16 Jan

Being Extra Special

Posted by on January 16, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Our vintage dancing group was asked to provide the historical background for a Studio C skit last summer as extras decked out in our own handmade Regency robes. This skit, “One Last Dance,” aired in November. Being involved in a production like this was an interesting experience- both in good and bad ways. We learned a few things about the film industry; the adjective “ridiculous” applies to many of those discoveries:

Like most members of our dance group, I did my own hair for the shoot. I still got some time in the make-up chair though.

Like most members of our dance group, I did my own hair for the shoot. I still got some time in the make-up chair though.

  1. The film industry takes hierarchies to ridiculous heights. The chain of command is long and inflexible. During our filming, the director would pass his instructions onto the assistant director. The assistant director would belt them out to the group. A background director was the only one that spoke to us, the lowly extras, directly. Even the meals were hierarchical. We weren’t allowed to eat lunch with the rest of the crew even though they had plenty Mediterranean fare to spare. Instead, we got to munch cold pizza by ourselves in another building. Maybe that’s normal for the film industry, but it felt pretty ridiculous to us.
  2. Filming is hot. Literally, hot. Cast and crew members are crammed together while bright lights blast them. It’s not overly comfortable.
  3. Filming gets foggy. Fog machines spewed out haze endlessly during our shoot. This was to give the setting a dreamy effect, or so we were told. It made me feel like I was in a gambling hall rather than a dancing hall.
  4. Filming takes a lot of people, most of which are never on camera. Our set was packed with crew doing all sorts of things with ladders, cords, lighting, cameras, wardrobes, and makeup. Plus, a whole lot of people sat around watching screens the whole time. To be honest, I have no idea what they were all watching for.
  5. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to shoot scenes over and over from every possible angle. The filming of this 2:55 skit took over 13 hours. Every second of material required almost five minutes of production time. Wow! That seems pretty inefficient to me, but compared to industry norms, maybe it’s amazingly productive.
Cords and crew littered the set.

Cords and crew littered the set.

The main cast members were brought water and lip gloss every few minutes.

The main cast members were brought water and lip gloss every few minutes.

Although this was a fascinating educational experience, I don’t think Jason and I would be too eager to stand around fanning ourselves in a stuffy, smoke-filled room for hours and hours again. This may have been our first and last dance with Studio C.

This was the only time the main director talked to us extras.

This was the only time the main director talked to us extras.

If you’d like to see how expertly we portray ball attendees from the Regency period that believe the alphabet is the most exquisite conversation topic imaginable, I’ve included a link to the correct Studio C episode. Our skit starts about 12 minutes in. You may notice that I wondrously appear on both sides of the room at the same time; that miraculous maneuver meant I didn’t get a break like almost everyone else did.

9 Jan

The Good, the bad, and the Nerdy

Posted by on January 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm

In September, we again welcomed the nerdery that is Salt Lake Comic Con like Klingons embrace an honorable death. Not everything is fantastic about comic conventions; here’s a rundown of what makes these events awesome and awful.

You make instant connections with fellow fans at cons.

You make instant connections with fellow fans at cons.

The Good

My favorite thing about SLCC remains catching up with friends and discussing convention occurrences with them over meals. We had dinner with two different groups during SLCC this time and thoroughly enjoyed both.

We ate dinner with the Rowleys during the convention and caught up on their fantastic fanatic experiences.

We ate dinner with the Rowleys during the convention and caught up on their fantastic fanatic experiences.

The Bad

SLCC, like other cons, suffers a bit from the-more-the-merrier and profits-at-all-costs syndromes. The Grand Nagus would be proud. The organizers and vendors want every line packed. Longer lines = more money. Photo shoots with stars often feel more like cattle chutes; these affairs are always oversold, and there is a constant push to shove people through as quickly as possible. Although some celebrities want to have a little extra time to interact with fans during photos, they too seem pressured to hurry. (I’ve actually witnessed impatient photographers tapping their toes at stars when those stars have taken a few extra seconds to talk to someone.) I’m sure the pursuit of high profits over pleasant experiences is common to every con; I think these conventions could find a better balance between the two.

John Barrowman and Catherine Tate made each of their pictures unique.

John Barrowman and Catherine Tate made each of their pictures unique.

The Nerdy

On our first day at SLCC, we went to the Jewel Staite, Thomas F. Wilson and Christopher Lloyd, and Joan and John Cusack panels. All of these sessions were entertaining. Joan Cusack was as eccentric as expected, and Tom Wilson was much funnier than expected.

Meeting Firefly cast members is always a pleasure.

Meeting Firefly cast members is always a pleasure.

The next day, we went to Catherine Tate’s and John Barrowman’s panels. They were fantastic, and our seats on the fourth row made them even better. Without ruining all of John’s panel surprises, let me just say that Wonder Man appreciates the underside of kilts.

A local fan lovingly made this vintage TARDIS set.

A local fan lovingly made this vintage TARDIS set.

That evening, we experienced Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in a con setting for the first time. Good thing I know all the words and neighs! Jason even participated in the singing along, for good or for horrible.

Joan Cusack was quirky and kind.

Joan Cusack was quirky and kind.

We didn’t go cuckoo for celebrity pictures or autographs this time; we’ve found that too many of those make cons obnoxiously packed. We did take a couple photos, however, and got autographs from the likes of John and Joan Cusack, Tom Wilson, Jewel Staite, and Catherine Tate.

I've gotten some ink and glue done a couple times at Salt Lake Comic Con.

I’ve gotten some ink and glue done a couple times at Salt Lake Comic Con.

Comic cons are not perfect. They test patience and politeness. Plus, they make one feel a little like a walking dollar symbol in a cosplay outfit. Yet, the memorable interactions with friends, fans, and the famous at these events usually make the waits and crowds acceptable. Best of all, these cons make being nerdy more socially acceptable.

2 Jan

Pottery, Archery, and Piracy

Posted by on January 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out exactly as imagined. Some events aren’t as dramatic or romantic as anticipated while others are more remarkable than expected. Here are a few of our fall experiences that proceeded as predicted or as unpredicted.

Activity: The Cannon Ball

Expectation: Awesome

Reality: Awesome

It’s impossible for a steampunk pirate ball with vintage dancing not to live up to expectations.

I wouldn't actually make a good pirate; plundering goes against my core values.

I wouldn’t actually make a good pirate; plundering goes against my core values.

Activity: Archery Tag

Expectation: Fun and Energetic

Reality: Fun and Tragic

We invited everyone in my family to play archery tag with us one evening, including all our nieces and nephews. I learned a few things about myself and the world during this strung-out activity. It turns out, my family as a conglomerate isn’t particularly skilled with bows. We lost most of our games against another family consortium.

Our tag team was rather ragtag.

Our tag team was rather ragtag.

You know those wrist guards that Legolas wears? Well, I guess they are for more than just elven frills. Midway through our tag session, I wacked myself with my bowstring while shooting. It hurt, and I instantly grew a goose egg on my forearm that looked ready to hatch. A few days later, half my arm turned a sickly shade of green. My Dad walked away from the affair with a similar limb wound.

With a few insignificant differences, I am remarkably like the heroically-flawed figures of myth. Eons ago, an arrow hit Achilles’ foot, his weak point, and everything fell apart. Playing archery tag, an arrow hit my foot, my weak spot, and everything fell apart. (Sure, I didn’t slay Hector, and I wasn’t exactly a champion of the Trojan War, but I’d say those are pretty insignificant differences.) Just minutes before our time in the arena was up, a guy on the opposing team saw my foot sticking out from behind a barrier and decided to target it. This wasn’t just any of my two feet though, it was the foot I had tendon surgery on years ago. His arrow flew, hit that surgery spot spot-on, and hurt me like hell. (Sorry, I can’t edit that last comment; the pain was too real for censoring.) Jason heard a loud smack and then a wretched scream. Play stopped, and I hobbled off the field. I held back my tears though; I’m tough in my flimsiness like that. My ankle swelled up so badly I had to elevate and ice it that night. I could barely walk for a couple days, and I couldn’t run for a week and a half. D#mn puniest point!

My ankle inflated after getting shot.

My ankle inflated after getting shot.

Activity: Wheel-Thrown Pottery

Expectation: Ghost

Reality: Course and Clumsy

It's really easy to misalign your clay blob and form a wobbly mess.

It’s really easy to misalign your clay blob and form a wobbly mess.

As a gift to Jason, I purchased a month of wheel-thrown-pottery classes for the two of us. He envisioned a Ghost-esque experience, but it ended up being more like a 2nd-grade art class. You know, making misshapen blobs that only your mother could pretend to love. At least that’s what Jason would tell you, but I was pretty pleased with our creations. I enjoyed the classes enough that I signed up for another month of them with my mom. She and I had a great time working clay and forming rookie pieces together.

Despite Jason's protestations, most of our pottery pieces turned out satisfactorily.

Despite Jason’s protestations, most of our pottery pieces turned out satisfactorily.

After another month of pottery lessons, the quality of my creations... stayed about the same.

After another month of pottery lessons, the quality of my creations… stayed about the same.

Life isn’t terribly predictable. Excitement and drama don’t always pop up in the places we envision. Yet, pop up they do.

20 Dec

Finding Chaos in Orderville

Posted by on December 20, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Yes, I’m back to blogging after some temporary impediments (AKA life).

Orderville Canyon, rated a 3B III, is one of Zion National Park’s famous slot canyons. This fall, my father organized a family outing to this narrow ravine with one of his friends as our guide. More family members ended up joining this expedition than expected, so our group of nine wadded and jumped through frigid waters as an odd entourage.

The Canyon Overlook Trail is short but stunning.

The Canyon Overlook Trail is short but stunning.

No matter how hot it is in Zion, the park’s slot canyons don’t offer much heat. The sun can’t reach into those deep and slim crevices, and the icy waters that seep through stone to fill their innards assure that no passer retains what limited warmth is offered by the air. However, the rest of the park does not share this all-too-efficient cooling system and was blazing hot during our stay.

The Canyon Overlook Trail provides a touch of adventure.

The Canyon Overlook Trail provides a touch of adventure.

Jason and I went down to Zion a day earlier than my family and completed two hikes. We did these at both ends of the day to avoid the sun’s most intense beams. During the morning, we took a 3.5-mile trek to a fantastic viewpoint of the Watchman, a spire that overlooks the valley holding Springdale. In the evening, we hiked the Canyon Overlook, a short one-mile jaunt with a gorgeous endpoint above Zion Canyon.

Birch Hollow is one way to enter Orderville Canyon. It's not the way we came in, but we stopped there long enough for me to slip on a loose rock and fall flat on my face.

Birch Hollow is one way to enter Orderville Canyon. It’s not the way we came in, but we stopped there long enough for me to slip on a loose rock and fall flat on my face.

The next day, we got up at an ungodly hour to begin our slot adventure. Hiking Orderville involves a one-way journey down a thin gap that empties into Zion’s famous Narrows almost two miles from the Temple of Sinawava. Only 80 permits/day are given to enter this canyon. The distance is 10-12 miles, depending on how far along a bumpy dirt road you dare go in your vehicle. We did the 12-mile version. We started walking at 9:15 AM and barely caught the last shuttle out of the park from the Temple of Sinawava at 9:15 PM. Yup, those 12 miles took us 12 hours. One mile an hour? Perhaps a little pitiful. This trek is supposed to take 7-10 hours, so we were about 25% slower than normal human beings.

Our rappel off the Border Boulder ended right in a deep mud pock.

Our rappel off the Border Boulder ended right in a deep mud pock.

Why so sluggish? For one, our group was relatively large, so each rappel took considerably longer just based off our numbers. Second, our group was relatively timid, so prompting its members into freezing pools of unknown depth wasn’t always quick. Why rush into misery?

Pictures don't convey Orderville's vertically-vibrant awe.

Pictures don’t convey Orderville’s vertically-vibrant awe.

The thing about hiking slot canyons is that there isn’t a go-back option after a certain point. Once you make your first rappel, you are committed. So, even when an obstacle makes you think “I can’t do that,” you know you must. It’s both intimidating and empowering. In this case, our first rappel, and the point of no return, was a 15-foot drop off a chunk of stone known as the Border Boulder. Once our ragtag group bounded beyond that rotund pebble, we were past retreat.

Our group wasn't exactly A-team material.

Our group wasn’t exactly A-team material.

The Guillotine, Orderville’s second rappel, falls between two massive boulders wedged into the canyon’s slender gap. A cold and cloudy pool obscures the rappel’s landing. While only about a 12-foot drop, the unknown depth of that water made us all hesitant to get harnessed up. Thus, Jason got elected to take the first descent into its indeterminate deepness, an honor he was not terribly excited about receiving. It turned out to only be about three feet deep, so no one had to attempt detaching from the line while swimming.

The Guillotine sits in a hazy pool.

The Guillotine sits in a hazy pool.

Orderville’s terrain and obstructions change frequently, more than most slot canyons’. Each flashflood alters the sand levels and debris clogs, shifting the wading, swimming, and maneuvering requirements. Beyond the Guillotine, the landscape went from a little wet to much worse for us. This section, officially Bulloch Gulch, is commonly called the “Orderville Waterpark” or the “Obstacle Course.” Somehow, frigid water escapes the towering canyon walls to gain mass and momentum here. This runoff is opaque with a turquoise hue, similar to glacier runoff. Therefore, the depth and subsurface conditions of its puddles are impossible to ascertain before jumping in. We had to wade nearly constantly once we hit this section, and we crossed at least three or four pools that required full swims. There might have been a few more… we lost track.

Our encounters with Orderville's fluids began innocently enough.

Our encounters with Orderville’s fluids began innocently enough.

A friend warned me that wearing a wetsuit or drysuit is necessary when maneuvering through parts of Orderville, regardless of the temperature outside. I didn’t believe him. Zion was 102 degrees the day we trekked through Orderville, hardly wetsuit weather. So, with the exception of neoprene socks and amphibious canyoneering shoes, Jason and I passed on donning aqueous attire. Bad decision. Continual plunges into icy puddles combined with constant shade created by high canyon walls meant we all were soon shivering uncontrollably once the swims began. My body has a hard time staying warm anyway, so I was hit by fiercer shivers than most. Jason said I turned pale and my lips went blue. It’s been a while since I’ve been that cold.

Slippery logs and rocks are frequent hurdles in the Waterpark.

Slippery logs and rocks are frequent hurdles in the Waterpark.

Our last rappel wasn’t planned but was necessary. Veiled Falls, a waterfall, is typically only around six feet tall, but it’s the most frequent search-and-rescue site in the canyon due to people jumping from its ledges and breaking their ankles. To get past it without snapping our limbs, we concocted a makeshift rappel line using Jason and my dad as the anchor. Designing this workaround took a bit of time and left our shaking bunch even more dejected.

With all the shivering, I couldn't keep my hands steady enough to take pictures. All of my photos turned out a bit blurry once we got substantially wet.

With all the shivering, I couldn’t keep my hands steady enough to take pictures. All of my photos turned out a bit blurry once we got substantially wet.

Due to our slower-than-average pace, we didn’t make it out of The Narrows before dark. We had to wander down nearly a mile of the Virgin River in the pitch of night. Wading through a flowing waterway when everything is black around you is an interesting experience.

Veiled Falls made us snappier, but it didn't snap us.

Veiled Falls made us snappier, but it didn’t snap us.

The consensus on Orderville? It was unimaginably beautiful and unbelievably cold. The experience, a jumbled bundle of misery and majesty, will never be forgotten. While others from our group might not be eager to experience it again, I would be game. A wetsuit would not be considered optional attire though.

8 Oct

Moab for Kiwis

Posted by on October 8, 2017 at 11:23 pm

The landscapes around Moab are unlike any others on Earth. So, we couldn’t let a couple of Jason’s relatives, Steve and Wendy, come halfway across the globe from New Zealand without taking them to see that region. Jason’s parents opted to join us for this little weekend excursion, which was during August’s hot thralls. Appallingly, they had never been to Moab in all their years in Utah. Say what? Jason and I have visited Moab dozens of times and, like any self-respecting insufferable-know-it-all, I’ve picked up quite a few useful and not-entirely-useful area details during those many trips. Hence, we made pretty decent guides. Our guests received no shortage of facts and recreation options. Moab stunned them and we wore them out.

The Shafer Canyon Overlook offered our guests their first glimpse of the striking layers that form Canyonlands drop upon drop.

The Shafer Canyon Overlook offered our guests their first glimpse of the striking layers that form Canyonlands drop upon drop.

Although we arrived in Moab late in the afternoon, we had enough time before sundown to drive to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park and check out the Shafer Canyon Overlook and Mesa Arch. The Kiwis in our group were awed by the sheer scope of Canyonlands’ sheerness. They weren’t prepared for its 1,400-foot plunges of pristine crimson and auburn sandstone.

Mesa Arch is one of Canyonlands' most famous features.

Mesa Arch is one of Canyonlands’ most famous features.

The next morning, we got up at 6:45 AM to hike to Delicate Arch, one of Utah’s most iconic features. Despite our early rising, this 3.2-mile trek was a bit on the unpleasantly warm side. Still, our climb was cool enough that we could legitimately shake our heads at the suckers going up the trail when we were heading down. That’s all that matters, right?

From above, Mesa Arch's precarious position is more apparent.

From above, Mesa Arch’s precarious position is more apparent.

In the afternoon, we went on a rafting expedition down the Colorado River. We thought we’d be cooler on the water. As it turns out, being near water doesn’t actually make you wet… go figure. A little sweat didn’t ruin our ride though. Fine scenery can make one forget about cascades of perspiration flooding every crevice. We saw five otters during our float. Four of these comprised a happy otter family and the other one was a curious and playful fellow that raced our boat for quite a while just for fun. I love otters!

Glory to the tripod!

Glory to the tripod!

Interestingly, the particular rafting company we used didn’t provide paddles for anyone but our guide, which made me feel slightly pathetic. We went through rapids like White’s Rapid and the Trash Compactor but there really wasn’t much point to adrenaline with our fingers securely wrapped around ropes; whitewater is a much different experience when it’s only your flexed toes holding you in a bobbing raft.

Our group was game for the goofy.

Our group was game for the goofy.

The wind swelled to 35 MPH with gusts up to 60 MPH a mile or two from our take-out point. That rushed air insisted on carrying us upstream so our guide expended a whole lot of energy rowing our raft in circles for half an hour or so. Without oars, the best assistance the rest of us could offer was huddling at the bottom of the boat to keep our wind resistance at a minimum. Still, we made it to our journey’s end only about 15 minutes behind schedule.

Jason and I have been to Delicate Arch a number of times but we enjoyed experiencing it with new recruits.

Jason and I have been to Delicate Arch a number of times but we enjoyed experiencing it with new recruits.

On our way home the next day, we stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park and took a little stroll 2,000 feet above the Colorado River. It was two miles of splendid misery. On that skyward plateau, the fierce fingers of the sun pushed waves of sticky heat onto us from above and the extraordinary vistas carved by the Colorado plummeted away from below.

Dead Horse Point is on a plateau 2,000 feet above the Colorado. Looking over its ever-present edges, you feel every inch.

Dead Horse Point is on a plateau 2,000 feet above the Colorado. Looking over its ever-present edges, you feel every inch.

I believe Moab was a hit with our foreign visitors and deprived locals. Steve and Wendy kept saying that they wouldn’t know how to describe what they had seen to others, that it would be hard to convey the size and scope of Moab’s canyons and colors even with pictures. So, I guess that means there isn’t any point in reading this post or contemplating its photos. Just get yourself down to Moab… preferably not in August though.