Back in black (and white)

Hiatus much?

Life happens at a rate that I can barely match these days. We closed on the house on Monday, and I’m picking up the keys tomorrow night from the (now) former owner. To quote what I wrote in my boss’s baby shower card “shit just got real.”

But that’s not what I’ve logged into this beleaguered account to write about. I am here to review Iron Man 3, which I went to the opening showing of in Grandville tonight.

To write a review on a comic book movie requires that I step away from the comics for a moment because without doing so, I will be overly critical about things that most viewers wouldn’t give two seconds’ thought. Consider this me putting down the graphic novels, ok?

Let me start by saying that if you don’t like the previous Iron Man movies, then you need to politely decline offers to see the third installment, and not just for obvious reasons. This Iron Man has as many explosion as the previous two, coupled with impossibly more Tony Stark one-liners. They are wonderfully irreverent and beautifully timed, with the exception of a few that caused such laughter from the audience that the following lines were lost. I hope they weren’t important.

This film is narrated by Tony, following the aftermath of the Avengers movie. Not entirely unlike the previous films, this is a story deeply rooted in the evolution of Tony as a human. <Comic Reference> This particular movie loosely follows some of the character development and plot lines of Fraction’s run of Invincible Iron Man. </Comic Reference> He confesses to Pepper how out of his league he felt with the other members of the Avengers – “a man in a can.” He discusses demons and how they are created, sometimes by chance, and more than once by his own actions. These themes are what made Iron Man great, and they are revisited here.

At the beginning of the film, we see Tony struggling to come to grips with the events in New York during the Avengers, along with the fantastically terrifying portrayal of Mandarin by Ben Kingsley. There is also the foreboding friendliness of Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, who invites Pepper Potts to invest in his Extremis project. Sure, he’s friendly and kind of handsome, but you just know he’s got a skin suit tucked away somewhere.

As is rather evident early on, Killian and his think-tank, AIM, are not entirely legit (see: skin suit). Tony and Pepper are having problems at home, and then things blow up. Literally. If you’ve seen a preview, you’ve seen his house falling into the water. After he is attacked in his home, Tony gets the wake up call he needs, and he decides to once again rise from the ashes and prove that he is a hero. By now, yes, it is a little formulaic, but if you’re not into that, then don’t read comics/watch comic movies. That’s kind of a running theme.

Pepper is taken hostage; Tony struggles against impossible odds, not the least of which is his own PTSD (undiagnosed!), and he finally overcomes because he has help in a rather unlikely form. There is the requisite final battle (boss battle, if you will) that involves Tony and friends going against seemingly impossible odds but coming out the victors. Tony proves his commitment to Pepper through a montage of destroying suits, medical procedures, and jewelry.

Highlights of the movie included any and all explosions (who doesn’t like those?), an incredible mid-air rescue of 13 people, the effects used on any and all characters exposed to Extremis, and the end credits sequence was retro and fun.

The sequences involving Mandarin were deeply disturbing. They were not unlike seeing Lawless for the first time – cringe-worthy seems like an apt description. They were visceral, and they continued with the Ten-Rings-as-terror-organization theme from the first movie. I understand the reasoning behind the brutality of the Mandarin in these films, but it is difficult to watch, and even more difficult to marry with the comic version, whose ten rings were actual rings and not a terrorist organization not unlike al-Qaeda (oops! I was supposed to not mention that, huh?).

There may have been just a little too much going on, at least for my taste. This film essentially took three plot lines and combined them, some of which span many many years in the comics. Because of all of the fronts covered, some of the ends were tied loose and messy. I imagine much of that will be rectified come the release to Blu-Ray and DVD and their deleted scenes. At a two hour run time, which is less than some of its contemporaries, they did an acceptable job.

There are a few plot twists that, as a moviegoer, were great examples of misdirection, and as a comic book fan, a little bit of a slap in the face. In the interest of readers who want to see the film, I won’t mention them specifically, but they were well-timed and revealed. They helped keep the pace quick, and some of them helped ease some tension.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie. I’ll probably see it again at a matinee because that’s my zen. As a movie lover, this was a great action movie that had some stellar character development, despite some questionable plot points. As a comic lover, it held to the character-driven feel of the Iron Man comics, while destroying some of what I had anticipated for comic plot.

And, of course, you must stay past the credits.

A day off (revised)

I had what I thought was a witty post written about my largely uneventful day today. But I decided not to post it.

While I will be the first one to tell you that I like to be the center of attention, I realized, toward the end of the original post, that I am actually uncomfortable airing all of my grievances for the world to see. Perhaps some of my internal demons are meant to be internal, and maybe I don’t want everyone I know – and a few people I don’t – hearing the chorus of their voices.

So instead I will just leave you with the highlights:

1. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a very funny musical, as its Commentary! The Musical extra. If you’ve not seen it, do yourself a favor and get on that.

2. Hawkeye is a real ladies’ man, and that is pretty cool. Also, boomerangs.

3. It snowed! Yay.

4. Freaks and Geeks, long touted as a must-see by my dad, is a must-see.

5. I get fuck-all done on my days off, and that really needs to change.

A new year begins soon. Hopefully it will bring with it a house, some inspiration, and school. And really, I cannot ask for more than that.

The unveiling

So for about 5 weeks, I struggled with ideas and execution on Eric’s birthday present. I knew I wanted to make him a board game because he loves board games, but I wasn’t sure how to create game play that could capture all of the facets of his personality, his life, and our life together. I toyed with the idea of a card game, a board game similar to Monopoly, and I got frustrated enough to stop thinking about it for a while, which was a bit unfortunate.

Finally I realized that I had an old copy of Trivial Pursuit that we never play, and the format was clear. I would create a trivia game with questions about Eric!

The only problem was that I wanted to unveil the game at his dad’s war gaming club, and not everyone there knows enough about Eric to do well, and I didn’t want it to be boring for people. In answer, I made one category about Eric specifically, and the others would be about things he likes, so I ended up with one category about Eric, one for entertainment (music, games, etc), one for general history, one for arts and literature, one for the Packers, and one for war history.

The biggest challenge was the trivia part. I spent weeks coming up from work and scouring the interwebs for good trivia. It was exhausting. I managed to put together 50 cards with each of the categories, which amounts to 300 questions. I hand wrote all of them, too, in tiny letters, so they would fit on the playing-card sized paper.

The code card and trivia cards. A 6 hour labor of love.

I spent so much time on the cards that I almost ran out of time to decorate the box. Even that has a great story. I had decided to do minimal changes, so I called the game “The Trivial Pursuits of Eric”; I simply added the letters and words I needed to the box.

After I had changed the title and put a picture of Eric on the cover, it seemed a little empty on top, so I decided to name it the “30th Anniversary Edition.” Easy! I used the same Sharpie I had used on the rest of it, but sometimes when you’ve been awake since 4am, things kind of run together, and I ended up with “30th Anniverary” instead.

No problem! I cut out a star burst of yellow construction paper and wrote it on there, then used Mod Podge to decoupage it onto the box.

Oh wait, though. When the construction paper got wet, it began to bend, and I ended up with a lump in the center where it hadn’t stuck to the box. I discovered this before the adhesive dried, luckily, and I attempted to flatten it. But in doing so, the ink of the marker smudged.

I took the whole star burst off, but the outline was still there.

My final answer (geez, this is even longer typed out than I thought…this is good, though. It gives a great feeling for what I went through) was to paint the star burst shape with the same bronze metallic paint I used on my dad’s clock and re-write the title. I retitled it “30th Anniversary Bronze Edition”, and it was done!

And I finished it all with literally one minute to spare. I completed the last card and put the cover on the game just before Eric got home from work last Friday. We left that afternoon for Grayling to visit the folks up north and attend GWC, where I would unveil the game!

Alas, we did not get to play the game at club, but I did give it to Eric, and he was a fan. Since we didn’t get to play, I asked him all the trivia questions on the drive home on Sunday. He actually missed some of the ones about himself, which I thought was great.

Eric’s displayed the box on his game shelf! Hooray!

To be honest, I feel a little crappy that we didn’t get to play it, like somehow it’s not as cool a gift since we skipped the whole game play part, which was sort of the point. But I’ll make it up to him. Next week, on the actual day, I don’t have to work, and he has an early day, so I’m thinking I’ll set up a board game to play for when he gets home. Of course, we also have an appointment with the bank that day to start talking about home loans and all that jazz.

Regardless, it all worked out, and I have a lot of crafting ahead of me! But for today, I’m just going to watch the Avengers again.

Zoe is going to watch it, too!


Twofer Tuesday 2: Scarf start

This is a short post because I am cooking dinner and need to shower after a run.

While thinking about how to make the messenger bag work yesterday, I made a little felt(ish) embellishment for my sound effects fleece scarf.

I haven’t sewed it together yet because I’m not sure how I want to do it. But when I do, I will attach it to the sound effects scarf, and it will be, well, pretty awesome.

Perhaps I will make a second one?

Look at me being patient and not having to finish the scarf immediately.

Next on the docket: Spider Man Duck Tape wallet?

Twofer Tuesday 1: Messenger bag, polymath style

Solve this equation:

(2 yards of Spider Man fabric + approx. 2 yards of black fabric + aida cloth + bias tape)Sam’s frustration = ?

You probably guessed, based on the title…

A Spidey messenger bag!

A few posts ago, I mentioned making a tote bag out of the remaining fabric from the Super Birthday Project, but then I remembered that I don’t like totes, and I rarely use them. Besides, using a Spidey tote for grocery shopping seemed, well, sad – Spidey deserves better.

The reason I don’t like totes is that I don’t care for bags that sit on the shoulder and hang down. I much prefer them to across the body. You know, similar to a messenger bag.

But, as usual, there was a problem. Messenger bags are generally sturdy, and they tend to require thick cloth. I have a ton of cotton prints and some fleece. Show me a messenger bag made with thin cotton and fleece, and I’ll show you another item that does not exist anywhere. In answer to this, I wallowed in self-pity for about an hour, bemoaning my lack of good fabric.

Then I got crafty because that’s what I do.

About a year ago, I purchased some black aida cloth for a cross-stitching project that never happened. If you are unfamiliar with this type of cloth, it can be fairly rigid, but it is also riddled with holes, since it’s for cross-stitching. Of course, it’s also easy to wrap in other fabrics.

So that’s what I did.

For whatever reason, I don’t generally use patterns. For better or worse, I just go forward with my ideas when I get them.

Pictured here: fabric about to be mauled

I trace things, sure, but I am not a stickler on perfect cuts or anything. This is probably where a lot of my problems start, but until it becomes a major issue, I seem to fake it fairly well.

I did trace the aida onto the cloth for the panels

I could have done three completely separate panels, but I opted for one large panel in which I sewed three pockets, essentially. I used black for the outside and Spidey for the lining of the insider of the bag. I lined them up on the wrong sides, sewed around the edge, then flipped it back right-side and sewed the smaller middle pocket (which became the bottom).

The flap for the opening

My thought was that having one panel of fabric with three heavy inserts would be stronger than three panels sewn together. Once I had the main panel done, I just had to sew the sides together.

Luckily I had not finished sewing it all up before I remembered I needed a flap for the opening, otherwise it would not be a messenger bag. It would just be a cross-the-body bag. So I made that rather quickly.

Kids, this is what happens when you rush

I did it so quickly that the bias tape is not actually attached to the fabric in one spot. This is a relatively easy fix if I ever bother to do it.

And besides, you can’t tell it’s there unless I pull the bias tape up and out, and even then, you have to be close to it.

The other part that is rushed and looks bad, though I forgot to take a picture, is where the flap attaches to the bag of the purse. To cover the spot, I added a bit of bias tape (why did I not use this stuff before?!), but my sewing machine went a little crazy in the middle of it, and there is this fine curve right in the middle. Luckily, that is the side that rests against my person, so it’s not noticeable.

New Holland shirt courtesy of Pa.

The straps I made with *gasp!* bias tape and Spidey fabric sewn together. I had not planned on making this, so I didn’t have anything stronger. To ensure it can hold up, though, I sewed probably close to a bazillion stretchy zig-zag stitches.

Things I might change if doing again:

1. I would actually buy some heavy cloth, though making the aida pockets worked great!

2. I would have made the pockets with all black fabric, sewn the straps on, then made a liner of the Spidey fabric, so that it would be reversible!

3. Had something more strap-appropriate.

All-in-all, I did a Happy Dance when I finished this project last night. I had a pretty important meeting today (more on that later this week), so I didn’t break it out today, but I definitely will tomorrow to see how it works. But seriously, I can’t believe I made that!

Birthday Boy Project: Super no-sew fleece throw

Yesterday I picked up some Marvel-licensed fabrics and a no-sew fleece throw blanket for birthday present crafting. I started on these crafts last night, to ensure I have plenty of time to work on everything and get them shipped out in time for the special day.

I took up the fleece blanket first because I could do it downstairs while watching Coraline, which I scored at the dollar store for $3.50!

I knew that the blanket was n0-sew, and I knew that it would probably take some time, but I did not know how sore my back would be after leaning over for about 2 hours. The work was also repetitive and felt a little bit uninspired. Not to say that the final product was not worth it. Perhaps the saddest part is that getting the kit was cheaper than buying fabric to make a throw. With the discount we nabbed, the kit was $20; to get the same amount of fabric needed to make one of these from chosen fleece would have been closer to almost $45 for one panel.

So this project was easier on my wallet if not my fantastic whimsies.

The highlight of working on the blanket was Zoe, who upon coming downstairs when I was nearing completion, decided that the blanket was obviously there for her. She came over and plopped right down on it and didn’t move until the thing was done, and I had to pick it up to shake it off and fold it. Ah, cats.

The finished product does look great, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous. I should have purchased the Batman one for Eric and I. Oh well. Hindsight and all that.

Here are the pictures, from start to finish! And, yes, Zoe is included.

Super birthday ideas

My brother turns 11 this year, and while I still need to come to terms with that, I can easily move onto thinking about totally sweet birthday ideas for him in August.

After talking to my mom for a while today, I got a great start. She is redoing his room to be a superhero theme, which I think is about the coolest idea ever. Maybe the only thing cooler would be a Doctor Who theme. But I digress. With that in mind, I’m thinking it’s time to get crafty!

There are so many home decor items for sale with a superhero theme, but I don’t want to just buy something and send it. I would much rather make something specifically for him, but then, isn’t that one of the reasons that we craft? Still, it’s a lot easier to steal an idea than to come up with one, so here is what I’ve found:

Spiderman room from Pottery barn

All kinds of decor at Amazon

Marvel sells stuff, too

Check out all of these products

And etc.

There are just as many craft websites with how-to’s and examples of completely remodeled rooms. Of course, since I’m not there, and I can’t just go in like a whirlwind, I need to keep things kind of low key. I’m thinking maybe some wall decor, a door sign, self-made decals, etc. Mom requested a curtain, which I am happy to do.

So here are some fabric ideas:

Marvel Retro Comics Packed Superheroes Multi Fabulously retro, courtesy of

Marvel Comics Superhero Names on Beige - Fat Quarter Quilt Fabric Some of Marvel’s big guns, or at least their titles

DC Comics Batman Joker's Back - Fat Quarter Quilt Fabric For a little more variety, try some DC comics

These would make a good curtain – maybe even sheets or pillow cases.

As for other projects, I’m thinking his name in wooden letters, decoupaged with comics. O paper letters on a string?

Decoupaged letters here.

My concern with the wooden letters is that they are kind of becoming cliché, and no offense, but my brother is totally original, so he deserves totally original stuff, too. Which is why I’m leaning toward paper letters on a string, a la wedding banners.

Regardless, I’m going to try to draw him some stuff, too. Maybe frame it, maybe use it for the decoupage, but I think that would be fun.

I am out of town again this weekend, so no posts from me. Be on the lookout for a guest post, though!


Twofer Tuesday 2: If we can’t save this craft, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it

I’ll be the first to admit that the title is too long, but I really could not help myself.

I’ve seen The Avengers 3 times – not as many as some, but more than I am accustomed to visiting the big screen, so any chance I have to quote the movie is a win in my book. This was one of those chances; I took it.

Along with my cooking adventure today, I finally nailed down an idea for a use for two glass bowls(?) that I got for dirt cheap at the local Goodwill. I had originally intended to do a basic decoupage on them, make them a little more than just glass. Nothing was coming to me, and nothing was shouting at me for an answer. I scoured Google, Pinterest, all of those crafty-people web hangouts, and I couldn’t nail anything down.

Until today! Thank you, Well Dressed Home.

If you follow that link, you will see a series of 6 “profile magnets”, which are pretty much what they sound like. I didn’t have magnets, though, I had bowls(?), so I thought it would probably be even easier. Then I sat around for about a half hour, trying to decide what kind of profile I should design and cut out.

With Dark Knight Rises looming over the horizon, my first thought was the Bat Signal! How epic would that be? But then I realized that I didn’t really have anything to “pop” behind the black signal. I thought about taping some paper down and painting around it, so that the shape would be glass, and the rest would just be painted. But I wanted the bottoms to be completely covered if I could help it.

Then I remembered that I bought some temporary tattoos a while back for testing purposes – i.e. will temporary tattoos stick to wood or glass? They are Avengers tattoos, and the cardboard backing in the package had a big picture of the heroes! Perfect! Avengers is pretty much just as good at Batman, so I would just use that. And I did.

A bowl, some temporary tattoos, and a marker = good times.

But, this being me, there were a few snags.

1. My first thought was to cut out the Avengers’ A from the cardboard, so I would have a colorful A surrounded by a sea of black, or maybe blue. This wouldn’t work because I would have had to cut the A so small that you would not see the characters at all.

Circle of heroes!

Math! Had to make my A the right way…

What’s it pointing to?