Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween T-Shirt DIY: Lacy Straps

It's officially Halloween! It's 1am here in Chicago and I just remembered that I wanted to do a T-shirt alteration for Halloween. So I quickly grabbed my awesome Loot Crate t-shirt (Ewoking just slays me) and executed my awesome plan of awesomeness (I may be so sleepy that I'm a little loopy).

I love this shirt that we got in our October Loot Crate but, if you've been following me at all, you know that I hate wearing shirts with traditional sleeves. I guess my shoulders are claustrophobic (actually, that's a lie. It's totally my armpits that freak out. But I'm a lady and ladies don't say armpits). That's why I end up altering all my tops. The alteration I do here is actually really easy. It took me less than 10 minutes to do this, from setting up my sewing machine to taking the final picture where I look really, really bad.

In case you weren't familiar with the T-Shirt that came in this month's Loot Crate, here's a quick reference pic. Undead Ewoks are just adorable.

I began by cutting out the collar. I did this right along the seam where the collar meets the shirt. Here's a quick look:

From there I took a little more fabric away from the front neckline so there was a nice scoop. 

Next I straight up the top fold of the sleeves and across the should seams. This completely separated the top of my shirt. This allowed me to go in and put the new straps on, and let the sleeves hang free and look all special and flow-y. Here, you can see that the front top if cut off and you can just see the inside seams of the shirt.

Then I cut two rectangles of lace and made sure that the edges were hemmed so they would hold. I hemmed it so that it fit the top edges of the shoulder exactly. 

Voila! Look at how nicely that matches up. Of course, t-shirt fabric stretches and lace doesn't, so it warped a little when I sewed it together, but it's not even noticeable. 

I sewed each lace strap to the front of the shirt. This was so that I could flip it over and the seam would be on the inside. Once I sewed the front seams, I turned the whole shirt inside out and sewed the lace to the back edge. I did this so that I could make sure that both seams were fully visible to me, which meant that it was sewn together correctly. Of course, this didn't stop me from accidentally sewing the opposite shoulders together. Oi. 

And you're done already! Since I look really, really bad in the picture where I'm modelling the shirt, you don't get to see it. Just look at it hanging on my door and know that it looks extremely cute on.

Edit: I managed to get a somewhat decent picture of the shirt on this morning, so here you go!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Top Five: Favorite Halloween Episodes

Welcome back to my Halloween posts! Today, I have a list of my top five Halloween episodes. Halloween episodes are usually the best holiday-themed episodes on TV. They skip the touchy-feely stuff and get right to the fun. Genre series will usually up the ante and try to surprise you. Comedy series will pull out thoroughly entertaining satire. Sure, they fall short a few times but the population of great Halloween episodes is huge. Picking my favorites was difficult, but I think that I have a great list for your today.

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester (Supernatural)

This episode is Supernatural’s own Urban Legends of Halloween. People in a small town are dying (as they usually are) in freaky, Halloween-myth related incidents. These incidents end up being a string of ritualistic sacrifices to summon the demon Samhain. The summoning of Samhain will lead to an all out Hell-on-Earth party, so our intrepid heroes do all they can to stop the witch behind this plan. The first half of this episode is ultimately better than the second half, but it’s still really exciting and has some of the most iconic of the grisly death scenes that define the series. If you haven’t seen this episode before, check it out. And if you’re a Supernatural fan, maybe this is how you should spend your Halloween?

2. Vampire Weekend (Castle)

Castle just wants to believe, and Beckett won’t let him. In this episode, our dynamic duo (and, you know, those other guys) investigate a staking. Yes, a staking. A boy dressed like a vampire was found staked in one of the local cemeteries, and Castle and Beckett investigate their way through his vampire coven in order to find out whodunit. I may have mostly included this episode for the brief moment where Nathan Fillion dresses up as Mal Reynolds, but it’s still a really good episode!

3. Fear, Itself (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

I think that Fear, Itself is the best Buffy Halloween episode, though some might say that it’s Halloween (we don’t talk about that other one). The Scooby Gang goes to a Halloween party, but the fake haunted decorations at the fraternity house have turned into real horrors. It still has a great dose of the Whedonesque humor, though, to counter the horror of the middle acts. Ultimately, the episode teaches you that you should never copy down a random symbol in an old book because you never know what you could be unleashing. And you’d be lucky if it was just one of the funniest sight gags in Buffy history.

4. Life of the Party (Angel)

Where the Buffy Halloween episodes were more scary than anything else, the only Angel Halloween episode goes more for the laughs than for frights. Lorne gets the Wolfram and Hart gang to throw a Halloween party for all their clients. Of course, the party itself ultimately coincides with Lorne coming down with a case of the… I have no idea how to put this succinctly. People start obeying him, following his advice to the letter. Fred and Wesley get completely schwasted, Angel and Eve get a room, and Spike hilariously acts more positive. Of course, this funny issue ultimately results in a case of giant demon, but it’s not like we don’t know how to handle that. All in all, it’s a great, lighthearted Halloween episode.

5. Epidemiology (Community)

Greatest. Halloween Costumes. Ever.

In its early seasons, Community always took a tongue-in-cheek approach to its themes. This certainly held for Season 2’s Halloween episode, where the show tackled zombie tropes. Dean Pelton throws a costume party and, whoops, accidentally unleashes a zombie virus on the school. Every zombie movie trope is present, and there’s a good sprinkling of horror movie clich├ęs, as well. None of it seems over used or dry, as Community was able to play it right and evoke all the laughter that it aimed for. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Top Five Zombie Titles in Geekery

Welcome back to my Halloween series of blog posts. In honor of my favorite monsters, and my currently-running giveaway, I am going to name my top video games, movies, and books with zombies in them. As a zombie connoisseur, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the best zombie titles in geekery.

1. Telltale’s The Walking Dead

The show is starting to pick up again after the second season and part of the third just dragged on. The graphic novel is starting to lose direction, and is making me wonder what, exactly, it is going to do next (and how advisable that choice would be). But Telltale’s The Walking Dead game was nothing short of a masterpiece. It was obvious that this game was going to make this list—it made all sorts of lists of great games when it came out. The Walking Dead is artfully drawn, wonderfully written, and emotionally wrenching. It’s the only video game that has ever brought tears to my eyes. In an era where many games are trying to erect emotional connections, The Walking Dead does it the best. It’s one of the only point-and-click games that I’ve ever enjoyed, and the gameplay mechanics are excellent for the type of story the game is trying to tell. Every choice you make has real consequences, and the point-and-click gameplay means that the zombies never become dull or overplayed. They’re saved for moments where they are viable threats, and are always ready to pop out and show you that you’re not safe in this world.

2. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This book is excellently written from the title to the last sentence. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is Ryan’s first novel, but you’d think that she’s been writing for years. It’s a wonderful work of prose. Her world building more than holds up to her writing style, as we follow the story of a girl names Mary. Mary is growing up in a small village after the zombie apocalypse. The entirety of the village is surrounded by a fence, and the zombies constantly press against it. The village elders have told everyone that they are the only people left in the world, but Mary glimpses a stranger from the world beyond the fence. She has always dreamed of the rest of the world—in particular, the ocean from the stories her mother used to tell her—and the stranger is the catalyst for her adventure in the zombie-ridden forest. I can’t recommend this book, and its companion novels, enough. Ryan’s short stories set in this world are also excellent. You can get it for $8.50 now on Kindle, so there’s no excuse not to pick up The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places.

 3. Shaun of the Dead

Zombies can be scary as hell, but they can also be pretty damn amusing. While Zombieland was a great and hilarious movie, my favorite zombie comedy will always be Shaun of the Dead. It did it first, and it did it best. The storytelling is excellent, the jokes rarely fall flat, and Simon Pegg is amazing throughout.  And how many zombie comedies can also get you all choked up? Pretty much none of them. Shaun of the Dead works on all levels. It’s not just a great zombie movie, but it’s a great movie.

4. Left 4 Dead

I like Left 4 Dead and its sequel for the exact opposite reason that I like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Left 4 Dead is set up with a series of campaigns that you and three of your friends can play through. The zombies constantly come at you, interspersed with special mutated zombies a la Resident Evil. It is pretty much impossible not to feel like a certifiable bad ass when mowing down zombies with a katana, automatic shotgun, or chainsaw. Left 4 Dead is my go-to multiplayer game, and I spend more time than I should replaying this game over and over. Obviously, its replay value is great—especially when you mix it up and play with different people. It’s also the only game I have on multiple platforms: I own both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 on PS and Xbox 360.

(Speaking of, if you want to play together on Steam just search for Geekphoria and friend me).

5. 28 Days Later

28 Days Later is my favorite scary zombie movie, even though the monsters aren’t really zombies. Resident Evil 4 is one of my favorite zombie video games, too, even though it has the same problems. 28 Days Later was able to bring the scary zombie back with a vengeance for my generation. Night of the Living Dead and the other Romero movies weren’t really scary anymore, due to our expectations for more realistic effects, and we were still two years from the Dawn of the Dead remake (which is the movie I think actually kicked off the zombie resurgence). 28 Days Later is perfectly paced, with some tender moments tossed in among the running-for-your-life and being-ripped-apart-by-rage-zombies. It’s also one of those rare zombie movies that make you think. Sure, we’re often told that zombies in horror movies stand for this or that, but it’s usually something you don’t see in the film itself. 28 Days Later, though, is fulfilling on all levels.

Honorable Mentions:

Cell by Stephen King
Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory (EXCELLENT, READ THIS)
Zombie Honeymoon (so ridiculous that you just have to see it)
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
The Walking Dead Comic and Show
Night of the Living Dead (original and remake)
Dead Girl (a little too much for some people)
Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead (some of Romero's silliest entries)

Monday, October 21, 2013

October Loot Crate Unboxing and Halloween Giveaway!

Hi everyone!

My Loot Crate came today, and I was really excited to open it. Unfortunately, I'm really busy with school work and didn't have a chance to make a video, but I took some quick pictures so you can see what is in this month's Loot Crate.

The theme was Survive, which warmed my little geek heart since I'm a big zombie fan. Here's a look at what Loot Crate thinks every good zombie hunter needs:

A newly opened Loot's so promising.

Gummy fingers and a Loot Crate zombie hunter license.

Some zombie-themed buttons.

Cute zombie-themed greeting card.

Outbreak Status tattoos.

Pretty much the most adorably punny t-shirt ever.

A (new) copy of Max Brooks's The Zombie Survival Guide.

"But Amanda!," I hear you say. "How do you, as a self-respecting zombie fan, not have a copy of Max Brooks's The Zombie Survival Guide?" That is a great question! The answer is that I totally do have a copy of this book. Which leads us to my awesome Halloween Giveaway!

That's right! I'm going to give away this brand-new copy of The Zombie Survival Guide. Unfortunately, I'm a broke grad student, so the prize is only available to those in the U.S. in order to make shipping costs manageable. Here's the Rafflecopter widget--you know what to do!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're interested in getting your own Loot Crate ($13.37/month plus shipping), then follow this link!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Top Five: Scariest Movie Monsters

Welcome to the second of my Halloween posts! Here I tell you the tale of my top five scariest movie monsters. These are all creepers who left a lasting impression, whether it was because I was a kid when I saw them or because they are just that creepy. So gather up your courage and read through this Top Five list--and, as usual, be sure to leave your own choices in the comments!

1. Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth

The Pale Man is the creature Ofelia faces in the first of her fantastical tasks, and it's also likely the most iconic creature from Pan's Labyrinth. Why is the Pale Man so creepy? His appearance is an obvious possible answer--his skin hangs from his body in folds, and his face is featureless but for a mouth--which he uses to bite of fairy heads. When Ofelia first sees him, the monster is sitting at a feast, completely frozen. He would have stayed frozen, too, except that Ofelia breaks the rules and eats some grapes from the table. the Pale Man begins to twitch, then lifts his hands to his face--and the viewer sees that his eyes are in his palms, and he can now see and stalk Ofelia. As he closes in on the girl--unbeknownst to Ofelia--it's impossible to not see how sinister this monster is.

2. Brain Bug from Starship Troopers

I first saw Starship Troopers when I was a kid. Waaaay too young to be watching Starship Troopers. At one point, I was so scared that I cried (which is saying a lot, I might add). That point was when two humans were brought to the Queen, who happened to be a brain bug. I don't remember why, and my recollection as to whether it was the Queen may be wrong, but what I do remember is this: a tendril blooms out of the brain bug's face, latches onto a man's cranium, and sucks his brain out as he screams. Then he falls to the ground, exposing his empty skull, while his companion keeps screaming. My memories are hazy, but that's because this monster scared me so much as a kid that I refuse to ever watch the movie again.

3. Brundlefly from The Fly

Oh, Jeff Goldblum. I remember being a young girl, enamored with you after watching Jurassic Park. And then you led me me so far astray when I heard you were in The Fly and decided to watch it. While I put Brundlefly in the title, it would be more accurate to say that this applies to most of the character's metamorphosis. At first, things seem to be going alright for Dr. Brundle, despite the fact that he's altered his DNA. The viewer start to see that things might be going wrong when he crushes/rips (crips? explodes? How would you describe this?) another man's hand off. Then he starts vomiting all over the place as his skin turns oozy and body parts start to fall off. Brundlefly is at his most terrifying, though, in the climactic fight scene. He's up against his ladylove's new beau, and attacks him by vomiting acid on his body parts. The acid, of course, almost instantly dissolves the poor man's limbs. There's vomit, there's gore, and there's one movie monster you don't want to run into. Ever.

4. Gage from Pet Sematary

I shouldn't have been allowed to watch this, either (thanks, Grandma, for this and most of the other movies that made this list). When Louis Creed's young son is killed after being hit by a truck, Louis goes a little crazy and decides to bring him back to life. Of course, he doesn't keep an eye on his reanimated offspring, who makes his way to the house across the street and kills both his neighbor and his own mother. Most memorably, Gage slices Judd Crandall's Achilles, causing the man to fall over, and the bites out his throat. This is why I don't like children (okay, maybe not entirely).

5. Xenomorphs from Alien

Sure, the grown Xenomorphs are some serious baddies. They're dangerous, suitably creepy-looking, and all too happy to make you dead. But I want to draw your attention to the somewhat less appreciated Chestburster xenomorph. These are the things that made me decide all these Alien aliens needed to be wiped out, and needed to be wiped out now. Picture it like this. You're walking down the hallway of your spaceship, and you get attacked by a Facehugger. It implants a Xenomorph embryo into you, and then all you can do is sit and wait until the thing matures and rips its way out of your body. It's the ultimate in disgusting parasites, and one of the worst creatures on this list because it attacks you from inside. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Five: Scariest Video Game Enemies

It's almost Halloween which is, spoiler alert, pretty much my favorite time of the year. So here's the first of my Halloween-themed posts: a list of the scariest video game enemies that I have ever faced. 

1. Regenerador (Resident Evil 4)

Resident Evil 4 was my first serious FPS play-through. Until then, I had been devoted to fantasy games, mostly those on Nintendo consoles because that’s basically what my family had. Resident Evil 4 is the game that made me addicted to action shooters. Which is strange, considering the number of times this game scared the crap out of me. One of the situations that stand out the most is when I was forced to face the Regenaradores. The Regeneradores are test subjects, infected with leech-like Plagas that you must shoot in order to kill the Regenerador. Of course, when you first meet these baddies, you can’t see the Plagas, leaving the Regeneradores almost indestructible. These creatures lurch down the hallways at you, ready to take you down. They’re the closest thing to a zombie that you see in the game, and are scarier for it. You can unload clip after clip in them, but until you can see the Plagas they just regenerate and heal the damage. In a survival horror game—or as near to a survival horror game as you get with the recent REs—you don’t want to waste ammo like that. In fact, if you do, it makes the next three Regeneradores you face all the more panic-inducing. I had to replay one area a couple of times because I just didn’t have enough bullets to protect Ashley and get past the Regeneradores. She kept dying, and I kept having to face these creepy and nearly indestructible baddies over and over again.

Honorable Mention: Chainsaw Ganado

The Chainsaw Ganado comes at you in the first town you visit. I entered into combat with him completely unsuspecting—and then he rushed me and insta-killed me. As the chainsaw ripped through Leon’s shoulder and he died screaming, I shrieked and paused the game in order to regain my composure. In my next attempt, I managed to time a window escape so that I crawled out right into the sweet embrace of rippy, bloody death. Needless to say, the rest of my attempts had me running around in full-on panic mode, just trying to avoid this guy.

2. Dead Hand (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

The year is 1998. I am ten years old, and my grandmother gave my siblings and me a N64 for Christmas. That N64 came bundled with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—and I fell in love. I happily went through most of the dungeons, hardly blinking at the baddies…until I had to go into The Well. There, I met the scariest baddie I had ever met—the Dead Hand. The thing about the Dead Hand that really got to me was that you had to allow the enemy to grab you before he would come out of the ground and allow you to attack him. When he grabbed you, though, you were trapped until you could break away. You had to make yourself almost defenseless. And sometimes, as a ten-year-old, I wasn’t very good at whole “breaking away” thing. Terrified, I was finally able to defeat the Dead Hand. And then…I encountered another one in the Shadow Temple. I walked into the room, saw the hand stalks…and spent at least five minutes psyching myself up for the battle. The thing still crepes me out today.

Honorable Mention: Re-Dead

I have a lot of the same issues with the Re-dead as I did with the Dead Hand. However, you can eventually handle the Re-dead really easily, which is why they’re only an honorable mention. Still, the memories of the first time one of these baddies tried to suck the life out of me gets them on this list.

3. Gatherers (Amnesia: The Dark Descent)

I’m starting to see a trend with these baddies and that trend is that I don’t like to be helpless. I like to be able to shoot an enemy in the face and, if it’s particularly creepy, double-tap just to be sure it’s dead. The Gatherers scared the hell out of me. You can’t fight them—all you can do is try to avoid them or run from them. If they see you, the swoop down on you in moments. It drives you crazy to see them, so your screen is blurring and shaking while you try to find a safe place to hide. It does not make for a relaxed gaming experience. In fact, it was after only my second encounter with a Gatherer that I said “lol, nope,” turned off the game, and didn’t have the courage to pick it up again for a week.

4. Slender Man (Slender: The Eight Pages)

Yet another baddie that you can’t do anything against. You begin the game by walking through the woods with a flashlight that requires you to conserve power. Slender Man stalks you through the woods as you try to collect eight pages, only appearing to you after you collect the first one. When you see the Slender Man, you vision gets static-y and you hear loud noises. As you collect more and more pages, Slender Man appears closer and closer to you. You can run from him, but as you progress in the game you find that you run slower and slower. If he touches you, it’s game over—you’re his now. Slender Man, and the game itself, is minimalist horror at its best. It’s an incredibly effective scare.

5. Infectors (Dead Space)

These things are scary as hell, but at least you can shoot the shit out of them. That’s why they’re last on my list-of-scary-enemies-that-doesn’t-really-have-any-order-except-what-I-just-mentioned. Infectors prey on both the living and the dead and—as you can tell by their name—try to infect people and turn them into Necromorphs. They can usually be heard coming, which just adds to their ability to induce fright—especially since you usually hear them munching on corpses. Often enough, though, the Infectors won’t give warning of their attack. They’ll just swoop down on you out of nowhere, causing you to try not to shriek in terror as you make that plasma cutter earn its keep.

Did your choice make the list? If not, let me know which enemies YOU think are scarier in the comments!

Friday, October 11, 2013

What Should I Wear To Chicago TARDIS?

The weekend after Thanksgiving is going to be super exciting for me, because I am going to the Chicago TARDIS convention! I'm especially excited because this is going to be my first Con that's based on a single franchise. I'm really interested in how they work--and I can't wait to see one of my favorite Doctors (Peter Davison) and a coupe of my favorite companions (Freema Agyeman/Martha Jones and Louise Jameson/Leela).

I have a cosplay I may use, but right now I'm trying to figure out what to wear! I also want to interview some cosplayers and dealers at the Con, though, so I want to dress in normal clothes for at least part of the day. So here are some awesome Doctor Who pieces that I have been checking out--and I'm looking to you for some input!

1. Something Blue Babydoll from Think Geek/Her Universe

2. Weeping Angel Babydoll from Her Universe


3. Tardis Blueprints Tank from Geeky U


4. VanGogh Exploding Tardis Skirt from Her Universe

5. Tardis Costume Dress from Hot Topic and Her Universe


6. Doctor Who Tagline T-Shirt from Hot Topic


7. Doctor Who TARDIS Tank Top from Hot Topic


8. Doctor Who/Police Box Skirt by ComplementsbyJo


9. Rory Hears a Who and Hatches the Cube T-Shirt by Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue


10. Fighting Time Lords by Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue

Or is there something else you think would be awesome? Let me know in the comments! And check back next week where I will explore Doctor Who accessories! If you're interested in any of these clothes, follow the links and you can purchase them yourself (just don't buy the last one, or I'll have to be mad).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Read Some More of My Work!

Hey guys,

I thought I'd update you on my work on Junkies Nation. I'm pretty excited because two of my articles remain in the top bar! I'm popular!

So here's a link to all my stuff, with the newest articles at the top! Come support a growing site, and leave a comment if you visit!

Comics: DC's Villains Month Recap
Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Opinion: The Fervor Over Video Game Reviews
Top Five New Genre TV Shows to Watch

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

DIY: A T-Shirt Alteration with Lessons to Learn

I had some free time on my hands the other week. I decided to update my tube top DIY, and then I still had time to spare. So I grabbed another t-shirt, thought for a minute about what I wanted to do, and then got to work.

Which, while this top isn't a complete disaster, I'm not very happy with it. I'm a little sad that I didn't stop myself, but it's not the end of the world.

So here's the lesson to learn here: stop and plan exactly how you're going to go about altering a shirt. Look it up online to see if someone's done it before--they can tell you about any challenges they faced on the way. And for Batman's sake, don't cut it if you don't have a plan. You will always cut off more than you want, or cut things wrong.

So, without further ado, let's move on to my crap only-okay t-shirt. I'll point out where the problems occurred, so when you try to do your own alterations, you can look out for these mistakes and issues.

By the way, this is the t-shirt I altered. I got it from the shop of one of my favorite comics ever, Questionable Content. Here's the picture from the store, and a link to buy it is here

$18.50 USD

I started out the way I normally start my t-shirt alteration--by cutting off the sleeves and the collar. In the picture above, I'm sewing up the sides (since the sleeves on XL t-shirts tend to go very low on me, since they're oversized). 

Here is where I made my first mistake. I have never tries to braid the straps of a shirt before, and I split the front two straps, and the back strap. I should have made the straps longer, all the way down to the back of the shirt. In doing so, I should have combined the straps together in the middle back. Instead, I split that back square in two and braided a bit of the back. Here's the process:

Here is a picture of the entire cut strap. It's an equal length on the front and the back of the shirt. 

I added the pink straps to add a bit of girly flair. I just sewed the pink strap to the inside of the shirt. The braid will hide the stitches on the front of the shirt. 

I braided the front straps and the middle back straps in a simple braid. 

Then I sewed the three straps together in a Y shape. Finally, I made a pink strap to cover the seams.

Here, unfortunately, is the only crappy picture I have of the back. You can see the pink strap covering the junction. And, also, my...thumb? I'm guessing that's my thumb. I take awesome pictures, guys.

Aaand, finally, here's the front. And here's what I don't like about the shirt. As I was cutting down the straps, I kept feeling like I needed to make them longer--I was going to be braiding them, after all. In order to do that, though, I had to keep trimming down the neckline, and now it's ridiculously close to the print and it makes me sad. I'm also kicking myself because this is not what I originally planned to do with it, and now I don't like it. I guess I could wear it as a workout shirt, but I'm still "meh"-ing pretty hard.

So here you go, faithful readers. I give you a DIY that I kind of messed up, so that you don't make the same mistakes. Learn from me, even if you only learn what not to do.