Monday, February 24, 2014

Spores, Molds, and Fungus: Harold Ramis Has Died

I seriously don't remember ever watching a movie before Ghostbusters. And I certainly don't remember voluntarily rewatching any movies before Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II.

Groundhog Day is basically a religious experience for me. It's one of my "I'm having a sad day" movies. It's a movie that I will watch on repeat all day even on days that are not Groundhog Day. I've even driven up to Woodstock, IL in the winter just to take a look at the shooting location in the snow (it's beautiful, by the way).

The emotional journey in that film is something that my mind will wander to frequently in everyday life. Especially the concept that Phil had, by the end of the film, repeated the day for decades worth of time. I always wondered how the hell he would return to life after having lived more life in that one day than before that one day. Would he have forgotten his address back home? Would he not know how to present the weather any more? Are there names of people that he lost during that time, just because he didn't interact with them during the decades he spent trapped in Punxsutawney? And how crushing would his love for Rita be by then, after decades of just trying to win her over and over and over again?

I, quite literally, just found out about Harold Ramis dying. And I got teary. Not just "Oh, that's sad." or "Oh, that's tragic." but honest-to-goodness teary. I don't normally get that way over celebrity deaths. And it's not like he was a spring chicken, right? Nor was he in the middle of a career renaissance. But... he was Harold Ramis. He gave us comedy that wasn't just funny but was also intelligent. He gave us stories that went in directions no one expected and let the characters experience things.

He was able to direct Bill Murray at the height of his Bill Murray-ness. And directed some of the best episodes of the Office.

Not to mention... Egon Spengler. He was Egon Spengler. Possibly the best geek ever put on screen (other than the Doctor).

Mr. Ramis, you will be dearly missed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Not Snow, Not Any More

In my "ignore winter until it gets the hint" move (which is strikingly similar to how I end relationships), I've decided to stop believing that the white stuff that is all over the place is snow.

It's marshmallow.

Marshmallow left over from a second Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack. And this time it was a bigger Marshmallow Man. We're talking at least 1000 feet tall, rather than 100 feet. That's why there's so much! And why it's all over the country!

You see, a Gozer worshipping cult has been growing in strength across the Midwest and Eastern seaboard. And when this cult, mostly made up of millennials, managed to bring Gozer back this time, they just automatically assumed that his physical form was of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, as that is the form they all know he took in 1984. No one other than the Ghostbusters saw the first form that Gozer took! Therefore, Gozer was a 1000+ foot Marshmallow Man this time.

How did they manage to bring Gozer back? Well, by manipulating Louis Tully into sharing his experiences as the Keymaster. You see, Louis's life has been pretty boring in the past 20 years or so. His stint as a ghostbuster was rather short, as shortly after he donned the uniform, Janine was also trying to convince him to style his hair in a familiar tall and top-heavy style that a certain other ghostbuster styled his hair in. Upon realizing that Janine was unintentionally using his willingness to fill the Egon-shaped hole in her heart, Louis left the ghostbusters and tried to just provide legal and financial advise to the team when needed.

But, eventually, he still wasn't over Janine and when the Ghostbusters shut down in 1991, he felt the need to leave New York entirely. It was then that the cult started watching him. And, eventually, he had reached the point in his life where he was so open and looking for something to fulfill him that the cult swooped in and made him feel like a part of something important again. They told him how amazing he was for being picked to be the Keymaster. How important he was to all of history. How very very special he was. They even started just referring to him as "Vinz", the name of the demon that had taken him over.

Louis lapped it all up, desperate for love. Desperate to be cool. And told them everything.

The cult was lead by the great-grandson of Ivo Shandor, a skilled architect that had studied the designs Ivo had used to make the building used in 1984 and had a few ideas on how to improve upon the original. He built several buildings this time to help create the gateway for Gozer to return, knowing that it would have to be at least 30 years after the first attempt. And in those 30 years, the world kindly suffered so many major problems- wars, economical depression, climate change, and so on- that the cult had no problems recruiting new members that believed that Gozer needed to be summoned to end the world.

And, in early 2014, they summoned him. Big time. As the Stay-Puft Marhsmallow Man. This time it took all the regional versions of the Ghostbusters (instituted by Egon when he re-instated the organization in the late 90s) and every proton pack in existence. It took days, but they defeated him, leaving half the country under a thick coat of marshmallow. Marshmallow that also caused atmospheric disturbances that resulted in extreme cold.

So, there you have it. It's marshmallow. And it's going to suck to clean up when it thaws.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For... So I Checked Out Stand-Up

Last night, I went to watch an Open Mic.

For weeks now, I've been feeling like I need to do something. To take control. And to maybe get some stress off my shoulders.

A couple weeks ago, as I sat in the parking garage at the mall, trying to navigate the internet on the free wifi I can get if I park in a very specific corner of the garage, something in my brain snapped and I found myself Googling for local Open Mic listings.

This "snap" might've been caused by how I was very likely to be listening to a podcast full of comedians at the time.

I like comedy a lot. I listen to a ridiculous amount of podcasts by comedians in the L.A. comedy scene. But I don't know much about the current Chicago comedy scene. It's something that's not easy to access when you don't want to spend money and don't have a lot of free late nights.

And the lack of free nights is why it took until last night for me to attend one. I just wanted to go to watch (a friend said he was going to go as well to finally go up, but he bailed), to see what the caliber was, to see what the environment would be. I still don't know if I really would want to get up- but part of me feels like I might need to. I might need that outlet. But not yet.

The Open Mic was in a truly tiny little dive bar. I chose that one as it was the closest to my apartment, but still a bit of a drive when you factor in how I couldn't find parking nearby to save my life, due to all the snow mounds taking up extra space.

The thing I didn't consider when I chose to go to the show was the Olympics. I showed up ten minutes after the show was supposed to start and there was one non-comic in the bar and only two comics besides the host even there. Eventually, a few more people showed up and three more comics. And when I left, just after eleven, I was sad to have to dash but concerned that 1) my car may have been towed or ticketed (it wasn't!) and 2) I had to be up at 6 AM.

I really wished I could've stuck around, as I wanted to pick a few brains and maybe, you know, socialize. Something I've done almost none of since moving back to Illinois in 2011. Yeah, three years ago.

At least, when I lived in Tucson, every week I'd at least go to one trivia night and see some friends. If I didn't see anyone at all for the rest of the week, I'd at least seem them at trivia. And it helped a lot. It also helped that I had super social friends that had amazingly large social circles that I could just attach myself to like a barnacle.

Maybe I can get that way with Open Mics. Maybe I can drive myself to commit my free nights to going to shows. Or, at least, one night a week. And maybe something earlier than a 9 pm show (or, at least, crowded enough that I won't feel bad if I leave before the show's over). Part of me wants to force myself to go to a show tomorrow night and maybe even Saturday night. 

The other part of me knows that I need to do laundry and get my weekly one night of 8 hours of sleep at some point.


I'm terrible at conforming sometimes. Or, rather, I'm unconsciously subversive about conforming. I can drink the kool-aid wit the best of them and toe any line if you're paying me enough to keep me happy. I'm rather pathetic that way. Hell, I'll smile and tell people about the benefits of boiling puppies alive if it means my medical bills being paid in full.

But then there are certain things that my brain just refuses to adapt to, especially if my first introduction to it involves pointing out the rule not being followed by the rule-maker to begin with.

And I'm going to call a couch a couch. I can't say "sofa" without having to pause and remember it like I'm trying to conjugate verbs properly before speaking in another language. And "settee"? Really?

I'll say "chaise" before I say "settee", thankyouverymuch.

And you (yeah, you) say "curtains" on your own damn website AND in your merchandise locator, so don't try to tell me that we shouldn't be saying it. I'll say "window panels" as well, but let's not freak out at the sound of the word. Despite how I say it much like how Brittany Murphy pronounced the name "Elton" in Clueless.

The Elton Couch

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We'll Miss You, Shirley Temple Black

The news of Shirley Temple's death was everywhere this morning. And half the people I've seen talking about it on social media have also felt the need to mention that they thought she was already dead.

I'm guessing a large part of that is because, despite her political career in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, most people think of her as the eternal tot. The little lisping girl with cubby cheeks, a head full of curls, and a lot of moxie. The epitome of adorable in the 20th century. The girl that every other little girl actor would be compared to for the rest of time.

I also grew up watching Shirley Temple films. Because my mother grew up watching them in the 50s and 60s, when Miss Temple was already retired from film but still a big deal on television with Shirley Temple's Storybook.

Most people think of her younger work- Little Miss Marker-ear. But we tended to watch her later work, especially if it was based on a book, like Heidi and The Little Princess. She was actually acting in those, rather than just being the adorable little girl. They're dramatic as hell (for Shirley Temple) and Heidi especially would make me cry every time.

I remember watching The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer in my tweens and being so excited to see a teenaged Shirley Temple movie. And then being really disturbed by the plot of a 17-year-old girl falls in love with random adult, played by Cary Grant, and her family convinced him to LEAD HER ON. Even though he doesn't want anything to do with her! Crazy, I swear. Old movies have some bonkers plots, folks. Especially if Cary Grant was involved. It doesn't help that the film was written by the man that would go on to create I Dream of Jeannie.

It was weird to see her looking so much older, yet still so much like that tiny little girl. She resembled Debbie Reynolds at the time, actually. Reynolds wouldn't even make her first movie until the year after The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and wouldn't even become known until Temple was out of the game in the 50s. Almost makes you wonder if there was only room for Reynolds once Temple had stepped down.

Anyway, what I really remember Shirley Temple for is the Shirley Temple doll my mother had. My mother was not the type to hang onto childhood toys. Mostly due to the fact that she had six younger siblings, four of them girls, and her old toys would make their way through the family until they, presumably, just turned to dust in the youngest sister's hands.

But the Shirley Temple doll survived.

She did not, however, survive unscathed. I remember my mother showing me the doll when I was about five and I was mystified by the thought that it was supposed to resemble the cute little girl from the black and white movies. The face and arms were marred with dark streaks and the hair looked like something between a pointy anime hair style and an afro. Too long and too snarled in odd shapes.

There was also the fact that she had no clothing. That didn't help my imagination with trying to see Shirley Temple in the doll. I was convinced my mother had been duped and no one had the heart to tell her that she just had some old doll.

Many years later, she found someone to restore the doll. She found a dress to fit the doll and shoes and socks that fit it as well. And when the doll was returned to our house, it was clear of black marks and the hair had been painstakingly restored to shiny sausage curls, somehow. It is now lovingly displayed on the piano in my parents' house. In a tiny doll chair, next to pictures of family members. Another family keepsake.

It still does not, however, look like Shirley Temple to me.

Rest in peace, Shirley Temple Black. You've been a legend for 60 years and will continue to be so.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Olympics Relevant! 10 Things I Hated About Figure Skating

Yeah, I'm not watching the Olympics this year. I wish I could say it was in protest, but it's because I just don't have the time nor the care. To be fair, the only reason I watched the past two winter Olympics was to see what this little weirdo grew up to be like. In a former life, I was a figure skater.

Please note that I did not say I was a good figure skater. I was the little sister of a good figure skater. And since we were always at the rink, I was put on the ice as well. It took up the majority of my not-in-school time and I am still slightly bitter that I wasn't given the chance to find my own damn sport that I might've had a chance at being good at (thank you for asking).

As the Winter Olympics are upon us and, for the first time in eons, the U.S. Figure Skating team is most likely to go home empty-handed, I felt the need to talk about the things I really really DON'T miss about skating. A Bottom Ten List, if you will.

10. Getting a runny nose while practicing, meaning that you had to pull the ultimate Grandma Move of keeping tissues up your sweatshirt sleeves... which would then sometimes go flying out while you were skating. And then someone (most likely you) would trip on the tissue. Then you'd have to find more tissues, as your nose would still be running because you're in an ice rink and that happens sometimes.

9. Getting annoyed at crappy portrayals of the sport in movies and on television. Despite the terribly inaccurate use of spotlights during major competitions, the ability of a character to go from hockey player to National-level pairs skater in the blink of an eye, and the complete bypassing of any official testing of said skater before he was competing... at least the skating in The Cutting Edge looks good and you can believe that Moira Kelly could skate. Nothing drove me crazy more than seeing someone portraying a talented skater while clearly being barely able to stand in their skates when not replaced by their skating double. Ice Princess, I'm looking at you. Also, would it kill animators to one day actually animate real skating moves? I'm always sad when I watch that Peanuts special (episode?) where Peppermint Pattie skates and so much of it isn't recognizable as real moves.

8. The Harness.

Every rink had one and I HATED it. Partially because of body issues. But mostly because it was pointless. It was meant to help you get a feel for a jump that you couldn't complete all the revolutions for yet. A way to slow the jump down in mid-air. Except there were all those wires keeping you attached to the ceiling and getting in the way of you making those revolutions.

7. The terror of hitting someone during freestyle practice. Like Oksana and Tanja in 1994.

Your average skating practice is a bunch of individuals practicing individually at doing very high-speed jumps and spins while wearing two sharp blades that are constantly becoming airborne. And there's always someone that's a little bit oblivious, without a doubt. I was always terrified of a collision. Especially when you do something nuts like throw in some lefty skaters and you don't realize that someone is going to be coming from that direction to do a double toe right where you're trying to get enough speed to attempt a double lutz, which you haven't perfected and you need to concentrate to do some footwork to get properly on your outside edge and you're so damn determined to not cheat it. Ahem. If you've ever seen warm-up sessions before a competition on TV, that's nothing in comparison to freestyle practice, where there are more people and everyone is working on something different and there are more possibilities for collision. And, therefore, more possibilities for being on the verge of jumping and having to abort it just before you dig in your toe pick.

6. Scribes.

An ancient artifact used for a form of skating that no one cares about anymore- figures. You'd practice figures in a session called "patch"- due to how everyone taking part in that session would be assigned a specific patch of clean ice to stick to for the session. On your patch, you'd pull out your scribe, which was like a giant compass, and etch out two giant circles in a figure eight (meeting perfectly in the middle, not overlapping). You or your coach might then also hatch out certain spots on those circles and indication of where you should be turning/changing feet/changing edge/ect. And then you spend a very very very quiet session where almost all you would hear would be the sound of blades against ice. I loved patch, as it was very meditative and edges were more interesting to me than jumps (as I was good at edges and turns while very bad at jumps) but I hated those damn scribes. I can't remember if it was my sister's scribe or one of my coaches, but I had one take a bite out of my hand as I set up my circles one morning. Blood everywhere. There were all these adjustment points on the scribes to make them portable and functional for multiple sizes of circles and that included an adjustable handle piece that wasn't adjusted right one day. Fucking scribe.  Plus, I almost always forgot I had one in my bag until it would hit me in the leg or side while I was running and I'd get all bruised.

5. Having to go places in my skating gear. Especially in the summer, my mother (or my sister) would suddenly realize that there were errands that needed to be ran after practice and not have the forethought to tell me to bring a change of clothes (or just not give me time to change). Meaning I'd be schlepping around town in 90F degree heat while wearing two pairs of thermal tights and my butt visible under a short lycra skirt. Then there was always the weirdness of, when I finally could change into real clothes, my thighs would still be ridiculously cool to the touch from the tights holding in the cold for hours.

4. The smell of hockey players.

I remember Marc Maron talking a lot about having a pair of jeans that he was told to put in the freezer to kill odor bacteria, as they weren't meant to be washed. Anyone that has ever encountered a hockey locker room can prove that cold does not kill odor (hell, my boots this winter can prove that as well). The sweat somehow seeps into every atom of every piece of equipment they wear and the smell is profound and terrible. At my home rink, the wall between the girls' locker room and one of the hockey locker rooms had about a foot gap at the top and the smell that came from it was horrifying. I have been at competitions where the smell from the locker room has caused asthma attacks. Hockey Family Advisor went into more details about the distinct terrible smell of hockey, if you wish to read it.

3. Changing in the backseat of my mother's minivan. Because hockey got the sensible timeslots at every rink I ever skated at, all figure skating sessions were so early in the afternoon that my mother would have to race from her work to pick me up from school and then I'd have to change into my skating gear on the ride to the rink. This includes removing underwear, putting on at least two pairs of tights, pulling on a lycra skating dress, and finishing with a sweatshirt. I got very good at never being completely naked and using my super-baggy sweatshirt as a cover while I shimmied the tights and the dress up my body- but it was still crazy and unpleasant.

2. Power Stroking. Yes, it sounds dirty. "Stroking" is skating laps around the rink... properly. Arms extended and still, back arched, legs extending and held with each stroke, and building power with each stroke. On the curves of the rink, you do cross-overs and re-adjust your arms (stroking requires arms out to the sides, as it's a forward motion while cross-overs are curved and therefore the arm on the outside of the curve is extended in front of you and the arm on the inside of the curve is in back of you). Power stroking is an endurance class. Think football training and aerobics combined and put on ice. You (and 15 others) start off just warming up with standard stroking laps, being corrected if you're not doing something properly (flappy arms were a biggie). Then the laps might be changed to a figure eight pattern across the rink. Then you're forced to stand on the blue lines with your feet in a T position while perfectly extending your arms. For what felt like forever but was probably, like, two minutes tops. Then the drills start- which are the same as what you see football players doing, but depending on what coach was running the class, sometimes you were required that rather than just doing a hockey stop and building up momentum, you had to do a T-stop at every line. Which is fucking tedious. And then you'd go back to standing on a line and holding up your arms. And then you'd do a bunch of other things for 15 minutes and then, because you're 8-years-old, you'd feel like you were dying. But you couldn't die, because you most likely were immediately following the power class with a 30 minute coaching session where your coach would give you grief about being so sluggish.

1. Skating Moms. Think "Dance Moms" and "Pageant Moms" but with more money, more bleacher space, and more acoustic surroundings to work with for their obnoxious cheering and shouting. I remember my mother tutting about a mother or two that were clearly forcing their daughters to skate because they had wanted to skate when they were younger and how miserable the daughter looked. There was a synchronized skating team in the Chicagoland area that was infamous for their obnoxious mothers- who would wear matching spirit wear, take up a large section of the bleachers, and bring pompoms in the team's colors that they'd shake when they cheered (and they were practiced routine cheers, of course). They would also be very vocal and un-sportsman-like to any teams competing against their daughters- which was ridiculous, as they usually creamed the rest of us and they had no reason to be so harsh on the other teams.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I May Not Have Much To Look Forward To, But I Finally Made a Great Pandora Station!

So, I've been pretty bummed about a lot of things lately.

One of the issues was the realization that even if I do still have a full-time job at the end of this fiscal year, there's no possibility for growth. Not unless they start randomly paying me a lot more so that I can go back to school. I'm at the height of where I can go in this organization as I.T. and it's rather depressing.

Another issue was, as I only just realized, figuring out how to adjust to having no more deadlines fueling my workload. When I was still partially a data manager, I used to have frequently very important deadlines to work towards and had to keep multiple supervisors in the loop about my progress.

Now I'm just I.T. and other than when someone asks about how a purchase issue or if there's a sudden emergency tech issue... no one really gives a flying fuck about what I'm doing or how long it will take.

Part of why it took me so long to realize this was that I spent October, November, and part of December operating on a very tight schedule of one-on-one sessions. Then January hit and things were so fucking loose. And we were given time off. Suddenly, I realized that because I was now on more of a beck-and-call schedule... and because I was miserable... I could fuck around on the computer a lot during work hours and no one would really care. And I felt a certain amount of "serves you right!" towards "the man" about the whole situation, too.

And then the guilt took over. Massive, massive guilt.

So, now I'm getting over that phase (thankfully) and adjusting to actually doing some work again. Busy work that I'd usually consider eventually doing but would put off. And while I'm doing that, I'm able to momentarily go off-task without turning my whole day into being off-task.

And, in the process, I managed to finally curate a really diverse Pandora station that didn't fall to pieces (yet). It's my background noise for these busy-work tasks and my savior between horrible I.T. emergency requests. And because I'm not working constantly towards crazy deadlines, it's okay to actually go in and curate it while working now.

I called it Clusterf*ck Radio.

So, at least I'm achieving something, right?!

I'm Going To Force Winter Away

Bald tires + over 5 feet of snowfall this winter = I'm still grumbling about the weather.

Seriously, this shit needs to stop.

I've already decided to stop wearing my boots. Partially because they smell horrendous after wearing them every icy/snowy day since November but mostly because I've decided to try to will the snow away.

Considering how it snowed another foot after I came up with this plan, I don't think it's working. But I'm still wearing my sneakers to work rather than the boots. Dammit.

I've also taken up eating "summer" flavors of foods and drinking fruity teas, like it's flippin' June or something.

Not to mention all the planning for July. July is on my mind, baby.

I'm trying to come up with other ideas to force winter out the door- ooh, opening the windows!

Anyone have better ideas?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Back To Who: Last of the Time Lords

Newsflash: Hindsight has not made this episode better.

It's so stupid and such a letdown after 6 good-to-great (yes, I think "42" is good and will defend it in long-form some other day) episodes in a row that it ends with... that.

I had hoped that, given time, I'd be able to see the episode for more. That maybe it was just my dislike of episodes where the Doctor is not the star? Where the Doctor is not his usual energetic self?

Nope, it's more that it's just ridiculous and creepy and can't balance out to good versions of ridiculous and creepy at that.

The weird The-Doctor-Now-Lives-In-A-Tent-And-Responds-To-A-Bell situation turns into the bizarre Dobby-esque Doctor that's only followed by the even worse Tinkerbell-esque Doctor that has extra super-powers on top of regaining his youthful appearance? Usually, Russell T. Davies is very good at putting emotional meaning behind his plot holes to a point where you don't care so much about the hole. But it's just not there in this episode that bounced painfully from dark and disturbing to saccharine and just... stupid.

Not to mention just a complete letdown for finally having the Master in it. I don't think RTD could ever quite find a way to balance the Master's insanity with actual plot. The End of Time didn't do much better- a little bit better, but not by much. And a lot of that comes down to having more emotional impact via Wilf, Donna, and knowing that Tennant's era was ending.

The only saving grace is Martha getting appreciated. Re-watching Martha's run really makes you feel terrible for the girl, as the Doctor treats her terribly and a lot of shitty things happen to her (and even more happened to her on Torchwood and in later episodes). And, yes, she is fully responsible for Professor Yana opening his pocket watch and I don't understand why she didn't just grab the damn thing from him the moment she recognized it and she she'd take it to the Doctor to be checked out). But at least, in the end, she gets to be bad-ass and break free of her one-sided terrible relationship with the Doctor. 

But that's not really a great note to end a series on, is it? Or a great continuing theme.

I do, however, now feel less hatred towards Jack being the Face of Boe. So, there is that. Yay?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When Someone Asks You If You Want A Comic-Con Badge, You Say "Yes"!

Last week, I was suddenly asked by a friend if I would be interested in a possible Comic-Con badge. The decision had to be made fast so that registration for an ID and payment could be provided if the opportunity did come through.

I had no intentions to go this year. Just as I've never gone in previous years. In 2010, I had thought about attempting it briefly, but missed the window (and had no money) for badges. But I've never really had an actual opportunity to actually go before. It has just not been feasible.

But... it is a "bucket list" item. And would mean that I'd get to spend time with two of my favorite people- one of which that I haven't seen in two years. Plus, I've just been so miserable lately and need something fun to look forward to.

First things first, I checked that it wasn't the same week as my summer conference- and, somehow, it wasn't. It's the week before, which is cutting it close, but doable.

But then I remembered that I'm moving in July. And have already been freaking out about how I'm going to afford the move, let alone afford going on vacation in the middle of the move. I'm supposed to be paying off debts and saving for the move, not planning to run away for a little bit. Plus, there's the prep for my conference that's the next week that needs to be considered. It takes at least two days immediately before the conference. And there are conversations and stuff that need to happen in the weeks leading up to the conference that I have to be a part of.

Not to mention the fact that C2E2 overwhelms me to the point where I never make it the third day. How the hell would I ever manage Comic-Con International if I can barely handle Chicago? I'd need to get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

And fly across the country. Because it's too close to my own conference to drive back. I hate flying.

But... Comic-Con. Being offered to me.

And, really, what were the odds that he'd actually be able to get me a badge? I mean, this is me. These things don't work out for me. And I've heard so many stories of people being so close to getting a badge and then something falling through. So, I said "yes", just to be able to say that I didn't back away from an opportunity for happiness for once.

The next day, I found out that I'm going to Comic-Con.

And, a week later, I'm now finally coming to terms with the fact.