Monday, December 28, 2015

Problems with Pan

I am an avid and supreme geek of Peter Pan and J.M. Barrie. I wrote a published, lengthy essay on history and I, at the time, had one of the largest amassed collection of academic publications, cultural compendium of references, and research on Barrie. This was, of course, prior to the invention of Wikipedia and when people still needed to research mostly in libraries and use books to gather information. So to say I am simply a fan is unjust.

The culture of Peter Pan is so interesting and speaks volumes to our modern society. I've not been overly dedicated to strict adaptations of the story. I think Peter Pan can be applied to numerous story types and can be changed to fit numerous situations, but sometimes a movie comes along that misses the pirate boat completely.

My faith in the new Pan (2015) movie was pretty strong. I thought it had its origins in the Peter and the Starcatchers book series, but upon further review, it was not founded in those novels. Even though it does tap into this idea of Blackbeard, who came before Captain Hook.

Instead, the film touts itself to be a prequel to Barrie's Peter Pan. Instead of treating itself like a reimagining of the series, it really put stock in treating all of us to the origin of Peter Pan, which is does not! It recreates the world and the mythos ENTIRELY! To act as if it taps into the origin of the original Peter Pan is wrong on so many counts. Within this is where the fatal flaw of Pan can be found.

The visual qualities and artistic creation of the film are absolutely stellar and beautiful. The acting of Levi Miller (Peter Pan) is really well done. He carries the whole film and does, honestly, embody the essence of Peter, but there are some other issues. So let's get to the problems.

1. Set during World War II
Therein lies the immediate problem with treating this like a direct prequel to Barrie's story. Barrie's story was first debuted on the stage in 1904. If Peter was in fact 13 at the time of the story, there's no plausible way for him to be living during WWII. Even Hook accounted for the difference in that you don't age in Neverland and Peter chose to come back to London decades later. Instead, you have Peter stolen from London during WWII. Barrie didn't even live to see WWII, dying in 1937.

2. Soundtrack
Please. . . I beg you. . . stop using Nirvana in your Romantic and Victorian movies. It worked in Moulin Rouge (2002), because that's what the film was based around, but even there it was only a minor usage. Nirvana an Kurt Cobain were either romantics nor Victorians and the song is so immensely out of place, it is ludicrous. not to mention the use of the Ramones! Either commit entirely and make the film a musical or be creative enough to develop your own music and pirate songs! That was very off-putting as a whole. And then, well. . . the orchestral soundtrack was hardly inspired. . . cribbing from Powell's previous wrote on How to Train Your Dragon and even grifting a little from familiar pirate soundtracks, like Pirates of the Caribbean. 

3. Faith and Trust and Pixie Dust
What is this mining for pixie dust? And flying without pixie dust? And all of a sudden Peter doesn't need pixie dust, because he's part pixie? Instead the pixie dust is used to keep Blackbeard young? Yet, no one figured out it helps you the fly? I am so confused by all this pixie dust crap... well... not so much pixie dust as pixie rocks. All you have to do is sprinkle it from a fairy and be done with it.

4. Agelessness
Blackbeard needs to be rejuvenated with pixie dust that is mined out of the island, because Blackbeard has hunted the fairies to extinction. You're not supposed to age on Neverland. There's not some sort of drug-like catch to the whole thing. Neverland and magical, not a crack bed of never aging. NEVERland. Get it?

5. Prophesies
Peter was never a boy who was prophesied about. He was an infant who lived in Kensington Garden. He had run away from home and when he returned, realized his parents had a new baby and probably forgot about him. The Fairies found him in Kensington Garden and kidnapped him to Neverland. He was a young boy then. When Barrie looked for models for the statue by Frampton that stands in Kensington Garden, he based it on the boy from the family he had friended. This boy was 8 at the time. Bottom line. . .there was no prophecy.

The whole thing is a mess. It's taking from all the different Peter Pan stories and trying too hard to make it's own version of the story, but it falls short in so many areas. A great deal of it has to do with the story falling so far away from the original that all it uses are some characters and settings that are familiar. The rest is just so confusing and makes the movie difficult to invest in. It almost felt like the message of the movie was lost as well. Peter Pan is about a boy who never wants to grow up. He fears being like all the adults in the world. He wants to stay young. Instead, this is about a boy who needs to become who he was supposed to become.

I don't typically believe many reviewers, but sadly what I had heard about this movie was true. It really didn't work out. It just struggled to much to find it's own originality and personality and got lost in it's own mythos.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Education in Holidays

Last year and this year I used Mental Floss videos around the holiday times to give an unbiased account of "facts" about the holidays. Whether it was Thanksgiving, Halloween, or winter holidays, I've found Mental Floss to be a great source of really random and interesting facts that my kids feel a little bit smarter for knowing and I've heard many stories about how they shared some of the wacky facts with family and friends.

And let's not forget, my kids LOVE John Green, so that doesn't hurt. I liked the song guy, but my kids were way more into John Green, because they love his books that became movies.

Here are my favorite Winter Holiday videos from Mental Floss that we watched in Social Studies this year.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Room Escape - Harry Potter Style

This year I really went out on a limb and reached out to a few women I really felt would create a super happy positive outting with lots of laughs. I knew that the local escape room group was having a Harry Potter themed escape room in December and the last escape room I attended was really awesome. Plus, in reality, I wanted to finally plan something permanent that I couldn't back out on.

In preparation I wanted to make it a super geeky outting with my ladies. So I made little gift bags. First, I made felt house ties for everyone to wear! I took a poll of which houses they were part of so that I could make them a tie. I also got Harry Potter lens-less glasses for everyone to wear, for fun.

Next, I made chocolate frogs in little frog molds and I bought some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean. The slugs were way too expensive. I also purchased a Mischief Managed pin for each of us, as well as some Harry Potter temporary tattoos and a cheap, plastic wand for the wandless.

Why would I go all out like a crazy woman? Because I had finally planned a ladies night adventure for my birthday! I was determined to have an amazing time, because I was desperately in need of a little fun.

We all met up and had arrived at Escape Rooms in Appleton. They started by giving us a rundown of the rules of how the room works and some of the safety information. Then it was time to be locked in the room. Inside the room was a screen that showed the timer and would occasionally give us hints to get us moving in the right direction if we were lost. There was no physical person in the room with us.

The five of us worked together to solve all the puzzles and finding all the keys and codes and things we needed to get out. We were able to escape with only 1:46 left on the clock out of 45 minutes! I'm not sure what 5 out of 10 means for difficulty, but we saw a lot of pictures of people who did not win the Snape room. We were proud and women represented their awesome! Take that men (mostly my husband who said we probably wouldn't make it).

Happy 35th Birthday to Me!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How my Geek Inspired a School

Our school has a goal to build a passion for Literacy! I'm part of an academic team that is trying to create monthly themes with weekly activities to engage Morning Meeting (Homeroom) groups in a Literacy activity. Literacy is composed of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It also includes Visual Literacy. Telling story through pictures and representing ideas through visuals is part of Literacy.

For the month of December I designed a Book-to-Movie themed activity using The Tale of the Three Brothers from J.K. Rowling's Tales from Beedle the Bard. It's also used in the Deathly Hallows movie. So my activity included doing a read aloud of the short story, then as a group the classes create their own visual story for the short story (I provide little squares with quotes from the book that they draw on and put the story in order), and lastly, they watch the video clip from the Deathly Hallows, which is read by Hermoine and is animated.

To help out some of the teachers who were consistently concerned about the amount of extra work that our Culture of Literacy activities were putting on them, I really wanted to relieve all the stress by making a read-aloud video that provided context, read the story, and gave discussion topics. So I made a video. It's rather amateur and I had to rush it (filmed it the morning after learning of the death of a family member so that I could edit it over Thanksgiving while we were with family for the funeral). Arrival on set was at 5:30AM (before almost anyone is even at the school and it still feels like midnight outside).

Here it is. I hope you enjoy and at least get a little laugh. It's supposed to be funny for Middle School kids.

It was pretty awesome and now I am known as "that YouTube teacher" for the kids who don't know me. Kids who knew me sought me out to tell me how awesome the video was AND give me high fives. I received some incredibly complementary e-mails from co-workers and it was just an overall great experience. They are so psyched for the future activities, it's amazing how they are excited about Literacy. Happy dances all around!

Just another addition to my crazy list of teacher geekery!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 3: Get Lucky (2014)

Get Lucky (2014)
Everyone is meeting at Dr. Lucky's house and he has made a great many enemies. Who will be the one to finally do Dr. Lucky in?

Play cards to try to maximize your ability to take out Dr. Lucky. It's a pretty fun two-player game. We played it with a couple who came over and it was a great many laughs for everyone. Read the text involved when you play your characters and  when you play the cards for the characters. This game is all about the card text. So much flavor!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 2: Mr. Jack Pocket (2010)

Mr. Jack Pocket (2010)
This is a pocket version of the larger game, Mr. Jack (2006). There is not a board, but tiles that you can change, randomly place, and manipulate during game play. There are still alibis, but they include an hourglass bonus for Jack.

You are either playing Jack or you're playing Sherlock, Watson, and their dog, Tobby. There are phases: the Manhunt and the Appeal to Witnesses.  The detectives move around the outside, looking down the streets, while Jack works towards manipulating the tiles and the detectives as much as possible.

Turns are still organized on an odd-even turn basis, where the odd turns the detectives take one turn token, then Jack takes who turn tokens, and the detective takes the final token. On the even turns, the roles are reversed. You can either move the detectives, manipulate the tiles, or take an alibi card.

Jack wins when he gets 6 hour glasses by the end of the Appeal to Witnesses turn. The detectives win when there is only one suspect left on the board.

A quick way to play Mr. Jack, with some changes to make it it's own unique game.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 1: Mint Tin Apocalypse (2015)

Mint Tin Apocalypse (2015)
We'd been waiting for this game and I enjoy the other Mint Tin games. They are quick and fun to play, easy to travel with, and my game club kids enjoy them. I also appreciate that just myself and my husband can play these as a quick in-between game to lighten the mood.

Here, you are simultaneously rolling dice to get sevens so that you can move your little meeps into the Fallout Shelter (the tin), but watch out for the green monster. Once you move the white supply cube into the tin, whenever you roll doubles, you start counting down to the monster. That's in the Uh-Oh mode.

Great replay ability and a great theme. Still a nice little pocket game.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Monster Calls

This past school year, I wanted to try to pick some books for Read Alouds that were unusual and fit me and the kids. I was a little frustrated this year, because it's hard to do a Read Aloud EVERY DAY! I mean, there just isn't the time to get everything done. So while I was looking for books to start the year off with, I stumbled upon a unique find: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

What I first noticed was the cover and how it felt intriguing. I wanted to know more about what I was seeing. Then I read the back and it was about a boy who was dealing with his mother's battle with cancer. Talking about hitting me right in the kissah! It felt like something I could connect to. Something timely and intimate for me.

Finally, I looked at the chapters and they were all nicely portioned into manageable sections. So each chapter was the perfect length for a Read Aloud. Add in the gorgeous illustrations that I could put on the SMARTBoard from my Kindle copy of the book and we're in business.

It was the best book I could have selected to really get my kids into what we were doing. We were all so into it and looked forward to reading the chapter each day. I did the monster voice and the Kindergarten Walk when there were pictures to show that didn't show up on the Kindle book. When the book ended, my students were so frantic and full of thoughts and energy, we spent the class period reflecting and having group discussions. It was amazing!

One of my substitutes, who deviates from the lesson plan, looked up the book and noticed it was going to be turned into a movie. Well, the kids were so excited about it. So when my husband linked me the teaser trailer, I KNEW I had to make a lesson out of it. And here we are, the three rough days before Thanksgiving, indulging in critical analysis and reflection of a teaser trailer for a book we spent two months reading!

First I asked my students "If you were to make a trailer for A Monster Calls, what would you make sure was in it to lure the viewer to watch your movie?"  They made a list, making sure not to include any spoilers, but to make it engaging enough.

Then we watched the Trailer (twice, for good measure).

After that the students wrote about how they felt about the trailer (and why), what they were disappointed they didn't get to see (and why), and what they would have added to the trailer (and why). I tell you what, these kids need to be contacted by Hollywood, because some of them even created their own trailer and how it should be laid out. AMAZING!

Now, this was just a teaser, but the kids came up with so many wonderful ideas. Some of the kids were disappointed the trailer did not hint at 12:07 or that his mother had cancer. One of the students even brought up that the trailer made it seem like he was some sort of loner kid and was dealing with friendship issues. They also wanted the trailer to mention the stories or the tales that would be told and they were, all, upset that they didn't get to see the whole monster. Granted, they understood why they weren't going to see the monster.

I was shocked at the level of disappointment, but at the same time, they had such lofty ideas of what they wanted from the trailer. SO! Since it was a teaser, I told them that when the official trailer came out (probably during a holiday movie), we'd review our writing on this and watch that one, too, and discuss it. I'm all about visual literacy and helping the kids to apply their thinking and think deeper.

Loving the passion my classes have developed for Literacy of all sorts and that I'm helping to inspire them. It's been absolutely amazing! They were even planning on having a viewing party next year for the movie. Can't not be excited about that. So we'll see where things lead us.

If you haven't had a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it, because the book itself is absolutely amazing. My kids are concerned that the movie won't be as amazing as the book, but I think that's slightly unfair. I already am excited to see where they go with it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

#ALLMYMOVIES - A Social Experiment

I teach sixth grade Literacy. I try to teach my kids to apply what they learn in Literacy class to real world situations and events. This year we have been learning Kylene Beers Notice & Note Signposts to apply to their fiction reading in an attempt to encourage deeper thinking about what they are reading. When notice one of the signposts, they need to stop and take note of it. Then they need to ask themselves a deeper question to get at the heart of what the author wants you to understand.

As I started to teach these signposts, I started to notice myself asking signpost questions in my everyday life. I would then use these real life examples in class to encourage my kids to take their thinking outside of the classroom and into their own lives. But last night, I had an Aha! Moment for a real life application to the signpost Again and Again.

When you're reading a book and something is happening again and again or a word is being used or a situation keeps being mentioned. . . whatever it is. . . if its coming up again and again, you need to notice it, stop, and take note. Then you are to think how could this help you understand the story deeper. Will it help you to understand the theme and conflict of the story? Can is help define a character in a deeper way? Does it provide a sense of foreshadowing to the story? My students were having trouble going deeper with this signpost.

While I was surfing the net after a long day shaping young minds, I stumbled upon Shia LaBeouf's #ALLMYMOVIES art instillation in NYC. He had rented out a theater and was watching all of his movies in reverse chronological order. While he did this, he was live streaming his viewing. 3 days he would sit in the theater and watch his entire body of work. It was free for people to come in and watch the movies with him, but he had taken an artistic vow of "silence" from people, but did still interact in some capacity. The essence of this is that we are watching him, watching himself.

As I sat there, watching the live stream, I thought to myself, "What message is he trying to send with this?" I was watching someone watching their own movies. Again and again, he would sit there as a new movie rolled out and the live stream would continue to stream. It felt very voyeuristic I thought about it for a while, but then went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up and found myself checking the stream to see if he was still watching. I don't know what compelled me to do it, but I did. Then it was off to work and while I was prepping my lesson for the morning, I had a stroke of genius: My students could try to figure out the meaning behind him doing this activity again and again.

I would introduce to my student Shia LaBeouf and his previous artistic endeavors, as well as the movies he's known for. Then I would explain the experiment. I would pose to them the question, "What is the theme (the message or lesson to be learned) in this artistic endeavor?"

Because, the point of art is to evoke a response, an emotion, or just a deeper level of reflection in our own lives, I wanted them to write a reflection on being part of this. So when I introduced this to my students, they all laughed and acted baffled and scoffed, but once it was on the screen, they were completely taken in by it. I explained that they were also taking part in the artistic act and have become part of the art that is being created. I took back-of-the-classroom-photographs to further validate the art.

Once they had watched for a little bit, I encouraged them to start recording how they felt and their feelings and what they think the point of all of this might be. Some of the students went deep and thought about the deeper implications of something like this, while others made it through the first step of why would this actor be watching himself, but couldn't make it to the next step of "what does us watching him have to do with it?"

They came up with some great observations and potential guesses for why he was doing this.

1. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he wants to see if people still like him. He is looking at tweets on the internet and streaming stats later, as well as seeing, in person, the amount of people who come out to watch his work. He just wants to feel famous. 
2. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he is reflecting on his own body of work so that he can be a better actor. 
3. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he wants to encourage people to reach for their dreams, just like he did as a child actor. We're watching him experience the joy of reaching for his own dreams. 
4. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he wants us to reflect on how we treat celebrities and celebrities are just normal people like everyone else. He's also putting himself in the shoes of a normal person, by watching his own movies. 
5. Shia LaBeouf wants attention because he wants all the people there to give him attention and he just wants attention from people on the internet and twitter and Facebook. 
6. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he wants to be a better actor and reflect on the things he likes about his acting and the things that are bad so he doesn't do them again. He let other people in so that he can see what they think is funny or good or bad, too. 
7. I think this guy is crazy and too into himself. 
8. Shia LaBeouf is doing this because he wants us to think about our own obsession with looking at ourselves through pictures and images and he wants to record the good and the bad of the experience. 
9. This guy just wants us to think about our obsession with watching people on TV, especially in reality shows. He did this to try to stop reality shows from being mad, because it is wrong to spy on people. 
10. He wants people to confront their own craziness by watching his craziness. 
11. To give other people to chance to try to be crazy on camera, like that girl with the green hair who put the picture on his seat or the guy who you said was sitting behind him last night and is now sitting next to him all day.

These kids are 11 and 12-years old. Some of the thinking that came out of this was powerful and others were a bit more blase. It was such a moving activity and the kids just couldn't stop talking about it. They even realized how hard it was to not keep watching, like they were going to miss something important. I joked with one class that he is looking back at you. That really creeped them out.

The strange part was, they were unable to put into words why they kept wanting to watch. I asked a few of them and they were incapable of figuring out their own reason for watching this. Some of them said they felt a little inspired or they were thinking of how they viewed celebrities. Others said they weren't going to post pictures online anymore or they were going to stop watching reality shows, because this realized to them how creepy and stalker-like the activity was.

In the end, the lesson was a hit. The kids were engaged. The idea of going deeper was applied to real world situations. They will not forget thinking about the world around them as having meaning and having value beyond the surface. Will they apply that always? Probably not, but this art instillation or social experiment or reflective moment was powerful and its taking moments like this and sharing them with students that helps to make a more informed and powerful world.

On the flipside, my co-workers through it was crazy insane and just, overall, weird, that I would have used this. It was immediate. It was involving them in real time in something that was going on. Powerful beyond words.

This opportunity was magical and I am so glad I was able to participate and allow these discussions to take place. So proud of my students.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The C-Word

I'm sure you came up with what you thought the C-Word was before you started reading, but it really could only be one or two things. . .  that one thing or Cancer.

For the purpose of this entry, C-Word is the latter. On August 24 I received a phone call from my mom that she has ovarian cancer. That is where I've been and what I've been dealing with, coupled with school starting, my daughter starting Kindergarten, and just life in general.

Right now I'm not going to go into all the details of the emotional, psychological, or even physical challenges all this is handing out to those involved, but I will share some brief snippets.

I've been driving two hours there and two hours back to help my mom. Spending chunks of weekends and then some at her house. Spending hours on the phone talking to family and friends.

My mom had her diagnosis, then found a better doctor. Then had surgery and had all the junk removed. Now is facing 6 months of chemo, which she has finally accepted as an option. Then the process of preparing for the horror that is chemo and the hair loss and the physical illness.

Coupled with all that is this just insane attempt to blend medical and non-medical healing stuff. It's a smidge too insane for my liking, because it's just too many people with too much information overwhelming you with information that isn't always from the most relevant of sources. Being on the internet does not mean it is credible. I feel like giving these people the guidelines for checking source credibility (I teach it to my sixth graders).

I think, sometimes, people forget about the family. So. . . a lot of the people who I interact with when I go down to be with my mom seem to forget that I am also in a place of processing all of the things and all of the information. And while my mom only has to deal with her life decisions and work through her own inner turmoil and a little bit of work and a few bills and things, I've got an intense job that I can't JUST take off from, a family with a 5yo who JUST started Kindergarten and is having a hard time (well... sort of... it's a teacher thing), and a bunch of commitments that I have to take care of. I have to check again, but I had 19 sick days (2 of which were personal days) and that's all I get for my own health and for taking care of my family's health and my mom THROUGH JUNE! I can't blow all my days right up front here. Even taking all those days really has an influence on my students and the teaching and learning that is occurring in the classroom.

Add to that having to still prepare lesson plans even more than I would have if I were teaching, because I have to EXPLAIN everything for the sub. I still have to deal with all the stuff that didn't go as planned and score all the busywork and assignments I have the sub do, since most subs can't do the level of intense writing lessons that need to be taught. It is just so frickin' crazy how stressful this all is.

Yet. . . there's my mom. Things are quieting down now a little bit. There are finally routines being formed, but it's hard. Her hair is falling out and if you know my mom, you know the hair thing is probably the biggest deal in the whole world. She's had a rough road so far with her first chemo being the worst experience ever (no, seriously... there were problems.......) and now getting to a point where she feels she can actually carry on with a normal day.

We're making it through. I can't explain all the subconscious energy it is taking to handle life in general. I mean, I've got my own demons plaguing me and making things even harder than they really should be.  Demons that are causing me to pull away and isolate myself more than I should, but I don't really know what else to do right now. I've given up everything I've been a part of, except for my Tabletop Game Club at school, because I feel like the world is this million ton weight on my shoulders. I even passed bill-pays onto my husband, which is something I always did for my own sanity.

The biggest problem for me is that I can't seem to get a handle on my life. I found comfort in having a calendar and being able to plan and look ahead and mark things down and now I feel like nothing is planable. Which makes it even more difficult, because I now don't want to plan anything with anyone. It's really hard. With the holidays coming, I REALLY want to make plans and make commitments, but I can't. I miss my world right now, but then.  . it's really that I gave it all up to make sure that my mother, my daughter's grandmother, stays around.

I push forward every day now. I wish I had a cheerleader like my mom has me to cheerlead her. I know that's now really possible, because there's no reason for anyone to help lift up the burden of my own emotional baggage, but at least my mom does and that's what's important right now. I'm giving up myself to give back to her.

So in the end, I just want to say "screw you cancer." And if, in my lifetime, I find out that there is some sort of conspiracy with pharmaceutical companies and the government and all that crap. . . know that there will be hell to pay for the pain that was brought down on my family with my grandfather, my grandmother, my uncle, cousins, and countless friends.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015

It was a simple Halloween. One devoid of my usual decorating prowess. I was at least able to get a costume made and I had one of my geeky-bucket-list moments!

I slaved an entire evening away making a hobbit costume that I could wear to school the next day. It made me so happy to be a hobbit, because in my soul I an totally a hobbit. I bought reusable items and only a sheet of fleece cloth for the cloak. I made a leaf button from scratch and used my husband's letter dice ring as my One Ring. I was pretty frickin' happy.

My daughter, lived her dream of being a T-Rex (the dog is a Raptor and it didn't last long).

Oh the dreams that were made this Halloween!

So Happy Halloween and here's to 2016!

Friday, October 30, 2015

World Premiere - The Blair Iggle Project

Over the summer, I had to chance to participate in a fan "remake" of the Blair Witch Project. The BWP was a film I latched onto in my youth that rocked my world. I was hooked into their advertising and the faux-documentary-found-footage style. I was obsessed with it.

To this day, I still watch The Blair Witch Project (and sometimes #2) on Halloween!

So when the opportunity opened up this summer to participate in making a "swede" version of The Blair Witch Project, entitled The Blair Iggle Project, I jumped on it! Different people from around the world would film as many scenes as they could from the movie and then compile them into an homage of the BWP. They were done in low-budget ways with whatever materials and people we had available to make it happen. I did quite a few of the scenes at the beginning of the film, because I have a lot of locations near my house that I thought would work well for some of the locations, like Birkitsville and Coffin Rock.

Suffice to say, we finished our little film and here is the final product. I'm proud of being party of this fun creative project and it felt so right that it was this movie.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sherlock Christmas Special Teaser Trailer & Prediction

Like many people, I am a super fan of Sherlock. Love, love, love the show. I eagerly await all the bits and pieces of information that trickle in. I've always been a Sherlock fan, but this BBC series has me completely smitten.

So I've been watching all the little secrets and bits and pieces that have been released here and there. Finally, today, I saw the trailer.

Everyone is trying to figure out what the deal is with the trailer. We know it's set in Victorian times (Sherlock's original setting) and the characters are actually out and about in Victorian garb and Victorian London. One of the earlier predictions indicated they might be going to a costume party.

As if to join the huddled masses full of theories, I have devised a potential theory about the Sherlock Christmas Special!

As Watson has mentioned often, he writes a blog about his adventures. I think Watson was able to finally turn his writing into a novel and wrote a story about himself and Sherlock set in the 19th Century. That would explain some of the things that Sherlock says, especially talking about how he was created and even the mention of war.  The opening of the trailer talks about setting the stage and the curtain rising, which reflects the beginning of a story... a play, but this is too elaborate to be a play.

It could also explain where Watson tells Sherlock to put on the hat. They could be dressing up to go out for the book.

I don't know, I just thought that could be the key.... that John Watson finally turned Sherlock into a book. The trailer has a very story-like feel, with Sherlock's lines feeling unlike his typical Sherlock character persona.

Guess we'll see when all the fog and mystery is removed!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

GenCon: The Wheaton Experience

This GenCon was my Wheaton GenCon. I know that probably sounds weird, so let me back up a year. When I went to GenCon 2014, I had a list of things I wanted to do at GenCon. One of them was to see Wil Wheaton. My first heartbreak and realization that this would not happen was when Geek & Sundry scheduled his panel at the same time as my only opportunity to have a meta moment in my life (play Nuns on the Run dressed as a Steampunk Nun). At least, though, now I knew he was going to be at GenCon and I thought maybe I would get a glimpse of him there, so I tried to keep an eye open.

Almost as some sort of cosmic taunt, fate put my Nuns on the Run game right next to the Geek & Sundry booth and as we set up to play the game I looked up and saw a very attractive woman and someone I thought maybe could have been Wil Wheaton bustling out of the hall. All I saw were the backs of heads and made my own assumptions. My husband made fun of me, but I can honestly say I was disappointed to have been that close but saw nothing but a blur of hustle.

By the end of GenCon 2014, I figured, as with many things in my life, this meeting was never meant to be and I slowly accepted my position in life.

That was until GenCon 2015. . . and the amazing, kind hearts of my game club students who gave me the confidence and drive to do something amazing.

At the end of the school year, my students had me tweet a "Get Well" message to Anne Wheaton after she had tweeted out how horrible Wil was feeling. It was just a normal tweet, no fishing or hoping for some sort of attention. To our surprise and excitement, she passed along the kindness of my kids and Wil tweeted them back and they freaked out (oh yeah. . . so did I). They felt so cool. A few of the kids suggested making Wil Wheaton an Honorary Member of our club. I expressed typical adult hesitation, but said if I could make it happen at GenCon, I would. The worst that could happen is that I'd be out a shirt and a pin or two.

Well, Wheaton was going to be there! He was releasing Titansgrave and would be hosting a panel. First, . . . duh. . . . I'm going to the panel. I LOVE Titansgrave! Next, I had to write a letter and arrange pins (of which we were missing the black pin) and make it special. We wanted him to feel special for making us feel special and inspiring us.

I slaved over the letter. I wanted to make it perfect, but what kept happening was my struggle to separate my own fangirl from being a representative of my students' fanning. What kept coming up was that this was not about me, it was about the kids. They are why I am doing this. They deserve this moment. They are worth all of the effort and personal anxiety and everything else that goes with this process.

Time was ticking down. I had a plan. I was going to leave the gift-bag at the Geek & Sundry booth. I didn't want to be "that person" who ruined things by allowing my weird anxiety to get in the way personally. In my mind, I probably would have fumbled, tripped and tackled the poor guy and then would have to ruefully hand over the bag. Worst case scenario. . . In order to avoid this, my plan was to leave everything at the booth and I figured he'd stop by the booth eventually and then it would be in his hands and, well, that's that.

Thursday at GenCon arrived and, as you'll hopefully read in another post, Thursday was the roughest day. I was exhausted from the rush of the Exhibit Hall opening. My whole body was shaking from exhaustion, adrenaline, and who knows what else. Literally my hands were shaking and I was struggling to talk to people. Stupid me pushed myself to deliver the bag for my kids.

I approached the booth and immediately started talking to the lady there. I probably looked a mess. I flashed my educator credentials to counteract any potential assignment of crazy and explained that I just wanted to drop this off for Wil Wheaton. I pulled out the picture of my kids and gushed about them a little. The two ladies there took the bag and said they would give it to him and he would love it. Then the first lady gave me some wonderful temporary tattoos for my kids. She had to help me count them out, because I couldn't even get my hands to pick up and count out 11 tattoos.

Later in the day, I was just checking my various e-mails to make sure I wasn't required for any kind of task anywhere and there it was. . . an e-mail from the second lady at the Geek & Sundry booth. Wil had gotten the shirt and was thrilled. Attached was a picture of him and the shirt from my kids. I've refrained from sharing the photo in any of my social media spaces, because it really is something done for my kids and they're really the ones who get to see it. It's between Wheaton and my kids. So use your imagination and imagine Wil Wheaton holding up my club's shirt with a super happy smile!

AMAZING! I was so excited for my students. I'd be an idiot if I didn't admit it was exciting for me, too. Kind of like when you plan something special for someone else and it happens! My excitement was for being able to share it with my kids and seeing their excited faces.

That was the end of Day 1. Day 2 was the Titansgrave panel. I was really excited about this. So excited that I arrived at the event location super early. This ended up being a great experience for me, because I was able to friend with some of the other early fans. We talked and joked and really just had a ball. Then, when we got in, we ended up all sitting together right up front, despite having split up after getting through the door!  Here's my crew:

I'm in the empty seat. When I sat back down, the stage was right in front of me. The STAGE was right in FRONT of me. . .what did I do. . . I had nowhere to hide. I'm laid bare in front of the panel. I started to become anxious about being exposed. It didn't help that I was, physically, at my worst in the last six years and that I was sitting next to a young man who was having a hard time with his own concerns. Poor guy had a hard time whenever the audience clapped or laughed.

Then people started coming out on the stage and the audience lights went down and. . . there he was. . . RIGHT in front of me. I felt embarrassed. I wanted to hide. I felt like it was so ragingly obvious I'm a fangirl and I'm sitting directly in front of him and. . . it was time for deep breathes.

Did not flash. Did not film. Only 1.
I was in this alone. My husband and our friend opted out of coming with me. I could do this. Don't have a fall out of your chair moment. You'll be fine.

As things started to get underway I was calming down. I clapped, smashing my cellphone against my hand, because I had nowhere else to put it. Laura Bailey came out and I was so super stoked for that, too. The whole panel just hit all those buttons.

The panel was amazing! It was everything I wanted in a panel. Funny, informative, and intimate. One of the best panels I've been to. And then it happened. . . the Q&A. I have a history of horrible Q&A, but what the hell did I do when the Q&A was announced? THREW MY HAND UP IN THE AIR!

I am in front of somebody I respect and, duh, am a fan of, and I'm throwing my hand in the air like I literally just don't care. I had a question though. It was simple enough to be curse-proof. Wheaton started calling on people.

First person: Ok, there's still time to rethink this.

Second person: Great, I can still rethink my options.

Third person: Are you seriously not going to stop this madness?

With each additional person, I slowly started to lose my vigilance and was just going through the motions until it happened:

"I saw a hand here in the front someplace. Yes ma'am."

Holy shit! Is that me? Oh my god That's me! He pointed at me! I'm the ma'am! {Looking around for the mic}.

"That's you! He called on you!" says the lady next to me.

"Yea, you," Wheaton says, all helpful smiles and friendliness.

"Should I just talk really loud?" I started to sit forward in my chair and sit up straight.

"Just shout it out and I'll restate it. GO!"

Cue anxiety and shutting down and attempting to micomanage the headspace with the being put on the spot and it's just a simple question. He's staring at you. Everyone is staring at you. Just state it with confidence.

So here's my question that I had prepared in my head: "Will the same characters be coming back for Season 2?"

Here's what came out of my mouth: "My name is Sarah Bonilla and my question is about, um, will those characters end up,. .  I feel like this is silly, but will all the characters be in the season, like all the seasons. . ."

"So her question is. . ."

Watch his response to my bumbling 41:13.

Holy crap. Just seriously holy crap. I sort of made it through without being too idiotic. I totally was chosen by Wil Wheaton to ask a question. Cue 80's teeny-bopper excitement! Rode that high until the end of the show.

As I went to leave, I saw Anne Wheaton at the end of my row. I thought she would just go with everyone else behind the curtain afterwards, but she didn't. She stayed out with the audience. And as I added myself to the small que, I couldn't believe how she just emanated sweetness. Then all of a sudden she took off behind the curtain and the small group dispersed and as I was walking towards the door, she came back out, went right to the person right by me.

I felt like I jumped in front of her and said her name. I introduced myself, letting her know who I was and reminding her of that one time with the tweets. She said something reminding me that he tweeted me back. And I told her I remembered and that I just wanted to thank her for that, because it really meant the world to my kids. I also told her what my kids did in return for Wil.

Maybe I came off as fishing. Maybe she thought I was looking for something. I have a tendency to give off mixed-signals a lot, but I just wanted to thank her for having such a wonderful interaction with my students and it was just a big bundle of not being able to express how much her small little action made such a huge impression on these kids and they're going to remember it for a long time.

Can I just say, she was even more gorgeous in person! Apparently I was so gushy about how awesome what she did was, I almost made her cry. Oh geez to me! Then there was one or two moments where I felt like she was going to actually get Wil and I didn't want that to happen. Deep down it felt like if she did that I would have been abusing my position as a thankful messenger and heartfelt fan. I could be completely off about that, but as much as it would be wonderful to meet him in person, somehow I've convinced myself that it wouldn't be right. My students mean the world to me and allowing them to have incredible opportunities is really my goal.

Being able to celebrate gaming with my game club kids is such an amazing experience for everyone involved. They are so passionate and dedicated. They are so wonderful and I appreciate their dedication to gaming so much, I even put aside some of my summer days to meet up and game with them. Who hangs out with their teacher during the summer? Oh yeah, kids who have found someone who shares their passion and helps them be part of a community that embraces them and makes them feel included. We are a family.

At the end of the day, the whole experience was amazing. I'll always feel weird and awkward sharing my own appreciation for all the things Wil Wheaton has done that have inadvertently helped me in my own journey, but there's no holds barred when it comes to representing my kids who are so important to me they are like my own kids.

So thanks to Wil and Anne Wheaton for their sweet hearts and allowing for these kids to have such a memorable and meaningful experience.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Critical Role and Me: How Watching Inspired Me

I had heard about Geek & Sundry's Critical Role when it came out. The snippets I kept getting on it was Roleplaying and it kept showing people dressed up in costumes, so I thought it was something more akin to Larping. What also might have happened was that I confused both the Geek & Sundry show LARP and Critical Role. Additionally, it was this Twitch thing and I have some reservations about Twitch and it's "Big Brother" style "watching." Like... things on Twitch don't feel like a show, they feel like I'm spying on you while you do stuff.

It might not be a surprise to anyone if I reveal I first watched Critical Role because Wil Wheaton was going to be on it. After my love for Titansgrave and Wheaton as a GM, I thought it would be awesome to watch him as a character. So when I saw the tweet, I clicked the link and BAM, I was chromecasting it onto the TV!

So I put it on and I struggled just a smidge getting into it and then all of a sudden, things were moving forward and I was hooked into what was going on. I fell in love with the characters, the GM (I am an adoring fan of Matthew Mercer now), and the world! It made me feel great about some of the GMing I'd done and it made me really excited for continuing forward with RPGs.

While this was part 3 of an ongoing adventure, it was part 1 of Wheaton being part of the group. I would have to wait a week to see how things would end, and, well, the day came when I was going to see if the crew was able to complete their contract!

As I watched, I couldn't believe I was staying up so late, but each moment was so enthralling. My husband actually stayed to watch and we started lamenting our own RPG plight! The two of us came up with the idea that the two of us and our friend should take turns running our own RPGs.

One month, my husband would use two Saturdays to run his Marvel RPG. I would use two Saturdays the next month to run my Pathfinder (or Fantasy Age... haven't decided yet) RPG. Then the third month our friend would run his ShadowRun adventure for two Saturdays. We'd all get to be GMs and characters and we'd have time to work on our own RPG.

The reality behind the idea that was spawned was amazing! Now we're on our way to embarking on the most massive, dedicated activity the three of us have done since we used to do HeroQuest back in the day. Check back to see how things unfold.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

IGGPPC Camp 2015 - Solo Photo Scavenger Hunt

1. Favorite Writing Instrument

2. Camp Stickers

3. Camp Snack

4. Cool Stick
Ok... see that stick dangling there all renegade? Yea... I like that stick. HANG ON BROTHA!

5. Show off something you made.

6. What is the one thing you NEED to take with you to camp?

7. Something Green

8. Gather Four Different Kinds of Leaves

9. What does it look like outdoors where you live?

10. Favorite Piece of Geeky Clothing
Didn't say it had to be on me. Her shirts are images taken by the Hubble Telescope and are totally gorgeous! Love it!

11. Spell Out IGGPPC With Objects

12. Show yourself participating in a camp activity.
Filming for the Iggle Blair Witch Movie
13. Flashlight

14. Camp Outfit
My shirt, some gold and my glasses. Sure there are shorts down below, but I'm ready for a party!

15. Nature!