Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category
I saw Kubo and the Two Strings. I had been looking forward to seeing it for while, ever since I saw the poster with the boat and the leaves and the moon, this one:
I actually saw it twice, once with my sister and once with Snorth. The story, clearly heavily influenced by Miyazaki, was… confusing the way Japanese movies tend to be for me. I’ve spoken about this before:
The Japanese seem to be perfectly comfortable with non-linear storytelling and I cannot get on board. Ergo I had some problems with Kubo in that regard. However, the animation? Amazing. Phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things. The studio that made this is called Laika and they’re one of the last studios that does stop-motion animation. I got to go to a Q&A with the director Travis Knight and learned some neat facts.
- In stop-motion animation if you bang out two seconds a day it’s a miracle. So they have ten movies in various stages of production at any time.
- Normally they have tons of time to record the voices but the kid who does the main voice (Art Parkinson, Rickon from Game of Thrones) was going to go through puberty at any minute so they had to record him extra extra fast.
- Art is from Ireland and does a phenomenal American accent. His audition tape was with the American accent and when Travis called him to tell him he had the job he thought he had called the wrong kid. Here’s what Art sounds like normally (and you can hear how his voice is all manly now): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XyV-Vu40Mk
- Laika doesn’t shun the use of computers. For example, they use green screen throughout the movie, especially when there are big sweeping vistas. They’re building these spaces in a large drafty warehouse in Portland, Oregon and they build the entire village where some of the scenes take place but there are shots where the ocean extends to the horizon and that couldn’t be accommodated.
- They also used computers to print every possible facial expression as well as the intermediate facial expressions between those. Those used to have to be carved by hand so it frees up the designers to do more work on the character’s clothes and fur and armor. Using computers doesn’t make the process easier, it simply allows the designers to focus their energy elsewhere.
- There’s origami paper floating all over this movie. (The second the first origami thing happened Snorth turned to me and said, “NOPE.” So that’s settled.) Laika tried a variety of materials and settled on Tyvek which is paper with a plastic coating so it doesn’t rip and a piece of aluminum pasted on the back to help it hold its shape when it is bent and folded.
There’s a great video that shows many of the elements I’ve just mentioned. It’s sixteen minutes long so you’ll want to get real comfortable before starting it. Also it’s silent for the first thirteen minutes so don’t assume your volume is broken (like I did).
And here’s some more insight from the film’s creators.
I left the house! I left the house, I went out into the world at 5:45 in the morning and I took a hot air balloon ride. Now, if you know anything about me you know this is a plethora of things I don’t like: fire and loud noise right next to my head, movement, flying, the outdoors, the morning, etc. But I did it and it was AWESOME. Someone asked me what it was like and I said it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling real, Harry Potter magic. I snapchatted the whole thing and put it all in a video. You will note in the video that I begin with much trepidation but as soon as we lifted off I was hooked.
Here’s how it works for people who have never been: You pull up at the takeoff area (in our case it was a small airport in Orange County, NY) and the van pulls in with a trailer attachment carrying the basket. Several strong burly men pull an enormous bag out of the back of the van that looks like it could hold a child’s trampoline. That’s the balloon. The manly men tip the basket on its side, pull the balloon out to its full length and hook it to the basket. Then four industrial fans come out and blast all the air in the world into the balloon. Once the sufficient amount of air is in there, the propane burners go on and heat that air which causes the balloon to rise and the basket to tip up. That’s the cue for the people who are riding in the balloon to run to the basket and hoist ourselves in because we are what keeps the whole situation from floating away immediately. Once the passengers a.k.a. bags of sand are in, the guy in charge (ours was named Chris) blasts the flamey truck-horn-pull thing and… you kinda lift off the ground. You don’t even notice. If you have your eyes closed you would have no idea, it’s that tranquil. In addition please note in the video that any jerky movements are my hands, the ride was buttery smooth. I spent the whole time quietly staring off at the mist rising out of where the glacier cut through 10,000 years ago. (Fun fact: Chris told us the valley caused by the glacier has the perfect kind of soil for growing onions. The Germans who moved here recognized the soil type from back home and was like, “We got this. Hermann, plant onions.”) We drifted up to 1800 feet in the air but you could have fooled me. I had no clue. It all happens so slowly that your ears don’t pop. Landing is pretty neat. Since you can’t control where you go in a balloon and the wind carries you, the van follows you on the ground and when Chris gave the signal he was coming down the van hustled to meet us where we ended up. Where we ended up was in some rich lady’s spacious front yard. Chris said most of the people in the area are psyched to see him land. This lady sure was. She came out in her PJs to greet us. Chris gave her a bottle of champagne as is the tradition. When the two first guys to do this ballooning started in France in 17-something-something, when they landed in a farmer’s field he attacked both them and their balloon with a pitchfork, thinking they were the devil. The two French guys realized at some point that if they greeted the farmers with a bottle of champagne the farmers were far less inclined to attack them with sharp equipment, so the tradition continues. Within ten minutes the manly men had loaded the now deflated balloon back in the trampoline bag and put the basket back on the trailer attachment and we were back on our way to our cars at the airport. I enjoyed every second of it. Even the landing was pleasant. It was a joy from start to finish.
If it wasn’t so pricey I would do this every week. If you live in the NY area I highly recommend the company we went with, Above the Clouds.
Two interesting things happened recently. First, I was hanging out with my sister K. near her apartment in upper Manhattan and we were taking her dog for a walk. Coming towards us was an older gentleman and his sweet dog who my sister of course knows because all the dog people in her neighborhood know all the other dog people. I ended up chatting with the gentleman for about 10 minutes while they walked their beasties and he informed me that he is an animal trainer and groomer. He said he’s trained all kinds of animals and goes to conferences regularly. Here’s where it got awesomely weird – he said, “I was in Reno recently training chickens using the clicking method. Chickens are tough, they get bored easily and run away and then you have to run around the room trying to catch them. I thought, since we were in Reno, that I would train my chicken using dice. I got one die and started by teaching the chicken to pick it up, then I taught it to drop it at my command. Basically by the end I had taught the chicken to play craps.”
So that conversation happened. I went on Facebook later that week and sure enough, there’s pictures of him training his chicken.
I didn’t ask his permission to use the images, therefore I blurred out the faces as a courtesy. Because I’m a nice person.
The second thing was cookies! Specifically, I painted cookies. Cricket’s sister was getting married and she was asking various friends and family to contribute their skills and talents. I figured I could paint the bride and groom’s initials on cookies and they could be given away as “thanks for coming” presents. So I was given cookies (I don’t bake so good) and I set up my icing and purple sugar crystals and got to work.
I officially hate the letter “M.” “D” was so much easier to paint. From now on I will only do this for people who’s names start with “I.” All you Iagos out there, you want cookies? Gimme a call. When the icing was dry I put them in bags with Hershey’s Kisses and tied them with pretty ribbon that I curled myself. There were 42 bags. I curled so much ribbon, guys. Like all the ribbon on earth. I got real good at it too. I am a ribbon-curling master.
And as people were leaving they could get a bag of cookies and a bottle of wine the couple made themselves. It was a lovely parting gift.
1: I’m going to need this map. Someone make a kickstarter for this map that I can fund.
2: Look at this penmanship. Look at it.
3: Low Cost Cosplay. A bunch of guys in what I believe is Thailand take famous characters or celebrities and recreate them using crap found around their house. I don’t know half of the things they’re referencing. Doesn’t matter. Everything they do is a gift. They have a Facebook page that I highly recommend you join. https://www.facebook.com/Lowcostcosplay/
4: In keeping with the Comic-Con-esque theme of the previous bit, I saw an amazing video of Alina Salina, a polymer artist, making a Cheshire Cat pendant. I’ve worked with polymer clay extensively and I can’t figure out how she did it. Maybe she’s using a particularly hard version of polymer clay, or she puts it in the fridge, but it does not go mushy when she works with it. Phenomenal work. Except for the part where it’s only the eyes and the substructure. That part is terrifying. Other than that, so so good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W54j-iP9O8
5: Whenever I have downtime I like to visit The Best Of Tumblr. Tumblr… how does one describe Tumblr? It’s a collection of short thoughts and images and if it’s clever or pertinent enough and gets a ton of reblogs it ends up on The Best Of site. I think this picture is an excellent example. I love both the comments and the names.
This is also an excellent example of Tumblr. Every person that comments makes it better.
6: I got an email saying, “Hamilton tickets available now!” Oooh, I’m down for that. How foolish and naive I was. I clicked like an idiot, saw the prices and was all HELLNAWWW.
The email should have said, “Hamilton tickets available now if you’re willing to sell your plasma forever!” That would have been far more accurate. That’s some tricky BS, Ticketmaster. Shame on you.
Sometimes after a long day of attempting to make really dull charts look sexy and inviting I like to decompress by watching cartoons. I realize I am waaaaaaay older than the demographic that these programs are intended for but whatever. I like bright colors and zesty animation and I work HARD, okay? Sometimes a fifteen-minute cartoon is all my brain can absorb. Here are the three I watch regularly right now.
Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network. It’s about five teens with magical skills and talents who live together and fight evil. Standard show structure. But it’s drawn in a cool grafitti-style and the writers realize all kinds of people watch it so there are lots of references to 80s culture which delights me. Also sometimes for added effect they deviate from their drawing style and explore other styles which is super-cool to see. The stories aren’t particularly deep (one episode is entirely devoted to celebrating Beast Boy’s birthday so time doesn’t get destroyed) but it’s well-done and it’s like consuming candy corn but in eyeball form. Fun.
Star vs. The Forces of Evil on DisneyXD. Star, a 14-year-old princess from another dimension, comes to Earth for some reason (I still haven’t seen the pilot episode so I’m not quite sure what it is, I think she was acting up in her world and was sent here to do some growing up). Star lives with a young man named Marco and his oddly accepting parents and goes to high school and attempts to fit in while having a magical wand and monsters that chase her constantly in an attempt to steal said wand. And her best friend is a floating unicorn head. And she has scissors that can cut through dimensional layers. But you know, high school. It’s a sweet show and it’s one of the only cartoon shows that is spearheaded by a woman so mad props there.
Wander Over Yonder on Disney XD. I saved the best for last. This show was created by Craig McCracken who previously created Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, one of the most beautiful cartoon shows I had ever seen.
When I found Mr. McCracken had made a new show AND was using one of my favorite voice talents, April Winchell (maker of the magnificent now defunct website Regretsy) I had to watch it. And I have not been disappointed.
Wander is a space-traveler voiced by Jack McBrayer and he’s sweet and kind and good-natured. He has a sidekick named Sylvia who is an abstract sort of horse and they happily bimble around the universe in large bubbles. Everything would be peachy except there are a myriad of evil-doers perpetually trying to conquer the entire universe and Wander and Sylvia get mired in the plots. One particular baddy they are constantly grappling with is Lord Hater, who Wander just wants to be friends with but, you know, Lord Hater is a villain and it’s not gonna happen. In addition to have really interesting plots the cartoon itself is beautifully rendered. Great show.
I went to Mexico to study under an artist I have a massive art-boner for, Jan Huling. I’ve mentioned her before. I didn’t really know the other artist who was teaching, Nancy Josephson, but she ended up being a wonderful kind lovely person as well. Her work is more casual and free-spirited so I used her techniques less (I need control and structure otherwise there is chaos and I’m in therapy to deal with this, thank you) but it’s very cool-looking, especially the birds.
In keeping with my vacation-posting style, you would think there would be loads of pictures and stories to go with the pictures. And there would be, except for The Incident. I brought my phone down to Mexico and used it as my camera and everything was going great on Day 1 when we were in Mexico City. Snorth and I went to see some pyramids, both our first time seeing these pyramids, and they were amazing. I know people throw that word around, “amazing,” but these seriously were. When we arrived they were off in the distance and looked wee and both of us were like, “Eh, those are fine, adequate pyramids. I thought they would be big and imposing but whatevs.” And then the tour we were on went past a field area and holy moly, we were on a massive boulevard called The Street of the Dead and there were mini-pyramids lining both sides and two monster pyramids at the end. One was 22 stories tall. Crazy-big. Now, this would be the point where I would post pictures of those things but, as I mentioned before, there was The Incident. Don’t worry, I’m getting to it.
After the phenomenal pyramid excursion Snorth and I went for a much shorter afternoon tour in Mexico City proper to see the Cathedral and other city-center things. The main square is enormous, the third-biggest in the world. (Number 1 is in China, Number 2 is in Moscow and then there’s this one.) While we were walking past the Cathedral it was crazy-crowded and that’s when I felt it. Something hot was running down my arm. I looked over and it took me a second to figure out that someone HAD SPAT A GIANT SPIT-AND-SNOTWAD ONTO MY ARM AND IT WAS RUNNING DOWN MY ARM AND OH MY GOD. I reacted as if I’d been shot. I froze up and yelled Snorth’s name over and over. She was awesome. Snorth carries a small towel around with her when she travels and she had that translucent nightmare mopped up in a jiffy. I collected myself and continued on my merry way until I decided to take a picture of something and could not find my phone. They had stolen my phone using the phlegm atrocity as a distraction. I have to give the thieves credit. I don’t care who you are, if someone snorks that much stuff on you you’re gonna be thrown off your game for a while which is plenty of time for them to poach your goods. I know I’m prone to exaggeration but Snorth is not and her comment was, “On my drooliest day I don’t think I could conjure up that much mouth-fluid.” It was an excessive amount. I thought a vulture had pooped on me. While this was the worst thing that had happened to me in a long time I was actually a tiny bit excited because who has the best “I was traveling and my phone was stolen” story now? Me, that’s who. And even though I’ve traveled all over the world nothing of mine has been pickpocketed so I feel like I’m in an elite traveler’s club.
I ended depending on Snorth to take the pictures and she did a wonderful job but I was at her mercy so you’ll see what you see and that will have to do. I will pepper that with pics I find on the internet for additional info. In the next entry we will commence with cool Mexican travelry.
Y’all listen to podcasts? Well, you should, especially if you commute seventeen hours a day like I do. (Only slightly exaggerating, I commute about three hours a day but still, it’s a looooong time.) Podcasts, in case you don’t know, are basically radio shows made by people for free that you can listen to when it’s convenient for you. You download them to your phone oSometimes they ask for donations, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s weekly, sometimes it’s monthly. Often if it has a big enough listening audience the makers get sponsors and make money that way. There’s a documentary coming out soon about them called Ear Buds. They’ve become so popular that WTF with Marc Maron had Obama on as a guest. Yeah, they’re becoming a big deal. And they are wonderful to listen to while walking to and from the station and while on the train so I devour them like an animal. I figured I’d list the ones I am listening to right now in case you wish to join me on this journey of auditory awesomeness.
Comedy Film Nerds: They are the ones making the Ear Buds documentary. It’s two men, Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini, they’re comedians, and they review films. The title is pretty spot-on. If you like movies and smiling this is a good one to check out. I recommend any episode where the guest is Laura House.
Sklarbro Country: Twin brothers Randy and Jason Sklar are comedians and they are passionate about sports and indie music. I like neither sports nor indie music yet this is one of my favorite podcasts ever which is a testament to their fantastic ability to talk about whatever and be interesting. I’ve seen them live, I’ve hugged them, they are wonderful people.
The Dollop: Two comedians in a room. Dave Anthony tells Gareth Reynolds a story from American history. Gareth has not been informed of the story beforehand so he reacts in real time. When it’s good it’s a masterpiece. It’s also the only way I learn anything about history. Start with “The Death of George Washington,” “Owen Kildare,” “The Fans of Philadelphia,” or “David Hahn.” The Dollop is wildly popular in Australia for an unknown reason so whenever they record over there they do a story from Australian history. I recommend “Reg Spiers” or “Prince Alfred Visits Australia.”
How Did This Get Made?: A podcast about movies that should not exist. I mean the movies should not exist, not the podcast. It’s a great podcast. It’s got Paul Sheer, June-Diane Raphael and the star of the show Jason Mantzoukas. I would recommend the “Sleepaway Camp” episode, “Over the Top,” “Staying Alive,” or “Hercules in New York.”
Stuff You Should Know: One of the most prolific podcasts I listen to. It’s pretty much what the title says. Two sweet, soft-spoken Southern men educate you on a specific thing for about half an hour. I now know the story of how Tupperware was invented thanks to them.
The Cracked Podcast: Want to learn something while also being depressed by your fellow man? Then this is the podcast for you! It’s actually really good and informative but it tends to take the negative side of topics. I still like it though and I’ve learned bunchie-wunchies. Sometimes knowledge is a bummer.
StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson: Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and the head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He’s also the coolest person ever. Here he is on The Nightly Show being his bad-ass self.
Anyway he invites his fellow awesome friends like other physicists and astronauts and they chat about science and it’s great. Did I mention that Dr. deGrasse Tyson was a ballroom dancer in his past? Because awesome.
Welcome to Night Vale: Weird. So weird. But so good. This is the artsiest of the bunch. It’s a fake local radio show for a town called Night Vale. Night Vale is plagued by odd occurrences but everyone treats these occurrences like they’re normal.
For example, this is the sign outside the dog park:
And here are some of their tweets:
Because the people who write this show have crafted such a lush and intriguing world, many artists have chosen to interpret aspects of this world and the work they create is beautiful. Here are some examples I have found.
There’s tons more and if you start listening to Welcome to Night Vale you’ll see why. I recommend starting at the beginning.
If anyone has any cool podcasts you’d like to tell me about please do. I’m always on the lookout for good listening material.
As I walk to work every day I am passed by a ton of city buses that have advertisements posted on the side. They zip by rather quickly so you only have a second to absorb the information presented. Which is how I got two shows very confused. See, there’s a show about what appears to be a family with a gay son.
Okay, fine, but there’s also a show that I believe is about a son that disappears and a kid who shows up years later and claims to be that long-lost son but who knows?
The posters designed for buses are nearly identical in structure with the son in the center and two family member on either side in a row. Long story short – I thought they were the same show for several weeks and was very confused and a bit offended. Why is it shattering this family that their son is gay? Is this 2016 or what? C’mon, Mainstream America, get with the program. Then I saw a 30-second spot for The Family and they didn’t mention homosexuality at all which threw me for a loop. Seriously, it took waaaay too long for me to figure out what my issue was. It’s a good thing I’m so pretty because Lord knows I ain’t smart.
Sometimes I go through a phase where I need to see every single YouTube video on a topic. For while it was power-washing videos. Then it was cyst-popping videos (don’t judge, it’s a thing that’s very popular, I am not alone). Now it’s nail tutorials. Oh my gosh, so much glitter. I don’t even really paint my nails because I need them short to type and work on my artsy endeavors but I’ve been like, “I’ll just wash one or two videos…” and then next time I check the clock is six hours later and I’ve grown a Rumpelstiltskin beard and Trump is already president. There are two channels I watch the most of. First there’s Naio Nails out of Yorkshire, England. I tell you the English bit because the accents of the ladies explaining are glorious and they thrill me no end. Really any video is good because they talk in all of them. Their voices are so soothing. Here are some of my favorites.
The other one is Simply Nailogical. The woman who does this channel, Christine, her voice is… less soothing. I sometimes watch her videos with the sound off. However she does some great techniques and she uses so so so much glitter. It heals what ails ya, all that glitter. Here are some of my favorites of hers.
Beware, the nail tutorials. They will steal your soul and all your free time.
Guess who has two thumbs and was sent home from work last week with a stomach flu? Me, and don’t touch my thumbs. Go wash your hands right now. It was so sad. The whole situation was like a physical manifestation of that Sarah McLachlan song they use in ASPCA commercials.
It started the night before. I thought it was general bodily malaise but I couldn’t sleep all night because my entrails felt sunburned and ouchy. Eventually I said what the hell and went to work and that’s when the muscle aches and skin pain kicked in. Børkke found me at my desk weeping softly and sent me home where I writhed in bed because when your stomach is upset you’re not supposed to take Tylenol or Advil but my muscles and skin were so sore and there was naught I could do. You know how they say “Necessity is the mother of invention?” I thought back to all the episodes of Intervention I had seen and all the ways I could get painkillers into my system bypassing my GI tract. Cricket had to deal with texts like this all day:
“Do you have any injectable Dilaudid and a syringe?” (No.)
“How about Fentanyl patches?” (No.)
“Okay, do you have any Oxycontin that I could put on a piece of tin foil and light from underneath, inhaling the fumes?” (Stop.)
“How about an anal suppository sprinkled with opium–” (I’m coming over.)
Eventually after moaning to Cricket for three hours (he’s a very patient boyfriend) I fell asleep and woke up the next day much improved but I’m still wondering, why don’t they sell non-oral pain suppressants? I’ve been told it’s because it’s difficult to regulate the dosage but how is it harder than a pill? Someone get on this. Me wants some stickers that make the owwies go away.
In a vaguely related note I worked a obscene amount in January. Like, all of January. To repay a designer who gives up sleeping and bathing for a month an account team will buy them a thank-you present. It’s usually a bottle of good liquor or a gift card to someplace nice. Those are crap gifts. I got the most magnificent present ever from the team I worked with – a zebra-print felt hoodie with AN INFLATABLE NECK PILLOW BUILT IN. You feel that? That feeling is jealousy.
It’s glorious. I am not a fan of animal prints in the slightest but I was delighted by this zebra print because what the account team not know was that several years ago Neenernator bought me a zebra print Slanket. Therefore I got to spend Valentine’s Day wearing this exquisite ensemble. Brace yourselves.