Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

July 31 seems to be the day that started the extremely wild adventure that was the life of Harry Potter. So today is a very auspicious day. What will happen? I was reading somewhere that this year Harry Potter would be 33. Seriously? He's the same age as me? That seems weird. The Huffington Post is usually reliable, though, right? It's in the Harry Potter Wiki, too. That just seems incredibly weird to me. Oh well.

It is also J.K. Rowling's birthday! Oh to share your birthday with your own famous character. It's pretty cool, honestly. Kind of set up your birthday to become a holiday. A real text-to-self connection. We all do it, though, so it's all good. She's 48 this year!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Pixar Timeline Theory

I don't know what brought this up or how it made its way to me only now, but Ray decided it was time to enlighten me on the interconnectedness and the timeline that is PIXAR (written by Jon Negroni). Maybe after my little gushfest about Kubrick and our frequent discussions about the interconnectedness of Belly's cartoons, he finally remembered long enough to get me at the computer to read the article.

One of the problems I run into frequently with all this is ensuring I am in a state of mind where I can appreciate everything I am doing. I'm still suffering from the backlash of tons of personal issues in my life. So even though I am loving this blog and recording my adventures, sometimes I can't get myself to do the necessary entry, even though I am still geeking out.

Well that was a bit of a digression. Let's move forward.

I've been a huge PIXAR fan from the beginning. A good time back I remember the threats of PIXAR closing and I was beyond devastated. I think Cars was supposed to be the last Disney-PIXAR movie, but I for some reason have a completely different view of the situation looking back and being kind of in-the-mix of the film industry at the time. According to my resources, in 2006, Disney picked them up and "saved" PIXAR, but still allowed them to be liberated and an individual studio, which is why they are not just "Disney" or just "Pixar" films, but "Disney-PIXAR" films. I do have to say that my favorite movies are Toy Story 2, Up, and The Incredibles. The funny thing is, I LOVE pretty much all the PIXAR films. I am not partial, though, to Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life. I can watch any of the others on repeat, all day, until I pass out. How do I know this? Because I have a three-year-old who has invested herself in the wonder of Disney-PIXAR animation (including the shorts).

The article that my husband passed along to me describes in only so much detail, the interconnectedness of all the films, arranging them into an almost bleak view of the world. This timeline (click to see his timeline on his site) creates a vision of a world without humans, but lots of talking animals, monsters, bugs, and robots/machines.  This view of PIXAR relates heavily to the PIXAR mascot, of the bouncing light. If machines are coming alive to eventually rule the planet, then the opening credits are a prime example of machines "procreating" and be animate. How do these opening titles relate to the timeline? I would love to know!

I can honestly say I was mentally geeking about this. Have I mentioned I love INTERCONNECTEDNESS!!! My webs are spinning and I'm seeing this whole thing unfold in my mind!  And then. . . it hit me. . . where are all the shorts? How do the shorts fit into the timeline? The article seems to be edited with comments and other things people have contacted the guy about. It makes me want to figure out how all of these tiny things fit into this greater timeline. All of a sudden I can't help myself from wanting to scour the internet for all the information I can get, watch all of the films and examine an extensive visual graphic of the universe. It gives credence to Brave and Monster's University, and might also explain the transportation A.I. advancement of Planes (which are not on the 23 Years timelines).

An incredibly interesting read. An amazing piece of work, but now I want more.

This is the full timeline, it's just a bit too big to have as the right size, but click and enlarge.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stanley Kubrick: Life in Pictures

I've talked about my passion for cinema frequently. Well, maybe I just think it's frequently and it really has just been an off-shoot of so many other things I have talked about. Don't get me wrong, I have a raging hard-on for all things cinema, but I went flaccid as I moved away from my doctoral dissertation and erected a renewed passion for teaching. Now and again, something film related hits me and I go into a massive geekgasm ecstasy! I can't help it. It's the thing that I still carry on an almost secret love affair with. I even sneak off to the Redbox to grab a movie and practically force it on my husband when I can get away with it.

Today, as I was twitting away, waiting for our epic game night to happen, I saw a trending tag related to Stanley Kubrick. Now, I have a very tenuous relationship and love for Kubrick as a director. My all time favorite film is Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I could say it was my film geek gateway drug. I loved it. I saw film differently after watching that movie. And everyone raved about Kubrick the auteur. He's a genius. The natural progression for me was to move to The Shining. I started to feel conflicted with this film and I wasn't sure what to do with Kubrick. I felt the film was a bit too Hollywood, despite all of these reviews and views that the film was an epic artistic creation. As I watched several pieces of his filmography, I couldn't seem to make heads or tails of where I stood on my attitude towards him. I wanted to like him, but I struggled to like him. I respected and appreciated him, but I just fought so much of what he represented. I felt sometimes that he was too busy attempting to create art for art's sake, but as I developed as a academic I realized how thin that line of thinking was. I couldn't help but still sprew such ignorance. Maybe in an attempt to secretly garner attention for being different.

You're probably still just dying to know why he was trending! Well, today is Kubrick's birthday. As I scrolled through the trend, I saw a documentary that had been posted. Stanley Kubrick: Life in Pictures. I cannot explain why, but I felt compelled to hit play. It had a 141 minute runtime and I was waiting for our friend to get off of work. So why not?

Immediately I was drawn in. I started to realize just how little I knew about Kubrick, despite my research and my personal attempts to understand him as a director. I recommend watching it. My mind was blown by so many interesting things I learned about this amazing director. Sadly, I feel compelled to rewatch his films, but I almost don't want to destroy the beatific image I have in my mind of Kubrick and his body of work after watching this. Was that not the point in the first place?

Let's end it now, then... so my grand illusion is not spoiled with the harsh reality of mediocrity tainted with the tarnish of greatness. Happy Birthday, Stanley Kubrick.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can't Even Game Without Teaching

So we are driving to North Carolina to visit family and friends. We always make a point of gaming as much as possible when we are with our family and friends because, quite honestly, there just aren't enough people in our Wisconsin Circles to really game frequently. Maybe that is one of the subconscious reasons I try to expose my students to so many tabletop games. Who knows!

The bottom line is, when Ray and I were talking in the car about games, I all of a sudden went on some random tangent about how I want to create "Teacher Editions" or "Teacher Skins" for classroom friendly tabletop games. For example, I LOVE using Dixit and Tsuro in my classroom for reading comprehension strategies. What I run up against using them, though, is that they aren't connected or linked with anything super obvious. Tsuro is a bunch of dragons flying around. . . what does this have to do with Alex Rider? I would have to implement additional cards to the game to support additional learning. So not only do they have to justify their move by revealing their prediction or inference about their dragon's movement, but they'd have to draw a card or something that then relates to the story. Clearly this needs work, but it's just an idea to help really drive home the need for tabletop games in the classroom!

Or, for example, I could use Zombicide to help students understand and develop narrative stories! Why this ultra-violent game about zombies. . . in the classroom? Oh no . .. here come the parent notes. But surprisingly, my kids wrote so many zombie-related stories last year that, well . . I couldn't help but include the game. On the flip-side, I could also attempt to tone down some of the violence when I make my "Teacher Edition."

So once I've created the classroom friendly edition, what am I going to do besides attempt to kill zombies and hope my little character doesn't turn into one? Well, the students would have to write a zombie story and use the game to create a plot. Each of the moves drives the story. You still have an introduction and a climax and a resolution. Either you all get out alive or you all die! And I think it would help the writer's block some students might have when pushing their plot forward. . . or their need for a ". . . to be continued. . ." (Can I just say I hate when students use tbc. It is such a cop-out from actually learning to use the final step of the narrative process. I may be a hardass for it, but I just don't let it fly. I only allow it if you have a complete story and feel the need to write a second.) So the students can choose one of the little character people and develop a character. Then they can create a little band of people and develop their personalities. Look! They have character cards to help them GRAPHICALLY ORGANIZE their characters! How perfect is that? So you keep all the same rules, but add a worksheet or something to help the students outline their story! This is something I actually am so gung-ho about, I've started making notes about how to implement it. Hey, maybe I can even contact the creators and get some discounted copies of the game for my classroom! (shamesless teacher plea for teaching materials!)

As you can see, I can't seem to separate my innate desire to game with my obvious passion for teaching. They are just always linked together. Which made me further think about my desire to professionally develop my literacy background by researching the benefits and positive connections between actual tabletop games and the classroom. I mean, the kids don't have to sit in front of a TV or play on their phones. . . no. . . they can enter a whole new realm that can challenge their thoughts. Why does everything about to be about electronics in the classroom? How about encouraging the kids to build up their own personal computers  (duh. . . the brain) and still engage them? I almost feel like there is a mission in here somewhere. To spread the love of tabletop and imbue the benefits of it as a learning tool in my field.

And there you have it. On my drive down to North Carolina, I couldn't JUST talk about games. . . I had to make it a teacher-moment. It makes me wonder what the actual gaming is going to be like. Guess I better keep a pen and pad of paper handy for all those moments where I realize "I COULD USE THIS IN A LESSON!!!" Now back to my regularly scheduled geek-a-thon of gaming!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reunion of the Rikers

I just thought this was hilariously awesome and was defintely something I want to watch after I watch Star Trek: TNG.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Embrace Your Geekness Day 2013

I was super psyched for today. My plans were rock solid, until I realized that nothing with a toddler is ever rock solid.

Today started out with a plan for a visit to the library and a bit of geocaching in Omro before setting in for some reading and catching up on my backlog of Star Trek episodes. There's always something about the second half of my day that never falls into place.

First things first. Isabelle,  my daughter, LOVES going to the library. I can't not help her embrace her inner book geek, but I have a suspicion its not about the books. . . it's about the other kids and the toys that are sometimes there.So we hit up the book section, she played for a bit and picked out a book. Then we were on our way to some geocaching.

We drove down to Omro and hit up three family-friendly geocache locations. We went to a local park and searched around in the woods. Then we crossed over some bridges and were left with an "ah man" moment when we couldn't find the cache. Our final cache, though, was at another park and an easy find. It was at this park where my daughter learned to push her stuffed animal on the swing and help her Lady beanie slide down the slide. It was adorable!

Then we came home and avidly watched our DVRed TV shows and some other stuff. I indulged in my love of cooking and made some great snacks for watching our shows. {Epic Fail Post. . . Learn to finish on time!}

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sharknado: Tweet-frenzy

 Last night I ended up exercising my weak MST3K muscle by tweeting live during the SyFy Channel's epic Sharknado! With all the buzz and alot of joking about the upcoming movie, I couldn't help but be drawn to it. With some minor protest and ribbing from my husband, I was ready to go at 8PM (central standard time) with my twitter feed open and my wit at a dull sheen.

Can I just say, I haven't had so much fun watching such a bad movie in a long time! Well, that's not fair. I haven't had that much fun watching a made-for-tv movie in a long time. Confirms for me that riffing bad movies is absolutely the best soup for the soul!

As this blog clearly shows, I'm not the most veteran geek and I'm hardly a tech geek, so um . .. have pity on the below sharing. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Thanks and I hope you can enjoy some of what I have to offer here. Like I said, it was a great experience and I absolutely loved every minute of it. Even the untweeted banter between my husband and I. Here's a BuzzFeed article with some of the creme-de-la-creme of the tweets from last night.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Falling Skies and Me

You may or may not have heard of a show called Falling Skies. It's another Spielberg oriented show dealing with people and aliens and all the different scenarios the human races faces interacting with aliens. It's on TNT in the US and is in its third season. It stars Noah Wyle from ER fame back in the 90's. It's a Sci-Fi show about an alien invasion of Earth that quickly wipes out a great number of people and those who survived are left to fight the aliens as rebels, using their knowledge of their world to thwart their evil plans. As the seasons move on, more and more is revealed about who are the actual invading aliens and what is really going on for the humans that have survived. I don't want to give too much away, just in case you want to start watching it.

This was a show that I stumbled upon when I was moving up to my new home to start work as a first time teacher. I didn't know what to watch on TV in the evenings and I saw that the OnDemand channel had Falling Skies. From then I was hooked on the show. It was interesting and I was reintroduced to my love of Science Fiction.

What made this show even more tantalizing to me was that it turned out Wil Wheaton hosted the 2nd Watch, a discussion show about the episode that aired and featured the cast of the show for interviews and reflections. I remember it aired on television and was a webcast. It was also at that point in time that I asked Ray more about this Wheaton guy I had been hearing about. Yes, I confess, I didn't watch Star Trek as a youth. I had seen a few episodes and all the movies. I had also seen Wheaton on the Big Bang Theory and had been introduced to him more fully on episodes of The Guild, so I was becoming more aware of how awesome he was in the geeksphere.

On top of an additional show/webcast, the show also spun off some graphic novels (comic books put out by Dark Horse Comics in 2010), which seems to be all the rage for sci-fi television shows right now (think the Walking Dead). This takes things to a whole new level of additional awesome and further enhances the visual level of storytelling that the television show already provides.

Anyways, the long and short of it is. . . Falling Skies is an incredibly smart look at an alien invasion. It doesn't holdback from hitting on topics we've all wondered about, even if at times it gets a bit weird with the Mason family. Either way, I enjoyed the show before the rising of my geek, but I love it even more now that I'm working my way through the entire series.

I can't wait to see how this season ends. Terry O'Quinn (LOST and Star Trek: TNG) is also on this season again, so I am super psyched to see what they do with him. I heart Terry O'Quinn. I just wish it wasn't a summer series and I could watch it more often. I even was able to get Ray into watching it. Win! So if you're a Sci-Fi geek and haven't checked it out yet (yeah right), tune in to see what happens when the sky falls.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sighting - Robot Connection

I was watching the new season of Futurama on Comedy Central and I had an I, Robot connection. I'm currently reading Asimov's I, Robot, so alot of little things jump out at me as I'm reading. I make alot of what teachers call "Text-To" connections. I connect what I'm reading to the things around me in order to make sense of them, or vice versa. I connect movies to books or art to movies, etc. It's all about "Text-to" connections. All these connections are amplified when you're reading a certain book or invested in a certain TV series. Things just pop up and slap you in the face! When I'm done with I, Robot I'll have a little record on the book. I thought, though, that this was a worthy moment to mention a connection and I totally

In the episode T.: The Terrestrial, Fry and the Planet Express crew go to Omicron Persei 8 (the planet run by Lrrr) to get some herbs. Fry and Bender are by some bushes and Fry asks Bender to let him know when they have to "cheese it." Bender says "that's the first law of robotics, babae." (Watch a 4 minute clip here.) This draws on the connection to I, Robot and the three laws of robotics. Law #1 "a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." Of course, the whole premise of Bender's guilt is fostered in the fact that he did betray his friend and probably did let him come to harm. At the end of the episode he arrives, possibly too late, to save Fry, but he ultimately fulfills the first law by making sure Fry doesn't die. In a roundabout way, but still. . . you couldn't guarantee that Fry would come to harm, technically.

Just wanted to post a little geekup about what I saw. Sure there are tons of other references, but I'm really into the I, Robot stuff right now and this just appealed to me. (Just for additionally funsies, Leela calls Hermes Geordi).

Futurama on the Enterprise by ~obiwankatie on deviantART

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Problem with Geeking in the Rain

We arrived in Orlando on Friday and it has been an uphill battle the entire time. From my daughter testing her behavioral limits, to sheer exhaustion setting in from the hectic week and travel, to, well. . . Tropical Storm Andrea! How am I supposed to be at my geekiest in Orlando with my mother and my toddler?

Well, forget Universal or the Blue Man Group. Forget being able to just sit by the pool with my Kindle Fire reading. Forget sitting and watching TV or playing games on the internet. What do you do on a budget with a time bomb daughter? Get a two day pass to Sea World and attempt to go to the Everglades for an airboat ride and some gator threats!

One of my geeky moments was my gushing over the 3D 360 degree Turtle Trek at Sea World. See. . . I have issues watching 3D. I can't even begin to explain why. I don't know if its the glasses or what, but I really struggle seeing things in 3D. Always have. No it's not where I sit. I've tried the tricks. For how much you have to pay, you better believe I tried the tricks. It just wasn't happening. I can't see those silly Magic Eye pictures either. Yet, for whatever reason, I was able to see this movie in 3D. The crab grabbing poor me as I'm trying to crawl to the ocean; The dolphins swimming around and the school of fish swimming up from behind me and over. It was awesome! I could see and I even reached out to touch things that passed by, encouraging my daughter to do the same. So did my daughter see it? When she jumped away from the birds and the sharks. . . I knew she was seeing them. And she loved it. So much so that we went both days. It was amazing! I highly recommend it.

Also, at Sea World, I opted to have a geocaching moment. I pulled out my Geocaching app and followed the clues to the virtual cache that was located at one of the rides in Sea World. I fulfilled the requirements, got a picture, and logged my cache! It was kinda cool and I was glad I still had an opportunity to geocache. I was also able to rope my mom and daughter into some geocaching by our hotel on the Fourth of July. It was really fun and it got us out to enjoy what was shaping up to be a beautiful day!

My final geeking moment that I can actually credit to my need-to-nerd was the pool noodle epic battle. My mom and daughter were on the patio and someone had given us some pool noodles (they were leaving and didn't want to take the noodles back with them). And so my mom and daughter were battling with them on the patio and I broke out into Duel of the Fates singing while they battled! Then my daughter started trying to imitate me. My mom didn't get it, but that's okay.

So no love of Harry Potter Wand shopping, Jurassic Park tour, or Beetlejuice Theater. . . not even a little love for Mickey. Luckily, I still had my moments of geek-happiness and couldn't wait to get home to continue on my journey.