Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Syfy's "Face Off"...Season 9 Begins Tonight!


Tonight (or yesterday, or last week, or last year, depending on when you read this post...) a favorite show of mine returns, the Syfy Channel's Face Off. It's their 9th season.

You've probably heard of this show. It's a reality show/contest show. Contestants from all over the country vie for a chance to be a make-up/special effects professional. The reason I like the show is because of the crazy talent these people have and it makes me believe that we as humans can do amazing things is given the chance.

I know the show has to come up with new challenges each year, I suppose because us viewers get bored too easily. That may be true, but I'll bet those of us who really like the show would be satisfied if they had the same challenges each season and the new artists had to use their own imaginations and talents to win. The show kind of does that already, many of the challenges at least feel the same if they're not. 

We take for granted the way a movie is made. We have seen movies since before we could walk and a show like Face Off allows us to see just what it takes to create these effects. I'd love to see a show about gaffers and lighting technicians to see how hard those people work.

I think, however, that would be a hard sell getting that show on the air.

Good luck to all involved in Face Off! Here's to another great season.

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.syfy.com/sites/syfy/files/styles/syfy_image_gallery_full_breakpoints_theme_syfy_tablet_narrow_1x/public/2015/03/FaceOff_gallery_809SpotlightChallenge_08.jpg?itok=IYGeC7z2

Monday, July 27, 2015

What In "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" Surprised Me Most...

Sharknado 3*

I watched the original Sharknado, Enough Said back in 2013. I mean, I had to. So did millions of other people apparently. For some reason I missed the second installment, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Shark Happens. Which makes my decision to watch the latest an odd decision. Because after you've seen one Sharknado show, you pretty much have the formula down.

But little did I know that the NBC/Universal/Comcast conglomerate had other plans for this unsuspecting viewer. Not only did Sharknado 3 provide us with visual treats you (literally...) don't see everyday--if ever, but this media powerhouse pumped into their little program so much marketing and cross promotion, I wondered if this was an outlandish made-for-TV-movie about shark superstorms wreaking havoc or an all-out two-hour advertisement for all things NBC.

It boggled my mind how much they crammed into one little show. Half the show takes place at Universal Theme Park in Florida where they showcased the Xfinity NASCAR race cars which ties in nicely with theme park NBC owns and the Xfinity NASCAR championship NBC sponsors.

Not to be outdone, as the Tara Reid character needs desperately to find her daughter in the before-mentioned theme park, they access the free wifi available to Xfinity customers. Using this amazing app, they locate the daughter's cellphone--it's an NBC miracle!

The show is filled to the gils with cameos, both from actors pretending to be someone else, and celebrities appearing as themselves. In the end, it really doesn't matter because both Bill Engvall and the entire cast of the Today show all end as shark food.

What surprised me most about this show wasn't the fognado, Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle having each limb eaten by sharks until he self-destructs, a shark storm so powerful that it can peel away the walls of the White House and yet the actors are not affected in any way by the storm, either Mark Cuban as POTUS or Ann Coulter as the first lady, sharks being able to live not in the ocean but above the earth in the clouds, two civilians being able to operate an F-4 jet to disrupt a sharknado directly over a NASCAR race which leaves falling sharks to eat several race officials, the showcasing of Universal Studio Theme Park Florida's newest roller coaster where a huge shark actually slides back and forth on track until it eventually slides up and eats WWE star Chris Jericho as the ride official, the reinstatement of the space shuttle program or having David Hasselhoff as a "never made it to space" astronaut that pilots the shuttle through a shark-filled sky only to have sharks defy gravity and fly up into space and attack the space shuttle stranding The Hoff on the moon where he kills sharks that also made it the 238,857 miles to the moon, that both Ian Ziering and Tara Reid re-entered earth's atmosphere inside giant sharks that ate them (while in space) then having Ian punch through the still-smoldering shark carcass and deploy three parachutes (a al the Apollo capsules...) and Tara Reid actually give birth while in the falling-to-earth shark then cutting herself out of the dead animal using implanted chainsaw arm.

No, what surprised me most about the show was all the marketing.

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2015/07/18/tune-in-to-syfys-sharknado-week-with-s

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dusk On A Clear Summer Night...


Last Tuesday night I decided to step out on the back porch to see what the day's sunset looked like. I When I snapped the first picture I was amazed at how clear it was. Usually in the summer the air in our valley gets hazy and dirty. That's because we can go for several weeks without any rain, or even a lot of wind. This July, however, has been absolutely heavenly.

I can't remember a July that's been so nice. It's rarely been in the 90s, and never even sniffed 100 degrees fahrenheit. I'm not a big fan of hot temperatures usually, but this year I have an added incentive to not like the heat. My afternoon job requires I dress in thick wool pants, a long-sleeve shirt, a wool vest and a bowler hat during the warmest part of the day. Once again, I've loved this July!

I took a shot of the moon, then turned my attention back to the gorgeous sunset developing in the west. There was a time when it seemed like I went out every night and checked the sunset. Of all the pictures I've taken in the past couple of years (totaling over 20K on my computer...), I think I've got more pictures of sunsets than cats or dogs or possibly my kids.

So, not only is the air cleaner, we've gotten more rain (which means using less to water our lawns...) and clearer skies for beautiful sunsets. I'll take it any time!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ben Mezrich's "Once Upon A Time In Russia"...A Book Review


I don't read a lot of non-fiction. Friends of mine who do read a lot of non-fiction find this unusual, especially because of all the time I spend reading or listening to audiobooks. I can understand why they think this way. After all, non-fiction books are crammed with real facts about real people and real events. I know if I read more non-fiction I would love it, but right now, I just have more fun with fictional stories.

However, Ben Mezrich just might make me change my mind.

This week I finished Ben's latest book, Once Upon A Time in Russia, The Rise of the Oligarchs, and unlike the other books of his I've read (Bringing Down The House, The Accidental Billionaires...), this book made me consider just how many things are going on in the world to which I am totally clueless.

I try to say up with current events, but after reading this book, I realized there's so much I don't know. Mezrich introduces us to a world, as imaginative and amazing any any fictional story, except this one is real, or was real at one time. It's the story of incredibly powerful people in Russia after the fall of communism. To fast-track the transition from socialism to capitalism, certain men were chosen to take over previously state-run industries like oil refineries, mining operations and transportation systems. A man savvy enough and who had the right connections within the government could do things and amass power like no one else could in the history of humanity. Almost overnight these men became billionaires.

Of course, with great power usually comes great corruption. The story focuses mainly on one central character, Boris Berezovsky, a former academic turned car salesman turned media mogul turned political godfather. We follow Boris from an early assassination attempt to his meteoric rise in power until he becomes on of the riches men on the planet. We then follow him as he loses everything he once had until only the shell of him remains. 

What I loved most about this book is that it showed me a world I thought I at least understood. For me, the mid-1990s was not that long ago, and as I read the book I remembered hearing about some of these events on the news. It's like Mezrich pulled back the curtain as we saw the real wizard pulling the levers.

If you've read and enjoyed Mezrich's books in the past, you'll love this one, too. If you've never read anything he's written, this is an excellent introduction to a talented writer and researcher. Once Upon A Time in Russia is a history lesson and a fascinating one at that.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23846393-once-upon-a-time-in-russia?from_search=true&search_version=service

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fireworks Where They're Allowed...

Where we live, we are denied the joys of launching pyrotechnics in front of our house. It's because we live so close to the wilderness that fireworks are verboten. 

Too bad, because...well, fireworks.

We have some friends who love fireworks and they live in an area where it's all legal. And thankfully, they invite us along for the ride. Today our state celebrated not its statehood, but the date Mormon pioneers entered the valley back in 1847.

A few years ago the legislature eased restrictions on arial fireworks--Yay! And tonight we and our fellow state citizens celebrated by blowing stuff up. Happy Pioneer Day and God bless America!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Monday Morning Fire In The Building Next Door...

"That fire alarm's been going off for a while now," I think I said to a co-worker after hearing the errant noise for a half hour. It wasn't until we heard the sound of fire engines that we thought the fire drill going on in the building next door wasn't just a drill, but the real thing.

Then we heard another engine, then another. I think once they all arrived, around eight in all (though, it might have been ten...), half of my floor was standing watching the action unfold before us and I kept wondering if I would see windows explode and flames shoot from the gaping holes left behind.

Nope...the most exciting thing we witnessed were several state workers standing across the street wondering if the situation would be serious enough to allow them all to be able to go home early (and if that happened, would they be able to return to the building to get their car keys...), fire trucks blocking off the street and firemen opening up fire hydrants and several of SLC's finest hauling fire hoses into the building next door.

I think when the smoke cleared (an apt cliche...) we heard something electrical caught fire on the top floor. Just before noon all the trucks rolled away and the employees returned to their cubicles and offices. The news cameras shot their last footage then the packed up and traveled back to their stations to have some editor work their magic and make the event appear more exciting than it actually was.

From my vantage point on the third floor in the building next door, I watched as some civil servants took a break from their jobs while some other civil servants did theirs. In the end, everyone filed into the building and resumed their workday, albeit with a slightly more smoky atmosphere. 

Ah, the things we see at work.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Navigator X001V...X Franz Hoff's Pretty Sweet Steampunk Guitar!

You Never know what you're going to see when you go to a Steampunk convention. Oh, there's clothing that no one wears anymore, goggles when goggles are hardly needed and clothing that shows off things that you don't see very much in public--thinks you'd see at, for example, a swimming pool. 

But that's another story, or two. No, I didn't think when I entered the Art Gallery at the fourth annual Salt City Steamfest last weekend that I'd see a Steampunked guitar. 

I snapped a lot of pictures with my phone and thought it would make a cool blog post subject. I found out later that there was a "no pictures" policy in place at the gallery. It makes sense...everything in the room was for sale. I decided to contact the artist, Franz Hoff, and ask him personally if I could feature it in my little blog. He said that would be great! He even provided another picture because the one I took of the guitar in its entirety didn't work out. If you're interested in his guitar or his other Steampunk art, you can e-mail him: HERE.

So, here it is, complete with light up vacuum tubes, old timey volume controls and a guitar no one else in the world has. If you're a player, you might find the non-smoothness of the guitar somewhat limiting. But, what it lacks in possible comfort, it more than makes up for in awesomeness!