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Groundhog Day

The Smithsonian unveils a portrait of Henrietta Lacks, the black farmer whose cells led to medical miracles.

A 1950’s TV show had a villain named Trump who promised to save the world by building a wall.

Wedding photographer arrested after sleeping with guest, peeing on tree and threatening cops.

92-year-old doctor rides subway to work to see 200 patients and has no plans of retiring.

My evangelical church is gaslighting me, but I refuse to fall for it anymore.

Do missionaries help or harm?

Fortnite creator Tim Sweeney is buying thousands of acres of forest to stop it from being cut down.

The Kirsten Gillibrand saga highlights exactly what’s wrong with the Democratic party.

Here’s the video of the gender reveal in 2017 that started a massive wildfire in Arizona.

96-year-old style icon Iris Apfel gets the Barbie treatment.

Hitler and the Nazis were seriously into their amphetamines and opiates.

The woman who cared for hundreds of gay men as they were dying of AIDS.

Thirteen incredibly useful facts about anxiety.

Historian finds German decree banishing Donald Trump’s grandfather.

What is it like to live without any friends?

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Back in 2010 I was in New York City with my then-husband visiting his father and step-mother, who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. During that trip I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue until I found out that this particular weekend was also the annual Puerto Rican Parade. I pulled out the videocamera I owned at the time, shot this short video, uploaded it on to YouTube, and even wrote a short post about the video and my overall trip to New York.

Recently I was going through my old videos because I’m working on a special compilation video for the tenth anniversary of this blog (which will happen next year). I took a look at the Puerto Rican Parade footage and my jaw dropped when, starting at around the 16-second mark, I saw the Trump Tower’s gold letters. I realized that this parade was winding its way past Trump Tower. Even though this video is nine years old it now looks like it was shot in an entirely different era, back when Donald Trump was known as a celebrity businessman and reality TV host with a penchant for putting his name on all the buildings that his company erected throughout Manhattan.

It’s also obvious that the parade took place long before there were such things as Trump talking openly about Mexican drug dealers and rapists, Trump’s refusal to provide aid to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Latino children being caged in interment camps, and Trump currently refusing to open the federal government unless he gets his border wall in an attempted effort to keep those brown-skinned Latinos in Mexico. If I had even thought about raising the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States to the people who were there, I probably would’ve been laughed at because that possibility seemed so ridiculous.

Granted, he ran for president on the Reform Party ticket back in 2000 but it ultimately went nowhere. (To be fair, the Reform Party was then on its last legs as a viable political party.) Other than that ill-fated run, he was mostly just a celebrity until he flirted with the idea of running for president as a Republican in 2011 by catering to that awful birther nonsense where people (mostly racist whites) were claiming that President Obama was not born in Hawaii but he was really born in Kenya so he really wasn’t qualified to hold office. He dropped that idea when NBC told him that he couldn’t remain in his TV gig if he was running for president. But then he decided to run for real in 2015, he got elected president in 2016, and he’s now overseeing the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history (which is still going on as of this writing).

Seeing that Trump Tower building in my video brought back all kinds of memories of the times I actually went inside of that building where I saw that indoor waterfall cascading down a wall of pink marble along with the gaudy chandeliers and gold fixtures. I remember once seeing in person George Ross, who was one of Trump’s managers who became famous for being one of the onscreen observers of the contestants on the The Apprentice. He briefly posed for photos with a few fans who recognized him until he had to excuse himself because he said he was on his way to a meeting. He seemed to be very polite in person. (I left my digital camera at my in-laws’ place on that day so I have no photos of him. I’m still kicking myself for that mistake. LOL!) I remember when Tower Records had a store in Trump Tower until its eventual demise. (I still miss that store chain but that’s another story.)

And speaking of Tower Records’ Trump Tower location, here are a few tweets from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about how Trump unsuccessfully tried to shakedown Tower Records for more money beyond what the store was already paying Trump in rent. Basically Trump wanted a cut of the $100 fee that Tower Records was charging each indie band to be featured in its listening stations (where customers could preview a certain CD before buying it).

I haven’t been back to New York City since 2011, which was a few months before my marriage suddenly imploded. I’ve seen recent photos of Trump Tower online and there are now barricades with more cops outside than when I used to visit that place. Even if I somehow managed to make a return trip to New York City, I would not be inclined to even set foot in Trump Tower or any of the other buildings with his name on them because Trump has become someone whom I loathe. Ever since he decided to run for president he has shown his true colors and they are ugly to the bone. I’m sorry I had ever been a regular viewer of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice until 2011 (when I could no longer stand to watch Trump on TV after he tried to cater with the racist birthers and smear President Obama). I was even sorry that I had ever purchased that interactive Donald Trump doll as a gag gift for my then-husband. At least I sold that doll on eBay during the winter holiday season a few months after the 2016 elections.

When I watch that video of the Puerto Rican Parade winding its way past Trump Tower, I find myself wishing that Trump had never run for president and simply stayed a celebrity businessman and reality TV show host. Had he done so, the federal government would be open today and thousands of federal employees around the country would be reporting for work as usual and doing their jobs while contractors would also be working. At least the U.S. economy would not be on the verge of a total collapse like it is now.

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The whole federal government shutdown has gotten surreal for me on social media. I was on Twitter when I saw this tweet from Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame):

I had a laugh even though I live outside of Washington, DC so I’m getting a first-hand look at Donald Trump and how he’s affecting my area (especially regarding the current shutdown over his demand for a border wall with Mexico). So I responded with this tweet:

I was just getting my latest frustration with Trump off of my chest. I wasn’t mad at Eric Idle for his joke. I would probably make a similar joke on Twitter if I was living outside of the US. I just expected my tweet to go the way of all of my other tweets and just go off into the ether with no notice. Then this happened.

I got a response from Eric Idle, a member of Monty Python. I used to watch episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on TV when I was a kid. I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life when they were originally released in movie theaters. Whoa! How cool is that? What’s more, his response along with my tweet was being retweeted and retweeted for the next few days.

Things have died down on Twitter since then. But I’ll always have this screenshot to remember my brief interaction with Eric Idle by.

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It’s official, today is the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. That’s nothing to be proud of. Even before the shutdown the various federal government employees had to deal with the effects of Donald Trump running the government and now they can’t even go to work or earn a paycheck because of Trump’s little temper tantrum. The effects of this are starting to be felt nationwide ranging from vandals cutting down 1,000-year-old Joshua trees because there are no staffers to patrol Joshua Tree National Park in California to a town in Florida being unable to receive  any kind of federal government help to deal with the damages stemming from the effects of Hurricane Michael last October.

Meanwhile Trump has threatened to shut down the government to last months or even years. All because he wants to build a wall among the U.S.-Mexican border, something that even experts say would be ineffective and a waste of money. (In fact, a test of a prototype for a steel wall that Trump prefers has resulted in it being sawed through.) It’s the same wall—which originally was the brainchild of Roger Stone and Sam Numberg—that Trump once said that the U.S. would build but he would make Mexico pay for it. Now he wants the U.S. government to pay for the wall or else he’ll refuse to sign the bill that would keep the federal government operating this year. A few days ago he attempted to make his case by going to one of the border towns in Texas only for the people there tell the media that they don’t want this wall.

A few days ago the Democrats who now dominate the House of Representatives (thanks to the mid-term elections) voted to re-open the government without funding for the wall. Even though there were lawmakers in the Senate who also wanted to vote the same, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow such a vote. Part of Senator McConnell’s job is to serve as a check and balance of the Executive Branch and he is failing miserably. I wonder how many people in his home state of Kentucky will feel the effects of this shutdown and McConnell’s refusal to do anything to re-open the government.

What’s even worse is that members of the Trump Administration are tone-deaf regarding the plight of the federal employees (as well as those who work for federal government contractors) not receiving a paycheck. One person said that these workers are somehow better off. The administration also suggested that furloughed federal employees do odd jobs for their landlords in exchange for rent while the Coast Guard suggested that its furloughed employees hold garage sales and babysit children as a way of raising cash.

Unbelievable!

Every other previous president had either been elected to a lower office, served in the military, or have done both. Donald Trump is the first president to have done neither. It is so obvious that he is ill-suited for the job. He came from a wealthy background and the only jobs he has ever held were in his family-owned business. He rarely had to face the consequences of his actions, even when he was a young child. Donald Trump was never raised with the sense of noblesse oblige towards those less fortunate than him, unlike the Kennedys or Britain’s royal family. He managed to go through several bankruptcies yet he was the host of a reality TV show that portrayed him as a successful businessman, contrary to what various staffers of The Apprentice witnessed behind the scenes. He also seems to have the mind of an overgrown child who has never matured. He actually alluded to the size of his penis during one of the Republican debates and this trait has rubbed off on his eldest son. (Talk about the penis measuring contest from hell.)

This is what happens when a country elects a leader with a background like Donald Trump.

Trump did promise that he would run the government like a business. At least that’s one promise that he has kept. (LOL!) The New York Times currently has a timeline of what has happened as well as what could happen if the shutdown lasts any longer. Some economists are predicting even more horrible consequences for the U.S. if this shutdown lasts past February.

For many months I used to lie in bed wishing that I could be on the same economic level like the rest of my friends and family. What I really meant is that I wanted a steady job that I could support myself with, not to have my friends who are employed with either the federal government or a contractor end up going to similar things that I went through last year (due to my alimony running out and having a difficult time with finding a steady job). I see no end in sight for this shutdown and there’s a probability of more drama to come. The latest news is that Trump plans on keeping the federal government shut while the FBI has opened an inquiry on whether Trump has been working secretly on behalf of the Russians.

I really don’t see an end to this massive chaos, which is why I still stand by my original prediction I made nearly two years ago that Donald Trump won’t make it past his first term in office.

Santa Claus

For today’s installment in my ongoing series, I did fan art based on the Grinch from the classic Dr. Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I did my drawing based on a free tutorial I found on How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials. I found the instructions very easy to follow and I was happy with the result. I did most of the drawing in ink, with the exception of his eye pupils, which I did in colored pencil.

I’ve been a fan of the Grinch ever since I used to watch the original cartoon special on TV each year and I checked the original Dr. Seuss book out of the library. I loved that story. In fact, it’s probably among my favorite Christmas stories.

One year my mother gave me a DVD copy of the original animated show and my then-husband and I used to watch it each Christmas. After he left, I started watching it on my own.

Back in 2010 National Harbor had a special exhibition featuring ice sculptures based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remember buying tickets for that exhibition that I gave to my then-husband as a Christmas present. I took a bunch of photos of that exhibition, which you can see right here. That exhibit was amazing to see in person and that remains among my more fond Christmas memories with my husband. (It’s also poignant because just one year later he would leave me for someone else whom I thought was a friend. It happened while I was still recovering from the hip surgery I underwent just three months earlier.)

There have been a couple of other versions of that same story, both of which were made for movie theaters. One was a live action version that starred Jim Carey. I remember seeing the previews and I found them so underwhelming so my then-husband and I didn’t bother with seeing it. (I also remember that this version had pretty bad reviews.) This year there was yet another remake of the same story. This one was a CGI animation. Apparently this version had better reviews than the Jim Carey version but I haven’t seen it due mainly to tight finances. Right now it doesn’t make sense for me to go to a local movie theater and pay $10 or more to see the same story that I already own on DVD. It’s just cheaper for me to watch the DVD in the comfort of my own home while I can pop my own popcorn in the microwave oven and pour my own soda.

There are two more days and two more drawings to go until this series is over.

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Santa Claus

 

Here’s some fan art I did of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

I drew this based on a tutorial I found on Easy Drawing Tutorials. It was a pretty easy tutorial and I’m basically satisfied with the results.

I used to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” each year at Christmas when I was growing up. Of course I also used to watch the annual Rankin-Bass television special that was based on the song. I loved the fact that they used puppets and I used to think that there were puppeteers located just off the screen who were controlling them like marionette puppets. (This was years before I learned that there was such a thing as stop-motion animation).

A few years ago I picked up a DVD copy of Rudolph that was on sale for around $5 or $10 at Target. I thought it would be cool to watch it again for old time’s sake. I watched it and I found that, as an adult, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did as a child. I found it jaw-dropping that Santa acted like a total grouchy asshole when he first learned about Rudolph being born with that glowing red nose. That’s not the kind of behavior I expect from Santa Claus. Towards the end Santa’s negative attitude towards Rudolph softens when the skies grow very foggy and he needed Rudolph’s nose to help guide his sleigh around the world.

What was really amazing is that I didn’t notice Santa’s nasty attitude when I used to watch that special each year as a child. Yet watching it as an adult I kept on thinking about how much of an asshole he was throughout the special until he realized that Rudolph’s nose is useful. I’m not the only adult who noticed Santa’s bad attitude. Here’s a list from 2010 on Cracked.com that mentions how awful Santa is. This year the Huffington Post raised ire for being accused of political correctness because a reporter had posted tweets from people criticizing the special.

There were some enjoyable parts to that special (such as Burl Ives as the voice of the snowman and he sang his classic “Holly Jolly Christmas” during the special) but seeing the grouchy Santa along with seeing Rudolph getting bullied by everyone from Santa to his father to his playmates really got me down. I ultimately ended up wrapping that DVD and taking it to the white elephant table at the annual post-Christmas party that my support group for people who are separated or divorced holds between Christmas and New Year’s.

A few years ago I learned of an earlier animated version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that was done in 1948 by Max Fleischer (who’s best known for creating Betty Boop and he also worked on the early Popeye and Superman cartoons). I found that cartoon to be way more charming than the one I grew up watching. Also, the Santa in that one is far less of an asshole.

There’s one other thing about Rudolph that I didn’t realize until after I was an adult. That character was originally created as an ad campaign for the now-defunct Montgomery Ward department store chain. That store chain may be long gone but Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer still lives on each Christmas.

As of today I’m two-thirds of the way through The 12 Drawings of Christmas. I have four more days and four more drawings to go until I’m finished. Come back tomorrow to see what I’ve drawn next.

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It seems like this year the retailers are starting Black Friday earlier and earlier. For the past couple of weeks my various retailer apps (which I only have installed on my smartphone for the coupons) were going off announcing stuff like “Check out our Black Friday Preview sale!”

Black Friday Preview sale?!? I can’t believe that it’s actually a thing this year. I was at The Disney Store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia a few days ago when I saw that this sign announcing that Black Friday sales were underway. (Granted, I went there on a Friday but it was on November 16—a full week before Black Friday itself.)

I have a few photos on my hard drive that I took not too long ago that will give you an idea of what to expect this holiday season. I found some cheap plastic ukuleles and a Jurassic World chocolate dinosaur at Five Below.

Five Below, September, 2018

Five Below, September, 2018

The Target in my area has just gotten a whole bunch of new stuff recently. Like Five Below, Target has a line of ukuleles but these ukuleles are made of wood (instead of plastic like Five Below) and they look like they are higher quality.

On Sale at Target

Target recently got a line of these dolls that are based on famous characters from older television shows and movies that are still beloved today. Here is Tootie Ramsey from the TV show The Facts of Life.

On Sale at Target

Here’s Bela Lugosi in his most famous movie role as Count Dracula in the early 1930’s horror film Dracula.

On Sale at Target

I used to watch Married With Children on a regular basis so I found it hilarious that someone had made a doll based on Peg Bundy.

On Sale at Target

I have to admit that the doll manufacturer was really creative with the Star Trek dolls. They didn’t just make doll versions of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock but they made versions based on the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror.”

On Sale at Target

Here’s the doll version of the main character from the TV show Action Jackson.

On Sale at Target

Here’s a deluxe package featuring Jeannie and her master, Captain Tony Nelson, from I Dream of Jeannie.

On Sale at Target

I also briefly browsed through the Funko Pops where I found this really cute tyrannosaurus rex based on Jurassic Park.

On Sale at Target

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I used to watch Bill Maher’s Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO (back when I still had cable) and I enjoyed his documentary Religulous. He started losing me as a fan when he went off on Muslims by saying that they were all terrorists. It’s one thing to be an atheist with a low opinion of organized religion but to paint a whole group of people who practice a certain faith as terrorists is going a bit too far. Not all Muslims are terrorists just like not all Christians bomb abortion clinics.

I was also growing weary of him constantly having Ann Coulter as a guest on his show as his way of having diverse viewpoints. There’s nothing wrong with having conservatives on a liberal talk show like Real Time With Bill Maher but instead of having thoughtful dignified conservatives on his show he invites people like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulis who say outrageous insulting stuff just for the sake of saying outrageous insulting stuff and ultimately have nothing to add to any kind of civilized discussion. When I ditched cable after seeing my bill jump from $80 per month to $200 I found that I didn’t miss watching Bill Maher’s show at all.

Now he’s really done it and the Internet is flaming him in a glorious way. A few days ago Stan Lee died at the ripe age of 95. To say that he was a major influence on the comic book industry is definitely an understatement. He took an industry that once catered mainly to children and expanded that base to adults by introducing superheroes with personal flaws and complex mature storylines that explored issues like racism, sexism, war, pollution, drug addiction, and alcoholism. There was an outpouring of emotion on social media where people came up with all kinds of tributes to the person who was nicknamed Stan the Man.

Bill Maher wrote a blog post that totally rained on that adulation. He basically said that comic books are for kids only and that he used to read them as a child until he gave them up as he got older. It’s this “comic books are for kids only” attitude of people like him that initially led me to read the one or two issues of Howard the Duck on the down low when I was around 13 years old and I ended up quitting reading that comic book because I was having a hard enough time with middle school kids harassing me without giving them another reason to make fun of me even more. The only reason why I even picked up comic books again as an adult was because my college boyfriend (whom I later married and divorced) collected them and he introduced me to The X-Men. We continued collecting comic books for the first few years of our marriage but we stopped when comic book prices rose to $1.50 per issue. (They now cost a whopping $3.99 per issue.) Nowadays the local public library in my town stocks graphic novel reprints of various comic book series so I’m able to borrow them and read them for free.

Bill Maher goes even further where he wrote what I think is the most stupidest thing he has said since his statement that all Muslims are terrorists.

I’m not saying we’ve necessarily gotten stupider. The average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the 1940s, when a big night out was a Three Stooges short and a Carmen Miranda musical. The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.

It’s so obvious that he hasn’t picked up a comic book in years because he missed the occasional swipes at Donald Trump, such as this panel that was printed in the 2015 issue of Howard the Duck #1.

howardtheduck-irony

Bill Maher says that comic books are for kids only and slams adults who still read them yet he had no hesitation about appearing as himself in the movie Iron Man 3 which was based on—wait for it—a comic book that was co-created by Stan Lee.

I’m currently enjoying the online roasting he is getting in the comments section to his blog post, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

I don’t understand why Bill Maher is getting totally riled up about adults reading comic books. Adult comic book readers aren’t hurting anyone by reading them. What’s next? Is Bill Maher going to go after adults who collect toy cars? Or adults who collect dolls or toy robots or Breyer horses? Seriously, he needs to get a life. If he’s getting riled up over adults reading comic books then maybe it’s time for him to consider retiring from his Real Time With Bill Maher show. Jon Stewart left The Daily Show when he got tired of the day-to-day grind instead of hurling insults at adult comic book readers.

By the way, when I wrote my own blog post the other day about Stan Lee and how I once saw a vendor selling Stan Lee Cologne at the 2013 Baltimore Comic-Con, I forgot to mention another curious Stan Lee-related consumer product that I saw at a later date. Last year I was at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis shortly before Halloween and I saw that they were selling a line of Stan Lee action figures.

I didn’t buy one at the time because of tight finances. All I can say is that, thanks to his latest idiotic musings, Bill Maher probably won’t get a huge outpouring of emotion on social media when he passes—let alone anyone coming out with an action figure based on him.

UPDATE (November 24, 2018): Bill Maher could have shut up about adult comic book readers after writing that stupid blog post. But, no, a few days later he did an interview with Larry King where he doubled down on his contention that comic books are for kids only and adult comic book readers are beneath him. Even though he claimed in his blog post that he read comic books as a kid, here is what he had to say:

“Yeah, fine. I am agnostic on Stan Lee. I don’t read comic books. I didn’t even read them when I was a child. What I was saying is, a culture that thinks that comic books and comic book movies are profound meditations on the human condition is a dumb fucking culture. And for people to get mad at that just proves my point.”

So now he’s denying that he ever read comic books as a child after claiming the opposite in his original blog post. It just makes it more clear that he is criticizing something that he absolutely knows nothing about and absolutely refuses to educate himself about. That makes him little better than those right-wing evangelical Christian zealots who clamor for a ban on Harry Potter books at school even though they had never read a single page of that series. His interview with Larry King has resulted in more hostile comments being made in his original blog post. Meanwhile Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment company came out with a statement of its own in response to Bill Maher asinine statements. It ended with this sage advice:

Our shock at your comments makes us want to say “‘Nuff said, Bill,” but instead we will rely on another of Stan’s lessons to remind you that you have a powerful platform, so please remember: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

Unfortunately I don’t see Bill Maher heeding that advice any time soon, if his recent interview with Larry King is any indication.

A video about creature prop restoration, including restoring the puppets used in the Gremlins 2 movie.

Black women challenge the “white feminism” of the Women’s March.

This “bee-dimensional” printer creates some sweet looking prints.

A look at the deportation machine that President Obama built for President Trump.

Egyptian mummy’s secrets revealed.

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

The Alt-Right is taking over Renaissance Fairs.

You can now watch all of MTV’s Liquid Television, the launching ground for Aeon Flux, on the Internet Archive.

Young Patriots and Panthers: A story of white anti-racism.

Even insured Americans flock to Mexico for low-cost, high-quality health care.

The most radical digital upskilling is now occurring in middle- and lower-level jobs.

22 insane individuals that need to be banned from social media.

Donald Trump is a military coward—but that hasn’t kept him from insulting America’s troops.

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All those months of dealing with my ex-husband ending all further alimony payments, getting one job where I was promised that I would eventually get full-time hours only to not being able to even get 20 hours a week after working there for four months while the boss was job hunting himself, and only being able to get freelance piecemeal work began to take a personal toll on me. I really wanted to take a vacation for just a day or two but I couldn’t afford to do it so I was trapped. But then I got my current gig where I was helping a therapist prepare for a series of upcoming webinars that are slated to begin next month so I managed to get just enough money in that I could do something fun.

However the best I was able to afford was taking the Metro to Tyson’s Corner Center in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was better than nothing so I decided to go for it. It was raining heavily that day but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Besides, I was riding a Metrobus to the nearest Metro subway stop so I didn’t have to worry about driving on slippery roads. I rode the Silver Line Metro to the Mall. When I arrived at the plaza that has the entrances that are located the closest to the Metro station, I noticed that it looked pretty deserted due to the rain.

That’s in contrast to past visits where, depending on the time of the year, there is usually some kind of activities for people to participate in, whether it’s playing with a giant chess set or a giant ice skating rink.

I found out that this year is the 50th anniversary of Tyson’s Corner Center and there were signs touting this fact everywhere.

I walked past the Microsoft Store. I can count the number of times I’ve actually stepped inside of that store on one hand. I walked past the entrance but I didn’t go inside on this trip.

I’ll admit that I only went to this mall for a change in scenery. I didn’t do much shopping because money was still too tight for me at the moment. I basically shot photos of whatever appealed to me at the time.

At least I found out that Golden Girls socks are actually a thing this year.

Pez dispensers have always been a bit on the kitschy side but Pez has really outdid itself with pink flamingoes Pez dispensers.

I made a brief stop inside of the Apple Store, where I saw the latest computers with the large monitors.

I also got a look at the new iPhone XS, which has received a lot of press for its over $1,000 price tag. I have to admit that the iPhone XS has nice sharp graphics on its screen. If the phone allowed for people to do their own upgrades (such as adding more memory or replacing the hard drive) it would be one thing but, as far as I can tell, this smartphone is just like all of the others where you can’t even open your own phone and it will ultimately be disposable once it stops working completely. I’m going to stick with my Samsung Galaxy J3 phone for the time being.

I came across this kiosk that I haven’t seen on previous visits. It’s for a store called b8ta and it sells a mix of Google products and technology products that are created by smaller companies.

I made a brief stop inside of Build-A-Bear Workshop where I saw these cute Halloween plushies and a brontosaurus on display.

I eventually made my way to the American Girl Place. I haven’t been there since last December so there were plenty of new things to see. I saw that Felicity Merriman, the historical doll who’s supposed to represent the American Revolution era, has been taken out of retirement and is now available for sale once again. She’s on display with Addy Walker (who represents the American Civil War period) and Samantha Parkington (who represents the first few years of the 20th century that’s known as the Edwardian Era).

Here’s another historical doll, Nanea Mitchell (who represents Hawaii around the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing) with some new accessories available for sale.

Maryellen Larkin, who represents the 1950s, relaxes in her trailer, which is sold separately from the doll. The details of this trailer are pretty impeccable.

Kit Kittredge, who represents the Great Depression, sits behind her newly released vegetable stand.

Last year I saw Z Yang for the first time. Even though she’s a contemporary doll, this one caught my eye because she’s into photography and videography like I am. I learned that she is among the dolls who will be retired soon. I would say that I’m sorry to see her go but I’m still a bit cash-strapped at the moment so there was no way I could afford this doll and her accessories. There is also the issue of space because I really don’t have enough room to have a huge collection of large dolls.

This doll in the next photo was a bit of a surprise. Gabriela McBride was released last year as American Girl’s Girl of the Year Doll for 2017. Usually the Girl of the Year doll is on sale only from January 1-December 31 then she is retired. I was surprised to see that she was still around in 2018. I still remember last year the times I tried to take her picture but the first time I failed because the phone on my previous smartphone (Droid Ultra) began to act erratically and it wouldn’t take any photos while I was at the store yet it finally worked after I returned home. The second time I brought my older Canon DSLR with me but that effort failed because I had to be elsewhere and I shot photos at that other place before I arrived at the mall and I ran out of battery power by the time I arrived. My smartphone worked miraculously until I got to Gabriela McBride and my smartphone camera decided to stop working. The third time was finally the charm when I arrived last December with a Canon PowerShot camera that I purchased used off eBay and I took some photos of that doll and her accessories without a hitch. I thought that she would be retired at the end of 2017 just like her Girl of the Year predecessors but it wasn’t the case with her.

The country singing pair of Tenney Grant and her friend Logan Everett were also slated for retirement but I didn’t bother with taking their pictures. I had already shot them and their accessories on a previous visit and there wasn’t anything new with those two.

I managed to check out the 2018 Girl of the Year. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s a Latina, she’s into STEM, and her big dream is to work for NASA so she could go to Mars.

American Girl went all out with the space theme. In fact, one of my Facebook friends who works for NASA was posting approvingly about this doll earlier this year. (He’s the father of two daughters—both of whom are now young adults—and I’m sure he would’ve bought this doll for them if they were still kids.)

Seeing this doll in person I have to say that she’s gorgeous and her clothes are literally out of this world. (If there were ever human adult versions of her dresses, I would definitely want to buy them.) She has gorgeous black hair with a purple streak in it. If I weren’t so cash-strapped, I would definitely feel tempted to buy this doll.

Her accessories, which are sold separately, includes things like astronaut ice cream and a replica of an Apple Watch.

There are corresponding books, one of which comes with the doll and the other two are sold separately. A few days before I came to Tyson’s Corner I was at the library where I saw a young girl checking out a pile of books, including one of the Luciana books.

Among her separately sold play sets is one that resembles a STEM makerspace. There is even a cute robot dog.

If it weren’t for the fact that this STEM maker station cost $100, I would say that it would be a cool thing to purchase for the local makerspace in my area for the kids to play with.

I thought that this robot dog came with the maker station but I found out that this robodoggie is sold separately for $35.

There is also a space telescope so Luciana could look up at the stars.

Then there is this NASA space laboratory and a NASA space suit for Luciana to wear. I can understand why my Facebook friend was gushing about Luciana online. In fact, this capsule reminds me of my ex-husband, who works for NASA. If we were still together, I definitely would’ve urged him to go to the American Girl Place with me so he could see this in person. I also would’ve told him that we could stop off at Wasabi afterwards because I was trying to get him to consider the two of us eating there before he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas and three months after my hip surgery in 2011. (I had gone to Wasabi for the first time when I was still married in October, 2011 but I went by myself that time.)

The details of this capsule are pretty astounding. My ex-husband definitely would’ve gotten a kick out of it if he had seen it for himself in person.

Yes, it’s sad that visiting the American Girl Place so we could see this NASA space laboratory together is another thing I’ll never get to do with my ex-husband but that’s the way things go.

My ex-husband was never into dolls and normally I would never have been able to get him to even step one foot inside of that door. I think I may have gotten him to make a rare exception and actually visit a doll store because he definitely would’ve been impressed with the painstaking details of this NASA space laboratory.

Luciana is totally rocking this astronaut space suit.

For families who want to purchase Luciana and her accessories but who are cash-strapped, there are Mega Construx kit versions.

Like other Girl of the Year dolls, the American Girl Place has a designated space where people can have their selfies taken with a standee of Luciana Vegan and a space capsule.

The sign said to turn the handle and look inside but the door handle was broken when I was there.

The best I was able to do was to shoot through the door window.

American Girl sold separate Washington, DC souvenir t-shirts for dolls. They also had matching shirts for their human owners as well but I only shot the doll shirts.


I didn’t spend much time in the store beyond Luciana and the BeForever historical dolls. But I saw this car that looked cool. It reminded me of that Volkswagen that American Girl came out for the 1970s historical doll Julie Albright a few years back.

I also shot these two outfits that were released just in time for the upcoming winter holiday trio of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

After my visit to the American Girl Place I ate a sushi dinner at Wasabi, which is the place that delivers food on conveyor belts and you could pick which plates you want.

After dinner I walked around the mall a bit. I found a temporary Halloween store that was selling costumes. This year they have costumes based on that mega-popular video game Fortnite. (I’ve seen kids play that game and they can’t seem to get enough of it. I haven’t tried it myself as of this writing.)

I did get a chuckle out of this obvious parody of My Little Pony‘s Rainbow Dash, even though I know nothing about Fortnite‘s Rainbow Smash.

They also had two costumes based on the late artist and TV personality Bob Ross. A couple of friends or lovers could dress up together as Bob Ross and one of his paintings, which I find hilarious.

Just a few feet away from the Halloween store is a Christmas store. This is crazy. Halloween and Thanksgiving haven’t even happened yet and there is already a Christmas store.

Just a few days after I took this shot of these Grinch ornaments I learned that someone is coming out with yet another remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that will be shown on the big screen. I guess that’s why there was a display of these ornaments. I personally think that doing yet another remake is so unnecessary. I have the original 1960’s TV special on DVD so I can always play that one on my TV screen instead of paying over $10 to see the remake in a movie theater.

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