50 Years of Influence

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In 1996, Mattel released this Barbie and Ken set to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek. These were the first dolls I remember longing for.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I went to see Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the show and this production was, essentially, an array of selected clips from the shows and movies projected on a giant theater screen while a live orchestra played iconic Trek music. For me, this was a very moving experience. For an idea of what this was, I’d like to share this video put together by benandbarry on Youtube (I’m very impressed by the smooth transition in editing here, this is actually multiple pieces of the production spliced together):

Star Trek was something that I grew up with. My father was a Trekkie and would always watch it, pointing out the ways in which science fiction has a habit of becoming science fact. The Next Generation (TNG) first aired in 1987, when I was only 2 years old. With the quick succession of TNG, Deep Space Nine (DS9), and Voyager, you could say I literally grew up with it. While the major drawing factor for my father was the technology, I was drawn in and deeply affected by the rich social and philosophical lessons the episodes and films had to offer. These lessons helped to guide me and shape my worldview. There were two characters in particular that I looked up to:

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Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Mr. Spock. Picard’s words of wisdom and diplomacy modeled the kind of person, the kind of leader I longed, still long to be. He was firm and fair. He took his commanding role seriously but without being power driven. He lead by example, respected order and law but did not falter in instances where that order and law worked to the detriment of the populace. In his words, “the claim ‘I was only following orders’ has been used to justify too many tragedies in our history. Starfleet doesn’t want officers who will blindly follow orders without analyzing the situation” (Redemption II, 1991). There was an excellent piece written by Alex Knapp in Forbes in 2012 that does a great job capturing the ways in which Picard was a great leader.

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Mr. Spock’s intellect, logic, and, most importantly, control over his emotions, were characteristics that I wanted for myself. During the often turbulent years of my childhood, and even during trying times of my adulthood, I would have given anything to maintain the calm and emotion-free state of a Vulcan. But Spock was not fully Vulcan, he was half Human. Because of this, there are times during which you can see him grappling with emotions that, I wager, present themselves more strongly within him than within a full Vulcan. “I have a human half, you see, as well as an alien half… I survive it because my intelligence wins out over both…” (The Enemy Within, 1966).

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Halloween 1997. Seeking to emulate both of these role models as a TNG era Vulcan Captain.

With a nod to the roots of this blog, I feel I would be remiss if I neglected the wardrobe. Yes, I own an array of Star Trek tshirts (you can read a previous bit about tshirts here) and I also own a uniform inspired hoodie complete with insignia and rank pips. In the film, First Contact, Picard says to Data, “…touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way. It makes it seem more real.”  Indeed, in a similar way, wearing that uniform-hoodie does make me feel a certain connection to these characters and those traits that I admire. And is it any surprise that one of the first outfits I made for my Lammily doll was a Starfleet uniform?

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Making a Bağlama for Morrígan

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Perhaps not surprisingly, yesterday’s Google Hangout experiment resulted in my sitting in front of a camera for an hour by myself. Not a single person logged in. And that’s ok. I don’t currently have an extremely large readership, not everyone has access to a camera for such hangouts, and I’m sure everyone had other things they wanted to do with their Saturday afternoon.  But that’s ok. Rather than just blankly stare into a screen for an hour, I used the time to work on half completed projects.

Some months ago, after determining the general background that I wanted to give Morrígan, my Lammily doll, I decided to make her a miniature bağlama that she could play. I actually came across an excellent tutorial by Özden Ceyhan over on Blogspot. Since this is a traditional Turkish instrument, it is not surprising that the language of the article is in Turkish. However, between auto-translate and Mr. Ceyhan’s wonderful step by step photos, knowledge of the language isn’t required (although I personally find Turkish to be an attractive language). Because I know that my links aren’t as easily seen (I don’t know how to change the color for them), I want to make sure to give Mr. Ceyhan’s tutorial special attention:

 http://ozdenceyhan.blogspot.com/2014/02/minyatur-saz-imalat.html

     I didn’t follow Mr. Ceyhan’s process exactly, but I did use it as a guide. I glued 3 layers of balsa wood together and whittled and sanded the shape down from there. For the tuners, I cut down toothpicks into 7 small sections of equal length and bore them into the head. I used a Rust-Oleum stain marker to give the instrument color – although, probably because I used a marker instead of painted on stain, the finish looks blotchy to me. But, I suppose it will work.

Because I am sure that most of my readers have never heard this beautiful instrument before, let me share a clip so that you can appreciate the wonderful sound it creates.

When I imagine Morrígan playing, I imagine her sitting against her window, looking out to the world, and letting her heart pour out. I imagine that she sings songs her father taught her as she thinks of him hundreds of miles away back in Turkey.

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If I ever had the time, I would love to learn how to play one of these myself – and I found a rather decent beginner’s information page I felt was worth sharing: here. As it is, I’d really love to learn Turkish (along with Hindi and to become more proficient at Spanish and Japanese – both of which I studied in college but am not very good at). Maybe Morrígan can teach me? 😉

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Concerts, Nerds, Sub-Culture, and Shirts

Warning: This post may contain tangents, rambling, and streams of consciousness. Maybe unconsciousness. It also has puppy sized elephants.

Yesterday I went to Chicago. I traveled in a car with 2 other people to see Driftless Pony Club and Hank Green in concert (Andrew Huang, Rob Scallon, and Harry and the Potters were also on the ticket, and were great). Previous post about Hank Green: Here. I also brought Morrígan and Mitsuko (I would put links to other posts about them, but, just read the last handful of posts I’ve written. Because it’s been a thing.) Yes, I brought my dolls with me to a concert. Because I’m a grown woman and that’s how I roll.

Look! Here they are riding a puppy sized elephant on the way to the show! (Puppy sized elephant belongs to my friend Sierra’s cousin Logan who rode in the back seat. Thank you, Wolverine, for graciously letting me hijack your puppy sized elephant.):

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Driving through Chicago was a nightmare. Parking was a nightmare. And it didn’t help that the venue was more or less across the street from Wrigley Field. On a game day. I really wish I had taken a picture of all us nerds standing in line for the concert while legions of cubbie fans walked the sidewalk opposite us, as we all looked at each other from across the road and thought, “Ha! Losers!”   No? Ok.

Two super cool ladies we met while standing in line. Note the clothing with the DFTBA slogans and Nerdfighter insignias.

Two super cool ladies we met while standing in line. Note the clothing with the DFTBA slogans and Nerdfighter insignias.

But… it really got me to thinking about our different little sub-cultures and niches and uniforms. I mean, while my friends and I were driving around trying to just locate the venue in the first place, it was the people wearing Pizza John tshirts that tipped us off that we were in the right place. Something as simple as a tshirt let us know that we had found our people.  Our People. That is such an interesting concept. I mean, we never really belong exclusively to one subset of people – we are also students, parents, punk rockers, hip-hoppers, nature lovers, and introverts. And even within our subset of nerds, we are varied and overlapped with different subsets -Whovians, Trekkies, Gamers, Book-lovers, etc. But in this space, we unify together as people who identify as nerdfighters. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Sierra, myself, and Logan.

Sierra, myself, and Logan.

The concert itself was absolutely amazing. I tried to take some photos, but, they just didn’t come out very well. And the zoom function decided to stop working on my camera. I did get a little frustrated, though, when the venue staff made me put my purse in coat check (which charges $3 with an additional $2 to recheck it -cash- when I needed to get something out of it mid show). Other purses were allowed through. But, because my little black backpack purse is shaped like a mini-backpack, it doesn’t constitute a purse in their eyes. (Urge to rant and go on about prototype theory – I won’t)

Arguably the most awesome event of the evening was getting to have an actual conversation with Craig Benzine – Frontman for Driftless Pony Club and Youtuber, Wheezy Waiter. It was the coolest thing. I was standing at the bar getting a soda, and just happened to see Craig standing at the back of the crowd of people watching the show. Just blending in amongst the mortals, chilling, watching the show. I decided to say hi – trying very hard to not be all fan-girl squee. He stood and talked to my friends and I for a few minutes and let us take a photo. He is one very cool, very laid back individual. He told us he was nervous about his band’s upcoming set, because they were starting with a song no one had heard. Craig, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but, you and the rest of Driftless Pony Club were just brilliant. And you guys need to come back to Champaign-Urbana. 🙂

Myself, Craig Benzine, Sierra.

Some other concert photos that didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped:

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After the show, out large crowd of people swarmed the merch area to buy stuff and meet the artists. The security staff, because of the sheer number of fans, rushed us along – which makes the earlier encounter with Craig even more amazing. Sierra was able to get her photo with Andrew Huang (who she had come to see, specifically), and then we all lined up outside to meet and have our pictures taken with Hank Green.

Standing in line, waiting to meet one of my heroes, was a nerve-racking experience. I mean, there is already that uncertainty – what do I say? do I look ok? am I going to come off awkwardly? – but the time you spend in line waiting just builds that anticipation. I could feel my heart beating in my throat and I could have sworn it was beating so loud that everyone else could hear it. And then, because I still had my dolls in my backpack, and because I don’t know how to leave well enough alone, I pulled my Lammily doll out and spent my time in line debating whether or not to include the doll in my photo with Hank. One person near us had a stuffed hanklerfish, and Logan had her puppy sized elephant – but those things tie into the nerdfighter and vlogbrothers universe. My doll doesn’t really mesh…  and I felt very self-conscious and weird and out of place. But the nerdfighters in line around me encouraged me and told me to go for it. And Logan, this 14 year old girl that I had only met that afternoon on the ride over, reminded me of something important. She reminded me that being overly excited about something, even when others around us aren’t, is ok. We are Doctor Who nerds, comic book nerds, gamer nerds, and book nerds. I just happen to be a doll nerd.

So, I went for it. I did it. I was still self conscious, and none of my words came out right, and I looked like a creepy fangirl zombie, but I did it. And he rolled with it. I wanted to tell him about her, about how she helps to decrease world suck, because she has realistic human proportions, because she can give kids a healthy representation and help girls with body image issues. But all I managed to get out was “Have you seen these dolls? She has actual human proportions!”  And no, he has not seen her or heard of her before. And now he has.

Sierra doesn't know how to work my camera, totally snapped this before we were ready. He *did* smile, and laugh, I assure you, lol!

Sierra doesn’t know how to work my camera, totally snapped this before we were ready. He *did* smile, and laugh, I assure you, lol!

And now other photos that I didn’t know where else to put:

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And, as a parting gift, a prolific Wheezy Waiter video: