Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lab Notebook for Phantasma

Subject: Lab notebook pages 16 and 17
Hello parents,

We have been very busy making observations of our organisms for our aquarium and terrarium.  Pages 16 and 17 of the lab notebook along with a page of questions to be distributed tomorrow will be collected on Monday and graded as a lab.  This is a requirement for all students even if they were absent yesterday or today.

There is an organism database on sciweb your children can refer to if they did not complete the material in class.  All children were given a hard copy of the instructions for accessing the site in class today.  If they were out for the play or other reason, a copy was placed in the absentee folder for them.  As a reminder, school will be closed on Friday.  B. Fischer

Tasma is loving this unit. She likes watching snails in the terrarium do their snail like things. She's already panicking about it ending, even though the fish and snails will stay in the classroom. (I guess she gets her anxiety over silly things from me.) If we're able to, we'll get her a hermit crab this summer. Hopefully she'll like it and not get freaked out by it like the time we bought one for the sister-in-law.

I think I'll also talk to Beth about taking one of the snails home for the summer. Then we can video the crab and snail like this guy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stripey Perches

Stripey is a natural jumper. As a kitten, she would launch herself from the floor into the freezer to cool off whenever my roommate or me would be rummaging.She was small enough that she could find a space just for her. Since then, there have been no freezer-jumping shenanigans. A few mishaps with closed closets, but nothing involving the refrigerator until a few weeks ago. That's when she discovered the top of our refrigerator.

The apartment Hubby and I live in is small and lacks too much storage space, so the top of the fridge is loaded with all things kitcheny. We stacked things according to usage, but we also made it so The White One wouldn't be able to fit up there. (He was a fan of opening the unused bread box.)

I should've expected that Stripey would find a way. For a week straight, she would perch in the farthest corner and stare. Every so often her eyes would glow with her inner demon.

Why do they always like the most difficult places?

The devil shows through.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dear Blog, Part V

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry that I can't work on you today, but I'm busy recovering from last night's HIM show. To say Finnish bands have a tendency to kick my rocking ass is an understatement. See?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fangirl Excitement

I'm seeing HIM on Sunday. They're my favorite band after all things Wednesday 13, of course. And since I'm busy with 9-5 stuff and I'm excited, you get a video.

Did you like it? It's not my favoritest by them, but it is from one of my favorite albums, Razorblade Romance. The best is Love Metal.

When the single of this song came out, I was finishing or just finished college. I didn't learn about them until 5 years later when Hubby introduced me to them. What a sad five years. I hadn't geeked out over a band so much since Aerosmith. I liked the songs, the rockiness of the music, and Ville's pretty.

The only place we were able to pick it up was Hot Topic. This was pre-sparkly vampiredom when I could go in and not have an upchuck reflex, but this isn't designed to be a rant on that particular trend. This is supposed to be about fangirl crush #2. (You should know who #1 is.)

Like all things Wednesday, seeing HIM live pumps me up to get my projects done. They're about my age so I get into the same mindset of "they can do that, I can too." If I could pocket the energy I get from seeing them live for future use, I'd be golden.

So if you're in Boston and are happening to be at the HIM show, drop a line below.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zombie Thursday Double-shot: Chicken Brain Soup for the Zombie Soul

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

This weekend I am going to my first real horror fan convention-- HorrorHound in Indianapolis. I’m really very excited for a wide variety of reasons, but top on the list is that I will be meeting two of my favorite horror icons. The most exciting of these ‘celebrities’ will be my all time favorite author... someone who I am beyond obsessed with and with all his novels, short stories, and movies-- Clive Barker! Nothing or no one can top Mr. Barker in my opinion, but a very close second will be meeting George Romero.

On my birthday, I gave you a small introduction to Mr. Romero (although he really needs no introduction to even the average zombie lover) and some fun facts about him (and me). I will be meeting him this weekend, and although I am sure it will be very brief, just enough time for me to get an autograph and maybe a photo (no lengthy zombie debates, unfortunately), I’m still ‘squeeing’ on the inside about shaking this man’s hand.  Although he didn’t create zombies, or zombie fiction (in fact, he’s fairly vocal about having practically ripped off the novel I Am Legend), he was, and is, a pioneer in bringing the zombie genre into the mainstream.

In anticipation of my awesome weekend I decide to watch the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead. This film was the follow up to the original Night of the Living Dead, even though fans had to wait ten years! In the film, the country is suffering from the never fully explained onslaught of zombie hordes and begins with scenes in a panicked news station. Experts are debating how to deal with the zombies, frantic employees try to determine which emergency shelters are still open, and everyone is thinking about how best to save themselves. The majority of the film follows four survivors who manage to escape the city in a helicopter and set up shop in a mostly abandoned shopping mall... mostly abandoned except for the zombies!

I’m sure most of you zombie fans have seen this film, and if you haven’t... seriously, why haven’t you? It is arguably one of the most important zombie films ever created, even more so than the original Night of the Living Dead. Do yourself a favor and buy this DVD! Even the remake/re-imagining was enjoyable, although both versions are very different.

Watching the movie got me thinking about some of the more social and moral implications of a zombie apocalypse. Beyond just the normal “what would you do?” and “would you survive?” questions, I want to take a look at how one might morally react in the face of extinction. How easy would it be to take a life... or an un-life? And, where do the undead fit in?

Two friends of mine got me this really fascinating book by Jonathan Maberry called Zombie CSU-- The Forensics of the Living Dead. Although I haven’t been able to read the entire book (yet), there’s a really interesting chapter on the “Spiritual and Philosophical Implications of the Walking Dead.” Here are some things to ponder... and like all of philosophy, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Are Zombies living? Are they dead? Do they have souls?

Whether you are religious or not, the reasons behind life and death may still weigh heavily on your mind. One doesn’t need to believe in a God to question what there is after we die. For the sake of argument, let’s say that all people who become zombies do have a physical death of sorts (whether they were previously dead and have risen from the grave, or “infected” by a zombie virus through a bite). The host human dies, and reanimates as the living dead. Living Dead.... now there’s a complicated name! Are they actually alive again, or are they dead? If they have died... how are the up and walking around? If you believe in having a soul or having a spirit, does that soul still reside in the zombie corpse or has it moved on into whatever afterlife there may be.

Many genres of zombie fiction make it clear that the zombie retains no memories of their previous life... yet some hint that they might. As an example, in Dawn of the Dead the zombies flock to the shopping mall. One character asks why they would do this. As a response, it is theorized that it must be some past instinct, gathering at a mall; the mall was an important place in their lives and that has imprinted in their deaths. If the zombie retains no traces or memories of the host, then how would that be possible? They would have to know and remember that the shopping mall was a place to gather, a place that was important to their lives. So, does a bit of humanity remain in the zombie brain?

Is taking the ‘life’ of a Zombie easy? Can it be done without remorse?

Many will say that in the time of the zombie apocalypse, a human’s survival instincts will kick in. Even though staying with a group is a smart idea, in the end, the most important person is yourself. If you’ve held for your entire life the belief that killing is wrong... how easy would it be to kill a zombie? Now, most people wouldn’t have issues with killing in self defense, the law even allows this type of killing. But even if a thief held you at gunpoint and you had the means to fight back and kill him... would that be so simple? There’s a reason why they show people hesitating at the final moment when going to shoot a bad guy. I’ve fortunately never had this experience, but I can imagine it would not be easy to pull that trigger, to take a life... no matter how evil a person might be.

Zombies look like us. They still move like us, dress like us. And what’s worse, that zombie that is trying to attack you... it could look like your best friend. Your mom. Your daughter. Your husband. How easy would it be then to shoot them in the head? Especially when you take into account that maybe... just maybe... they retain a bit of the memories or humanity they once had, but for whatever reason it is being inhibited by the zombie infection. It is hard to believe that you wouldn’t feel some remorse or regret. And what if your friend wasn’t dead yet, just bitten. You know they are going to turn... would you be able to kill them before they suffered through the change into a zombie? Or would you have to wait until their actual “death?”

During Dawn of the Dead a group of zombies are put into a room and given their last rights. One man asks why anyone would do that, why put them into a room all together, covered with blankets and trying to comfort them. A man replies, “because they still believe there’s respect in dying.”

Would our moral sense be thrown to the side after during apocalypse?

Survival wouldn’t just be about killing zombies or taking lives. One would need to steal, cheat, break into things, damage property, and who knows what else! These are all things that we have been taught are wrong. I wouldn’t even consider trying to take something from a grocery store now without paying for it. It is hard to imagine how I would feel stealing food in a time of survival if it came to that. I’m the type of person who likes to look out for others. As a supervisor at work, I always make sure to give others breaks before I take my own. In a time of panic, would I still look out for others as much as myself? Or would I ditch those that were weak and possibly holding me back? My whole life I have been a caring and decent person, but maybe that would all change in the blink of an eye. As quoted in Dawn of the Dead (about the actions the four survivors must resort to), “we’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s what we are.”

I know I have asked a lot of questions today, and there really aren’t any correct answers. would you feel and react? Would you easily be able to shoot your own best friend in the head? Steal that gun? Break into that house?

Join me back here next week; hopefully I will have some cool stories and updates from HorrorHound!

Zombie Thursday Double-shot: The Zombie Apocalypse Flowchart

In the first part of our Zombie Thursday Double-shot, I'm totally ripping off The Screaming Guppy and Carrie Harris. Sorry, guys. (And thanks.)

Why this is awesome.
Who doesn't like flowcharts?
You can be Marty McFly.

The real Zombie Thursday entry will be up later today. Make sure you come back.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

All About Stripey

Earlier this month (and late February), I blogged about superstition, ritual, and habit. These were geared towards you and I, but cats have their version of each too. Like The Stripey One.

Stripey believes that we're trying to poison her. Whenever we offer her people food, she sniffs at it. Yes, this is what cats do, but she does it with every single piece. Cat treats too. So, if you have ten treats in your hand and are feeding them to her one at a time, she will sniff each piece. Her paranoia prompts this.

To avoid her paranoia poisoning, Stripey has taken to crossing her eyes when she takes her initial sniff. This must aid in determining whether it's safe to resume with the rest of the test: lick, re-examine, narf. Rinse, repeat.

Stripey's small - much smaller than The White One - and she gets cold in the winter. She likes to find the place that has the most warmth and stay there. This winter, she found a place that she really loved.
Chillin where it's warm.

The cable box. No matter how many times we've pushed her out of there, she always goes back. This started as a way to prevent The White One from loving her too much since he's much too big to get into that little space. Now it's her new heated blanket. Even during our 70 degree weather the other week, she could be found under the TV, making use of the cable remote difficult.

Do your pets have superstitions, rituals, or habits? What are they?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cat Lunch

Today's blogging schedule yet again has been interrupted by life. As a token of my regret, enjoy a video of a tiger loving it's lunch complete with Hubby editorial comments.

The video was taken when Hubby and I went on vacation in October. We visited the Land of Where? and their only zoo - the Brandywine.

Facts About the Brandywine Zoo

-  It's park of Brandywine Park, which was designed by the same guy who did Central Park.
-  Next to the National Zoo, it's probably the cheapest one on the East Coast.
-  It's the only zoo I've been too that has binturons.
-  They have lazy otters.
-  They exercise their Flemish Giant (the rabbit mentioned in the video) behind the owl display.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Bonus

Subject: egg shells

Thank you all for the gallon jugs.  I received so many that I was able to share with the other teachers. I have another request from your kitchens if possible.  One of the organisms that will inhabit our terrariums is the land snail.  Snails require a source of calcium.  If you could send in some egg shells, they would be oh so happy.  Thanks again for all of the support throughout the year.  Warm regards, B. Fisher

I'm not sure how I feel about Phantasma carrying egg shells, Beth. I mean, there's going to be traces of raw egg there. Raw egg contains salmonella. I'm pretty sure that Wolstein will have some kind of issue with this request. It sounds like something she would gripe about.

On a positive note, Tasma's excited about seeing some snails. She'll probably ask to take one home. Beth, do not let her. I'm afraid The Stripey One or The White One will play snail hockey. We don't want that.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Day 5

Subject: Upcoming Quiz
Hello parents,

We began our new unit entitled Populations and Ecosystems this week.  The first quiz is scheduled for March 22nd.  I've attached a brief review sheet which will also be posted on my eBoard.  For more information about this newly adopted program go to sciweb and click on  middle school/populations and ecosystems.  It is a very hands on approach and so far the children are really enjoying it.  Warm regards, B. Fisher

Thanks for the update, Beth. I know that Phantasma's been enjoying it. She's been singing an ecosystem song all week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Zombie Interlude

Subject: Classroom updates and new unit
Greetings, parents!

My name is Meredith Thomas and I am your child’s 6th grade English and Literature teacher.  I apologize for not starting an email list sooner. As many of you may be aware, I recently returned from maternity leave; I thank you for all the warm wishes you sent to my husband and me after the birth of our child!  Now that I am officially back to work and have been able to reconnect with the children, I have am hoping to send you classroom updates and announcements on a regular basis, much like you already receive from my colleague, Beth Fisher.  And I am hoping you are all familiar with the eBoard program. I will also be using that on a regular basis.

Since I have been gone for most of the year, I wanted to let the children have some fun and chose what to study in our next Literature unit.  The children had many wonderful suggestions, but one student was quite verbally adamant about wishing to study a particular subject, an idea that she says was influenced by her mother.  We took a class vote and this subject won-- Zombies.

I know many students have already shared their enthusiasm with this idea, and that many of the parents have concerns. Mrs. Wolstein has already contacted me personally to voice some of these concerns on behalf of several parents.  I want to assure you now that I am not entirely comfortable with the subject matter, but I also wish to respect the wishes of the students and honor their classroom vote. 

I feel I have a compromise.  There is a new young readers series about “Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie” by David Lubar. The story involves a young man who partakes in a science experiment with his friend.  The results turn him into a ‘zombie’ or sorts. I think this will be a good series for the children to read. It involves school cliques, growing up, and will hopefully inspire some conversations about life and death that can be covered in an educational environment. 

I openly welcome any questions or comments from parents.  Despite what one child suggested, we will not be watching any horror films or other frightening zombie films.  I feel this is not appropriate for children.  If you so chose, you may allow your children to watch these things at home, but please teach them it is not allowed that they bring adult materials to school. I’ve already had to confiscate an issue of some sort of comic called The Walking Dead.  It will be returned to the student’s parents at conference time. 

I look forward to a productive rest of the school year; it is nice to be back!

Yours in education, M. Thomas
In case you couldn't figure it out, yes, Phantasma voiced the zombie thing. I knew about this before the email because once Phantasma got home from school, she ranted about Tessa Wolstein and her pea-sized mind for about a half hour. Tessa said zombies were "creepy."

If I was a good parent, I would've told Phantasma that everyone's entitled to their opinion and got her to calm down somehow. She's strongly opinionated in an angry old man fashion, which isn't needed on one so young. There's no doubt that she gets her mouth and her rants from my side of the family since it's a dominant Gregoire trait.

Also, I don't know how I feel about Meredith Thomas, to be told. I've dealt with teachers who are MIA for half the school year. I'll be keeping an eye on you Meredith, yes I will.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Day 3

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Former boss informed me today that St. Patrick wasn't Irish, but English. This didn't stop Phantasma from donning her green and weaving 4 leaf clovers in her hair.
Subject: directions for accessing sciweb
Hello parents,

I've attached a document designed to assist your children in accessing supplemental, web-based materials for our new Populations and Ecosystems module.  I've included a user name and password, so they can access just about anything.  There are games, resources and other fun activities to supplement what we are doing in class.  I hope this website proves helpful.  Warm regards, B. Fisher

Beth forgot to attach the document and she also forgot to include the URL in her email. This isn't a major problem for Tasma though since she's been heading in early to handle all supplemental activities that are populations and ecosystems related.

April vacation is only a few weeks away and I've put the bug in Phantasma's ear that she really wants to make shoebox dioramas of different ecosystems. We'll see if that happens or not.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Day 2

Subject: milk containters needed

I will be collecting gallon milk containers over the next couple of days.  If you have an empty one, please rinse it out (no soap) and send it to school with your child.  Next week we will be constructing two mini-ecosystems.  We need to allow the water for the aquariums to sit for several days prior in order to ensure the health of our organisms.  Thank you very much for your help.  It is greatly appreciated.  Warm regards, B. Fisher

Oh, Beth. How I love your misspellings and double spaces after periods. My only other favorite thing is the subject heading "upcoming quiz" because it's so descriptive and all.

I'm sad to report that we don't drink enough milk at Chez Phantasma to have gallons. We do have some water gallons that Phantasma could part with, I suppose. We have one for the cats and a few for her. She likes to make bird feeders out of them in her spare time. She's a crafty one, that Phantasma.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beth & Phantasma Week, Day 1

Subject: student volunteers needed for science fair/fundraiser information
Hello parents,

Hopefully all will be back to normal as of tomorrow.

We will be needing a few student volunteers to assist with some of the interactive tables at the science fair this year. Children would be needed beginning approximately six PM on Thursday, March 11th. If your child is interested please let me know as soon as possible so that I can forward their name to our lead teacher.

Our fundraiser for Good Friends is scheduled to take place tomorrow. Due to the snow days, we have no parent volunteers scheduled for periods 6,7, or 8th periods.  If you are available and can come help out, please contact me or Mr. Johnson. 

Warm regards, B. Fisher

When I got this email from Beth, I talked with Phantasma about helping out at the science fair. We never had them in school, and if we did, I must've been sleeping. Anyway, Phantasma wasn't interested in helping out with the science fair.

Her reasoning? "It's like being a magician's assistant."

I don't understand either, but she refused to change her mind. She also argued that I didn't volunteer with the Good Friends fundraiser. Since I work all day, it's hard to volunteer during the school hours. She wasn't buying it.

"Mom, I'll make a deal: you volunteer for the next parent thing, and I'll volunteer at the next magician thing."

The next parent thing's easy. It's bringing stuff in. Alicia, 1. Phantasma, 0.

How I'd Spend $160

Remember the diatribe about Aerosmith and my fan contract? Two weeks ago Dom Lawson at Metal Hammer blogged about Aerosmith's upcoming UK shows and the insane ticket prices.

This guy is my new best friend because he says what I've been thinking for years.

106 pounds is about 160 in American dollars. So if you and your significant other were going, that's $320 just for going to the show.

Why this bothers me
Aerosmith doesn't make it to the UK very often and from what I remember they have a rabid fan base over there. How shitty is it to make it that expensive just because you can? Yes, I know it's not all the band's doing, that part of it is the promoter and/or venue.


There are other ways to spend $160 and much more out of it. I'm not talking the practical-it's-a-week's-worth-of-groceries way, but a fun way.

Fun ways to blow $160
  • Plaster Fun Time for you and three friends. You can use the leftover cash for a pizza and coke.
  • Movie marathon with someone special at your local theatre.
  • A spa day for you
  • A plane ticket somewhere
  • Dinner and a pub crawl
What fun ways would you use $160?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Zombie Music: Creature Feature

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.
Hello, zombie fans! This week I am bringing you another musical review of a horror loving band. I honestly hadn’t even remembered this band until my iPod happened to shuffle on them this week while I was on one of my many long drives to and from work!
The band is Creature Feature, a two-man (or two-fiend, as they call themselves) band from LA that consists of Curtis Rx and Erik X. I haven’t been able to discover too much about them, or their specific origins. I’m sure it exists, but I think they like to be purposely vague. What I do know is that the band was formed one night in 2005 after a Halloween party. The band mates also run a multimedia production company called Last Man on Earth Productions. Currently, Curtis Rx is writing original music for a web-series called Playing Dead directed by Ted Raimi (actor and brother to Sam). Creature Feature music is also in the series. Not a lot to go on, but let’s get to the music and some of their other projects!
I first heard of Creature Feature on my way to a Nine Inch Nails concert. Two of my friends, knowing my love of zombies and horror, put on their CD called The Greatest Show Unearthed.  Right away I was thrilled! The first song, of the same name, is all about an evil circus/carnival rolling into town. Perfect for a freak show loving girl like me! 
The song that will intrigue zombie lovers is “Aim for the Head.”  This is a pretty cool and catchy little tune! Erik X plays synth on the album, and its influence is heavy in each song. It makes the music feel campy, but fun, and certainly has the creepy haunted house feel.  In this particular song, the band mixes music and lyrics with audio from Night of the Living Dead! The song starts off with clips from the newscaster in the film reading the report of how the ghouls are eating the flesh of those they have killed.
The lyrics are hilarious! The band draws from several of the Dead and Living Dead movies. Some of my favorite parts are--
            Can I pose a question--
            How do you kill what is dead?
            I just shoot from the hip
            And aim for the head!
            If you kill the brain
            Then you kill the ghoul
            And its motor functions!
(Throwing the phrase ‘motor functions’ into a song is just so ridiculous, and that’s why I love it!)
            There is no more
            There is no more
            There is no more
            Room in Hell
(A tribute to the extremely famous Dawn of the Dead line)
I really wish there was an actual music video for this song, as I’m sure it would be really entertaining.  According to the Myspace page for their production company, it says a video for “Aim for the Head” is one of their current projects... but who knows.  At the very least, it would be great if someone made a fan video for this, however, the song has a copyright, so unless you want to get sued, I wouldn’t recommend it.
 The whole album is good, but another standout song to me is “A Gorey Demise.” Yes, I spelled that correctly. They are referring to the amazing author and illustrator, Edward Gorey. The song draws on inspiration from The Gashlycrumb Tinies and lists, alphabetically, the way that twenty-six different people have died (during the annual obituary readings, as described in the song).
My only critique of the album is that many of the songs sound similar musically. This similarity may be due to all the synth that is used.  Each song seems to sound the same at first, and it takes several listens before many of the songs start to stand out on their own.
This album is great for any horror fan who has a sense of humor. Unlike a lot of “goth” horror music, it isn’t dark or depressing in sound (although some of the lyrics are pretty frightening); it is fairly light and upbeat and will have you humming some of the songs for days!  But the best way to learn about them and their music is to take a listen-- Enjoy “Aim for the Head!”

I'm also a fan of Creature Feature, after seeing them open for Wednesday 13 a few years ago. I was impressed that two people could make that much sound. They're a fun band to listen to.

My Technology Fail

I'm not the most savvy person when it comes to technology, despite that all my work-related endeavors involve it on some degree. The best way to explain my knowledge is I know just enough to get me in trouble, but not necessarily out of it.

The Set Up
Our town has a parking ban in the winter that runs until April or whenever the city sees fit. This means that there is no on-street parking between the hours of 11 and 6. We have two off-street parking spaces for our cars in the driveway, our upstairs neighbors one in the garage and one in the driveway. This leaves a phantom space in front of the garage, reserved for the landlord to pick up landscaping equipment.

The phantom space was used for the first time two nights ago as an additional parking spot. One of my sisters-in-law stayed with us for a couple of days. So did her car. And since I'm the first one out the door during the week, I was the Chosen One to the move the car.

Enter the Fail
SIL's car is a newer model and still has that showroom shine. It also has a car alarm, something my cars never had. (With the exception of The Ghettomobile, but that was so old school, you had to turn it off on the steering wheel.) Zombie-Hubby confirmed that all I needed to do was press the unlock button on the fob. That's when I noticed there was no car key.

Hubby (pointing to fob): That's the key.
Me (looking for secret compartment): Where?
Hubby: You unlock the car, and then start it with the button.
I study the fob for a button that says 'engine start,' but can't find one.
Hubby: It's in the car. You press the button on the dashboard after you press the brake.
Me: Riight.

We played our special version of 'Who's on First?' for a few more seconds before I leave. Unlocking the car was a success. I find the button, 'LOCK' is lit up and then disappears. I press the start button; the radio comes on. I press the button again and 'ON' is lit up, but no engine start. I press the brake and press the button again.

I call Hubby. "What am I doing wrong?"

Hubby comes out barefoot and saves the day. I had pressed the parking brake instead of the actual brake. What took me ten minutes to screw up took Hubby not even a minute.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Today's entry will be very short. I will blame this on my woozy head and will hopefully delve deeper at another time.

Last night, while editing, I finished watching the 6th season of Highlander. Alone, this doesn't sound exciting, but I've watched all 6 seasons back-to-back much like I did with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and will do with The Greatest American Hero. There's a couple of Highlander movies that need watching before I progress to the next bout of TV DVDs.

I've got to say it: the season finale left me totally unsatisfied. In fact, the entire last season did. Out of the 13 episodes, only 3 have any continuity. The first two follow the finale of season 5 and the final episode piggybacks the one before. There are 6 episodes that focus around guest Immortals, most of who we never see or mention. Ever. (This was in hopes of launching Highlander: The Raven)

Fail, Highlander writing staff, fail.

There were somethings that were enjoyable about Season 6, but more in the heckle vein. My favorite? The opening sequence.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Emo Kids & Vikings

My brain is abuzz with thoughts of spring, so there is no time for a thought-out blog post. Instead, I think I'll go with an image of the day.

Hubby had shown this to me in the summer 08. I instantly fell in love with it. My hope is that it will induce a bout of snickering with you too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ministry: A Love/Hate Relationship

I was 16 and jammed in the backseat of a 4 door car in the bitch seat. (There's no irony in the fact that I'm usually stuck in the middle seat - more frequently called bitch - and that I'm rather bitchy myself.) The song that played through the speakers interested me, but I didn't know what it was. I looked around the cluttered back seat and found a CD with a black cover and a sketchy winged figure on it.

The band: Ministry.

The album: Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and The Way to Suck Eggs, or Psalm 69 for short.

Psalm 69 was too industrial to contain the more melodic song I heard on the radio; to this day, I don't know what song I initially heard and can no longer remember the tune. But because of that three minutes driving down Route 9, I developed a 15 year plus relationship with Al Jourgensen and Ministry.

Ministry is very industrial in their sound with incredibly fast drums, loud crashing guitar riffs, and the extra noises that permeate standard industrial music. Psalm 69 wasn't the exception, and was the peak of Ministry's popularity.  Jesus Built My Hotrod* was all over MTV reportedly. (I didn't have cable until I hit drinking age, so I can't confirm this.) People I've met who don't even listen to industrial music admit to owning this album.

What's interesting about Ministry is the progression they made into the industrial market.When they formed the early 80s, they were a synthpop outfit.While both synthpop and industrial have similarities because of the electronic elements, the sound is different.

Synthpop is more dancey and, regardless of the subject matter, has a lighter feel to it.


So even if the progression from synthpop to industrial is logical, not every band who fit into that music genre fell into the darker, angrier sound. I mean, can you picture A-ha doing an industrial version of Take On Me?

Because of their transition from synthpop to industrial, I love them. Depending on my mood, I'll listen to their earlier albums more than the industrial and Everday is Halloween is my ring tone. My love spans from their debut album With Sympathy and stops at Houses of the Mole.

And turns to hate.

I don't like when politics gets infused into my music. At least, I don't like when it hits me over the head with it. Al Jourgensen did that starting with Houses of the Mole all the way to The Last Sucker, all anti-Bush propaganda music. It was fast. Loud. And filled with G. W. soundbites.

I like to enjoy my music, not hear a political statement. (Even if I agree with it.) Because of the hardcore political overtones of the last few albums, I found it hard to enjoy the later albums. Musically, they were more thrash-based as well, and I'm not too keen on thrash metal. Yes, there are exceptions, but Ministry isn't one of them.

*On the studio version, the beginning of the song says "Jerry Lee Lewis is the devil," which is much better than saying Jesus is.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Grammar of Zombies

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

Today is National Grammar Day!  I really love grammar.  Like with anything in life, I will admit to not always using perfect grammar, but I definitely try to set a good example for those around me. I think my love and understanding of grammar came from two highly dedicated grade school teachers, Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs. Hawkins, who taught me the importance of speaking and writing well. Sure, at the time I bitched about all the essays they made me write and all the books I had to read. However, as an adult, I see how truly important grammar is. As a group on Facebook illustrates, grammar can even save lives--
“Let’s eat Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
See? In one case, Grandma is not going to have a very pleasant meal time. In the other, Grandma is being invited to gorge herself on brains. The importance of grammar is so obvious.
My absolute favorite grammar guide was The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. The above mentioned Mrs. Schmidt used to photocopy pages from her edition to serve as examples in class. As the title might suggest, all the sentence and grammar examples in this text book involve vampires, murderers, werewolves, and other such dark characters. Some sentence examples may not have been entirely....  appropriate for ten year olds, but they illustrated the important grammar lessons we needed to learn. And I find it as no coincidence that this book was published in the year I was born.
The point of The Deluxe Transitive Vampire is to show you readers that grammar, while necessary, can be a lot of fun! And it is vital. What kind of a weekly Zombie Blog (and, yes, I’ll get to the zombies here soon) writer would I be if I didn’t take the time on National Grammar Day to point out the importance of proper sentence structure, correct spelling, and effective punctuation?
As a fun way to brush up on some of the most common misuses of the English language, check out this article on grammar mistakes using zombies as subject matter! This article was first brought to my attention by my blog host, Alicia. I’m not sure whom she got it from or who gave it to her, but it is a great guide all the same! See how I slipped in the use of ‘whom’ versus ‘who?’ It is all important to everyday life! Now, let me warn you all-- there are a couple of grammatical errors in the zombie examples given. I hope that you will forgive the author! As I stated, everyone makes mistakes, even grammar professionals.
One of the most common, and most exciting, places to experience grammar is inside of books and novels. If they have time, most adults choose novels that seem of interest to them and partake in a little pleasure reading. But remember when you were forced to read things you would otherwise never select for yourself? I jump back to my two dedicated teacher, Schmidt and Hawkins. They were always assigning our class novels to read. Some were enjoyable (The Phantom Tollbooth, The Westing Game, To Kill a Mockingbird), others were not (Johnny Tremain, Great Expectations, The Red Badge of Courage). One author I am not particularly fond of is Jane Austen. However last April, a book was published called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It is a reworking of the “classic” Austen novel (yes, read that as sarcasm) set to the background of a zombie uprising. I will admit, despite the awesome subject matter, I have avoided reading this because of my hatred for Jane Austen.
However, this book made me start to think about some other novels that might be cooler with the addition of zombies! These books are already some of my favorites, but would be so much better if they had the living dead in them.
1. The Phantom of the Opera-- one of my all time favorite novels and the basis for so many retellings and movies. Imagine a different Phantom... for the two week period where Erik kidnaps Christine and keeps her with him in his home underneath the Paris Opera House, it isn’t because he is in love and crazy, it is because he is in love and the zombie apocalypse begins! The only way he can save her is to keep her locked inside underground while he goes out and kills zombies! Joseph Buquet? ZOMBIE. He deserved to die.
2. The Lord of the Flies-- An amazing book on its own! A group of boys are stranded on an island and must fight to survive. Their organization quickly breaks down with a threat of an island “Beast.” What if The Beast were real and not an illusion in their minds? What if The Beast turned out to be a horde of zombies!
3. Where the Red Fern Grows-- I don’t know about you, but I hated this book. I mean, I loved this book... until the end. **SPOILER ALERT** Although I can’t imagine too many people haven’t read this, but the boy’s beloved coon dogs die in the end. Why??? I have no idea. A senseless ending to an otherwise wonderful story. So, what if there was a sequel? The boy’s dogs come back as Zombie Dogs and terrorize the boy they once loved! At least then their death would have meaning.
On this National Grammar Day, embrace your love of the English language and all the rules that go with it. Speak correctly, don’t type out stupid things such as “LOL” or “Ill b their 2 c u l8r.” Go read your favorite book! Which would you like to have rewritten with zombies?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Phantasma's New Science Unit

Looks like Phantasma will be busy the next couple of weeks. 
On March 1st we began a new program at the middle school.  The module is on Populations and Ecosystems.  Through hands on investigations, the children will learn about ecology.  Early next week we will study small populations of milkweed bugs.  To learn more and for some great resources as we move through the program, go to log on to the FOS* website  Click on middle school and then Populations and ecosystems.  There is a student area that includes a complete course glossary among other useful things.  There is also a course summary available using the parent link.  Enjoy the rest of the day.  Warm regards, B. Fisher
Fortunate for Phantasma, I know a thing or two about populations and ecosystems. I know about the food chain and food webs. And I know a program that creates those too.

I realize that most of Phantasma's updates involve Science, but that's all that Beth sends. If someone wants to volunteer up some emails for Phantasma's other subjects, please let me know.

*Not the actual website.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Time to Edit is Nigh

Yesterday marked the start of NaNoEdMo, or National Novel Editing Month for people who hate acronyms.

The goal in NaNoEdMo (EdMo for short) is to complete 50 hours of editing on one project, which averages out to 97 minutes a day. If you were successful at NaNoWriMo and are serious about writing, then EdMo shouldn't be a problem. In fact, it should be a requirement.

We know from shitty first drafts, that major editing has to take place. No one's writing is perfect from the moment of creation. We all have that one horrible sentence that talks about Reginald's quivering member; how the sky was a crystalline and radiant blue; or that long-winded sentence that puts the opening to A Tale of Two Cities to shame. Or maybe you don't have that in your prose, and instead you're the proud owner of passive language and an abundance of adjectives.

It's okay to admit that your work needs work.

Even though this is my first year participating in EdMo, I'm a veteran editor. The goal is to edit half of FALLING TO NORMAL.

If you have something kicking around, but lack the motivation to Git-R-Done, join me in NaNoEdMo and sign up. The worse that can happen is you edit a couple of pages.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Habit, Ritual's Less Superstitious Cousin

In last Tuesday's comments, Robert asked if picking certain mugs for specific projects would be considered superstition or habit.

My answer? Habit.

Little Phantasma has problems with her narrative voice whenever it rains. One day, she discovered that if she plays Bjork whenever she suffers from this, she can push through her narrative without too much tweaking later on. Now, whenever it rains, Bjork is played at eleven.

What started out as a way to cope with something turned into a lifestyle choice.

Ritual eventually gives way to habit, but they pretty much go hand-in-hand. It's a simplistic form of learning when reacting to a certain stimuli. And if responding to X by doing Y is the easiest thing, why would try Z? Of course, not all habits come from superstition. I can't explain why I have to fall asleep on my left side, but I do.

What's fascinating is that everyone has them, and we all have at least one "quirk." One of mine is that all my first drafts need to be written in blue.

What quirky habits do you have?
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