August 30, 2013

Calming down with geeky mantras

When I'm feeling scared or stressed or anxious, there's not always a lot I can do to snap myself out of it. If I'm caught in the spiral, it's hard to claw up the walls and escape. Sometimes I can feel the worry and anxiety bubbling though, trying to boil, and when I can catch the panic red-handed I can try to push it back. One of my tricks is repeating phrases, poems, or oaths from stories I love.

They don't always fit the situation, and I'm not always successful but memorizing words I love and wielding them as a mantra or meditation that I say over and over again in my head can help me focus and change directions. I suppose some would consider it sacrilegious that I'm using the word mantra in this fashion, but that's how I see it and that's what they are for me.
It's probably obvious, but I turn to the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear most often:
"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain."

Frank Herbert's words from Dune ring with truth and give me a boost of bravery when I need it - which is often.
Another one I repeat is the oath for the Night's Watch from A Song of Ice and Fire. I memorized it once, and it's stuck with me and it's there at the tip of my fingertips when I need to pull together and focus. 
"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

I'm not planning to take the black any time ever, but something about the cadence and language calms me.

I also turns to wise words from J.R.R. Tolkien. More than a couple of poems in the Lord of the Rings trilogy can brighten my day but this is the only one I have committed to memory:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The first verse especially is a helpful reminder when I'm feeling like I've lost my way or that I'm not accomplishing all that I should be.

Written out, it seems silly that these bits from fiction are what I turn towards when I'm struggling but they help me get through those rough moments and you've got to celebrate whatever works.

August 29, 2013

The August Loot Crate Shipment Isn't a Lie

August Loot Crate shipments went out recently, and I was excited to see what was inside the mystery box of goodies this month. They didn't disappoint.
The nerdy product subscription service just celebrated one year of business, and it's been a good year. Thousands of subscribers get little black boxes each month and eagerly rip into them to discover goodies. They decided to use the game Portal as the big theme for this month, but there are a few more surprises too.
Yes, even the boxes are awesome.

Look, loot! So much loot!

Here's what was stuffed into the box: an Aperture Science lanyard, bracelet, and temp tattoo, Jelly Bellys, one of Funko's The Walking Dead figure blind boxes, a comfy t-shirt from Shirt.Woot! featuring caffeine molecules (ah, sweet nectar), and a coupon for $5 off at Shirt.Woot! And it's less than $20/month for everything!

I've heard from more than one person that it looks like a cool idea, but that they don't have room for any more stuff. I completely understand running out of space, but keep in mind you can also save toys for gifts and stickers are handy to have around when you're mailing notes to friends.

Get in on the fun! Sign up for Loot Crate now and use the discount code gwcloot to get $3 off!

August 28, 2013

The Last Bookstore

A place exists in downtown Los Angeles unlike any other. It is a maze of books and art and art made of books. A place that has a winding labyrinth of $1 books and shelves full of books sorted by color and book pages for decorations. It is a store you dream about, a magical wonderland of stories. It's not a dream though. The Last Bookstore is everything you've always wanted a bookstore to be.
I'd been meaning to visit this shop for a while but just kept using the excuse that it was downtown and I didn't go there often. Trust me, don't keep using that excuse. Parking was manageable and visiting the store was completely worth the trip. You know it's a special place as soon as you enter; it just has its own vibe - a strong one. You're greeted with this sculpture and it sets the tone.
Yes, that is a fish in the fishbowl head.

I went for the books but kept getting distracted by the decorations. I felt like I had walked into a story and all I could do was wander. New surprises were around every corner. Was this what traveling past the wardrobe into Narnia felt like? I think so - in a small part anyway.

Eventually I focused and found some books to take home with me (including novelizations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), but I spent most of my time at The Last Bookstore exploring. Their Labyrinth upstairs is prime territory for the hunter - the person who likes to scan through hundreds of titles looking for a treasure or something unexpected. That person could spend hours among the stacks and not see it all. On occasion, I have the patience to be that person but it wasn't the day I went. I stuck to skimming and visiting every nook and cranny and corner. 

I, in fact, got lost in the Labyrinth. It's not so bad to be lost when you're surrounded by books though.

The Last Bookstore is the kind of place you want to be trapped in during the apocalypse. I'm not sure how defensible it is, but I know that I'd be happy until my last breath.

More photos of the shop over at Flickr.

August 27, 2013

Adorable Stationery from Word to Your Unicorn

Nothing can quite match the feeling of getting a note in the mail. Emails are fun and all, but it's not the same as a tangible piece of paper covered in handwriting. I'm trying to start a new routine of sending ten notes or postcards a month to friends and given that most of them are fellow geeks, I want to send appropriately nerdy cards. I just happened to receive a package from Leslie Stewart recently with a variety of cards that were just the sort of thing I was searching for.

She designs a whole line of geeky cards and stickers and sells them in her Etsy shop, Word to Your Unicorn. These are some of my favorite styles in her store:

Even though I see a lot of geeky note cards and postcards online, these stand out from the crowd. I love the bright colors and cute designs on cards like the Pac-Man ones, and I like the classy prints on the Game of Thrones and Firefly cards. She has a plethora of other styles available in her shop. Go look around and make someone's day by sending mail!

August 23, 2013

Wrap Your Nails With Nerd Prints!

When you're passionate about a thing, you want it to be part of every facet of your life. For example, if I could trade in all my makeup for items with names from the Star Wars universe I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd love to tell people my nail polish color is Death Star gray. Espionage Cosmetics, a wonderful company based in the U.S., has realized there's a market for nerdy cosmetics and they've filled it with awesome products. Their mineral based makeup (typically used as eye shadow) practically vibrates with color, and they offer appealing shades such as "mrs. reynolds" and "kapow."

And lucky for us, they're expanding beyond eye shadow into the territory of nails. Shiny! They've set up a Kickstarter for Nailed It! and even though it's already funded, you have 12 days to get in on the ground floor and order your fancy and nerdy nail wraps first. The high quality designs make changing your nail pattern a breeze. They are self adhesive, and you'll just need to remove them from the package and press them onto your fingernails. Since I usually fail at applying nail polish in any kind of easy and tidy way, these are appealing.

Besides being simple to use, the designs are vivid and gorgeous. The galactic nebula design is my favorite, but holy Ewoks, it was hard to choose! Their line-up of designs that have been unlocked is impressive. It includes chainmail, a blood spatter design, RPG dice, tentacles, cats, a Harley Quinn look, Doctor Who art, Jayne's hat, and so many more. You must run over to their Kickstarter page and check out all they are offering.
Espionage is basically using Kickstarter to take pre-orders. I like this because it means I'll get product at the end instead of a different reward, and it's fun to know you're helping a cool thing get made. I'm actually looking forward to doing my nails!

August 22, 2013

Zombie gnomes are the only kind of gnomes I want in my yard

You might roll your eyes when you think of yard gnomes - no one would blame you. These gnomes are different than what you're used to though; they're ceramic and they're undead. I wouldn't dare make fun of them just on the off chance that they might come to life and try to eat my brains while I'm sleeping. Seriously - it's a cheesy Syfy movie waiting to happen. 

Chris and Jane's Place sell the gruesome creatures, and they are just what you need to freak out the neighbors and to counter their ceramic geese in costumes. The disgusting yet charming little gnomes are made from cement and take about 2-3 weeks to become infected and arrive at your door. As you can see, the shop offers a variety of styles. The one where tiny gnomes devour the pink flamingo lawn ornament is my favorite.

If full sized lawn decorations aren't your style, you can always opt for a zombie gnome keychain too. It will keep your keys safe because no one will want to put their fingers near it.

August 21, 2013

The White Queen Is Sort of Like Game of Thrones

There's a new historical drama in the neighborhood, and you should go say hello. Starz' The White Queen premiered on August 10. It has intrigue, politics, romance, fierce women, and even a touch of the supernatural. The cable network is betting on the fact that people will flock to medieval dramas thanks to the success of Game of Thrones, and they're probably not wrong.

The series is based on historical fiction novels by Philippa Gregory, but some of the visual cues seem deliberately set to follow in the footsteps of Game of Thrones. It's obvious from the premiere that opens in a near identical setting as the other show - a man stumbling through a snowy forest. Though I don't agree that it's a smart idea to so closely align yourself to another show (you're inviting people to make comparisons like I'm doing now), there is definitely plenty about The White Queen to enjoy.
The story unfolds during the Wars of Roses. In the premiere, we meet King Edward as he falls in love with Elizabeth Grey. His cousin, the Earl of Warwick, is not happy with the match and he isn't alone. You're thrust immediately into a heady love/lust story as well as plots centering on vengeance, greed, and power. One more than one occasion, Rebecca Ferguson's Elizabeth reminded me of Cersei. Her mother, Jacquetta Woodville, could give Olenna Tyrell a run for her money.

Overall, I was impressed with the way women are written in the series given the time period and the traditional role of ladies in the setting. Give Elizabeth some dragons and she'd be a formidable foe.

However - don't overanalyze it. Because the basis of the story is factual, it is easy to fall into the trap of nailing inaccuracies. Try to let it go. I can look over a lot for the sake of entertainment, but I will point out the environment is way too clean. Everyone has perfect teeth. I mean, it's the Middle Ages for pity's sake. Add some grunge and dirt, anything to make it more authentic.

Don't go in expecting the level of Game of Thrones complexity either. The White Queen isn't there yet, but it doesn't have to be. It's solid and worth checking out as it currently stands, and I feel that way after just viewing the premiere. I admit that I'd planned to sort through some papers while watching, but I found I wanted to give it my full attention. Besides, historically, it takes any new series a few episodes to find its feet and I'm more than willing to see where this one goes. Even if it's not quite as strong or compelling as the elephant/dragon in the room, it's good storytelling with interesting characters and that's enough to get me in front of the television.

If you haven't heard anything else about the series, check out the trailer:

Have any of you been watching The White Queen? What do you think so far?

August 20, 2013

Loot Crate Is Pretty Fantastic

Monthly shipments of awesome have become a thing. You can order mystery crates of vegetables, snacks, beauty products, and more and more nerd boxes are coming into the market. I recently signed up as an affiliate with Loot Crate and let me tell you, I can already tell that getting a surprise box of toys and stickers and neat things in the mail each month is the bee's knees.

Here's the deal. You subscribe for under $20 a month and around the 15th of each month a box will come your way with a stack of neat and new products. They even give a Mega Crate away each month to a random subscriber! If you don't enjoy the boxes and the experience for some reason, you just cancel. Done and done.

Because of a recent move, I got to my July shipment a little late. Please enjoy pictures though and look forwarding to see the contents of my August box soon! My action figures are going to help me open that one.

What could be inside?!!

Presents! Glorious presents! Hulk, Threepio, a DVD, buttons, a pencil, air freshener and more!

And there are stickers?!!!

I can't wait to put Threepio in my ears!
 If you feel like trying out Loot Crate, I've got a fancy discount code to get you $3 off subscriptions - it's gwcloot. Go forth and get stuff!

August 19, 2013

Visiting Club 33 and Walt's Apartment (or the best Disneyland day ever)

If you've been to Disneyland more than a few times or are into Disney history, you've probably heard of Club 33. The sign revealing the location is tucked away in New Orleans Square right beside the Blue Bayou, and it's exclusive to members and their guests. Walt Disney created the area as a VIP lounge of sorts, but it didn't open until after he passed away. Membership - when it's available - is not cheap. Not by a long shot. I had going to the restaurant and lounge on my Disney list, but I honestly wasn't sure it would ever happen. Thanks to the generosity of friends who made a dinner reservation for us though, it did. And it was magical.

The day of the Club 33 reservation also happened to be the day I'd booked the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour, and I was like a kid on Christmas Eve the night before. I could hardly sleep.

The tour started in the morning and lasted for a few hours (it ended with lunch). Our guide took us through the park and went over some stories about Walt and his family and various points in the park's history. It included a ride on Peter Pan, visiting the lobby of Club 33, and a stop at Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. It was enjoyable but none of the information presented was necessarily new or fresh to me. That said, the tour ended with a visit to Walt's apartment above the firehouse so for that reason alone it was completely worth the cost of admission to me.

Per an agreement with the Disney family, photographs can only be taken at one spot in the small apartment. It was one of those moments you didn't want to override by snapping hundreds of photos anyway. The decorations were very Victorian and floral. Antiques were everywhere. Walt worked with the space he had, but it was definitely cozy. Just a small sitting room (I believe the couches folded out into beds), an itty bitty kitchen area, and a bathroom with multiple shower heads - seriously, I wanted to jump in. Pictures of the family hung around the room and being there was indescribable.

A few hours after the tour ended, we arrived at Club 33 for dinner. The intercom is hidden on the right side and after our reservation was confirmed, we took the lift upstairs. We had a table in the corner right by one of the balcony doors. Everything about the place screamed elegance and class - it's easy to get distracted by the surroundings and history and forget you're there for food. Once we'd ordered though, our waiter encouraged us to walk outside and look around. I saw Disneyland from a new perspective.

It was a perfect balmy evening, and I could have sat outside with a glass of wine forever. I would have missed out on dinner though, and that would have been sad. I'm a fan of food throughout the park so I had high expectations for Club 33, and they absolutely delivered. My lamb was mouthwatering, as was dessert. Every bite of the meal was delicious, and we were in no way rushed. The staff was all incredibly respectful and nice and fabulous.

I was so the person photographing my food.

After dinner, we asked for a tour. There are two large rooms - the one where we ate and the trophy room. The latter is decorated in a rustic style. Just imagine Gaston designing a room but tastefully and you've about got it. Antiques were everywhere as were photographs, art, sketches, and so much more. Really, the Club is like a museum, restaurant, and bar all wrapped into one.

I could have stayed all evening, but I figured three hours was enough. Club 33 is the kind of place you just want to walk around and absorb. I felt like if I put my hand against the wall that I was reaching back through history and taking a small part of it with me. Cheesy? Yes, but I don't care. I am so grateful for getting to have the special experience. And let me leave you with my own brand of classiness. When Club 33 came up in conversation, women urged me to go the bathroom. I assured them with the size of my bladder that going to the bathroom over the course of the evening was a given, but I didn't understand the fuss until I walked into the stall. I give you the ultimate bathroom throne:

See a few more pictures from Club 33 over at Flickr.

August 16, 2013

10 Favorite Costumes of D23 Expo

The costumes at D23 Expo last weekend were impressive. Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and every combo in between. Even though you can always spot Disney costumes at other conventions, it's nowhere near this kind of variety. I saw almost every Ariel outfit: the mermaid fin, the peasant dress, the aqua dress, the wedding dress, and even the just washed up on shore outfit. I know. It's amazing. I've never chased after cosplayers so much - partially because of their fabulous-ness and partially because there was actually room on the convention floor to do so.

Though it was challenging, I narrowed down the stack of my cosplay pictures to ten favorites. Please appreciate how I cheat by having more than one cosplayer in several of these photos.

Ariel and Leia (I sort of want this as my wedding dress)

Good and evil theme park costume - look at the tiara!

Prince Phillip! Megara! Half and half Sleeping Beauty!

A Mint Julep and a Dole Whip! Genius!

Haunted Mansion costume

Mrs. Potts

Princess Vanellope

Star Tours - the attendant had a tiny Starspeeder music box

Tiana and lady from Frozen (so much Frozen cosplay)

Walt Disney
See more cosplay pics over at Flickr.
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