Tag Archives: Reviews

A Customer Review! Special Effects Vs. Manic Panic!

Guys, as you know, Special Effects is, during certain times of the year, IMPOSSIBLE to keep in stock. Why is this? It’s because it has a shorter shelf life than Manic Panic and because they do not produce dye year round. They only do it in batches, which leads to big chunks of time when their products become MEGA scarce. We just spoke to them on Monday, and as of right now, we’re still looking at Mid October for a possible ship date from them. I KNOW! Don’t get me started.

Seriously. Don’t.

Annnyyyway, in the meantime, we have options. Namely, Manic Panic! Manic panic is the original. It’s vegan, and cruelty free, and all of that other great tree hugging wonderfulness, but most importantly, it comes in a million colors, two formulations (original and Amp’d, a longer lasting formula) AND it’s available ALL THE DAMNED TIME! That’s right! That means when you order Manic Panic, you won’t be on a backorder list for MONTHS. Imagine that? I know! Now, some of you, particularly youngins, are afraid of the Manic Panic. “Why, that’s what my grandma used to color HER chelsea green!” the children cry. You know what though, children? Your grandma knew her stuff. Yes, we’re not going to lie, Manic Panic, overall, does NOT last quite as long as Special Effects. Why is this? Dead animals. Pure and simple. You can’t get color to last like Special Effects without crushing up a few insects and maybe some other as yet-to-be-named creatures. (And a note to the scandalized, if your product can’t be specifically labeled as “Vegan” then SOMETHING  someone considers cute died to make it. Such is life.) But you know what else? We sell both products, so taking our word for it isn’t really doing due diligence. So what we’ve done is asked a customer to do an HONEST review, comparing both products, and Awesome Attic Customer and Supermom Sol has stepped up to the task!* Yay, Sol! So, without further delay, here’s Sol’s review, complete with photos! Take it away, Sol!

*Full disclosure, Sol had placed an order of Special Effects Atomic Pink through our website, and was sent an additional order of Manic Panic Hot Hot Pink, free of charge, in exchange for her lovely write up!


Hi All! Sol here, fan of Amalthea’s Attic and all things unique and fun. I’ve been dyeing my hair varying shades now for about 20 years, but 9 times out of 10 I go with Manic Panic. Yes, I know there are many more products out there so I was happy to give Special Effects a go for my favorite online store.

After bleaching the top half of my hair (bottom half is dyed with Manic Panic Purple Haze) I dyed one side with Manic Panic Amplified Hot Hot Pink and the other with Special Effects Atomic Pink.

I noticed a few things right away when I opened up the Special Effects bottle and squirted it into my bowl. The consistency of the dye is thicker than Manic Panic’s. One problem I’ve always had with Manic Panic is that I wish it was thicker to make application easier, as well to make sure I get enough on my hair to make the color stick. It went on nicely and was easy to spread with my dye brush and fingers as needed. Compared to Manic Panic I felt it was easier to apply in terms of the messy factor. I did use a bit more of the Special Effects but I felt the coverage of the product rivaled Manic Panic’s.

I let them both sit for a few hours, applied some heat from a blow dryer and then rinsed. The colors are different in appearance—the Special Effects Atomic Pink was a bit redder in appearance but after it was all rinsed? To the eye I couldn’t tell a huge difference between it and the Manic Panic Cotton Candy. Both sides were evenly dyed and I didn’t feel either was lacking in its ability to saturate and change my hair color.

 Of course the true test would be the performance factor. How long would it last, hold up to sun exposure, swimming, washings and the test of time.

I swim in a chlorinated pool nearly every day during the summer and after a month my hair color was starting to fade a bit but still looking nice and bright.

I found the staying power of Special Effects to be better than Manic Panic’s. I admit I was surprised as I’ve always been a Manic Panic fan. I still am but I’m definitely going to look for some more Special Effects colors, as soon as they are more widely available. The latter is the only downside I can find to Special Effects, availability. I’ve fallen in love with the way the Atomic Pink faded and impressed with the performance but now it is hard to find! I hope as Special Effects moves their production factory and gets back into the grove I can find more of their products here at Amalthea’s Attic.

Sol's lovely dye job

Comparing dyes when wet.

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True Blood, Season 5. Let’s Go.

Ok kids, rule #1? I’m always a week behind on True Blood, or, at least a day. Come sunday, I have to get work done and there’s Metalocalypse and whatnot and True Blood is just more likely to be a Monday kind of show, ok? Ok. So, lets begin.

Season 5 is here. We’ve waited forever and ever. It was insane. But now it’s here! How are we all feeling? I, for one, am cautiously optimistic about this season. CAUTIOUSLY!

So lets discuss the first two episodes.

First, I keep forgetting that Jason is a cop. So that regularly confuses me. Still, I like him as a cop. It’s a good turn he’s taking and hooray for him for turning down that girl from Jessica’s party’s sex offer. I like heartbroken Jason. He’s an easier pill to swallow. Heartbroken Hoyt, however? He’s just starting to be an asshole. Also, “girlfriend fucker” is just a silly nickname. Move on, Hoyt. Seriously.

Speaking of said girlfriend. Hey, ladies, you know how you woke up this morning and thought “hey, the diet is working! I’m lookin’ good!” Yeah, well, Jessica is here to take care of THAT.

My GOD woman, eat a fucking sandwich. It kills me. I’ll pretend that’s her natural body and she’s not starving daily or puking or whatever to achieve that. And I’ll be ok with it, because she really is crazy hot, but man. Grrr.

In other hot body news:

Am I crazy, or does Bill’s face say it all here? There’s absolutely no denying that Eric looks amazing this season. However, he’s also a giant douche. Last year, this got people hideously unhappy, my being on Team Bill. I can’t help it, here’s the thing, overall? He’s a NICE PERSON! Overall? Eric is a raging jerk. The whole aloof scummy jerky thing, it’s not mysterious and dark, it’s just irritating. Stop being a wiener, Eric. Until you do, I’m on team Bill, sorry.

Another thing I’m sorry for? Come ON. Not only is Tara not dead, she’s IMMORTAL? That’s a slap in the face to all of us Tara haters who rejoiced  at the end of last season. And there were a LOT of us. I’m just, ug. I can’t. Bleh, lets pretend that isn’t happening.

And finally, an overall complaint. Is there a new makeup crew this season or something? The effects makeup is, um, terrible? Pretty terrible. I was really hunting for a screen cap of it, but couldn’t find it, if you can, let me know, but that scene where Bill and Eric have the silver burns on their faces from the net? Jeez. TERRIBLE effects. Jarringly so. And Russell? Let’s see here:

Yeah, no.
Listen, True Blood. Here’s the situation. I like you, I like you a lot. I know you’re not great for me. You’re not educational and a lot of the time you just irritate the shit out of me, but I watch you. Not only do I watch you, but I have my MAN watching you. That means I’m going out on a limb for you. I’m vouching for you, as it were. So how about you respect that a little big and give me, at the VERY least, some gorgeous effects, eh? You’re an HBO show. I know you can pull it off. I mean, Boardwalk Empire is apparently 90% faked, so, if that can happen, I should be able to get a little bit of realistically cracked flesh, eh? How about it? Do it for me, would you? I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

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Concert Review: Foo Fighters & Rise Against at The IZOD Center

This adventure of epic concertness included some of my close friends. We’ve been drifting apart a bit due to our own life things but this was our first night out in a few months. The car ride to the venue involved mocking most of our fashion choices & the males questioning their sexual orientation. Childish, perhaps but again we don’t get out much. Quickest car ride to New Jersey I have ever had and I’m convinced my best friend is like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. If you don’t know the character, please watch some episodes.
We ended up at the venue much earlier then anyone anticipated and ended up at our seats around 7:30pm. I took some notes as the show went on.

The very first act was called Mariachi El Bronx. I only know what their name was because setlist.fm informed me that this group played with Rise Against & Foo Fighters at Izod. The actual band made no mention of their name at all, the only name they did reference towards the end of their set was Bouncing Souls and they were NOT bouncing souls. The actual band felt like a cross between Mariachi and Punk Rock, was not my cup of tea and the sound quality seemed poor. Some bands were not meant for arena tours. As a long time concert goer, you just feel when some bands would be better off at tiny club shows where others can command a stage in front of thousands.

While they were on the mediocre side of life, the next two bands did not disappoint at all. Additionally in between stage changes, new puscifer tracks were being played which beats Irving Plaza beating the Chicken dance to the ground.

Rise Against put on a very good live show. Most of the songs played were off The Sufferer & The Witness which is their album I’m most familiar with. My friends and I went into the venue expecting to be disappointed by them but they were able to perform all their songs and also be energetic throughout the stage. Mini Sheldon & I agreed, we should’ve caught them when Bad Religion opened for them earlier this year. (Live & learn)

Finally Foo Fighters! Dave Grohl declared they have such a large array of songs to choose from that there would be no way they could only play for 90 minutes. Furthermore, New Jersey was the last leg of the summer shows & the largest venue they have played as a headliner so we would be going beyond the average 2 hour performance. During the Rise Against set I was internally lamenting about how things have changed since I was a kid, the GA (general admission) area started so far away from the stage that there would be no chance of you shaking your favorite artists hand. I understand as an adult why security has changed, but nevertheless the fangirl lamented for all the fangirls down below. Once the Foo Fighters were into their set, Dave Grohl ran off stage & there was a center aisle throughout the pit clear for him to run & high five fans as he saw fit. On a few occasions during the show he would run out to the crowd which made up for previous “wow that’s lame” feelings. The show contained a nice assortment of classics & new songs. The highlight of the evening was Dave Grohl bringing Kris Novoselic on stage to play accordion on These Days. He announced before the song started that it was the first time they had played together onstage in many years and dedicated the song to Kurt. I would’ve liked to hear the accordion clearer but it was still an excellent performance & a bit tearjerking(or I’m overly sentimental, it’s anyones guess). The band played for 2 hours & took a break before the encore. Encores started with Dave Grohl on a mini stage on the other side of the venue with just an acoustic guitar. He played 2 and a half songs from that point, just him, the microphone, & guitar. It is a wonderful thing to watch someone be able to command an arena, he had every single person there; man, woman, and child were hanging on his words & lyrics. I’m glad that I get to see bands with that level of comradery and mutual love & respect for each other. I am excited to bring my significant other to their upcoming show in New York City (Madison Square Garden to be precise) and I couldn’t recommend checking them out more.

We Love Poetry Of The Silly Variety!

Also, poetry of the non-silly variety! But, lets face it, when you’re small, you just don’t really “get” how great Walt Whitman’s descriptions of the Civil War are, you know? When you’re a kid, what appeals to you, most likely, is the poetry of a man like Shel Silverstein, and, if you’re like me, that sticks with you forever. The sadness of this is, of course, that Shel Silverstein is no longer with us. He’s hanging out with Jim Henson somewhere, telling dirty jokes, I am sure. The excellent news is that like Jim Henson, Shel has been the gift that keeps on giving and he’s got another posthumously published collection of poems on the way!

The book comes out on September 20, 2011 and personally, I’m pretty excited. Not excited enough to wish the coming summer away, but, still pretty excited. What’s that you say? You say Shel is for babies? SHAME ON YOU! You and all of your kind. You know nothing of the excellence of Mr. Silverstein. I now assign you to head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of Different Dances, Shel’s pretty dark, often sad, very dirty, NOT FOR CHILDREN collection of “adult cartoons.” It’s a wonderful book, and gives you a whole new look into the talents of Uncle Shelby. I’m not going to make you spend the $300 that the original version is going for, but anyone without this piece in their collection really can’t be a proper Shel fan. While you’re at it, you might want to pick up Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book too. Consider the purchases your subversive act for the week. They’re well worth it.

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An Attic Guest Blog Post! Topic: Minecraft Review

Today’s guest post is written by Michael Fahning of the Etsy Shop Oberon Woodcraft. Wanna write your own guest post? Drop us a line and let us know what you’d like to talk about! And now, heeeere’s Michael!

There are not many games that I get absolutely hooked on playing. I usually get bored from either bad writing or poor game mechanics.  What I love in a game is replayabilty like Civilization or a game that is completely immersive like Fallout 3. What I love about Minecraft is that it is a little of both. Every time a world is generated, a new host of possibilities open up for you to create.

And that is the hook of Minecraft.  It is a game, at it’s heart, that taps in to your creativity and exploration circuits.   You can make a castle surrounded by a mote of lava, a roller coaster of mine carts, complex circuitry to lock doors and create traps, and someone has even built a functioning calculator.

Oh, and while you are trying to do all of this, the freaks come out at night.  The game cycles between night and day.  In the day time you are safe to roam around and build.  But when the sun goes down, it’s time to hide inside your castle lest you get bum rushed by arrow shooting skeletons or suicide creepers that explode on contact.

For a game that looks like it was made in the Wolfenstein 3D era, it has a lot of nice ambient touches to it.  If you want to mine some of the better  materials, you have to dig deeply in to the earth.  Much like the dwarven mines  of Moria, the deeper you dig, the darker it gets, and the more monsters come at you.  Minecraft’s atmosphere is incredibly creepy.  Also, there is no save game feature while you play.  If you die, you’ll respawn with nothing in your inventory.  You can try and run back to the spot you died to claim your old loot, but you only have a small amount of time to get it.  Which I think is a great feature.  It lends and importance to what your actions should be.  There is consequence for failure.

The game is still in development.  In fact, it is still in the beta testing stage.  It has a lot of bugs to work out and new content is added regularly.  Minecraft also has a large (1 million copies of the game have already been sold) online community with forums and game mods galore.  Even fan based crafts have popped up on Etsy.

It’s a table AND a box!

Minecraft is cheap to buy at about $20.   For practically unlimited hours of game play, that is a steal.  It’s also made by an independent developer so you’ll be extra cool when you play it.

If You Have An iPhone, This Game Is Pretty

So, you know what I’ve never done before? Purchased a game for my iPhone! I have some games on there, but I’m a HUGE cheapskate. And while I’ve purchased a couple of apps (iCam lets me spy on the house when I’m not home, how can I NOT have that?) all of my games thus far have been free ones, thanks to things like AppMiner, which was basically created for cheapskates such as myself.

However, the other day my boyfriend linked me to this little preview of Grimm for the iPhone and I HAD to download this game immediately.

I mean, you’ve been to Amalthea’s Attic, no? You MUST be aware of my undying love for the works of Edward Gorey, correct? Because this game is like a paper doll version of an Edward Gorey story. Beautiful and charming and mysterious. It makes a girl want to wear large Kentucky Derby type hats and carry a parasol about. It’s a very Mario Bros. type playing situation, left to right scrolling, jumping on the heads of the bad guys, shooting babies into the air. Well, ok, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea. It uses both touch screen buttons (only two, don’t be afraid!) and motion control, as well as a couple of gestures for controls, but it’s pretty simple overall. I’ll admit, I haven’t played very far into it. I accidentally dropped my baby down a well and then I thought “you know, I really should get these press releases written,” so I went back to my day job, but, on the whole, I can easily see this entertaining me while waiting in a doctor’s office or in line at the bank. Even if you’re not a gamer, it’s just so very pretty, I can’t say that it’s not worth the .99. In fact, the only other .99 I’d EVER say you should spend on a game is the ever amusing “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1” on xbox 360. That game, while nowhere near as pretty as Grimm, has THE catchiest theme song of any .99 cent game on the planet. Ever.

I dare you to play this game and then keep that song out of your shower. I triple dog dare you.

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Sometimes It Takes A Robot To Do A Maid’s Job

Amalthea fun fact: I am a cat person. For the longest time I was a dog person. I grew up with dogs, my family bred Pembroke Corgis and Standard Poodles. Dogs are fine, but now that I’m in my own house, I find that while I love an animal running to the door to greet me when I get home, what I REALLY love is for that animal to be QUIET when it does so. I’m sorry dog people, but I just really love the quiet. I love that I can go out for a couple of days at a time and my cats will fend for themselves, and yet they’re snuggly and affectionate and even, when they’re in a good mood, relatively obedient.

Another not so fun fact? I have some wonky health issues. I won’t go into them here, but suffice it to say, the idea of me cleaning a litter box on a regular basis has upset more than one of my doctors. But, the litter box is the entry fee for cat ownership. Sure, you can have an outdoor cat, but I don’t believe in that for numerous reasons I also won’t go into here. So, to appease my doctors, and honestly, because I didn’t feel like constantly dealing with cat poop, when I first moved into my house, I immediately bought a Litter Maid.

It doesn't do windows, and, honestly, it barely does cat poop.

The very first littermaid I got about 5 years ago was pretty good. It rarely had problems, and did it’s ONE job which was to clean up after Fred. Also known as Fredly P Doddleson and Deadly Fred.

I will destroy you with cute, don't doubt my powers.

It lasted about a year and a half, and then the motor died. I found this upsetting. I’d paid around $90 for that first one, but I considered the cost per poop and realized, yeah, that’s fair, so I bought another one, this time it was only $65 or so and so was the next one I replaced THAT with about a year and a half later. And do  you know why they were cheaper? Because, apparently (and you can read the amazon reviews if you don’t believe me on this one,) every subsequent generation of the Littermaid has sucked just a little bit more. The motors have gotten weaker and weaker. Last August, Colin (aka Colinista and “The Shape”) joined (and completed, I’m not going to end up on Confessions: Animal Hoarding) our little family.

How does it feel to look into the face of evil?

By this point, the third Littermaid was barely wheezing along. I was having to deal with it getting stuck several times a day. Our litterbox home was inside of a window seat, so this involved opening a bench cover, leaning inside the window seat, and diddling around with the thing. I cannot imagine that my garbage lungs were excited about this.
All the while, in the back of my mind, I’d been considering a robot. A litter robot.

I know, you think it's the death star but it's NOT, it eats poop, not worlds.

Here’s the thing about the litter robot: the reviews are STELLAR, but so is the price. We’re taking $329 for a new unit (shipping included, natch.) I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. That is a LOT OF MONEY to clean up cat detritus, you know? But at the same time, how much had I spent on litter maids by that point, and the things weren’t even working!! So, this fall, a lot of work came in and I was able to pay off my credit card and I decided this was it, it was time for the robot. I ordered it, and waited.
The waiting was scary. I started to doubt myself. What if the cats hated it? What if it didn’t work? What if hundreds of amazon.com reviewers had gotten together to swindle me out of several hundred dollars?
When it arrived, my fear both waxed and waned. The box was HUGE. In Japan, it would be considered a studio apartment. I got it out of the box and while it is quite large, it’s not particularly heavy, which I found to be a plus. Also, while it’s quite tall, its footprint is about the size of the old litter box, so it’s not a big consumer of floor space.

According to the packing materials, you have 90 days to return the thing if you or your cats are unhappy, so that’s a big bonus. However, they request that you keep the original packing material, so you’ll need to rent a storage unit for that.
Another plus with the litter robot is that you can use ANY kind of clumping litter. The littermaid requires “premium” litter which you then have to scoop by hand anyway. Grrrr. And the robot uses less of the cheap litter, so you’re full of win with that one. I filled it to the fill line, plugged it in, and it immediately went about completing a “clean cycle.” Compared to the littermaid, the thing whispers. It’s great. The cats, however, were convinced that it was perhaps sent from space to destroy them. They had no interest in the device. It took me two days to realize that to get them to give it a go, it would be best if I completely unplugged and stopped cleaning the littermaid (which, of course, magically started working perfectly upon the litter robot’s arrival.) Once I did that, Fred and Colin had very little compunction about pooping in a strange new world. The next step after that was to move the whole thing out to the garage and put a little cat flap in the breezeway so they had access and voila! I now have an amazing litter box situation (seriously, it’s amazing, you don’t touch ANYTHING gross to clean the box or fill it) where I’m not breathing air that’s even been NEAR the thing. I’m happy, the cats are happy, my immunologist and pulmonologists are going to be happy (well, as happy as they can be with cat ownership still on the table) and my credit card company is, I’m sure, very happy. All in all, a scary adventure, but worth it, and now that its lived with us for over a week and I’ve done the first box change I can say I totally recommend this thing if you have a cat or two. Seriously, greatest litter box ever, and littermaid? I’m sorry, but suck it, you’re AWFUL.

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I’ve Never Been A Barbie Girl

I had a couple when I was younger. I was a fan of Malibu Barbie, because she, like me through the age of 12, had clearly never had a haircut. I also liked her bikini which was covered in sparkles and of which I own a replica that I break out on the rare summer day. But, on the whole, I wasn’t a Barbie collector. I was more of a Breyer Horses kinda girl. I had a LOT of them. However, this particular Barbie? I want her. Badly.

Sadly, this one ain't cheep, cheep. Heh, get it?

She totally needs that Tippi Hedren cut on her cheek, but otherwise, perfect! It really looks like her. This is in direct contrast to the Joan Halloway Barbie which, while tremendous in concept, is disastrous in execution.

There's a couple of things missing here, and it's not her earrings.

You know what’s awesome about Joan? She’s a voluptuous, seriously hot woman, and I may be the first person on earth to ever have said this about a Barbie doll, but this one is SERIOUSLY lacking curves. Where’s the boobage? Gone! This Barbie is a scrawny mess of a thing. I’m mad at her. As a member of the “I may never be a waif, but I make a pretty good Betty Page” club, I despise this Barbie. Go away skinny Barbie! You’re ruining Joan. Also, you’re busted about the face which is absolutely not a thing that could be said about Christina Hendricks.

Did someone call me?

Ahhh, yes, Much better. There she is in all of her lush glory. Silly Barbie, sticks are for kids, and a skinny Joan? She’s for the Birds.

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The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter – An Attic Review!

Today’s guest blogger is Charon, The Odd Angel. She’s gone to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, and here’s her review:

It was probably a fortunate thing the crowds were as thick as they were that day in the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. And this is really saying something, as I completely and utterly detest crowds. This was the very worst sort of crowd as well, the thick kind where you can’t help but come into physical contact with the people adjacent to you and feel compelled to check to see if your handbag or wallet is in its last remembered location on your person. Yet I call this circumstance a fortunate one. Please allow me to explain.

Having read J.K. Rowling’s seven books from which WWOHP (as employees refer to it) was drawn and constructed, and having read them in and out of academic settings (complete with a college level final exam question regarding mirrors, doubles and their associated significance), I was very much looking forward to my experience at Universal’s latest offering. I actually felt the hairs on my neck stand tall as I walked beneath the iron sign that told me I was entering Hogsmeade, and saw the buildings of the town covered in snow. I actually felt my skin ripple with goosebumps as I looked up and saw Hogwarts perched atop the hill in the distance. I broke into a wide smile as I laid eyes on the Hogswarts Express locomotive, not even ten yards away from me, and the conductor who diligently checked his watch and the engine brakes even as he posed for photos with patrons in front of the massive cowcatcher.

My glee quickly faded when I and the rest of my party were swept into the courtyards in the wake of way too many patrons occupying the space provided. I had no set agenda, but nevertheless thought it would be impossible to see and do all that I would wish to within the time I had available. As it turned out I needn’t have worried.

The three rides, the park’s title dark ride and two (well, three, actually) roller coasters, had wait times of an hour and a quarter, one hour and a scant twenty minutes respectively. Choosing the last of the three put us on the Dragon Challenge, a pair of suspended racing coasters with distinctly different rides. Ironically it was the short wait time that got me my first real taste of WWOHP. Since wait times can be extremely long, the line is designed to be entertaining, an environment unto itself. Getting to walk the line tunnels not once, but twice (two coasters in one, remember … ) afforded me a walk through the halls of Hogwarts after hours. We wound through the Great Hall beneath the suspended candles and swirling sky, looked closely at the clue artifacts from Goblet of Fire days, slowed when the darkness was nearly complete about us and quickened our pace when light or sounds just ahead beckoned. The space was endless at times.

It was wonderful.

Too soon, though, both rides were completed and we were thrust back into the maelstrom of people in the commons. Our guides, encouraged by my positive reaction to the line experience, immediately steered us toward the hour-long line for the Hippogriff children’s coaster. When I looked at them as though they were out of their minds, they merely asked my indulgence. Once more, the open space and freedom of the line provided a close look at Hagrid’s Cottage and the Weasley’s flying car, which barked at us with an ailing horn from the tangle of vegetation that held it captive. All along the staircase leading to these were banners of loyalty for the Quidditch teams from all three Witchcraft and Wizardry schools. As patrons shot by us to join the ride line, we took our time, enjoying the space and the environment.

This environment and the experience of it is by far the most wonderful portion of WWOHP. I had thought that a visit to Ollivander’s would have topped the list, but I never even got inside. The cold, hard and somewhat heartbreaking truth of the matter of Ollivander’s is that even after a wait in a line that can exceed two hours, and even after you and your family are ushered into the shop, there is, at best, a five percent chance that your child will be chosen for the wand ceremony.

You read that right: An excruciatingly long wait, after which you may well have to explain to a child, in the most gentle manner and best way you know how, why they weren’t chosen. This is not a terrific paradigm in which to teach the importance of self-esteem, let me tell you. And if your child IS chosen? Let’s just say you’d better buy that wand outright. In fact there are trained staff members who take you aside and encourage you to do so, reminding you all the while that it’s all about the children, yours in particular at that moment.

No pressure, of course  …

Upon learning this, I nearly went through the Dragon Challenge line once more to repair the pleasant illusion I had been holding up to that point. Fortunately there were a few more surprises that our guides had in store for us, most notably upon exiting the dark ride, about which I will only say that I now understand why nearly everyone I had asked about it previously had informed me they would never ride it again. It’s intense. To put it mildly …. (The wait time is worth it, however, as the tour of chosen interiors of Hogwarts did wonders to reestablish my illusion).

Encased in glass in one of the pillars holding up the roof timbers of Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods is the Marauder’s Map. It would have been very, very easy for me to remain there for hours on end, watching the footprints come and go, along with their associated names, as they moved through the corridors of the paper version of Hogwarts. Once more, though, uncomfortably close to myriad strangers, I extricated myself from the shop and met the rest of our party just outside.

I asked about several Diagon Alley storefronts and was immensely disappointed to find out that the majority of them were merely facades. There were animated window displays in many of them, but for the most part, they were for the eyes only. The two main exceptions on our trip were Honeyduke’s and Zonko’s. I was willing to brave the crowds to get in and look about (and to procure a few things for certain friends along the way …) but the sheer number of people packed into such a small space was enough to discourage me from buying much more than my budget (and waistline) would allow.

Exasperated, but also feeling as though I was being rescued from my more impulsive and spend-happy child self, I implored our guides to show us something that would end our experience in Hogmeade on a high note rather than a frustrated and slightly disappointed one. They were more than happy to oblige. Just behind Honeyduke’s and Zonko’s is a alleyway. It leads to a dead end, so there were no patrons there at all, but this allowed us to hear the muffled discussions within the walls of the shops that lined the alley. Again, environment had rescued the day for me. It was the prefect space in which to breathe deeply and regroup, for the best experience, in my humble opinion, was still to come.

Our guests led us across the commons to the comparatively deserted entryway to The Three Broomsticks. Once inside, any semblance of the theme park or the Real World outside fell away. Even the patrons, seated for a family style lunch, could feel the difference, and spoke in lower, calmer voices as they took their meal. The place was tall, open and airy. You could look straight up through nearly five levels of construction to get to know the character of the building. All the trappings of a Witch’s and Wizard’s tavern were there, from antlers (fabulous antlers all … ) and other mythic hunting trophies, broomsticks to bulletin board offerings, graffiti and paper flyers, including Sirius Black’s famous Wanted poster. From the outdoor patio you could see straight up the hill to Hogwarts.

This was the feeling on which I had hoped to end my visit to WWOHP and I had ended up here due to the density of the crowds and the astute choices of our guides as to how to avoid more unwanted closeness.

And this is why I maintain that the crowds were the best asset I had that day. They created a situation in which the choices made led to truly magical experiences in fantastic environments, rather than too much money spent or disappointment after a large investment of time and hope. They led to something much more similar to the experiences all of Rowling’s characters would have had, rather than merely another theme park adventure.

If you are a Harry Potter fan in the least, WWOHP is worth going to, seeing, doing, and waiting in lines, if that is something you do well. I don’t, particularly, so I was grateful for the experience of off-campus life the way young Witches and Wizards in Rowling’s world might live it. It isn’t often that I come away from a theme park attraction deep in thought, and this, to me, is a good sign that those who built WWOHP made decisions and choices based on deep thoughts of their own.

It truly makes all the difference.

For more information, or to book a vacation, visit Universal Orlando’s Website!

ENOUGH Already, Step AWAY From The Camera!

I think the time has come to call an end to our greatest national embarrassment. No, I’m not talking about obesity rates among children, or the ever growing financial disparity between the very wealthiest Americans and the rest of us; rather, I am talking about TERRIBLE REMAKES/SEQUELS OF EXCELLENT FILMS.

To begin, I’ll say that yes, there have been, perhaps, a couple of fairly decent remakes/sequels created in the past decade or so. The Hills Have Eyes comes to mind. That really wasn’t any kind of tragedy by any stretch of the definition of the word. It was creepy and scary, upsetting, well acted, in short, good show, Alexandre Aja (who’s own claim to fame, Haute Tension, would have been WONDERFUL, if only the last 15 minutes or so had been chopped off) I shall never wander through the New Mexico desert alone, or with family, again! Additionally, and I’ll bet you avoided this one out of the sheer terror of its possible awfulness, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, was GOOD! I know you don’t believe me, and I don’t blame you. After all, we live in a world of abominations like American Psycho 2, which has the effect of making you want to locate a real world  Patrick Bateman, and hold him close whilst whispering “don’t worry, it’s not *really* American Psycho, they just used that name as a placeholder and forgot to change it!” But, really, give it a shot. The film is funny, well acted, well shot, and keeps in tune with the black comedy aspects of the first one very well. Why, if someone bought me CF2 on DVD, I would not want to shoot them in the face, and that’s saying something.

Enough with the niceties though,  we all know why we’re here. We’re here for films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, which, to be honest, hurt my eyes and my feelings, and The Wicker Man, need I even discuss this one? Sometimes, Americans decide to murder a foreign film or two. Something like Ju-on, which was creepy in Japanese, becomes an AWFUL almost laughable mess when Sarah Michelle Geller gets involved. Again, I will admit that Ringu, the original version of The Ring, was pretty terrible (pro tip for writers: when you hit a difficult plot point, psychic powers are NEVER a good way to write your way out of it!) and the American version had me afraid to go to the bathroom by myself for a good week, which is always a sign of a decent horror flick, but, on the whole, we like to destroy originals when recreating them for American audiences. I mean, Quarantine vs. REC, people, need I say more? So, where am I going with this? This morning, my bf and I wake up, as usual and go to our computers at which point he sends me a link to a Bad Ass Digest article which informs me that not only is the Martyrs remake going to happen, but, I shouldn’t worry because it’s going to have a HAPPY ENDING.

As Tommy Wiseau might do in this situation, I immediately clenched my fists, looked up to the heavens and screamed “I’m sick of this woooorrrrlllddd!”

Martyrs is a GREAT movie. A French horror film, released in 2008, there is NOTHING happy in this movie. Absolutely nothing. The whole thing is dark and ugly and brutal, but with a point and a purpose. It is tremendously well acted, well written, and riveting. It’s a film that could have easily fallen into the torture porn genre, except for the fact that it has an engrossing story and a point to make. You know what this film needs from America? TO BE WATCHED AND NOT REMADE. Leave this movie alone! PLEASE! Why do we insist on doing this? You know what? If you’re dying to see Martyrs with a happy ending, then what you really want to see is NOT MARTYRS. It’s some other hippy dippy film, which, great! Go see that! I LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes, but I’m not going to remake A Serbian Film until I can figure out a way to squeeze in a lovable Jessica Tandy! It’s just not right. If you want a happy ending, write your own film! You know what there’s a dearth of in America? ORIGINAL SCRIPTS! So, how about you WRITE ONE and leave the classics alone. Seriously, just step away from the camera, and sit down with a pen and some paper. It will do you, and the entertainment world in general, a world of good.

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