Sunday, September 29, 2013

World War Z

I love zombie stuff. I can't really explain all the different avenues my love of zombies shuffles down, but it started with film and the reality of the concept instead of just a commentary on society. I typically rush out to see the most recent zombie movie, but since we had our daughter, getting out the movies is a bit more of a challenge. So, as I've mentioned before, we wait for the Redbox release.

I was REALLY excited to see World War Z. Ray and I read the book together and listened to the audiobook when we went down to Louisville to investigate Waverly Hills Sanatorium. We fell in love with the book. What was even more interesting was that on our drive home from North Carolina this summer, we kept coming across zombie geocaches along the same route we drove when we went to Louisville.

World War Z came out a week or so ago on DVD for Redbox. We knew they had made some changes to the story and I was nervous to see how extreme the changes would be. Luckily, the changes that were made worked out. Brad Pitt's character sort of worked. I don't know if I bought into what his character's original job was, but I guess it worked for what they wanted to do.

While watching I couldn't get over how depressed and absolutely hopeless I felt for humanity. I have never felt such hopelessness for humanity during a Zombie Apocalypse. Every time you thought they were ahead, they'd get hit from behind. And it wasn't like it was just a small group of people in one small location going through this. . . it was GLOBAL, so the hopelessness was international and not just some local mall in Milwaukee. It was intense.

I also know Ray had issues with the special effects and digitalizing of the zombies, making their movement and speed look fake, but I justified it, because it plays into the hopelessness. . . they move in such an unreal way, we don't stand a chance. . . they are so veracious and the bodies go into hyperdrive. . . they are the apex predators who don't discriminate. Just remember to be quiet, because they are ultra sensitive to stimuli (like a gaggle of middle school kids. . . j/k).

It was a really enjoyable movie and adds a whole new level to the zombie genre.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cinematic Titanic - The Farewell Tour

My love of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been one that has endured since I was a wee-lass visiting my grandparents in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. I remember being around nine or ten-years-old and seeing an old "scary" movie while flipping channels and these little shadows at the bottom of the screen cracking jokes. I couldn't watch the show in the living room at their house, so I had to sit in the kitchen and watch it on the small TV, but I remember how cool I thought it was.

Fast-forward to 1997 and a young Windows 3.0 user has just used the coolest new version of AOL to profile search people who are into writing. Enter: my now husband. In the early years of our relationship, we talked about Mystery Science Theater and it became something that we shared. He always likes to tell the story of how we were both fans of the show and how I was lucky to watch it in the early years. Many of our special relational moments have MST3k involved. One of the most popular moments was one Christmas when I was able to get all of our family and friends to chip in and buy DVD copies of every MST3k episode ever made! Essentially DVD bootlegs, because they weren't being released on DVD like they are now. I was working at Blockbuster Video and I was hoarding white 2-DVD cases from when we transferred the DVDs to the Blockbuster boxes. I also had only some minor help from my sister-in-law somewhat helping to format the covers so that I could have them printed on card-stock at Kinkos.

Christmas arrived and all the DVDs were loaded into the cases, but. . . the covers were never finished. I gave Ray the template that I had been tweaking based on the little my sister-in-law gave me and was disappointed that the covers were not finished. Being thrilled with his gift, he took to creating all of his own custom covers for each pairing of DVDs with his own summary write-up and graphic images. His covers were amazing. (Bitter chick note. . . my sister-in-law always tried to claim credit for the covers, when she did nothing more than SCAN a release MST3k DVD cover to use as a template. They were that awesome, made by my husband.)

My family also used to rag on my husband for a personal project he was investing his free time in where he was writing and rating every MST3k episode ever! With many stops and reboots, he finally turned it into a webpage. I've linked to it before:

It's a long task and I always kept hoping that one day he could publish it, but he always falls back on this negative assessment of the demand of this kind of niche work. I have my own theories about this stuff, but it's not my work and all I can do is praise it and encourage him to NOT be all down and out about it.

As we've gotten older and moved around, we've had our MST3k moments, but none were as influential as our attendance at Cinematic Titanic in April 2012. They had a two night event of live riffing at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. It was here Ray was able to actually meet some of his favorite people from the show, without feeling all awkward and fanboy like he would at a convention. We met Trace Beaulieu (Crow-T Robot and Dr. Forrester) and bought his newly published book, Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children. He was amiable and quite fun to talk to, especially because we were talking about our daughter and he had all sorts of fun wisdom to share about children. We met Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) and J. Elvis Weinstein (the original Servo). We also met TV's Frank (Frank Coniff) and, finally, Joel! Omg. .  . it was awesome. Ray had them sign his personally created MST3k cover for one of his movies. Joel was really impressed with the covers.

While we had been sitting in the audience, though, I was doing my time as a student teacher with Milwaukee Public Schools. I had a huge stack of tests to correct and, knowing how the waiting game is played, I brought them along to correct while we waited for the show to start. I kept sensing someone watching me and finally a man leaned over and asked me what I was doing. I explained I was grading papers for my third graders. He left and came back with two a Cinematic Titanic DVD and heaped praise on me for being a dedicated teacher. He introduced himself and explained who he was. He was Mary Jo's husband! It was one of those amazing moments for me as a pre-liscensed teacher that motivated and encouraged me.

After the Saturday show, Ray and Mary Jo's husband met up at the bar and talked for a while. He asked about how we met and he encouraged Ray to get his MST3k writing back out there! A year later. . . he posted his personally coded MST3k Journal!

This weekend we went to the Farewell Tour of Cinematic Titanic. The lines were longer. The audience was more intense. My anxiety and awkwardness was in full force. For some reason I am a magnet for weird people. I give off this vibe and they just flock to me. This happened the first Cinematic Titanic we went to and it happened this time on the first night. Loud, obnoxious, distracting, and nowhere near as cool as they think they are. Add the hat that came off every 10 minutes for a head rub. . . awe geez. But I rose above the anxiety and just loved, loved, loved the show. They were riffing The Doll Squad and it was hilarious!

On our way out, I asked if Ray wanted to meet them tonight and he opted out. I mean, we've met them. . . what do we say? Are we just sheep? I feel silly. So we went home. It ended really early, I feel, compared to the previous year, but I don't have concrete stats for that assessment.

We went to the second night and, despite arriving almost an hour early, we were not even close to being the first ones to trickle in. When I go to events at locations I know, I really want a certain seat. I get weird about where I sit. It has to feel right and pose limited social issues (aisle seats, no tall people in front of me. . . that kind of thing). I've always been like that, but couple that with the anxiety and it gets a bit frustrating. We sat two rows up from where we sat the previous night and the people we were around seemed good. . . but oh . . . there were "teachers" behind me. Loud, drunk teachers telling teacher stories about pet squirrels and not knowing the difference between ASL and ESL (American Sign Language and English as a Second Language). South Milwaukee teachers. I suppose the lesson here is. . . don't be a drunk person at a public event and talk about being a teacher while drunk. Sets a horrible image of teachers as being drunk and obnoxious with loose tongues about their students.

Why were they even discussing this issue? Well, because of David "Gruber" Allen, of course!  If you are like "who the hell?" please just click the link and see ALL the awesome places where you have seen him on TV and other places. I always remember him as one of the town musicians on the "Gilmore Girls" and also the guidance counselor from "Freaks and Geeks." He played a Sheboygan Nonprofessional Guidance Counselor as one of his warm-up performances at this event. Back to the ASL. . . there is music playing before the show starts and he comes on the stage and for a few songs, he acts them out using ASL and unofficial ASL physical descriptions of the lyrics. It is GENIUS! Gruber is awesome. Why Gruber? I have a feeling it's a Wisconsin thing. Don't quote me on this, but there's an attorney in Milwaukee named David "One-Call-That's-All" Gruber. I wonder if that's where Dave Allen got his Gruber from.

The second night for the Farewell Tour of Cinematic Titanic riffed the movie Danger on Tiki Island. HILARIOUS with a running joke about the wife being horny. Well, a group of people ended up sitting next to us who maybe should have taken an aisle seat farther back when they arrived, because I can't tell you how many times we had to get up during the movie to let them out. One of which was during the time that they had to take the two kids out of the theater, because the movie was getting a little suggestive.

After the rough screening and with our sides splitting, Ray decided he want to go to the signing they were having. And we did. We waited in line. I wanted my ticket stub signed and Ray bought a picture, since in our hurry to leave on that Friday we forgot to grab a DVD to have it signed and they were selling nothing at the table but pictures. As I went through I talked to Trace and we joked about my daughter a little bit. I told Mary Jo that I loved her book that she published. I. . .I didn't have anything to say to J. Elvis, except that he's awesome (in my mind I said "and you're cute!". . .I'm too shy for that to come out). Then there was Frank and I said I enjoyed his humor on Twitter and Facebook. And then. . . Joel. I explained that I had read an article a while back about how he was teaching a riffing course and how I used riffing in my classroom to help with comprehension skills. I was nervous and I said thanks, thanks. But. . . yeah. . . it was awkward for me, because all I really wanted to do was say thanks for all you've done with MST and bringing riffing to an elevated state of engagement.

And it's over. It was a wonderful experience and I'm sad that I don't have this to look forward to next year. The live performances are so engaging and it just stimulates the brain in such a geek way. You have to access all our own knowledge about EVERYTHING to find the humor in their genius and it really makes it absolutely engaging.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Joining an Adult Gaming Community

I'll start by saying I have been teaching kids how to play tabletop games for a while. This goes as far back as 2003 when I was a youth mentor for a mission church. I used tabletop games (especially Settlers) as a way to teach positive social skills, build relationships, and have fun. It was a way for me to connect with the sixth graders I was working with and we could talk about difficult topics while they played. My experience might go even further back, but those memories are limited.

Gaming in a group or with people is not something that is new to me, but gaming in a group where everyone is a gamer and are part of a great community (essentially an adult gaming club) is new to me. What is also new to me is being the minority or new person in a group of gamers. I've typically been part of the primary group and not the newcomer. For example, in my husband's circle in North Carolina when I first became part of the group, other people would enter the group, but I always knew everyone.

Last night was my first night being the newcomer to a gaming group and my first time coming into an established adult community of gamers. My husband and I had been looking for a way to game now that our lives are settling down a bit (locationally speaking). Right as we moved out of the Milwaukee area, we had found a group we could have been a part of through a local game shop. With the Oshkosh/Appleton area being rather new to us, we didn't know where to start or how to find what we were looking for. Several Google attempts made, randomly over several months, finally turned up a gaming group in Oshkosh.

Unlike my husband, I have a need to jump into things. So I signed up on the forum he had shared with me. I started lurking a little bit to learn more about the people and how to introduce myself. I've had a bad history with forums, so I was nervous, but I knew if I didn't take the first step, Ray would just waffle on it FOR-EV-ER! So I introduced myself. I was welcomed warmly and, because I was super eager, I kept nagging  my husband (as wives love to do) to get on the forum and introduce himself. I finally pushed him when an Epic Game Night event started to approach. I even went a step further and made arrangements for our daughter to visit her grandmother (Isabelle was in desperate need of a haircut). Finally, I told him there was no turning back and I put in an RSVP on the forum.

Almost instantly we had the super-secret location for that night's game. Okay, it's not really super-secret, but they don't post it publicly, but it felt super cool to be sent the location. Ray had to pick me up from work, so we planned a bit of an evening before heading over for the gaming. I insisted that we bring a snack to share. Down the road from my school is an adorable little bakery and their specialty is cupcakes. So we went and got half a dozen different specialty cupcakes. I figured we could put our best foot forward and bring a really nice treat.

Next, we went to have a little dinner out together. It was here that my anxiety started to kick in. See, I have a mild social anxiety disorder. I've been overly judged by so many people that my self-confidence is essentially in the crapper. In an attempt to thwart judging I start to over-analyze everything about myself. This leads to incredible nerves and just a lot of talking and making a lot of ignorant comments about all sorts of stuff. The negativity starts to take the front stage in all the things that I say. This drives my husband insane, which leads to more judging and then moods become irritated and. . . well. . . it's a vicious cycle.

So as we arrived at the location, I'm in the car trying to break my awkward mentality. After some nagging on the part of my husband, I get out of the car and we made our way upstairs to the game room where we all of a sudden met people! I can still feel my nerves in full force and I'm surprised I didn't snap the bones in my own fingers I was wringing them so hard.

Everyone was great. I fear that if I go into detail the secret society might be revealed, but it was a group that felt familiar to me and that is a great feeling to have. I was still nervous, though. I have a tend to run in the more-nervous emotional pack. I also can be a quiet gamer when the game requires more thinking. So at times I think I was a little out of the mix, because of the way I wanted to play.

See, I play games for fun. If I know a game is a bit too intense for me (mostly the first time playing), I enter my chaos frame of mind. I play stuff just for funsies. If I can't have fun or make myself happy, what is the point of playing the game? Especially since I don't play to win. If I win, it's a happy moment for me. If I get too caught up in having to win, I can turn into a pretty horrible person, so I'd rather just play for fun and learn how to win through my own trial and error of playing the game.

What did we play, you're asking yourself as I ramble on about me, myself. and my night out. . .We played Struggle of Empires. . . It was Epic Game night, where gaming goes on past midnight and usually means its more intense strategy games.

The host and the Game Master both gave us fair warning that it might not have been the best night to be introduced to the club, but that they hope we had fun and would come back. Oh trust me, we had fun. I just hope they had fun with us.

The bottom line of this whole entry? Meeting new people is scary. I have realized I have a crazy anxiety disorder, but I love games too much to let it truly stand in my way. Everyone we met tonight was amazing and I can't wait to game again. And if I want to be Pruss-American Caribbean Pirates who just take over the whole left side of the board. . .dammit. . . let me do what I want! I think we found something good!

My geek-points are going up!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Star Trek Twerk

My first week of school is over and I have been catching up on some of the moments I might have potentially missed. One of which is the Star Trek/Miley Cyrus Twerking video and I just had to share it. I am an outspoken opponent of the "awesomeness of twerking." I think it is the stupidest thing to ever grace the dance world, or world in general. To have it entered into the Oxford Dictionary Online is even more appalling to me, but it added a bunch of stuff I think it's useless.

The bottom line is that it's lewd, it's crude and it's no Madonna and Britney Spears kissing, which Miley Cyrus hailed as her most memorable and most shocking MTV moment. Madonna and Britney had shock value, but it was shock value for progressive rights of hetero- and homosexuals. Miley made a progressive stance on. . . humping foam objects and letting it all hang out? ::shakeshead::

So have a laugh and enjoy the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise reacting this is visual assault:


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tabletop Gaming Club (and other activities)

. . . . a girl had a dream of marry fun and education. . .

I realized a long time ago how much I value building strong relationships with my students. That doesn't mean I don't give them distance and let them be their own independent leaders, but I enjoy when they come in at recess and are interested in just "hanging out" while helping to complete classroom "chores." Not only does this make class run smoother, because you have students within the masses to quell the rabble-rousers, but you also can create a classroom environment that is geared towards them. For example, I'll make sure to use The Regular Show for an activity instead of just some vague, made-up, or Disney characters. This will make the assignment more meaningful and I knew they watched the show, because I took time to build those relationships in a relaxed way.

I also realized that having these kinds of interactions makes those harder moments bearable. Being a teacher is a full-on assault of your mental, emotional, and spiritual state of being. Yet, having those relaxed moments where you're just joking around with the kids or having a laugh helps to reset things. In all honesty, I'd rather be hanging out with the kids who don't understand my full-blown social awkwardness, than waste more of my energy trying to fit into a circle of adults who emphasize my social awkwardness front and center.

Thus was born the Tabletop Gaming Club! I'm going to have the students meet every-other-Monday during lunch to learn how to play a game. What goes through my mind is that there isn't enough time for some games. In those instances, games would be left alone to continue during the next lunch period or after school is the students are available to stay.

Once we have learned the game, the students will be allowed to sign in on a calendar to come in at recess with friends or other club members to play the game. The same unfinished rule applies. They can stay after school to finish playing or we'll have to photograph the game to set it up to play another day. I'd prefer staying after school, since I seem to stay a little later anyways. This week alone I  have been getting home well after 5PM, even though school gets out at 3:50PM.

I did explain Tabletop games to one of my Literacy classes today. Sixth graders are so eager to sign up for things. It's having the follow-through to stick with it. The kids, though, thought Tabletop games were chess an checkers. And while I accepted those answers, I pulled out my classroom copy of Dixit and gave them a smaller explanation. I think I'm persuaded a few to give it a nice check-out. Bonus, you don't have only one sign-up date. You can start playing any time during the year. I just ask that you commit to the time.

I think it'll be fun once we get it going. I am so super psyched about it.I also want to have some of the students help run games in class. I think it'll be cool.

And there you have it. . . a club is born!

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I was playing the good wife this morning and making a typical Sunday morning brunch. I had my healthy french toast cooking with the turkey bacon in the oven and the strawberry compote cooking down. The scrambled eggs were almost ready. The husband was sitting on the couch and decided he was going to catch up on some of his web shows.

As I'm throwing down a new round of soaked bread, I heard a familiar video game theme from my youth and I spin around. I have that "Yeah, I know that theme" look on my face and Ray is looking back at me like "Woohoo! I love it too!" As the music ends, I'm like "I so remember that music."

Ray: "You've watched this show?"

Me: "What show? That's video game music."

Ray: "Uh, no. That's Two Best Friends Play."

Me: "No! The music is from Kirby."

Moments of silence pass as Ray frantically searches to prove me wrong. He finds an article that forces him to give me props for theme song knowledge, but instead reads out the article practically justifying the use of the music by these guys. I don't really care whether they used the music or not (hello.... we used Godfather music on our podcast all those years ago). What I do care about is the fact that I totally called that music and knew where it came from!

Still begrudgingly giving me props, I throw out how I know it's not "Mega Man" (because my husband is the master of theme songs game or TV) and he throws back "Mega Man is way better than Kirby." O-M-G! I don't even know what was going on at that point. All I knew was that I recognized some Nintendo music and was super proud of it.

Thus is the geek life in my house. . . always challenged. I live with a geek who challenges E-VER-EE-TH-ING! I love him to iddy-biddy pieces, though.

Husband's Final Word: I was NOT THAT bitter about it. I am bitter about you calling me bitter. I don't think that's fair to me at all. I said I was.... stop quoting me... whatever.