Category Archives: Hobbies

Love The Player. Love The Game.

Hi Reader,

Another post just to share some recent writing with you.  Here’s my thoughts on lady-gamers, recent studies, and snobbery.

Standard Issue

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Where All The Yellow Women At?

Hello Blog-Peruser,

I’ve written this for a spiffing on-line magazine called Standard Issue. Lots of my favorite comics write for it and I’m super pleased with myself that they’ve published some of my writing.

In this particular essay, I wonder why cartoons are such a sausage party.  I hope you like it.

Animation Representation

Talk Soon,

Kate

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Best-O-Ween 2011!

It’s not too late to throw out a wee post about some of Halloween’s best offerings this year, is it?

Nah…let’s go for it.

170. Best-O-Ween 2011

Here’s a compilation blog featuring some of the best Halloween-related stuff that I have seen this year.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I love me some Halloween.  I had complained a year or two ago that the UK simply didn’t do it up large like the Americans do.  But, I think that’s changing.  Maybe businesses finally see how easy it is to cash in on Halloween-related crap, theme nights at bars, fancy dress parties, etc…

I have to say, one of the best thing about Kraft Foods (an American company) taking over Cadbury’s has to be that we now have THESE fine foodstuffs:

Americans! Bringing you chocolate covered gore! Hooray!

Really, England, I don’t know what you were kicking up such a fuss about.  When the takeover happened everyone was all worried that the quality of the chocolate would suffer…traditions would crumble…we’d shit it all up with our tackiness.  Obviously you were wrong.  We just added some awesome.  You’re welcome, Britain.

Ok, so what else is worthy of our attention this year?  The doggy dress up competition in NYC is always worth a chuckle.  Here’s the link to some of the best:

Dogs in NYC

Nothing tops that bulldog, for me.

Well…maybe THIS Staffy does.  I lifted this from Pedestrian TV. (All credit due)

You won't like me when I'm growly.

 

In the human costume category, I have to give it up to my cousin, Emily Heinrich.  When I was a kid, I was spoilt by a mother who made costumes herself–amazing constructions.  With the help of patterns from JoAnn Fabrics, I was often the best-dressed kid on my street.  My Mom must’ve lost her nut the year I chose the ‘elephant’ pattern.  It was pretty complicated.  She did a great job with those ears and tusks and trunk though.  Love you, Mom.  Emily is carrying on that tradition…perhaps even a bit further…as her creations don’t look like you could even buy a pattern for them.  Check out how she dressed her boys this year:

Emily Heinrich is crafty

World War II Ace! Sopwith Camel!

 

The Loony Toons monster AND Snoopy’s Red Baron-chasing Sopwith Camel?  That’s just ace, Em.  Well done.

Speaking of crafty people, here’s a little gem that someone forwarded me…allow me to give it a proper introduction:

“Hey lady…looking to throw a kicking Halloween bash this year but CAN’T afford fancy store-bought decorations?  Well, look no further than your bathroom cupboard.  As long as you’re still menstruating, you’ll never be without the potential to terrorize folks!  Check out our new tampon ghost project!

 

Hee Hee--ewwwwww

Don’t like wearing tampons?  I’m pretty sure you could do something similar with this.  It has wings which could resemble ghostly arms!

Boo!

 

If you can’t get enough of making things out of tampons, you’re in luck.  Here’s a web-site devoted to the art.  Thanks internet!  tamponcrafts

Let’s close out this Halloween love fest with a modern classic, shall we?  Werewolf Barmitzvah, anyone?

See you in November!!!!

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And Now, A Personal Message…

Hello blog-reader.  I’m taking a quick break from the regularly scheduled list of great things to plug the show I’m doing in Edinburgh.

You may or may not know that I pursue stand-up comedy.  I work a lovely and forgiving day job full of nice people and kind policies like flexi-time and good vacation packages.  But, by night, I do stand-up as often as I can.  What you may not know is that  I am ALSO a writer and performer in a Manchester-based sketch troupe called The Tourists.  We’ve done some shows and festivals locally, but we’re really:

a. excited

b. scared

c. humbled

d. chewy

to be part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year.  (The cool kids call it ‘The Fringe’).  It is the biggest arts festival in the world. That’s right, smooch, pow, click, THE WORLD!

The guy on the left knows what I'm talking about...

Here are some stats that I lifted straight off of Wikipedia:

The Fringe 2009 sold 1,859,235 tickets[3] for 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows in 265 venues, over 25 days,[2] for an average of over 74,000 admissions and 1,300 performances per day. There were an estimated 18,901 performers, from 60 countries.

Born in 1946, you’d  think that this annual influx of traffic would make this tidy and historic city of Edinburgh feel overly congested…and it does clog things up a bit…but it never quite feels as bad as Times Square at rush hour.

Bonny!

The festival showcases just about every art form that you can think of…from Shakespeare companies to flamenco dancers to rock bands but it is of mega import to the comedy world–especially if you’re looking to beef up your comedy resume in the UK.  It’s the goal of just about every UK comic to have a well-reviewed solo show in the Fringe Festival at least once in their lifetime if not a semi-annual pilgrimage with new material every few years or so.

Last year, I went for up for a weekend to merely view some shows as a tourist (the name of my sketch group!  coincidence…spooooooky), as I have every year since I arrived in the UK, and I managed to pick up about three 10 minute spots.  This is possible because there are SOOO many comedy shows going on every day that the comedy world needs the equivalent of a ‘supply teacher’ sort of agency to fill in for comics who have cancelled spots with late notice.

I shall definitely be pursuing more of the same this year.  I’m hoping to exercise my set quite regularly for the duration.  But the primary reason for travelling up this year is actually because of the aforementioned sketch show.  Details can be found here:

http://thetouristscomedy.com/

I’ll also be updating that sketch company blog with quickie reviews of shows I’ve seen and notices of when I’m lucky enough to snag some stand-up gigs.

There’s a ton I want to see this year.  Some big US comics are always over for the fest.  Can’t wait to see Hannibal Buress’s solo show.  I saw him last year at the Glasgow fest and he was great.  He writes for 30 Rock nowadays.  Also want to see Lee Camp–a terrific comic outright but he also writes killer political material.  A couple of terrific British sketch groups are on the go…Lady Garden, Wit Tank, Him & Me, etc…  Between picking up scrap of gigs, doing the daily show with the sketch group, and watching shows I hope to be a very busy bee.

Anyway come and see us, The Tourists, if you’re planning on a wonderful journey to the town that best resembles Diagon Alley.

Come for the culture, stay for the fried Mars Bars.

Part of a complete breakfast.

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Welcome To The Gun Show

Here’s what’s happening in my life:

The weather girls over here, who are not to be trusted, have once again predicted that Britain will have a scorcher of a summer.  They do this all the time, I find, and Manchester never sees any sort of promised result.  Sure they get droughts down South sometimes but even in the summer it rains here up North at least twice a week if not more.  So, Manchester isn’t the sort of burgh that makes you feel like sunbathing or stripping down or running through sprinklers or even smiling broadly if you get what I mean.

I want to get that summery feeling but I don’t have the atmospheric-based motivating factor.  Still, even in Manchester it does warm up a few notches and I’ll do my best to work with what I got.  There might even be a few days where I force myself to indulge in some sandal wearing.

Beyond talking about the weather, another event in my life right now is the moving from one flat to another.  That’s right.  I said ‘flat’.  Don’t worry, I still pronounce ‘basil’ the right way.

My partner and I are getting a mortgage!  No…no…stop…please, you DON’T have to thank me for fixing the housing crisis.  I’m no hero.  It’s just a modest flat in town, but after renting for about 15 years, it’ll feel nice to be paying off our own mortgage and not someone else’s.  As part of the moving process, we’ve also arranged to go over to The States and collect some crap that I’ve been promising to move from my Mom’s house for about 5 years.  She hasn’t been nagging me or anything, I just want it over here.  Things like desk lamps, nice wine glasses, this cool kitchen rack we got at an arts fair, (maybe some of my action figures, don’t tell Karey), that sort of thing.  It’s the type of effort where I need to rent space on a crate and ship it over.

How are these two things tied together?  Well, that’s today’s great thing:

166.  Super Soakers

Because, when I go home, I’m totally getting my arsenal of them from the garage and shipping them over.  I can’t wait to skulk around corners and soak my limey friends.  Even if it does rain almost every day, getting watergunned down is still going to smart.    That’ll teach them for mocking the way I say ‘basil’.

I love pranking when I’m the one doing it.  Though I am quickest to react in an unreasonable fashion when I am the target.

It would seem that even us liberals can’t resist the allure of pointing and shooting projectiles at one another. I was very proud of my little arsenal of toy guns.  I had one quite realistic looking toy handgun that made a good realistic blammo shooting noise, I had a potato gun, three handcrafted rubber band guns from a school trip to Boston, and three Super Soakers.  Oh, and two pairs of nunchuks.  And a bo staff.  And very few friends.

Super Soakers represented a major breakthrough in water shooting technology.  I mean, it seriously revolutionized the ways in which you could torment your mom, babysitter, or best friend.  A brief history:

In 1990 Larami  (just like the cigarettes on The Simpsons!) first unleashed the water pressure-based marvel.  (Larami was later bought out by Hasbro.  Hasbro now puts a Nerf imprint on the guns).  The wonderful gadget was invented by American hero Lonnie Johnson (move over George Washington Carver…Black history month is all about this guy from now on.)  He’s also authored spacecraft power systems and is working on developing new energy devices  Don’t get too distracted by these ‘side-projects’, Lonnie!  The world needs new Super Soakers!

Here are two of the models I have:

You never forget your first.

 

The training wheels were off. My second gun.

The training wheels were off. My second gun.

But, I got nothing on this guy.  Check out his collection:  ChrisReid

Honestly, that patch of grass with all the Super Soakers on display reminds me of that scene in The Matrix where they step into the white space and the rows of guns just come flying out of nowhere.  Now THAT’S an arsenal.

Watergunning innovations introduced by Super Soaker include the marketing of water bandoliers, water storage backpacks, and even a gun with an ice chamber so the stream is absolutely frigid when it hits your pal in the moobs.  As far as I know, these toys have NOT been associated with any abuses of the Geneva Convention…but maybe they SHOULD be.

What’s the biggest baddest Super Soaker ever made?  As far as I know, the Super Soaker Monster XL is still the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest water gun ever made.  It is no longer on sale and you can now find them on eBay for about three hundred bucks (if it’s still in the box).  This gun is so over the top that it could be filed into the same category as Hummers, pectoral implants, and Maxim magazine.  Anybody using this big of a water gun is compensating for something:

Pretty sure the water pressure from this one would actually wound you and not just soak you.

Looking for cool Super Soaker vids, I found an astonishing number of amateur Jack-Asses who have assembled their own flame-thrower using the gun as a framework.  Looks awesome but scary and I don’t think I’ll be trying it myself.  Google those for yourself if you will.  I don’t want to be seen as promoting anything that might make it into the Anarchist’s Cookbook here on the site.

But, I did find a video to end this post with a wee bit of fun.  I actually think it’s a skillfully made short.  It seriously builds tension–makes you wait for SOMEONE to get soaked.  Who is gonna get a chest-full of H2O?  Tune in and see!  Enjoy this Roberto Rodriguez-esqe Super Soaker moment:

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The Ability to Patent Good Ideas Before Other People Do

I haven’t been particularly good of late as far as posting regular blog entries goes.  so, let’s jump-start this dead battery of a blog page with a cracking good ‘great thing’.

You know what it’s like to have creator-envy?  There are some things that I could just kick myself for not thinking of first.  Jalapeno and cheddar bagels, Angry Birds, typing the word ‘Boobies’ into a calculator.  Those concepts are all relevant to my interests and given the right time/place/level of consciousness I MIGHT have thought of them first and made my mark on society.  Today’s great thing is a terrifically simple blog idea.  I hate the fact that the idea wasn’t my own.

163.  The Daily Superpower

This page is soooo my cup of tea.  Funny, clever, and comic-book related but with a wide appeal (read: I can share my mirth about it with non-comic nerds and they too will find it amusing).  I am incredibly envious of the creative lightning that struck here.  Not only is it a gem of a website but the author doesn’t even have to think of all of the ideas himself (readers get to play a part by suggesting powers for him to draw.)  On this site here, it’s me–ME that has to think of happy things to blog about all the time.  It’s frickin’ exhausting being such a positive Pollyanna.  Yes, great things to write about are all around us…but sometimes you just want to start a new game on Scrabble for Facebook instead of writing about them.

Alas, today’s great thing isn’t my baby–it’s that of genius Kevin Delger, a Minneapolis-based artist.  A bit more about him is available at this database:  mnartists

If you haven’t sussed it out already, The Daily Superpower portrays a different unusual/humorous power for every weekday (working weekday, that is–he’s only human after all).

Simple concept, right?  After some soul-searching, as near as I can tell, the only things that would have stopped me from creating this blog are the following:

1. I didn’t think of it first

2. I can’t draw.  (Even thought his process involves starting with another illustrator’s artwork, I believe you still need a certain skill level to accomplish what he does here.–check out the ‘process’ link on his page to learn how he creates these.)

3.  I am lazy.

Here are a few samples:

The ability to make bugs huge...

Hidden compartments

Rolling pin forearms

There.  That’s all I want to show you.  Do yourself a favor now and put the site on your bookmark tab.  Here’s a link to the actual site.  Go on, click away and be delighted:  http://dailysuperpower.tumblr.com/

Anyway, like I said before, the author takes reader ideas for potential material so let me know if you send any in.  I  might send these along.

–Hangover-proof

–The ability to repel all clothing stains (I so wish!!!  I am a stain magnet.)

–Fingers can dispense condiments–gravy, ketchup, chili sauce…

Funny…those all seem SORT of linked up, in a way, don’t they?  Imagine the nights out you could have if you were hangover proof, stainproof, and could milk your own hand for gravy.  Unstoppable nightlife machine.

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The Great Indoors

Right about now is when I start to tire of winter.  I like the run up to winter (autumn, I suppose.)  And I like to have the snow all around at Christmas making everything look freshly coated with vanilla icing.  I enjoy the sentimentality of snow drifts and seeing your own breath and frozen ponds and woolly hats.  Even for the first couple weeks in January the blizzards and cold still hold some appeal (hot drinks are still in fashion and I haven’t tired of my sweater collection yet.)  But, now it’s February and my sweaters are getting all pill-y and I’m tired of tracking in icy mud to the apartment and there’s no good hills around here to sled on anyway.  The only holiday we’re looking forward to is Valentine’s Day…an overpriced and contrived forced recognition of romance.  (OK…I DO celebrate it…but only because I don’t want to be that much of a misanthrope), and whilst conversation hearts are sort of funny–VDay alone can’t make up for how annoying winter has become.

Look...my sweater is exhausted of me.

So, in honor of…or despite February’s continued bluster, today’s great thing is about staying indoors.

161.  Mail Order DVD Rental

Really, if I’m not going to go out, I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a chilly evening than with a nice glass of red wine, curled up on the couch, candles lit, popcorn popped and DVD ready to be played.  I love everything about the concept of mail-order rental.  I love selecting from a huge list available on-line.  I love the opportunities to write little reviews on the site.  I love that there’s no limit to how long you can hold onto the movie–though one time I had Saving Private Ryan for so long that the company sent an email letting me know that if I didn’t want to watch it now, I could get it later.  Most of all, I love getting things in the post.  Birthday every day!  (Or just about weekly…which is how often I complete films and send them back.)  The only downside is that you miss out on the immediacy of things.  But, some times it’s worth being patient.  If you’ve waited until DVD release to watch a film, chances are you can wait a bit longer.

I remember when I was still living in The States and my friends subscribed to Netflix.  I was clammy green with envy.  I wanted it but had to wait because I was in the process of moving back to NYC from LA…then I got wrapped up in things and forgot about it…  Then, when I got over here, it was one of the first things I did…subscribing to a mail order rental service.  I opted to go with a company that stocked loads of television series as well as films.  I go with Odeon Direct as they have a good teevee to movie ration.  But not everyone was as excited as I was to receive films through the post–actual rental shops for a start.  However, the advent of new ideas/technology has often made the film industry quake.  There’s good precedent for it.  First, movie theatres thought they were doomed with the advent of video rental.  Then video stores thought they’d go out of business with mail order (which sort of turned out to be true), and now mail order may pass thanks to downloads on demand.  But, I will never be an internet pirate…downloading films whether it’s legally or illegaly…simply because I love getting crap in the mail.

I'll tell you why video stores are going the way of the dinosaur...30 copies of each Kate Hudson movie.

Mail order DVD rental allows me to see all sorts of stuff that I either missed in the theater/was too embarrassed to see in person/missed because I wasn’t alive when it was released.

Here are the last ten DVDs that I rented:

Knight and Day–OK, this is one of those slightly embarrassing ones.  But, I typically control/hog the DVD rental queue because Karey doesn’t bother herself with it and I knew that she wanted to see it.  We watched it together on a lazy Sunday night.  It was silly…but not as bad as I thought it would be.  It was, at the very least, entertaining.  I do have to say, however, that whilst I used to find Tom Cruise bulletproof (he was so magnetic a movie star that it didn’t MATTER what people thought he did in his own Xenu-worshipping time–he’s TOM FRICKING CRUISE and he does his own stunts!!!), suspicion of his weirdness is indeed starting to creep in for me and is tainting my film-enjoyment.  I’d give this 6.5/10

Dan in Real Life–Here’s a film I rented because I like Steve Carrell and because it came with a big thumbs-up from my family who had seen it.  I liked seeing Steve Carrell in a slightly more serious role…but I was expecting this film to be funnier than what it was–though Dane Cook’s presence should have lessened those expectations.  Weird film for Juliette Binoche to be in…but she was good.  This film had the unexpected tone of a family dramedy which I totally wasn’t expecting.  Decent but not as good as the fam led me to believe.  6.5/10 again.

Cruel Intentions–I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit to this one.  I missed it when it came out and since then it’s become such a pop culture touchstone…referenced frequently in film media and comedy.  So, I felt I had to have a look.  I’m not sure if this film STARTED the trend of lit adaptations geared to young audiences/set in modern times (a’la Clueless), but it sure is smuttier than any of the others in the genre I’ve seen.  Trashy and dumb with terrible performances from everyone involved.  Still glad I saw it though.  Now I know what everyone is talking about.  3/10.

Away From Her–I cannot tell a lie. I sent this film back without watching it.  I had every intention of viewing it.  I liked Sarah Polley in Go and this film, as directed by her, was supposed to be a terrific effort.  But, it turns out, the prospect of viewing a wrenching and realistic portrayal of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s just was not an easy sell.  I couldn’t motivate myself to load it into the DVD player and Karey, compassionate as she is, felt she wouldn’t be able to handle the heavy drama.  So, sorry Sarah Polley.  I’m sure it was great.  Score N/A.

This movie also went...Away From Me

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo–Much debate with some friends about the whole Millennium Trilogy recently.  Lots of folks are adamant that the US shouldn’t bother to remake these films.  I recently posted pics of Mara Rooney as Salander on my Facebook page and it was polarizing.  Whilst I’d agree with some of the posters on the thread including the point that Americans should make a bigger effort to support foreign films…I stand by my confidence in David Fincher.  I think his versions will best the Swedish ones.  I found this movie watchable but nowhere near as good as the book.  The best thing about it was the star-making turn of Noomi Rapace.  Don’t know if Mara Rooney will create the same splash…we’ll see.  Anyway, I’d give this: 7.5/10–good acting, slight misfire with the tone of the movie vs tone of the book.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist–This was cute.  My partner found it funnier than I did.  Michael Cera is sort of skating on thin ice with me.  I like him but was turned off by his whole uncooperative attitude with the Arrested Development flick.   Come on dude…let’s not get so big for our britches, OK?  Arrested Development gave you your break.  Without it, you’d just be another weird-looking hipster doofus waiting for that right audition.  Anyway, the film was sweet.  I liked the female lead, Kat Dennings.  She was curvier than most girls that are in films and I liked that.  Good role model.  Yes, you can still look healthy/sexy if you have boobs and a butt.  Comparisons to John Hughes films are fair.  If I were a fifteen year old it probably would have helped define me AND made me want to move to NYC.  7.5/10

Anvil-The True Story of Anvil–Yes, the reviewers got it right.  It pretty much is like Spinal Tap but for real.  Funny, sad, uplifting…with one showstopper of a metal jam.  It’s got it all.  Except maybe miniature Stonehenge.  A worthwhile documentary…8.5/10.

Frankie Boyle Live–I’m making a bigger effort to familiarize myself with big names in British stand-up.  It’s not good to be in a car-share to a comedy gig and NOT know who they’re discussing.  So, this is part of my education.  Frankie Boyle is a Scottish comic who sells out big rooms over here.  He’s pretty funny but he’s recently landed himself in some hot water for offending with some sketch comedy shows he did.  I do think he’s a button pusher…and being mean to people for comedy purposes can get old.  This is an hour or so of him being mean and funny. I enjoyed it for the most part and I’m glad to know more about his style…but I don’t feel like I have to race out and watch more of his stand-up.  I pretty much get it…he’ll do a bit…then talk to someone in the crowd and call them a c-word.  7/10

Waitress–We have a rule in the household that any rental that enters the DVD gets a twenty-minute grace period.  If we’re not enraptured by that point we remove it and send it back.  Sadly, this got gonged off.  After 20 minutes we both decided it wasn’t worth the time.  It was cute but not compelling.  Maybe if I knew for sure that I would live to be 200 years old, I’d watch it…but you only have one life to live and it didn’t seem worth the extra hour or two.  That’s time when I could be playing video games.  I can’t really give honest feedback, but for not being thrilling enough to beat the 20 minute rule, Waitress gets 4/10.

This title sounds like it was made up for Seinfeld.

Felicia’s Journey–This is a film that’s currently in the house which we haven’t watched yet.  Atom Egoyan, the director, is an Egyptian/Canadian auteur.  I added this to the queue ages ago because I was briefly obsessed with Elaine Cassidy, an Irish actress.  I think she looks like my partner Karey.  Karey objects loudly and fervently to this.  I THOUGHT it was a compliment because I think Cassidy is pretty…but there you go.  You can’t win them all.  Anyway, I may actually view this and not give it the Away From Her treatment.  But who knows…it DOES look emotionally complex and Karey is completely disintersted.  Score N/A.

The Crazies–This is the other film we have in the house right now.  I’m not a nut for horror films but I do like to watch the ones that get positive attention and I thought I’d give it a go.  Anyone seen it yet?  Score N/A.

I can’t wait to watch these last two films so that I can put them in the post and get new surprises in a week!  Long live Odeon Direct and long live the British post office and long live my couch cushions!

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