geek who speaks in an dry, but eloquent, deadpan. Sure, she’s still a genius, but she’s now anything but boring (except, of course, to Claudia. Ah, sisters.) In fact, now? Janine is kind of awesome.

*The series carries some strong feminist vibes. Kristy is particularly vocal when it comes to disparities between the way men and women are treated.  Claudia decides not to go to art camp, where her crush Trevor Sandbourne will be, and instead decides to join her friends at Camp Moosehead (an updated Camp Mohawk – where everything’s co-ed, now, but all the counselors seem to have gone AWOL.) Boys are present, but they’re not especially important. (Unless, of course, your name happens to be Stacey. But even she'll stand up for herself and put no-good lifeguards in their proper place.)

Those are just a few of the differences between the books and the Netflix series that I noticed upon my first watch-through. Rarely do any of these changes seem particularly jarring -- even to someone like me, who read a good portion of the books as a tween, re-read nearly all of them as an adult, and still occasionally picks them up for fun and/or laughs. There are enough similarities to the original series (along with a few sly nods/Easter eggs) to keep original fans satisfied, but also just the right amount of improvements and changes to allow a whole new generation to feel like The Baby-Sitters Club was meant for them.

So... yeah. My séance-wary parents may have had reservations about letting me have full access to the books, but I strongly encourage parents to let and/or nudge their preteens to take a look at this series. Because Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club is exactly the kind of media I think the world needs right now. A show where over half the main characters are POC. A show where trans children are treated respectfully. A show where gay parents are as normal as straight ones. And a show where a group of girls are able to start, run, and kick ass at a successful business. Girl Power indeed!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Introducing: A Brand New Blog for Oldtimey Goodness!

Hello! For those of you who have been interested in the "oldtimey" posts on my blog, I have started a new blog specifically for those types of posts...

And, going forward, that will be THE place where I post vintage photos, photo albums, postcards, autograph albums, scrapbooks, etc.

Oldtimey posts that are really more for laughs, and the Glossy Time Capsules posts, will continue to be posted here on pdxtra.blogspot.com. Occasionally there may be some cross-posting, but I'll try to keep that to a minimum.


Monday, June 22, 2020

So THAT Happened....

For the six of you who saw my post from yesterday about where I've been donating money lately... I did not mean to post that. Yikes. Sorry!

I mean, I'm not ashamed of any of my recent donations... I'm just embarrassed I shared it. Y'all don't need to see that.

Speaking of embarrassment, the video below is pretty interesting. Women of all different ages briefly describe their most embarrassing moment...

My takeaways:

*A lot of people have what is essentially the same most embarrassing moments -- a lot of falling down and having toilet paper stuck to pant cuffs.

*I've experienced at least half these things myself. 

*It actually feels kind of nice to know that some of these things are just universal.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Corona Chronicles: Chapter 9

It's been nearly a month since my last post, and boy, has it been a month. After several high-profile gruesome deaths of people of color, the Black Lives Matter movement has surged into high gear again. There have been marches, protests, and some very satisfying knocking-down of racist statues. Then, there has been a crazy amount of police brutality in response to the mostly-peaceful protests. Calls are now being made to "defund the police," aka reallocate some of the police's budget to go toward other social services... like first responders who don't carry heavy artillery and scare the shit out of the citizens.

Anyway, it's been a month.

The school year ended with a whimper. Most years, I'm counting down the days till June. This year, it was like, "Oh... it's Wednesday? And we're done? Oh, okay."

The governor handed down a 47-odd-page document, letting us know that in the fall, we'll have all these restrictions and rules if the schools physically reopen. Some of the strangest points include...

--Sanitizing the playground structures after every group of kids has recess.

Does she realize how many surfaces are on a play structure? All I can imagine is the custodian out there 6-7 times a day with a ShopVac full of Lysol, blowing it on every surface and just relying on the wind not to take it away. Also, if he's out there doing that, who's going to be inside cleaning up all the kid... uh... refuse?

--Requiring everyone to wear masks.

This isn't surprising; and by September, most of the kids will probably be used to this. But mask or no mask, kids still touch their faces, pick their noses, and goober all over. Ideally, every kid would have at least 5 masks to wear, one for each day. But I've seen how often some of these children wash their clothes, and the masks are going to get pretty gnarly, I'm afraid.

--Social distancing.

Six feet? Yeahhhh, sure. School buses are going to be interesting. They already pack the kids onto the buses for some of the routes... 2-3 to a seat. (Not a row... a seat.) They'll have to add routes, and buses. Problem? They have a terrible time getting bus drivers anyway. It's a thankless job, and precious few have the constitution for it.

Distancing in classrooms is another joke. Imagine 30 desks, spaced apart, with each kid staying put in his or her desk for an hour or so at a time.

Now... put away that picture of Uncle Johnny from 1952 and join reality. Kids of today can't stay in their seats to save their lives. It's going to be a swarmy mess.

--One-way traffic in hallways

I know at least two dozen kids who will CACKLE at this restriction as they run in the "wrong" direction, rip down a poster that says "Dream Big," and give you a sideways kick in the shin as they go by.


I don't recall what, if anything, the Governor said about handwashing, but it should be noted that most of the sinks in our particular school building don't ever generate anything above a lukewarm stream of water. So there's hand sanitizer, but it doesn't kill everything. 

It's going to be a hot mess, that's all I know. 

* * *

Meanwhile... I've been having this weird thing where I think back to things that didn't happen (thanks, Covid) but in a kind of nostalgic way... as if they did happen? I could maybe describe the feeling as a cross between a regret and a happy memory. Like, ECCC didn't happen... but if it had, it would've been great... ahhhh, greatness.

Anyway, stay safe, y'all. Wear your masks. Avoid the police. And give falling statues a wide berth.

Previously: Chapter 1 (March 19), Chapter 2 (March 26 & 27), Chapter 3 (April 7), C
hapter 4 (Oldtimey Historical Edition, Circa 1918), Chapter 5 (April 14-22), Chapter 6 (April 30- May 6), Chapter 7 (May 9-17), Chapter 8 (May 25)

Favorite TV Shows: June, 2020 Edition

 Favorite Shows: June, 2020 Edition 

Here I am in Year 10 of doing this little survey, and for the second year in a row, most of my visual entertainment has been courtesy of Youtube, Netflix, etc., rather than traditional TV.

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

Shows I've Recently Enjoyed That Have Produced New Episodes In The Past Year:

 Jeopardy (Syndicated)

We Bare Bears (Cartoon Network)

Call The Midwife (PBS) (I actually went back and watched the entire series this past year!)

LEGO Masters (Fox)

I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix)

Money For Nothing (British show, via Netflix)

What This List Looked Like Last Year:

 Jeopardy (Syndicated)

We Bare Bears (Cartoon Network)

Call The Midwife (PBS)

The 100 Baby Sims Challenge (Youtube/Buzzfeed)

Be Kind Rewind (Youtube)

Rick Steves' Europe (PBS)

Shows I've Recently Enjoyed That Have NOT Produced New Episodes In The Past Year:

The Office (Revisited seasons 3-7)

Friends (seasons 1-5)

America's Next Top Model (Cycles 4, 5, 11, 13, 19-22)

A few episodes each of Full House, The Golden Girls, Merlin, Raising Hope, Lois & Clark, and others I may be forgetting

Churchill's Secret Agents: The New Recruits (Netflix)

On My "To-Watch" List:

Continue watching the most recent season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Anne With An E, series 2

The Pretender (Series revisit)

Road To Avonlea (Series revisit)

Ru Paul's Drag Show

Same as last year. I am really hopeless.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Corona Chronicles: Chapter 8

So I'm talking about two topics today...


OMG, Miss Piggy, put on a mask! And pants, while you're at it.

So the Mask Wars continue. There are daily fights about masks online and regular videos depicting fights about masks in store aisles.

From my post on April 7, this is what The Mask Wars looked like wayyy back then:

Person A: "Be sure to wear a face mask if you need to go out in public."

Person B: "Face masks are ineffective!"

Person C: "Medical professionals need those face masks more than you do!"


And this is what they look like now:

Person A: If you wear a mask, you are a left-wing, anti-freedom, cowardly sheep! And here are twelve memes that agree with my stance!

Person B: If you don't wear a mask, you are a right-wing, pro-MAGA, grandma-killing moron and should be have objects thrown at you and be driven out of town!



And seriously, it's almost become less about whether masks are or aren't effective... and more about what wearing (or not wearing) a mask really means. Apparently, your choice (to wear or not to wear) is an outward expression of your inner core, political leanings, even moral compass, oh yes.

I can't help being reminded of the immediate weeks after 9/11, when we were being encouraged to wear the colors of the American flag to show our solidarity with... I dunno, America. The victims? (Not peace, though. Peace was taboo.) For a few weeks after 9/11, if you wore red, white, and blue to the grocery store, you were considered to be patriotic and caring. If you thought the whole thing was pointless and you chose to wear green instead, well... you were basically letting the terrorists win. Thankfully, this movement didn't gain much ground, and it went away pretty quickly... at least where I live.

I also can't help being reminded of Freedom Fries. That was a thing for a while. If you used the term French, you must be anti-American, pro-terrorists-winning, and all that.

Same if you were against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Being against the wars meant you were against the military... therefore you were against the individual men and women who were brave enough to serve. You were anti-human. Anti-bravery. Anti-everything. In sum: The worst.

I use these examples because these are times, in my memory, where someone's opinion on one issue could be streettcchhhed into absolute absurdity by weak connective tissues. But that's what people did. And what people still continue to do in the Mask Wars.

My stance remains the same. I wear a mask. I wish other people would wear masks in public. But I understand why some people can't. And I don't think those people should have stuff thrown at them or be yelled at. I just think they should be given a wide berth. And if a store has a policy, follow the policy or simply (and without making a big deal about where you are taking your money), shop somewhere else.

#2: The Re-Opening Of Society

Nearly everyone is sick of being stuck at home, but a small portion of these people aren't just sick of it, they're completely done. They're ready to come out and dance. They want society to go back to normal. No, not when it's safe. NOW. 


There's a lot of talk about "Essential Services" and what  services are, or are not, essential. 

Perhaps due to pressure by a minority of irate citizens, perhaps due to the failing economy, perhaps both, the authorities are beginning to allow certain places to reopen. So smalls stores, GoodWills, salons, restaurants... here they come....

The U.S. president has declared he thinks churches should reopen. Sigh. That person doesn't give three straws about going to church. He just knows that saying that they should reopen is going to get him support, and pave the way for other things to reopen. Sure, people will disagree that churches should reopen. But they can just be labeled heathens or whatever. Go home, church haters. 

As for me, I would like to go to church when it's safe again. We used to meet in this big building with a stained-glass window at the front of the sanctuary that could cause partial blindness mid-service if you sat in the wrong pew at the wrong time of year. Since March, I've been listening to the sermons online. But they could reopen the building today, and I wouldn't go. I won't go until the curve goes downward and/or there's a vaccine.

Growing up in a conservative Baptist church, we were regularly told that a "church" is the people, not the building. We were taught that even people in Bible times only went to The Temple once a year (and that was when it was intact!) because of distance/feasibility. And Jesus didn't even preach indoors half the time. He preached on a mountainside or by a lake or wherever the people were. The Bible is full of stories of people wandering through the desert without a permanent home, or being in exile in strange lands without a temple nearby... and they still found ways to worship. I think if they'd had the internet and could have had internet church services, they'd have been all over it. 

So here I am. I'm staying put. Teaching online. Trying to grow a garden. Subsisting on home-cooked meals. Dreaming of a vacation to another part of the world. Lightly mourning the June trip I had to cancel. Treading cautiously. And not because I'm anti-freedom. Because I'm anti-dying.

I mean, I know I'll have to do it eventually, but for now... procrastination rules.

* * *

Previously: Chapter 1 (March 19), Chapter 2 (March 26 & 27), Chapter 3 (April 7), C
hapter 4 (Oldtimey Historical Edition, Circa 1918), Chapter 5 (April 14-22), Chapter 6 (April 30- May 6) Chapter 7 (May 9-17).

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Corona Chronicles: Chapter 7

May 9

While driving around today I saw not one but two vans parked on corners, with people selling -- no, not flowers for Mothers' Day -- no, not fruits or vegetables...

Masks. They were hocking cloth masks.

My first thought was, Really? 

My second thought was, What took them so long?

May 13

The big deal these days (and by these days, I guess I mean "the past two weeks") has been certain people chomping at the bit to get the country opened again. For "normalcy" to resume. Some argue that by keeping us in our homes, we're being denied our freedoms. "We did what you said for two months! Now let us out!"

If I wear sunscreen every day in June and July, but decide in August that wearing sunscreen for two months is enough... guess what? I'm going to get a raging sunburn (or worse) when I stop wearing sunscreen in August.

If I'm given an antibiotic for an infection, and the doctor tells me to take it for 10 days, but I stop after 4 days because I'm starting to feel better... and that infection comes raging back because I didn't give the antibiotic enough time... who's fault is that?

With the Corona virus, we have a similar situation, but also different. See, if I stop wearing sunscreen, stop taking my prescribed antibiotic, etc., I'm only putting myself at risk. But with this virus, if go out and start mingling in a "normal" fashion, it's not just myself who I'm putting in danger. It's everyone. Because I may be asymptomatic and not know it.

It's crazy, but I'm STILL hearing people say that the virus isn't a big deal. I'm reminded of the story of the 10 plagues of Egypt from back in the day. Locusts and frogs and hail, and everybody kept on suffering, partly due to the pharaoh, who was like, "Nope. Not going to let my slaves go free." Only the final plague, which killed the pharaoh's son, was enough to (temporarily) convince him.

Is that what it will take for people to take it seriously? For every person to have at least one loved one succumb to the virus? That's horrible. And yet...

These are the stats as of this minute, today as I'm writing this on 5/13:

Here's the link, if you want to see the latest numbers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/coronavirus-us-cases-deaths/

That's just in America.

May 14

I can't believe all the arguing that's going on regarding masks. Should people wear them, or shouldn't they? Do they help prevent the spread of disease, or are they totally useless? Do they give people a false sense of security? What about those people that wear the masks incorrectly... should they be shamed?

These days, I wear a mask if I'm going to be around people. If I'm just going on a walk with my mom, I usually don't. (We rarely encounter anyone else on our walks.) The rest of the time, yes. And whether or not wearing masks can prevent germs from getting in or out, I don't know. What I do know is that wearing a masks helps me do one very important thing... it keeps my hands away from my face.

I can't even tell you how often I touch my face. I usually don't even realize I'm doing it. I'll be chatting with someone online and suddenly become aware that I'm gnawing on one of my nails.  I rub my eyes. I play with my lips. I can't count how many times I've been watching a movie on my laptop, caught my reflection in the screen, and been like, "Why is my finger pressed to my lips?" But there it is.

So when I wear a mask, it reminds me not to touch my face -- at least until I get home and can wash my hands first. I even keep the mask on in the car after I've run an errand, because, oh yes, I will absolutely hold the steering wheel with one hand and scratch my nose with the other. I know this, because it has happened.

And if I'm not touching my face in public, guess what else I'm not doing? I'm not spreading my facey germs around via my hands.

So yeah. I wear a mask. And I wish other people would, too. Because it's a little thing we can all do.

And yes, masks fog up my glasses. So it goes.

May 17

Sometimes when May rolls around, I have flashbacks to May, 2012, and the hardships in the months that came afterward. This year, especially, things feel a little too familiar... not being able to travel (because back then I had to stick close to home to receive treatments 5 days a week)... not being able to eat in restaurants (physically, I could... but not being able to taste much of anything for two months kind of negated all pleasures in that.)

And then I have to laugh, because there were so many other things about that summer that... well, I can sit here and be grateful that I'm not living through those things right now. The burned skin, the sore throats, the smell of that radiation beam, that sickening stuff I had to drink before my CAT scan, the mouth soreness, the inability to fully close my eyes (hello, shampoo!)

So I can't go to restaurants right now. Okay. So I can't travel right now. That is a bummer. We had to cancel our Canada trip that was to take place next month. We were so looking forward to it. My mom and I hadn't been able to travel together in years, because my grandma needed caring for.

But I've been through this before. Sort of. I mean, I can maybe say I've been through... worse?

And someday this will all be over (I hope?) and then... yeah. Everything just has to be put off, postponed. It makes me sad, but it also seems silly to be sad?

HELLO, my emotions.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Corona Chronicles: Chapter 6

April 30

Earlier I was thinking... how strange... it was only LAST MONTH that we were still in school and  doing normal things!

These last 7 weeks have felt like a year. Possibly even a decade.

Not much has changed around here since my last post. The tasks involved in working from home have increased over the past two weeks. So far I'm keeping track of all the different video chats I have to do... this one, four days a week... this one, twice a week... this one, sporadically. Some are better than others. Yes, I wear pajama pants to all of them.

One of my new tasks for work involves doing book readalouds onto video. I've already been doing some of these to send to my nieces. Perhaps because I've devoted my energy to doing these (or perhaps because my workroom has become a disaster area, thanks to the piles of books and curriculum), I've really let my production drop on my vlog. Oh well. It's not like I have a plethora of viewers to disappoint. (Waves to my three viewers.)

I've been watching a lot of Youtube and Hulu lately (mainly Top Model). I watched Deep Impact over on Netflix for the first time in probably a decade, and walked away from it thinking, "That sucks... at least (for most people) Corona isn't necessarily the end of the world.")

May 6

A week ago I finally made my latest book, Caitlin The Magnificent, available for preorder on Amazon.com! This is exciting because, well, it is not easy for me to finish things. I started this one in 2015, and it could've been published two years ago if I'd really buckled down, but this whole quarantine thing has changed me in some very weird ways.

For example, the other week, I had to make phone calls for work. I hate making phone calls. But I knew I had to do it. So I sat down one afternoon and just did it. A few weeks later, we were tasked with making even more phone calls, to different families this time. And so, once again, I took a deep breath and I did it. And, to my amazement, I did not drop dead during or after. And recently, when a relative called me and left a message asking me to call him back, I did not wait six days to do it. I called him back the very next day. (I would have called him the same day, but I... forgot.)

What is happening to me?

Anyway, among other things, I made a little webpage for the book, and it is here, if you would like to view it. Also, please order it. It's really cheap. You  might even like it! It's supposed to be the first in a series. I do have a pretty good draft of book #2. Please, if you know me IRL, occasionally pester me to finish it, won't you? I'd really appreciate it.

A couple of photos from my walk today...

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

LEGO Idea Fridays: Special Musical Blog Edition

As part of my LEGO-related YouTube channel, Molly Makes Stuff Up, I occasionally check out Ideas.Lego.com, a place where people from around the world post their LEGO creations in the hopes of them someday becoming an official set. The website also hosts periodic contests. The most recent one, Music To Our Ears, is currently in the fan voting phase. The build that gets the most fan votes will win all kinds of cool prizes, but all the builds, winners or not, are going to be considered for LEGO Ideas.

So the other day I filmed a video where I looked at these finalists, but there was a problem with my sound on the recording. Sigh. Since I don't have it in me to re-record the video, I thought I'd do a blog post instead! So today I'm going to be looking at the 10 finalists for the Music To Our Ears contest, and picking my favorites.

All photos below were directly yoinked from this page, and credit goes there.

P.S.: I know today is not actually Friday. But answer me this: Does time even matter anymore?

The Finalists...

Legendary Stratocaster by TOMOELL

These are nice! I've seen LEGO guitar replicas before, but these are taking it to a new level. They look tiny, but they must be at least 4-5 inches wide. Great details and variety across the five models.

Ludwig van Beethoven by Stevenhoward27

This is really cool! I love the ink bottle and the spilled ink, the pen, and the sheet music. Those are some crafty LEGO techniques, right there.

Daft Punk concert with LEGO Night Mode by RobotRock

I wasn't sure what this was at first, but... it's cool! Yay lights!

Long Live Queen by BrickskipperMx

This is a great tribute to the band Queen, and I can see this build becoming an official set, as it would complement the Beatles Yellow Submarine set that came out a few years ago. I love the lettering, the shape of the build, and even the earthy color choices.

Jazz Quartet by Hsinwei Chi

Absolutely incredible. Instantly recognizable. Such personable miniland-scale folks. 

LEGORILLAZ by yop1172

I'm not familiar with the band Gorillaz, so there was no instant recognition from me here. Still, you can tell a lot of love went into this build.

The Last Organ Grinder by Roldan A.G.

This is super cool, especially if you take a look inside (see the website), but I can't help asking -- where's the monkey?

Mr. Radio by MrMaestro

I do love me some vintage hardware, and this is a beauty. If this was just a model of the outside of a radio, I might give it a pass, but it actually opens up and you can see the "insides." Now, if only it played real music...

Sony Walkman TPS-L2 1:1 by Patrick60

Now, this is my kind of build. Nostalgia factor? Totally. Scale model of real-life object? Yes, please. The attention to detail here is well worth noting. Alas, I'd still rather own the real thing.

Musical Modular by Okay

I absolutely love this. From the guitar on the front to the clarinet on the corner, from the piano sidewalk to the music-note windows, from the music-loving minfigs to the record player on the roof. Dang. Can this be the next official Modular? I'd buy it.


In conclusion, I would like to see sets made out of the following:

As for my vote for the contest? It goes to JAZZ QUARTET. It looks simple (yet totally isn't), it's recognizable, and it's got so much personality. Great job!

If you'd like to look at all these builds in more detail (including some backs-of-MOCs and MOC innards!), just head on over to Ideas.LEGO.com.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Corona Chronicles: Chapter 5

So here we are.


I had to go to the grocery store today. I wore a mask and gloves and did all that, and I am telling you, it was an incredible experience. The store was way less crowded than usual, and nearly everyone was good about maintaining their distance. Getting around the store was like trying to play a video game -- maneuvering around obstacles, waiting for the koopas to pass before making a tight turn into aisle six, avoiding areas with people in them. Though, to be honest, I usually do those things anyway... this time, though, it felt like a game? Guys, it's been a really long time since I've gotten out.

Well, I still go on walks almost daily. And yesterday I was able to make a very special trip to the Oregon Humane Society, where I was able to adopt this very purry senior fellow...

He's a little skittish, but mostly mellow. And he sleeps 80% of the time. He's good about using his litter box, and he has the loveliest purr. His name is Marleaux, and he is a good boy.


Why did nobody tell me that the tax deadline got postponed to July? I was not informed of this. Nope, I filed my taxes like a good girl, and now you tell me I could have procrastinated? I feel cheated somehow.


Things I miss...

Going out to eat
Going to IKEA
Going to GoodWill


Apparently, not much.


First trip to Costco in six weeks. There was a line to get in, and the line followed this bizarre course they'd created using wooden pallets, snakes of shopping carts, and other obstacles. The interiors were less crowded than usual. Managed to get toilet paper, of which there was plenty. I've been to Fred Meyer 3-4 times since all this began, and they've always been completely out. Go Costco. (I also managed to fill a prescription here of a med that was -- you guessed it -- completely OUT at FM.)


Before the pandemic, I tutored a 5th grader once a week. Now we're going to try doing it over Zoom. We had our first session today. It went okay, but was kind of exhausting? His assignment for next time: Choose ONE Zoom background, and stick with it. Watching a kid fly from the moon to the Golden Gate Bridge to the Mohave dessert and back, over and over, is a bit much.


I saw this article, and related: https://www.bustle.com/p/feeling-calm-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-a-valid-reaction-experts-say-22810728

Some days I'm a little kooky, but other days I'm totally fine! Am I repressing my anxiety? Nah, I don't think so. Two points stood out:

"You may also be finding some aspects of isolation soothing, especially if you're introverted by nature."

Yep. Check.


"Previous experience with trauma can also make people more chill."

Hello, I've been through so much worse. 

Although earlier I had some chest pains and immediately became convinced that I had an undiagnosed case of the Corona Virus, which had resulted in a collapsed lung, and that my doom was imminent... but two hours later, I'm fine now? So I guess I'll live to see tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Glossy Time Capsules #22: Family Circle - December, 1976

Glossy Time Capsules #22

Family Circle
December, 1976
Price: 39 cents

* * *

Throughout this project, I've featured Family Circle quite a few times. We've visited 1942, 1965, 1986, and 1980 and 1982. Now it's time to visit the 1970s!

This issue is huge! It has 236 pages, and there were over 100 pages that I felt compelled to photograph. I tried to bring that number down for this blog, but it wasn't easy! I hope I did this issue justice, anyway.

So this was the December, 1976, issue, and naturally, there was much ado about The Holidays....

Gift suggestions were aplenty!

Stamps, rodents, and steering wheel covers. Groovy.

True Value had plenty of gifts to choose from...


True Value may have had a lot to offer, but they weren't nearly as persistent as Sears, who bought out numerous full-page ads and had them scattered throughout this magazine....


Other companies felt they needed a gimmick to catch the reader's attention. Coronet paper towels may be pretty, but who can resist an offer for a wallet that can hold 24 credit cards?

And clearly you would run like lightning to your nearest grocery store after discovering THIS coupon...


Not every ad featured something that exciting. There were the usual ads for detergent...


Cleaning products...

And that perennial favorite, toothpaste...

As this was a family magazine, there were plenty of ads for toys....

Bless the pre-Elmo Sesame Street days!

No Family Circle would be complete without a section devoted to tacky craft ideas and questionable recipes...

And there were, of course, articles...

This article is all about then-rising trend of wives running way from their families. Yikes!

And then there's this one...

Hey, it's the former Shirley Temple!

See her expression? I'd have that look, too, if I was being interviewed by this guy...

"Her figure was more ample than I would have liked, and her golden hair had turned to black, but the sparkle in her eyes was undiminished."

You tell him, Shirley!

Hey, let's take a look at food. Who doesn't love food? I love food!

Nothing healthy here -- Just the way I like it!

Onward to Beauty!

"I'm Sand."

Ugh, why so much blonde?

Meanwhile, in Entertainment, they asked celebrities of the day how they handle all the Holiday treats & goodies without gaining too much weight.

I especially love the juxtaposition of these two...

 Mala's all like "blah blah blah, feasting, fasting, Zigzag diet, liquids, willpower, blah, blah, blah..."

And Loretta's like, "I do Yoga. Annnd we're done."

Ah, the music of 1976...

And in TV & Movies...

A ballet version of Little Women?! How do I get my hands on this?

And now, the moment you all have been waiting for...


Surprise! It's soap! That's a terrible surprise.

Live, Laugh, Love?


"etc." was good enough for people in the 70s.

Give the gift of "music"... annnnd instantly regret it..

So that's 1976. 44 years ago, this hunk of dead trees was sprawled on coffee tables throughout the land. Those toy ads were making kids' letters to Santa even longer. Those recipes were inspiring culinary disasters from coast to coast.

And this face was beckoning to one and all, ready to sell you chocolate and haunt your nightmares eternal...

For more Glossy Time Capsules, click here!