Friday, July 31, 2015

Just Found It Today..."The Black Tapes Podcast"...Flippin' Fantastic!


We live in amazing times. The whole concept of podcasting is remarkable. Practically anyone anywhere in the world can set up a podcast and put in online. From there, it has the potential to reach almost everyone.

So, considering anyone can podcast and imaginations are as unique as each person, the fact that someone came up with an incredible podcast idea like The Black Tapes Podcast is not surprising.

I'm just glad they did!

What I love about this podcast is it combines great storytelling with creative writing. I first heard about this podcast today (while listening to The Nerdist podcast, interestingly enough...). They described it as This American Life meets Serial. If you're familiar with those podcasts, you'll understand how great a combination like that sounds. I would include the podcast Welcome To Night Vale as well (a podcast I used to listen to and loved until...well, it got kind of old for me...) as worthy of comparison. 

The premise of The Black Tapes Podcast is an NPR-type podcast reporter, while pursuing a story, finds herself ghost hunting. The events of the evening intrigue her to the point she wants to know more. Eventually she meets Dr. Richard Strand, infamous in the paranormal investigation world. It's in Dr. Strand's office she comes across The Black Tapes from which the podcast gets its name.

I don't even want to say anything else about the series because I want you to experience it yourself. If you love podcasts and especially loved Serial, you've got to check out this one! I believe Season One is finished and you can download them all. I've only about halfway through the first season, but I enjoy the style and creativity of a production brought to us by people who really love the art of storytelling.

We live in amazing times.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Do You Call...?


I know I'm late to the party on this (I'm late to the party on a lot of things...), but the other day I started to type in a Google search...

And this happened.

What do you call...?

And Google offered some "suggestions." 

There are entire websites dedicated just to funny Google searches. I do not frequent them. Maybe that's why when I did my little Google search, I thought it funny enough to snap a picture and blog about it.

So, let's provide some possible answers to Google's suggested searches. 

What do you call: Jokes?

Politicians, slow drivers in the fast lane, large orange juice portions in most restaurants, people who love summer temperatures over 100 fahrenheit (see previous blog posts...), diet soft drinks, Las Vegas casino carpeting, lots of other things in Las Vegas and climate change rallies where celebrities fly in for the event on private jets and the crowds leave the venues covered with trash. 

What do you call: Someone from Utah?

Utahn, or Utahan (I'm going to stop here because some would call them jokes or other non-flattering things...).

What do you call: An occupied restroom on an airplane?

Ah...occupied would be a good start, a lifesaver, free.

What do you call: A baby polar bear?

A polar bear cub.

What do you call: A fake noodle?

I usually go with the obvious--a fake noodle, or if in a pinch, a noodle that's not real.

And so some of the random Google search suggestions have found answers. Maybe that's why I don't visit those funny Google search websites. I'd feel compelled to provide some answers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July, 2015...Almost Perfect!


I can't tell you what an amazing month we've had, weather-wise. It wasn't perfect; perfect would have included more rain, but it was as close to my definition of what perfect summer weather is.

I know, I know...I can hear some of you saying to yourself (or saying out loud...) that the month we've had has been anything but perfect. Some hate summer temperatures highs in the 80s or even the 70s as terrible, just terrible. I know you love temperatures as hot as possible. 110 degrees...that's where it starts to get good.

I know some of you think this way because of what I've heard you say and read what you've written in your social media posts. You complain about how life is terrible if it's not hot enough to kill a human being if they're outside for more than a half hour. They cry tears that, were it as hot as they prefer, would evaporate before they hit the ground if the weather doesn't do what they want.


But this past month has been glorious! I could be wrong, but I don't believe it's hit 100 degrees fahrenheit once this month--even 90s have been rare. If you look at the two pictures of the thermometer in my car I took yesterday, you'll see what temperature it was at 6:30am and the temperature when I drove my car home after sitting in a shade-less parking lot the entire day. You'll also know the round-trip distance from my house to the bus stop parking lot is 2.5 miles.


But that's another story.

Yes, yesterday was incredible. Today was also nice, but it's getting warmer, and tomorrow we're to be back in the 90s. And because this has been such a crazy summer--100 degree days in June and a record cool July--who knows what August will be? Even if we have a record hot August, I'll always be able to look back on the month of July during the summer of 2015 and be able to say that it was as close to a perfect summer month as I've ever had.

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

23846393*

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!

video

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.

video

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!





Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Can I Promote My Facebook Author Page Better Than Facebook?


A few weeks ago my Facebook Home Page looked a little different. In the upper right-hand corner was a new box. It had my Facebook Author Page information.

Not that I really wanted to know.

A few years ago I created a Facebook Author Page and you can access the page: HERE. Once I had the page up and running, I notified the world about the page on my blog. Since then my author accomplishments have come, but they haven't been stellar. I've had three short stories published and I released my own book of short stories. I've also been a panelist on several conventions and symposiums, which I've enjoyed doing, but I haven't felt like promoting these accomplishments on my Facebook Author Page.



Why haven't I done more self-promotion? Maybe it's because most of the time, I don't feel like an author. I spent most of the last year and a half involved in one theatrical production after another. It didn't leave much time for writing. And because I participated in so many conventions, it felt strange to always be plugging myself as a panelist at this event or that event (even though it felt strange, I still did it on my blog...).

So when I see how many Facebook friends I have and how few Facebook Author Page likes I have, I decided to check out the promotions that Facebook says they can do. I didn't do a lot of checking because the truth of the matter is, all Facebook promotions means is that I must pay.

I'm seeing if I can promote my Facebook Author Page better than they can. I can definitely do it cheaper (except for my time, of course...). I might even try one of those "Select All" invite code tricks that are out there. Either way, if you're one of my Facebook friends, you'll probably get an invite to "Like" my author page. If you want to, go ahead and "Like" it. If not, no worries.


Monday, July 20, 2015

"The Rewrite"...A Film Recommendation

The Rewrite (2014) Poster*

Yesterday we came across a film called The Rewrite. Perhaps you've heard of it.  We barely had. We decided to watch it.

And we LOVED it!

Hugh Grant is one of those actors we follow, or at least, have seen most of the films in which he's appeared for some time. If you've seen the same films, you've probably noticed a trend in the characters he portrays. Grant makes a very lovable has-been. He's also part of a stellar cast which includes Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Chris Elliot, and Allison Janney. 

In The Rewrite we find Grant once again having his best days in the past. This time Grant reached the pinnacle of his profession--an Oscar-winning screenwriter--who has fallen on hard times. So much so that he has taken a job teaching screenwriting in an upstate New York university. His poor decisions, when meeting new students and fellow faculty members, follows and the film's hero must overcome the small things while trying to overcome the large ones.

But what's best about The Rewrite is the writing! Terrific dialogue delivered by amazing (and Oscar-winning...) actors is a wonderful match, something that happens a lot in this film. Sure the plot is formulaic and it ends the way it's supposed to end, but we sure enjoyed the ride. I especially loved the archive film footage of Grant in a younger day. It was woven expertly into the story and made me remember the actor we all meet many years ago.

We found this on Starz--otherwise we wouldn't have known about it. If you get the chance to watch it, I hope you do. And if you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2509850/

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Salt City Steamfest, 2015...In Pictures


I've been to bigger fan conventions, but Salt City Steamfest holds a special place in my heart. It was the first fan con I ever attended and it was at this con two years ago that I first attended as a published author. Our publisher, Xchyler Publishing has greatly expanded since then with many more titles and many more authors signed under their label.


I can also safely say that I've never attended a con where so many of the participants came in costume. I don't have any steampunk attire so I didn't dress up. I was definitely in the minority. And I don't think I've ever seen so many fantastic costumes! People really picked up their game this year.


As usual, I didn't take as many pictures as I should have, but I thought I'd share some of what I saw. The folks who brought us the con thanked everyone who made the fourth installment so successful and they vowed that next year's Steamfest will be the best one ever. See you all next year!