State of the Val

  • Getting worse at keeping up on LJ, obviously. Trying to get back to at least reading my Friends page once a week.

  • Season 2 of The Deadersons has started!

  • I survived directing GreenMan Theatre's "Spooky Stories" storytelling program, and will not be doing it again. I thought I was prepared for it to completely eat my October, and I guess I was. But I didn't like it.

  • My fannish activity remains mostly Star Wars and (in the online sense) has been happening mostly on Tumblr (where, for the first time since 1994, I was unable to get wiliqueen and am therefore notophelia).

  • On a related note, I'm thisclose to finished with the second-longest fic I've ever written. I was hoping to finish it before the Ahsoka novel (which is excellent) came out, for fear of getting jossed, but thankfully didn't happen. One recent development on Rebels jossed it in a minor way, but it was an easy fix. I need to finish it before anything else screws it up. And then I need to find people willing to do Serious Beta on 30K words. (It wasn't supposed to be that way! I swear!)

  • I saw Hamilton in Chicago a week ago (well, starting from about halfway through "My Shot," due to unforeseen CTA construction issues) and must write a review soon. Summary: It was, unsurprisingly, awesome. :-)

  • It was also a FAR better place to be than in front of my television watching election returns. I kinda wish I were as surprised as so many people seem to be (seriously, is it me, or do we hear these "How were the polls so wrong??" conversations EVERY DAMN TIME?), but, well. I consider the results to be a Very Bad Thing. I would be very happy to be proven wrong. Both the *shudder* President-Elect and the general public can get on that ANY time.

  • After being friends with quite a few members for years, I finally got involved in Costumers With a Cause this year. Supergirl remains my TV happy place, but my real happy place right now is talking with kids, showing them how to use Merida's bow or Rey's lightsaber or staff. And I finally got down a Scottish accent without it sliding in to Irish! You can get a glimps in the "Costume Events" gallery on my Facebook Page.

  • I finally got my hands on the right silk velvet for Jack's proper 8th Doctor coat! Should be ready for Chicago TARDIS.


An anniversary of sorts

The vast majority of fandoms that have taken sufficient root in my imagination to inspire fic have always been small ones. Couple that with the near-complete lack of any romantic pairing tags, let alone popular ones, and I've always been content with archive stats that would drive many fic authors of my acquaintance to despair. So the response to my recent small Star Wars offerings has been a novel experience, particularly when the one inspired by the Rebels season finale (and seriously, the LAST character I ever expected to start talking to me was Darth frelling Vader) started racking up views, kudos, and comments.

This resulted in glancing back through my Works list on AO3, just to boggle at how different the numbers are. Which resulted recently in my realizing that one of my offerings in the very first fkficfest took place on a specific date exactly one hundred years ago today.

That happened somewhat by chance, in the course of my looking for a historical touchstone for placing Nick, LaCroix, and Janette in San Francisco in 1916, as specified by the "Cherry Blossoms" script directions. It turned out that, on July 22 of that year, the city held a "Preparedness Day" parade in the run up to the U.S. entering World War I. It remains unknown who planted the bomb that killed 10 and injured 40 during that parade.

In my "July 22, 1916," this event is a backdrop to Nick's personal turmoil. Still, it seems only appropriate to repost the link today, on the anniversary of something that, particularly in light of some of the more frightening aspects of our world today, ought to be better known.

Cherished Teddies denouement

After much investigating of options by Mom, my uncle's honorary son made a deal with the buyers of the house (which he also arranged) to throw in a few grand extra and keep (most of) the Cherished Teddies right where they are, presumably to sell off at market rates at their leisure.

My uncle's original intention was to leave the entire collection to "the nieces." I haven't asked the other two about it, but I was feeling slightly guilty about rejecting the notion, despite having no practical way to deal with over 900 adorable figurines. However, I am happy to accept half a dozen that either share my name or represent my interests.

So, in the end, everyone is happy. :-)

The Cherished Teddies Saga

First, some brief background: My uncle is a retired Catholic priest, who until a couple years ago was retired for values of "retired" that still included teaching at a university and assorted volunteerism. But now he's actually retired and, after some health issues over the past year or so, has moved into assisted living. A buyer has been found for his house, with the closing set for (I believe) the end of the month.

My mom and my aunt have been handling all the arrangements for moving or getting rid of his belongings, a process that has gone pretty smoothly except for one thing: My uncle is also a Collector with a capital C. His "kids" (a line of ceramic figurines by a particular artist, of which he acquired a complete collection between the early 70s and mid-80s; they have an actual name, but my family has always just called them "Jim's kids" for as long as I can remember) have gone with him to his new apartment, where there's room for the two curio cabinets they occupy.

The TWENTY-EIGHT-HUNDRED-PLUS Cherished Teddies he's been meticulously acquiring and curating since the early 90s? They're a little more of a challenge.

Mom has done enough research to know that they, like most collectibles, aren't really going for anything these days, so it's not like they're looking to recoup his investment. A couple of estate sale companies have already declined to handle them, though there is some potential interest from a liquidation company. Mom has, however, been told that -- as, again, with any collectible -- there are a handful of rarer specimens that might actually be worth the effort to put on eBay or what-have-you, but we have no idea which ones they are are or where one might find reliable information on the topic.

So, Hive Mind, I come to you, knowing that there are Collectors with a capital C among geekfolk who collect not just the standard geeky things, to ask:

  • Does anyone know which Cherished Teddies are currently considered relatively rare/valuable/whatever? (Jim was a "Membear" of the subscription service or what-have-you, so he does have, if not all the exclusives from that, probably most of them.)

  • Does anyone actively collect Cherished Teddies and have some you're looking for?

  • Does anyone not actively collect them, but happen to have seen a particular one that you would like to have?

Mom is attempting to locate the most current inventory list, but having seen the shelves on which they're stored (in their original boxes with their "adoption" papers), I feel confident in saying I don't need a list to tell you that if there's one you want, from any point in the history of the manufacture of these things, it's probably there.

They are currently located in suburban Detroit. Mom will be there from June 7 - 22 handling various things; my understanding is that the Teddies need to be off to their destination(s) before she goes home. Offers will, I'm sure, be gladly considered. Too many needing to be shipped would obviously be a complication, but unless there are a lot more CT collectors in the woodwork than I think there are, it's not one I really see arising.

So, if you have any input and/or a wishlist, please comment! :-)
leia & luke

My new toy... a shiny, shiny toy.

I recorded this the day before Free Comic Book Day, for which I dressed as Rey, carried the lightsaber on my belt, and had a marvelous time letting children turn it on. :-)

Later in the day, at a monthly geeky gathering, I turned it on and it... said something not-quite-intelligible and shut itself off. We were all like "WAIT DID IT SAY SOMETHING WHAT DID IT SAY WHY IS IT HAUNTED??" brainiacfive said "Did it say 'I'm an idiot'??"

So then I turned it on again, and it did it again, only this time I managed to discern that the really quite eerie whispering voice was saying "Obsidian," which is the brand of the sound card. I hadn't bothered changing the batteries it shipped with, and apparently that's the low-battery signal.

This brought to me to the following conclusions:

  1. It's Anakin's, so if it isn't haunted it probably should be; and

  2. Being Anakin's, if it had said "I'm an idiot," that would be entirely appropriate.


It lives!

Things I have done lately (in no particular order):

  • Put together a satisfactory Rey costume for C2E2

  • Decided which tweaks I want to make to said costume

  • Costumed this production of The Arabian Nights primarily from thrift stores (the pics currently on the site are what I threw together for photo call, not the final costumes)

  • Continued to obsess over Star Wars, including a full background-to-costume-work marathon rewatch (or semi-rewatch: I only watched it spottily when it was on) of The Clone Wars, because all-grown-up Ahsoka on Rebels is sadder and wiser and awesome and made me want to revisit the Tiny Orange Sass Machine. (My gut-level response eight years ago of "Anakin with a padawan? Who thought THAT was a good idea?" remains accurate. However, I'm impressed anew by how the writers managed to keep it entirely believable that he was going to come apart at the seams in the relatively near future without making me go "OH MY GOD GET THAT CHILD OUT OF THERE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??" At least no more so than any of the other Way Too Young padawans in that war.)

  • Pursuant to the above, finally purchased a grownup toy of the lightsaber variety. To wit, the Ultrasabers Graflex CE, which is to say their version of what brainiacfive has very sensibly dubbed "the legacy saber" (which I would love to see become common usage because it's way more efficient than having to explain that it's Anakin's second, or Luke's first, or no doubt eventually Rey's first). It is shiny and pretty and makes nifty noises and came with a free shoto because I bought it during their spring promotion. There will be video sometime soon.

Things I have not done lately (in no particular order):

  • Kept up with LJ (or any other social media, but LJ is the one I usually try to actually keep up with)

  • Maintained audiobook production momentum

  • Made new YouTube content

  • Housework of virtually any kind

Now that the show is safely dressed and opened, hopefully that will change.

And I think that's all the news that's fit to print. :-)

Godspeed Challenger

(crossposted from my pro blog)

Thirty years ago today, about ten minutes into chemistry class, the phone rang.

Before that moment, I don't think any of us had really noticed that there was a phone in the science room. We all stared, bewildered, as our teacher walked over, picked it up, listened silently for a moment, and put it back down. Then, still without a word, he pulled out the TV cart and turned it on.

I don't remember hearing a word spoken for at least an hour that didn't come from that TV. There might have been an announcement over the PA at some point, but if so I didn't really register it.

It took several minutes to grasp what we were seeing, that somewhere in that enormous plume across the sky -- too big, all wrong -- were the atoms of what had been seven brave, excited people.

He never said, but I can't imagine Mr. Underwood didn't apply for the seat Christa McAuliffe sat in that day. The man who hosted the Science Club at his own house, playing an old 45 of "They're Coming to Take Me Away" at the beginning and end of each meeting, presiding over discussions of when we would next take the Van de Graaff generator over to the elementary school to raise little kids' hair or how one might build a working lightsaber. The one who nominated me for both my Society of Women Engineers awards, even as I was realizing my career path led through all the stories I had to tell.

But I knew that plume was all wrong, too big, because I had watched so many of them rise into the sky before. Most of us in that class were born the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. None of us remembered a time when the countdown and the ignition and the rising column of smoke weren't events to look forward to on TV, to hope they fell on teacher in-service days during the school year, to tape when VCRs became a thing. The "send a civilian to space" idea happened because the public was losing interest, a fact that was utterly baffling to me when I read about it.

When I was a little girl (big enough to know that "pirate" and "Jedi" weren't actual options, but before I figured out they came under the heading of "actor"), I wanted to be a ballerina or an astronaut. Preferably both. By 1986, three years into a twelve-inch growth spurt that threw my center of gravity so far off I didn't find it until I was about 25, "ballerina" was pretty firmly off the table. But "astronaut" was still very much in the mix, alongside a few other options that had cropped up over the years. I was even considering applying to the Air Force Academy the following summer, for the sole reason that it was how you got to be an astronaut. (Well, one way. But Annapolis was two time zones away while Colorado Springs was at the foot of a mountain I could see from atop the swingset in my back yard. Besides, I was an Air Force brat, and "Navy wings are made of lead." *g*)

When this anniversary comes around, there's a lot of talk about how the loss of Challenger and her crew changed NASA -- made it more cautious, made people start questioning even more whether we should be doing all this in the first place. It wasn't the first accident, but it was the first I remember seeing with my own eyes. The first to to happen when space travel had become so seemingly routine that we were sending a social-studies teacher up there.

That caution was, and is, all to the good. As much as we might yearn to stand on Mars tomorrow, we need to be careful.

These people should be celebrating this anniversary with their families. They should be telling their children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren what the Earth looked like from orbit on that January morning.

They are immortal, but they should be home. Our pioneers should not be martyrs, not if we can avoid it.

But we still need our pioneers.


Things Theatre Is Good For, Part the Umpteenth

I'm already bored with the woobification of Kylo Ren (that's not a spoiler -- water is wet, bears shit in the woods, villains are woobified), but I'm very impressed with Adam Driver's work in playing him.

And yesterday I ran across this article that makes it apparent that's just the beginning of his impressive. (It's a reprint of an article that originally ran last year, and thus contains no movie spoilers.)

Short version: His first attempts to get into acting out of high school didn't work out so well, so after a few dead-end jobs he enlisted in the Marines after 9/11... aaaaand mustered out on a medical discharge less than three years later after breaking his sternum in a cycling accident. Went back home to Indiana, did well enough in his first year at U of I to get into Juilliard.

And then:

"If worse comes to worst," he remembers telling himself, "I'll live in Central Park and survive eating bread out of Panera's Dumpster. I’ll survive. What could possibly be more challenging than what I've already done? Which now I realize was an illusion because obviously there's lots of things to readjust to, and civilian life is tricky. But at the time I felt very confident and at the very least, anyway, knew I wasn't going to die pursuing acting."

And then:

"He was staying in touch with his buddies who were going overseas," Tucker says. "It was an emotional struggle for him to not have gone with them. There were a lot of complicated feelings around that that he was still working through."

The acting training, Driver says, became a form of therapy.

"I was getting exposed to characters and playwrights and plays who had nothing to do with the military that were articulating my military experience better than I was able to at the time," he says.

Long story short: He put together an evening of scenes from that material, proposed it to the USO, was promptly rejected, reworked it on a shoestring, and incorporated it as its own nonprofit that's still going strong six years later.

The hope, Tucker says, is "to provide something nourishing, uplifting and thought-provoking. Any arts experience should move you in some way."