Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Suspicious Area 51

When I was a kid Area 51 was the stuff of legend.  It was a mystery.  A conspiracy.  And everyone had an opinion on it whether they loved space stuff or not.  I actually debated in my own mind if Area 51 was really some top secret base holding imprisoned space aliens.  I even have an ex-uncle-in-law who claimed to have seen a dead alien in a body bag at Area 51 while serving as a Marine.  I didn't believe him, and I couldn't tell if he was serious or not.

There were jokes and jabs about it on Science Fiction shows.  Area 51, along with Roswell, which got its own television series, were hot topics back in the late 90s, early 2000's.  Or maybe I heard a lot about it because I'm a nerd who's into really geeky things, and my friends and family like geeky things as well.

Yesterday while cleaning up the music room in preparation for cool music equipment I found this Area 51 security badge.  The music room used to be my brothers bedroom, and some of their things are still in there.  Finding this brought back memories.  All those times we wondered as kids if aliens were on Earth and around us.

Now that I'm older I don't believe in aliens in that way, at all, though I do believe there's life out there in the Universe, and that we're not alone.  But then I'm LDS, and Latter-Day-Saints believe God created Worlds without end

It's all fun.  And since my brothers don't read my blog--shame, right?--I'll bring this badge to our next Talea meeting to see who claims it.

Here's to hoping, dreaming, and believing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 2017 J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World by LootCrate subscription box review

This is the second box in the new J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World by LootCrate, featuring 5-7 exclusive and officially licensed items in each box, delivering right to your front door the magic of the Wizarding World from Harry Potter to Fantastic Beasts and everything in between.
The subscription is bi-monthly, coming every other month, which means the next box will be delivered in January.  The cost is $34.99 per box, plus $5 in shipping.  You can save $3 with a six month subscription and $12 with a year subscription.
"A Matter Of Time" is this boxes theme.
Before getting this box I didn't know the theme, so a "time" theme is pretty cool.  The playing around with time is the reason HP Book #3 is my favorite.  I also love all the time episodes in Star Trek TNG, but that's another subject all together. (I need a Q episode marathon . . . back on topic)
Time!  So, cool topic.  The theme in March is House Pride, which means Gryffindor items!  Yay.  PS, putting this out there, I would love an Ilvermorny theme box.  Just saying, that would be cool.

 Professor Snape "Always" T-Shirt

I'm mixed on this shirt.  Not sure of the design, but that being said, Snape was my favorite character until Lupin came along, and the saying on the shirt is classic.  I like the last box Ghost newspaper shirt more, but this shirt will get used.  It's interesting, maybe I'll grow to love it.  Time will tell, pardon the pun.

 Pop! Ron Figure, Yule Ball

This month there are 4 random Pop! figures you can get: Hermione in Yule Ball Dress, Ron in Yule Ball robes, Luna in school outfit, and Sirius Black.  Secretly I was hoping for Black, but I'm happy with Ron.  Honestly, I would have liked any of them.  He's going to hang out with my books.  Actually, I do really like it.

 Platform 9 3/4 Socks

Socks!  I love socks, especially fun ones.  This is going into my Highland dance bag for when classes start up again next month.

Really cool design.  Love the pattern at the top.

 Time-Turner Necklace

I'm mixed on this necklace.  In one way I like it.  There's not an actual hourglass.  It's two mirrors with a glass like dome.  The necklace does spin!  So that's cool.  It's really light.  I actually forgot that I was wearing it.

 Prophesy Pin

I like this pin, stronger design than last box.  Whoever designs these pins need to go spin sometime at Disneyland, because they're experts at awesome pins.

 Deathly Hallows Pocket Watch

 Hands down the coolest item in the box.  The watch works, and it feels sturdy.  Tip, to open press down the top.  To set the time gently pull up the twisty part of the top.  It sadly took me way too long to figure out how to set the time.  A Google search that led me to the comments section of an Harry Potter House Bioworld pocket watch on Hot Topic helped me.  Hope no one broke their watch trying to figure it out.  The design on the inside is cool, too.

I used the word "cool" in this review too much.  But it is cool.

There, said it again.

 Here's the information on the scroll sheet talking about each item.

 click on picture to enlarge.

So there you have it, this months box.  It was fun, though I like the last box better.  I can't wait for the next box!  I think EVERYONE is excited for the next box.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

When I Met James C. Christensen and Saw His Art Studio

Around a decade ago my Mom, brother Steven, and I had the opportunity to visit James C. Christensen in his home.  It was thanks to a family friend who had been Christensen's home teacher for a few years that helped make this happen.  When we went I thought it was just to chat with him, and that would be it, but thankfully it wasn't.

He was so generous with his time.  Gracious.  Humble.  For those who don't know James C. Christensen, he's a painter known for his whimsical fantasy art, inspired by the renaissance.  Honestly, I don't own any of his pieces, though I wish I could.  I first learned about him when I was much younger, visiting my favorite beach town in Central California named Cambria.  There were a few art galleries down its quaint main road, one of which housed several of Christensen's art.  At first I didn't even know he was LDS, I was just in awe of his imagination, and every time we would visit I always went to look at his new pieces on display.

When I transferred to BYU in the early 2000's there was a collection of his latest paintings featuring woman of the medieval/renaissance, encased in the most gorgeous frames.  It was on the main ground level of the Harris Fine Arts building, H-FAC for short, where rotating art displays are shown year around.  My Mom and I marveled over thirty minutes looking at each piece, wondering who the artist was, until we discovered it was James C. Christensen.  We were both amazed.  They were all so beautiful.

When we visited with Christensen we got to sit in his living room, and he just let us ask all these questions.  My Mom and Steven asked him several questions about art and its process.  I spent most of the time just listening.  But there was one thing he talked about that has stayed with me.  He talked about when he was younger he always feared that once he used up his good ideas there wouldn't be any more.  But he has found that as he's created, more ideas would come, and after he used those ideas, even more came after that.  If you're afraid to use ideas and keep just those to yourself, that's all you'll ever have.  You have to be willing to create.  Don't be afraid of running out of ideas.  This is a fear I have now as I've started writing fiction and working on stories, so this advice from someone so creative is very inspiring.

I can't remember how long we talked with him, but it seemed like over an hour, after which he took us to his art studio in the attic.  It was a large space, much larger than I thought it would be, with work tables and art scattered about in various stages and trails.  Large windows letting in delicate light, perfect for painting.  He was working on a painting similar to The Yellow Rose; I just remember him working on a piece with a woman, face in profile, holding a flower.

I'm very thankful for that day and what I learned.

James C. Christensen passed away a couple weeks ago, which has brought all this forward in my memory.  I pray his family is doing okay with his passing.  In heaven I bet he's creating the most wonderful art.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Electrical Parade Returns To Disneyland After 20 Years

 (All pictures are from the Walt Disney World Electrical Parade last Summer)

After a 20 year absence The Main Street Electrical Parade returns to Disneyland.  I was about to write "finally returns," only that it wasn't ever suppose to return.  I remember making a trip to Disneyland in 1996 just to see the Electrical Parade, back when all the advertisements stated, "Come see the Electrical Parade before it's gone for good!!!"  Or whatever was said.  It was a big deal!  I was sad.  The parade, which started in 1972, was still a classic.  A wonder.  As a kid I marveled wherever I saw it. How could they permanently take away such a treasure?

Then in 2001 California Adventure got the parade, and it lasted until 2010.  I could never bring myself to view it there as sentimentality got to me.  The Electrical Parade was meant, and will only belong, to Main Street.

Last night there was a special $95 ticketed event for people to be the first to see the parade.  Today is the official opening night of the parade to the public.  I'm hoping it goes well, as there's predicted rain throughout the day.  Accu Weather is far more optimistic over rain predictions than weather.com.

When I saw the Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World last June, which officially closed last October, there was a possibility the parade wouldn't take place due to storm clouds showing up on the radar.  The famous 3:00 parade was moved up to 2:45 pm to avoid rain.  The rain never came.  Both weather.com and Accu weather kept predicting we would be rained out, but the storm moved around us, and it was honestly very beautiful.  Thick black rain clouds, and at sunset brilliant gold light shining through peeks, wind picking up speed.  I was afraid the fireworks would get canceled as well.  But when the time came the Electrical Parade started, followed by the castle projection show Once Upon a Time, which was followed by the firework show Wishes. Three shows in a row, and I got a spot right in front of the castle for the last two shows.  A great way to end the six day trip.

I hope the weather is good tonight for all those wishing to see The Main Street Electrical Parade, taking place right where it belongs.  I wish I could join you as it's a very snowy day in Utah.  The parade runs until June 18, so we have it only for five months until it's gone again.  Thankfully I already have plans to visit the Disneyland park during this window, so I'll have the chance to see it.

I'm really very excited.

Has it really been 20 years!!!!!?????

Oh my freak, that's crazy!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Moana, mini movie review

Rating: B-

Moana, Disney's latest animated offering, is about the teenage daughter of an Hawaiian chief, apprehensive about her future leadership role while dreaming of traveling the dangerous ocean, the vast Ocean which has been calling her since she was a baby.  Travesty hits the island where her people live, and she must choose to head her father's warning of entering the sea verses her desire to help save the future of those she will one day lead.

Moana is a beautiful movie.  The art of the Ocean as its own entity, and nature in general, are all so wonderfully captured through animation.  It's amazing how far computer animation has come, especially with water.

I'm mixed when it come to the music.  There are some songs I really like: all the songs in the Hawaiian language and You're Welcome is an amusing song.  It's obvious was having fun portraying Maui.  How Far I'll Go, which is Moana's solo piece, is a good anthem, but it's not to the same caliber as Let It Go, Part of Your World, and Just Around the River bend.  How Far I'll Go got way too many reprises; by the third offering of the song I wished they had written Moana another theme.  I REALLY don't like the songs Where You Are and Shiny.  Where You Are is a weak opening chorus number in the same vain as Honor To Us All from Mulan.  The song Shiny, sung by that 5 minute in the movie Crab, is just annoying.  I just can't like it, and I've listened to it several times trying.

Moana as a character is really likable, and I like newcomer interpretation, but overall I have the same problem with her as I had with Rey in Star Wars: A Force Awakens.  I understand Disney wanting to create strong female characters, but strong is being confused with perfection. Fear or apprehension during an unknown journey is not enough of a weakness to shake both Rey and Moana from being two-dimensional.  Though likeable, I wish Moana was more fleshed out.

Moana, the film, plays out as a typical, predictable Hero's Journey.  The formula is thoroughly used to the fault of the movie. 

In the end I did like Moana, and even though it's polished, it's not without faults, and doesn't have the same magic as Frozen or Tangled.

MPAA: Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In Which I Get A Very Slytherin Fortune Cookie . . .


The Hogwarts house people love to hate in the Harry Potter books.  (It doesn't help that Slytherin was constantly being painted as the villains in the story.)

Known for being cunning, success seeking, loyal to a fault, but also ambitious.  

In truth there are a lot of really good people who are Slytherin, as they do have good traits.  Ambition is a good trait to have, but I've always felt ambition taken to the extreme is never good.  (Though most things taken to the extreme isn't good.)

This little fortune cookie highlights where I feel ambition can go wrong:

"Ambition knows no obstacles."

True, if one is truly ambitious they are ready and willing to weather any storm.  They are ready and willing to face and overcome any obstacle.  This is a good thing, but when these obstacles become people then it's good to pause and reflect.  I'm not talking about overcoming naysayers.  I'm talking about a persons willingness to hurt other people and/or stab others in the back to achieve what they wish.

No ambition is worth hurting another.

Friday, January 6, 2017

That Really Expensive Star Wars Ewok Kids Movie . . .

A couple days ago I got the Brilliant idea to buy that Ewok kids movie, the one people love to hate, or at least forget ever existed.  Besides Star Tours, this little Ewok movie was my first true exposure to the Star Wars universe, and I loved it.  Whenever I visited the mom and pop video rental store growing up, pre Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, which put said mom and pop place out of business, Star Wars Ewok Adventures, aka Caravan of Courage, was at the top of the movies I repeatedly rented.  This and Troop Beverly Hills, which is another story.

I loved this little Ewok movie.  It's been forever since I've seen it so I don't even know what I'd think of it now, only that it holds a fond place in my childhood dreams.

My nieces love Dr. Who, and my 5 year old niece in particular LOVES Teddy bears.  For the record, according to her, all teddy bears are named Teddy, because they're teddy bears, unless they're Winnie-the-Pooh, who's the exception.  And so I thought this little Ewok movie would be perfect to show the nieces and nephew.

Well, a gander on Amazon brought that to a halt when I saw the price for the DVD was $149.95!!!!!!!!  This little nostalgia isn't worth that much!  Not worth the splurge.

A search on eBay didn't improve my disappointment.

So my nieces won't be watching this movie, as I can't afford it, and don't believe it's available for streaming anywhere.  Maybe some people will feel my nieces have been spared a dreadful fate, but if they have the littlest bit of me in them, they're missing out on a favorite.

(Though I would like to see the movie again just to see why I liked it at all, and then possibly lament my childhood tastes.  It's been well over a couple decades since I last saw Star Wars Ewok Adventures.)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

La La Land, mini movie review

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Music! Dancing!  La La Land is a throw back to 1950's musicals with a modern twist.  The story follows Mia and Sebastian ( and ), one an actress, the other a lover of jazz, as they seek out their dreams in La La Land, finding a little romance along the way as well.

The music is so good!  As in I'm addicted to it.  I first saw La La Land on December 21 with my Mom, making a trip to Salt Lake Valley with the threat of snow looming, proving how much we wanted to see this movie, and as soon as we left the theater I got on my phone and bought the CD off Amazon and was listening to the MP3's off my phone, because I forgot to put the aux cable in the van.  Since then I've lost count how many times I've listened to this music.  Seriously, listen at your own risk, because it will invade your mind when you least expect, and it's not just one song that gets stuck in my mind, it's several. 

And the dancing, I loved Mandy Moore's, from So You Think You Can Dance fame, choreography.  When Hairspray Live showed on NBC I was most disappointed with the choreography, but with La La Land I was tapping my feet and dancing along.  Moore did a fine job.

I have some friends who felt the singing and dancing could have been better, but I was fine with it, and felt it goes along with the feel of the movie.  And I'm relieved that there wasn't a crazy amount of belting!!  Belting drives me crazy.  It's okay now and then, but belting is way overdone.  Karen Carpenter wasn't a belter, neither is Diana Krall, and they're fine singers.  Rant over.

I love the movie's theme on pursuing ones dream, and sometimes what that curtails.  And I like the sweet, natural romance, that didn't get trapped by cliché, but reflected real life.

I've seen La La Land three times now, and can see it again.  I've been with several family members, and seen friends responses online, and it's interesting the mix this musical is getting.  Some love it, while others are not so sure.  I love it.

And jazz.  I love the celebration of jazz in this film. 

If you want a toe tapping good time I highly recommend this movie, and then I recommend you get the soundtrack and over play it several times over.

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some language.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Forming Permanent New Years Resolutions

In the past I've been yin and yang when it comes to New Years resolutions.  On one end I've been like, "Resolutions should happen all year long, don't limit change to the first of the year."  And at other times I'm attempting everything but the kitchen sink on January the first.

This year I'm trying to find the happy medium: Change, but take it bit by bit.  Forgive, move on, and try again.  (And then I hear Yoda in my mind say, "Do or do not, there is no try." -_-;;  Sometimes you have to get through the trying to find yourself in the doing.  It's a process.)

For starters one of my resolutions is to blog more.  I've slacked, but not for a lack of ideas, I've got so many, and so many pictures and experiences and thoughts I want to share.  The last half of this last year went way too fast and there was just a lot going on.  My goal is to blog a minimum of 4 times a week, sometimes more.  That's a good place to start.

But my other goals?  It's really a day to day thing.  I need to develop positive habits.  Develop and strengthen positive habits to replace bad habits.  My brother recommended I buy and read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  My brother was positively influenced by this book and so I'm going to read it this month.

With my other goals I wrote out a giant list of over 30 items.  It would be an overwhelming list if it wasn't for the fact that I'm not tackling it all at once.  I entered the list in a word document, created spaces for check marks, another space to write in the date, and each day I check what I've done.  It's a way to monitor what I'm doing vs. not doing.  What I can improve upon or get back to.  When I do certain things, or when it's been too long since I've done one of the items.  Really, overall, it's about developing positive daily habits.  A change of life.  Not, "I'll do something for a month or two and then stop."  These are things I want to learn to do naturally, if that makes any sense.

After putting my list together I ventured unto Facebook.  One of my friends shared this anonymous quote: "You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."  So my New Years resolution is developing and improving my daily routine.

There's so much I want to do with my music and with Talea.  I've got big goals this year, but there's a saying I've got backwards: Can't See the Forest for The Trees.  I have a habit of focusing on the forest, and not seeing the trees at all, but all goals and dreams are a process.  You don't just find yourself at the end.  What would be the worth in that?  Accomplishing goals is a process, a journey, full of ups and downs, heartaches and triumphs.  This year I'm embracing the journey, the path, and the daily doings we must pass through to make dreams possible.