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How to play every classic video game on your phone.

Donald Trump was never vetted.

Millionaire bitcoin brat doesn’t get why we’re not all rich.

Hello Kitty and Pikachu are appointed Japanese ambassadors for the 2025 World Expo.

Rose McGowan and the worst kind of feminism.

What Amazon does to poor cities.

How the world’s oldest computer worked: Reconstructing the 2,200-year-old Antikythera Mechanism.

Employers are setting up workers for failure.

A driver’s suicide reveals the dark side of the gig economy.

The story of Mexican Coke is more complex than hipsters would like to admit.

How LA punks of the ’80s and ‘90s kept neo-Nazis out of their scene.

Meet Gay Bob, the world’s first gay doll for everyone—penis included.

Men have been pushing women out of tech since the beginning.

Hedge fund-driven austerity could come back to bite the hedge funds driving it in Puerto Rico.

The bankruptcy of the American left.

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This past weekend a major snowstorm hit the Washington, DC area where I lived. The snowstorm started late Saturday then it stopped for a brief period on the following Sunday afternoon before it started up again and it didn’t stop for good until sometime in the middle of the night.

As a result, most of DC was even more shutdown than it was before (due to the ongoing federal government shutdown where Donald Trump is still refusing to budge on signing on this year’s budget until he gets his border wall).

Yesterday morning it was sunny with a bright blue sky. It was still cold outside but it wasn’t quite as bad as before the snowstorm. I managed to bring out my Elsa doll and placed her along a shoveled sidewalk area to give you an idea as to how deep the snow was in my area. (Elsa is about 11-12 inches tall, which makes her roughly the same height as Barbie.)

I also took a few photos of the wooded area that’s close to my home.

Later in the day I went to the local mall where I went to Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts because I needed to buy some new patches for my jeans. When I was standing in the checkout line I saw these really cute stuffed animals for Valentine’s Day that had these groan-inducing puns.

Right next to the llama on the right-hand side is The Perfect Man chocolate, which I remember actually buying from that same store five years earlier then blogging about it. I ended up not buying The Perfect Man this time around but I managed to buy a pack of glue sticks because I had a coupon (through the Jo-Ann smartphone app). The store also had a sale on a bundle of two pairs of fuzzy Christmas slipper socks. Each bundle was originally priced at $9.99 but they were 90% off so each bundle now costs $1 each. (Which meant that each pair of slipper socks only cost 50 cents per pair. Sweet!) I purchased two bundles because I only wear slipper socks in bed these days so I really don’t care if I’m wearing green and red Christmas socks in—let’s say—early March since I only intend to sleep in them and not wear them out in public.

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Santa Claus

As you may know, I did a special event in this blog known as The 12 Drawings of Christmas where each day from December 21, 2018-January 1, 2019 I uploaded a new drawing. It’s similar to what I did for Inktober with a few exceptions: 1) I only did 12 drawings over a 12-day period instead of doing 31 drawings over a 31-day period and 2) unlike Inktober, where the drawings have to be done in ink (pencil can be used as an underdrawing as long as the finished drawing is inked over), I permitted myself to use whatever drawing medium I wanted. It helped that this was something I did on my own instead of an organized event like Inktober so I could control what media I wanted to use. It also helped that I only had to deal with doing 12 drawings instead of 31 drawings.

It was pretty liberating to allow myself to use any media that I wanted, in contrast to Inktober where I am only limited to just ink. I’m financially struggling at the moment so I have to limit myself to using cheap pens that I can find on sale at Target and Five Below. These pens don’t really have a wide variety of shades, especially certain colors like brown (which I can only find in dark brown among the cheap pens). Buying something like Copic markers is just not in my budge at the moment. At least with the more media variety I allowed myself for The 12 Drawings of Christmas, I could switch to colored pencils if I didn’t have an ink pen in a certain shade that I needed (such as light brown).

Working on The 12 Drawings of Christmas was basically a more laid-back experience than Inktober since I only had to worry about 12 days. I did one drawing based on a song lyric and one political drawing but the rest was basically fan art. The only real snag were the two-day period where I drew Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen followed by Abbey Bominable from Mattel’s line of Monster High dolls the next day. I drew both drawings based on the dolls that I currently own in real life. Both dolls wore a piece of clothing that was made from tulle and both tulle clothing had snowflakes on them. It was a bear trying to simulate tulle with my ink pens then trying to draw snowflakes on top of that.

The results were worth it, especially since these two drawings face each other directly in my sketchbook, which created a certain kind of unity between my drawings of these two very different females.

After spending two days in a row on relatively challenging drawings, I spent the rest of that 12-day period doing simple drawings based on free tutorials I found on websites like How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials and Easy Drawing Tutorials. I find that it doesn’t hurt for a trained artist like myself to use tutorials because I could use a refresher on how to draw something a certain way every now and then.

Unlike Inktober I never approached the feeling of being burned out. That’s because I worked on far fewer drawings than Inktober so I only had to worry about creating 12 drawings instead of 31 drawings.

Like Inktober I wrote blog posts about my drawings and I uploaded them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Jobcase. The main difference is that I also uploaded the drawings in the off-topic section of this political discussion forum that I belong to. I usually don’t do this but I thought that my online friends could use some cheering up after the recent death of a longtime member known as Moomba so close to Christmas. I got some pretty positive response to my drawings in that forum.

I also got some positive responses from my Facebook friends whom I know in real life. One night I went to a local cafe where one of them asked me in person when I was going to upload my next drawing. That was cool.

I also did a video version of The 12 Drawings of Christmas that I uploaded on to YouTube on New Year’s Day (the same day that I did my last drawing in that series). In case you’ve missed all or part of my series, you can view the video below.

You can also look at The 12 Drawings of Christmas blog category to view the original posts.

Ever since Inktober I figured out how to count “Likes” on Twitter (which I wasn’t able to figure out before so I didn’t count any Twitter “Likes” when I tabulated the original Inktober “Likes” a few months ago). So, for this round of counting “Likes” on the 12 Drawings of Christmas, I was able to include Twitter for the first time along with counting “Likes” on Instagram, Flickr, and this blog.

While I was working on The 12 Drawings of Christmas, I tried to predict which of my drawings would get the most “Likes”. I thought that my drawing of Elsa from Frozen would be the winner because that film still continues to be popular plus I’m still seeing new Frozen spin-off products in the stores (especially toys) years after Disney released that film. I also thought that my drawing of Kizuna Ai would also have a chance at the number one slot mainly because she is a virtual YouTube star who has gained a huge cult following plus I had her along with Santa and Mrs. Claus attempt to emulate that distracted guy meme that has been passed around the Internet for the past year.

I was wrong on both counts. I found out that the first place winner by a landslide was my drawing of Wysa the penguin mascot of the Wysa smartphone app. My drawing of Kizuna Ai and the Clauses ended up in second place but it was a very distant second since Wysa got 90 “Likes” while Kizuna Ai and the Clauses only got 28 “Likes.” (Remember, the counts were based the reactions on three different social media sites and this blog.)

Here’s the complete list of the drawings in my 12 Drawings of Christmas series ranging from the most popular (or most “Likes”) to the least popular (or fewest “Likes”).

First Place: Wysa the penguin.

Second Place: Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Kizuna Ai.

Third Place: Partridge in a pear tree.

Fourth Place: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Fifth Place: The Grinch.

Sixth Place: Abbey Bominable from Monster High.

Seventh Place (Tied): Krampus taking Donald Trump away and Olaf the talking snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

Eighth Place: Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen.

Ninth Place: Christkind.

Tenth Place: Baby New Year.

Eleventh Place: Nutcracker.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

Since today is New Year’s Day, which ushers in a brand new year, I’d thought I would write about what I recently did for myself on Christmas Day.

I haven’t opened a wrapped gift on Christmas Day since 2011. It was three months after I underwent hip surgery. For my birthday on December 15 my husband surprised me with a new iPod Touch. Ten days later on Christmas Day, I opened a wrapped gift and found that he gave me a new iPad. With a new iPod Touch and a new iPad, I felt really blessed to have two new Apple devices on top of my ability to walk slowly improving after my hip surgery.

It all came crashing down just three days later when my husband came home from work, announced that he was moving out, then ran out the door before I could even respond. My iPad stopped working altogether just three years later. My iPod Touch still works even though it has older software (I can’t install the newest version of the iOS software because the hardware is now considered old).

Over the last several years, before my marriage fell apart, my mother would send me a $200 check for my birthday and a $200 check for Christmas but that was it for gifts. (She also used to send my husband checks as birthday and Christmas presents until he left me.) At least I could treat myself to a nice meal or some nice clothes for myself. The checks stopped in 2016 when my mother’s health deteriorated (she’s currently struggling with multiple sclerosis and it’s gotten to the point where I can only talk to her on the phone for no more than 2 or 3 minutes because she gets tired).

After my marriage ended I usually went to my support group’s annual post-Christmas party where we have a white elephant gift exchange. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even get a wrapped gift.

There were times when I miss getting a wrapped gift that i would open and I would be surprised with what I got. I finally decided to rectify that situation.

For the past few years there have been the rise in popularity of blind boxes which housed some kind of a collectible item. One can find them in comic book stores, Target, Five Below, Walmart, and other similar stores. Two years ago I purchased a cheap blind blister package that had a Hatsune Miku keychain inside. The outer pack showed photos of six possible designs that I could get and I didn’t know which one I got until after I brought it home and opened it. I only purchased one keychain because I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of possibly getting a duplicate because I couldn’t see what I was really purchasing until after I purchased it.

I used to collect Wacky Packages as a kid and they were in blind packages. The difference was that Wacky Packages were basically flat stickers. If you ended up getting a duplicate it was no big deal. You could trade it with a friend but if you couldn’t find any friends willing to trade with you, you could always use that duplicate as a sticker. I remember plastering my notebooks and other items with my duplicate Wacky Packages stickers. When it came time to clear out my childhood home after my mother decided to sell it, I found an old 45 r.p.m. record case that had a Wacky Packages sticker on the bottom for Neveready Batteries (a parody of Eveready Batteries).

But 3D objects in blind packages were another matter. If you ended up with a duplicate 3D object, chances are that you will have a harder time with getting rid of it. Most stores will not accept returns for purchasing a duplicate. You could sell it on eBay but you may or may not get anyone willing to buy it. If you’re lucky enough to have a fellow collector willing to trade with you, you might unload your duplicate that way. Or you could wrap it and give it to someone as a birthday or Christmas present. Or even donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Yet I could see the allure of buying a blind package an opening it on Christmas as a substitute for opening a wrapped present. There weren’t too many blind packages that really excited me enough to consider doing this until I learned of a new line of dolls that were released by Just Play a few months ago called Hairdorables. Hairdorables are a series of small dolls with huge amounts of hair that is as big as they are. Not only did the dolls skin and hair come in a variety of colors but I found their faces to be totally cute—complete with impish smiles. Each doll and her accessories comes in a blind box where you don’t know which doll you get until after you buy it and take it home.

The dolls were released in August but, for some reason, the local Target in my area didn’t start getting them until mid-December. Meanwhile I kept on reading about these dolls online until I finally saw the boxes in real life. I purchased a Hairdorables box from Target on Christmas Eve. (The local mall was far less crowded on Christmas Eve this year than in previous years.)

I brought the package home and waited until the following day to open it. Here’s the Christmas tree along with the box still in its plastic Target bag.

Here is what the package looks like. As you can see, you literally don’t know which doll you’ve actually purchased until after you open the box.

The back of the box shows a list of 36 possible dolls that could be in that box.

Here’s a close-up of that box where you can see the Hairdorables available in a variety of hair and skin colors.

One of the side panels of the box tells the story of Hairdorables.

The story goes like this:

Hello influencers!

It’s your time to SHINE!

Meet Noah and the #Hairdorables!

Noah is a super sweet girl with a talent for styling hair. When she posted her front braid tutorial for fun, she never imagined it would go viral!

Since then, Noah has loads of inspiring friends who love to share their passions, so when she asked them to contribute to her channel, they all yelled out a resounding YAAAAAS! Check out the Hairdorables channel on YouTube!

They are dolls for the Internet age that are packaged in such a way as to make filming an unboxing doll video very easy. I chose to shoot a series of still photos instead of making an unboxing video because there are already so many unboxing Hairdorables videos out there and I wasn’t in the mood to make a new video. You open the box a certain way, starting with the yellow pull tab at the top of the box.

Once I pulled down the pull tab I found that the box reveals two compartments that you pull slightly apart.

As you pull the compartments apart you see that there’s a piece of paper in the middle being flanked by the two compartments where the doll and her accessories are held. Basically you are instructed to open the box in a certain order where you open the side containing the doll last. It’s designed to build up suspense to the ultimate surprise—which doll you received.

As for the paper in the middle, one side has a promo drawing of the Hairdorables.

The other side has a checklist of all of the Hairdorables dolls that are available in its first series (while implying that there will be a second series along with more subsequent series).

I didn’t look too closely at the checklist because I’ve read other people’s accounts about unboxing the Hairdorables and I learned that if you study the checklist too much, you will figure out which doll you received while you’re unboxing the accessories. I really wanted the whole experience to be a surprise so I only glanced at it quickly.

I also want to take the time to say that even though the Hairdorables checklist (which you can view online here) says that there are 36 dolls to collect, it doesn’t mean that there are 36 different characters. There are actually 12 different characters with each character having three different variations where each variation will wear a different outfit and have different accessories.

Getting back to the box, once I removed the checklist I found that there is actually a little backdrop where you can pose your Hairdorable doll. I like the idea of reusing the box for play since it would generate less trash than a typical doll box.

The box instructed me to open the left compartment of the box first. The compartment have four smaller sections that are in exact numbered order.

I opened the door marked with the number one and I got a small plastic bin with a top wrapper that had this pun: “Hair we go!”

I got a pink hair comb and a tiny square of tiny stickers.

So I opened the door marked with the number 2 and got a bin with this pun, “You go curl!”

I got a pair of winged sneakers (which looked really intriguing because it reminded me of the winged sandals of the god known as Hermes or Mercury in the Greco-Roman myths) and another sticker.

The stickers could be peeled then folded in half in order to create a tiny smartphone for the doll.

The idea was pretty neat in theory but it turned out to be impractical in reality after I unboxed the doll because her hands were unable to hold the tiny smartphone.

It was time to open the door that was marked with number 3. I got a bin with this message: “[heart] UR Style!”

I got a pair of white angel wings along with another sticker featuring two of the Hairdorables dolls and the hashtag #BraidsRule.

Then it was time for me to open the door with the number 4. I got the bin with this pun: “Sheer Genius.”

I got another sticker with two of the dolls and the hashtag #VacayAllDay. But it was the hairband that really thrilled me. It’s a mint green hairband with a unicorn horn! It brought back memories of when I unsuccessfully tried to market myself with my 1990s Unicorn With An Attitude animation series. I was also intrigued because I once read a series of books by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball about the adventures of Acorna, a humanoid girl born with a unicorn horn.

After opening the first four compartments it was time to unbox the doll herself.

I opened the door and I got another plastic bin.

Removing the plastic bin reveals more box graphics that suggests a clothes closet.

The bin wrapper had yet another pun: “Let’s see what’s in hair!”

Here is my new doll as she was packaged in that bin as shown from the front and back.

I removed the doll from the bin and found that there was also a small card that reveals which doll I received. One side of the card mentions that her name is Willow, her favorite color is mint green, and her motto is “Style is a state of mind!” The other side shows a cute drawing of Willow.

Once I removed the doll from her bin I put on her winged sneakers, angel wings, and unicorn hairband. Willow has an oversized head on a small, thin body. Here is my new Willow doll placed against her backdrop. I found that the doll can’t stand on her own but I could lean her against the backdrop to make it look like she’s standing. I ended up having to use the flash for the next two photos because the area was a bit too dark (even though I had turned on all the lights on the Christmas tree and opened the blinds on a nearby window to let natural light in).

After that last photo I decided to move everything outdoors. It was sunny outside but the temperatures were in the low 40s. At least I could take better photos of the doll and her background. According to the checklist I got the Willow Wings variation doll and it’s also supposed to be her signature look. (I learned that the dolls designated to be “signature looks” tend to be more common to find than the other variants.)

Willow is incredibly cute with a very impish smile. Her brown skin and pastel rainbow color scheme kind of reminds me of the Studio Mucci Instagram account. Of course her unicorn headband is to die for!

Willow is among the smaller dolls I’ve purchased. Here is how she stands against the 1/6 scale dolls. In this photo she is flanked by Clawdeen Wolf of Monster High and Barbie. As you can see, Willow looks like a toddler compared to those dolls.

Willow and the other Hairdorables are definitely 1/12 scale dolls. Here is how she stands against my other tiny dolls. From left to right: Dollcena Disney Hawaiian Harmonies, Little Pullip Alice Fanatica, Willow, and a Bobobie Sunny Asian ball-jointed doll.

Willow has a mass of long hair that reaches to her feet. I’ve dealt with doll hair over the years but I have to say that her hair is the softest doll hair I’ve ever felt. I really love her pastel highlights that make her hair resemble cotton candy.

I really loved the doll that I received even though getting a unicorn girl was definitely the luck of the draw. The most controversial part of Hairdorables is the fact that you literally don’t know which doll you’ll get while the package costs nearly $13 per box. (Most blind box packages cost anywhere from $3-8 depending on the size of the item inside.) I’ve read reviews online from parents who purchased multiple Hairdorables boxes for their children only to get duplicates.

I’ll admit that I’m still pretty ambivalent about blind boxes in general. While it was fun finding out which doll I got, I had also only purchased just one box. If I had purchased two or more boxes and I ended up getting an exact duplicate, I don’t think I would have been as enamored with the concept. I think just limiting yourself to only one box is the best way to get maximum enjoyment from opening a blind box.

While there are other blind boxes who put codes on their packages that hint at what’s inside (such as the Lego Minifigs blind packages), so far Just Play has not released any hints on how people can avoid inadvertently purchasing duplicate dolls.

I’ve read about some people saying that the best way of telling the boxes apart is to weigh them. Apparently different boxes have different accessories so it affects the weights. Then you somehow sneak a scale into the store and weigh each box to discover which doll that box may have. This method only works if you have purchased at least three or four Hairdorables boxes (while hoping and praying that you didn’t purchase any duplicates) so you can weigh them at home and write down the weight of each doll box with a certain doll inside. Then you would take your scale and list to the store, weigh each box, and compare that weight with what you have on your list. The big problem with that method is that not everyone can afford to use this method, especially since the boxes cost $13 a pop. On top of that, you would have to carry a scale into a store and weigh each box while hoping that a store employee doesn’t decide to confront you while you are doing it.

There is an alternate method is to see the imprinted lot number that’s located next to the bar code of the box.

Next peek at the back of the box to see what the background looks like. You may need to use a flashlight or use the flashlight that’s on your smartphone for this step.

The theory is that if the lot number and background matches, chances are that it’s a duplicate doll and you shouldn’t buy it. This video from the Up and Play YouTube channel demonstrates both the scale and the peeking at the background methods.

There is one major limitation with the idea that a different background means a different doll: That theory doesn’t always work. This blog post on the Toy Box Philosopher site mentions buying two Hairdorables packages with the same background but with different dolls and accessories.

I had thought about testing that idea out by buying a second Hairdorables box, which I would open on Little Christmas (January 6). I was thinking about replicating my childhood when my family used to celebrate that holiday by refilling the stocking with candy, small toys, and practical items (such as a pair of socks or underwear). Some years I would get a small package while other years I only got my stocking refilled.

But then I decided to ditch that idea when I learned that the second series of Hairdorables will be officially released later this month. I decided to just wait for the second series and bypass the dilemma of whether to buy a second Hairdorables Series 1 box and risk getting a duplicate doll. I just only hope that the Target store in my area can get the new dolls much sooner than the four months it took before that store even received its first shipment of the Series 1 Hairdorables.

The YouTube channel My Froggy Stuff managed to received advance copies of the new Series 2 dolls and made this video.

Based on the video, it looks like the biggest improvement is that this new series of dolls will each come with a doll stand. That is a great idea since my own doll can’t really stand on her own. Like the previous series, the new Series 2 doll boxes will also have backgrounds that can be used for displaying the dolls or playing with them.

Like I wrote earlier, I think it’s a good idea to have the boxes double as a display area for the dolls. The only disadvantage is that the boxes tend to take up space, especially if you own more than two dolls and you don’t have much space in your home. I found this tutorial on the American Girl Outsider blog on how to break down the backdrop so it won’t take up as much space in your home. You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of that blog post in order to get to the tutorial.

I have to admit that it was pretty fun to once again unwrap something that I didn’t know what was inside until after I finished opening the box.

To learn more about Hairdorables you can either check out the official site or you can visit this site that was set up by a fan called the Absolute Hairdorables Wiki.

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Santa Claus

Here is some fan art I did of Abbey Bominable of Monster High fame. I drew her mostly in ink with the exception of her pupils, which I did in colored pencil.

Abbey Bominable is described as the teenage daughter of the Yeti (a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman) who is originally from the Himalayas. And nothing says winter like the Yeti/Abominable Snowman. Ditto for the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas (which also includes the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest). You can read more about Abbey Bominable right here. I purchased this doll for only $5 at a toy show that took place in Timonium last year. I have a few other Monster High dolls but this one is among the prettier ones that I currently own. I thought she would be perfect to draw for my 12 Drawings of Christmas series.

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Santa Claus

Today is Boxing Day and it is also the first day of Kwanzaa. Here’s some fan art I did of Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen.

I used an Elsa doll that I own as the model for my drawing. (I’ve previously posted photos of this doll way back in April.)

I know that Frozen isn’t a Christmas movie. But, for this latest ongoing project, I intended to include drawings that were either Christmas themed or about winter in general. Since Elsa is capable of creating snow and ice, she definitely fits here. And that’s not to mention the fact that Frozen is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. (By the way, this link has an interesting comparison between Frozen and The Snow Queen.)

By the way, I am now halfway through The 12 Drawings of Christmas. Come back tomorrow to see what I draw next.

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After a few weeks working on this video, I finally managed to upload it last week on the observed Veterans Day holiday (which was on Monday this year because the actual holiday itself fell on a Sunday this year). And I’m only getting around to writing about it the day before Thanksgiving Day. In some ways it’s more appropriate to write about this video now than during Veterans Day.

Here’s some background. Way back in 2016 I did a series of tutorials on how to take a Barbie and customize her into a comic book superhero known as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. As I wrote at the time, I was inspired to make this video tutorial series after reading the comic book and seeing letters from some fans clamoring for Squirrel Girl stuff to buy while other fans wrote about how they took matters into their own hands and made their own Squirrel Girl stuff. One guy went as far as take a female action figure and customize her into Squirrel Girl.

In the meantime Target got a shipment of the latest Barbie dolls known as Made to Move Barbie. These Barbies had more articulated joints than the average Barbie doll so they could make all kinds of poses. So I had an idea of using one of these Made to Move Barbies as a blank canvas to customize as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

After doing a lot of research on the web for various doll clothing patterns and doll customization tutorials, I filmed my four-part tutorial series, uploaded them on YouTube, and moved on to other things. I didn’t get too many hits for my tutorial series, which was a disappointment because I tried publicizing it on social media. But I didn’t let it get me down too much. I was satisfied with my tutorial series because I not only demonstrated my artistic and crafting ability but I also demonstrated my ability to teach others.

The following year (late 2017) I sold my customized Squirrel Girl doll at a craft show. I did it because I was looking for things to sell and there are times when I do sell old finished craft projects just so I can earn extra money while having more space in my house. I felt okay with releasing Squirrel Girl to a new home, especially since I have videos and photos to remember that doll by.

So a couple of months ago I attended the weekly animation meetup that’s held at the Greenbelt Makerspace where the person who leads the group showed previews from various animation shows that were debuting either on network television, cable television, various online streaming services, or some combination of the two or three. Among the various previews was a show called Marvel Rising and my mouth almost dropped when I saw that Squirrel Girl was among the characters on that series.

Before you know it, a line of Marvel Rising dolls were released and, yes, there is now an official Squirrel Girl action figure doll.

Ironically I decided to attempt a customized Squirrel Girl doll two years ago because there were no official Squirrel Girl dolls that were already in existence. I generally tend to shy away from doing my own customized versions of popular characters like Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, or the two princesses from Frozen because it’s generally cheaper to purchased the mass-produced version from the store than to buy something handmade by me. I already have a big enough struggle with convincing people that my prices are higher than Walmart because 1) I live in a country with a high cost of living, 2) I make a lot of things by hand and I don’t have machines that can churn stuff out in large numbers in less than five minutes, and 3) it takes time to make things that are eye-catching and high quality without having people get on my case for having a handmade Superman action figure on sale for twice what the mass-produced version costs at a discount big box retailer.

So I did a video about the customized version of a lesser-known superhero with a smaller but dedicated fan following only to have Marvel decide to hyper her in a bigger way two years later. If I had a crystal ball that accurately predicted the future two years ago, I would have ditched the idea of doing that video tutorial series.

But then I came up with an idea for another video, one where I would compare the official Squirrel Girl doll with my original customized Squirrel Girl. I thought it would be a cool idea for a video for my YouTube channel.

So I went to Target and purchased the $19.99 Squirrel Girl doll. I shot footage of unboxing her, did a review of the doll, then compared the doll with my original customized doll from two years ago.

The big challenge was that I no longer have the other doll because I sold her. But I have another Barbie with articulated joints that I purchased just a few years before I did my Squirrel Girl series. I bought her at the time because I thought about making doll clothes to sell at craft shows, which I never acted on due mainly to the fact that I currently don’t have a sewing machine. But this Barbie came in handy because she has just as many articulated joints as the other one. (I was even able to identify which Barbie I had thanks to the Adventures in Barbie Collecting website.)

The biggest irony about finishing this video is that I finished it on the same day that the death of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee was announced. The official Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s Twitter feed made a couple of nice tribute tweets to Lee.

So here’s my video about my reaction to finding out that, at long last, there is an official Squirrel Girl action figure doll that was released two years after I did my original four-part customization tutorial. Enjoy!

In case you missed my original tutorial series, here’s the original playlist of the entire series.

Or you can read the individual blog posts about each episode of this series.

The First Video
The Second Video
The Third Video
The Fourth Video

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Today’s prompt word for Inktober is “cruel.” I decided to use it to actually do some fan art that I had thought about drawing for quite some time but I was too lazy to do it sooner. I did a mash-up of Harley Quinn taking on Donald Trump and defeating him with her giant mallet while he’s clutching at his crotch in pain with his tiny hands. Yes, I referred to that infamous Access Hollywood recording and the fact that he’s sensitive about people referring to his hand size. My latest Inktober drawing is more timely than ever before given the fact that Donald Trump spoke at a rally where he literally mocked a woman who accused a newly-seated Supreme Court justice nominee of raping her. Here is my drawing.

I have a DC Super Hero Girls doll (which I purchased during Toys R Us’ going out of business sale a few months ago) that I used as a model while I was drawing. A few months ago I checked out a couple of graphic novel reprints of the Harley Quinn comic book series from the library and they are definitely hilarious and full of dark humor, especially since she can have a cruel streak at times (which nicely dovetails with today’s prompt word). By the way, I saw two of the people behind that comic book, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, at a Batman forum held at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Here are some photos of the couple after a fan had given them Batman and Harley Quinn masks that he had obtained for free from a comic book store that he stopped at on his way to Baltimore Comic-Con. (It was Batman Day in many comic book stores and this forum was also held on that same day.)

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

As of today, I’m now one-third of the way through Inktober. I have many more drawings to do until the end of the month.

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Today’s official prompt word for Inktober is “flowing.” I’ll admit that I struggled a bit with that prompt until I remembered the Scottish princess Merida and her long, flowing, curly red hair from the Disney/Pixar movie Brave. So I drew her.

I have a Merida doll that I purchased from the Disney Store a few years ago so I decided to use it as a model. I had laid the doll down flat on her back while I was gathering my pencil, eraser, and sketchbook and I noticed that the way that her hair was spread out looked pretty cool. So I shot a picture of the doll with my smartphone and I did my drawing based on that photograph.

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Back in January I shot some photos at a Toys R Us in Annapolis, Maryland. At the time Toys R Us had announced a closure of around 200-300 stores across the United States. I had heard rumors that those closures were going to be the first in a wave of closures that will eventually end Toys R Us as a business. I picked the Annapolis store because I wanted to take photos of a store that wasn’t on the list of stores that were closing so I could document what a typical Toys R Us store was like on an average business day. I also wrote about my own memories of shopping at various Toys R Us stores since my own childhood along with the factors that led to Toys R Us to file for bankruptcy then start closing some of its own stores.

I honestly thought that the rest of the stores weren’t going to start shutting down until summer at the earliest. Imagine my surprise when Toys R Us announced last month that it was going to just liquidate all of their stores (including its Babies R Us stores).

Like I wrote back in January, Toys R Us originally started in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC in the space that’s now inhabited by Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. Local station NBC4 recently ran a news story about Toys R Us’ DC origins that’s definitely worth checking out. There’s another page on the Ghosts of DC site that goes even further. It traces the entire history of that same Adams-Morgan building starting from 1907 when that address was listed as the site of a birthday party for twin brothers in The Washington Post‘s society column.

Toys R Us’ original founder, Charles Lazarus, died at 94 soon after the chain announced that it was liquidating. I know that he was at an advanced age but sometimes I wonder if he had died of a broken heart. It must be really tough to see your life’s work just metaphorically go up in smoke like that, especially after being in business for 70 years.

I recently started a new day job where I’m doing office work for a therapist who also happens to have financial investments and rental properties on the side while also dealing with his late aunt’s estate. He gave me this comic that he clipped out of a newspaper about Toys R Us.

While I’m not denying that the playing habits of children are changing but I learned that there is another factor behind the demise of Toys R Us. This video thoroughly explains why Toys R Us are literally closing up shop and it had little to do with other factors frequently cited (such as kids being more into smartphones and tablets than traditional toys, competition from other big box retailers like Walmart, and competition from online retailers like Amazon) and more to do with some disgusting Wall Street shenanigans where the executives at the top are making off like bandits while thousands of their employees are being laid off.

I decided to make to make a return trip to Toys R Us on a Friday afternoon. The day before I had a successful interview that led to the day job that I’m currently working at. Despite my good mood I was still struggling with a head cold when I went. I decided to go anyway despite being tired and sick because I wanted to go to check out the going out of business sale before most of the inventory got sold. I decided to go back to the same Annapolis store that I went to in January just so I could take more photos comparing the store in its beginning death throes with the earlier January photos. (You might want to flip between this post and that post for comparison.)

One man was standing at a corner near the store with a giant sign reminding drivers that Toys R Us is having its going out of business sale.

The signs in the Toys R Us window were cheerfully touting its products, especially with the upcoming Easter holiday.

It sounds strange to see a “Now Hiring” sign when the store was going out of business. I later read that Toys R Us was looking to hire temp workers who would help with winding down the stores.

One of its entrance doors didn’t work and it sported a handwritten “Out of Order” sign near the floor. Given the fact that this store will soon close, I don’t anticipate that door being repaired anytime soon.

Here is one of the signs announcing that this store was going out of business.

Despite the fact that the store would soon close, I saw a whole array of Easter-related candy, baskets, and toys available for sale.

I saw this sign promoting the Toys R Us mobile app that included a game. I wonder how much longer this app will work once Toys R Us closes its doors for good.

I read articles that said that one should expect empty shelves because a number of vendors had cut ties with the company before the company decided to close down. Sure enough, I saw far more empty and half-empty shelves than I did back in January.

There were a number of Toys R Us exclusives that were still in stock.

There were a number of toys that were still available the day I was there including dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, and more.

Compared with my earlier trip in January, I saw more people in the store this time as employees were busy and shoppers were milling around.

There was a long line at the checkout line. That was due to the fact that there were only two cashiers working the cash registers. They worked fast enough that I was only in line for about 15 minutes.

I made one purchase during that trip to Toys R Us.  It’s a Harley Quinn doll.

Here’s a photo of the entire long Toys R Us receipt.

Here’s a closeup of the top half of the receipt. This one is trying to encourage me to share my feedback about that store in order to have a chance to win a $500 Toys R Us gift card, which is pretty ironic since the entire store chain is in the process of closing. As for the Toys R Us gift card, I had heard that Toys R Us will soon stop honoring gift cards altogether.

Here’s the bottom of the receipt. I saw that same Harley Quinn doll at the Target that’s located closer to my home for $20.99. I had heard complaints that Toys R Us is more expensive than the other retailers but when I was there I saw that Toys R Us was selling that doll for the regular retail price of $19.99 (which was $1 cheaper than Target). With the going out of business sale, I got 10% off, which meant that I only paid $17.99 for the Harley Quinn doll, which meant that I save $2. Sweet!

When I was at Toys R Us in January I was offered a free frequent rewards card, which I took. I ended up not using that rewards card when I purchased the Harley Quinn doll because it would’ve been pointless since Toys R Us is closing soon. Here’s a photo of that card, which is colorful.

I never got around to completing my member enrollment online mainly because I rarely go to Toys R Us these days. It was just as well since it would’ve ended up being for naught.

This week Toys R Us put up this notice at its website announcing that it was no longer going to process online purchases and customers should go to the bricks and mortar stores if they want to purchase any remaining toys in stock.

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