Category Archives: Events

Now for Something Completely Different: My Teen Babysits??

Standard
night-out-main

Meeting two of Monty Python’s founding fathers had been a dream of mine since I was a kid, but it wouldn’t have happened if I let my worries about allowing my teen to babysit get in the way.

 Post originally ran in GeekMom on Dec. 9, 2016.

I’ve been a mom for 14 years now.

I’ve comforted nightmares, patched bruises, and wiped noses. I’ve held hands during first steps, calmed fears of darkness and scary movies, and celebrated victories like riding a bike or swimming across a pool. There have been road trips, school pageants, and baptisms. We’ve faced funerals, playground politics, and family crises. I’ve even spent two horrifying sleepless nights in the hospital watching one child conquer pneumonia and bronchitis.

In the process, I’ve watched my oldest daughter, Molly, turn into a young, independent teen, and my youngest, Erin, become an active second grader.

One would think that, by this point, I would be pretty well versed in this whole “parenting” thing. I did too–until it was time to let one of them babysit the other.

The idea of leaving my “babies” home alone was a completely new concept to me. I grew up in a house with a live-in grandparent who watched us on the rare occasion my parents went out. My brother was seven years older than me—the same age difference between my own two children—but I don’t remember him being “in charge” without other adults around.

I had friends and classmates whose parents both worked long jobs, were divorced, or, in one case, were neglectfully absent due to substance abuse problems. To me being “home alone” without adult supervision seemed unfathomable.

As for my own kids, my parents watched my oldest until my mother passed away. My oldest was six then, and our youngest wasn’t born until a year later. Then, when we went out, one of my husband’s former students, whom we knew well, would watch then, as well as my father from time to time.

However, my husband reminded me when Molly turned 14 it was time to let her watch her little sister… on her own. Gulp!

When it was announced in May (the same month my daughter turned that fateful age) tickets were on sale to see two of the founders of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, John Cleese and Eric Idle, I immediately went online and purchased two of the best seats in the house. Then I crumbled slowly into a panic over the next seven months.

What had I done? How will my kids cope on their own? They argue constantly. The world is filled with creepy people in vans, rabid wolves, tornadoes, and earthquakes… and sharp corners.

One thing they never tell you when you become a mom is how violent your unnecessary premonitions become. What if she falls on scissors? What if they stand on the bathtub and fall? What if they see YouTube video on making Molotov cocktails… and try it in the kitchen near that gas stove?

My husband, Rick, who had “taken care of his little brother on his own” since he was ten, said I was being ridiculous. He had to “cook,” “clean,” “get him to bed,” “re-wire the house,” “build their own beds,” and blah, blah, blah.

Okay, okay, I get it. I’m over-reacting. I had to keep reminding myself that being able to see these two men is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. The Pythons were like The Beatles to me. I’ve memorized their skits and movies and even made a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to celebrate the anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

They are both in their 70s, and there likely would be no more “live” Monty Python tours after this–definitely not with the whole crew. Graham Chapman is long passed on, and it was recently announced fellow Python Terry Jones was diagnosed with a progressive form of dementia. There are very few “celebrities” I would fangirl for, but the Pythons are at the top of that weird list.

However, every loving parent knows that “first times” are always terrifying. Whether it’s sending them off to pre-K, dropping them off for an overnight visit with family, handing them over the keys to the family car, or (gasp) leaving home for college.

As a result, an event I would otherwise have been talking about enthusiastically I hardly

cleesesign

It took two of my favorite comics, a patient spouse, and a “security watch,” of all things, to make my first night leaving my teen in charge less nerve-wracking. Image: Rick Tate

mentioned the entire summer and following autumn. I didn’t help that I kept seeing Cleese’s constant lamenting about sluggish ticket sales in El Paso on his Twitter feed. This couldn’t be a good sign. Was it an omen? Maybe I should cancel.

When the day arrived, my father (our only local relative) was out-of-town, and I felt a bubble of eerie isolation surrounding the home. We ordered the girls a pizza, and my husband gave Molly my cheap flip phone so she could text him in an emergency.

This meant I was left without a phone, or more specifically, without a lifeline to the kids. What if I needed to call them? He assured me it would be fine. He didn’t want me constantly checking my phone, but I needed some sort of “date night” security blanket. In a rush, I grabbed an old fob watch and carried it with me. My only logic to this move was I could check to see how long we’d been away–as if there some statute of limitations to them being good. If we were gone longer than two hours, then all hell would break loose.

My perpetual trepidation was constantly in the foreground of my mind. When the ushers opened the main theatre, Rick sent a quick text to say the show is going to start soon and he was putting the phone on quiet mode. Molly texted back that everything was fine.

“For now,” I thought.

I kept running a little prayer in my head over and over, “please let them be okay,” although who was I kidding? It should have been “please let me be okay.” I wondered if there was a way I could hijack Rick’s phone on the way to the bathroom and zip a quick note to the girls.

No dice. It was firmly in his pocket, but at least I had my watch, and I knew the show was about to start at 8 p.m. When the little stage lights went on, and Cleese and Idle wandered on stage, I got a moment of giddiness… then checked the time. It was 8:04 p.m. Somehow this was comforting. Throughout the first half, where they talked about their histories, showed film clips, and read hilarious skits, I kept checking the watch as if it was somehow going to give me a magical glimpse of home.

Seriously, what was my problem? I had wanted to see these guys (even if it was just two of them) in person for more than 30 years. I needed to let go of my worries and enjoy myself. Yet, my mind kept wandering from the show to how my girls were doing at home, and by intermission I made Rick send a text. Actually, he was already doing it when I asked.

All calm back at the ranch, apparently. My husband asked if I was enjoying the show.

Of course I was, except for that part of my brain releasing that little medley of disaster scenarios.

I glanced at the watch, which had made a nice indention in the palm of my hand. Nine o’clock and the second half was about to start.

“They could easily go another hour,” my husband said happily.

I inhaled deeply. A lot could happen in one hour.

By the time the second half of the show began, something very strange started happening. I slowly “forgot” to worry and begin really enjoying myself. I laughed more genuinely at these men’s re-enacting of favorite sketches and film clips of iconic scenes from The Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

 “We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot!!!

Even through my worries were easing, the girls were still floating around in my head, although not so much near the front. I had remembered I wanted to show Molly Holy Grail but not Brian quite yet. Wait a few years on that one.

By now I was having such a good time, I had even neglected to grip the fob watch, and the mark on my hand had disappeared. The show ended with Idle leading an enthusiastic audience in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” and we all stood up and sang along:

“You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!”

After the show, we waited a few moments for the crowd to thin out, then headed quickly out of the theatre. I couldn’t wait to get home to my children. Parked in front of the entrance was a large, white limo with a few hopeful fans lingering around it. We ignored it. Had to get home to the girls. Probably a “decoy,” anyway.

We were parked on the other side of the building, and I found myself speedily walking around the back to get to the car. As we passed the “backstage” door, we saw a small gathering of people.

Not massive but big enough to be suspect. Then I noticed Cleese’s head looming over the rest of the crowd. At that moment, I did something “awful.” I forgot who I was, for a bit… at least in terms of being a parent. I grabbed my nice little leaflet with the caricature of the two Pythons and made my way into the crowd. Idle was also hidden in the midst of them. I managed to meet him first and thanked him for being such a big part of my growing up (at least that’s what I hope I said; no telling what actually came out of my mouth). He signed my leaflet, and I managed to make my way to Cleese and tell him similarly as he added his signature to the paper. I had just met two of my comedy heroes, and I was practically skipping back to the car.

I was coming down from my middle-aged fangirling when a sudden wave of panic hit me: I had let my guard down and not thought of my children for a few moments. What kind of parent was I?

Then my husband sent one last text to Molly before driving home and got that familiar “bleep” back with a note saying all was well and “see you soon.” My nerves suddenly calmed. Yes, all was well.

It is right for parents to worry about their children’s well-being, but I had been clinging so desperately to the torturous visions of my own over-protective mind that I never realized part of their “well-being” was to learn self-reliance and independence.

Molly needed to take on the responsibility of caring for her little sister. As a result, she began looking at little sister as less of an “annoyance” and more as an actual person. This was, like her, a very special, precious thing to her parents. She was going to do the best job she could to keep her safe.

Erin also needed to realize, even when her parents were away, they still love her. She needed to know she could rely on her big sister and to not be afraid to have us out of her sight.

My lesson was the hardest.

I needed to know I could trust them. I had to trust my teen to do what’s best in the case of emergency and to know we now see her as a responsible, smart, and resourceful young woman. I had to trust my youngest to follow instructions, get herself ready for bed, and to take on more small chores of her own.

I had to trust they would be okay and that being away from Mom and Dad for an evening wasn’t going to cause any permanent trauma… to me.

When we got home, Erin was already in her pajamas, but she had waited up for us so she could hug us goodnight. The house was clean, the pets were alive, there were no signs of flooding, smoke damage, or any of the other Biblical-level plagues I had concocted happening in my mind.

They were happy. They were unhurt. They were… just fine.

“Mom, I missed you,” Erin announced, running up to hug us as we entered the house. “We had a fun time.”

At that point, my guilt for “abandoning” my kids had vanished, and it was replaced with relief we all made it through the night… but even more with pride in my children.

Then, before heading to bed, she asked, “When can Molly watch me again?”

The next day, we bought tickets to a show the following month.

Advertisements

‘The Grand Tour’ Watching Party

Standard

All images by Lisa Kay Tate

There’s no turning back now. The Grand Tour is on its way this week, and is in full promotion mode.

Not to mention the show’s opening scene is being called the “most expensive TV opening scene ever” with 150 cars, 2,000 acrobats, jets, and no telling what else coming in at £2.5 million (around $3 million).

 With the debut just a month away, the only thing left for viewers needing their latest fix of the antics of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond isto wait.

Well, that and start the preparations for a weekly watching party. One of the reasons the enthusiasm for this show has been so high, in addition to people missing the hilarious magnetism between these three unlikely friends, is the anticipation of being an armchair passenger on this wild journey.

For those planning on tuning in with this well-traveled threesome, here are some tips in putting together the ultimate watch party for The Grand Tour:gtmapsGet Out The Map. These boys have a pretty extreme international journey ahead of them, so chart a course along with them. From what has been revealed so far, some of the countries covered include South Africa, the United States, Holland, Finland, Yorkshire, Barbados, Germany, France, and more. That’s a good amount of ground to cover.

Find a nice poster-size wall map of the world from a travel, craft, or teacher supply store. The vintage one shown above came from a craft store for around $12. Use stickers, tacks, or markers to keep track of their journey.

This is also a good opportunity to learn some facts about each place, like capitals, flags, food, and culture, or what (if any) makes of vehicles are made in the region. Even though not everyone will get a chance to travel the world, they can still learn about it, even in unlikely ways.gtretro-pmGo Retro. The “tent tour” set the show has planned is no mere camping trip. Their traveling studio is more posh (and larger) than many stationary homes. In addition to its vast picture window and studio space for a sizeable live audience, the sneak peeks at this massive mobile village have revealed vintage suitcases, bits and piece of safari-like travel fodder, and, most appropriate, retro racing posters.

Similar posters can be found and printed out online to adorn one’s own party “tent” or table, and small travel cases can be used to hold food and drink. Decorate these with some vintage labels from some of the countries featured on the series. Vintage and nostalgia sites like Retro Planet also have a large selection of vintage posters, metal signs, and vinyl stickers for travel buffs and racing fans.

Add some binoculars, old cameras, model cars, planes, motorcycles, and other travel trinkets to round out the look.

gtdrinksPack Some Road Snacks. What’s a road trip without some grub?

There are two directions to go here. One option is to hit the travel centers and pick up some of the snacks, like individual bags of trail mix, jerky, Cracker Jacks, fruit, or other forms of “eat and drive” items. Shops like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market also have some more natural snack items, as well as snack items from around the world. Half the fun here is seeing what there is to find.

For the second option, try something a little more substantial. Allrecipes.com always has some cool “road trip” food. Serious Eats has some make-ahead ideas as well such as homemade energy bars, Pork and Guinness Hand Pies, and fruit leather.

Some gourmet shops and marketplaces may sell different soft drinks or beers from around the world, depending on age groups and preferences of the viewing parties, of course.

Some energy drinks also have some great motoring names like “Full Throttle” or “Kick Start,” but go easy on those, okay?

gtmusicMake A Playlist. One of the standouts of the most recent trailer was the inclusion of the band Kongos’ motivating hit, “Come With Me Now,” which helps make the series look like a feature movie in the works.

All road trips need a personalized, energizing mixtape, a sort of soundtrack to the trek, as it were. It would be impossible to speculate what is going to be featured on The Grand Tour, which might even sport original music. Names like Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson, and Hothouse Flowers have been tossed around online as possible theme song contenders.

Instead, find some favorite traveling or road trip or party songs, and put together a custom pre-show mix. Here are some suggestions:

  • “The Boys Are Back” (Dropkick Murphys)
  • “Party Hard” (Andrew W.K.)
  • “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC)
  • “Move” (Saint Motel)
  • “Life in the Fast Lane” (Eagles)
  • “The Distance” (Cake)
  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (The Clash)
  • “Roam” (B-52s)
  • “Route 66” (Depeche Mode)
  • “I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar)
  • “Life is a Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
  • “New Four Seasons” (Nigel Kennedy)

Once all these travel essentials are in order, it will soon be time to sit back with friends and family and enjoy the scenic ride.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Grand Tour stops in California for their series premiere this Friday, Nov. 18 on Amazon Prime.

Originally published in GeekMom on Oct. 14, 2016. All images by Lisa Kay Tate

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

Standard
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.

FillionPrattHammill

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.

Batmobile Dreamin’

Standard
batmobilemain

This New Mexico-based Batmobile replica was pretty darn close to the real thing. Image: Rick Tate.

Post originally ran in GeekMom on April 21, 2016.

James Bond and Batman.

These two names are answers to many questions that have been posed to me, but mostly “whose fictional cars would you most like to have?”

It’s really no contest. DeLoreans seem sleazy to me (sorry, Doc Brown), and I never saw an episode of Knight Rider. Scooby Doo’s Mystery Mobile might smell a little gamey, and I’m afraid the transformer Bumblebee just might try to kill me. Han Solo’s and Wonder Woman’s rides don’t count since those are both aircraft.

I do think Bond’s sleek Aston Martin is exquisite, and who doesn’t want to feel a little swanky every now and then? The Batmobile, however, is the car I want to drive. Yes, that wonderfully cheesy black (and sometimes very very dark grey) machine that has been everything from a modified Ford to a custom-made military-grade fighting machine is on my radar the most.

Yes, more than any car, I want to drive the Batmobile.

I’ve mentioned in a past story, Batman is my earliest “fandom” to memory, and he’s still my favorite superhero. I would be happy tooling around in any incarnation of his vehicle, and being able to do so consistently teeters near the top of my bucket list. I still have a little circa 1967 Corgi Batmobile that I “liberated” from my older brother when I was a kid, and it is still a prized possession, despite showing its use. Yes, he knows I have it.

I remember getting excited seeing a static, non-functioning version of the original Tim Burton-era vehicle at one of the Six Flags theme parks. I also dragged my entire family across town to a Wal-Mart parking lot just to get our picture with the actual Tumbler and Bat Pod leading from The Dark Knight Rises, which was traveling around the country as part of a promotional Tumbler Tour in the summer of 2012.

tumblers

We got to visit the Tumbler and Bat Pod from The Dark Knight Rises, back in 2012, but there were strict “no touch” rules. Images: Rick Tate.

I was also doing a story on comic-con etiquette and spoke with a man named Jim Johnson. He served as the official “Transportation Manager for Wayne Enterprises” for the tour. He told me most people were very appreciative of getting a chance to encounter these gas-powered movie stars.

“Most people are really good around the car,” he said and added people all seem to realize the one main rule was “no touching” and respected that.

 If we weren’t allowed to touch the car that meant no entering the car, much less driving it.

Step away from the Batmobile, Citizen of Gotham.

Even so, Johnson did fire up the Tumbler and, although still idling, spectators heard the force of its engine. I’m not going to lie. That was a thrill.

So, when the opportunity arose to see a working reproduction of the original, old school Batmobile at El Paso Comic Con, I couldn’t pass that up.

epconcosplay

Regional cosplayers and artists never fail to impress me. Hearing the creative origins of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from creator Kevin Eastman at our local con (bottom right) was also a treat. Images: Rick Tate.

El Paso Comic Con (EPCON) returned to El Paso Convention Center this past April this year under “new management,” and featured all the trappings of a worthy con: an extensive expo, celebrity photo ops, panels, a zombie escape experience, an abundant number of local and visiting artists, charity auction, cosplay aplenty, live entertainment, and even a preview night “Nerd Rave” dance party.

This first time out of the chute wasn’t perfect. The program lacked that ever-important floor plan map, and the expo entry fee may have been a little high for the average family. Nevertheless, it had some fantastic elements to it, particularly its lineup of geeky star cars, which hearkened me back to my childhood when my dad would take me to the Darryl Starbird Custom Car Show. These “celebrity cars” included the Breaking Bad RV, a custom-made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle van created by former Power Rangers cast member and stuntman Jason Ybarra, a Jeep Wrangler from Jurassic Park, a custom creation by the local charity-minded fan group El Paso Ghostbusters… and a 1966 era Batmobile.

Most of these were great photo ops (we forewent the Breaking Bad interior tour since it just didn’t seem right to take our daughters into a “meth lab”), but we donated our ten bucks to sit in that Batmobile.

starcars

Other featured star cars included the TNMT van, Jurassic Park jeep, Breaking Bad RV, and locally grown Ghostbusters mobile. All images: Rick Tate.

The replica, known as the Albuquerque Batmobile, is part of the New Mexico Chapter of Star Car Central, whose nationwide inventory of geeky vehicles includes everything from the A-Team van to the xXx GTO. They help support groups like American Cancer Society, Paw and Stripes, and Make-A-Wish. This particular Batmobile-for-hire has made several convention and charitable appearances and is even available to pick up soldiers returning home from the airport, and to give rides to children in need. That alone makes the vehicle an actual superhero.

This car chassis is a 1972 Lincoln Continental, which matches the 1955 Lincoln Futura first used in the television show. Its owners, Mike and Khristine Esch, created the replica with functional TV FX and gadgets, as well body details nearly identical to the original.

The original Batmobile, by the way, was built in 1965 for $15,000, and sold to a private collector in 2013 for $4.6 million.

For me, being able to interact with a full-size Batmobile was the most fulfilling of experiences, above the appearances at the con of my first Batman and Robin, retro television icons Adam West and Burt Ward. I love West, but the idea of spending nearly $100 to meet another human being surrounded by “you’re not worthy” handlers and guards didn’t appeal to me. Besides, as cool as Mr. West is, he really isn’t Batman. Plus, I certainly wouldn’t ask an octogenarian to undergo the indignity of wearing his old costume to an autograph session. There were plenty of great Batman-centric cosplayers at the event to satisfy those goofy photo ops.

As for that Batmobile? Reproduction not, it was still really a Batmobile, and when I sat in it, I was Batman. Or Batgirl. Or Robin. It really didn’t matter which representative of the Bat universe I was, all I knew was I was in the driver’s seat, and The Joker better watch his back. Even my six-year-old, who took a picture sitting in my lap, had that unmistakable gleam in her eye when she put her hands on the Batmobile steering wheel and picked up the bright red Batphone.

“Will this really go?” she asked anxiously.

Ah, yes. She gets it now, too.

batdetail

From the interior to parachute packs, I felt like the pride of Gotham City, circa 1966. All images: Rick Tate.

Unfortunately, this car was landlocked on the expo grounds for photo ops only. No starting up the engine, much less taking it out for a spin. Of course, I didn’t expect to be able to actually drive this vehicle, but just knowing someone else did produced a pang of envy. It was still a worthwhile experience, and since I learned in the car’s “Bat Fact” sheet that it averages a supersonic seven miles per gallon (I’m assuming on a convention hall floor), I was saving some fuel.

I might never get that opportunity to take the wheel and take one of these cars around the block, but I’ll keep seeking opportunities to experience it.

Judging from the line of Batfans in logo tees and cosplay waiting to get their pictures in the car, I know I’m not the only one who wants a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of the Caped Crusader’s wheels. Ward himself even got his picture in “Robin’s” passenger seat.

Author Mark Cotta Vaz explained the timeless nature of this car in his book Batmobile: The Complete History.

“The Batmobile is not just a crime-fighting car — it’s the ultimate vehicle of the imagination,” he writes of the car that made its comic debut in 1939. “And the Batmobile is still speeding forward, all these decades later.”

I still think of the horrendous line from 1997 franchise-destroying film Batman and Robin, when Robin (Chris O’Donnell) uttered “chicks dig the car.”

Yes, I do dig the car, Boy Wonder, but you better hand over the keys. I’m driving!

El Paso Comic Con’s sister event, Las Cruces Comic Con, is planned for Sept. 9-11, in Las Cruces, N.M.

batmobiles

Of all my Batmobiles that old, beat-up Corgi model is still my prized possession.

Halloween Can be A Time for Giving, Too

Standard

charityoneOctober is here, and that means the Halloween preps are beginning. Costume pop-up stores are open, party suppliers are amping up their advertising, and spooky movies and programming are hitting the cinemas and television.

It seems each year, the tendency be more extreme and get more from this day increases, be it tricks or treats.

However, there are those to take the opportunity mix philanthropy and giving with their happenings and haunts. Here are three Halloween-centric charitable efforts whose work is anything but frightening:

Zombie Pumpkins charity donations: Zombie Pumpkins has been one of the best sources for unique printable pumpkin carving patterns for all skill levels for more than 10 years, but they have also shared their wealth with various charities each year since 2005. The first recipient was American Red Cross in 2005, shortly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and each year they donate a portion of their proceeds from their online memberships to a different charity, including Make-A-Wish, My Stuff Bags Foundation, Free Arts and Heart Hope. Those who join can not only get the latest on carving the best pumpkins, but help to carve out a better future for others.

Spirit Halloween’s Spirit of Children: Spirit Halloween is known for some pretty terrifying props, but they don’t want children to have to face the real scary challenges of life alone. This includes the all-too-frightening experience of being hospitalized during the Halloween season. Since 2006, Spirit of Children, in partnership with Child Life Departments within children’s hospitals, has raised more than $22 million to help bring a little fun to children in more than 130 children’s hospitals in the United States and Canada. This, of course, includes Halloween parties and goodie bags, but also financial support for other Child Life programs from music therapy to training specialists to work with family support. Their goal for 2015 is $6.735 million. Spirit also strives to make sure donations from a particular area remain local, helping one of the spookiest seasonal stores create a less-scary environment for children.

Haunts Against Hunger: Haunts Against Hunger began in 2010 as a way to encourage haunted attractions and events organize food drives in their area. Celebrity spokesperson for the non-profit is former horror queen Linda Blair, who today runs the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, which rescues neglected and bused animals. As a result of Blair’s involvement, Haunts Against Hunger now encouraged donations for both people and pets. There are currently drop-off locations in nine U.S. states, but everyone is encouraged to help host a Haunts Against Hunger food drive in their area. They’ll even help participants determine a deserving local food pantry, so that participants can do their part in helping feed the hungry long after the season of “treats” has passed.charitytwo-300x272

Looking for more reasons to give? Here are some ways to make harvest and haunts season one of giving, as well:

  • Collect nonperishable goods for a local food bank in addition to or — or instead of — candy while making the trick-or-treat rounds.
  • Many schools, organizations and places of worship host fundraising “Trunk or Treat” events. Attend one near you, and help have fun while helping them reach their fundraising goals.
  • Trick-or-treat at a participating nursing home, as suggested by GeekMom contributor Judy Berna.
  • Organize a safe neighborhood block party for families and children, and make the price of “admission” a blanket, toiletry or other needed item for a local rescue mission.
  • Promote literacy by leaving age-appropriate scary books around as part of the fantastic All Hallows Read campaign. Neil Gaiman will approve.
  • If your school or organization is hosting a haunted house or similar attraction, talk to United Blood Services in your area about partnering with them to set up a blood drive during the event. What better place to give blood?
  • Remember those little Unicef Boxes you can carry with you on Halloween? They still have them! Unicef has been doing its Trick-or-Treat for Unicef campaign with graded K-12 since 1950, and has raised millions for its charitable causes. This year’s campaign celebrates The Peanuts Movie.

Halloween is supposed to be spooky sometimes, but this year, make sure no one, especially children, have to face the real monsters of life alone. Use this spooky season to help create a safer and less scary world the rest of the year.

Originally ran on MinionFeeding101.com Oct. 3, 2015,