Daily Chance to do Good: HUGHCON!!!

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If you’ve attended a science fiction convention in the past 20+ years on the east coast, your path is very likely to have crossed with this man’s..

hugh-chair

…Yes, he travels with that chair.

…….Ok, not really.  But he totally could, and no one would  question it.

Why, you ask?

Because this gentleman  is Hugh Casey, one of the finest people you’ll ever find in (or out of) the world of science fiction fandom.  As his bio states, Hugh is…

A long-time con-goer, he’s been a member of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) since the early-’90’s, where he served, at various times, as President, Vice-President, and on the Board of Directors. He’s also served as Chairman and Vice-Chair for PHILCON, Philly’s regional SF con, as well as it’s head of programming for several years …. He is a filmmaker with his own production company, Parents Basement Productions, and his short films “Teddy’s Big Escape” and “Young Geeks In Love” can be found on YouTube. He is also a writer, director, actor, blogger, photographer, event manager and promoter, and more. He tries to live by Clarke’s Law, “Specialization is for insects”.

(His bio neglects to mention, of course, that Hugh was a Guest of Awesome at Pi-Con in 2010.  Perhaps no one has earned that title more than Hugh!)

Now, east coast fandom hasn’t seen as much of Hugh in the past few years because of his fight with, and now recovery from, cancer.  To help out with his financial needs, a bunch of his friends have organized…HUGHCON!!

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“What izzit what izzit WHAT IZZIT???” you ask?

HUghCon is a fundraiser where all proceeds will go to Hugh!  Throughout the day/evening, attendees will be treated to the music of Philadelphia’s own Star Trek tribute band, The Roddenberries, as well as the musical tapestry that is This Way to the Egress!  (If you’re not familiar with them, there are some music links at the bottom of this post.)

Attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on some fantastic silent auction items such as a copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer (signed by photographer Kyle Cassidy, writer Neil Gaiman, and musician Amanda Palmer!), a first edition of the board game Conquest of the Empire (unopened, circa 1984), a geektastic gift basket of goodies from the Pennsylvania Browncoats, and much more!  Book, jewelry, and garb vendors will be on hand for your gift buying needs, with a portion of those proceeds going to Hugh as well.

SO MUCH STUFF, Y’ALL!!

Admission for the event is $15 pre-sale ($16.20 with tax), $20 at the door. The best part of this event?  You can buy a ticket even if you can’t go to the event, and that money goes directly to Hugh!!  So even though I can’t go because of prior obligations and, ya know, Philly being 12 hours away, I’m delighted I could still purchase a ticket and help support this love-filled event for this fantastic man.

You should, too!  It’ll make you feel good!  🙂  Go HERE! http://hughcon.brownpapertickets.com/

For the most up-to-date information on HughCon, check out their Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/911674232296899/.

Thanks for reading.  Please share if you’re so inclined!  And, really, go take a peek at the FB page..there’s so much awesome being planned to support Hugh, one of the best people and brightest stars in fandom.  ❤

The Roddenberries music: https://soundcloud.com/the-roddenberries

This Way to the Egress music: http://thiswaytotheegress.com

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Sean “Bazil” Duran: November 25, 1966 – April 30, 2016

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I have so much I want to write and I have no idea how to write it.

So let’s start with a present.

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“I have a present for you,” Chris said, somewhere around 1993, and handed me this little plaster Day of the Dead sculpture.  “Bazil made it.  He made a bunch for a gallery in Chestnut Hill, but when they told him they were gonna sell them as authentic Mexican art, he said no and took them back, so…this one’s for you.”

When I think about Bazil – Sean – this story always comes to mind.  I didn’t know him well, but I knew he had strong convictions and would not only stick to them, but would also make sure the people around him did as well.

Sean was one of the iconic actors at my beloved haunt, Grisly Gothic Gables.  He joined the cast to help him learn how to talk in front of crowds (or so I’ve been told), and perhaps one of the reasons I can’t think of Grisly without thinking of him is that he proposed the haunt’s name to the owner, Allan, during a brain storming session.  His butler character was funny-bizarre, vaguely slobby, definitely frenetic…my favourite haunt memory of him is him filling in for a clown scare, still dressed as a butler.  When the time came to scare visitors, he rose out of a hollowed out bed holding a fake butcher knife and announcing, “I’m not a clown, but I’ll kill you anyway!”

(Lesson:  As long as you understand the scare and what’s expected of you, improv – even if it’s on the bizarre side – as long as it’s in the character of the haunt?  It works.)

I suppose it helps to understand that I became a haunter not because I loved scary movies (which I did) or because I thought Halloween was pretty (which I did), but because the first time I saw Grisly Gothic Gables, with Bazil and Janice at the front of the house looking like everything I’ve ever wanted to see in haunt actors…well, I fell in love with the haunt, with the cast, and at the core of my haunter-heart you’ll still find that perfect visual.

You’ll still find Bazil.

Bazil was the one that helped my ex husband understand why haunting is fun.  “Do you know what a pig pile is?” Bazil asked one day.  “You don’t?  Ok.  So let’s say you enter a room through a door on the left side of the room and the exit door is clearly visible on the right side.  How do you leave the room?  No, you don’t go out the exit door, you jump on top of each other LIKE THIS!! and then you knock down a wall behind you and you leave that way.”  Despite being jumped on and nearly knocked over, my ex agreed to come to Grisly to see what a night of haunting was like, and he ended up doing tag-team scares with Bazil.

…Good times.

At the museum where we all worked, Bazil did so much that most people don’t know, rather like at Grisly, where he designed several of our t-shirt designs with no credit claimed.  He (along with fellow Grisly Peter Cook and Peter’s wife, Lisa) worked on a book about our dioramas that has been used extensively by the teacher naturalists there, and can be found now in the Drexel University library.  He discovered a forgotten mummy by literally tripping over it in our collections. He restored Edgar Allan Poe’s raven, which now resides at the Philadelphia Free Library.  He worked on the butterfly exhibit where I became a butterfly keeper, and helped create The Big Dig, an interactive looking-for-fossils exhibit I helped maintain over the years.  (I’m told he was inspired by Peter and Lisa’s visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.)  He and artist Ray Troll worked together on several projects, including one at our museum. He was instrumental in creating the Crazy Critters Chuck Jones exhibit that I have…way way too many stories about working.

For someone who touched so much of my professional life at the Academy, you really would think we would have seen each other more. Alas.

Bazil moved on to work at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, where his resume is truly amazing. Like, amazing in a way that you look at and you think, ‘What couldn’t this guy do??’ I think I speak for many of us when I say that Bazil was the kind of person you quietly make a role model and you hope someday to be even a fraction as good at..well..ANYTHING as he was.  Because he touched so many people’s lives and varied worlds, I’m sure there’s an incredible amount of stories and discoveries to come that will astound those of us that knew him.  (Heck, just from the bit of research I’ve done here, I’m in awe of the man.)

Bazil is survived by his wife, Kat, and his daughter, Bridget…and he’s mourned by too many people to count.

Thank you for touching my life and for inspiring me, you most perfect Grisly.

bazil

Info about a celebration of his life:

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More info about Sean:

http://www.frostscience.org/blog/a-loss-for-frost-science-and-miami

https://sciencemuses.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/your-listening-hue/

http://blog.orselli.net/2011/09/why-we-do-what-we-do-interview-with.html

http://www.martinhsu.com/press.php?p=50 – Dinosaurs of China exhibit

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article6718815.html – Amazon exhibit

http://www.frostscience.org/blog/miasci%E2%80%99s-sean-duran-awarded-prestigious-noyce-leadership-institute-fellowship

http://www.frostscience.org/blog/green-roof-tour

bazil

 

 

easy ways to do good

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Over on Facebook, I keep seeing ideas shared on easy ways to help out the homeless that you pass on the street, so as we move into the winter months, I thought it might be useful to compile the ideas I’ve seen into a blog post.

  • Meal Bags – The following incredibly simple idea comes from Thomas Willeford.  (Photo credit is his.)foodThese cans of food can be purchased for about $1/each on sale, and are examples of things that can be made into self-contained easily carried-and-opened meals that don’t necessarily need to be cooked.  Add prepackaged take-out packs of forks/spoons/napkins and a bottle of water, and store them in bags in your car to be distributed as needed.  Total cost per bag is roughly under $2.
  • Fill-A-Bag  purseYou can obviously get creative with this idea.  Add in snacks, gift cards, socks, gloves, combs…the possibilities are endless.  Or if you have other types of bags, customize one for the guys.  These items can be so easily found in the trial size section of a grocery or drug store – or, if you’re staying at a hotel and you don’t use the soaps and shampoos in your room, take them with you for these packages!
  • Suspended Coffees – Being a lover of coffee, I love this idea…although it can easily extend to meal times, not just coffee.  There is a network of cafes around the world where you can prebuy a coffee (or a cup of soup, or whatever you’d like), and ask the barista to ‘suspend’ the purchase.  When someone in need comes in and asks for a suspended coffee, they get this item.  It’s truly a random act of kindness and you can do it knowing that your money is going directly to a person in need, not to someone’s salary or overhead. (You can learn more about how this idea came to be here.)
  • Restaurant Leftovers – This is a no-brainer, especially if you pass people in need on your way into the restaurant.  Should you not finish your dinner?  Depending on what’s left over, get it put into a take-out dish and give it to someone.  Does your meal come with something you’re not going to eat, like soup?  Get it and give it away. (My friends and I have gone so far as to order an extra appetizer, or sandwich, or meal – especially easy if you’re getting fast food – and give that away.)  Note:  We were all working at a museum for minimum wage, so please don’t think that this is something for wealthy people to do.  Anyone can do it.
  • The Bloggess and Her James Garfield Miracle – Once a year, Jenny Lawson puts up a post that allows people that want to help others to network with people that can use some help.  If you don’t read The Bloggess, please do click on that link and see what it looks like when a community of people come together out of a desire to help strangers have a better holiday season.  (It’s pretty amazing.  It’s also officially over for 2015, BUT the links for the wish lists are still active, so if you’d like to go buy a holiday present for a kid, go take a look.)

Obviously, there are LOTS of ways you can help people out…from saying yes at the register when someone asks you to donate a dollar or two to a cause, to chipping in on online fundraisers.  I like these ideas because they’re personal. You are in control of the focus of the help.  And most of them are so, so, EASY to do!

…Thanks for reading this.  Now go be awesome. 🙂

10 minutes of your life

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“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)

Ahem.

So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.

 

…except for stupid cockroaches…

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“Tell me something nice?” I asked Bones the other night.

I ask him that a lot, when I’m feeling sad or insecure.  He never questions why I’m asking.  He just answers.

“I think you are the kindest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met.”

I kissed him, said thank you, and snuggled up close, wishing I could see the me he describes.

I have been thinking a lot about Chris, and Ant, and so many other people.  People that I think are amazing and kind and thoughtful and patient.  People like my friend Heidi, who has this way of showing me that there’s always a little more compassion to find when looking at a situation.  And I’ve been considering how I talk about stories.  I catch myself not being kind or patient; I catch myself being demanding, expecting a lot, being easily frustrated by things rather than taking the higher road.  I complain and point out a mistake that I could just as easily fix and stay quiet about, knowing that I’m just as likely to make a similar error.  More often than I want to admit, I am not the best helper at home, finding it easier to work on cross stitch than to get up and help Bones with something he’s working on.

I know, I know.  We’re all only human, right?  We all get frustrated and impatient and annoyed and discouraged and stressed and…

I really want to do better.

I want to be the person my husband says I am.

You and me, Opus.  Let’s go do better.

 

 

 

bringing up the gothic baby

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About two years ago, Bones and I trashpicked a baby stroller that had seen much, much better days.

This thing was DISGUSTING in a way that wasn’t immediately obvious.  It was waterlogged from being out with the trash.  It had a far-from-healthy layer of mildew/mold growing in the liner.  Apparently it had been some sort of parade prop, judging by the pipe cleaners and silver sticker lettering that hadn’t quite managed to fall off yet.

Bones thought it was perfect for a haunt just the way it was.

I, on the other hand..

Well.  In most ways, Bones and I think very much alike.  And then there are surprising blip-moments in which I am reminded that I must not assume we are always completely in sync and maybe I should ask him for his opinion before I start to dismantle an Awesome Something.

I decided to start to tear the bedraggled buggy apart and work on the metal frame first.  Rust was removed and everything was given a new layer of paint.

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Yay!

As is usual for my projects, I didn’t consult the Google before I began trying to figure out how to transform this monstrosity.  I dug through my stash of fabric and found some lovely black flocked velvet and a sheer red that fit my mental image of what a proper gothic buggy should look like, and I decided to reupholster the vinyl.  Some of the inner bits had to be disposed of because they were just too disgusting to save.

This horrible photo is doing its best to disguise my horrible first attempt at creating a flat inner lining using hot glue.  In retrospect, spray-on adhesive might have been a better bet.  I’m not sure.  In the end, I would have to redo a fair bit of this, including the realization that part of my problem was that I actually was using too much fabric.

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I don’t have photographic evidence of my first attempts to cover the blue vinyl with black fabric.  When I tell you that I had no damned idea how to deal with all of the different angles/lines and how to get around the metal framework, you honestly can’t imagine how bad a job I was doing with all of it.  I also don’t have a photo of the look on Bones’ face when he realized I had taken his fantastically disgusting prop and started to make it pretty.

Oops.

We had initially planned last year to use an orphanage theme for our haunt.  When our focus changed, I set the buggy aside, and it languished unloved and vaguely reupholstered until this past summer, when I decided to take a deep breath and try again to wrestle the thing into submission.

After a good deal of cutting away of the previous efforts and regluing things into place?  I was finally becoming happy with my project.  Bones was finally digging it, too, and gave me some feedback on what to do with the roof of the thing.  I went back into my fabric stash and pulled out some black trim to finish off the gothy goodness.

Creepy Zombie Baby was ok, but Roxie and I decided that Werewolf Baby was a much better choice.

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I wanted something else to finish off the sides of the buggy, and remembered I had some bats from a company I used to love, The Eccentric Griffins.  A few coats of silver paint and a bit of hole drilling by my ever-fabulous partner, Bones, and we called the project complete!

 

$winterholiday shopping? here are some ideas

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I’m a little late this year, but heeeeey!  Need some nifty $WINTERHOLIDAY presents?  Consider the following!  (And please note, as you read over this list, that a great deal of these fabulous people are doing good things with their profits…so purchases here really are a gift that does ongoing goodness.)

BOOKS

    • Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway) by Jason Michael – A charming tale told by a cat about what it’s like to be adopted into a new family.  Proceeds of this story of a special sort of blended family are being donated to two animal charities in Virginia.  This would be a lovely bedtime story book.
    • True Haiku for You:  A Daily Dose of Spiritual Growth by Jason Michael – A book for the adults!  “Begun as therapy writing in 2001 after the death of his father, and inspired by watching Dr. Wayne Dyer’s PBS special, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, Jason’s “Haiku Project” has amassed some 4400 haiku to date and there’s no end in sight. True Haiku for You is a collection of 366 haiku primarily on inspirational, motivational and spiritual themes designed to be a daily reminder of our self-worth, of our need to persevere, and of our innate ability to overcome any crisis. Meant to be read one haiku per day True Haiku for You strives to be a reminder that God is all around us, without and within.”  (I also love this book.)
    • Acting Out Yoga books by Danielle Palli – If you’re looking for new ways to get your youngsters moving around and trying new things, you should really consider buying one (or both!) of these two books.  Harvir in the Amazon follows the adventures of young Harvir in the Amazon rainforest; Anna in Paris recounts the journey of a ferret, Fondue, and his wanderings through Paris.  Both books illustrate varied yoga poses, and kids are encouraged to try out these poses as well!  The Acting Out Yoga series is an innovative introduction to yoga for both the storyteller and the story listener!  An additional bonus is that portions of the purchase price are also donated to children’s charities – Harvir proceeds go to a nonprofit organization that provides much-needed school supplies and medical care to young children in the Amazon Jungle, and Anna purchases support the Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County!

JEWELRY

    • Belethil – Home of the best dang elf ear jewelry you’ll find.  Alanya makes absolutely gorgeous stuff and right now, she’s running a half price sale to help out a friend, so you should really go take advantage!  (As of this writing, the store is active, but she’s going to be putting it into vacation mode in early December, so shop while the shopping’s good!)

ART STUFF

    • Celtic Art Store – I discovered this artisan at a local Ren faire last year.  I was feeling completey overwhelmed by the crowd and the day, and when Erin invited me into her booth to trace a knotwork pattern with a small instrument, I had ZERO interest in complying.  That said…wow, did it help my brain calm down and focus.  A lot.  It’s like walking a labyrinth for those of us that have no time and no access to a labyrinth.  🙂  These bits of magic are called Mandalynths, and they’re truly great for helping with stress, anxiety, autism, ADHD and PTSD.  (Click on the type of pattern to see which version is recommended for what ails ya.)  You’ll also find a new-but-growing line of glass dome jewelry in this brand spanking new web store!  Catch their sale prices from now until Dec 12th!
    • Alternate Histories – A Pittsburgh-based company that I love madly!  These guys take old images and maps and insert monsters into them, or twist them into reflecting a history where monsters and aliens are a common part of life in America.  You can search their store by US regions, which is something I think is pretty great.  Want proof there’s a creature running rampant in Sacramento?  A lake monster in Cleveland?  Do you suspect robots were involved in the Revolutionary War?  Would you like a map showing exactly where the zombie outbreaks have been in Pittsburgh? Look no further!  You’ll also find some of the most unique holiday cards on the market as well as a series of prints advertising why you should flee America‘s monsters.
    • Jeanine Leclaire – Jeanine is selling varied types of prints and cards from her shop to help raise funds for one of the kindest people I know, Anthony Paino.  I’m going to also say that if you are feeling extra special generous and would like to help Ant out directly, you can click on his name -OR- you can visit http://www.sokindregistry.org/registry/7217 and choose a gift of varied price points to help him out.  It’s a lovely way to send a Random Something to someone that so desperately needs some help.
    • There Are Squirrels in My Head – I’m tossing my own hat into the ring this year. 🙂  I have a Zazzle store!  From holiday cards to blank cards featuring some of my photography, to items for that Special Someone in your life that is made of awesome and win and cookies, my store is small but growing.  And during December, Zazzle runs all kinds of sales, so it’s a great place to do some shopping.  (Thank you!)

OTHER AWESOME STUFF

    • Shadow Elements – Mary creates some of the best cat beds out there.  She uses organic buckwheat, and you can purchase varied covers to fit your and your kitty’s needs.  Pair it up with a soothing travel dream pillow and case for your own snoozing needs!  (The pillows are not currently listed, but let her know you’re interested and she’ll hook you up!)  Mary also creates lovely stained glass pieces and an assortment of tote bags for your gifting needs! Be sure to check out her gallery at http://www.shadowelements.com/gallery/ to see what kind of custom marvels she can create for you.  (Purchases made from Mary is a gift that helps her keep her house and pay her substantial medical bills from her ongoing fight against breast cancer.)

There is NO way I can list every awesome person I know that creates fantastic things.  😦  But this is a good start!  🙂

Hope the start of your $WINTERHOLIDAY season treats you gently! ❤