Thursday, July 31, 2014

Miss America

No, I'm not talking about the Beauty Title, nor will I ever.  Miss America is currently a comic book heroin who is a part of Young Avengers.  Ironically she has no connection to the Miss America from World War II who was essentially a female version of Captain America.  

Miss America is something else entirely.  First off, she's called Miss America because her legal name is America Chavez.  She doesn't go by the moniker to illicit American pride, or to spread the ideals of America.  It's just her given name and so converted to the moniker because apparently super heros need a cool name.

She's also very similar to Supeman in terms of base powers.  She's invulnerable, can fly, has super human speed, super human strength, and finally can kick holes in reality.  As in likes to travel between realities and take her allies with her.  She also likes to punch things and ask questions/assess later.  Lastly was raised in another dimension.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well first off, because Miss America Chavez is awesome, and secondly because I think she's the closest thing to Captain America that can be created now a days and survive.

Captain America's first issue came out a year before the Pearl Harbor Attack.  During this time period America was trying very hard to practice isolationism, after Pearl Harbor America decided to get involved with the world war.  The first issue has the extremely famous cover of Captain America punching Hitler right in the jaw.  From there on Captain America fought many enemies that were almost all politically connected somehow to the real world.  He also fought home issue, like not doing drugs.  He was America's ideal person, and also America's biggest advocate.  He was founded and was written during a time when American pride was high and when people were happy to read about a Super Hero telling the rest of the world why they should be like America.  

Now let's talk about the millennial generation, which is by the way, my generation.  I was raised during a time where I got told a president that didn't get elected was in charge, let my country get attacked, and then used my country to go to war with a country that was even harboring the person who attacked us.  To make it even better I was taught that the president who didn't get elected, got elected "again," but not by the people of the United States, but by a system that assumes that the populace is uneducated and can't be trusted to elect our leaders.  Cue the giant recession, and news media being oddly blaming of the generation that couldn't vote at the time.  From there we run into the latest iteration of slavery, aka needing to take an unpaid internship so that you can MAYBE be qualified to get a job.  Corporations being declared people and being told that your employers may be allowed to make decision on what they feel like paying for you medically speaking.  Student loans being higher than ever and Corporate and Upper Class taxes being lower than ever and then being told by the media that we're lazy and the country is doomed if we become in charge.  

Ok I'm done, I could go on, but I will try not to.  Shockingly most millennials do not seem to have particularly high American pride.  So if Captain America was created today I think it would have died, quickly, possibly loudly.  Miss America on the other hand first off is of latin descent and is bilingual, was actually raised not in our current America, and lastly she doesn't try to spread America being an awesome place.  She just tries to be awesome and then wears the stars and stripes.  Which I think at this point is what most people are trying to do.  They're trying to be awesome and hopefully pull America up with them.  

If, like me, you feel Captain America really doesn't speak to our current America, despite his current iteration being awesome in other ways, I highly recommend you check out Young Avengers.  Also if, like me, you think America has gone downward and deserves a second chance, go forth be awesome and try to take America with you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Captain America Wing Hair Clips

I didn't like Captain America before the movie Captain America: The First Avenger.  I didn't see him all that often, which honestly may have been part of the problem.  He was really only around in my childhood when he guest starred on Spider-Man, the mediocre Spiderman animated series that was on when I was a child.

Whenever Captain America was around he was just really boring.  What I remember most was that the Black Cat was exposed to the same Super Soldier Serum that Captain America was in that series.  In my head he just seemed like a goody two shoe male version of one of my favorite characters in that series.  Before you get mad at me you have to remember in my childhood canon Black Cat came first, because I knew about her first, and that I was like 7.

Cue the new movies, which made fun of Captain America's origin story and put in the forefront that Captain America was in fact a form of propaganda.  Then they hooked him up with top quality writers who made his story very compelling, unfortunately lacking female characters, but compelling none the less.

So therefore this week I made something specifically honoring the Captain America from the new movies.  Captain America Hair Clips so that you can express your pride whenever you want.  For the project you will need the pattern below.

If you haven't yet, check out the video I made to show you exactly how I made them.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why is The Nightmare Before Christmas so popular?

The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993, at this point it is 21 years old.  If that makes you feel really old, you are not alone.

Yet for how old it is, it also is surprisingly immersed in modern culture.  Admittedly it was back when I was a teenager, 6-10 years ago, that I think Jack Skellington really became so popular.  The store Hot Topic essentially was a shrine to him and the movie for a while.  At this point Hot Topic has moved on, there aren't really very many items related to him anymore.  However hop on over to the Disney Store and you get a different story.   With over 50 products and an entire in park store dedicated to him it becomes clear that Jack Skellington still hasn't moved beyond his heyday.

Therefore we get to the question of why?  Why has The Nightmare Before Christmas become so all encompassing?  When similar movies such as The Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie have all but faded from our collective memories despite being so much more recent.

Well there does seem to be a strong correlation in how involved Tim Burton is with each of these projects and how successful it is.  When it comes to The Nightmare Before Christmas despite it being called "Tim Burton's" in all the advertisements it becomes clear upon doing any research that he wasn't that involved in the process.  Henry Selick was the director of the movie, Tim Burton was actually busy directing Batman Returns and Ed Wood at the time.  Tim Burton originally wrote a three page poem that the script was eventually based on and helped Danny Elfman write most of the lyrics.  After that he just put the players in place and left.  Tim Burton absolutely deserves credit for putting the team together and the original idea, but after that he's described as occasionally visiting the project and never for very long.

He sure does like to be seen as though he was involved doesn't he...

Corpse Bride and Frankeweenie however are both directed by Tim Burton, Corpse Bride was also co-directed by Mike Johnson.  Directing stop motion animation is time consuming in a way I think only archaeologists can really understand.  It takes a special brain to successfully direct a movie that is coming together in tiniest of pieces at the slowest of paces.  I conjecture that Tim Burton, talented though I think he is, does not have that special brain on board.

Then there is the simple matter of the story.  Jack Skellington's story is relatable in a way that is almost clandestine.  He's bored, he thinks he might want to do something else with his life, but he's afraid to let people down, while at the same he question when is he allowed to do something that's just for him.  Jack Skellington commits a selfish act in a way most people are guilty of committing at some point in their life.  Essentially he had a life crisis, typically associated with mid life, but in reality that crisis happens to everyone at almost any age.  I think teenagers are pretty much in that crisis all the time, hence why Jack Skellington is so popular in that age group.  It's also common for people in college, how many people switched majors at least once?  Lastly grown ups have this crisis as well, if you're in a career you will at some point question if it is really what you want to do.

However, the jewel of the story is this, Jack does the selfish act and tries something else and the end no real consequences are had, in fact Jack's life becomes much improved due to the celebration of Christmas coming to Halloweentown.  He also rediscovers his love for his life's work, scaring people.  This is the ideal ending for a life crisis and I think what everyone secretly hopes will happen when they go through such a life crisis.

Corpse Bride and Frankeweenie however do not have relatable stories on board.  Sure they're good fun, but the pacing is rushed and story just comes off as silly and unlikely.  As opposed to The Nightmare Before Christmas which is the same length as the other two and yet the story seems epic and phantasmagorical.

It's possibly that Jack Skellington and his story was nothing more than a fluke, a mix of the right people with the right script that just happened by chance.  Whether it was due more to chance than anything else or if it was due to hard work and talent it's still an amazing movie which I highly recommend everyone checking out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jack Skellington Measuring Spoons

I'm not going to claim that Disney doesn't use Jack Skellington to their fullest ability.  He's one of their most popular characters for all ages, he basically has his own store in Disney Land.  But when I saw some white ceramic measuring spoons he was all I could think about.

From there it was just the matter of figuring out to get details on.  I looked into the various sharpie mug pin that invaded pinterest.  What I discovered is that those really did not work, at least not that anyone could demonstrate.  Unless you used an oil based paint sharpie, which worked quite well.  Except it wasn't foodsafe, meaning I would have had to keep the paint away from anywhere I thought food was going to touch.  That definitely included the inside of the spoon which I had planned for his face.  From there I turned to google which brought me to Set To Celebrate a company that specializes in event stuff. On their website they had a foodsafe ceramic paint pen in black, it was PERFECT!

Once I got my two weird items together this craft when incredibly well, it took me all of 15 minutes to make all the spoons and then I just had to let them dry for 24 hours.  Plus look at how well they turned out!  I seriously jumped up and down once they were all drawn out I was so excited at how cute they became.

Want to see how I made these spoons?  Check out the video below!

The paint pen can be found here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gender Neutral Games

There's something rather unique with Plants vs Zombies within that it is one of the few games that never asks you identify with a gender.

Most games don't ask, they just assume that you're male, or comfortable being identified that way, and the the story begins.

Now some of that has to do with the fact that not so long ago most of the individuals who played video games were male, so it wasn't seen as a problem to have most video game protagonist match their perceived players.  Hence why it takes until Pokemon LeafGreen and FireRed to be able to play as a female trainer in the Pokemon series.

But even now a days most games assume you're male or at least totally fine with playing a male character.  To be completely honest, that bugs the crap out of me.

If you look on the internet it actually bugs the crap out of a lot of people.  That particular aspect is not what I'm really interested in talking about today though, annoying though it is.

The situation I want to talk about is that video games are reinforcing gender stigma and double standards by asking each player their gender and then having that change game play.  One of the minor examples is from Animal Crossing where if you identify as a girl you can only wear a dress.  Boys also can only wear a shirt and pants

Oh great we're back in the 1950's, bravo.  It's not that asking for gender isn't a step forward, having the option to play as a female is quite a change actually.  However, quite often it causes as many awkward problems as it solves.  The certain type of armors female can wear has been spoken of many times on the internet.  

There's also something that's not very inclusive about demanding a gender from the player.  There those individuals that don't identify as one or the other, or there is just simple matter of being a girl wanting to play a girl but not wanting the male NPCs to hit on you.  Thank you very much I get enough of that unwanted attention in real life, I really don't want it in my fantasy one either.

The reason I bring this up is because I believe actively treating female identifying protagonist different reinforces aspects of video game culture that often makes females free unwelcome.  

There is an argument for the difference in gender treatment known as "story integrity," meaning that the story is dependent on the character's gender and must be changed if the gender changes.  My response to that is, really?  The story of a video game is THAT dependent on the main character's gender?  WHY?  Explain it to me, slowly if you think it will help, why that character absolutely has to be a male or must be treated different if it's a female?  

Is it cause they have to rescue a princess and it must love interest?  Because girls never have love interests that are also girls, nope that like never happens.

Is it cause the main character has to be believable strong?  Because girls are not as strong as men, none of them, there are no exceptions to that rule.  Every single woman is weaker than every single man.  

Is it cause of historical integrity?  Because that game was already so historical accurate.  You could always jump off a cathedrals and have no damage as long as you landed in a haystack.  

Is it cause programmers would require so much time to actual render a female character?  Maybe, they probably haven't seen a real female in a while, at least not that I can tell from looking at their games.

So yay Plants vs. Zombies for not asking my gender, and for not having Crazy Dave hit on me if I identified as a girl.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Plants vs Zombies Sunflower Cake

Yup I love Plants vs Zombies, the movie Zombieland, and flourless chocolate cake.  Flourless chocolate cakes are really delicious and moist so I've never felt the need to ice them. With this cake I used milk chocolate to keep the cake a light brown so that the black details would still be visible. If you want to ice the cake go ahead and ice it. But I like lazy cooking, and this is my lazy cooking turning out something pretty.

The twinkies I think make surprisingly awesome petals in my opinion.  They also allow me to reference another zombie franchise that I am quite fond of.  

Want to know how I did it?  Check out the video!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Princess Peach doesn't bug me

Oh Princess Peach.  She's one of the oldest female video game characters while at the same time probably the most archaic.  She is someone that many female gamers have a real problem with.  Being the most visible female video game character she is almost always a damsel.  The one time she wasn't and she had her own game, her super power was being emotional.  Basically they made a game about how Princess Peach uses her PMS to defeat monsters.  *sigh* This did not help female gamers feel welcome in the gamer community.

I can never over look how unwelcome female gamers often feel, and I can't really deny that Princess Peach plays a large role in why they're unwelcome.  However, Princess Peach doesn't bug me.

Why?  Well first off let's start off with her often being a damsel.  At this point it's clearly kind of joke to the Mario game creators.  They come up with some reason that Princess Peach is kidnapped and then Mario has to go through the levels to save Princess Peach.  With the exception of Super Mario Bros 2 which kind of wasn't really Mario game in some senses.  Mario games have a very set storyline and it's extremely simple.  Arguably if you changed one of the really major factors in such a simple story it wouldn't be a Mario game anymore.

On top of that Princess Peach is playable character in the RPG Mario Series, along with the Paper Mario Series.  She still sometimes needs to be rescued depending on the specific game, but she has her own powers and abilities to aid in the story.

That's not why she doesn't bug me though.  The reason she doesn't bug me is cause she's a representation of a type of girl.  I knew girls who loved her game, they loved that it was pink and girly, and they loved that her crying and her rage was a strength.  In current society women are presented as overly emotional and it's seen and detriment.  I knew girls who felt empowered by Super Princess Peach.

The problem isn't that Princess Peach exists in my opinion.  The problem is that she's so all encompassing because video game creators do not seem particularly interested in created other female video game characters.  We need female video game characters that are as varied as the male characters.  Honestly until that happens, female will probably continue to feel unwelcome in the world of video games.  I vote we stop sending all the hate to Princess Peach because that can make other female gamers feel unwelcome and send it where it's deserved.  At the actual game creators.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mario Mushroom T-Shirt Recon

I love the concept of cutting up old t-shirts and crafting them into something more fashionable, or at least less boxy.  The problem I always ran into was that so many t-shirt recons, either from books or internet, involved either showing your bra or not wearing them. 

When I was into t-shirt reconing the most I was 16.  My high school could have sent me home for showing my bra, and honestly 16 year old me wasn't comfortable with not wearing a bra.  On top of that so many of the recons just involved cutting the t-shirt up in various creative ways.  Although this can look awesome, it doesn't always feel very stable on your body.  Another no no for self conscience 16 year old me in fact still a no no to this day.

So when I decided I was doing a t-shirt I did it for a body conscience person like myself.  This is very stable, it will stay on without the straps but with the straps it's bullet proof.  It also covers all sensitive areas thoroughly.  Lastly, if I do say so myself, it looks pretty darn cute. 

Below are the patterns for appliques.  The squares should be 1" X 1" while the eye pieces should be 1.5" wide X 6.5" long.

Lastly if you want to see how I made the Mario Mushroom shirt check out the video below!