Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloweenies 2014

   Skipping birthdays and all that junk, heeeeere's Halloween!

  So, I chose a "Firefly" (Joss Whedon's amazing space-cowboy-outlaw masterpiece) theme for this Halloween back in . . . June? I figured Lincoln's costume would take a bit of work, and mine and McKay's would be easy-peasy. I was going as Kaylee, McKay as Wash, and Lincoln as Mal. Here are some reference pictures if you don't know:



Wash upper left, Kaylee upper right, Mal on the bottom. Anyway, I figured for mine and McKay's the main thing we'd need is coveralls. McKay already had a Hawaiian shirt from a different Halloween costume that didn't pan out, and I figured there'd be a billion shirts like Kaylee's at the thrift store, it's got a very nineties vibe. 

  I . . . was wrong. My shirt was easily the hardest thing to find, I went to the thrift stores every few weeks since June and could find nothing. Also, coveralls are INSANELY expensive (at least to college students), and I looked for weeks to find some under $80. I finally found a website where they were listed at $40, and I leaped at it. Unfortunately, they didn't have any olive-khaki color in my size, so I bought the white with long sleeves. McKay's were spot on. 

  Here's a picture of my coveralls (and Lincoln, who couldn't understand the concept of a picture without him in it), after I'd already de-hemmed the sleeves into oblivion.

   Next was the dye. We don't have a washer and dryer, and I didn't want to potentially ruin a friend's next load with leftover dye, so I decided to use our sink. It was a long, long hour of turning the coveralls in the sink. And then I looked at the package for the thousandth time and realized I only had to do it for half that long. GAH.

  Here was the awful result! I was pretty disappointed at how uneven the dye job was (but, really, what had I expected with that huge thing bunched up in the tiny bathroom sink?), but then I remembered--Kaylee's coveralls aren't exactly squeaky clean. In fact, they're filthy. So I shrugged it off. And dyed them one more time in an attempt to make them slightly less mint green.

  McKay tried his coveralls on . . . to discover that the sizing was off. Way, way off. McKay's usually a 34-34, so I got a 36 to be on the safe side. When McKay pulled them on, he had a good five inches of ankle showing. I couldn't remember what site I'd bought them off of, plus I hadn't even bothered to have him try them on for MONTHS because I was so sure they were going to be large on him, so we were pretty much stuck. But since the Hawaiian shirt covered up the middle, McKay added a panel of cloth in the torso, and they fit pretty well after that. I got zero pictures of this process.

  Lincoln's costume turned out to be the easiest. Mostly thrift store finds, just needed some extra buttons on the pants for the suspenders, plus I added the brown line down the sides. The coat was from a cheap Hobbit costume we bought, so we've already got next year's Halloween pretty much covered for him.

  I had also bought some cheap temporary hair spray dye for McKay and I so we could be the brunettes/red heads we were supposed to be. I even thought I could share mine with Lincoln. But did you know that cosmetics people don't believe anyone would want to spray their hair a normal brown color? I looked at half a dozen stores, and none sold brown hair spray dye stuff. Finally found one that was labelled "burnt brown". Good enough.

  We decided to use the ward Halloween party as a test run for the hair dye. And thank goodness we did. It was a DISASTER. Dye everywhere, the fumes nearly made McKay throw up, my spray was way too dark, and because I have so much hair, it ran out before we'd finished. Leaving me with skunk hair. And McKay wasn't thrilled with his neon orange hair, either.



    Thank goodness we did it on me before Lincoln. He would've freaked the freak out.
   Lincoln kicking butt at the games. He did very well, mostly because people tend to let cute two year olds cheat. A LOT. After a few tries he gave up on throwing and gently placed the spiders inside the buckets.

   The sister missionaries were doing face painting. They nearly fainted when Lincoln said he wanted a train. I had to look up a picture of a train on my phone for reference. Lincoln liked the result at least.

  Wash, failing at bobbing for apples. He kept saying he was going to have to dunk his whole head to get the apple, but if he had that water would've been straight-up poison. Lincoln grabbed the apple for him in the end.

  And now on to real Halloween! We learned from our mistakes and decided not to try dying our hair again.


   We told Lincoln to blow off his gun, which naturally turned into raspberries.




     I'm sure there's some fanfic out there with Kaylee and Mal getting makey-outy.

   Mal probably doesn't have a runny nose in it, though.
   Lincoln was very, very ready to stop taking pictures and go trick-or-treating at this point.

Aaaand we lost him. He was off to ring doorbells.



It seemed like there were fewer houses with their porch light on this year, but Lincoln got SO EXCITED for each new house, it was really fun to watch. Every time we told him to say 'thank you', though, he would turn back to the street while signing it. After every house we'd say, "Be sure to say 'thank you' out loud, Lincoln," and make him practice. And then in the excitement of doorbells and candy he would turn his back while signing it. Again and again and again. Except for the few times he said, "Thank you out loud." The payoff was when we knocked on the door of a deaf man, who looked so excited to have someone say 'thank you' to him.

Zero recognition on our costumes, but that's okay. Nerdiness for nerdiness' sake is our game. Happy Halloween, everyone! Hope you had a fantastic, sugar-fueled night!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What I've Learned About Anime

  I'm pretty open about being a nerd for the most part, but if there's one thing I keep hidden away in my closet of nerd shame, it's anime. I associate anime with the kids who wore black trench coats with way, way too many buckles in high school, even though it was the desert and over a hundred degrees. So I don't often talk about anime. I watched a few series with my brother when I was in high school, and that was about it. I never really sought it out again.

  The other thing you should know about me is that I don't like things. I'm obsessed with them. That is to say, a few weeks ago I decided to try another anime series on Netflix. And I finished it within two days. So I watched another. And another. And another. I think in the last few weeks I've watched about ten anime series. To be fair, most anime series only last one season, and many of those are only 13 episodes, so it's not like I've watched ten series of, like, Frasier length. But still. It's pretty bad.

  So, if you were ever curious, here's my list of things I've learned from exhaustive anime watching:

1. Anime is really, really weird and also really, really addictive. One of my favorite things about them is the character development. Seriously, how many shows in the US have character development, let alone the cartoons? It's pretty rare. Most shows here are about status quo--meaning by the end of the episode, nothing has changed since the beginning of it. People might go in and out of relationships, but the characters themselves are stagnant. In anime, these characters evolve, and you care about them. You root for them. And I'm always a sucker for good characters.

2. Watching romance in anime is INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING. I mean, unless you're watching, like, porn anime. I don't do that. But in most anime I cannot tell for the LIFE of me if any of these characters like each other! Here's how the formula generally goes:

GIRL A: (says something that can be construed as flirtatious to BOY)

GIRL B: Whooooaaa, GIRL A, I didn't know you felt that way!

GIRL A: (blushes) NOOO, I didn't mean it like that!

  DID YOU MEAN IT LIKE THAT, GIRL A?! Because I'm sorry, I want to see some smooching. All these hit-and-misses are driving me crazy. And that's all most of them are. GAHHH.

3. The school-girl fascination is alive and well. Do all high school girls in Japan seriously wear those outfits? With the pleated mini skirt? And speaking of romance, WHAT IS UP WITH THE SUPER-OLD-YOUNG-LOOKING GUY AND HIGH SCHOOL GIRL TROPE?! It's like every romance is Twilight. Noragami (which translates to "Stray God") was a series I watched and greatly enjoyed. The ending even almost-sort-of-implied that the two leads liked each other! It was a definite maybe, anyway. I thought, "Aww, that's so sweet." and then I remembered, "WAIT, isn't she, like, fourteen? And he's a god that's at least a thousand years old?  . . . Well, that ruined it a bit." And that isn't uncommon, either. There are absolutely zero college aged girls in the world of anime. They're strictly seventeen and younger. Probably because most of these shows are aimed at high schoolers . . . Don't look at me that way! I can watch anime if I want to! (this is a slight exaggeration. I did watch one show that did not have a teenage girl lead)

4. All leading men look alike. Super-humanly skinny, pale skin, shaggy black hair, and usually wearing black. That's the formula. Seriously, here are the lead men from the anime shows I watched with two exceptions:



  And don't try to be all, "Well, most Japanese people have dark hair!" on me. The rest of the characters in these shows have every kind of color hair, including pink and green. Black hair is for leading men. If there are other black haired men on the show, the distinguish by giving them glasses. For serious.

5. Enemies becoming friends. This is another thing that isn't very common in American entertainment. Enemies are there to be vanquished, right? But in many of these shows (not all, but a pretty high average) the lead will learn that the Big Baddie they've been at war with since episode one is actually just lonely. So they make them their friend. Which is pretty dang awesome, actually. 

6. If you can't stand the voices, switch languages. Seriously. I had a boyfriend I used to watch "Naruto" with, but I spent most of the time making fun of it, primarily because Naruto's voice is THE WORST THING EVER in English. I've come across this many times. It's usually a female voice actor trying to do a young boy, and it sounds TERRIBLE. Not always. I mean, c'mon, Bart Simpson (not anime obviously, but there are some very, very talented women who voice boys). Anyway, if you find that you can't stand someone's voice, switch. And it goes both ways. There were many shows that I thought the voice acting was better in English (ugh, squeaky teenage girl voices). Ignore the purists that say it's always better in the original Japanese. They can suck it.

7. Yes, boob jokes are bread-and-butter. Not always, but very, very, very often. Strangely, the younger the intended audience is, the bigger the bust. Again, unless you're talking porn. I'm guessing there's big boobs there, too.

8. If you think you don't like anime, you're probably wrong. I feel this way about reading, too; if you think you don't like reading, it's because you haven't found the right book yet. There are a wide variety of anime shows. Even though I've watched a good number of them these last few weeks, I don't at all feel like I've been watching the same thing over and over (even if the leading men DO all look alike). Do you like sci-fi suspense, a la GATTACA or Minority Report? Give Psycho-Pass a try, it's got a very similar vibe. You an RPG junky like me? Sword Art Online, despite the stupid name, is a fantastic show, involving 10,000 people trapped in a virtual reality RPG. Win the game or die. Ghost stories your thing? Ghost Hunt will give you goosebumps. I have to recommend the Japanese, though, the leading man's voice in English drove me nuts in English. Do you like demon-fighting shows, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? No end to anime shows there, but I recommend Soul Eater. Comedies more your thing? The Devil is a Part-Timer (again, stupid title) made me laugh out loud ("Don't you 'sheesh' me! Sheesh you, King Satan!"). If you have any nerdy tendencies at all, I promise you can find something you like.

9. Pretend there's a number nine here so this list can reach ten. It'll bug me otherwise.

10. Don't expect the endings to be tied up with a bow. Seriously. Like I said, most series are one season only, so you'll go, "Alright next epis--holy crap, that's the end?!". Did the characters end up together? Will so-and-so ever make peace with that one awful thing in their past? Were the overlords overthrown? WHO FRIGGIN' KNOWS. Well, manga readers, maybe. Many of them continue their story via manga, but if you're like me and broke with no manga selection at their library, then tough patooties. 


  I wrote this list mostly for myself, and I apologize if I made little sense. I'm sick, so you know, free pass on weird post. But are any of you closet anime watchers? Any recommendations for me? Because I'm running out of ones that look interesting to me on Netflix.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enchanted Forest . . . Disneyland's Slightly Twisted Cousin

  A few weeks ago, my friend Shanti and I took our toddlers to the (in)famous Enchanted Forest. You may not have seen, the local gem that is Enchanted Forest recently made the prestigious list of "World's Creepiest Parks for Kids" (seen here). Note that it didn't say "in Oregon" or even "in America". This park made this list out of all the parks IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. And, boy, did it live up to the reputation! Within the first hour, I can't even count the number of times Shanti and I turned to one another to say, "I can't believe how creepy this is. I'm seriously a little frightened." And luckily for you, I took lots of photo and video to document it!

   A few weeks before we visited, this Humpty literally had a great fall. Hence the ladder and missing bricks.

   The witch animatronic inside here made me scream aloud. Her chin was bigger than my head. I tried to get a video, but it was so dark you couldn't see a thing on camera. I think they do that on purpose.

   Mary and her sheep-dog thing.

This looks way worse in person. Trust me. 

   This was kind of cool, in an I-don't-want-to-do-it way. You could crawl through this long, pitch dark tunnel that went under the walkway for about fifteen yards. Lincoln pronounced it "dark" and "scary", and would not enter. Couldn't blame him. Those words were repeated often that day. You can hear it in this video:
video
  This was for the seven dwarves, if I remember correctly. There was a whole tight tunnel (but adult-sized this time. But forget about it if you're obese, those things were really, really narrow) that showed said dwarves mining, surrounded by green glowing waterfalls that did not photograph well. It was very eerie.

Jack and Jill did not look like they were "tumbling" down the mountain. Unless "tumbling" is another word for "being chased by monster demons".

   Lincoln was very curious to see what might be up there. By the way, this led to a slide. Don't you love the fangs? Nice touch.

   I like how the Crooked Man looks like a peeping Tom for his own home. 
   I took one step inside and felt like I was going to puke. I'm getting old. Lincoln and Magnus kept falling down. Shanti noped out, but I went through the "dark", "scary" house with the kids. And got to see this face:
   This picture looks more blurry than it is. Know why? BECAUSE THIS WAS PAINTED WITH FOUR EYES. I don't know why, guys. I don't have any answers. I'm only here to document.

Honestly, I've never heard of The Crooked Man, so I don't blame you if you haven't either. But everyone knows the Three Bears of Startling Flexibility!
video

   This one Shanti and I were like, "Hey, this one isn't so bad! Nothing too freaky about it." Until you get to the other side, and . . . 
   MOLDY WOLF THING.
   This park didn't make you sign a waver (or maybe it did, I can't remember), but every attraction had signs like this one. 

  After the fairytale/nursery rhyme walk-through section there were the shops and rides. We braved this bobsled ride, which included exactly zero seatbelts. I screamed for a lot of it, but it was good fun, I must admit. It reminded me of the amusement park McKay and I went to in China, where you were seriously afraid for your life the whole time. Added adrenaline!
   This is Shanti, and you can just make out Magnus' head, in the bobsled behind us, going up, up, up!

  The shops are interspersed with more fairytale animatronics, these ones in better lighting so I could share them with you lucky folks! It really doesn't do it justice, though, which is too bad. The blue fairy from Pinocchio looked like she had hung herself after chopping off her feet:
video

  Really, though, as scary as Enchanted Forest is (Shanti and I were both too chicken to check out the haunted house because, really, I hate to see what they come up with when they're TRYING to be scary), one thing you can say for them is there is a lot to do. A restaurant we took a break in had a fun water show every seven minutes, though even that was terrifying from time to time when the music became more intense and the lights all turned red.

While we were looking through the shops, Shanti told me, "Julia. Turn around." Again, I literally screamed out loud, seeing these guys hanging outside the shop windows:
video

  The kiddie rides were a big hit, but unfortunately, they also hit your wallet pretty hard. In addition to entrance fees, you needed to buy tickets to go on the rides. These tickets are 95 cents each (so basically a dollar) and most of the rides are 2-4 tickets. The bobsleds were four, meaning it cost eight bucks for Lincoln and I to ride it. Once. Most of the kiddie rides were two tickets (I think), and the kids could go on those without us, so those were a bit cheaper at least. Lincoln's favorite was (unsurprisingly) the TRAIN! The train that looked like it was designed by a 12 year old girl using photoshop in the early 00's.

  Gooooood times. This train was like Enchanted Forest's version of the Casey Jr. train at Disneyland. This train led you through the sights of:

   Old McDonald's Farm! (Cows say: HELP ME)
 Elfland!
And Cinderella's castle, surrounded by Pinocchio's village. Aaaand . . . that's it. Those were the three sights. Though, to be fair, there could have been zero sights and Lincoln still would've been thrilled.


  Lincoln also had a grand old time on these motor boats. The second time he went the guy let them go for like 5-10 minutes, which was pretty awesome of him.

  Really, though, we spent three hours at Enchanted Forest and the kids had a blast. Lincoln watches those animatronic videos on my phone over and over. And even with entrance fees and the ride tickets, we were out about twenty-five bucks. Compared to Disneyland, that's parking money. So, while it may not be Disneyland standard, for the fun the kids had and the "wow" factor (not exactly a good "wow", though), it was well worth the price. I think it was a good bonding experience with Shanti, too. We both survived Enchanted Forest with minimal emotional scarring. I think we're the stronger for it.