Friday, March 2, 2012

A Night in the Magic Kingdom

Last week both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom were open for 24 hours straight to celebrate Leap Day. A lot of fans viewed this as a kind of endurance challenge, but I was more interested in being there during the hours between midnight and dawn. So, camera and tripod in tow, John and I set out around 9pm to go document a night at the Magic Kingdom.

Parking was pretty crowded, and since all three ferries were running to accommodate the masses we had to hang out on Bay Lake for a while, waiting our turn to dock. By the time we made it past the turnstiles it was nearly 10:30.

The crowds were thick on Main Street since the parade had just wrapped, so we made a beeline for the top of the train station to get a few wide-angle shots.

We also watched the castle projection show from here, but none of those photos turned out well. The construction screen jutting out from the right spoils the view, anyway.

As the crowds dispersed towards the hub, we hung around taking tripod shots around the station. I especially liked the view up the stairs:

For this next shot I had to sit on my knees in front of the tripod craning my neck up at an insane angle. I probably looked a little crazy, but I like the end result:

(John tells me he can't see a difference between these two shots, so let me assure you: they're different. I just can't decide which one I like better.)

Note that I could take this shot - with no people in it and while kneeling next to a tripod in a major walkway - at around midnight. At that same time Disneyland in CA was shut down due to capacity crowds. So, yeah, we didn't have it nearly so bad.

From there we wandered over to Tomorrowland:

I made a point to take theses shots while the TTA (aka People Mover) was rounding the corner, so I'd get the motion blur. I still have so much to learn about photography in general and night shots in particular, though. I think a longer exposure would have looked much better.

A few minutes after this an astoundingly eagle-eyed reader named Ric managed to find us. In the dark. In a big crowd. And all from my single tweet about the music in Tomorrowland. Seriously, this guy deserves a medal.

Anyway, after we chatted for a while Ric invited us to join him in the Touring Plans Scavenger Hunt, which got started around 1AM. I'm so glad he did: it was a small hunt with maybe a dozen teams, and it was so. much. fun. We raced around the park doing things we usually skip like the Tree House and Autopia, and there were even a few trivia bits that allowed me to flex my useless-knowledge muscles.

I'm not so sure the hunt was good for John, though, who is still recovering from his round with strep & that ear infection. It was only about 70 degrees, but so humid we were all pretty sticky and funkafied by the time we finished power-walking around the park 'til 4am. We also came in dead last, because CLEARLY everyone else WAS TOTALLY CHEATING. (Kidding, kidding. We figure the ride wait-times did us in.) Regardless, we had a blast.

After an ice cream cone and parting ways with Ric, we set up in Fantasyland by the carousel. (Well, I set up, and John sat on a bench playing Teeny Wings on his phone.)

I took approximately a billion photos from this vantage point, give or take a hundred or so. I couldn't help it: as you can see, the concourse was mostly empty, and it's all sooo pretty.

I wanted my shots as empty of people as possible, but funnily enough my "test shot" when a couple was standing in the way turned out to be my very favorite:

Isn't it sweet? She even had her head on his shoulder for a second, but I wasn't quick enough with the shutter. I also love that the exposure was slow enough to get a solid ring of light inside the moving carousel.

Here's another:

(You can click any of these for the full-size, btw. Blogger's upload keeps them pretty small.)

And for something different, here's one in black and white:

Because we were there so long, we got to witness a rare treat: Cinderella's two wicked stepsisters came out - making plenty of noise along the way - and rode the carousel for several trips.

They were loud and funny and surprisingly sweet, considering they're the "wicked" stepsisters. Mostly they just carried on like a couple of three-year-olds. (Which, come to think of it, is actually perfectly in character.)

Here they're saying goodbye to the horse:

Like I said: surprisingly sweet!

In fact, there were *tons* of characters out all night, including a photo spot with all seven dwarfs and Snow White, another with the cast of Pooh, and Rapunzel & Flynn over at the Storybook spot. I don't collect photos with the characters, but for anyone who does it was heaven. (My only regret was not going into the Town Hall to see Mickey & Minnie in their PJs.)

The only other thing of note for the night was the "dance party" in front of the castle, which started around 1am. It consisted of three parade floats - the generic ones shaped like giant gift boxes - parked around the hub with a DJ on top playing tunes and talking to the crowd. It was funny hearing a mix of "Hokey Pokey" with stuff like "Can't Touch This."

Hey, you know what this post needs?

More carousel!

A little after 5am the sky started to redden a bit:

So we wandered towards the hub to see if there were any good pre-dawn shots. I think this one is the best:

From there we wandered up Main Street again:

Everyone seemed to be gathering around the flag pole in Town Square, just waiting for the clock to strike 6 so they could escape to their beds. There was a hazy mist descending, so you couldn't quite see the top turret of the castle.

I grabbed a few more shots of the main buildings, sans crowds:

Wish I'd used the tripod for this one; it's super grainy.

Precisely at 6 we made our way out. Everyone was fairly subdued, but happy. Since John and I stay up all night most nights, we were in fairly decent shape for the drive home.

For some reason Disney chose 6am - the official closing time - to take all but one monorail offline, so while we were in line they told us all to turn back. A bit of a mess, but fortunately they brought all the ferries back online. Plus that meant I got this shot from the dock:

And then this one while we were on board:
That's half of John there on the left, bowed over and looking positively bedraggled. Like I said: this might not have been the best thing to drag him to while he's still on the mend. (If it helps any, he's been sleeping a lot since.)

And one final shot looking back as the sun started to come up:

Oh, and when we docked a few minutes later, the captain came on the intercom and started whistling "The Imperial March." Which was the perfect soundtrack for a sea of sleep-deprived zombies staggering out into the morning light. ;)

Hope you got a vicarious sleepy thrill out of our shenanigans! As always, I'll have all these pics and a few extras over on my Flickr account, in case you want to just see the slide show.

Update - Since some of you are asking: I use a Canon Rebel XT, and most of these shots were taken with our new wide angle lens.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clay Day!

I've always had a weakness for polymer clay creations, whether they're fun Mario earrings or tiny robot sculptures, and you guys just keep sending me more awesome links! So here's my most recent roundup of Etsy goods attempting to drain my bank account:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Robots:

$80 for the set, by the bots

This shop has tons of cartoon and pop-culture characters (The Katy Perry one is especially hilarious) all recreated as tiny, one-inch-high robots. They average a little over $20 each, which could be seriously detrimental to my wallet.

Retro Cereal Necklaces:

Pac-Man Cereal Necklace $22.50 by TheMenu

Anyone remember PacMan cereal? The shop also offers Frankenberries and Fruit Loops, and I seriously can't get over how real that "milk" looks. (Tinted resin - who knew?)

My fellow Etsy shoppers know you can't toss a tiny plate of sushi over there without hitting another amazing tiny food shop, and mini cupcake charms are *everywhere.* That said, these are some of the best I've seen:

Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting, $35 by Roscata

And believe me, I see a LOT of mini-cake charms.

There is a way you can make a cupcake charm better, though:

Salvador the Batty Cupcake, $31 by MonsterKookies

Make it a vampire cupcake!

I'm in awe of sculptors who can make the clay look glass-smooth and like a cartoon character come to life. Which is why I am so, so tempted by these adorable wedding topper sets:

Love Angels, Raccoon & Fox $120 by Kikuike Studio

Love Angels Dinosaurs, $140

She makes every kind of animal pairing imaginable, from corgis to bumblebees to sharks, and they are all SO STINKING CUTE. Expensive, but cute! And who needs the cake anyway, right? Right?

Here's one for those of us with just a few bucks to burn:

Rainbow Lolly $5.75 by KooKee Jewellery

I bought a rainbow lolly charm much like this on Etsy years ago, and it's still one of my all-time favorite necklaces. It goes with everything! Mine's getting a little grungy, though, so I've combed all of Etsy looking for a replacement. It's between that one, or this one:

Rainbow Lollipop, $10 by SugarCubeCorner

I like the extra white swirl in with all the other colors. But I may just have to get both. :D

I'm also itching to snag this bitty jar of lollipop sticks:

Tutti Frutti Pendant, $21 by MonsterKookies


Ok, let's bring the sugar high down a notch with this gorgeously macabre, Labyrinth-inspired necklace:

Masquerade, $20 by Purplerhino's Place

Can you believe that mask is sculpted clay? Those iridescent baubles really seal the deal, too; I can't think of a single way to make this necklace fit the masquerade scene more perfectly. And only $20?! If this thing isn't gone in two seconds, then I don't even KNOW you people anymore.

I've seen these Mario piranha plant earrings a lot lately, and I think I know why:

By LizGlizz Shop

'Cuz they are FREAKING AWESOME, that's why.

(I don't miss having pierced ears often, but when I do, I'm looking at earrings like this.)

Liz will be accepting more orders starting tomorrow, so prime your engines, shoppers: these things keep selling out!

And finally, while searching for the perfect Companion Cube I stumbled across this delightful set:

The Cake is a Lie Gift Set, $40 by Kelly's Keychains

That's the best clay Portal Cube I've seen, and the custom cake gift box really raises it to "stellar gift" territory. (You can also purchase the cube and the box separately, if you don't have $40 to spare.)

Well, that's my Clay Day round-up, peeps! As always, share your links (embedded, if you please!) to anything I missed in the comments!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Steam: 2/25/12

I can't believe I've been letting our steamy Saturday posts slide! Time to do some catching up!

Let's get right to the goods:

I know some in the steampunk community think modded Nerfguns are old hat, but would you LOOK at how cool this is?

Head over here for the lowdown on how Elesa did it. (Thx to Pam L. for the link!)

Or how about this kickin' sniper rifle?

Made by vanbangerburger, found via

I really must get me an old Nerf gun soon.

You probably saw this when it debuted a month or so ago, but Bicycle is now making steampunk playing cards:

Submitted by Richard R.; Steampunk Playing Cards, $5.95

The box only *looks* like metal, sadly, but for less than $6 I guess we can't complain. Much.

It is wrong that I wanted the cards to look more aged, like parchment paper?

Thea L. sent me a TV commercial, of all things, but you'll see why soon enough:

This is a
Canadian company, so odds are my fellow Americans have never seen it. Aren't the little robots adorable? And that little beating heart! Ack!

Sarah S. spotted this nifty gear crown made from chipboard, metal paints, and charms:

Steampunk Crown by Stamptramp (hit the link for more details)

Kinda reminds me of the steampunk Glinda from that Wizard of Oz troupe I saw at Dragon*Con two years ago.

And speaking of amazing finds, you guys, I FOUND MY DINING ROOM LIGHT FIXTURE!!

Isn't it amazing?? I love the armillary sphere design, and the giant industrial chain and hook, and the magnifying glasses in front of the Edison bulbs.

Here's a close-up:

Yep, it took years, but I finally found the perfect light for our steampunk dining room.

Now I'm just gonna need one of you to spot me $6,375 so I can buy it.


Oh, and the maker, Jefferson Mack Metal, also has this enticing option:

And this one's only $4,275, so that's practically a bargain.

I'm trying to convince John to learn welding so we can make our own, but maybe a Kickstarter campaign would be a better idea. Or lotto tickets. Lots and lots of lotto tickets. Heh.

And finally, I stumbled across this cool steampunk monorail-looking thing on Pinterest...

...and had to do a little digging. Turns out it's the Ocean Express, located in a theme park in Hong Kong. The train takes you on a virtual underwater journey, and is inspired by the works of Jules Verne (of course!). Check out the entrance:


Armored seahorses? Yes, please!

You can see a quick video of the train pulling into the station here.

Ok, I think that's enough for today! As always, if you see something cool and steamy this week, please share in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Supernatural Scares

I have to preface this by stating, for the record and with no equivocation, that when it comes to scary stuff, John and I are wimps. Wusses. 'Fraidy-cat namby-pambies. We don't like being scared, and each year when the commercials for Halloween Horror Nights come on we both dive for the remote to change the channel, because those things are REALLY STINKING SCARY.

So, naturally, we recently started watching Supernatural.

I blame Netflix.

See, John and I get addicted to shows, and then watch nothing but that show from start to finish. Which usually doesn't take too long. So I'm always on the look out for new obsessions series to start.

But here's the clincher: we don't have cable.

Which is fine, because most stuff can be found online or through Netflix streaming. Streaming is the easiest, although Netflix's selection still leaves much to be desired. So, while I was listlessly clicking through the "recommended" options a few weeks ago, I perked up when Supernatural came up. I knew nothing about it except it sounded familiar, and - what's this? Over 150 episodes available on live streaming?! SOLD.

I actually started the pilot while John was in the other room, and within two minutes I was pausing and inching the show forward frame-by-frame while peering through my fingers to see when the scary stuff jumped out.

At the fifteen minute mark, John wandered in.

"What are you watching?"

[speaking through a pillow I was holding over my face] "Supernatural. But it's really scary."

"You're watching something scary? What are you thinking?!"

[wailing] "I don't know!! It looked kind of cool!"

"You know we can't watch scary stuff!"

"I know!!"

There was a pause as the creepy music reached a crescendo and we both contemplated the screen with eyes the size of dinner plates.

"Hang on, I wanna watch, too."

And so began our abusive relationship with a scary TV show. Abusive because it lulls us into a false sense of security with one or two episodes with relatively tame scares, and then, POW! We're screaming like little girls behind the couch and sleeping with the lights on.

It doesn't help that our prime TV-watching hours start around 1AM. And you know what *else* doesn't help? When you're watching a creepy suspenseful show about some demon with tree branch fingers scratching at bedroom windows and THEN YOU START HEARING SCRATCHING AT THE WINDOW because there's either a squirrel scaling your window screens OR POSSIBLY A DEMON COMING TO EAT YOUR SOUL and have I mentioned we haven't slept in a few days?

During the squirrel scratching incident - and let's go ahead and assume it's a squirrel since we're still alive. SO FAR. - John and I actually got so freaked out that we did what any sensible, fully grown adults would do: we shut off the TV, left every light in the house on, locked ourselves in the bedroom, and finished watching the show on his laptop in bed.

We kept promising ourselves and each other that as soon as one of us started having nightmares, we'd stop. Having already reached the third season, though, now we're rationalizing:

"Well, yes, it was a nightmare, but I didn't dream anything specifically from last night's episode, so I'm sure it's not related."

"If you think about it, this show is probably toughening up our psyche, so in the long run we'll actually have LESS nightmares."

And so on.

Usually Supernatural gives you a nice lead-in to the scares with lots of ominous music and suspense, thereby enabling us more cautious-minded individuals to "assume the position." (This involves peering with one eye through our cupped hands while yelling, "I can't look! Are you looking? Is it over? Did you see it? AAAUGGH!! I LOOKED! OH MY GOSH THAT'S SO FREAKING SCARY! Don't look! It's RIGHT BEHIND HIM!!" And so on.)

Last night, though, we had our biggest scare from the show yet. It even managed to dethrone that scene in "Crossroad Blues" where the wife is saying goodbye to her hubby and then suddenly cranks her head sideways and goes all demon-faced on him. [shudder]

This one involved children, who I never realized could be so bone-chillingly creepy even without makeup or special effects, and can I just say I am so, SO glad we're not having any, because after that episode I could never sleep with a kid in the house for fear I might see their reflection in a mirror and realize they're really some leech-faced monster and holy crap I'm scaring myself just writing this and what have you done to me, Supernatural?!


So, yeah. It's a good show.

And for the uninitiated out there who are thinking of giving it a try, you should know that the pilot is a bit scarier and more intense than a lot of the subsequent episodes. Until you get to "Bloody Mary." And the clown one. [shiver] And when you get to "Heart," the werewolf one in season two? Yeah. Just skip that one. Not because it's scary, but because the ending is dumb and needlessly dramatic - like punching a kitten just to make us cry. That was really out of character for the show, though, and the only bad episode I've seen yet. Fortunately it doesn't have anything to do with the over-arching storyline, though, and a few shows after that is "What is And What Should Never Be," which we *thought* was going to be really cheesy, but ended up being one of the best yet. So that makes up for it.

Just watch out for "The Kids Are Alright," alright? Especially the car scene. Trust me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contemplating Solitude and Mortality

I know, I know. Could that...BE a more depressing post title? [snicker]

So last night John was the sickest he's been since that time he nearly died in Texas on the book tour, and I spent the hours before dawn sitting by him in the dark, changing the cold packs on his forehead, watching him breathe, and generally trying not to panic.

Today he's better. He has a bad ear infection and strep throat and tells me everything still hurts, but the fever broke at dawn so at least he's back in his right mind.

Last night that fever was so high he started hallucinating, and I found him shivering violently under two heavy blankets. 'Til then I didn't think it was all that serious; he'd been to the doctor that afternoon and started some antibiotics for a run-of-the-mill ear infection. No biggie, right? But then his teeth started chattering and he kept telling me he had to save some soldier in WWII, which I can only assume is what you get when you mix a high fever with too much Downton Abbey and Borderlands. That degenerated into gibberish: he would walk into my office and deliver an earnest, pressing speech, but none of the words coming out made sense.

I discovered it's very lonely when your spouse is konked out and helpless like that. See, I'm not really the caregiver in our relationship; John is. He prides himself on looking out for me, and I'm used to his constant presence and strength. I think that's why Texas was such a traumatic experience: I've become so spoiled that I honestly don't know how to function without John. We go everywhere together, and do everything together. The only times we're apart are when John runs out to pick up dinner - and to be honest, that's how we like it. We've worked together since our first wedding anniversary back in 1999. We tell our friends that we're "happily codependent." That may not be healthy for some people, but it works for us. We just need each other.

So in Dallas, when John was admitted at the ER, I was like a little kid lost in the big city. Things like hailing a cab or changing hotels became these huge, terrifying tasks, made even worse by the knowledge of how truly pathetic I was on my own.

I'd like to say I discovered untapped wells of hidden strength, and emerged a better person for it. The truth is those days are nothing but a blur of white-hot terror in my memory. I got through it, but not well.

Last night, all those feelings of inadequacy and fear came rushing back. Today they seem unfounded, and maybe even a bit silly, but I wanted to talk about them anyway. And since I don't have a therapist, you guys are filling in. Hope you don't mind. (I'm picturing you as a crack psychological SWAT team led by Craig Ferguson, Liz Lemon, and that sweet old guy who did Admiral Ackbar's voice. Because yes, that's my therapy dream team. Which probably proves I need a real one, but this is SO much cheaper.)

Thanks for "listening," and hug your loved ones today, guys.

P.S. Oh, and BEWARE THE CON CRUD. Seriously. Purell is your friend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Labyrinth Love

Random Jen Fact: Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all time, and in college I would listen to the soundtrack every night while playing solitaire as a kind of relaxation ritual. (But I always skipped track 8, The Goblin Battle, 'cuz that thing is super annoying. [Cheesy synthesizers. That is all.])

So, when Christina shared this on the Epbot FB page, I of course had to drop everything and run over here to post it right away - even though the dropping and running were in a purely virtual sense, since I'm just sitting here clicking and typing. But there is a definite sense of urgency to it, let me tell ya.

Ok, enough of that - now watch this:

Haunting and oh-so-beautiful. [dreamy sigh]

This was posted all the way back in 2009, and I'm kind of heartbroken that the free mp3 download link is broken since it led to MegaUpload. Maybe Geekella will see this and take pity on me and post a new link somewhere else. [hinthintprettyplease?]

(UPDATE: Yay! New download link here. Thanks, Geekella!)

Oooh, and this gives me the perfect excuse to share Heather H.'s family Labyrinth costumes!

He reminds me of the babe.

And say "'ello" to this little fella!

This entire family is made of WIN. Kudos, Heather!

Plus, this weekend Leah sent me a photo of her AMAZING Jareth Masquerade costume:

She made everything herself, and her wife even wired the glass ball she's holding so it spins! Here's a quick video of it in action:

{Turn your sound off}

[Update: See how Leah did it all on her blog here. I still can't believe that mask!]

Ok, this concludes my Labyrinth Love Fest.

For now.

UPDATE: Someone in the comments linked me to the most impressive Goblin King cosplay I've ever seen. I mean, WOW.

You'd almost swear that was Bowie himself, wouldn't you? His name is actually Massimiliano Poggi, and you can see a few more pics of him in Sandman-AC's DeviantArt portfolio.