Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reach Out And Touch Faith

I find religions fascinating.

I love the stories and myths behind them, I love finding out the levels of belief that other people have, and most of my favorite people are ones that have strong and knowledgable ties to their religion.

And, despite my fondness for those types of people and the fact that, as a child, I loved reading children's versions of Old Testament tales- religion never really "took" with me nor did it ever feel comfortable or safe. My parents are Catholic and I was off-and-on in religious education classes growing up. But, if we're being honest, I often feel that I wasn't so much raised in the Roman Catholic Church as much as the U.S.F.S.A.- The United States Figure Skating Association. I spent more weekends in skating rinks than I ever spent in churches.

My mother often refers to me, with a wary tone, as being a cynical child from an early age. Which isn't quite fair, as I was also a very pleasant child... I just couldn't grasp certain concepts. Why was Jesus real when Narnia wasn't? Why did a man have all his strength in his hair when Popeye's spinach strength was fantasy? Why were aliens a silly idea but a talking burning bush was sacred?

To put it simply: I was the five-year-old that had to be sat down and told that it was okay that I didn't think Santa was real (due to a combination of not understanding 1- why he would skip certain people that seemed nice enough and 2- how he got into my fireplace-less home) but that I should keep my mouth closed about it and just let all the other kids enjoy their Santa-believing lifestyle. And I stuck to that. Even after the year where my mother hung my chocolate-filled stocking over a heating vent and ruined both the stocking and everything in it, I kept my trap shut when around other kids. Same goes for all my weird religion-related questions.

But, at the same time, I could totally see myself being easily sucked into a cult if caught at a vulnerable moment. I've done more than one nonsense "alternative" health treatment in hopes of just getting a good placebo effect- it's only a matter of time before someone sucks me into some weird belief system (I'm guessing when I'm in my late 30s/ early 40s and having that new age crisis that seems to happen then). Anyway, that's why I find stories about religions that fall into the "cult" definition (or just get referred to as a cult without actually being one) fascinating to learn about. Especially when from the point of view of someone that lived it and can see the ups and downs involved.

This is all one long way to say: Have you been reading the "Scientology & Me" series being posted over at Go read the four parts to it! Now!

Monday, November 26, 2012

For the Rich Child Within You: is offering the "Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey (Collector's Edition) [Hardcover]" set for 40% off for Cyber Monday. That's making it a cool $600 to purchase one of the 3,000 copies that will be sold worldwide.

$600 for books about the making of somewhat decent adaptations of very good books? Eh. I'd much rather have real versions of some textbooks from Hogwarts myself. I'm sure they'll have no trouble moving these 3,000 sets, though. No problem at all.

My favorite quote I've heard about this sale today comes from the lovely ladies at The Mary Sue, in reference to how The replica Monster Book of Monsters is actually a false book for hiding items:

"Because if you have a friend over, they’re not going to totally attempt to open a replica of The Monster Book of Monsters as soon as they see it on your shelf and then find your Horcrux."

Personally, I've gone to much more troubling lengths to hide my horcruxes than that.

Not that I've made any horcruxes.

Those don't exist.

Ooh, look- shiny books about okay movies!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Feel Like Everyone Missed The Best Lady Friends Movie of 2012...

... Or, at least, I know I almost did! Because I don't think it was in theaters for very long or in wide release.

For A Good Time, Call... is possibly even the best portrayal of girl friendship in over a decade. No, seriously. GO WATCH IT! It's apparently possibly still in theaters in the UK, if you're in that part of the world.

And doesn't pull its punches with how, yes, women have friendships sometimes that are so deeply connected that they are a form of love that rivals romance- without actually being romance. And when those friendships are tested, those break-ups can be so much more painful than losing a romantic partner, as you're losing the person that you go to for talking about your romantic partner- the person that knows all your secrets. The person that you've never had to worry about your looks with. The person that you've never had to pretend with.

Yes, all this is covered in a movie that is about roommates staring a phone sex line. A plot (and R rating) which probably cut the audience short. Which is partially a shame but... it's still a damn good story line. It's fun, it's shown in a new light, and it says something about how women shouldn't be ashamed of their sexuality- whatever form of sexuality they have.

I sure as hell wouldn't have found the movie as funny if it had been about roommates starting up a knitting business. Don't get me wrong, I like knitting, but a sex line was a more amusing A plot.

Hell, the only part of the movie that falls flat is Justin Long's super gay character that seems to exist just to help the two girls and to have scenes with the Miller-Rogan dog. But I'm not even too upset about that, as he serves a purpose and I'm guessing that Lauren Miller & Katie Anne Naylon likely based the character on someone from their real life.

Also, I'm now slightly in love with Ari Graynor. She's just so insanely amazing constantly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Still Love Them After All These Years...

Anyone else watching Nickelodeon's new version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I was really prepared to hate it but ended up adoring it instead.

The humor is really spot on (one of the producers is from Animaniacs, if that tells you anything), the characters are super-well-defined- probably the best they have ever been defined, and the animation is actually pretty impressive. I was terrified about it being CGI, as I find the current CGI Green Lantern cartoon painful to watch. But the shading is excellent and the use of 2-D effects in the 3-D environment is pretty impressive.

Also, it seems to grasp a lot more from the title of the show than most of the previous incarnations did. They really at like disobedient goofy teenagers, they're super aware that they're mutants (mutants play a big part in the over-arcing plot of the show), they do a lot of ninja training, and they're very turtle-y. The emphasis is really on them being teenagers, though. As this might be the most true to life portrayal of teenagers currently on any Nickelodeon show. Seriously.

The one issue I have with it so far is April. While the boys have all been very defined and get a lot to do, April still doesn't seem like a whole character. Or, at least, not a whole interesting character. I know that my childhood memory of the classic April is really distorted- but I wanted to be her so much as a small child. This April just isn't interesting yet. Which is a shame because with Mae Whitman voicing her, all they have to do is give her some good lines and plots and Mae will carry it home.

But there's still time to flesh her out beyond "lost her father" and "Donatello has a crush on her"- so I'm not disparing yet. The first six episodes are all on Hulu currently. The latest one is linked above. Check it out.

In the mean time, I've just realized that the movies (all three live action movies, Turtles Forever, and TMNT) are all on Amazon Prime Instant. So, I'm going to be passing some serious time this winter re-watching turtle movies.

Well, and this so-bad-its-good-but-its-so-bad related item:

Black Friday Time Is Here, Me Moping Time Is Here.

Cartoon by Dan Piraro

Last night, as I drove home alone from Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's house, the Christmas season funk officially blossomed in me. It didn't help that my iPhone's shuffle function seemed determined to just play sad songs for most of the drive, either.

Around 10 pm, I drove past a Walmart and K-Mart that shared a parking lot and they were busier than I've ever seen them before. There were even people tailgating in the parking lot. This, especially because of the Walmart, made my mood sour even more as it clearly showed what a selfish nation we are.

People have all KNOWN that for months there have been rumblings about Walmart employees striking on Black Friday to send a message about how they deserve better wages and that it was being asked that people boycott Walmart in solidarity with the striking workers. Apparently solidarity means nothing when you can get a vacuum for a third of its usual price.

I understand that if you live in the middle of no where, sometimes all there is for any shopping is Walmart. Because your town either used to be a cornfield, forest, or desert and someone decided to put houses on it and didn't think about businesses. Or Walmart was put in your little town to bring in new revenue and ended up causing a lot of the pre-existing small businesses in your town to go under.

But the Walmart I drove past was 10 miles outside of the Chicago city limits. It is far from the only option available.

Making Change At Walmart is a great site full of facts about what changes need to be made at Walmart and how it will be at little cost to anyone to make these changes- its just that the rich want to continue to get richer rather than pay their employees enough to support their families.

The statistics about Walmart employees receiving government assistance due to being below the poverty line are the kicker, though.

This is from one of the facts sheets on

"Many Walmart workers are forced to utilize state subsidized benefits. Three major studies—one in Georgia, one in California, and one in Massachusetts—found that Walmart was the employer that had workers most reliant on government assistance. It is estimated that Walmart employees cost taxpayers more than $1 billion nationwide."
After a disgusting election season that had people bitching about how they didn't want to be forced by the government to pay money to support the "lazy" poor people- you would think that those same people would be the ones that realize that if Walmart just paid their employees $12 an hour rather than $8.81 an hour, that it would significantly decrease the amount of households on government assistance. Yet, I didn't hear much coming from those people on the subject.

And it's not like it would hurt anyone if Walmart paid their employees a little bit better. The customers will, on average, only have to pay an extra $12 and change a year because of the wage increase. The average employee will make $3,000-$6,500 extra a year. The guys at the top of the Walmart food chain  will barely see a decrease in their pocket change- they'll still be making far more than anyone else at Walmart and have more money than they know what to do with. Also, it's a proven fact that employees that are paid better perform their jobs better. Maybe if Walmart paid their employees better, it wouldn't be so horrible to have to go into a Walmart.

And now Black Friday is half way over (some sales are ending as I type). So, there's not much of a point in me sputtering about boycotting any further.


I would like to point out that Black Friday is the perfect day to start thinking about spreading cheer to those that have little to be currently cheerful about. If you saved gobs of money today on Black Friday sales, don't forget to maybe put a little of the leftover money you have towards a charity.

Here's a few favorites:

  • Toys For Tots bins should be out already at many stores. If you're at Toys 'R' Us in the next month, remember to grab two of whatever toy you were buying and put one in the bin. Or donate via paypal directly on the TfT site! Remember that they are always short on gifts for pre-teen and teenage girls! Also, if you know a child-in-need you can also find information on the site on how to get a toy for them.
  • Feed America has dozens of different options for how to help feed starving families in America. You can start a food drive (in person or even a virtual food drive!), donate in someone's honor, donate money for specific food items to be purchased for families, donate whole meals, do monthly donations, payroll donations, stock donations, or just give $12 so that a kid has breakfast for a few weeks when otherwise they wouldn't. Note: Just remember to un-select the option to receive communications, because you will get soul-crushing physical mail for a lot of organizations looking for donations otherwise.
  • The Red Cross is always a good option for when you don't have money to spare but want to give back in some way. Volunteer for them or donate blood and platelets rather than money. Platelets only have a 5 day shelf life and are ALWAYS in demand! The site will point you towards where you can go in your area to donate and make sure to check the eligibility FAQ for donating blood before you go.
  • Goodwill is ideal for both saving money AND for donating. Board games area always cheaper at Goodwill (just check that they have all their pieces) and remember to head there first if you're looking for Christmas decorations or seasonal clothing that you're not likely to wear more than once or twice (i.e. Ugly Christmas Sweater Party items). And as you're getting gifts this year, start taking note of items in your house that you're not using anymore but you know that others might appreciate and donate them to Goodwill. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

This Geek Is Thinkin' That ThinkGeek's Been Sneakin'...

... especially when an email from them is simply titled:

"ThinkGeek's in space. Space. Spaaace!"

And then I open it to see that they are selling inflatable Space Personality Cores.

I know I'm not the only one obsessed with the Space Core (wanna go to space) from Portal 2 (need to be in space), but I do think I'm, possibly, a little too fond of the Space Core (I'm the best as space).

To the point that I have a history of Facebook arguments that completely center around defending the Space Core (spell it S-P-ace. Space) as a presidential candidate.

No worries, dear human readers, I didn't officially vote for the Space Core (So much space. Need to see it all.) but I did vote for the candidate that best supports the Space Core's interests (Dad, are you space?).

In conclusion: Inflatable Space Cores for Christmas for EVERYONE!

(Except you. You get Wheatley.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BB Cream Is A Terrible Name For A Product, Anyway

Some time in the past year BB cream suddenly became "a thing" in America. Suddenly, all cosmetic companies were making them and girls that looked vaguely like Kristen Bell were literally yelling about them on television.

And I was uninterested. I gave up on liquid foundation-like products a decade ago.

But a sample of Dr. Jart Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm was given to me. So, I tried it, despite being baffled by the redundant name (shouldn't it be BBBB?) and why exactly it needs to be called both "Black Label" and "Detox".

The below video basically describes my experience trying it:

Pod Thoughts: The Dork Forest- Salsa with Solange Castro

The most recent episode of Jackie Kashian's The Dork Forest was all about recreational salsa dancing.

My thought process while listening to it went something like this:

1. Sweaty dancing in painful shoes does not sound fun.
2. Wait. Now I have been convinced that dancing would be a good work out.
3. I wish I had the guts to take swing dancing classes. But I've seen the beginning of Strictly Ballroom too many times to go through that.
4. ... maybe if I dragged someone along with me to classes?

To sum up: Talk of SALSA dancing makes me want to take SWING dancing classes.

Obviously, the dance-related portion of my brain has a wire or two crossed.

(Also: there is very low probability that I'll even remember this urge to take swing classes ever existed in 24 hours.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Thing I Know About The Internet:

Humans like pictures of cats. This cat likes 1 terabyte external hard drives.


Welcome to Invisible Robot Girl.