Saturday, March 30, 2013

How To (Not) Plan For Your Parents' Anniversary...

My parents' 40th anniversary is coming up this summer. Last summer, I started pestering my sister about wanting to do something for it. I wanted to gather the money to send them to their preferred vacation spot. She wanted to do a party, as it would be less expensive.

Well, a few weeks later she announced she was pregnant and our plans fizzled and/or were put on hold. She's due in three weeks. And all her extra time and money is disappearing already.

This week, my parents announced that they were already planning on going to their favorite vacation spot for their anniversary. They booked a place yesterday.

My family is really cramping my style these days.

This week I also finally found a place that will rent me an 8mm projector, so that I can digitize their old home movies from the 70s. But as my father already knows that I'm trying to do that (as I had to check with him to confirm that they were soundless Super 8 and 8mm films and not 16 mm), I know I can't just leave it at that.

And as they've already booked their vacation, I'd now just be handing them a wad of cash to pay for a nice dinner and lessen the expense of the vacation. Which would be fine if things were reversed, but I understand that my parents are, somehow, human beings with normal emotions and might actually like something a tad more dressed up.

As I started digging through countless "Ruby Anniversary Gift Ideas" and trying to copy as many addresses as I could from all of my dad's political email forwards, it started to become more apparent that I was going to need to do more than just send an email request for extra materials to turn into a gift for my parents.

... And then I started thinking about making a new blog (that they hopefully wouldn't find) to track all the progress on the project.

And then, even worse, I started to consider domain name ideas for this blog. I haven't even run most of these through to see if they are already owned or not, mind you. You'll realize why soon enough:

It seems that my "be a good kid" urges are quickly out-done by my "be a smart-ass" urges.

Anyone have any good ideas for 40th anniversary gifts?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Austen Settee Limits: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ended yesterday. Just shy of a year after it premiered, the 100th episode was released today and was a sweet send off to a beautiful re-incarnation of Jane Austen's beloved Elizabeth Bennet and her friends and family.

Now, it's one thing to just do a modernization of Pride & Prejudice- we've seen that. But The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was also an amazing display of telling a complex story in a minimal set-up. It was a professional production (most of the actors have popped up in commercials and episodic television) but kept expenses low and quality high. The episodes are all under ten minutes long, there's rarely more than three characters on screen in one episode, and the camera stays completely stationary. Editing was even kept to a minimum- ebbing away with each episode until there would only be a couple cuts in every installment. To promote the show and help grow a fanbase, twitter accounts were created for the characters and kept active to bridge the gaps between episodes each week. All 100 videos have hundreds of thousands of views within days of going up on YouTube.

And, even more impressive, they stuck to the plan to end it. Over the past few years as I've watched more and more foreign shows, I've become a big fan of shows that know when to quit and are written with a set finale in mind. One of the perks of being based on a classic story.

But most impressive was how they kept it interesting while still sticking to the blueprint of the original story. I started watching the show about two weeks after it premiered and barely a week went by since then when I didn't watch at least one episode. They really put some time and focus into how the various plots of the original story needed to be tweaked and twisted to reveal motives and add layers to a well known story to keep the viewers invested.

My Favorite Things About The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:

Charlotte. A character that often gets down-graded in adaptations to just "Elizabeth's not-pretty but practical friend that ends up married to Mr. Collins" and then, "plot device friend that Elizabeth stays with so that Darcy can confront her". In TLBD, Charlotte is finally given the treatment she deserves- remaining levelheaded but now she can reveal her sass and business savvy ways. No marriage necessary. No comments about her looks (considering how pretty Julia Cho is...). And plenty of on-camera compliments made towards her awesomeness. The friendship between Charlotte and Lizzie is the solid ground beneath the whole show and Charlotte is never gone for long, thankfully.

Lydia. The break-out star of the series was definitely Mary Kate Wiles's version of the indeed "energetic" Lydia Bennet.

But this is a Lydia that gets to also tell her side of the story for once. For better or worse. I had been waiting for ages to see what they would do to update Lydia's story and I was honestly taken by surprise at what direction it went in. They figured out a way to make the story fit with the limits of the series while also making it so they were able to show the emotional journey that Lydia ends up going on for the last half of the series. Lydia also had her own spin-off series to help set the scene for her eventual plotline, however there is a noticeable drop in the quality of writing compared to the main Lizzie story.

Costume Theater. Whenever Lizzie needed to discuss things that couldn't be shown somehow as a vlog or involved characters that weren't in on the project, Costume Theater was used to portray important off-camera events. Such a good little invention! Ashley Clements (Lizzie) and Julia Cho (Charlotte) get to play with being different characters and also show that they have a dynamic that life-long friends would have. It was a lot more effective than you would expect. Also, it's just silly fun. Apparently Mr. Bennet is one of the few people in the world that still smokes a pipe!

Additional Thoughts: I really loved watching the show and will be watching new shows from the same production team in the future. However, I had a lot of trouble watching the last handful of episodes- especially with Darcy in them. After 90+ episodes, they were finally starting to feel... voyeuristic. I don't deal well with romance. I'm sure for other people that all that stuff was awesome. Just not for me.

Speaking of Darcy: between this show and a lot of listening to the audiobook of P&P, I've started to suspect that Darcy is on the autism spectrum. 

He has trouble with empathy, difficulty starting conversations and with general social cues, doesn't understand or give out body language, and a habit of narrowing in on certain interests one at a time. I'll be talking about this a few more times as I go over more versions of the story but... yeah. I really think that might've been his problem all along and it wasn't until seeing this Darcy (who is called Darcy throughout the whole story, despite how everyone else, other than Fitz, goes by their first name) that it dawned on me. 

Anyway, if you haven't already watched the show, give it a try or hop over to the Kickstarter campaign for the dvd collection.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Space Between Part Five: Dreams and Memories

Previously in Space: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4

Today is Extraterrestrial Abduction Day. Yes, I also think that's a weird sentence.

As I keep going over all these milestone-y memories related to my childhood obsession with space, I keep noticing just how mixed up I as a child was on some of the details relating to how I was shaping my look at the universe (hence the ficus issue).

To the best of my knowledge and memory, I don't know anyone who admits/believes they were abducted by aliens. I know plenty of people that claim to have seen ghosts, but no one with an alien story.

Other than... me. Sort of. I'm 95% positive it was just a series of dreams mixed with odd deja vu feelings. I usually forget about for years at a time until something will happen and I'll suddenly be reminded of those hazy memories I had. I don't even know where exactly to begin with this...

When I was about four years old, I'm pretty sure I told a boy at daycare that my friend that was a spaceship was going to fly by that day while we were playing to prove that it was real. No spaceship flew past us. I was sad and letdown. The boy didn't really care (why would he care about spaceships? He wanted to go up to be a Ninja Turtle).

What prompted me to tell him the spaceship was going to fly by was that I had at least three separate dreams as a very young child that involved a small round spaceship (around the size of a conversion van but more spherical) landing in my front yard. It would send me a sign of somesort to let me know it was minutes away from landing in the yard. Usually, I was already outside and I'd stand around bored/over-excitedly waiting for it to show up. One time, I remember seeing it through the window of my childhood living room and it took my parents too long to let me have permission to go outside. My mother gave me grief about wanting me to go change out of the shorts I was wearing and into long pants before going out and I felt the need to argue with her about the subject. I lost the argument. And by the time I got outside, the space ship was taking off already without me.

I can't remember if that was the last time I dreamed of it, or if the last dream was after the no-show at daycare.

It had thin landing legs that would hold the round body of the ship just a few feet off the grass. The ship had a name that seemed really normal and human-y. Something like "Sally" but probably not Sally. It spoke to me in someway but not outloud. It was like a person.

A hole would appear in the bottom of the ship and I would dip between the landing legs and climb into the ship via the hole- having to get my hands on the floor inside to push myself up and all the way inside the ship. Then the hole would go back to being part of the floor. And the floor was a big tinted window showing the grass in the yard below the ship. From the outside, the ship appeared to have no windows, but on the inside most of the walls would be windows allowing you to see the glare and tint distorted versions of the surroundings of the ship. There would also be various blinking lights on some consoles, but I don't remember ever having much to do with those. I'd just kneel on the floor and view all the windows that were down low at that height. I had no interest in looking higher.

The ship would talk to me while I was inside. Tell me things that didn't really make sense. It had a comforting feeling to be around- not so much like a parent but like an older sister or aunt. I'm pretty sure the ship was a girl. It wouldn't take me anywhere for long or really far away, at least not that I ever remember. For the most part, I just remember flying up just high enough to be above the roof of my house and maybe going through the cornfields behind our house. I had no concept yet about how the spaceship would've been from space and that space was in the stars and so on. I do, however, remember being super excited the first time I saw the roof of my house from the ship- it was missing a couple shingles and there was a frisbee and a few lost balls on the roof.

It's memories like those that make me question if it was in fact a series of dreams. And the argument with my mother about wearing long pants outside. Why would I dream about that? I didn't even win the argument!

But, other than all that, I can't remember much more. There's something about the sign of the spaceship's landing involving toys in the bushes but I don't really know what that was about.

Like I said, I don't think these were real experiences and, if they were, I have no idea what or why they would be about. I do know that part of the reason the movie Contact hit me so hard is because the look of the floor when she's in the machine and suddenly seeing through the machine reminded me of the dreams for the first time in a long time (possible four years since I had previously thought about those dreas).

It also could've been that I saw Flight of the Navigator and Explorers when I was far too young and my brain has pieced together things from those movies into thoughts of old dreams.

But the ship was no where near as slick, gigantic, and complicated as the one in FotN and the ship in Explorers was too small and too made-by-hand. Neither worked much like the one in my dreams.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Well, That Was A Depressing Insight...

Have you ever ended up on the Hanes website looking for deals on underthings?

First, there's the annoying realization that even online you can't buy a six pack of hipsters in just one color- you still have to get a variety pack. And, even worse, you won't know what type of variety pack it will be when you get it.

Secondly, you start looking at what the other options are- which leads you to discover depressing things.

Now, you may be thinking, "Wow, you're over-reacting. They're just panties that say USA."

No. Go look at the other options given. "I Love Sailors", "Burnt Out", "I'm Your Biggest Fan" are a few choices. 

I'll freely admit that I'm a prude, but... ew. Some of them aren't so bad, but... EWWWW. How exactly did Hanes end up at the decision of, "Hey, you know what we should make as cartoony novelty panties? Ones for groupies and fleet week floosies! Because we think this is 1970. What's this internet you're talking of?"

Not exactly what I was expecting for novelty underwear from Hanes. 

Then again, I still don't know why I can't just get a well-priced six pack of dark color, no pattern, tagless, cotton briefs in a hipster cut from them. So, what do I know?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spacing Out, Part Four: The Sky Was Falling

Previously In Space: IntroductionPart One, Part Two, and Part Three

Halloween 1994. I didn't go trick-or-treating that year, for whatever reason. Instead, I spent my night watching the craziest scariest thing on TV that I had ever seen at that time. Something that, when I mentioned it the next morning, no one else at school had watched it- which made it seem even freakier to me. For years, it was filed in the back of my head- something that I hoped was just a forgotten TV special or odd nightmare but might've been, in the end, something terrible that happened yet only I remembered- like from an alternate reality. Or something. In the 2000s, I'd occasionally search the internet to see if anyone else remembered it. Never finding anything helpful.

Until 2011. A friend and I were talking about seeing scary movies too young in life and not being able to process our memories from the scary movies. I brought up that phantom memory of a Halloween special. That's when we found it (the entire thing!) on YouTube: Without Warning.

And even he agreed, after watching clips, that it was kind of messed up, awesome, and terrifying at the same time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Austen Settee Limits: An Introduction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single person in possession of a good obsession, must be in want of a life.
- An Invisible Robot Girl Misquoting A Lady

She started writing as a teenager. Her first known attempt to get published was just before she turned 22. The following year, she sold what would become Northanger Abbey to a local bookseller but it didn't get published. She continued to write.

Her first published book came out when she was 35.

By the time she turned 40, she had three popular novels published, a highly anticipated fourth novel on the way, and even the Prince Regent was a fan.

Then she started to show signs of illness. She continued to write. The fourth novel, Emma, was a hit. But her brothers soon lost all their money, which was helping to support her, her mother, and her sister. She continued to write, finishing a fifth novel, Persuasion, and starting a sixth.

She didn't finish the sixth novel. She didn't live to see her 42nd birthday.

Around what would've been her 42nd birthday, six months after her death,  Persuasion and, finally, Northanger Abbey were published. It was then that her name was put on one of her books for the first time.

A tragically short life for a woman that we're still talking about 200 years later.

 I've noticed that I've been a little... super fond, I guess, about some of my favorite Austen tv and film adaptations. And most nights when I'm trying to fall asleep, I do so while listening to an Austen audiobook. And have a few things to say about each and every one. So, I've decided  to make a regular feature on this blog be Austen Settee Limits. I'll write about the straight up adaptations, the modernized takes, the fanciful rewrites, and even some comic books and web series (you're watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube, right?).

Any suggestions on where I should start the discussion?

Marshmallows! Crowd-Sourcing Wins!

 So, when I hopped onto Facebook this afternoon while in the waiting room at my doctor's office, I expected to see a lot of commenting on the new pope- as I knew there had been white smoke but had not yet heard any further announcements.

Instead, my newsfeed was absolutely SWAMPED with people sharing the Kickstarter link for The Veronica Mars movie. Some people, like one of my cousins, I didn't even know were fellow fans of Neptune's Girl Detective.

At that time, the kickstarter was at about $1,350,000 of the $2,000,000 goal. Four hours later, it had swiftly passed that goal. All pledge rewards above $400 had already been maxed out, which was the really impressive thing. And the majority of pledges seem to be in the $35 to $50 range.

Back in 2004, this is essentially how I fantasized that Joss Whedon could've brought back Firefly. I essentially thought that there should be a way for fans to basically front/pre-order a short second season of the show that would be released either straight to the internet or straight to dvd. I remember debating with someone about if the average fan would pay $30+ for a season of tv that they didn't get to watch until well after they paid.

Nine years later, I think I've won that conversation!

It's going to be amazing, no matter what, to see what the total is on April 12th. I bet Rob Thomas is currently feeling a sense of validation that makes mine look like a grain of sand, though. For years, he has probably been told that he just didn't have a big enough audience and that he was lucky that his little show lasted as long as it did. And now... boom. Also, major props to both Thomas and to Warner Bros. for being able to consider going super low-budget in the sake of making something great. If this is as successful as it has the potential to be, it could mean some big change-ups to how the film industry could finally revitalize itself by focusing more on small and/or micro-budget passion pieces as well as make things interesting in how built-in fanbases are connected to the films that will eventually be marketed to them.

As for knowing that we're a year away from seeing the sassy Miss Mars again? It's so sudden!

 Even though, clearly, this has been in the works for a while (the Kickstarter video was obviously recorded before Kristen Bell was pregnant- a quick read of the EW article from today reveals that they filmed it February of 2012! Holy crap!). I just don't know what to think. I know I'm happy! But how happy am I? I'm a little sad that I'm in a tight money month and can't contribute yet (yet!).

I'm wondering if it will be as good as it has the ability to be (like the first season of the show) or will be decent and okay-ish (like the third season. Or, say, the movie version of another TV show that I might've already brought up in this post. But maybe I didn't say that? It's a decent movie, just not great. I mean, the sound design has some major flaws. We all know this, right? Let's just pretend we don't. I didn't say anything...). But I'd kinda be okay with decent and okay-ish.

Actually, I really would. Because, you know what? I miss seeing Kristen Bell play Veronica Mars. Because Veronica Mars is an amazing character and has made it so every other character Bell ever plays, is a let-down after the amazement that was Veronica.

On a more personal note, it has been a nice evening of nostalgia with all the internet talking about Veronica Mars because the show was one of my favorite shows to watch with my dad. Because it really is a great father-daughter show.

The relationship between Keith and Veronica was probably the strongest of any relationships of any sort on the show and it was always the most interesting one to see be played with. I know other people were all about Veronica and Logan but those puppydog eyes have nothing on seeing Keith Mars trying to wrestle with his emotions when Veronica would do something that was great as a detective but really stupid as teenage girl.

Between Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls (our other major show to watch together- again, with a strong relationship between a parent and child), we had a great three years of shows we both really liked. And tonight it's been nice to be trading article and webpage links with him about the show we both like. It's a lot more fun than watching Flashpoint with him.

Man, I hope someone in the Chicago area purchased the $5000 "we'll rent out a local theater and show the movie" package (and is looking for some friends to pad out that 50 person theater. Hi, future BFF!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Going To Be A Long Monday...

Even if it wasn't the Monday after the terrible Daylight Savings "spring ahead" (oh, Arizona, how I miss you and your refusal to take part in DST), today has felt pretty blech and like a bad idea.

Feel free to join me in looking at tiny Tumbleweed houses and cottages and Airstream trailers while dreaming of a life of tiny solitude. One where if the weather gets you down, you can just drive to a new place with better weather. Until you finally find the perfect place to put a perfect tiny cottage and live like Miss Honey and Matilda.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Proud To Be Baby-Free: Why I Don't Plan To Ever Have Children

My older sister is eight months pregnant currently. At her baby shower, I looked around the room and noticed that the majority of people were pregnant or just had a baby. I think I was one of three people total at a shower of 30 that had no children at all. And I was fine with that, it was more than I found it odd.

I have no desire to have kids. I know the line is hack, but it's true: I can barely take care of myself, why would I think I want to dedicate the rest of my life to taking care of someone else? I can barely afford things as it is, why would I want to make money tighter? Put someone else's life at risk when things go downhill? I feel guilty enough about how I switched the cat to dry food when I was broke a few years ago! Not to mention how having a kid would mean having to forever deal with the other source of genetic material for forever. And I can't even like another person long enough to even need to bring up my lack of desire to procreate!

Not that this is a new development. When I was a kid and would bring my American Girl Doll on playdates, at some point we'd be setting up a scenario to make-believe and the other girls would announce something along the lines of "Well, I'm the mommy and my doll is my baby named Kirsten." Then, it would get to me. And I'd just feel so out of place. Eventually, I'd murmur, "Okay, uh, well... my doll is my little sister."

I didn't want to be the mommy. It seemed weird to me. A little icky even. It's the same thing now, as an adult with a beloved cat for a pet- don't call her my "baby" and don't call me her "mommy". I'm her owner. Her slave. Her human. Her creator-that-gives-food-and-snuggles. Never-ever her "mommy". Because she is an adult cat that, I assume, had an adult cat for a mother at some point. We're more roommates than anything else, if you ask me (see the above list for how she might see our relationship).

When I played alone with my Molly American Girl Doll, I just played that she was Molly. She was living her own life- she was a girl that sometimes slept inside a pink little travel trunk. She wrote in her little doll journal and practiced math with little doll flashcards. Sometimes she would dress in the burgundy dress (that was meant for Samantha dolls but I wanted it anyway) and pretend that she was at the Christmas party in Avonlea with Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. But I never came into the situation. It was all Molly. She wasn't my child, she was my avatar.

As I got older and progressed past the age of playing with my own dolls to babysitting girls that played with dolls, I didn't quite get better at the "playing mommy" thing. I just got better at dealing with the fact that other girls liked to do it. If a little girl I babysat brought me a babydoll and said that the baby needed to be burped, I'd toss the doll lightly into the air and catch it- claiming that I just scared the burps out of the baby and hand it back to the child seconds later. They would laugh and we'd get past things.

Because that's the deal- I'm great entertainment for kids. I like goofy games and word play. I like distracting a kid out of a pout. I like kids a lot- I just don't want my own. I like being able to return them to their rightful owners- often full of junk food, over-indulged, covered in make-up, and sporting new accessories from Claire's.

My life as an aunt has really hit this situation home. I lived with my sister's family for the first six years of my niece's life. We all shared a bathroom.

I had to deal with the washing machine going constantly with loads of baby clothes. I had to hear the wailing baby in the night. I had to go to classes with puked up soured milk down my sleeve. I had to dance to The Wiggles and deal with the fact that the kid would rather sit ontop of me than on any vacant piece of furniture, if given a choice. I had to pop the training seat off the toilet every time I needed to go. I had to check the tub for rogue evil sea witches before stepping in to take a shower. And I was the babysitter that had to hold a sobbing dramatic toddler at 2 AM until she cried herself to sleep after you told her that her parents were still "at a meeting" one night each weekend.

And the diapers... my, god, the diapers...

I've gotten my demo of the lifestyle of a mom. I saw what my sister does. And I do not want that. I like my quiet time. I like not having to worry if the tiny breakable human I'm responsible for is alive or not. But I know that most people want that. And I try my best not to judge you.

And maybe some day my mother will stop telling me that I'll change my mind. Because I've been saying the same thing for 20 years now and she still doesn't quite believe me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Can I Just Make Up New Words For What "BB" Stands For?

Have you read the Wikipedia page on BB Cream? Where it says that someone in Korea has trademarked the word "blemish"? The world is strange. Also, seriously, it's hard to take BB Creams seriously when no one can decide on one single answer for what "BB" stands for: Beauty Balm? Blemish Balm? Blemish Base? What's happening?

You know what's even crazier? The Dr. Jart website. It gives me chills and memories of watching Resident Evil, Tim Burton's Batman, and Brazil. But with the added layer of babelfished translations.

Also, why am I using the same product that my sister's mother-in-law uses? Doesn't that sound a little crazy? She has at least 30 years on me and has been a chain smoker for most of those. Our skin has very little in common!

However, since my last BB Cream related post, I've actually started playing with the Dr. Jart BB Cream more with varying results.

So Far I've Tried:

1. Using it as a last-minute concealer/skintone evener on days where I wore no other make-up.

This seems to be the best way for me to use it. Just hide a little bit of red and pink in irritated parts of my face so that I don't look quite so bad at work.

2. As a base/moisturizer/primer under my powder foundation.

Sometimes this has been the right move (when my skin is too dry for powder to work ideally). Sometimes it's just way too much make-up happening at once (when my skin is not too dry).

3. As a concealer for cuts on my hands

I tried, at least, to hide a cut I got from some wine bottle foil at work. It did not work.

I know the experts claim that BB Cream is ideal for layering but I'm not seeing that when I try to use it for both concealing and over-all coverage. Even with a sponge. And I still hate calling it "BB cream".

Also, it makes my skin feel pretty gross by the end of the day. I try to keep a package of Yes To Cucumbers towelettes with me during the day (lately, I've been throwing them into my soft cooler with my green juices for the day) and after a day of using BB Cream, I end up wiping my face clean during my drive home.

So, basically, I've settled on keeping the BB Cream in my coat pocket for last-minute "don't look like a splotchy mess" touch-ups in the car in the morning. Which, I guess it's nice that it has SPF protection in it while it also evens out my skintone a little bit when I would otherwise never find a tinted sunscreen that could do that. Or a tinted moisturizer. But it's also far from an ideal moisturizer for me.

But moisturizers are another story for another day. I have a ridiculous collection of anti-aging moisturizer samples thanks to Sephora and I take back how much I teased my sister when she was 27 and suddenly started using anti-aging products despite looking like a 20-year-old. Because I see that crease between my eyebrows getting deeper and deeper

Friday, March 1, 2013

Give Me Some Space, Part Three: Hale-Bopp, He Bop, A-We Bop...

Previously In Space: Introduction, Part One, and Part Two

I'm pretty sure I've forgotten more information about astronomy and space exploration than I can ever try to learn again. I had a knack for finding Discovery Channel specials about space as a kid and getting sucked into them. And then I had an even better knack for finding alien movies I was too young to watch and getting obsessed/terrified by them.

Can I still be her when I grow up?

I really wanted to work for the SETI Institute when I was about ten-years-old, because of a Discovery Channel special. "Even after Contact came out and made it sound like all there was to SETI was listening to radio static and arguing with bureaucrats?" You ask. Yes, I still was in love with the idea of working for SETI. And now? Some days it still sounds ideal. I mean, at least it's a non-profit that doesn't deal with government funding and is about something I find interesting. Not that I don't find other non-profits that I might currently work for interesting as well. Um, anyway... SPACE.

A few years  after the whole ficus plant experience, my sister and I had our own little twenty minute personal War of the Worlds moment. We were reading each other to sleep and one of us was flat in the bed, looking out the window above the bed and staring at the sky. And noticed there was a star that was... moving.

I'm not going to say which one of us it was that panicked, but I will mention that twenty years later, my sister (who is six years older than me, please note) once called me just to ask if I heard voices because the children on a "docu-drama" about psychic kids reminded her of how weird I am. This is our relationship.

But we basically freaked each other out by both seeing a star (something that obviously was not an airplane, as it wasn't blinking) that was moving and assuming that the aliens were circling the earth and we were the first to notice.

Thankfully, our first line of action was to tell our dad. Who then marched us outside to stand beneath the bedroom window and tell him where to look.

And then, of course, he told us it was just a satellite.

We went to bed, still slightly convinced that by morning the planet would be enslaved by aliens. And then completely forgot the experience by morning.

Well, for the most part. Until the next trip to the local mall where I saw a telescope at World of Science. Which was my favorite store in the mall for a good chunk of the 90s. So much stuff to touch! I got a giant goopy sticky neon blue slug thing! And then the store became Natural Wonders, which was still pretty good to kid me- I could still play with everything in there! It's just that there would be rain sticks and cds of whale songs but would also have like... fun magnet products and squishy brain-shaped toys. And the telescope. It was gorgeous and was $100. Which, to an nine year old, might as well be $100 million.

I knew nothing about what qualities to look for in a telescope other than the one on display at the mall made it so I could see into the Disney Store on the other side. Good enough for me! If I had a telescope, I could've SEEN if it was a satellite or space invaders (although, I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference even if they were ten feet from my face in most cases. If that were to be a thing.) and been prepared if it had been an invasion! I needed a telescope to help save my planet!

This also happened to be around the time people were talking about the Hale-Bopp Comet. Which, the more I heard about the more obsessed I got with it. And, back in the days when AOL was 90% of the internet- people were still confusing the Hale-Bopp with Halley's Comet and would send tiny me into my first fits of nerdrage.

And the closer it got, the more I wanted that telescope. My memory is foggy, but I'm pretty sure my parents made me pay for it- at least partially. I think I might've requested to start an allowance system and a payment for good grade system for the first time in my life. Some of the money might've also come from my First Communion money. I don't think they really had any objections to buying their nerdy child a telescope but that the issue was more than it was probably a few months after they splurged on buying a Sega Genesis.

But, eventually, I got it. Just in time for the first time the Hale-Bop was starting to be visible. I set it up in our yard and learned how to perfectly walk across our yard without setting off the motion sensor for the light above our driveway. I twisted all the nobs, I attempted to comprehend the user's manual, and I figured out where it would be the clearest... only to never be able to get a great image from the telescope.

I thought it was just me being a dumb kid, but my dad couldn't figure it out either. It was probably, most likely, a combination of actually being broken right out of the box, not being meant for stargazing, and of just stupid shoddy construction. But we tried our best to make it work. There was a lot of "Is THAT it?" "No, that's a star." "How about now?" "No, that's a satellite." "How about now?" "That's a smudge from your finger."

Eventually, a year later when Hale-Bopp was at its brightest, we had pulled the telescope out so much that we were able to get minimal results. We were able to find Hale-Bopp with the telescope and see it as a shaky blurry ball until it moved out of view. It was so slightly impressive, that we had other family members come over to our house to view Hale-Bop and eat slice-and-bake Easter sugar cookies. Which, to be fair, is a much nicer memory to have compared to how most people hear "Hale-Bopp" and either go, "Is that another name for Halley's Comet?" or "That's the Heaven's Gate thing, isn't it?"

I think the only reason why I knew the phrase "Heaven's Gate" was due to Saturday Night Live. I don't think, as a child, I even realized that people had actually died at the time. Did SNL do those jokes after the deaths? I have a feeling at least the fake KEDS commercial they did was after the deaths. Yeesh. Edgy?

As I said, that was barely on my radar- my focus was on the slightly impressive comet itself. I wanted to see what a giant hurtling ball of ice in a vacuum looked like up close! All I saw was a shaky ball of light that was slightly bigger than all the other shaky balls of light in the telescope than to the naked eye. I wanted to see the damn sodium tail and be able to go, "Yup, that's definitely a tail made out of sodium!" by looking in the telescope.

How was I ever going to protect my loved ones from an alien invasion if I could only just barely tell one shaky blob of light from the next? My sense of reality was clearly shaky from the beginning.

I might still be bitter about that telescope. Also, I'm now wondering if my parents still have it.

Also? I'll be reading Contact for the first time this March. I don't know how I let the book go unread this long. Shame on me.