Category Archives: The Internet

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

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Filed under Movies, The Internet, Theatre, Videos

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

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Filed under Actors, Literature, Movies, Music, Television, The Internet, Videos

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

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Filed under The Internet

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?!

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Filed under Actors, Photography, Television, The Internet, Theatre

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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Kony 2012

Some things are far more important than being entertained.  I just spent 30 minutes watching the Kony 2012 documentary on YouTube.  I’m sharing it here, to help spread the word about an important cause. (This video is better seen on YouTube in a higher resolution.)

This is a powerful film that works on an emotional level.  There are critics of Invisible Children’s support of military intervention who are also hard at work on the internet.  I trust people will look at what both sides are saying and make up their own minds about how best to get involved.

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Filed under Real Life, The Internet

Confessions of a Computer Junkie

I am an internet addict.  I once used the internet as a tool, but now spending time on the computer visiting the same sites repeatedly has become my primary form of entertainment.  Frankly, it’s not very entertaining.  I’m not reading books or watching movies the way I did before.  So, in order to break out of this bad habit, I’ve made a Lenten vow to cut the time I spend on the internet in half.  I’m not counting my work in photoshop, because that’s usually creative.  I’m also not reducing the time I spend writing, whether it’s for posts here or messages to friends.  These are too important and too satisfying.  It’s just not productive to check my visitor stats three times an hour, or twitter or facebook or email or ebay or YouTube.  So far, it’s working out okay.  I’ve read half a book in the last two days, and I’m even enjoying my time on the computer more than before.  I’m hoping that the time I spend away will result in more interesting blog posts, since the quality of what entertains me is reflected here.

I have another confession to make.  I spend way too much time on the internet correcting mistakes and submitting complaints.  I’m constantly removing my hands from the keyboard and telling myself, “You are not the internet police.  This is not your job!”  Here’s a good example.  Tonight my book club is discussing Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop.  I got the book out of the library over the summer, kept it for nine weeks, and never got past page fifty.  We have a very good rule at book club—you can come if you haven’t read the book, but you can’t join in the discussion.  If I don’t go to enjoy the company, not to mention all the wine and snacks, then I’ll just sit at home browsing the internet again.  This morning I went to cliffsnotes.com (oh, the horror!) to read the summary in order to follow tonight’s discussion. There was a sloppy error in the synopsis, obvious even to someone who hasn’t read the book, so of course I had to submit a correction to the site.  Yesterday I complained to iTunes because I had to enter my credit card number and mailing address just to use the “like” button on an album page.  It’s bad enough that you have to waste time downloading an entire software package just to browse their store.  Spending less time on the computer will not reduce my urge to correct and complain, but I won’t have as much time to follow through.

I know I need to stay off ebay, but at least I rarely spend money there.  I have become fascinated by the selling of cancelled checks as “authenticated autographs.”  Seriously.  People are auctioning bank checks, either written to or by celebrities.  When they’re written to a celebrity, it’s the endorsement on the back that is the valued autograph.  Woe to any collector whose favorite celebrity had an accountant that used a rubber stamp!  My favorite so far is a check written by Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) to a Hollywood grocery store in 1974.  It is the amount that intrigues me.  Back in 1974, you could buy an awful lot of groceries for $560.  Was she having a party?  Somebody has already purchased this gem, but not to worry.  There are two other checks written by Montgomery that are still for sale.  I can’t help wondering about the more recent checks, with account numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers on them.  They haven’t been blacked out and can be seen clearly in the images posted on the internet.  There really isn’t any privacy anymore.  Of course, with paypal and online banking, handwritten checks themselves will soon become antiques from another age.

The other night, I tweeted my intention to spend less time on the internet.  I woke up to find a whole bunch of new people following me on twitter.  Is this supposed to be an affirmation or a temptation?!

Update:  I got a friendly note from the webmaster at cliffsnotes.com thanking me for my correction.  ITunes sent a customer service survey asking me for my opinion of the response I never received about my complaint!

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Filed under Complaints, Literature, The Internet