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The Force of Memories

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

In honor of the Star Wars Celebration Orlando convention currently happening, here is a post Phillip wrote with thoughts inspired by Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2015.  –S


Star Wars Celebration - SWCA

“Chewie, weʼre home.”

With those lines, from the world premiere of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer at the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim convention, grown men around me were in tears.

I might have gotten a little emotional too. It had been 30 long years since we last saw the Millennium Falcon on the big screen and our two favorite pilots at the helm.

SWCA

Almost that long ago, in the mid-eighties, I remember being a seven-year-old kid, driving through the streets of Phoenix with my Uncle David. I grilled him about the future of the Star Wars and hung on to every morsel of news he passed on to me.

What makes these movies particularly powerful is the shared memories they create, especially across generations.

SWCA

Iʼm not exactly sure when it was when I saw Star Wars (A New Hope) for the first time. I always remember it being a part of my life.

SWCA

“Through the force, things you will see.
Other places. The future… the past.
Old friends long gone.”

–Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars disc

For me, getting together at my grandparents’ house along with my aunts, uncles, and cousins meant a chance to watch Star Wars on Uncle David’s Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) player! I look back on those times now with fond memories.

SWCA

Both of my grandparents have been gone for decades now. Yet when I watch any of the original trilogy movies, the memory of my family and my grandparentsʼ home is forever intertwined in the story of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

Star Wars LEGO

As I got older, I carried on the tradition with my oldest nephew, introducing him to LEGO Star Wars. Cameron and I sat around putting together spaceships for hours. While he is older now, I still cherish the memories of his youthful enthusiasm when I showed him a new set.

SWCA

As we watched the trailer for The Force Awakens at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, everyone there had their own memories to bring to that moment. Memories of how Star Wars connected them to people and events in their own lives. For two minutes, the sights and sounds of a galaxy far, far away brought us a little closer to our own memories of long ago.

They also reminded us to be mindful of the present: the good times are not just in the past.

SWCA

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A Friend in the Cellar

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in Travel | 13 comments

Monticello

Phillip and I are walking through the passage into the cellar under Monticello, when a woman coming the other direction stops us. Because she wants to take a photo. Of us. For us.

Wait…what?

“It just looks so cool with the light filtering through the fog behind you…it’s okay…I work here,” she reassured us with that non-sequitur.

Still slightly stunned, we hand her a phone, pose for a photo, and then find ourselves in a conversation about our visit to Virginia and her work at Monticello (which does not typically involve walking around taking strangers’ photos).

Momticello window

“Have a good trip!” she calls after us when we finally part ways.

I randomly respond with “Thanks! May the Force be with you!”

She stops in her tracks. “Have you seen it?”

Of course, she means the then-newly-released Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, that had shocked fans (including us) with the death of a hero.

“Yes!” I was still moving through the stages of fictional character grief, and she just opened her arms to hug me.

The three of us stood in the passageway awhile longer, talking about the movie and the plot twist and feelings and nostalgia, and it was this beautiful moment of connection in a really unexpected location.

monticello passage by liz marshall




P.S. I just posted more about what to see at Monticello and will be posting how to tackle tickets and tour schedules later this week.

Last photo by Liz Marshall.

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Star Wars vs. Star Trek at Phoenix Symphony

Posted by on Nov 17, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Anyone can like Star Wars, especially in this particular moment in pop culture.

But being a Star Trek fan? Thatʼs different. Thatʼs real science fiction. Thatʼs dangerous. Itʼs more likely to get you beat up on the playground.

Nerds

I can’t remember NOT being a Star Wars fan. Star Trek films started to appeal to me later, in high school. Now I like both Star Wars and Star Trek; this includes the music.

So when the opportunity came up to hear the Phoenix Symphony play music from two of my favorite franchises during Phoenix Comicon (PHXCC) earlier this year, you’d better believe I jumped at the chance! They billed the event as “Star Wars vs. Star Trek,” to play up the (supposed) rivalry between the two camps.

Phoenix convention center and symphony hall

Phoenix Symphony Hall is next door to the Phoenix Convention Center, where PHXCC is held. It is literally steps away, making it the perfect location for a sci-fi driven concert.

However, I had made my way there from work and a rushed dinner, so I didn’t benefit from the close proximity – arriving grumpy and frazzled. Fortunately, my grumpy mood began to dissolve as I spoke to a couple of people and found that there were others around me that had a love for both franchises. I was among friends!

Phxcc symphony

15 minutes before the concert started, the concert hall was already mostly full and abuzz with excitement. You could tell by the t-shirts that Star Wars fans were there in force. I also saw quiet a few Starfleet uniforms in various shades of pastels and primary colors.

As much as I love the Wars, that night I wanted to side with the Trek underdog. Also, having heard the music of Star Wars many, many, many times before, I was looking forward even more to hearing Trek music. I had never heard any of it in a live symphonic concert.

Before the music started, the emcee announced that members of the audience could vote for their favorite franchise between the two, which would determine the evening’s encore number. I felt like I couldnʼt lose either way!

On to the music!

Phoenix Comicon 2016 PHXCC

Star Trek

Did you know that composer James Horner, who wrote the music for Titanic, Braveheart, and Avatar, also wrote the film score for two Star Trek movies (ST II: The Wrath of Khan, and ST III: The Search for Spock)?!

The evening’s selections included the stirring “Epilogue/End Title” from The Wrath of Khan. According to Phoenix Symphony conductor Tito Muñoz, it was Hornerʼs score for this 1982 film that brought him to the wider attention of Hollywood.

Phxcc symphony

I was kind of bummed to see only about a third of the program devoted to Trek, and I would’ve liked to hear more music from the original movies – for example, “Iliaʼs Theme” by Jerry Goldsmith or Cliff Eidelmanʼs exhilarating music to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Music from the more recent movies, including the score by Michael Giacchino for 2009ʼs Star Trek, seemed weaker than earlier Star Trek pieces. It didnʼt have the thematic drive and majesty that Horner or Goldsmithʼs scores had or the funky ’60s originality of Alexander Courageʼs theme to the original series.

For me, the real Trek showstopper of the night was the Star Trek Medley, which included themes from the various eras of the franchise. I loved the Original Series theme, replete with the original jazzy/worldbeat percussion arrangement. The medley also included the main theme to the Star Trek Voyager TV show. I had forgotten how majestic this theme was, and it was enough to make me want to go out and buy that music.
Symphony Program

Star Wars

I was excited by most of the selections for Wars. Of course, there were the concert mainstays such as the “Main Title” and the “Imperial March.” Even people who have never seen Star Wars have heard these themes.

What got me really excited was seeing “Princess Leiaʼs Theme” and some pieces from the newest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, on the program, including “Reyʼs Theme,” “The March of the Resistance,” and – my personal favorite from the new movie – “Jedi Steps.”

A photo posted by Brian Poole (@shirejedi) on

  I already own “Princess Leiaʼs Theme,” and Iʼve heard it a million times. However, seeing it played live was transcendent. The music itself is gorgeous. Of all the pieces that night, it was probably the most fun to see, because of the various solos. Although the French horn played in a rhythm that either betrayed that he wasnʼt familiar with the original or was trying too hard at his own artistic interpretation, the other soloists – on flute, oboe, and violin – were able to shine. Between these solo performances, the full orchestra waxes and wanes dramatically before ending softly. The violinist finished with a note that soared as high as the summer temperatures outside but with the quiet confidence of the eponymous princess of the song. It was amazing and perfect. By the time the song ended, the otherwise rowdy audience was so captivated you could hear a pin drop. This is the power of live music; to have seventy-some highly trained musicians bend their collective skills toward a unified effort is the pinnacle of ephemeral and transcendent craft. What a phenomenal way to connect the Phoenix Symphony to a wider public! Phxcc

Encore

Are you wondering who won at the end of the night? You could probably have guessed: Tito Muñoz took the stage for the final encore carrying a red lightsaber. The Wars had won, and he conducted a triumphant encore performance of the “Imperial March” – using the lightsaber in place of his conducting baton! The Force may have been with Star Wars that evening but may the music of both live long and prosper.

A photo posted by Chris Jorich (@cjphx86) on

– More info –

  • Did you see the video we took just after the concert? See what other Star Trek and Star Wars fans thought of the performance.
  • The Phoenix Symphony will be presenting Star Wars: The Music on January 13.
  • Where to eat and what to see near Phoenix Symphony Hall and the Phoenix Convention Center.


Images:

1) made with WeKnowMemes.

3) taken by a concert attendee.

All others by Phillip and Stephanie Liebold.


We were guests of the Phoenix Symphony.

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Exploring Salem: Day One

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

[Ever been to Salem, MA? Me neither. Fortunately, Jessica Tennant of My Path to Mommyhood took a road trip there this summer from her home in upstate New York and is telling us all about it! –S]

Salem

My husband Bryce and I go to Maine every summer. There is nothing quite so beautiful as coastal Maine, and we get to see many different parts of the state because my in-laws live in the capital area, which is central to just about everything.

It just takes a REALLY long time to get there, so we’ve started stopping partway on the way there and the way back, which gives us the added benefit of exploring New England.

Salem - coach house inn tile

Weekend in Salem

This year, we decided on a romantic weekend in Salem, Massachusetts to break up the trip to Maine.

I had actually never been to Salem before, which is a shame. Salem is a tremendously kooky town, full of serious and tragic history (ahem, witch trials) as well as an affinity for ghosties, ghoulies, and all things Halloween, and a literary history involving Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft. It has cobblestone streets, tremendously old houses, and a red line painted throughout town called the Heritage Trail – following it sends you past many interesting historical attractions.

Coach House, Salem by boblinsdell

Bed and Breakfast

We stayed in The Coach House Inn, a bed and breakfast on Lafayette Street. It was built as a Victorian ship captain’s house in 1879. The inn was great, the innkeeper was very helpful and hospitable, and the breakfasts were continental and came in a Red-Riding-Hood style basket to your door at 8:30 in the morning, like magic.

Salem Breakfast

One thing about the Coach House that wasn’t so great was the location. It was right on the street that leads you straight into historic Salem, but, to get there, you had to walk through a fairly sketchy (and, as we heard from locals, heroin-plagued) section of town. We walked once and used Uber to go home and then took advantage of street parking after that…so if you don’t mind driving instead of walking, it’s perfectly lovely.

image

Geek Pizza

Our favorite place to eat was Flying Saucer Pizza Company, which sounds like a strange choice for me as a person with Celiac disease, but it had delicious and safe gluten-free options. AND, it was decked out in art and action figures and all kinds of paraphernalia from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the Avengers, Ghostbusters…it was a terrifically geeky place! All the pizzas were named after various things from sci-fi, and they have a Space Pug, Charlie, who is their mascot.

I had The Vision pizza, TWICE (for dinner the first night and lunch the next day, because it was THAT GOOD), which had walnut pesto, cheese blend, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic fig. Does that not sound amazing? The regular pizza was excellent too, with Bryce mumbling “This is THE BEST pizza I have EVER HAD” to the server with his mouth full of a Hawaiian-style pizza with jalapeño peppers.

Salem burying point

Ghost Tour

It was an appropriately thunderstormy night for a ghost tour with Black Cat Tours. Our guide was dressed in old-timey clothing and delivered a great mix of historical and paranormal tales. He brought us through the burying ground, past an original house that was restored and, apparently, has a very Ring-like ghost of a girl who was quarantined in the attic for having scarlet fever and peeks out the windows.

image

Giles Corey

There was a section of the burying ground that had stone benches jutting from a stone wall, with each bench etched with one of the names of the witch trial victims and the date of their death.

All were hanged except one – Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft in his 80s (but, lest you think he’s a good guy, he also accused his wife), and knew that if he was convicted or confessed he would lose his property to pay for his time in jail (yup, they had to pay for their meals and everything they got in the deplorable jail conditions themselves). He refused to confess or consent to be tried. He was tortured to death through “pressing” – they lay a board on him laden with more and more stone weights every time he refused to consent.

Although he died, he saved his property from confiscation this way, and now you know what it really means to be pressed for an answer (!)

Supposedly, he haunted the head of law enforcement who had him arrested, hanging out at the end of his bed and causing chest pains.

Salem

Favorite Haunts

We also learned of an angry divorcee ghost who haunts the space where they have weddings and dances and other events, tries to push people down the stairs, and wreaks havoc on art displays, stomping around the top floor and going down invisible stairs that don’t exist anymore to frighten people on the first floor.

We didn’t personally see any of the ghosts, but thought the tour was fabulously spooky and informative. (Who knew the inspiration for The Tell-Tale Heart was a real-life murder of a stingy old captain by his caretaker right there in Salem?) I am a sucker for a good ghost tour, and this one was atmospheric and not corny at all.

So much to do and see in the first day, how could our second day in Salem compare?

[Part 2 is coming up on Monday!]


Photos –
1, 2, 6: Jessica Tennant.

5: Doug Kerr on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.
3, 4, 7: Robert Linsdell on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.

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DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon

Posted by on Sep 22, 2016 in Craft | 0 comments

DIY Costume Hacks

There are lots of reasons to wear a costume coming up: this weekend is Keen Halloween (more on that in the last section), then there’s Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, followed closely by actual Halloween. Plus, all the various October costume parties and fall festivals and whatnot.

If there’s such thing as a costume-wearing season, this would be it. And, if you were thinking of making your own costume, then costuming panelists from Phoenix Comicon 2016 have some tips to help you out.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon - duct tape panel

1. Duct tape

You can make an entire costume from duct tape. In fact, one speaker, Huntington Keith, won a scholarship contest by making Firefly cosplay/prom outfits for himself and his date. It took about 40 hours of work for him to construct her shindig-worthy dress with its layers and layers of ruffles. He also made himself a tux.

He shared lessons he learned through trial and error that could help with your next duct tape creation.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon

Duct tape dos:

  • Use a flat surface to construct your costume.
  • Stretch it as taut as possible.
  • Use scissors or an X-Acto knife to cut.
  • Covering a t-shirt or other piece of fabric will help the costume breathe better.
  • Create texture by putting things such as twine between the layers of tape.
  • Buy in bulk. 30 yards will typically cost $5-6, but you may be able to find better prices online.
  • Use the color/s you want or find a type of paint that adheres to polyurethane (most don’t).

Duct tape don’ts:

  • Because the adhesive starts to melt at about 175 degrees, you can’t mold it like thermoplastics. A residue will form and the top starts to shrivel off.
  • It will break a regular sewing machine.
  • Permanent marker doesn’t stay.
  • Paint usually flakes off.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon
Making a closure for your costume:

  • The ideal closure is actually a piece of duct tape.
  • You can handstitch a zipper on, but it would need to be lateral because stress is a problem.
  • Hook-and-loop tape may not work when it gets hot.

 Phoenix Comicon knits

2. Knitting and Crochet

Shirley Will‏ (a.k.a. @BooMeringue) had a funny and informative panel about knitting and crochet for cosplay. I don’t actually know how to do either of those things, and I was still entertained.

She brought up the fact that knitting and crocheting can look intricate – but there are only so many kinds of stitches.

Knitting for cosplay

Iconic knit costumes for nerds:

Since she felt the stripe was too large in most patterns for Jayne’s hat, she created her own. She started by measuring a screenshot from Firefly of Adam Baldwin as Jayne. After estimating the width of the stripe was about the length of his nose, she texted several male friends to ask for their nose measurements(!) and based her pattern on the average. The result is a much more proportionate pattern for a hat that, for legal reasons, she calls the Not-Jayne hat.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon
More ideas:

  • Crocheted cogs for steampunk.
  • Make a wide brim on a beanie and fold it up to make a tri-corner or pirate hat.
  • Hood with Ewok ears.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon
Tips:

  • There are tons of craft tutorials online. If the first one doesn’t work for you, keep looking!
  • Make gauge swatches. She says, “People hate making gauge swatches, but it’ll save your life! You can use any yarn with any pattern if the gauge is right.”
  • Have a backup “comfy” cosplay, in case you need a break from your costume or something doesn’t work.

Shirley sells knitting patterns (as well as finished products) in her Etsy shop. There are some free patterns on her site and on gutenberg.org. I also came across Harry Potter knitting patterns on Ravelry and knittingfornerds.com.
Phoenix Comicon 2016 PHXCC No-Sew Cosplay

3. Other No-Sew Techniques

I ducked in to the tail end of a No-Sew Cosplay panel hosted by artist and cosplayer KatDensetsu.

I was just in time for a discussion of cross-play and binding techniques for women who want to make themselves appear less busty when portraying male characters. (Think Éponine disguising herself in Les Misérables.)

As far as making costumes without sewing, certain materials don’t require sewing and can just be cut to size. There’s also a lot you can do using fabric glue, thrift store finds, paint, and/or iron-on transfers.

DIY Costume Hacks from Phoenix Comicon - No-sew cosplay

Learn more about costume-making and cosplay!

This weekend (9/24-25) is Keen Halloween, which has several craft and costuming panels on the schedule.

Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest is October 22-23 (earlier than in past years) and will feature cosplay meetups and panels on topics like costuming mashups.

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