Wednesday 29 December 2010

Wondrous Holidays - Little House of Horrors

At first my roomy’s collection involved a lot of eBay shopping when My Little Ponies were but a toy of Christmases past. It was pretty exciting, truly. I spent loads of time with her (way more than I care to admit) learning the various collecting tidbits (discoloration, hair condition, pony cancer – yes, ponies get sick too), and I even knew enough to buy her some coveted ones for her birthday, along with the rest of our pony supportive gang.

We also hit loads of consignment and second-hand stores. Those are gold for discarded pony toys.
Coveted expensive British pony.  Roomy squee'd loads when she purchased him.
Then, things changed. Hasbro, makers of My Little Pony, took out a new line (the third by then, actually), and although at first they were greeted with skepticism, my roomy soon fell in love with them. Completely and utterly in love. That's when the collection started to get big.  Out of control, some might say. But not I.  I've seen how many ponies she could actually own.

So we went to toy stores and discount stores and even grocery stores to hunt ponies. I thought it was kind of fun, to be honest. The thrill of the hunt (and of watching your roommate squeal louder than a five-year-old on sugar).

THEN things grew. An entire online community popped out of nowhere (well, okay, from SOMEWHERE, but I certainly didn’t know they existed). They started to not only chat about collecting the ponies – they now wanted to customize them.

That’s right. They made their own.

Old disheveled ponies were renewed or customized, and new easy-to-find and generally uncoveted ponies (read: rejects!) by the pony community were changed and re-coloured into something completely different. What does that mean, you may ask (foolishly).

They pull their heads off, rip their hair out, boil them, bleach them, dye them, repaint them, re-hair them, sometimes glue them or add clay to them and then, to seal the final act, they rename them, as though doing so will somehow erase the terrible memories of what’s been done to them. It’s true plastic surgery. Gone terribly wrong.
De-haired pony ready for action.  See this pony?
I've spared you the graphic photos (you're welcome).  See this pony almost fully customized.
Now see this pony.  I have to admit she's awesome.  Totally awesome.
Still, getting to that final product ain't pretty.  It’s a house of horrors even Jason would avoid.

Sometimes, early in the morning, I head into the kitchen and there’s an army of beheaded ponies staring at me, pleading to be saved.  “Help us!” their eyes implore.  If they still have eyes, that is, and they haven’t been acetoned off. (Acetone. Did I mention the acetone? Roomy has a HUGE BOTTLE of it!)

Roomy says they feel better afterwards. I've yet to study the plastic pony psychology to support this statement.

But they ARE plastic ponies, let’s keep things in perspective, and although they may not feel much, they do look cool afterwards, like these:

Firefly fan, anyone?

Ridiculously small and detailed ship.  This isn't even the worst of it. Roomy has strong painting Kung Fu. 

Almost four years ago, after buying my new car, my roomy mentioned that there was going to be a pony fair in Memphis. Three days’ ride away. Game on! We packed the ponies and crossed the border, enjoying a lovely road trip. The community was very nice, I must admit, and I spent most of my time in the convention enjoying their company. Loads of them are artists, and very impressive artists, to boot. They have contests, art shows and prizes, some of which Roomy won (I’m very proud of my roomy).
See?  Awards!

The next year the fair was in Rhode Island. I joined again. Only one day away! We headed off and crossed the border easily again (we’re very honest. Few people question you when you have proof that you’re heading to a pony fair). Again, loads of fun.

On the way back, we were stopped at the border and told to pull over. We watched from the sidelines in bemusement as they opened luggages and bags only to find pink plastic ponies everywhere. My roomy was mumbling that she hoped they wouldn’t pop their heads off (not so good for the customized ones).

But we were soon on our way, with shocked border guards stating they had never seen so much pink. It’s true, I bet you they hadn’t, and probably haven’t since.

This year we went to Kentucky, which was also a hoot.  I truly enjoyed these fairs, and thought the folks there were nice and fun, and there were loads of shiny things to look at and then tell my friends back home about, like war stories from some distant and vastly different land.
Mmm, Kentucky...
Roomy makes pet companions, too, and clothing.  And she gives them cool accessories.  Very important in Pony land.
More award-winning ponies, celebrating the 25th anniversary.

All right, I kept it light.  I didn't show you the beheaded ponies.  You'll have to take my word for that.  But the end results are pretty amazing.  Even when (evil) kittens chew on them, she finds a way to make the design work despite chew marks, which I think is talent.

I should mention that she has customs up for sale and you can also commission a pony.  This is (almost) 2011, people.  Pony collectors don't mess around anymore.

One more installment of Wondrous Holidays is coming up.  Stay tuned!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Wondrous Holidays - Dioramas

Whenever I think I'm insane (as opposed to the times I'm sure of it), I stare into Roomy's spare room to comfort myself.  Roomy, as you most of you know, is a My Little Pony collector.  Ergo, her spare room is full of ponies.  Not a little bit of full, either.  Lots of full.

This is a My Little Pony from the 80s.  Her name is Firefly.  Ain't she cute?
Since the 80s, they've released three pony generations, with a fourth one slowly trickling into markets now, which equates to HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of ponies, a good chunk of which are represented in Roomy's Pony room.  It's fantastic.  We swapped my writing room with her pony room recently because, well, she needed more room and less light and I needed less room and more light.  And look - this is Roomy's stuff piled up after the room swap -

Scary, I know.  It's organized now, and less scary.  Sort of.
So for our first wondrous holidays showcase, the first in a, um, four part series (?), I will now show you her holiday diorama evolution over the years.   Every year, Roomy runs around town to get new lights, lamp posts, decorations, trees, and all other types of pony-sized holiday fun.  It makes her very giddy, until she realizes how many she needs to clean and style, and then her eyes grow as big as her head as she panics.  It's all a very steep emotional roller coaster.

Five years in retrospect:

Quaint gathering of a few ponies at Dream Castle in 2005.  Note decorations and tiny wreaths.
A similar gathering in 2006, with baby ponies looking up longingly at the gifts on the tree.  Note that the ponies have  outfits.
In 2007, Roomy and her two cats moved in with me and my two cats.  Space was limited.  Ponies appeared in random places.   Wearing cute outfits, of course!

In 2008, cursed with a leaky roof and Lake Bilodeau, we moved to a townhouse.  Lots of room.  And the spare room upstairs with the door became the pony room.  Note more outfits and decorations.  Roomy was enthused.

In 2009, we reached situation critical.  Majesty, head pony, seemed to have invited too many other ponies to her party, with a bunch of others looking on longingly, banished, unclothed, to undecorated shelves.  It was a sad, sad year.  Someone spiked the ponies' punch and I think there was a stampede.  Ponies were lost.  That's what overpopulation really does.  Right there.  Pony plagues are expected to hit at any time to cleanse pony population and make room for stronger ponies.
Then...  came the great pony room swap of 2010.  While at the My Little Pony fair in Kentucky (I'm a sucker for a road trip), Roomy mentioned she would not be buying any play sets because she simply didn't have room for them.   Which was very, very true.

See?  There ain't no room in that pony room.
And after the semi-disastrous installation of a door on the old downstairs writing room...
Big ol' pony mess.  But there's room for various pony lands!

As you can imagine, the 2010 display was, um, enthused?  Impressive?  Frightening?  It was an ENTIRE TOWN OF PONY!

OMG!  Ponies!!!

And more ponies over there!

And tropical southern vacationing ponies! They're everywhere!  
My friend Dylan, who also lives with a pony collector, tells me that by giving her the bigger room I've made Roomy mad with power.  I believe he's right.  He's a neurologist, too, so he knows these things. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.  Wait until I reveal other secrets of Roomy's dark pony ways.

Prepare to be shocked in our next installment of "Wondrous Holidays!"  

Friday 17 December 2010

Flashback - Death of Computer

Note: I was going to start posting magical things this Friday, but I've been informed I shouldn't post said magical things until after tomorrow, since magical things won't be revealed until then. But I will tell you that these magical things are my Roomy's Christmas hobby this year, and it's pretty fun.  I'll post some on Tuesday.  For now, here's a What The Friday?  :P

Sometimes I cry when computers die.  This time, I just got annoyed that my "day work" computer wouldn't die quickly enough.  This e-mail was originally written on May 31, 2006.  One of the IT guys thought it was entertaining enough to keep on file, and he just re-sent it to me (thanks Hubert!).  And I thought it'd make for a quick blog post, as I'm up against many deadlines.  And this e-mail worked, as it got me a new computer, so feel free to use it in your own workplace! (Author is not responsible for negative consequences.)

The e-mail was written by my computer.  Truly.  He thought he had hands, too!


Dear IT Team,

Although I have lived a long life where once I was useful, I now realize that my mental state is quickly declining and I am no longer the ripping cool beast I imagine I once was.  Even if your earlier care has ensured me some good final months, I fear I must now take matters into my own hands.

My mental lapses are too much to bear, and every time I collapse, I take away small, important pieces of my being (ie. Marie's current files).  And I fear, as wild fury grows in Marie's eyes and unladylike strings of profanity escape her lips, that she may in fact speed my demise in what I am certain will prove to be both an imaginative and funny way.

Before I sign off, I wanted to thank you for all your hard work in securing my life up to now, and I am certain my replacement will make me proud.

Fare thee well, may we meet again in some Microsoft-sponsored afterlife (until it crashes and our data-souls are forever lost).

Marie's Computer

Tuesday 14 December 2010

The End of Year is Nigh!

End of year is always a bit nuts.  For the past three years, I've been working on either final edits or final writing touches on an upcoming novel. This year is no different, with Destiny's War getting close to completion (after many, many wrong turns on my part).  I also have the Chasing Boudicca show on January 20, and it requires lots of preparation.  Any story where you bring in another performer, such as a musician, demands a lot more prep time since they're relying on certain cues.  In this case, there will be another storyteller, a poet AND a musician.  It's going to be awesome, but only if the right prep time goes into it.

Plus it's the holidays.  I managed to keep my party commitments to three meals spanning two days, only two of which I'm helping to cook, so that's not too bad.  BUT, then two of my BFFs are coming down from Windsor for a week after Christmas, so I'll be running around like a mad woman.  We're going to see the Diefenbunker this year.  Very much looking forward to that.

Combine all of those items with a recent promotion and a much busier work schedule, and suddenly I have almost no time to watch Doctor Who.  Almost.

At first glance, I was terrified of my upcoming schedule (okay, I still am).  But when I look at what I'm doing, and how energized I'll be by the writing, storytelling and merrymaking with friends, I know I'll get more done for being super busy.  Except the gift shopping, apparently.  Really should get going on that...

Ooh, but I did get Utnois his first gift!  It's a willow grove.  He snuggles in it. 

Warm snuggly groves for little MacBook Airs who travel in cold Canadian winters.
Just to clarify, I make most of my gifts, and those are almost all done.  I buy a few of them, which I've not yet done.  But I'm not just thinking about what my fateful laptop needs.  I'm mostly thinking about that, but not fully.  I've also spared a thought or two for what my friends and family would like.  They're just harder to shop for as they have tastes and opinions.  Go fig.

Anyway, I'm going to keep updating this blog on Tuesdays and Fridays, but I'm going to cheat for the remainder of the year.  Mwa ha.  You will become acquainted with many strange and wondrous things over the next few weeks, to add magic to your holidays, so keep an eye out!

Best of luck to all of you with your own end of year craziness!

Friday 10 December 2010

Tick Update!

Here's my tick update, as I've been informed that many of you are curious.  I'm touched.  Surprised, and perhaps a little bit worried, but touched nevertheless.

So, following two more trips to the doctor, one lung infection, one badly infected wound, one round of an-tick-biotics and a whole tube of bactroban (to be said with a dramatic accent), Telehealth Ontario doesn't feel I'm worth a health advisory.   That's great news, but I'm a little bit insulted.  I personally think I'm perfectly worthy of a health advisory.

My maman would have been so proud!

On the upside (wait, was that a downside?), I told under my first disco ball this week, at Ruthanne's birthday party.  Awesome.  I'm adding that to my list of places I've told: bars, tea shops, cons, theatres, the National Arts Centre and under a disco ball.

Has a nice ring to it!

Happy tick enjoying Lyme-free tick afterlife.  Further proof that I can't draw.  Wings are tough.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Storytelling Fan Girl

When I was just scouting storytelling as a performance option, I attended the 2005 edition of the Ottawa Storytelling Festival.  And that's where I became a fan girl.

The specific set I'd targeted was a telling of the Lady of Shalott, the tale of the beautiful maiden who loved the not-so-pure knight Lancelot.  Hark!  Forsooth he never loved her back, never even truly noticed her.

And she, like a daft maiden, ended her life.  For a boy.  Seriously?  I mean, I hear he was shiny and all, but still!

Anyway, it was this set that turned me into a fan girl.  It was a very well done amalgamation of various Lord Tennyson poems from Idylls of the King, one of my favourite cycle of poems.  Plus, it was accompanied by a harp.  Neat, eh?  The storyteller, Ruthanne Edward, was evenly paced and wrought all of the right emotions, while looking stunning in a red medieval dress.

OMG! It's Ruthanne Edward!
After the show I merrily went book shopping at a vendor's table and, suddenly, there stood Ruthanne Edward beside me.  I remember thinking: "OMG, it's Ruthanne Edward - say something cool!" (Except it was Oh my God.  We didn't OMG back in 2005.  And I didn't say anything cool.  I tried but failed. Sigh.)

In 2008, it had been a long winter and I needed some light.  So I asked some of my favourite performers/poets if they wanted to throw a show together, just for fun.  Sean Zio, spoken word artist, Kathryn Hunt, Lady Poet, and, of course, Ruthanne Edward, all answered that call.  We had so much fun we formed the Kymeras, and I got to perform with one of my favourite storytellers on many occasions!  How awesome is that?

Okay, so I'm gushing because today Ruthanne is turning 40. She's throwing a party tonight, and invited some of her performer friends to put on a show.  She's one of those people that shows us all that each decade can be even better than the last. I've only been her friend for the past five years, and she's constantly grown and challenged herself while staying true to her core values, and it's inspiring.  I'm loving my 30s, but I now know that my 40s will be awesome as well, and I hope that when I throw my 40th birthday party, Ruthanne will be there to perform.

Because I'm sure I'll get that little rush of excitement I still get every time she stands on stage to tell a tale and I think "OMG, it's Ruthanne Edward!" 

Happy birthday, Ruthanne!

Check out some of her telling to understand why you should be her fan, too! 

Friday 3 December 2010

Utnapishtim 3 (Trois)

A long, long time ago I bought an IBM ThinkPad on eBay and named it Utnapishtim (Utni, for short).  Utnapishtim is the guy who survived the flood in the Mesopotamian flood myth, and the gods offered him the gift of immortality.  (His wife, too.  She bakes him bread.  Sounds thrilling.)

I figured the laptop would last forever, since he'd obviously take on his namesake's mythical traits.  Surprisingly enough, it didn't work.  No bread, either.  Well, I should mention that Utni's still alive.  But his battery is dead, his bios battery is also gone, and he can't remember his own name.  Very sad and geriatric of him.  (Makes you wonder how the real Utnapishtim is doing.) 

So forth I went and purchased Utnapishtim II.  Utnu, for short.  He was a cute little iBook G4, and I loved him oh so very much.  I wore out the letters on his keyboard. Once, he got sick and I panicked.  This is the conversation I had with the tech guy (TG):

Me (calm) : "Yes, he hasn't been booting since yesterday."
TG (confused) : "He?"
Me (embarrassed) : "Um, yes.  I have a strong affinity with him."
TG (redefining reality) : "Ok.  So it, um, he doesn't boot?"
Me (worried) : "No.  He screams."
TG (polite but difficulty adapting) : "Screams?"
Me (wishing didn't feel Utnu was own person) : "Um, yes.  Well, he beeps three times.  Yes.  And he has kernel panics."
TG (back in realm of comfortable language) : "Those aren't good."
Me (too much information?) : "No, because when he panics, I panic.  It's really not a good scene."
TG (good old scout try) : "Oh.  Yes.  I can see that.  Well, ok, well, ship um, him in, and um, he'll see a, um, doctor.  Yes.  A laptop doctor."

I also sent him flowers while he was at the laptop hospital.  To Utnu, not the tech guy, though I hope he enjoyed them, too.  

Utnu at his favourite Second Cup.
When Utnu was geriatric, we went on a date to a Genius Bar at the Apple Store, and were informed that he was a good geriatric computer, but dying nonetheless.  He soon after clunkered out, after 3.5 years of fateful service.  I cried, I'll admit it.  To be fair, the unfinished Sorceress of Shadows was also trapped on him.  My brother, bless his patient technical soul, recovered all my information, but Utnu had some terrible issues and became Zombie Utnu (mostly because my brother wrote that on him).  Utnu was mentioned in the acknowledgements of Destiny's Blood.  He worked countless hours on it, too.

I needed a replacement quick - my manuscript was due soon!  So I ran out and bought a cheap netbook.  I named him Thoth.  He was cute, but he wasn't part of my Utnapishtim lineage.  I was convinced Thoth would die the day after his one-year warranty ended.  I was wrong.  He died three weeks after it ended.  Very sad.  Mostly because, once again, I was on a tight writing deadline.

But, possessing wicked laptop death powers of prediction, I had already started saving for Utnapishtim Trois (which is three in French.  Being bilingual gets me more options for cute nicknames!)  Utnapishtim Three, you see, would make Utni, which already existed.  Utnapishtim Trois, however, makes for a cute Utnois.   Not only had I started saving for him, but I'd gone to meet him a few weeks beforehand.  It's couth to meet your laptops at least once before bringing them home.

Utnois is a cute MacBook Air, 11 inches.  I always hesitate with first generation beasts, but he was so cute I simply couldn't resist.  He's extremely light, I enjoy the keyboard, he has wicked battery life and did I mention he was cute?  I signed up for the best warranty I could find, which covers replacement batteries, a necessity since it's one of those annoying integrated ones.  And, if this first generation clunkers out within four years, I get a whole new one!  Not that I want Utnois to die.  Oh no.  Not for 3.99 years, anyway!

So welcome to the family, Utnois!
That was just a photo op.  Utnois does not sleep with kittens.  Utnois is not pro-fuzz.