Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Day for Remembering

So, I lied. I need more time to work on that Civil War post. But I can tell you about my weekend.

Growing up in Texas away from my extended family, I didn't really celebrate Memorial Day. My junior year of high school when I was in Arizona I did get to attend a remembrance service and then decorate family gravesites in my dad's hometown.

When I moved out to Utah, I started spending Memorial Day weekend with my mom's family. That was when I learned that in American culture, Memorial Day isn't just about remembering the military dead but all those who have passed on. It's sort of like Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico, except without the candy skulls. On Memorial Day weekend in Utah, everyone goes out and decorates the graves of their deceased loved ones. Some people even go so far as to have family gatherings and picnics on the grave sites--I'm being serious.

I wasn't able to do this last year because I had a job at the time and I was working.

Sunday night, my mom's family--my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins--meets at the Washington Terrace Cemetery in Ogden, Utah. We meet at the grave of my grandpa Bair's parents, Russell Bair and Ione Thompson.

Great Grandma Bair is the only great-grandparent I knew in my lifetime. She died right after my baby sister was born.

We then go to the grave of Great Grandma's parents and then to the grave of Grandpa's friend Jim Jenkins. We usually have a hard time finding Jim's grave, because Grandma and Grandpa don't recall exactly where it is from year to year, but this year we actually went straight for it. After the cemetery gathering, the family goes back to Grandma and Grandpa's house for ice cream.

On Monday, Grandma and Grandpa Bair go to Cache Valley to visit the graves of their relatives. They are usually joined by my uncle Lyle and aunt Cathy. This year Cathy's granddaughter Hayley and their adorable dachshund Jazzy came with us, too.

We always start out at the North Ogden Cemetery. Grandma's aunt Jenny is buried there.  Grandma Bair's mother died young, and Aunt Jenny took her in and raised her.

In the years since I've been going with them, our first stop has been Bear River City near Tremonton. That is where my dad's grandmother Grace Freeman Downing Cole Checketts is buried next to her second husband, Charles Checketts. Grandpa doesn't mind, since he has a couple of friends buried in Bear River as well, and of course my mom's parents and my dad's parents are good friends. I like being able to honor my great-grandmother.

Sometimes I wonder who brings the other flowers.  Does anyone come after me, and notice what I brought? Does anyone know that one of Grace's biological descendants comes to visit?

Of course, the people whose graves we visit know we've been there.

Can I just say I LOVE the drive through Cache Valley?

Our next stop is Richmond. Grandpa Bair's parents and great-grandparents are up there.

Richmond Cemetery is also where the remains of John Bair are located--John Bair being one of the colonizer/dynastic founder figures on my mom's side.

This year I was mesmerized by the view from the hill.

Also I found a patch of lilacs near John Bair's marker. They're still fresh and smelling great!

Next we go to the Logan Cemetery, right behind USU. Logan Cemetery doesn't quite have the small-town charm of Richmond and Bear River. However, it's a fun cemetery precisely because it's big. There are people from many different countries and cultures buried there. There's "Babyland," where lots of infants are buried. There's monuments of every shape and size, statues and marble tombs. There are even landmark graves that Hayley looks for every time she comes up, like the one with the recipe on it. When I was at the Logan cemetery two years ago, I found a headstone decorated with legos--we didn't get to see it up close this year but it was fun to remember it.

My grandma's parents and grandparents are buried in the Logan City Cemetery on the north side. Then we walk all the way across the cemetery to visit the Daleys' gravesite. The Daleys took care of my grandma and put her through college before she got married.

Headstones of Grandma Bair's parents, Lolin Smith and Clifford Lee Atkinson

There's only one real veteran among the graves we visit in Cache Valley. Jack Bassett served in World War II and then came home and married my grandma's aunt Elaine. Jack and Elaine are buried smack in the middle of Logan Cemetery. Then we walk over to Babyland to visit the grave of a baby of one of Grandma's friends.

After the Logan Cemetery, my grandma's family, the Atkinsons, meet at a local restaurant for a reunion. This year we went to Firehouse Pizzeria on the south side of Logan. Firehouse has great food and excellent service so I can definitely recommend it.

The Atkinson reunion is usually Grandma and Grandpa Bair's last stop in Cache Valley. This year, however, we made a detour to Hyrum.  Grandma's brother Kendall is buried in the cemetery there. He died right before I graduated from college, so almost two years ago now.  It took forever to find his grave, though, since Grandma and Grandpa couldn't remember its location--and I even walked past it while looking for it.  I can guarantee I won't forget where it is next time!

I'd never been to the Hyrum cemetery before, and the view is amazing.  I swear the more I see of Cache Valley the more I think I'd be okay with living there.

To me, Memorial Day isn't about death so much as remembering the lives of those who came before us. Every person in a cemetery has a story, and each headstone tells just a small piece of it.

I'm thankful for the privilege to remember those who have gone on before me. I wish I knew their stories a little better. I'm also thankful to go back to Cache Valley, where my family (on both sides, believe it or not) has its roots.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

'Captain America: Civil War' Memes

So, I have a really in-depth, scholarly discussion about a few topics (*aherm, Bucky*) from Captain America: Civil War, but it's taking a while to write up so I'll wait until next week to put it up.  In the meantime, here are some memes I made about the film.

1. How I felt the day of the premiere:

2. Unpopular Opinion 1:

Yes, he's a great character, but it's kind of hard to like someone who spends most of the movie trying to rip your baby's face off

3. Unpopular Opinion 2:

I may be biased because I cosplay her, but that's just me. (Srsly fandom, stop trying to ruin everything)

4. Throwing a serious eyeroll at Redwing:

(Although Redwing is the real MVP)

5. My opinion on what needs to be done to that evil book:

Road trip to Mordor, anyone?

6. Personal dislike aside, T'Challa gave Inigo Montoya a run for his money

Great comeback, Bucky. Great comeback

7. Where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him?

Obviously in a different universe

8. Finally, that mid-credit scene:

9.Seriously, though

10, OK, I'll shut up now

(I'm doing better about this now, actually, just fyi.)

Read More:
My full review for The Geeky Mormon
The Women of 'Captain America: Civil War'

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cosplay Adventures: The Comic Con Press Conference

Last Wednesday I went to the press conference for Salt Lake Comic Con. It was held in the Utah State Capitol.  I'd never been there before.

my photo

Naturally about half the time I was there I was like "oooh, shiny!"  Needless to say I need to go back and take a tour. It's a great place to take photos, too.

my photo

People were already arriving by the time I got there. I spent most of the time waiting for the press conference to start taking photos and saying hi to my cosplay friends and other people in the cosplay community.  It's always fun to see them in person.

my photo

Eric Hall, known for his spot-on Data cosplay, came as Mr. Incredible. Here he is with Violet.  Eric kept making "incredible" puns all day.

my photo

Ashley McKnight as Scarlet Witch. I hadn't seen her Scarlet Witch before and she pulls it off nicely. :)

my photo--doesn't really do them justice!

Finn and Rey and Baby-8!

Mark Loertscher
This is the Sharon Carter/Agent 13 outfit I wore to the Captain America: Civil War premiere the previous week. My hair didn't stay curly for very long but this photo by Mark Loertscher still came out amazing.

Photo courtesy of Mark Loertscher
Team Cap! Left to right: Adam Galloway, me, Ashley McKnight, Benji Seekins, and TJ DeCarlo.

The press conference itself was all right.  I'm not particularly excited for any of the guests except for Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy. But Bryan Brandenburg remembers me from the FanX Press Conference in November. He and Dan Farr are really nice to the fans.

Literally the best moment of the press conference: Vanellope Von Schweetz (aka Melanie Hamburg) ran into both of the Winter Soldier cosplayers who were at the event, Benji Seekins and Ryan Hahn.  I suggested that she give her "You're my hero" medal to one of them.

Photo courtesy Melanie Hamburg. Is it just me or does Ryan look jealous?

Afterward the cosplayers broke out to get photos taken in and around the capitol. There were professional photographers on site.  We also took lots of personal photos and selfies.  Here's one with me and Ashley. I wish a Black Widow had come to the press conference.  Then we would've had all the ladies of Civil War!

Photo courtesy Ashley McKnight
Chilling on the side of the Capitol: me, Ashley, Melanie, and Kyle Anderson.  Everyone else was bowing to female Loki. *eyeroll*

I've always wanted to try out the shield. Ryan Stevens was happy to lend it to me.

My photo

Scarlet Witch had a go with it too.

My photo
I also got to see my Aunt Peggy!

Photo courtesy of Ashley McKnight

After the press conference was over I went out to lunch at a Denny's in Salt Lake with some of my cosplayer friends who had been there. Right when we were getting up to leave a random lady walked in and asked for our picture. She had come all the way from Australia and wanted to show her family the weirdness that we Americans were up to!  

The Lizy Reviews: Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George

Just to warn you, this is a brutally honest, spoilery, and negative review. 

Thankfully, Fridays with the Wizards picks up roughly where Thursdays with the Crown left off. The Glower children and company have returned from the other world with the griffins and the Castle has been set to rights. But nothing huge happens in Thursdays, apart from Wizard Arkwright escaping from confinement and terrorizing the castle inhabitants, but he lurks in the background more than anything. The solution seems to be to use a lockbox developed by Queen Selina to close off some of the castle's secret passageways and cut him off--you would think that would be a big deal, erasing parts of the castle forever, but none of the parts that matter are sacrificed in the end.

Via Amazon

To be honest, I'm not nearly as impressed with this installment of the Castle Glower series as with the previous episodes. There were a few things I did like, however: we get more character development for the Queen and Celie's brother Bran. Celie also is having character development and pre-teen ANGST as Lilah and Lulath get engaged and make preparations for marriage (which is understandable since I do not like them together). The more critical moments of the story are when Celie has to take initiative to fight Arkwright by herself.  However, Lulath still has cool moments.  And the griffins are as cool as ever, even without being in the spotlight as much in the story. Fridays with the Wizards ties together the series I wouldn't say neatly but comfortably.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: The Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s debut in the Ascendance trilogy was nothing short of brilliant. Now with The Mark of the Thief Nielsen has launched a new series that promises to be just as amazing, if not more. If you haven’t read The Mark of the Thief, you are missing out!

Nicolas Calva is a headstrong slave in the mines of ancient Rome. He is forced to descend into a cursed cave to retrieve a medallion (known as a bulla) that once belonged to Julius Caesar. He emerges with the bulla, a griffin, and a mark investing him with ancient and terrible magic. Nic and the griffin, Caela, are taken to the games in Rome for public entertainment, and Nic is immediately plunged into a web of conspiracy between powerful men who would use his power for their own purposes. And Nic wants nothing to do with them: he only wants freedom for himself and his sister and to get out of Rome, but of course that is easier said than done.  


The stakes are higher for Nic in this story than they were for Sage/Jaron in the Ascendance series: not even the people he wants to trust are on his side. And Nic, as I mentioned, has a sister and he has to work around his attachments as he’s fighting for his own survival. The big bad in this story is General Randulf. Only a few pages in, and Nic has already overheard his plot to take over the Roman Empire, and he spends the entire book trying to keep one step ahead of the sinister general.  Of course the Roman emperor Tacitus is mentioned frequently but (spoiler alert) he never makes an appearance. And then there’s a fascinating maze of secondary characters with different agendas, political or otherwise.

For the record, Caela is the most amazing griffin I have ever read about. She and Nic don’t have a pet-owner relationship just yet: Caela is still very wild. But Nic cares about her and Caela can sense that in him. And then there’s the plebeian girl Aurelia. Unlike the heroines in the Ascendance trilogy, Aurelia is a straight-up action hero. She’s got a bow and arrow and a knife and she knows how to use them and she’s freaking awesome. In addition to being sincerely afraid of Nic’s emerging powers she’s 100% done with him. There are hints that she could end up as the love interest in future installments of the series but, the way the book ends, she and Nic have a long way to go.

The setting and magic system of this story is unique. Nielsen did her homework bringing the brutal world of ancient Rome to life. Nic’s magic is not completely explained in this first volume. Most of the people he works with agree that his power came from the gods, but there’s no real proof that the gods exist in this world. Aside from Caela and a reference to another mythological creature there doesn’t seem to be much else fantastic going on in this world.  And the Romans in this setting don’t seem to think that the appearance of a griffin at one of the gladiator games is at all unusual. However, by the end of the story the reader’s appetite is whetted for finding out more about the mysterious magic that Nic must learn to control and that will either win him allies or foes. The second book in this series, The Rise of the Wolf, is already out and let me tell you I cannot wait to read it.