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This year I decided to check out the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights that was held at Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. As you can see from the photographs, it was a well-attended event. The weather was cold but it was pretty clear with no rain or snow. (My area has been getting tons of rain this year and it gets pretty tiresome after a while. Thanks for nothing, global warming!)

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here is what the official Festival of Lights tree looked like before it was lit for the first time. The box that held the tree had Santa Claus decorated on all sides.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

The local orchestra played a variety of winter holiday tunes.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Once Santa arrived the tree was lit up. Here is what it looked like with its lights on.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here’s a short video I shot of the opening ceremony.

After the opening ceremony I walked over to the nearby Greenbelt Museum, which opened its door to the public for free as part of the opening ceremony festivities.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

I shot photos of that same museum during Labor Day weekend so I decided to focus on its special exhibit on how people celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah during the Great Depression. It included vintage decorations of the period. I found it very interesting.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

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Back in July I wrote this rant about the controversial DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive YouTube channels, which documented the adventures of Mike and Heather Martin and their children. They did all kinds of so-called “pranks” on their children, which definitely crossed the line into child abuse. As a result of the ensuing controversy, Mike and Heather lost custody of two of the children and they were put on probation. This couple continued to make videos that showed disturbing scenes regarding their remaining children and it resulted in YouTube taking the channels down and banning Mike and Heather Martin from its platform.

Mike and Heather have since migrated over to Twitch, where, based on a quick glance of the videos they have posted, they are more focused on playing video games than playing pranks on their kids.

Recently I came across this video by Turkey Tom where he went deeper into the controversial family and the fandom that has come up around them.

He posted his video on December 2 and, at first, I thought dredging up an old issue from a few months ago is like flogging a dead horse. But then I read the comments and based on what I’ve read, it looks like the original YouTube channels that got Mike and Heather Martin into so much trouble have been reinstated along with the complete original videos. I did a quick search where I saw that both DaddyOFive and FamilyOFive have been reinstated.

I thought YouTube had completely gotten rid of those two channels and banned the Martins from ever posting anything on its platform again. But now YouTube has reinstated those channels and the videos are now available for anyone to watch. What the fuck is wrong with you, YouTube?!? I thought being banned meant being banned for life. But YouTube takes down the offending channels and reinstates them months later even though the videos clearly show the kids being abused in the name of “entertainment.”

It’s bad enough that Mike and Heather Martin tried to profit off of abusing their kids in front of the camera but now it looks like YouTube is doing the same by reinstating those original channels that contain the disturbing footage.

This is yet another example of how YouTube totally fucks up in enforcing their own rules, especially when it comes to channels with a big following. Earlier this year there was the infamous Logan Paul Suicide Forest incident where YouTube essentially gave a slap on the wrist to Logan Paul for making that video showing the dead body of a man who committed suicide. At the time time YouTube decided to demonetize my own Sagittarius Dolly YouTube channel and thousands of other channels that had fewer followers than Logan Paul while citing Paul’s Suicide Forest video as the reason for that decision.

So many smaller YouTube channels were punished for what Logan Paul did in Japan, which really sucks. And now, YouTube has reinstated the DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive YouTube channels along with all of the original videos in an effort to make a profit off of child abuse.

I know that keeping inappropriate videos off of the platform is like playing Whack-A-Mole but reinstating those offending channels is a total slap in the face to the children who were depicted in those videos. It also sends a clear message that you can video yourself engaging in despicable behavior and, if you get banned from the platform, it will only for a few months—especially if your channel had earned a lot of views prior to the banning. Shame on YouTube for this latest bone-headed decision.

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I arrived at yet another Campfire Sessions, which is a monthly series of special performances that are held at The New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland. Basically the performers play a set lasting around 15-20 minutes then take questions from the audience about their work. I arrived a bit late because earlier I was taking part in a weekly crafting event known as Fiber Fans (where people can bring their knitting, crocheting, or sewing and socialize while working on their latest piece) that’s held at the Greenbelt Makerspace. The Campfire Sessions are hosted by Joey Campfire, who’s known as one-half of The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. This month he decided to do his emcee duties wearing an American flag long johns.

I arrived just in time for the last act of the evening. They are known as The Chromatics and they are an a cappella group consisting of people who are all employees at the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. They sing songs about science and space. I found them to be a bit quirky. I shot a video of The Chromatics singing some of their songs.

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Here’s a short video of an electric can crusher that was made by a group of mechanical engineering students in India.

Why European fascism is destined to die a slow, painful death.

Why we need to include female villains in our history books.

Pussy Riot has accused Bella Thorne of ripping off their signature ski masks.

Haiti is poor because colonial powers like the United States made it that way.

The economic recovery threw the middle-class dream under a Benz.

Hasbro introduced Monopoly For Millennials and Millennials are mad.

Hate groups make unprecedented push to recruit on college campuses.

Cheating and manipulation: Confessions of a gaslight.

The lost American museum that had it all.

How to turn a red state purple (Democrats not required).

Why Baltimore doesn’t heat its schools.

Here’s a free pattern for a beautiful knit scarf.

What does it feel like growing up in a collapsing world?

Ahed Tamimi offers Israelis a lesson worthy of Gandhi.

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I thought I said everything that needed to be said when I wrote my original post on the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse. What I didn’t realize is that the photos I posted of various anniversary stuff (ranging from cookies to waffle irons) was just the beginning. I went back to Target last week and I saw that the store had more 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff that I hadn’t seen before, starting with this 90th anniversary remote control Mickey car.

Target had a special box of small Mickey Mouse plushes that depict him in the various stages of his long and distinguished career.

The box even had a cute handle shaped like Mickey Mouse heads.

There were small vinyl 90th anniversary Mickeys that I hadn’t seen before.

Plus there were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments.

There’s one surprise I found out about a Mickey item I had previously blogged about. I saw Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willie plushes at Target. What I didn’t realize is that this particular plush is also animatronic. If you press one of his hands, he’ll rock side to side and sing Steamboat Willie‘s opening theme song. I shot a short video showing this.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more 90th anniversary Mickey items will arrive in stores in the near future. In any case, I’m not going to write any more posts about the 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse unless I see something that’s incredibly unique and interesting. One could easily spend 40 hours a week trying to keep track of all of the 90th anniversary Mickey items that are out there and I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment.

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I attended my first-ever Edcamp one month ago. I was accompanying Phil Shapiro, who needed some help with setting up this exhibit that he was displaying and I went along. He had also recently purchased this used smartphone off of eBay that can shoot 4K video and photos and he wanted me to handle photography/videography duties using that smartphone. (It was a Samsung Nexus and he got it cheap because it had a cracked screen.) This particular Edcamp was held at Loyola College’s campus in Columbia, Maryland.

Going there opened some family memories because I had a now-deceased uncle who attended the Loyola campus in Baltimore although I don’t recall ever hearing him reminisce about his days there when I used to visit him at various family gatherings. I only knew that he was a Loyola alumni.

The Columbia campus resembled a modern-day office building, which looked nice but it definitely didn’t look like a college or university. (I attended the University of Maryland at College Park, which has many brick buildings with Greco-Roman style columns.) When Phil and I arrived, we knew that we were in the right place because we saw these signs.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp provided a free breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. They had an opening session where the organizers greeted all of the attendees. Edcamp is definitely unlike any other conference I’ve ever been to. At an average conference, there are usually workshops, panels, and speeches that are planned and scheduled ahead of time. At Edcamp, workshops and other events aren’t planned ahead of time. Basically people show up and just volunteer to lead a workshop or panel based on an idea that he or she has suddenly come up with. While the breakfast and opening session is going on, volunteers start to create a schedule using Post-It Notes along with room assignments. The attendees could then take a picture of this schedule with their smartphones.

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

All of the attendees were given swag starting with this Northrop-Grumman bag.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Northrop-Grumman also provided this missile-shaped pen that has three separate inkwells in three different colors.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

The bag was also filled with all kinds of goodies ranging from stickers and buttons to promo flyers for various education technology-related products.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

What was really cool was that I got this free blank book that I could use as a sketchbook.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

When Phil and I arrived at Loyola the first thing we did was to set up his exhibit in the designated hands-on room, which featured exhibits that people could touch and play with. Phil had something he called an Open Source Petting Zoo where all of the computers at that exhibit were running the Linux Mint operating system with various open source applications like Libre Office (which is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office) and Inkscape (which is an open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator).

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

There were people who were interesting in testing out the Open Source Petting Zoo.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

The hands-on room had other things on display that people can look at, touch, and even play with.

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

 

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

 

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

You know that you’re at a technology-oriented conference when you see a robot.

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

I even got my first-ever look at the Google Cardboard. During the day I managed to use it to view 360 videos for the first time, which was pretty cool.

Edcamp, Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Once I managed to help Phil with setting up his Open Source Petting Zoo, he said that I was free to check out the rest of the conference. The one workshop I attended was about Google, which had one two other people, including the guy who was giving the workshop. We chatted a bit but it was pretty informal. When the first workshop ended it was time for lunch, where we had our choice of sandwiches that came from Jason’s Deli. During the lunch there was an impromptu panel that sprung up. Phil volunteered to be on the panel even though the topic wasn’t decided on until the last minute. So I sat in the audience and shot pictures of that workshop with the smartphone that could shoot 4K photos and videos.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

So here’s Phil Shapiro in the middle in the next photo.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Here’s a wide shot of the entire panel.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Here’s another wide shot of the panel, this time with Phil Shapiro holding the microphone.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Here’s a closeup of Phil with the microphone.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

I even got silly and switched to my own smartphone so I could take this last photo of the panel using my smartphone’s Hatsune Miku app.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

After lunch I spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the hands-on room, which had a variety of neat things to try. It was raining on the day of Edcamp so it was no big deal spending the entire day indoors. I managed to get a glimpse of this lake with a walking tour that’s outside of the campus building. If the weather had been nicer, I definitely would’ve spent some time walking by the lake. Instead I had to settle for taking photos from outside of a window.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp also had a drawing for door prizes. When we first arrived we were all given raffle tickets that we could drop into any prize bag. One of the prize bags I put my ticket in was for this writing software that had me interested because I had majored in journalism in college. I won that prize. I received this bag that was clearly marked Loyola College.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

When I pulled out the flyer I saw that this software was aimed at teaching students how to write. Except that I’m not a full-time professional teacher. I’ve taught Sunday school at my Unitarian Universalist church a number of years ago until I burned out after my second year and I quit after that. I’ve ran a Zentangle workshop for adults during the Enrichment Hour at the same church. I also served as an assistant teacher for the Takoma Park, Maryland chapter of Girls Who Code but that was a part-time gig and I wasn’t the main teacher. Phil said that he might find a use for it. I hope so because I would hate to waste this prize.

Edcamp at Loyola College, October 27, 2018

Edcamp ended around 2 or 3 p.m. so I helped Phil with dismantling his Open Source Petting Zoo and put everything in his car. I was glad that he was driving that day because it was raining like crazy that day. Afterwards Phil was interested mainly in the 4K video I had shot that day. Of the footage I provided to him, he chose to highlight only two of the videos that I made on his own YouTube channel. One was of people checking out something called Merge Cubes in the hands-on room.

The other was of people testing this kit where kids can easily create their own video games.

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I finally finished my latest animation on the day before Thanksgiving. For the past year-and-a-half I’ve been attending the animation meetups that are held on Sunday afternoons at the Greenbelt Makerspace and we decided to do some special short Christmas animations that would run in the monitors that were recently erected in the windows of the makerspace. Even though our animations aren’t due for another few weeks I decided to take advantage of this week’s enforced downtime due to Thanksgiving Day (it’s hard to find work because so many people are currently out of town) and get mine done early so I can focus on other things. So here is my latest animation, The Gift of the Dinosaur.

Here’s the story behind The Gift of the Dinosaur. I had participated in Inktober for the first time in 2017. On the day I was leaving for the Washington, DC chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School I did a quick drawing featuring the event’s emcee, Reverend Valentine. She is a burlesque performer and she loves dinosaurs. Recently Build-A-Bear Workshop had started carrying dinosaurs that one could choose to have stuffed and take home instead of a teddy bear and it had a blue t-rex dinosaur. So I drew this scenario where Reverend Valentine gets the blue t-rex from Build-A-Bear Workshop while wearing her pasties and thong while adding a fantasy scenario of what if that stuffed dinosaur was real. (LOL!)

For my animation I loosely based the girl on what I imagine Reverend Valentine might have looked like as a child but I basically made a more generic child. Since the main human character is a young child I had to replace the pasties and thong with a nightgown since, like many children around the world, she would be opening her present on Christmas morning soon after waking up.

I’ll admit that I ripped off the original premise of the Jurassic Park movies (dinosaurs cloned from the blood drank by mosquitos that were preserved in amber for thousands of years). For the record, I saw the first Jurassic Park movie and I really enjoyed it. I saw the second movie and, while it had its moments, I felt it was just a retread of the first one. I haven’t seen any of the other Jurassic Park or Jurassic World movies since the first two were released mainly because going to the movies have become so expensive that I’m not willing to pay a lot of money to see the same storyline being rehashed over and over again. It would be cheaper to just buy the DVD of the first movie and watch that one over and over again.

I was also inspired in a way from reading a series of graphic novel reprints of the comic book series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which I checked out of the local public library. As you can tell from the title, it’s about a girl and her dinosaur. It’s a really well-written series and I enjoyed them. If I ever earn a decent income to the point where I can afford splurges, I will buy that series because it is that good. My animation focuses exclusively on the dark side of getting a pet dinosaur. (LOL!)

For the software I decided to try this free graphics program that I downloaded a few months ago. It’s from Autodesk and it’s called SketchBook. The free version has a lot of features including doing a rough flip book animation. I took a course on Lynda.com (which I’m able to access for free through my public library) on SketchBook Pro and I found that the main difference between the free and paid pro versions is that the latter has more brushes to choose from.

I did the vocalizations and sound effects using the free open source program Audacity. I basically pushed my voice into the upper ranges in order to have the girl say things like “ooooohhh” and “wow”. I decided to do my own sound effects instead of spending time doing Internet searches for the proper sounds. I did the unraveling of the ribbon by taking a roll of toilet paper and unraveling that. I ripped up a sheet of paper in order to simulate the sound of the girl ripping wrapping paper. I did the rattling box effect by dropping a box full of unbreakable stuff then putting that sound on a loop. I ripped velcro to simulate the dinosaur emerging from the box. For the falling Christmas tree I knocked over a padded guitar case with the guitar still inside. For the final scene I purchased a bag of pretzels and recorded myself eating them. I recorded my own burp after I ate a meal that’s heavy in gas then drank down a glass of water mixed with baking soda.

As for the music, it’s the song “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” from Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmas piece The Nutcracker Suite. I downloaded this version for free from YouTube’s collection of songs that creators can use for free in their videos.

I did most of the drawings but, to save time, I turned to OpenClipArt.org for the Christmas tree, the wallpaper, and the couch. All three were basically background elements so I didn’t feel the need to spend the time drawing them and it left me free to focus on what really mattered, the girl and the dinosaur.

For those of you who have been following my animations over the years, you’ll probably recognize a painting in the background hanging over the couch. It’s the final scene from my earlier animation The March of Liberty, which is the same animation that was shown outside on a giant screen at the 2017 Light City festival in Baltimore.

The animation wasn’t too bad except I found that animating the opening of the present to be a bit tedious and it drove me crazy at times. But it was worth it at the end when I saw the litter girl eagerly opening her present. If someone was paying me, I would have been more obsessive about accurately showing the girl opening her present to the point of doing a live action filming of myself unwrapping a box so I could use that as the basis of doing a very accurate gift opening. But I’m not being paid to do this. I really need to focus more on finding work that pays money so I could pay the bills so I had to simplify it to the best that I could. It was still tedious to animate the opening the gift part despite trying to simplify it as much as possible. The rest of the animation was less tedious and I was able to enjoy the process better.

I basically exported the animation and sound effects from the separate programs and assembled them with the music together in iMovie.

Thankfully I was instructed to make a short animation so I had no problem with doing this one by myself within a week. I decided to upload this animation online since not everyone will be able to go to the Greenbelt Makerspace and see it in the video windows.

I’m basically happy with the way the animation turned out. It’s a short animation that has a coherent story and I was able to make it run in just under one minute. I’m glad that I finished this animation so I can move on to other things.

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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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Ninety years ago today a struggling young animator named Walt Disney released this groundbreaking cartoon called Steamboat Willie. The rest is history.

It can be pretty hard to fathom how groundbreaking it was and it can also be pretty hard to fathom a time when Mickey Mouse wasn’t the biggest cartoon character. While there were animated cartoon shorts before Steamboat Willie, they were silents, which meant that there were no recorded music or dialogue. They were played in movie theaters where a piano player or organist would play the soundtrack live in the theater, just like they did with live action silent films. During the silent era the biggest cartoon star was Felix the Cat.

Many people think that Steamboat Willie was both the first sound cartoon ever made and Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon. It turns out not to be the case on both counts. There were some earlier attempts at making sound cartoons, most notably Max and Dave Fleischer’s Song Car-Tunes series and Van Beuren Studio’s Dinner Time but they didn’t catch on in the way that Steamboat Willie did.

Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. His first two cartoons, Plane Crazy and the Gallopin’ Gaucho, were made as silent animation films but they had failed to impress audiences and Walt Disney was unable to get a distributor for those two. Walt Disney came up with the idea of making a sound Mickey Mouse cartoon after the ground-breaking live action talking movie The Jazz Singer was released and it became a huge hit.

Had the people behind Felix the Cat gotten into making sound cartoons immediately after The Jazz Singer was released, it’s highly likely that Felix would’ve permanently quashed that cartoon rodent upstart Mickey and Steamboat Willie would’ve become a footnote in the history of animation. After all, Felix was the biggest cartoon star in the world while Mickey Mouse was a relative unknown. It’s very likely that Felix’s animation domination would have carried over into the sound era and Felix the Cat would have remained the biggest cartoon star today. People would be spending the day at a Felix the Cat theme park, visiting related Felix websites online, and buying all kinds of Felix the Cat merchandise ranging from clothes to toys to high-end designer handbags.

But the people behind Felix the Cat underestimated the potential of sound cartoons and talking pictures in general. They felt they already had a winning formula with Felix so why alter it? The fact that studio head Pat Sullivan suffered from alcoholism so bad that it affected his decision making and it ultimately took his life at an early age didn’t help. By the time there was an effort to start making Felix the Cat sound cartoons, Mickey Mouse had already overtaken him in popularity and the original studio folded. While there were short-lived attempts to revive Felix the Cat in the 1930’s (as a series of color cartoons with sound) and 1950’s (as a children’s TV cartoon show), Felix the Cat had never quite regained the immense popularity he lost from that disastrous decision to delay making sound cartoons. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first Felix the Cat cartoon so we’ll see if there are any attempts to put Felix in the public eye again.

Earlier this year I realized that this year was the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie when I saw these specially marked Pepperdige Farms Goldfish Crackers on sale. I purchased a couple of them and I wrote this blog post about these special crackers (which featured crackers in the shape of the usual goldfish and special ones in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head).

If it weren’t for these crackers I would have completely missed this anniversary. But this is Disney, a giant multinational corporation, and it wasn’t going to let people forget that this year is another one of those important anniversaries where the number ends in either 0 or 5. Since buying those crackers I’ve seen other Mickey stuff in the stores. At the local Giant grocery store there was this display of Little Golden Books featuring Mickey Mouse.

The same store had special Mickey Mouse Oreos for sale. I purchased one of those packs for the heck of it. Here is what the outside package looked like.

I opened the package and noticed how the chocolate part of the cookies were designed. One side of the cookie had the usual Oreo stamp on it.

The other side had one of three special designs that were especially made for this package. One design had Mickey Mouse wearing a party hat.

Another design had a megaphone surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

A third design had the number “90” surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

The cream in the cookies was a special flavor known as “Birthday Cake.” Basically the cream tasted like vanilla frosting and I found it to taste far sweeter than the normal Oreo cream. While I found the taste to be passible, I personally prefer the regular cream.

If that wasn’t enough, Giant also had this special issue of Life magazine on sale, which was full of photos of Mickey Mouse over the years.

The closer it got to the anniversary, the more 90th anniversary Mickey stuff came out at a rapid rate. Here’s what I found at Target.

Of course there would be a Mickey Mouse Bluray DVD featuring “Steamboat Willie” and other seminal Mickey cartoons.

There were some special Funko Pops featuring cute versions of Mickey Mouse in his famous cartoon roles. While I didn’t see a Steamboat Willie Funko Pop, I saw ones based on other cartoons like The Brave Little Taylor and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia.

There were some large plush stuffed animals based on the opening sequence in Steamboat Willie when Mickey was steering the steamboat.

There were smaller plush stuffed animals as well, which not only featured Mickey as he appeared in Steamboat Willie but as he appeared in other cartoons.

There were special blind boxes shaped like Mickey heads.

The list on the label shows the Mickey figurines that one could get inside of blind box. Of course you won’t know which Mickey you got until after you purchased this special box and take it home with you.

If buying blind boxes aren’t your thing, you could spend $24.99 and buy the complete set of Mickey Mouse figurines.

I saw some special Mickey Mouse fabrics from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts, some of which feature Minnie Mouse as well. You could make yourself a special outfit with these special patterns.

There were other Mickey fabrics as well but I only wanted to highlight the ones that had the Steamboat Willie-era Mickeys.

There were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments and housewares available for sale at CVS.

A couple of days ago I made a return trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall. I went to The Disney Store where I saw this sign featuring Mickey and Minnie announcing that its Black Friday sale was going on right now. (By the way, my various store apps on my smartphone were pushing notifications all this past week announcing “Black Friday Preview Sales” and stuff like that? Is having pre-Black Friday sales a thing now in retail? God help us!)

There was a sign announcing Mickey Mouse-inspired activities at The Disney Store all weekend long. I showed up on Friday but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Today they have a thing where the first 90 customers to make a purchase will get a special commemorative Mickey key. I’m financially struggling too much to go for something like that. Even if I could afford to buy something, I think I can live without a special commemorative Mickey key.

The back of the store was having continuous showings of Steamboat Willie with seats small enough for young children to sit on.

There was just one small area of the store that had the commemorative 90th anniversary stuff, most of which were geared towards adults, such as paperclips and business portfolio covers.

The Disney Store wasn’t the only place that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff. The Build-A-Bear Workshop had a couple of special 90th anniversary Mickey plushies that one could have stuffed. One is Mickey wearing his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” outfit.

The other one was a regular Mickey Mouse wearing his usual red shorts. Like the other Mickey, this one had special soles on his shoes that were marked 90th anniversary. (The Mickey in this photo was unstuffed.)

Lolli and Pops had imported Mickey Mouse candy with the packaging written in some Asian language. (I couldn’t tell which language it was. I think it was either Japanese or Korean.)

Macy’s had these special 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The only thing about these sunglasses that I didn’t like was the fact that Mickey Mouse was visible from inside of the sunglasses frames—the frames that other people wouldn’t normally see. What’s the use of paying more money for something that can’t be seen by other people? I might as well buy regular black-framed sunglasses without Mickey Mouse lining on the inside.

Sugarfina is an upscale candy store that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse candy on sale. I thought about buying a Mickey Mouse dark chocolate candy bar only to find out that their candy bars cost $9.50 each. And that’s the starting price of the candy in that store.

There was a store that sold 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse watches, clocks, and backpacks.

There were a lot of stuff for the 90th anniversary that one could buy. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now when the 100th anniversary comes up in 2028. While we’re on the subject, here’s one fact that frequently gets overlooked: This year is also the 90th anniversary of Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s longtime girlfriend. That’s right, she appeared in the first two silent Mickey cartoons and she also appeared in Steamboat Willie. She’s been a regular in most Mickey Mouse cartoons since.

UPDATE (December 3, 2018): Over a week after I wrote this post, new 90th birthday Mickey Mouse stuff arrived at my local Target that I haven’t seen before. You can check them out right here.

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