DIY: Great Gatsby Era Dalek Dress


Image: Lisa Tate

Here’s a little Dalek dress costume that might fit in just as well as at an art deco Great Gatsby-esque Roarin’ Twenties party as it would at any Doctor Who fan event or comic con.

The Headpiece:

1. Find a dark brown or black knit cap at any accessory, clothes or craft store.

2. Sew on one large blue jewel button in front for the Dalek’s eye and tear-shaped clear baubles for the lights.

The Dress:

3. Find a simple, plain cotton tank dress in tan or light brown. Can’t find the right color, “tea dye” a white dress by letting is soak one or two nights in a container of tea (use a black tea, not green).

4. Sew 32 bronze, gold or copper-colored buttons evenly over the lower half of the dress for the Dalek’s globes. Space them evenly, four across and four high (16 each on front and back).

5. For the top half, (or Dalek’s “main chamber”), securely sew three ¾ inch black satin ribbons, parallel from each other, around the dress.  To get the look of a Dalek, gently cut two sets of slits the width of the ribbon on both the front and the back of the dress. Lace the ribbon through and make sure to sew these slits securely to prevent the ribbon from catching or the dress to tear more.

6. Add a ruffle around the skirt’s hem with a large satin or mesh ribbon (about four inches in width) for the Dalek’s bumper or “motive power system.”

The “Arm” Wands:

7. For a basic “sucker arm” make a cone out of black felt with a small hole in the center and place it at the end of a chopstick or dowel. Cover the chopstick with black ribbon or electric tape. Make it fancy or “wand-like” by adding ribbon, mesh or glitter.

8. For a basic “gun arm,” cover a dowel or chopstick with silver ribbon, and cut eight to 10 pieces of sturdy silver craft or floral wire about ¾ the length of the arm. Carefully use a glue gun to secure the ends around the chopstick, and carefully bend the wire out so it resembles a whisk or mixer beater (for a lazy method, either of these kitchen items can be used in lieu of making a gun). Secure the bottom ends of the wire around the dowel with glue gun, and cover both the top and bottom ends of the wires with more ribbon. Like the sucker arm, these can be embellished with ribbon, silver pipe cleaners, cheap rhinestone costume buttons or other items.

Now, wear it with pride. Extermination never looked so stylish and cute.

dress steps

Artist Projects 2016: Grandma Moses


Grandma Moses in Westeros? Image: “On The Night Watch” by Lisa Kay Tate

Originally ran in my summer Be The Artist series for on June 10, 2016.

The Artist: Grandma Moses

Most people might not know painter Anna Mary Robertson, but they know Grandma Moses (Robertson’s nome d’arte) as one of the most influential folk artists of the Twentieth Century.

Moses was born in 1860 in Greenwich, New York, and spent most of her life working on farms. She was one of 10 children, educated in a one-room schoolhouse (where she discovered she loved painting), and left home at 12 to work for a wealthy families doing chores on their farm. One family, who noticed her interest in some Currier & Ives prints in their home, even purchased her some crayons and chalk.

She met her husband, Thomas Moses, at age 27 when they were both working on the same farm. They spent their first 20 years of marriage working on four different farms, while Moses made potato chips and butter for extra income. They were eventually able to purchase their own farm. This wasn’t an easy life. The couple had 10 children, but five of them died in infancy.

In 1927, after 40 years of marriage, Thomas passed away. By the mid 1930s Moses was devoting much of her time to the peaceful pastime of painting, as arthritis was preventing her from doing embroidery. She concentrated on images of rural life, from everyday events and chores to seasonal holidays, and her works were filled with activity and motion. In 1938 an art collector ran across her work, and in her late 70s Grandma Moses began her new life as a soon-to-be world famous artist.

She was often known as “Mother Moses,” “Mrs. Moses,” and what eventually became her most famous moniker, “Grandma Moses.”


Grandma Moses’ “Sugaring Off” (right), sold years after her death for $1.2 million, and a postage stamp was created in her honor in 1969. Images are Public Domain.

She didn’t start painting until late in life, but this doesn’t mean she didn’t enjoy a good run as an artist. During her career she created more than 1,500 works of art, wrote an autobiography, won several awards, and received two honorary doctorates.

On her 100th birthday, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared Sept. 7, 1960 “Grandma Moses Day,” and played piano for this influential artist. Her health was already declining, however, and she for lived a little more than a year, passing away in December of 1961 at age 101. In 2006, one of her most famous paintings, Sugaring Off, sold for $1.2 million. Not bad considering she sold her first paintings for around five bucks.

Her long life and successful art career reflected her charming, happy, and lively nature. This life philosophy was summed up in her autobiography, My Life’s History.

“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered,” she said. “And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

The Project: Grandma Moses visits….

Grandma Moses was what is known in the art world as a “primitive” or “naïve” artist which, in the simplest terms, is an artist with no formal art background. In other words, she was completely self-taught.

When she was a girl, she painted her earliest landscapes using lemon or grape juice and other natural materials from ground grass to sawdust.

Later, she would call her own work “old-timey” as she avoided depicting modern day features like tractors, cars, telephone poles, and other signs of present day life in her paintings.

Now, here’s the challenge: what if Grandma Moses visited a favorite fictional location, making sure to avoid any “modern touches?” Some places may be easier. She might visit a harvest dance in Hobbiton and be right at home. However, a garden party at Wayne Manor near Gotham City might need some dialing back of the time line. How about Gallifrey? Or Narnia?

As far as the painting technique, follow Grandma Moses’s own discipline of painting “from the top down.” She would start with the “sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people.”


Grandma Moses painted “from the top down.” Start with sky, add the landscape.

This is an easy way to create a scene one simple step at a time. Use any medium you like, from watercolor to acrylic, or use more translucent colors for the background and brighter, more opaque colors for the figures and fore ground.

Paint straight to the canvas or paper, don’t draw it first.

Paint the sky and ground, as if there were just a big empty space. Add some natural features, as Grandma Moses did, like mountains, hills, trees, rivers, or streams.

Next, add the “man-made” features, like buildings, carts, barrels, tables, bridges, and anything else you feel captures the scene.

Finally, bring in some people and animals, (or orcs, white walkers, dinosaurs, dragons, or whatever your world needs), just as if you are adding figures to a playset. Don’t worry about overlapping what you already painted. That’s part of the action.


Even with the buildings added, there’s something missing without a few folk and critters.

These steps will make it easier create an entire world without being overwhelmed and wondering where to start.

No matter where you think Grandma Moses visits, make sure there is some sort of activity, be it a battle, a wedding, or just the every day to-dos of an era.

Every place, every moment, every story, from comics to classics, can be filled with activity, be it peaceful and laid-back or frantic and frenzied. Just take a moment to relax, concentrate, and imagine that moment.

This is what Grandma Moses did, as she told Time Magazine in 1948:

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.”


“Smallville, 1942” by Lisa Kay Tate

A Family ‘Breaking Bad’ Adventure


Breaking Bad may not be a family-friendly show by any means, but it made for some goofy family adventures around Albuquerque. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

It all started quite innocently enough.

We had no intentions of taking it any further than just the one picture, you know, for recreational purposes.

 But, somewhere along the way, we begin following the icy blue trail of the do-it-yourself Breaking Bad tour of Albuquerque, N.M.

We visit Albuquerque often for short getaways when we haven’t planned a big trip for the summer. This year’s main venture in town was to be a day at the BioPark. Simple enough.

Then, when we checked into our restored Route 66 motor hotel and saw the little lobby brochure:

Breaking Bad RV Tours! Now Touring Better Call Saul Locations!”

Tours depart Thursday through Sunday mornings from Old Town.

“Can you believe this,” I said, holding up the brochure. “People actually pay to drive around in a kitschy RV and look at everyday houses and business, just because they were in a television show.”

“And for 75 bucks a pop, no less,” my husband scoffed, examining the information.

We’re not huge Breaking Bad fans. We’ve seen up to the third season, but had to take a break. Frankly, it makes me sad. Still, the writing, camera angles, and acting are excellent.

We tossed the brochure aside on the table and forgot about it until the following evening. We spent a fun, and hot, day at the BioPark, had an evening swim, ate dinner, and were traveling up and down Central, waiting to see some neon lights flicker on.

On the way, we passed The Dog House Drive In.

“That was in the show,” my husband said. “Remember?”

“It is a cool-looking place,” I said. Without even thinking, I grabbed the camera and did a drive-by picture.

Then we passed the hideously authentic old Crossroads Motel, where we actually thought we saw “something going down.” Turned out to be college kids getting pictures of a Breaking Bad site.

We passed Burt’s Tiki Lounge, seen in the show. We usually get Tiki bar photos, anyways, because we like tiki stuff. Nothing to do with Breaking Bad, we assured ourselves.

It was then we crossed that dreaded line.

“You know,” my husband said, “we at least need to see Walter White’s house. It’s a real home”

This made me a little nervous, since words like “private residence” and so forth, tend to mean, “keep away,” with good reason. What if the owners don’t want people passing by?

As it turns out, we later read the owners of the home are apparently perfectly nice people, but thanks to the idiocy of some fans, they are a bit apprehensive of people on their own property. I read stories of countless morons wanting to relive notable moments from the show by hurling pizzas on their garage roof, among other acts of sheer disrespect for a person’s domain. So, stay off their lawn and driveway, please.

Tour busses—and RVs, as the case may be—pass through all the time, so taking photos from the street is a common occurrence. The house is part of the tours. Still, I was getting increasingly apprehensive, because that’s what I do. This didn’t stop my husband, who got out his smart phone, and logged the street into the GPS. When we approached the neighborhood street, my husband thrust the camera my way and said, “Here, get it!”

I hastily held the camera out the window at elbow level and snapped a pic as we passed, not even looking through the viewer. The next moment played out like a scene from the show–if it were written by drunk cats.

“Okay, go!”

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it!”

“No really, let me see.”

I handed him the camera. This was the result of my efforts:

walt's blur

Nothing to see here, carry on.

My husband cocked an eyebrow as my kids peeked over his shoulder and rolled their eyes.

“Really?” he asked.

“I panicked.”

Since the house is at the end of a cross street, my husband took the camera from me, drove around the block, and shot a couple of pictures heading towards the house up the street. All done. Yet, as we turned right to leave the neighborhood, the garage began opening.

Both my daughters screamed.

“Dad! Dad! They’re after us! Drive! Drive,” my oldest demanded.

“Are we going to get shot?” my youngest asked.

I had visions of a bald, intimidating Bryan Cranston walking out of his home to come after the intruders. Nobody followed us because nobody cared we took a generic Google Map style picture of the front of a house.

The questions from the back seat, however, didn’t cease until we were out among the businesses, which included a stop by Saul Goodman’s office.

The sports bar, now called Sinners N’ Saints, still had Saul Goodman’s Office info on the door and window including the bogus phone number and the welcoming “Se Habla Español.” That was pretty cool, so we got some shots of it as well. I got out of the car for this one.

That was it, though. We didn’t care about Jessie Pinkman’s house, and we didn’t know who “this Jimmy guy” was, anyway. We assumed he was one of Jesse’s hooligan pals, so we ignored those sites.


The domiciles of Breaking Bad (clockwise from top left) Walter White’s home, Jesse Pinkman’s home, Jesse and Jane’s duplex and the official Breaking Bad tour RV. Images: Rick and Lisa Tate.

That night, we wandered around the peaceful Old Town Plaza. Most businesses were closed, but we enjoy sites more than souvenirs. We passed the little shop of The Candy Lady of Old Town, the sweet shop that produced the official prop blue meth seen in the television show.

It was probably upwards on $10 a bag, my husband estimated. I argued they probably had smaller bags for a couple of bucks, but it didn’t matter. We weren’t buying.

So we thought.

The next morning, my husband began looking over his phone at breakfast.

“Jesse’s house is actually pretty close,” he said, “and it’s really pretty.” We found the plush little neighborhood where Jesse’s house was, as well as the corner where he shared a duplex with his ill-fated landlord-cum-girlfriend, Jane.

We stopped by Old Town one last time to get a photo of the girls at the beautiful blue mosaic at the entrances. There, behind the girls, at the entrance, was the tour RV, getting ready to take a group past several of the sites we had toured and more, including lunch at a restaurant called Twisters (the stand-in for Los Pollo Hermanos).

The crowd was diverse, from a couple of college-aged boys to several “Grandma Big-purse,” tourist types. We were able to peek in the RV and noticed it was modified with some nice motor coach style seats. I had to admit, these RV guys had a good thing going.

Right around the corner from the departing tour was the now-open Candy Lady. Next door was the Routes Bicycle Tours of ABQ, who offer a Biking Bad Tour. For those interested, by the way, the Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory also gives tours (and has a great online site map), Red Door Brewing Company hosts weekly Better Call Saul watching parties on Mondays, and the iconic purveyors of geeky donuts, Rebel Donuts, makes some nifty “Blue Sky” Breaking Bad inspired donuts. There is also craft beer, cocktails, t-shirts, fine art, and more offered at various local businesses.

“We might as well take a look at what the candy people have,” I said.

The Candy Lady’s Shop was filled with everything from trays of fudge to licorice from all over the world, but the aura of its part in the Breaking Bad legacy was prevalent. The back room held a large tray of the blue rock candy and some prop “Heisenberg” (Walter White’s street name) hats and glasses, I assume were for those wishing to do a little cosplay. We didn’t ask.

The friendly couple behind the counter was happy to show us the goods. It turned out we were both right on the cost. The big bag, identical to the prop meth used in the show, was $10, but it, of course, included a few little dime bags for distribution to friends. There were also a few little $1 cotton candy-flavored bags available, as well. Yes, all these things are available from them online.


A trip down Central had several Breaking Bad sites including Burt’s Tiki Lounge, The Dog House and the oh, so luxurious Crossroads Motel. Images: Rick Tate and Lisa Tate

Thus, we finished our Breaking Bad adventure purchasing blue meth. The blue meth, to be exact. We got one $10 bag and a Los Pollos Hermanos shot glass filled with little bags, along with some little sugar skulls, a bag of German licorice for our teen, and a little VW bug filled with candy for our six-year-old.

I was happy just getting the little packs, but my husband noted, as the candy shop people explained, the $10 bag actually had, and I quote, “the Heisenberg clarity.”

As we headed back home via I-25, I got to thinking about why the heck we decided to spiral into this world of deviancy?

I’ve had relatives who have struggled horribly with drug addiction, and I know the pain it causes a family. I don’t even support recreational marijuana; that’s how extreme I’ve gotten from the experience.

So, why the heck did we spend a good evening and the following morning with our kids collecting photos and trinkets from a show about pair of meth dealers and their unscrupulous lawyer?

That’s just bad parenting. Right?


The law office of Saul Goodman is actually a pretty nice sports bar. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

First of all, despite the meth-intensive show, neither the tours or the show itself advocate drug use. As a matter of fact, a good binge watch of Breaking Bad should do more than scare a person away from this lifestyle. Ironically, I would never let my kids, even my teenager, actually watch this show from which we traveled around seeing sites. One of the RV tour brochures even lists numbers for regional Narcotics Anonymous or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services hotlines for those who might struggle with or know someone with a drug problem.

Still, we dropped some green on a baggie of candy meth. Why?

I realized the reason when we got home and picked up where we left off on the show. We also started Better Call Saul, which I’m already enjoying way more than it’s predecessor.

“Oooh, so that’s Jimmy,” I overheard myself saying at the beginning. “We need to get his nail salon next time we’re up there. Bob Odenkirk’s the man.”

The main reason we temporarily fell in with this unsavory crowd for a day or two could be summed up in one word: Albuquerque.

Those who live in well-represented filming locations like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and even Albuquerque’s movie star neighbor, Santa Fe, are used to seeing their hometown as part of a television series or movies.

Those “badlands” from Albuquerque to El Paso are often relegated to a few westerns, a romp through Old Town, and a look at the borderlands from a wide-angle lens. There have been other movies and shows filmed in the area, but none that really show off the retro, quirkiness of making the Southwest your home.

It’s the murals on Central, the pottery light fixtures in the Route 66 diners, and the low camera angles that give you a sense of baking in the cloudless, yet amazingly, blue New Mexico and West Texas skies. It’s the neighborhoods, which vary from modern upscale to mid-century quaintness.

It’s the dilapidated strip malls mixed with the recently restored historic sites. It’s Blake’s Lotaburger. It’s the neon and Native American-inspired overpass art.

It was the references to the show’s “rival” DEA department, and my hometown, El Paso, and the gorgeous Sandia Mountains. More than anything, it’s getting beyond the tourist draws, and seeing the community off the main drag, good or bad, classy or trashy.

If we hadn’t ventured off the beaten path to see a few, non-descript homes or businesses, we never would have seen some beautiful gardens, creative public parks, front yard sculptures, and other hidden odds and ends that give any town its character.

It was also getting to see how a map and an RV can become a lucrative little business. It’s giving people, in search of a show about a very ugly side of reality, another reason to visit a very beautiful region of the country.

The main star of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul isn’t some actor. It’s Albuquerque, and she’s giving an Emmy-worthy performance.

In that sense, “breaking bad” can be a very good thing.

Originally ran July 14, 2016 in


On The Art of Overextending Oneself


My accumulation of Social Media pages is more cluttered than my actual life…if that’s even possible. Images: Lisa Kay Tate

Part two in my two-part series on Social Media in my life, which originally ran in GeekMom May 28, 2016. Read Part one here.

A while back I purchased a generic book at the local Barnes & Noble called 500 Drawing Prompts. It had no publisher listed. I just found it among those impulse book buys often seen in the store entry.

Drawing is one of my earliest joys, and I had been wanting to do more for fun and peace of mind. This book consisted of blank pages, some divided into two or more sections, with a brief drawing prompt: “bowl of soup,” “vampire,” “sun,” “alien spacecraft.” I thought this was a fantastic idea, and I would do one prompt a day for 500 days to keep my mind and creativity challenged.

I’m officially 197 days behind schedule.

This is typical of my thinking. I can’t just purchase something and think “this would be fun to have.” I have to turn it into an over-the-top goal to add it to a daily, weekly, or monthly regime. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing anything? Right?

I’m also behind on translating a screenplay-cum-book outline into prose. The story and plot are finished, I just need to translate the format. I promised myself one chapter a day, but this soon crumbled into one chapter every three weeks. Not good.

I maintain a stack of books, comics, and magazines to be read. Behind on that, too. My friends and family have purchased me some of the trendy adult color books “in case I’m ever bored.” Hahahahahahaha. Sorry, couldn’t help it. Sad thing is they’re pretty cool. I’ve got the Doctor Who and Sherlock books, one of the Harry Potters, and one I purchased for myself that’s an extreme mystery color-by-number. Of course, I’m working on a DIY for GeekMom later utilizing these books. I can’t just enjoy coloring for no reason, now can I?

I’ve mentioned this “buzzing bee” tendency briefly in my James May post, but since then the clutter has continued to accumulate. Not in a “hoarder” way, I promise. I try to maintain a tidy home: another distraction. I have to make sure I go through one room each month and purge, dust, straighten, and organize. I just can’t calm it down, which is why social media has not only become an outlet for me but a bit of a curse.

See, I work out of the house. This is a situation ideal for me right now because I get to be available for my family when they need me. It’s also bad because people assume that means I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom. I respect these parents greatly because I know how much work is involved, but I also have to make sure I keep up with my actual paying job as news (calendar) editor for a monthly local arts and entertainment guide. Most months, I actually have to work nearly all night for several nights in a row come deadline. I’ve been an insomniac for ages, so this fits fine, except for the occasional “wall hitting” emotional and physical crashes.


I have so many things I want to make, read and enjoy…but I need to simply my schedule.

For years, the only “social media” I had was email. I checked before work in the morning and before bed. Less than an hour a day. About the time my second daughter was born, six years ago, we joined this thing called Facebook “just for family.” I only spend about a half hour a day tops on that, despite the fact I somehow have 370 friends. (I don’t know that many people, do I?)

I soon started writing some posts for a site called “IHOGeek” and started my own blogsite, both on WordPress, to keep all my posts together in one place. In about a year, I had built up several stories and started checking my “stats” (story hits) several times a day, a bit obsessively.

Next came Pinterest. I started it just to share my stories and projects. I only planned on having three boards. That’s morphed into 139 boards, 98.4 thousand pins, and 13.1 thousand followers. I’m really not sure how this one got so out of hand, but I look at the most of the time I do my late night work.

When I got picked up by GeekMom, I quit working with IHOGeek just to keep my schedule under control. Around the same time, my husband wanted to start a family site we called MinionFeeding101. I did three posts a week for the family site, of which I was getting pretty proud. Unfortunately, my husband’s schedule wasn’t conducive, so after two years of trying to build it up, he called it quits. The site is now dormant until I can get him back on board.

Still avoided Twitter. “Nope. Not doing it,” I thought. I heard comedian Ricky Gervais compare it once to the world’s largest bathroom wall, and every time I’d seen it I tended to agree. My husband was using Twitter for our MinionFeeding101 images, as well as Instagram, so I felt I didn’t need even mess with those. If I need to share an Instagram photo for GeekMom, which I haven’t done in awhile, I’ll do it through there.

I kept building up the sites. I joined DeviantArt because you can’t just draw for yourself anymore, and I share everything from GeekMom and DeviantArt on my Pinterest boards–and sometimes on Facebook. I started a Tumblr site and found I don’t like Tumblr at all. It’s the moronic slacker roommate of Social Media sites. It’s just a series of fan gifs and the occasional “I hate you if you don’t agree with my social view” memes.

I started to share my older movie-related posts on a site MoviePilot but found it similar to Tumblr in intelligence. I eventually got rid of my pages, but the process of getting my work OFF MoviePilot was an ordeal in itself.

Not long after, the wonderful uniting of the GeekMoms and GeekDads to create an even more diverse group of geeky parents occurred, and I made sure I joined them on the collaborative message board site, Slack. With so many great writers having so much to say, following that can be a little daunting. I keep up, though, even if I don’t often reply. It’s like the message board equivalent of being in a big room full of people of all walks of life having interesting conversations. You just don’t know where to jump in, or if you’re even invited into that particular circle right now.

That should be plenty to keep anyone busy and well linked (oh yeah, I joined LinkedIn primarily for my “day job” contacts). Honestly, I don’t like it. You’re not going to see me doing much on that.

And then I gave in and reluctantly joined Twitter last September.

I’ve pretty much concentrated on this one to share my work and build a reputation for sharing others’ creative achievements. I’ve amassed a few great artists and writers following me, and keep this on most of the time I’m working as well.

Does this social media attraction, sometimes distraction, sometimes borderline addiction, affect my everyday work? Most definitely! All these little social media pages and projects often weave themselves into my day, particularly when I’m bogged down with the mindless calendar duties. I need to have something on another screen in order to feel my mind is getting some stimulation. Yes, I have multiple monitors, just like the Batcave.

Without social media, my “need to keep busy” nature would fill in those gaps with more work. I tell myself that would be a good thing because that extra work would actually be productive rather than time wasting. I still have my projects lined up, and if I find myself at a time when I can just relax, I get a little jittery. I walk around the house thinking “what do I need to do; there must be something?”

I don’t have a smartphone, so I’m able to ignore this lure when I’m not working online. That’s a good thing, at least. I can walk the dog, wait for appointments, and sit at a restaurant without staring at a little flat rectangle (unless books count), but I’m not any better than anyone else here.

I check it often while I work on the computer. Who read my articles? Who liked my crafts and DIYs? Who put my artwork under their “favorites?”

Not only that but everything I do I wonder, “will this make a story?” “Do I share this one on Facebook or Twitter… or both?”

Oh sweet Mother Mary, what the heck is wrong with me?

I have to ask myself: why do I need that many people connecting with me via cyberspace, and why can’t I do anything without wondering if it needs to be swept out of my real-life world and into that social media web?


Talent and good intentions don’t fill pages, sitting down and actually working on a project will.

I worry at times we’re all turning into the Wall-E scenario where we live vicariously through experiences on or screens. A 2015 CNN story stated teens and tweens spent around 9 hours a day checking their social media sites, and a 2016 report from Pew Research Center said 62 percent get their news via social media.

I do tend read news sites online more, but thankfully my teen doesn’t have a cell phone. Her social media (only Pinterest and e-mail allowed right now), is an after homework activity she spends about two hours on, at the most, on a little laptop computer she uses at her desk. She often gets bored with that and reads her fantasy and manga books. At least she’s bucking the trend.

I mentioned last week in my first half of my Social Media series, ‘Grand Tour’, DriveTribe, and The Social Media Fan Frenzy, people have this “big bowl of M&Ms” access to their favorite celebrities, via social media.

As far a maintaining our own sites, and sharing our own work, it’s more like a huge, fancy, decadent buffet. There’s so much we want to try, so we’ll just try a little of everything. This is especially true if you’re a creative type. Artists, writers, photographers, and musicians find social media outlets essential for sharing their work.

Unfortunately, like a buffet, it’s really easy to pile up the samples, until you’re plate if so full you can’t possibly consume it all and not be sick.

And, I’m absolutely stuffed.

So what do I do? What can we all do? We’ll, I believe the key to maintaining a healthy diet is moderation. Don’t eliminate, but cut back what we don’t need.

This should extend to my social media use. I get art and story ideas from Pinterest and DeviantArt. I’ll keep it. Tumblr is empty calories. I’m getting rid of that one soon.

If I’m not doing my actual editing or working on a story, there’s really no need to be on these sites. I’ll continue to keep only Twitter going while I’m editing, but everything else should return to the “once in a morning and once before bed routine.”

That way, I can get on top of my reading, my DIY projects, my workouts, my book, and that continually lurking sketchbook. I think I’ll get on that book right now and fill a few pages.

But first, I need to check Twitter to see who those 12 notifications and one DM are from.

Image: GrammarlyQuotes.

The Social Media Fan Frenzy: Case in Point “The Grand Tour”


When the show formerly known as the Amazon Prime Motoring Show is officially became The Grand Tour, the hosts’ legions of social media fans are made sure everyone knew it.

Part one in my two-part series on Social Media in my life, which originally ran in GeekMom on May 12 2016.

After months of speculation, my boys of W. Chump & Sons, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, have finally settled on a real bonafide, official name for their new Amazon Prime Motoring Show, The Grand Tour.

But what I was most interested in as a result was this question: this trio knows how to amass fans on social media, but how much access to our favorite celebrities to we really need?

To provide the background:

Clarkson, May and Hammond’s announcement came at a good time, with BBC’s new Chris Evans-led Top Gear cranking up the trailers for their premiere on May 29.

Their simple name, Grand Tour, (which is perfect for their new “no studio tent tour format”) has been met with, as expected, a flood of social media hits, especially they are looking for more stops on their “grand tour,” an announcement made via their individual twitter accounts and the newly-created show’s Facebook page.

“So, the Grand Tour (GT for short) will come from a tent, which we will put up in a different location every week,” Clarkson announced on his Twitter page. “Your town?”

Within three hours of posting this, Clarkson got more than two thousand “likes,” and nearly 500 responses from “please come see us,” fans worldwide. Both May and Hammond had similar responses. Yes, I told them to come to Texas, but hey, I always need story material, and I’ll let them drive my dad’s Mustang GT, a family heirloom of 50 years.

Of course, they’ve also been staking their social media deck in other ways. All three individual hosts announced their own official Facebook pages within the past month and those now join several already-popular “former Top Gear hosts” fan sites.

My muse James May’s official page is listed as a “Health and Beauty” site, and has already gained more than 1.5 million followers, including many of the more than 2 million followers he pulled from Twitter.  Clarkson, listed under “scientist” and Hammond, listed as ‘Pet,” have amassed several thousand on their sites (although Clarkson leads the trio’s Twitter following with more than 6 million followers). Hammond, however, added an Instagram page recently and he’s moving up in followers.
Jeremy Clarkson got 12,000 hits, just for saying the name of the new show will be announced, but James May can get 8.8 thousand likes for a picture of Richard Hammond in an office plant and babushka. Really? Images: James May and Jeremy Clarkson official Twitter pages.

Jeremy Clarkson got 12,000 hits, just for saying the name of the new show will be announced, but James May can get 8.8 thousand likes for a picture of Richard Hammond in an office plant and babushka. Really? Images: James May and Jeremy Clarkson official Twitter pages.

But wait, there’s more. On almost the same day this trioannounced their Facebook pages, they announced their longtime collaborator, television Executive Director Andy Wilman, first official partnership with the “ambitious new digital media platform that will connect global audiences with motoring content,” DriveTribe.

The concept of the site is to structure car enthusiasts into “tribes,” depending on their own unique personalities and characteristics.

“Gamers have got Twitch, travelers have got TripAdvisor and fashion fans have got, oh, something or other too. But people who are into cars have got nowhere,” Hammond said in the site’s official press release. “There’s no grand-scale online motoring community where people can meet and share video, comments, information and opinion. DriveTribe will change that. And then some.”

They won’t be running the site themselves, as it will be under the leadership of tech savvy mavericks Ernesto Schmitt (founder and CEO of Beamly), and Jonathan Morris (previous CTO of Financial Times online). This news didn’t matter to fans. They are already vigorously glomming onto the site, which officially launches this fall, just like the newly christened Grand Tour.

Whether you love or hate these three, you have to admit, they are covering a lot of social media ground. Having followed this saga, I’ve begun to realize how much social media has become the quickest, most efficient, and sometimes most disturbing way of celebrities connecting with the public.

When I was a young teen, the information about a favorite actor or musician was limited to whatever read in magazines, saw on the television or movie screen, or heard on the radio. I kept my favorite station on all afternoon to hear the news of the latest single coming out. We didn’t have cable, so I found my music video fix weekly via Friday Night Videos, or when I visited friend’s house who had MTV. MTV, when you think of it, was kind a precursor to Twitter. We really didn’t want to watch anything, but that awesome video might come up next. Better keep tuned in just in case.

Today, with YouTube, we can see our favorite video anytime (and again and again, if we wish), be it music video, movie trailer or clip, or recent interview. This, in addition to a celebrity idol’s (or their “personal assistantsP) “insta-posts” on social media, make it way, way too easy to keep up with those famous folk who at one time in our world seemed so much further away.

This is the type of easy-access information current I like to refer to as the “big bowl of M&Ms” communication method (no product endorsement intended). These fingertip means of finding about — and reacting to another person — are just so tempting. You’re not really hungry, and these little tidbits of fun aren’t particularly good for you in large doses, but what’s one little handful here and there? We just want to see what our favorite celeb is up to. We’re not obsessed. Right?

We just check a Twitter feed in the morning, a Facebook exchange a little later on. Have they posted anything on Instagram? We take one “small handful” after another, and next thing we know the bowl is near empty, (along with the time we’ve had allotted for actually productivity), and we’ve successfully (albeit unintentionally) cyber-stalked a few high-profile strangers.

Now, before I sound like I’m wagging a judgmental finger at fellow computer-users, I need to point out I dip into that bowl often, as well. I’m an avid follower of this threesome. I’m also a writer and editor working from my home in my “day job,” which means that big, nummy colorful bowl of chocolatey candy-coated information is constantly right in front of me…and it is near impossible to ignore. I’ve had plenty of handfuls, believe me.

I follow all three of these men, and respond often, but I don’t expect a response. I do however, expect something else: I want people to read my work and make my little projects. I do this by constantly reposting my favorite posts. I don’t feel bad about doing this, since I’ve seen fellow writers and artists do similar. As a writer for GeekMom, I especially like to write about my geeky passions that I hope resonate with others of similar fandoms.

There are some great things about being able to connect with celebrities via social media:

• It is easier to get updates on the someone’s latest project, for example, we all now know about Grand Tour. Celebrities pushing a project don’t have to rely on the network or movie company to get the word out anymore. Sometimes, a simple “Watch for me tonight on BBC-Four” is all they need, and fans tune in. Often times, the fanbase becomes the best form as information sharing, since one good comment or interview will get retweeted, and shared countless times. Heck, I know what’s going on with people I don’t follow, because so many others retweet something. Twitter is the world’s largest informational ripple effect.

• It creates a “community” in a seemingly more isolated society. We read again and again about how people are plunging more into their own little isolated, narcissistic online worlds while becoming detached to those around them. I often worry about this. However, I’ve noticed a flip side to this issue. People who might otherwise have nothing in common are connecting via a similar “fandom” (often a person) via social media. I’ve made some “acquaintances” from all over the world, just because clicked “follow” on @MrJamesMay. Some people consider social media friends as one step away from “imaginary friends,” but really I’ve discovered it’s like having pen pals (which I did have as a kid, and no one said I was delusional). One “Twitter friend” direct messaged me about writing tips, and another read a Tweet about an online course I was taking, and offered to send me a book that might help. I will never meet these people in person, but it certainly is a treat to have them in my life. That’s pretty cool.

• It makes celebrities seem more like the humans they are. My mother used to lament that celebrities used to be “larger than life,” and had a mystique to them. I’ll admit some celebrities should take a lesson in decorum and poise from the past, but I do like the fact we can catch them “off the red carpet” sans make up and glamour. This is by their own accord, too, not through the lens of some paparazzi. They tweet pictures of their food, pets and family gatherings, which in reality are no more interesting then those of non-celebrities. Of course, like other human beings, people tweet or share Facebook posts to brag about something, and their “hey look where I am” tweets can be a little annoying to those of us with little disposable income. I’ve written before how I refuse to call myself a “fan” of any one person (I still do), because I don’t think people who opted to work in a pharmaceutical lab or run a family restaurant should ever consider themselves of lesser valuable than those who chose a career in front of a camera. Social media sites are pretty good levelers. A celebrity might photograph their feet overlooking the edge of their yacht, but their nappy toes are as ugly as everyone else’s.

However, there are also many problems with this quick-and-easy celebrity access as well:

• It’s a bit voyeuristic. There’s no “out of sight, out of mind” element, anymore. If a benefit of Twitter and Facebook feeds is making celebrities seem more, “human,” the dark side is they are inviting people too much into their lives. Is this a bad thing? Well, it is a little in the realm of “too much information.” Do I really need to see a crumb-covered lap, or every single view from a jet plane (often clouds)? No, but many of us feel we need to, and comment away. I even used Twitter to voice this concern in regards to one celebrity (okay, James May, dammit) who got more than three thousand likes for showing a picture of a half-eaten boxed dessert, and inquiring who took the other half.

“I can’t get enough people to read my stories, and this guy gets thousands of responses for bitching about a @#% pastry,” I wrote. I got a few likes, while that half-eaten pastry gained several more comments, not to mention a few invites from people willing to bring him a new one. Awww.

Also, it’s always nice to see people’s friends and families online, but I worry about too many people see what someone’s kids look like. This is the protective parent in me. I do include photos of my own children in my work, but they don’t get nearly the views a celebrity gets. I think if I were pretty well known, I would lay off the online reality show, and just post my silly projects for a while. I don’t always trust the cyber world.

• It creates a pied piper effect. Some celebrities are pounced on anything and everything they tweet or post. Sometimes, they even pose a question to their followers, and “Ping!” “Plunck!” “Tweet!” the responses pop up like magic. They dangle those quips, and the followers are there and ready.

I really don’t like it when celebrities use their fan influence to promote a political candidate or stance, but I won’t get into that issue, especially in this weird year in both the United States and United Kingdom.

I will include the names of bands, actors, artists, authors and more in my own posts, mostly in regards to something I’ve written or to promote something creative I think others would love to learn about.  I usually hashtag things with #MakeThings and #Draw for visual arts, #Write to help introduce people to my favorite writers, including comic book authors, and #WeAreTheMusicMakers for all things music related. I’m not afraid to admit James May has influenced my #MakeThings hashtag, but some people base their entire twitter names on the fact they are someone’s fan.

I’ll post about someone, but not directly to them, if it isn’t an actual reply. At least I try not to.

This leads to my final thought:

• Social Media can lead to a fandom run amok, and create obsessive addiction. This is something I’ve noticed following my former Top Gear hosts and other celebrity types that is kind of scary. There are fans who wake up every morning, and immediately direct a “good morning” post to their celebrity idol. I’ve also seen a few who do what I like to call “Twitter-baiting,” not just on occasion, but several times a day. I have to add, I do genuinely like many of these people, so I’m not giving any specifics or real tweets. These are typical of the comments:

“Hey @celebrityperson, what do you think of this picture?”

“I had a bacon sandwich today, I bet you would love this @favoriteactor. What do you have to say about that?”

“You’ve talked to me before, @personIlove, why won’t you respond again? Don’t you care anymore?”

Many people do this, and I’m not saying those who do are lesser people. Some of them are pretty funny and intelligent, but honestly too much of this practice creeps me out a little. I’ve seen one person whose happiness was based on the fact one celebrity responded to his Tweet. He spent a considerable amount of time trying to get him to do this again, with increasingly depressing and self-deprecating comments.

Please people, we’re better than this.


Questions, photos and snarky comments: what else could a fan want? I bet Rainn Wilson has sold a few more books, thanks to his buddy Nathan Fillion. Images via Nathan Fillion official Facebook and Twitter, Mark Hamill official Twitter and Chris Pratt official Instagram.

Send  amusing anecdotes to celebrities sparingly. I’ve done this just for chuckles. Don’t, however, hang all your hopes upon hearing from them. I can’t stress this enough: celebrities don’t know us. We know who they are, quite a bit about them thanks to their own over-sharing, but we don’t know them, either.

I love James May’s style, on air persona and writings, but I don’t love him. This is because I don’t know him. Haven’t and never will meet him. I do, however, truly adore my husband and kids with all my heart. I love my pets and my friends and family, not always in that order. They are my reality.

When it all comes down to it, the responsibility of controlling our online relationship with celebrities lies with us, the information consumer.

I really can’t blame the “celebrities,” as much as I’d like to bust their egos at times, but their image is their product. Even on social media, I think they are in some way sharing an amplified version of themselves to help gain followers and fans, and, in the long run, sell records, movie tickets, books or whatever they’re pushing. In short, their outreach to their public is nothing personal. It’s business, and I don’t blame them. I would do it, too.

Sure, we could argue there have always been obsessive fans who buy every album, watch (and now purchase or download) every movie or show, and fill their shelves with every book, but it used to be our fandoms were limited to the stage, screen and red carpet. Now, we have access that goes far beyond this, awaiting every breath a celebrity takes, waiting for them to mention their breakfast so we can pounce upon his or her tweet with our own replies.

If we “respond” just as a way to be part of a silly chain of people creating a progressing story started by a celebrity comment, or mention that celebrity as a way to share our interests with others, that’s fine.

Just as long as our lives don’t hang in the balance of hoping that stranger on the other end of the cyber connection gives that all-important “like,” or moreover an actual comment.

Yes, I’ll be taking The Grand Tour along with Clarkson, Hammond and May, but if it doesn’t stop my way, I won’t be lying in a fetal position devastated that three strangers who make me laugh aren’t looking in my direction. I worry many other followers of celebrities (any celebrity) do invest too much in the approval of those in the public eye.

What we need to realize more than anything, is even when we do take part in this social media celebrity watching, it should be for one reason and one reason only: to have fun.

One of the best and cutest examples of this was a Tweet I saw from a dad with a young son a few months ago concerning another well-followed celebrity, actor Chris Pratt.

“My 5-year-old son just informed me he will direct the next Jurassic World film. How’s your schedule looking next month @prattprattpratt?”

I don’t know if Chris Pratt ever responded to this, but in this case, I sure hope he did.