Galaxy Nails for Space Nerds

Just a quick post (since my last was… 3,000+ words… yes yes, I’m working on the art of brevity), since several asked for a tutorial on my attempt at galaxy nails! They’re not perfect, but for a first attempt I don’t think they’re too bad. And they’re so delightfully celestial I love them to bits. 🙂

If you Google “galaxy nails”, you’ll find all sorts of wonderful pictures of nebulae and cosmic dust all over people’s fingertips, and there’s not really a way to go wrong with these. All you need are…

You don’t even need a steady hand! Basically, first you’ll want to paint your black/navy base as you would any normal coat of nail polish. Let it dry, and then take a lighter colour to start splodging the base of your star cluster. I used silver at this point. You can either dab some on a section of your black nail (at any random spot) and dab at it to blend with the makeup sponge, or paint some directly onto the sponge and start dabbing that way. I can never be arsed to wait for polish to dry at the best of times, so I started with the colours right away. A couple of minutes is good enough. Then you start doing the same thing with your other colours – I used a royal blue on some nails, and a pink-purple on others to maximise the nebula effect. Keep sponging away to blend the edges in. You can always add more once it dries if you bugger it up like I did. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to be neat at all. Once you’re happy with your colours, stick some glitter on top and seal it all in with a clear top coat, and voila! The doctor would be proud 🙂

A Feast for the Senses

There seems to have been an influx of amazing books, movies, and music in my life lately – incredible stories, stunning effects, brilliant lyricism, and sheer imagination that just make me want to give humanity a standing ovation. It seems almost unfair not to share the joy with everyone else! If you’re looking for recommendations, I’d highly recommend checking any of these out:

I’d originally seen The Ghosts of Belfast (“The Twelve” in Europe) last year in one of Chicago’s many wonderful bookshops, and had made a note to order it as soon as I got back home (I’d only taken a rucksack, which was chock-full by the time I had to leave!). Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be released in Canada for another six months, so I pre-ordered it as soon as I could. The premise captivated me immediately: Gerry Fegan, an ex-IRA hit man is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed, and soon realises the only way they will give him rest is to systematically assassinate the men who gave him his orders. What a brilliant premise!

I’d never ventured into the realm of thrillers or crime fiction before, but when it’s mixed with otherworldly elements (and set in my favourite place on earth), it’s the ideal way to start. It took a bit of getting used to a story comprised primarily of heavy-cursing men and politics I hadn’t studied in as much depth as I would’ve liked, but I was soon fully absorbed in the characters, and literally read with baited breath through chilling scenes of a dozen ghosts miming execution around the men Gerry encountered. Neville’s writing is nothing short of brilliant, and imagery of “bruised” and “scarred” landscapes was a literary feast that added to the ongoing air of trepidation. The story is a haunting rollercoaster of suspense, forbidden romance, politics, survival and the supernatural, and ends with an extraordinary twist that’ll make you want to stand up and give a round of applause.

I don’t often watch movies, but last week we saw two that ended up being a couple of the best I’d seen in a very long time. I knew I was going to like Source Code as soon as I heard the premise: an action, sci-fi thriller revolving around a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man, and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. He’s sent back into the last eight minutes of a passenger’s life before the explosion repeatedly until he discovers enough detail to find the bomb, and stop the bomber’s future attacks. Most of you will know that I probably wouldn’t need to even know the synopsis if a movie’s filed under “sci-fi” and “thriller” (Inception and District 9 are some of the best premises I’ve ever seen), and this was just another to add to the list. Great visuals of a city I’d fallen in love with last year combined with great imagination and another excellent twist at the end that left me thinking about it for days. Trekkies will be fans: the story was reminiscent of the Voyager episode Relativity where a character is sent back in time repeatedly to find a bomb and discover the identity of the bomber to stop the destruction of the ship. But this time, “it’s not time travel. It’s time… reassignment.” Epic.

We also watched The Experiment, a remake of a 2001 German movie – a highly intense film about a real-life, controversial psychological study in which 26 men are chosen to participate into the roles of prisoners and guards for 14 days in an environment simulating a state penitentiary that ultimately spirals out of control. I’ve always liked Adrien Brody – he’s had interesting roles in several movies I personally enjoyed thoroughly, but seem to have fallen below the radar of critical acclaim (The Jacket; The Village), but this is probably my favourite performance of his. (Though this may have been slightly affected by his long hair and gorgeous tattoos). When I watched this, I had no idea it was based on a true story, which made the already frightening premise even more disturbing upon discovery, but the psychological aspect made it simultaneously fascinating and thoroughly gripping. Vanessa, this one’s for you!

Lastly, I can’t not mention my favourite album around at the moment. There was a tonne of hype about these guys when their first demo leaked on the Internet, and it started getting national radioplay before a proper recording had even been made! The Vaccines’ album, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? is a short punch (less than forty minutes total, which each song clocking in around two minutes) of feel-good, infectious good old punk rock. And the first single off it is so catchy it makes me a)  jump around wherever I happen to be, b) air drum my arms off (or c) a frantic, flailing, highly attractive combination of the two) every time I hear it. We played them on the radio a few weeks ago, and even had people write in to ask for the tracklisting because they liked them so much! Crank it up!

What movies, books or bands are rocking your world lately?

Weekends are for…

1. Royal Wedding Parties

In spirit of last week’s post on all the negativity surrounding the royal wedding, nothing made me happier than being able to spend Friday glued to the radio, hearing of the hundreds of thousands who’d flocked to London to line the streets outside Buckingham palace, decked out with Union flags, wedding dresses and patriotic Daleks in the lead up to the event of the century. I can’t begin to describe the buzz in the air as I listened in on the outburst of national pride and excitement – despite being halfway across the world, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of your home country uniting in masses of support over such a joyous occasion. As soon as the clock hit four, I rushed home to finish our attempt at Prince William’s chocolate biscuit cake , deck the halls, lay out the spread and put on a party dress. Girlfriends arrived in style, and we spent the next six hours toasting, laughing, crying, and sitting in awe as we witnessed an historic occasion that will be talked about for generations.

Favourite moments? Prince William whispering to Kate how beautiful she looked. The nod to nature as the aisle of the stunning Westminster abbey was lined with a canopy of trees. The Bishop of London’s charismatic and powerful sermon which was composed perfectly, captivated hearts across the globe, and got major bonus points for quoting Chaucer. The music. My goodness, the music. The choral arrangements sounded like angels, and hearing Jerusalem (a patriotic, national treasure of a hymn) in full choral and orchestral arrangement ringing through the abbey, covering my arms in goosebumps and my cheeks in tears, making me positively proud to be British. Kate’s dad radiating with pride the whole day long. The human tide of support lining the mall, and Kate’s reaction to seeing it. And of course, Princess Beatrice winning the award for Most Ridiculous Hat in all of millinery history.

2.  Nerding Out

Sometimes there’s nothing better about being a fan of something than being able to share it fully with people just as passionate as you. A new season of Doctor Who is underway, and we gathered together to celebrate with a kickoff party. The wedding TARDIS made a welcome appearance, geeky t-shirts were worn with pride, and a major hand went to a die-hard friend who made us all Oreo  Dalek cake balls! The new season is excellent so far, and scarier than ever – just as it should be. Any fellow fans with thoughts on the major turn of events in episode two, thoughts are most definitely welcome!


3. Creating a New Space

We live in a two-bedroomed house, and with only two people, one of these rooms had inevitably turned into something that may as well have been visited by a Malon freighter. It had nothing on the walls, everything on the floor, and acted more as a storage locker for all the things that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house than an actual functioning room. When it got to the point where we could no longer remember if there had ever been a floor, we decided it was time to do something. After a few hours and cries of “Sweetie? I think I might be a hoarder…”, the closet was organised, the floor cleaned, and the paraphernalia sorted into several donation bags to go to the local Salvation Army. The room became a fresh slate – and a fresh opportunity. After scoring a few bargains on Kijiji, learning how to use power tools and spending an afternoon at Winners, our spare room is now a haven for reading, writing, and creativity. Fairy lights sit behind translucent cream drapes, candles occupy ornate decorations, and a vintage desk and antique nautical barometer are enough to make my inner history nerd rejoice! Now it’s finished, I adore retreating upstairs after a day at the office, slipping in some choral music, and reading by the candelight in our new space. 🙂

How did you spend the weekend?

Wibbly Wobbly, Time-y Wimey

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually,  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”
– Doctor Who, “Blink”

I wish. There are many times in life I wish for the ability to travel through time. When I’m feeling nostalgic about England, I could hop in my TARDIS and go spend a week in Shakespearean London, and be home in time for tea. When I’m curious about life elsewhere in the universe, I could pop up to Saturn and explore. When I’m really poor after Christmas, I could go forward a few days and nab the lottery numbers. Or when I sleep two hours past my alarm clock on a Monday work morning (hello boss!), I could rewind to 11:30 on a Sunday night and decide NOT to go for coffee and philosophical talks on the state of humanity.  Actually, scratch that, I definitely still would. I’d just remember to set the alarm instead.  🙂 I’m a couple of weeks into the 26 Before 26, and it’s already been a rollercoaster of nerves, excitement, and awesomeness – but the biggest challenge I’m having is with finding the time to do it all.

Our daily waking hours are finite. Unfortunately, no matter how many Borg regeneration alcoves one prototypes, this is a sad fact.  If you’re going to throw  two-dozen new things into the mix, this doesn’t leave much room for life in the status quo. My schedule in the last two weeks has been packed with visits, yoga classes, writing dates, birthdays and meeting amazing new people lately, but I’m not going to lie and say it hasn’t left me all sorts of exhausted! My problem is that I’m continuing to do all the things I did before I made the list – including wasting too much time on Facebook, watching too many Star Trek reruns (I have a Trekkie to convert!), straightening my hair, and cleaning the house. If I’m ever going to tackle this list, I’m going to have to re-prioritise – and some things are going to have to go.

I have to learn to ask myself if what I’m choosing to occupy my time is going to benefit me, or others, in the long run. There’s been all sorts of studies on Facebook usage, and I can’t help but think it’s a curse as well as a blessing. It’s full of win in terms of getting concert notifications, creeping on new friends’ likes and interests to see if they’re as big a nerd as you are, and to see how the girl that bullied you in high school is now an overweight mess. But it’s also awful. They change their privacy settings faster than the Enterprise rotates shield frequency under an attack from the Hirogen. You can peruse photos and interests all you like, until you look at your watch and realise your entire afternoon’s gone, and that a new album from a weekend get-together has just gone up and you weren’t invited. Facebook’s been hailed as the saviour of modern communication, reconnecting us with relatives and long lost friends. But in the last few weeks, in endeavors at balancing new activities, online presence, visits and hobbies, I’m finding online time to be more draining than it should be – and that it’s eating away at time I could be using infinitely more productively.  Social media fosters an ephemeral feeling of connectedness, yet in reality causes enormous disconnect from real life.  I had a great chat with someone recently about productivity, and we both decided that this probably has something to do with the increase in distractions as the world moves forward. In ages gone by, there was no Facebook, TV, blogging or MMORPGs. People had time in bucketloads, which they spent interacting with other people, seeing new places, coming up with ideas, which would pave the way to the way we see modern-day science.  Without distractions, they were more productive.

I made the list to push myself out of my comfort zone, to experience and interact with the world in ways that would help me grow, help me become a better person so I could in turn do and become something better for the world. Wasting time wasn’t on that list, so as alluring as “social” networking is, I have to see both sides of the equation, and weigh out the pros and cons. Ask myself if spending as much time as I do online is in line with what I want my life to be. At the end of the day, it’s the things we did, the people we spent time with, the lives we touched and the memories we made that are going to be remembered. Not how many followers we had on Twitter, or how many blogs we commented on. I’m realising that in order to make room for the awesome, I have to cut out some of the crap. Allocating categories to productive internet time (AKA staying in touch with all of you lovely people) vs. wasted Internet time. So this means, as of now, I probably won’t be online as much as I may have been in the last little while. I probably also need to stop prioritizing laundry and a clean kitchen and just say to heck with it, sometimes there are more important things in life.  Every 60 minutes spent reading status updates on a Sunday morning could be an hour running, learning dance moves, writing, or at a hot yoga class. (Sidenote: first one was full of accoustic live music, candles, and AWESOME.) Dr. Who‘s finished for another year, so there go TV Saturday nights. And I need to stop being so obsessive about getting enough sleep, and actually enjoy staying up with people I love spending time with, even at the risk of turning into a pumpkin.

There’s a lot I want to do, and I think it’s high time the routine was shaken up a little.  Out with the old, and in with the adventure of the new. I want to be able to say I lived this year. It’s just going to come down to prioritising, and deciding what’s going to make the cut.  How do you make time to achieve your goals?

In which I accept sweets from and get into cars with strangers

Okay, first order of business here is a MASSIVE THANK YOU for all the birthday wishes this weekend! You guys absolutely made my week and I love you all!! Also? BEST. BIRTHDAY CAKE. EVER.

So, moving on, one of my tasks on the 26 Before 26 was to meet new people, branch out and make new friends. Pardon me while I get a little deep for a minute, but I’ve had the experience once before where I’ve put something out into the universe, and the universe has abruptly halted whatever it was in the middle of only to deliver in abundance. In situations where I’ve suddenly decided I didn’t like something about the way I was living, and actually declared I was going to bloody well do something about it, things seemed to… kind of just fall into place? I don’t know what to chalk it up to, but the universe is proving to be a supremely awesome listener/provider.  One of the things I’ve been uncomfortable with in my life lately is the lack of really close friendships.  There are people I absolutely adore… but have moved away for education, still live back in England, or I just don’t see as often as I’d like to here in the city. And I want to change that this year. I want BFFs, dammit!

So, in the last week or so, things have started changing. New people have started cropping up at every turn, and with them (hopefully!) the opportunity to build the foundations of new friendships.  It started just over a week ago when someone who’d originally been a Facebook suggestion (You have 8 friends in common!  Surely you know each other!) turned into a weekly penpal with whom I started exchanging emails for the past couple of months. We shared all sorts of interests, and he recommended the book I’m currently reading (and ADORING) on life, purpose and seeing the world differently. (Review to come!) Long story short, we met in person last weekend – and proceeded to chat for over three hours about where we grew up, football, science, philosophy, music and personal goals… TOTALLY nerded out, and it wasn’t awkward in the slightest! I really hope this turns into a more regular thing – and I’m still surprised this person still actually showed up after a random ‘hello Internet stranger, you seem awesome, be my friend? kthxbai’ – but as a mid-twenty something in a world where friendship circles already seem to have formed long ago, making new ones calls for something outside the box. Even if that’s at the risk of coming across a total weirdo. I’m very grateful the risk was worth taking and I’m hoping this is the beginning of a great friendship. 🙂

Coincidentally, said recommended book had a part to play in last Tuesday’s event: going out for dinner with one half of the duo that’s going to perform at our wedding in December. I interviewed one half of Keith and Renee a few weeks ago for the magazine that was kind enough to publish me, and Keith used to pop into the post office where I worked back in 200….3? On top of touring the world, travelling to Africa to build schools and water supplies and going across the country promoting positive messages and new albums, he plays in the same church band Sweet does on Sunday nights. Oh, and coincidentally does hot yoga every day, and is totally up for a buddy. Turns out the author of that book I’ve been reading is one of his favourites, too, so we chatted about literature, personal growth and making a difference in the world over dinner. One of the most POSITIVE people I’ve ever met in my life – it was great just to get to know someone so upbeat that little bit better, and with both of these people, it felt more like I was catching up with an old friend I’d had for years than someone I didn’t really know much at all. After dinner he drove me to the bookstore and bought me a book I “had” to have. When I asked why, he said “because you basically quoted the title of the book while we were talking,” and he felt like I was “meant” to have it. What was it called? Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know how incredibly meaningful and apt that is. I was left with a really good feeling of just finally having the right people on my path, who left me feeling like I could totally be myself, and that was absolutely okay, and full of encouragement, inspiration, and real self belief. I can’t even describe the sense of excitement I felt after two such awesome connections within such a short time frame.

Then came Thursday. The Meetup. I went to the pub to meet a group of “strangers” – the Winnipeg Creative Society ‘Secret Handshake’, who get together once a month for networking and chatting and sharing projects. Sounded totally my cup of tea, so I’d added a few people on Twitter before I went, and since it was around my birthday, what I thought was a  joke about cake and party hats TOTALLY became a reality when I got there.  I ended up quickly surrounded by about 40 people wearing elasticated pink cones on their heads, with a giant carrot cake, candles, all singing me happy birthday!! I “knew” maybe two people, who I’d only been tweeting with for a couple of weeks, and proceeded to chat with a whole bunch of other people about work, about creativity, technology, writing, art and sci-fi.  There were too many people to meet individually, but the ones I did get to connect with were awesome, and as a result I am apparently now starring in one advertisement, one music video, having ice cream with a new neighbour and going to a dance party at a composer’s house, as well as preparing for an ’80s karaoke night in drag. After the cake actually showed up, I’m taking everything entirely at face value. This is going to be fun 🙂  Someone caught some video clips on the night (and edited this on their iphone!!) (including the cake!)

Photos courtesy of Luc Desjardins @

I spent so many years consumed with the worry that I wasn’t popular enough, fun enough, or into the same things as most people, worrying about something being wrong with me because I didn’t have those Sex and the City friendships by which I seem surrounded. Only recently, I’ve been learning, writing, and thinking more about the importance of staying true to who you are and letting go of the cares and worries of how big (or small) a social circle is. I think it was shortly after my impromptu blogging rant that I really began to believe and carry out the notion that you shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to fit in. If you have to carry around a persona that masks your true self, how will you ever have true friends? I spent far too much time prioritising popularity over integrity, and it almost shames me to say it. I guess it’s all part of growing up and finding out who you are. But these days, I’m learning that when you cease to empower societal expectations, almost dictations that you need to look or act a certain way in order to succeed in life, life just starts to become genuine, natural, and incredibly fulfilling. When you choose to let go of what doesn’t matter… the people that do will naturally start to flow in.

I feel blessed right now for the changes happening in my life, and excited about what’s to come in the near future. I sign off today with a song that I feel is quite fitting these days – reflecting a journey from fear to awareness, from old chapters to new journeys, from uncertainty to determination, and of the excitement I feel this very moment.

…Stars, hide your fires, for these here are my desires,
And I won’t give them up to you this time around
And so I will be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul…

Masked! AKA “The One Wherein I Lose Any Street Cred I Ever Had”

I was talking to Ashley a few weeks ago, and we got onto the topic of birthdays and of parties and, in natural progression… of costumes. Somehow the topic came up with Stephany too – and this post has been a few weeks coming. In all my years of sharing apartments with flatmates, the one good thing (and there really weren’t very many) was that we were always up for having all our friends over to celebrate, whether for birthdays, Hallowe’en, Comic Con or just the fact that pirates are awesome – we always found an excuse to don our best costumes, and I’d spend weeks putting them together.  Maybe it’s part of growing up, maybe it’s shifting social circles, or maybe it’s just getting old – but I haven’t found an excuse to dress up lately, which makes me rather a sad panda. I still want to break out Poison Ivy or Silk Spectre!  But the talk got me thinking, and I thought I’d share pics some of my favourites with you. A little while ago, I wrote a post called Unmasked.  I thought it was only fair to bring you the other side: Masked!

April 2007: Snowbird, from Marvel’s Alpha Flight.
This was for a Heroes vs. Villains party.
And no, I definitely can no longer fit into that silver spandex.

Comic Con 2007: Edward Scissorhands.
This was TONNES of fun, except for the fact that leather trousers + heavy wig
and makeup = A MILLION DEGREES!! I have no idea who the Star Trek guy is,
but random trekkies = pictures.

Hallowe’en 2008: Blonde Wench vs. Brunette Wench!

Christmas costume competition at work, 2009: Ebenezer Scrooge.
Well I wasn’t going as a bloody elf!

Comic Con 2008: World of Warcraft Night Elf. Yes, I was purple.
I had to sew myself into this one and I couldn’t sit down all day.
But it was probably my favourite costume ever.

And always, always, a costume for ’80s parties. And apparently a dance move.

It’s funny how throughout those years, I was terrified of being in front of people as myself, yet I loved going out in costume. I suppose it was like a disguise… I wasn’t comfortable with who I was, and people loved the person I was pretending to be.  This year… has been my journey of self-discovery. I don’t need a mask anymore… but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to indulge in nerding out. 🙂 This year, I’m going back to a Con, or a Hallowe’en party, and I’m making the best costume yet. And owning it – not confident just in my sewing abilities… but in myself, too. And (not that he knows it yet) Sweet is dressing up with me! Now comes the hard part: what to make! (Note: 5 months may seem like plenty of time, but I kind of killed my last two sewing machines. Either we don’t get along, or my hands are covered in sewing machine repellent. So this, as with previous costumes, is going to be done by HAND. Carpal tunnel anyone?)

Thoughts? 🙂

Intelligence FTW!

It’s no secret I’m a huge nerd. I’m a devout Trekkie, have Daleks in my kitchen, and a closet full of geeky costumes from conventions gone by. And I may or may not own a copy of the Klingon version of Hamlet.  (Keep reading! This isn’t a sci-fi post!) But there’s one thing I can’t stand, and that’s bad sci-fi – or ANY bad movies, or even TV shows. Like Star Wars.  Star Wars is full of aliens, robots and spaceships, all the elements that should make a geek’s dream come true.  So why can’t I stand it? Because it’s built for the mainstream.

We see it all around us: in music, it’s not intricate melodies, talented musicianship or well-written lyrics that are going to shoot you to international superstardom. Throw in a computer-generated beat, lyrics about promiscuity (or ones stolen from somebody else, originally written 20 years ago), a generic rapper and a pretty girl, and you’ll be guaranteed millions in sales, and played on radio stations and in clubs around the globe, sitting comfortably on wads of cash you made from the people who aren’t going to remember you this time next week.

It’s the same with movies – Star Wars is definitely on the top five list of highest-grossing movies of all time, and this week’s tops at the box office include something by the name of Furry Vengeance, full of bad writing, bad animation and animals defecating on people’s faces; The Backup Plan, a predictable romantic comedy short on, well, romance and comedy; and Nightmare on Elm Street, a recycled story with some updated effects, second hand material and cheap scare tactics that wouldn’t frighten my cat.

I like my entertainment to be clever, yet it seems that the mediocre continues to flourish and triumph.  Many sci-fi fans love both Trek and Wars, but I can’t class them in the same category.  Star Wars is an easy escapist fantasy that has nothing to do with actual science, and is undeserving of the sci-fi genrefication.  It was originally based on comic books, which are ultimately aimed at children, easy to digest, and requiring little in the brain department. It’s full of action, basic storylines, and good guys versus bad guys who swashbuckle their way through the galaxy blowing things up. Scare value is minimal, and is done in a family-friendly manner involving lots of heavy breathing and swishy black cloaks. In short: it’s fluff, just like the Hollywood blockbusters and hot-selling albums currently circulating amongst the masses.

I avoid horror movies, not because I’m a wuss (although that’s debatable), but because it all seems so futile. Costumes and special effects equate to smoke and mirrors, and often combine with poor writing, bad acting and some cheap thrills in the form of things jumping out of the dark, and I can’t really see the point. It’s completely far-fetched, and more than anything else, easy. As with so many things in life, many people gravitate toward things that don’t require as much effort.  With music, I’m devoted to talented musicians, masters of lyricism, and appreciators of the form. And, as you no doubt know by now, I appreciate what’s real.  They’re not on the Bestseller wall at HMV, nor are they on the weekly top 40. They’re not going to sell platinum records. But they’re going to ignite the senses and fill me with passion.  With blogs, I read the people who take the time to construct good pieces, full of interesting stories and a real sense of the person behind the screen, unafraid to wear their hopes and dreams, fears and victories, and hearts on their sleeves.

With movies and television, there’s no denying science fiction holds a very dear place in my heart. But as with any form of entertainment, it can be done sloppily, without thought to writing or storyline or ethics. Or it can be done brilliantly, scaring the audience with everyday situations, engaging them with witty dialogue, or provoking thought through morally ambiguous situations.

In the ‘60s, Doctor Who was the scariest thing on television. Aimed at both young and old, a child who could sit through an episode without retreating to the safety behind the sofa was the coolest kid in school. But with new generations come new expectations; what was scary fifty years ago isn’t going to hack it by today’s standards.  Today, I’m loving the shows and movies that provide genuine chills, not through CG monsters and fantasy, but through making the commonplace terrifying.  Watching the television when all of a sudden the TV host starts asking you if the life you’re living is even real. Every stone statue around the country actually a species of “Weeping Angels” ready to come after you and turn you to stone when nobody’s watching. Our irrational fear of the dark not irrational at all… The nature of human life, battling death (literally) and how one copes after death… Scientific – real, scientific genetic experiments going wrong, and the evolution of technology into holographic life forms and their “rights”, and government conspiracies, our defences failing and every child just… stopping… and being taken over. A parent’s worst nightmare.  (You can’t tell me that last clip isn’t terrifying!)

This stuff’s way closer to home. What’s really scary these days isn’t in the form of something in another galaxy, or another big screen axe murder. It’s not 3D movies that make you jump out of your seats – a reflex to the unexpected, not a sincere sense of fear. The intelligent shows and movies build upon some of our most basic fears – what’s hiding in the dark? What if science doesn’t have all the answers? What if everything we know is a lie? It works because it’s not something that could end as the credits roll up the screen. It leaves us with a fear that’s genuinely real, and verges uncomfortably on the cusp of possibility.  The clever shows also provoke thoughts that continue long after the episode has finished, questioning religion, existentialism, morality, the nature of time, corruption, philosophy and redemption.

I’ll take science fiction and intelligent dramas over Hollywood blockbusters and soap operas any day, which leave me thoroughly more inspired, thrilled, scared and entertained. If I’m going to spend a couple of hours on the couch – well, I may as well give my brain a workout, right?

80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME

Sweet and I aren’t big TV watchers. For the longest time, we didn’t even have cable (only signing up for the “3 months free” promotions, and promptly cancelling at the end of each trial, resulting in a strangely large collection of remote controls, and much to the chagrin of the installation guy). We watch our favourites online, mostly, or on DVD box set – sometimes there’s nothing better on a dreary Saturday than curling up with back to back episodes of Star Trek and a cup of tea! But this month, we had no choice but to succumb. Three of the best programmes on TV are all starting new seasons, and I’m BEYOND excited.

#1: Doctor Who

It’s no secret I’m a huge Whovian and, after a 2-year hiatus and much anticipation for the latest incarnation of the Doctor, it FINALLY returned to our screens last week.  For those of you who’ve never seen it, Doctor Who started back in the 1960s in black and white, and rather low budget, and has continued to this day, remaining the longest running science fiction show in the WORLD. It follows the story of the Doctor, the last of his race, travelling through space and time with various companions, battling evil and saving the Earth. He has the ability to regenerate into a new body near death – and the current series marks the eleventh actor to play the role. I hope it goes on forever!! Generations have grown up “hiding behind the sofa“, and this series’ new writer definitely has a taste for the darker stories – last season had episodes which literally made me afraid to turn off the lights, and this week showed one of the most chilling, and best episodes I’ve ever seen. Humanity fleeing to space after a major catastrophe on the Starship UK, led by a gun-wielding, cape-donning Queen Elizabeth X, going undercover to find out what her government is up to while voters are given the option to “protest” or “forget” – and the Doctor left with a choice between killing the last of a race or saving humanity – this episode was to DIE for.  And next week? Winston Churchill building an army of “English Daleks” to win the war? COUNT ME IN.

#2: Ashes to Ashes

This may VERY well be the new highlight of my week. It’s in its final season and was a spinoff of the amazing Life on Mars (the UK version – please, America, never try and remake anything again…), which, if you didn’t catch, was a sci-fi police drama (I know, brilliant), telling the story of a present-day police officer who is hit by a car, and wakes from consciousness in 1973.  We don’t know if he’s gone back in time, in a coma in the present, or if anything is real – the story is full of wonderfully creepy “signs” he might be in a coma, like hearing present-day voices on the radio, or ’70s television characters stepping out of the TV into his apartment and talking to him about his “real” life…

Ashes to Ashes followed the incredible finale, telling the story of a female police officer (played by Keeley Hawes, of MI-5 and Death at a Funeral fame) who is shot, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.  When she wakes up, she is shocked to meet the head of the same police department she’s read about (in researching what happened in Life on Mars).  Throughout the series, we don’t know whether she is dead or alive in the present day. Gene Hunt, the DCI, is one of the most brilliantly written characters I’ve ever seen. He’s hilariously politically incorrect (“This case is going as fast as a bunch of spastics in a magnet factory“), unnecessarily brutal, and has lines that’ll have you splitting your sides one minute (“I”m not a religious man, Mr Warren – but isn’t there something in the Bible that says, thou shalt not suck off rent boys?”), and full of hope and absolute fear the next. The season 2 finale remains hands-down the best finale of any TV show I have ever seen in my life, and this series is proving to be simultaneously full of wit and spine-tingling chills, leaving me HANGING off the edge of my seat with a blanket half over my eyes.

#3: Glee

I’ll admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Glee block, but since starting the season in February (and subsequently buying both soundtracks, converting officemates on lunch breaks, and watching the whole thing through about three times since), I’m officially hooked. Another hilariously politically incorrect antagonist (“I empower my cheerleaders to be champions. Do they go to college? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should they learn Spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners”), an ongoing theme of  losers and nerds coming out on top, half the cast of Heroes, and amazing numbers – this one has it all.

Do watch the videos! What’s keeping you glued to your seats these days??

Human-alien hybrids changed my life

“So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to man, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?”

Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.”

This weekend, two months later than the rest of the masses, Sweet and I went to see Avatar.  I’d heard so many amazing things, but we don’t tend to get out to the flicks very often (especially in winter; braving -30 on a Friday night isn’t always our first pick after a busy week), but this week, we decided on a date night of dinner and a movie (followed by late night rock band karaoke, could a girl ask for more?).  And I was STUNNED.

One of the first pieces of dialogue in the movie, there, made me instantly question its relevance to my life.  (Well maybe not instantly, I was initially preoccupied figuring out how to keep 3D glasses on my face over the top of my normal ones, and thoughts of how science was not only correcting my vision but allowing me to see 2D as 3D at the same time.  I’m a nerd, I know.)  The protagonist is an uneducated, physically disabled man who goes on to stand up against evil and save the world.  Seconds after I heard the on-screen exchange, I felt… empowered.  Motivated.  Determined, not only to keep taking small steps to my ongoing goal of overcoming anxiety, but blowing it out of the water – taking a giant leap out of my comfort zone and surprising everybody, most of all myself.

It’s been six months since I made the decision to stop living trapped by a fear that had taken over my life for so long.  I look back on the words in this post in astonishment at the fact that it was only six months ago when I decided I wanted to break free.  I recognised that I had a choice in how I lived my life; I could see what I wanted, but I was choosing to live it differently.  There was a discrepancy between what I dreamed of and held important… and what I was actually doing.  So I made the decision to change everything, and it’s been a journey of small steps, but always choosing to take the risk into new territory in the face of fear, bluffing my way through it… and getting incredible feedback.  Evaluation forms in my classroom full of “strongly agrees”, and this Friday, when I was put in a literal “fishbowl” on the spot in a training room full of staff to demonstrate what I’d learned over the week, inside I was shaking – but I chose to go first.

And as well as some incredible feedback, I got a round of applause! These small victories have kept me going – checking things off lists, practicing with increasingly difficult situations, and getting through them okay – I have an incredible sense of momentum, and I can’t wait for the day I can not only speak in front of a large group without my cheeks flushing or my heart racing, but the day I’m fuelled by the adrenaline and self-belief to actually want to do it.

The quote from the movie really made me think.  It’s taken six months to get to where I am now, but I still have a long way to go.  Every time I’ve pushed myself along the way, chosen to take a step – my initial worries were blown away by positive feedback; success.  I still get nervous – but I don’t let it stop me any more.  I’m no longer held back on the outside – I just want to be totally free on the inside, too.  My outlook has changed enormously – and I realise that the power of choice, making the decision and actively following through has been invaluable.  So if I’ve done okay in my little steps – what if I took a leap? Instead of following my PowerPoint to the letter next class, what if I threw things in on the spot? Games, jokes… and delivered with passion, positivity, and total confidence? It’s the people who can do that effortlessly that inspire me, because they can use it to make such a difference in people’s lives.  And, for the time being, at least – I’m in a position where I could potentially do that.

Found on Caro's blog

Avatar was not only visually stunning, incredibly written, and moved me to tears – but those first few words fuelled me with a desire to reach the finish line.  I’m going to choose to trust those little victories and take a risk next time I get up there.  I’m going to speak up, make people laugh, and really try be a positive influence in my little corner of the world.  Not for myself, but for the hope I might make a difference if I do.  I’m faced with the same choice I was back in July, just on a slightly larger scale.  I see how I’m choosing to live, choosing to let the nerves and anxiety sometimes get the better of me before I get up in front of people, resulting in an impression of a girl who’s uncertain and scared… I’m choosing to appear nervous, and I have the choice not to.  I think now, it’s time to take another risk.  What’s “going through my head”, as the movie said?

Maybe I’m sick of thinking of the things I can’t do.  I’m going to show the world I can.

Traditions and Wishes and a Well-Dressed Little Tree

It’s officially Advent tomorrow – even if it’s not quite December, but that pretty much means I can now unashamedly inundate you with posts about Christmas!  (Okay, maybe just this one. MAYBE another one closer to the 25th.)

Sweet finally caved after I’d wrapped 2/3 of our presents and they’d been piled on the coffee table for weeks, and let me put up our little tree.  I’ve never had a real tree like my friends, or an 8 ft high pre-lit monster of festivity to take over the room like my dad  – but my little 4 ft one comes out of its box every year, perches on a table with a little red tablecloth, an excited Rose Kitten pawing at it, and gets decorated with baubles and bows from the dollar store (goodness, I’m starting to sound like Charlie Brown here).  This Christmas may be our second one together, but it’s our first proper one living together in our own little house, so I decided the tree deserved an upgrade.

We bought a nice big long string of lights – the twinkly, warm, environmentally unfriendly ones because they’re so much more cosy than the LEDs.  We bought Proper Decorations that cost more than a two dollars.  (Except they came without hooks or strings – point?? – so we had to improvise with paperclips.  I swear that’s the only ghetto part of the tree this year.)  We bought bows and garlands and even some really meaningful ornaments that’ll serve to remind us how blessed we are, and to do what we can to help others.   I lucked out on amazing wrapping paper and spent an evening curling ribbons to a collection of indie Christmas music (I’m allowed to bring out the indie versions before December – I’m hoping to get around to posting a mini indie Christmas mix! – but next week, bring on Josh Groban).

My dad always asks me for a Christmas list every year, and the last couple of years, my lists have really made me feel like I’m getting old!  Over the last couple of Christmases I’ve asked for (and received!) an electric hand mixer, canisters to store teabags and sugar, a crock pot, a rice cooker, and a sewing machine.  What happened to gizmos and music and makeup and clothes?  Looking at this year’s list, I tried to make things a little less quarter-life crisis and a little more fun.

This Star Trek T-shirt from the amazing  Or just a gift voucher for their whole online shop, because everything is way too awesome.  Especially the office supplies 🙂  This Doctor Who one is pretty cool too.

The most amazing USB hub ever:

Yes, I found it on – I don’t care!! I want one!

Books!  Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, Terry Pratchett’s new one The Unseen Academicals, Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked and The Lovely Bones are all on my wishlist.  I plan on reading way more in 2010 than I did this year, and these all sound like very good books to take with me to the Dominican in January.

Games! Because Sweet and I live together now, we can get each other something we’ll actually use together: A WII. So I asked for rock band and karaoke revolution.

A cheap laptop, so I can go be a Starbucks blogger, a ceramic curling iron, ‘cause I’ve never owned a curling iron and I think it’d be fun, and gift vouchers for restaurants, because nothing beats a nice night out.  Not a utensil in sight!

Now we’re living together, we’re also starting our first holiday traditions.  Last year we snuggled in my little apartment and watched Love, Actually (incidentally the first movie we ever saw together at the cinema) and The Polar Express next to our little ghetto tree.  I also made a batch of hot butter rum batter for warm drinks.  We’ll be doing the same this year, and throwing in a holiday (/engagement, since we never had one) party with friends, drinks, games and good times – and one year to go until we officially tie the knot this time next year!  I love starting traditions, and I love the anticipation of them when December approaches.  A personal one of mine every year?  Cranking up No Use for a Name’s punk rock cover of the best Christmas song ever.

What are some of your holiday traditions? And what’s on your list this year?