Archive for the ‘The Internet’ Category

When We Rise: The San Francisco Premiere

As a volunteer with GLAAD, I received an invitation to attend the February 20th premiere of When We Rise, Dustin Lance Black’s new ABC miniseries chronicling the LGBTQ rights movement, focusing on the lives of several San Francisco activists. I invited a friend as my plus one and submitted my RSVP, although I wasn’t sure about an 8 hour marathon or the “first come first served” seating. Then my friend got sick, and the day arrived with heavy rain and 60 mph winds expected by the evening. Still, I braved the elements alone and headed to the Castro Theatre.

When I arrived in the Castro at 1pm, the doors to the cinema had just opened. At first I got into the wrong line, where the production folks were checking in. One of the young actors turned around and was very helpful pointing out the right line. I wasn’t sure any of the cast would be there, so this was a happy omen. My line went down the block and just around the corner of 18th Street. After I got there, many more folks arrived behind me. A friendly young woman with an ABC7 cap came by to explain what to expect. She assured us we’d all get in at that point in the line. We’d be checked in and given wristbands, which would allow us to come and go during the breaks. Everyone attending would also get a ticket for a free drink and a bag of popcorn.

I chatted with the guys around me, and there was some confusion about how much of the miniseries would be shown. Dustin Lance Black tweeted that we’d watch the whole 8 hours, but the numbering of the episodes is confusing. IMDb says there are 8 episodes, Wikipedia says 7 parts, but it’s being shown on 4 nights. Anyway, the ABC7 woman assured us we’d be seeing the entire miniseries, in four segments, with two 15 minute breaks and one 2 hour dinner break. The program would start at 2pm and end around 11:30pm.

There were still plenty of seats on the ground floor when I got in, but I headed to the balcony for a front row seat above. You don’t get a crick in your neck looking up at the screen there. Since we’d be spending a lot of time together, I introduced myself to several of the folks in my section. The young guy behind me worked as an extra in several scenes, so it was fun to hear to his stories.

Dustin Lance Black went up onstage with a microphone to introduce the first segment, saying that many of the activists depicted in the series were in the audience. He also pointed out that without the commercials, each segment was shorter than two hours. Zeke Stokes of GLAAD also spoke, and later in the day Roma Guy, Cecilia Chung, and Cleve Jones got up onstage to address the audience. We also had a song performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

During the screening, the audience cheered a lot—when familiar names were said, when well-known landmarks were shown, and when serious truths were spoken. The SF Chronicle says we booed the villains, but I only heard hissing.

Because When We Rise doesn’t air on ABC until next week (February 27th, then March 1st-3rd), I can’t share much about it yet. I never give plot spoilers anyway. I will say that the lesser-known young actors are terrific. These include Jonathan Majors, Adam DiMarco, Rafael De La Fuente, Fiona Dourif, Nick Eversman, Kevin McHale (familiar from Glee) and so many more. Austin P. McKenzie as the younger Cleve Jones had my heart from his first moments onscreen. I also really connected emotionally with Emily Skeggs as the younger Roma Guy. This kind of connection is crucial if the viewer is going to stick with these characters through a miniseries. I can’t count the number of shows I’ve seen where I appreciated the quality but didn’t care enough about any one character to keep watching.

During our first break, I met Emily Skeggs. It’s great to watch someone onscreen for the first time (whether it’s their first time or just yours), and then be able to tell them right away how much their performance has touched you. This is one of the reasons Twitter is so addictive, but doing it in person is so much more satisfying. I’m certain that many more viewers like me will be looking up these young actors and following them on social media. I was already doing that at the dinner break.

A tip for those folks looking at the cast lists online—at this point, the IMDb page is incomplete. Kevin McHale and Rafael de la Fuente, for example, are not yet listed. Wikipedia includes them and several other actors not listed on IMDb, but it’s not complete either.

At the end of the screening, all the folks involved with the production went up onstage. I left the balcony and came down to the front in time to video a bit of the song Oh Happy Day, and then it was done. I said hello to Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley, then met Austin P. McKenzie and Kevin McHale (such a charmer, that one!).

I came out of the theatre to find that the rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing hard. I rode the bus home with a couple of fellow viewers, and we talked about our impressions of the miniseries. I got home tired but still wired from the experience.

I’m looking forward to watching When We Rise again next week. It will be interesting to compare the difference seeing it on a small screen, without an audience, and with the ad breaks.

This miniseries will hopefully inspire viewers to read more about the activists and the history of this struggle for equality, understanding, and respect. There’s so much more to learn. The book When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones is a good place to start.

Thank you to Dustin Lance Black and everyone involved for making this miniseries. Thank you to GLAAD and ABC for the privilege of attending this amazing event.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/LGBT-community-sees-its-story-told-in-When-We-10948675.php

https://ripplenews.com/watch/san-francisco/when-we-rise-shows-emotional-powerful-san-francisco-lgbt-movement-1s7r0o5h (This is a video of the premiere from local ABC7 news.)

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/When-We-Rise-a-story-of-past-struggle-and-a-10954771.php

Tom Daley’s video of the premiere:

I’m Back!

After a 3+ year break, I’ve decided to start posting again.

Why?

The same reason I started this blog in 2010. Instead of driving friends crazy with my obsessions, I can share them here and find other fans with the same interests. Even when I’m the only one here, the blog keeps me open and searching for new things to post.

Why did I stop?

When I first began this site, I was doing lots of writing, which doesn’t come easy. I got better at it, but it’s less effort to play in Photoshop—enhancing screen captures, making memes, restoring old photos, etc. Unfortunately, when you share those online, you end up providing free content for Pinterest and Tumblr, not to mention the folks who think “google search” is some kind of a public domain free-for-all. (“I didn’t steal your photo. I got it on google!”) I also learned to edit videos, which sucked up all my free time. Finally, I became too singularly focused on one actor who already had websites devoted to him, so he didn’t need another one.

And now?

I’m trying to keep the focus wide. No more singular obsessions! (Until the next one.) I also want to focus more on local entertainment. I’ve missed some great stuff here in San Francisco, just because I was too busy moaning about where I’m not. The plan is to write more, Photoshop less, and watermark everything!

What’s new?

These days, I’m watching four different foreign soaps: EastEnders from the UK, Neighbours and Home and Away from Australia, and Shortland Street from New Zealand. That’s 19 episodes each week, but thankfully they’re only 20-30 minutes long. I love A Place To Call Home, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Janet King, Please Like Me, and Jack Irish (all Australian TV series). I’m also watching Poldark, Victoria, Outlander, Quarry, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, Code Black, Lucifer, and Mercy Street.

I’ve added some new actors to my “favorites watch list,” and they include Marta Dusseldorp, Anna McGahan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Tveit, Jesse Lee Soffer, Christian Kane, Michael Fassbender, George MacKay, Ben Schnetzer, Nick Robinson, Alden Ehrenreich, and Matthew James Thomas.

I recently got a 7″ Kindle Fire, so that’s been a small revolution. Before now I resisted touch screens, tablets, and electronic readers. I’ve played a few games on the Kindle, watched a few videos, sampled all the features, and hey, I’m even reading books.

So, I’m finding my way around the blog again, trying to learn all the changes that WordPress has made to the platform since 2013. Let’s see how this goes.

One more thing.

If you’re a subscriber and you’ve forgotten why you’re getting this in your inbox, well, who can blame you?! If what entertains me now no longer entertains you, don’t feel bad about unsubscribing. Otherwise, thanks for sticking around, and be sure to let me know what’s new with you. We have a lot of catching up to do!

MANOS: The Hands of Felt

One of the worst movies ever made, some say THE worst, is MANOS: The Hands of Fate (1966).  Aficionados of bad cinema have embraced this piece of  little gem and kept it from disappearing into obscurity.   Well, some sick talented folks up in Seattle have put together a puppet show that combines the behind-the-scenes story of making the film with the movie itself, and they even added song and dance numbers!  Since I can’t get up to Seattle to witness it in person, I’ve joined the Kickstarter campaign to make it into a film.   Hey, for five dollars you get the download AND your name in the credits.  (I’m really excited about that credit part.)   Join in and become a footnote key player in the continuing evolution of the MANOS phenomenon.  The Master will be so delighted.  MANOS campaign on Kickstarter

Manos Poster

My Year End Wrap Up 2012

Another year has slipped away, and here I sit, reflecting back on what entertained me in 2012.  I always start my wrap up by going back to the beginning of the year, to see how my interests have changed.  I began the year dividing my time between British stuff and vintage television shows…and that’s exactly where I find myself now.  Only the faces have changed!

Best Books:  Might as well get the embarrassment out of the way first.  Normally I read a couple of books a week, but I went 8 months out of the last 12 without finishing a single book!  Oh, the shame.  I could blame my eyes, since I need new glasses, but the real truth is that I spend too much time online.  Making videos has also sucked up my reading time, but that’s for another category.  Of the small selection of books read this year, I really enjoyed Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, and Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim.  (More about Arngrim’s book in an upcoming post.)  The biggest disappointment was Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.

Best Television:  My television is usually always tuned to either Me-TV or CBS, except on Sunday night, when I watch Masterpiece on PBS.  I still enjoy The Big Bang Theory, but I do think it’s losing something from having too many separate storylines, with the characters spending less time gathered in the same living room.  More characters means less screen time for favorites Sheldon and Raj.  I discovered Leverage in reruns just as the show got cancelled, but at least I have five seasons to explore further.  Since September, I’ve been enjoying reruns of Emergency! on Me-TV.  Another season of Sherlock brought more delight, as well as more Inspector Lewis.  Thanks to a friend, I’m now back to enjoying EastEnders, the British serial drama, and already my life wouldn’t be complete without weekly visits to Albert Square.   This year’s favorite program was Call the Midwife, featuring new favorite Miranda Hart as the wonderful Chummy.  I can’t wait for more of this series!

Best Twitter:   I’m very picky about twitter.  Too much shameless self-promotion?  Unfollow.   Too many retweets?  Unfollow.   Too many conversations that should be private?  Unfollow.  No sense of humor?  I shouldn’t have been following in the first place!  I enjoy humor, whimsy,  and folks who don’t take themselves too seriously.   The most consistently entertaining tweets this year have come from Josh Groban.  I’ve also enjoyed following Russell Tovey.  I can count on a friend to share the best of Demetri Martin and The Onion, so I guess they count, too!

Best Theatre:  Oops.  Didn’t see any.  Never mind.

Best Movies:   I had good luck with the movies I saw in the cinema this year.  Mind you, I still haven’t seen three of the four films I was most looking forward to in 2012, so they will have to wait until 2013!  The Avengers was terrific, and I also enjoyed Life of PiThe Dark Knight Rises wasn’t a favorite, but Tom Conti and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made it worthwhile for me.   I saw my first 3D movie, John Carter, but I’m not a fan of the technology.  It was a great year for silents: Napoleon was stunning, and I also saw three films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, with The Canadian (1926) making the deepest impression.   Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan had an entertaining beginning and middle, but I was disappointed by the third act.  The best new film I saw in 2012 was Argo.

Best DVDs:  I spent six months of this year with Wagon Train at the top of my Netflix queue.  They never sent me any on the discs, and my queue always said “short wait.”  I could have bought the DVDs for the money I spent on my Netflix plan, especially since I wasn’t watching the discs they sent me instead.  I cancelled my account.   This means I can’t go look at my history for this year to review, but this an easy category.  The best DVDs of my year have been the classic television western Laramie, particularly seasons one and two.  When I’m not watching the episodes again and again, I’m making tribute videos and posting them on YouTube.  I now have more YouTube followers than blog followers!   Which leads me to a new category…

Best Time-Sucker-Upper:  Call it a hobby, a passion, an obsession, a skill or an art.  But this year I started making videos, and now I can’t stop.  I’d been making slideshows using still images at animoto.com, and this summer I tried using their template program for short video clips.  It was okay, but I didn’t like their wide border which wasted space, so it forced me to try Windows Movie Maker.  I had no idea it would be so much fun!  My Laramie tribute videos aren’t very interesting to people who aren’t fans of the series, but I’m proud of my channel and grateful for all my followers.

Best Music:  Mostly I’ve listened to older stuff this year.  When Davy Jones died, I started listening to lots of the Monkees.  I love Gaelic Storm’s album How Are We Getting Home? (2004), discovered in a stack of my own CDs that I never got around to hearing.  I’m definitely going to listen to more of this group in 2013.  I’ve also been enjoying lots of Kate Rusby.  One of my favorite new old songs is “Can’t Turn My Heart Away” by Art Garfunkel.  I’m still enjoying The Book of Mormon Broadway soundtrack, but I learned the hard way not to listen to it in public.  Even with earphones, you look like a nutter snickering at the lyrics.

Best Music Video:  My choices are never conventional, but that’s what you get for taking musical advice from me!   Here’s my favorite:

Never mind that it was uploaded in 2008.  It’s still the most adorable video I’ve seen on YouTube this year!  If you don’t know it, this is India’s national anthem.

Best New-To-Me Software:   Handbrake for ripping DVDs, and Google Talk for saving me a fortune on phone bills.  I chat now with friends around the world, without the complications of installing Skype, and no webcam to show everyone how hideous I look through a fisheye lens.

Entertainer of the Year:  Honorable Mention this year goes to Miranda Hart.  I discovered her in Call the Midwife, and now I’m enjoying her comedy on YouTube and her BBC series Miranda.  The winner is an easy choice.  In April, I purchased season one of Laramie on DVD, and by the end of May, I was a member of Robert Fuller’s official fan group.  While my favorite role is Jess Harper in Laramie, I’ve been enjoying Wagon Train, Emergency!, and all of Fuller’s other television shows and movies.   I’ve spent hours chatting with other fans, making tribute videos and collages, and searching ebay for vintage photos.  For so much entertainment in so many different ways, Robert Fuller is my Entertainer of the Year.  Thank you, Mr. Fuller!

Jess Harper whip blog crp

Robert Fuller in Laramie

A Sci-Fi Goof

I was watching hulu.com last night, when an ad for Battlestar Galactica interrupted my program.   I usually don’t pay attention during ad breaks, but this graphic in the middle of the trailer jumped out at me.  Maybe the spell checker was replaced by an evil Cylon?!

Hulu ad for Battlestar Galactica

Two Years Old

The Ugly Bug Ball turns two today!

When I first started blogging, I read that it takes about two years for a blog to get established and find an audience.  Not encouraging!  I wasn’t sure that it would last for two months, but I’m still committed and enthusiastic.

I recently watched a few episodes of Party Down with Jane Lynch.  I cringed when the geeky cater-waiter kept telling people, “I have a very active blog.”  Identifying yourself as a blogger isn’t particularly cool, and everybody and his dog now has a blog, a tumblr site, and probably even a pinterest board.  People are so busy doing their own thing.  I’m sincerely grateful for every visitor, especially those who take the time to leave a comment.

My first year, I published 95 posts.  This year, I managed 145 posts.  There are new subscribers, and my daily traffic has more than doubled.  To be realistic, many of my “visitors” never actually land on these pages, because of the way image search engines work.  WordPress recently added a world map to their detailed stats, so I now enjoy seeing where my visitors are located.  Most are in the US and the UK, but some are in Poland, Brazil, Hong Kong…even Malta!

I’ve tried to keep things balanced with lots of different topics.  Of course, what I call “balance,” others might call “lack of focus.”  When I’m in the grip of an obsession, I could easily go overboard.  Fortunately, most of the things that fascinate me already have devoted fan sites that I can’t compete with.  On the other hand, it would get too monotonous if I stuck with just the topics that bring the most visitors.  These include Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Ramin Karimloo, and Hadley Fraser.  I feel an obligation to the subscribers who follow me because of the these interests.  I added a West End Index page for those who don’t want to scroll through all the other content.  I also invite friends to write concert and theatre reviews, since I’ve never seen Karimloo or Fraser perform in person.  My first year, I would have been horrified at the idea of guest bloggers, but now I’m delighted when friends contribute to these pages.

I think my favorite post in this second year is Postcards from Camp Hell.  I had a great time putting it together, although it was a struggle not to correct my adolescent spelling and grammar.  I also really enjoyed writing My Huckleberry Friend, My Sondheim Summer, The Rifleman, and all the Stage Door/Celebrity Encounter posts.  There are a lot more photo essays than before, and my favorite is Tanya and Chloe.  Getting silly in photoshop has also been very entertaining.  Congratulations, Jeff Nicholson! is probably my best creation, but I also love a good birthday party.

Making videos and posting them on YouTube began with Enation’s “video for a cause” contest back in July.  I didn’t win, but I definitely got hooked.  It’s another chance to get creative in photoshop.  Now I check my YouTube stats almost as often as my blog stats.  I also finally overcame my aversion to twitter.  Mostly.

I’m not really sure what the future will bring.  I keep getting the feeling that something new should be arriving any minute to grab my attention, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.  Bear with me until it does, and then bear with me when it does!  Thank you to all my friends who keep me going with encouragement and support.  It’s not a ball when you’re dancing alone.

I wanted to post a photo here of this great cake, but I didn’t hear back from my request for permission.  Take a look, and be sure to click the enlarge button!  Who wouldn’t want a frosting slug?!

Wil Wheaton’s Book Event, 2005

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Like many, I first saw Wil Wheaton in Stand By Me (1986), then watched him mature on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94).   He dropped off my radar for many years after that.  I gradually became aware that Wheaton was writing and blogging.  When I started working at Borders Books, I spent a lot of time browsing the entertainment section.  I knew of Wheaton’s Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek.   One day, Wheaton visited the store as a regular customer.  Whenever we had a famous person came into the store, the news spread quickly.  From a distance, I watched him talking animatedly to a co-worker.   He looked friendly and approachable, but I didn’t go over to meet him.  Later, I started reading his blog and leaving the occasional comment.  I also read his books and enjoyed them.  When he posted on his blog that he was appearing at the January 2005 MacWorld convention here in San Francisco, I left a comment encouraging him to visit my Borders again.  He messaged me about doing a book reading.  When I asked the area event coordinator, she told me I would have to organize it myself.  I’d been assisting with lots of events, so I felt ready to take it on.

I had to make sure we had enough copies of Wheaton’s books in the store, although I had no idea how many fans would turn up.  I posted flyers at nearby computer stores to get the word out.  The hardest part?  Getting the event added to the Borders website and automated phone information line.  I don’t think those ever got fixed.  Of course, the most effective promotion was Wheaton’s own blog post about the event:

“Good news, everyone!

When the press release went out about MacWorld, a lot of WWdN readers asked if there would be a reading or signing for people who were unable to afford admission to the conference.

Well, it turns out that we have a mole at Borders in Union Square. She made an introduction for me, and I am super excited to announce that I’ve been invited to their store for a reading and signing when I’m in town!

It looks like the Borders website hasn’t been updated yet, but I’m scheduled for Friday January 14th at 7pm.

Oh! I just got a Really Big Idea™, that could be a whole bunch of Supercool: I have a short list of stories from Just A Geek that I choose from when I perform at bookstores. Based on comments and e-mail, I know there are a lot of WWdN readers in NorCal. How about, instead of me choosing what to read, I let you guys pick what you’d like to hear? If you’re planning to come out on the 14th, say so in the comments, and leave a brief description, or chapter number, or page number, or whatever, and the majority will rule.”

I was excited and nervous when the day arrived.  Once the chairs were in place, the book displays set up, and the posters hung around the store, I just had to wait.  Some enthusiastic fans showed up really early to get good seats, and one of them came up to me to complain.  He’d heard a skeptical employee making snide comments about Wheaton.  It was just the kind of attitude that Wheaton was writing about, coming from people who thought of him as “that guy who played Wesley Crusher.”  I let my supervisor deal with the situation and went off on my dinner break.

When I got back to the store, a co-worker told me that Wheaton had arrived and was waiting in the employee area.  I rushed down and found him alone, sitting on a desk.  I felt bad, because the people who came to do store events were often given the manager’s office and some VIP treatment.  I presented Wheaton with some gifts and introduced him around, and he signed my copy of Just a Geek.  Then we took the elevator upstairs to find a big crowd waiting.  In fact, it was standing room only.  I got to do the introduction, and somebody took a photo and posted it on the internet the next day.  I can’t believe I wore that sweater!  Oh well, nobody was there to see me.

Wheaton had the crowd right from the start.  He’s a great reader.  Somebody posted a brief video of his reading on YouTube:

After the reading, the folks waiting to get their books signed were in good spirits, and it was obvious that Wheaton was enjoying himself.  I should have ordered more copies of Dancing Barefoot, because we ran out. Wheaton was also a great salesman for his favorite poker books.  I kept myself busy taking lots of photos of everything.  The event coordinator dropped by to check things out, and it seemed to me she was basking in the glow of a successful event that wasn’t her own.  Several of my co-workers told me that it was one of our best, including the skeptic.  After it was all over and I was saying goodbye, I finally got awkward talking to Wheaton.  It’s always easier when you’re kept busy!  I was excited to see how he would describe the evening on his blog.  As far as I know, he never got around to it.  It only took me seven years to get around to it, but I’ve got an excuse.  I haven’t been blogging that long!

Later, I received a delightful email from Wheaton:

Hey Stacey,
I have this horrible habit of getting so overwhelmed by everything, I do 
nothing.

. . . like remember to thank you for sending me the amazing photos you 
took when I was up in San Francisco. Oh, I've looked at them and I've 
showed them off to my kids and my friends . . . and I've said, out loud, 
"Stacey was so cool, and look at all this great stuff she helped me get 
done . . ."

But I kept forgetting to just sit my stupid ass down here and type it 
out to you.

Thank you, so very, very much, for making it possible for me to read in 
your store. 

I owe you, big time, and I won't ever forget it.

So thank you for sending me such great photos, and thank you for all 
your support.

I hope this finds you well,
Wil

I saw Wil Wheaton again in fall 2009, at his first wOOtstock performance in San Francisco.  He remembered me, but I made a big bOO-bOO.  I went up to say hello while he was tweeting (bad twitter etiquette?) right before his performance.  I couldn’t stick around after the show, but it’s not cool to bother a performer before they go on.  Anyway, wOOtstock was great, and I’d love to go to another one.  I very much enjoy Wheaton’s guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory.  Did he influence me to start blogging?  Maybe just a bit!

Other reports of the event:      stomachpains      brainwagon

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