Aug 29, 2017

It's Halloween...I Guess?

For years now I've been grousing about how Christmas seems to be taking over store shelves earlier and earlier, even before Halloween has passed. Now, my social feeds are filling up with pics of Halloween merch in late August and I've been resistant to the idea.

Even Petco is getting in on the action
 To me, part of what makes each holiday special is that it's relegated to a specific time of the year. Growing up in Massachusetts I always associated Halloween with fall and the end of September. Christmas wasn't something you saw in stores until the day after Thanksgiving!

It's obvious why I don't want to see Christmas in stores before the end of October, but why don't I want to see Halloween in August? Some people will tell you too much is never enough and I sort of subscribe to that but only during the right time.

Hunting for Halloween stuff is part of my holiday fun, part of what makes the Halloween season. If the entire month of September is full of Halloween, what's to look forward to in October? You're left with big box stores that could be sold out that one cool thing you wanted or places like Home Goods where there will barely be a hint of Halloween by October 1st.

And, maybe worst of all, by October you've not only seen everything but it almost becomes passé because you've been seeing it for more than a month. There's no point in browsing the merch because you already know what you're going to find.


As Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, I'm calling the last Saturday in August the unofficial start of Halloween because that is when Yankee Candle releases their annual Halloween offerings. The start of the pre-game if you will.

As much as I'm, not in favor of the idea of things kicking off in late August, I have to admit there was a certain joy in spotting this Coke display.


That spider is pretty inspired!


Only 62 days til Halloween but if you're really needing to scratch that itch, you have to visit Dinosaur Dracula who has already started his Countdown to Halloween. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to the Purple Stuff Podcast.

I imagine generations down the road, there will just be one long holiday season from the end of August until January where kids that don't Trick or Treat won't get any gifts from Santa at midnight on December 31st.

Aug 23, 2017

Star Wars Kinder Suprise Eggs

This past weekend I visited my parents in my hometown, which may sound like a journey from my phrasing but really it's about a 60-90 minutes drive. Anyway, while walking around what's left of the local mall, we passed the big candy store. Not usually much to get excited about, until I saw some Kinder Surprise in the display window. 

That was pretty exciting on its own because I got a few many years ago and they toys were pretty neat. Until recently they were illegal in the US thanks to a 1938 law prohibiting the sale of any candy with an embedded toy or trinket. But then, among the display, I saw
Star Wars ones!


I went into the store and scanned the wall behind the registers where they keep the precious chocolate eggs with a surprise inside. Not only did they have the generic main brand but licensed ones like Barbie, Transformers (the current CGI cartoon version), and Scooby-Doo (tempting!). And then my eyes came to rest on the 24-count display box of Star Wars...

Empty!

I asked the girl at the counter if they had any more. They did not. I then nicely asked if they could sell the ones in the window. She went out back and checked, came back, and got them out of the display window for me.

Victory!

I unwrapped them and cracked the delicious chocolate eggs open.


Each one has a capsule inside holding the surprise. I'm guessing the capsule cuts down on the chance that someone doesn't bite into the egg and ingest small parts. Plus, they're made in such a way that they will not open on their own.

Here's what I got.


I wasn't expecting anything super fantastic but I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Sometimes the fun comes from actually finding something you weren't expecting to and the anticipation of what it could be.

 The clone trooper is an eraser. The Lando head is from a UK toy line called Wikkeez. I had to do a bit of Googling to figure that out as I couldn't find information on this specific wave of Kinder Eggs. But now that I'm looking at the paper that each came with, it does mention Wikkeez but it's not mentioned in any sort of context.

Wikkeez are similar to Crazy Bones from the 90s. Remember those? It's a game piece and you pretty much make up your own games to play, although they suggest a few to try.

Nothing against Lando, but out of the 20 Star Wars characters, I probably would prefer any other one. Even Wicket.

Aug 16, 2017

Creature Comfort Playing Cards

I love finding new playing cards on Kickstarter. The platform allows for people to make the things they want without business people getting in the way of things that might not sell at retail. This time around it's Creature Comfort playing cards designed by artist Don Moyer.


I knew I had to have this one once I started looking at the images on the Kickstarter page. It's got all kinds of weirdness going on. Click on the pic above to take a closer look at the card back design, it's pretty crazy! The deck was available with black or red backs. I like the black better because it looks like a bunch of bugs crawling around, even though most of the critters are something other than bugs.


In most decks of cards, you get repetition of design somewhere. Not here! Every card has a different being on it. That's pretty amazing to me because the artist had to design not only the pips but also came up with some face cards that wouldn't look out of place in an illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland.


Maybe it's a little easy to make that leap when one of the Kings is a walrus (goo-goo-goo-joob). The Kings are all enjoying their favorite Creature Comfort snack food. I kind of think the King of Spades looks a bit like Admiral Ackbar, don't you?

If you like this art, head over to Don's website and check out his other stuff, including some wild "Calamityware" dinner settings.

Aug 10, 2017

The Runaway Robot (1965)

Awhile back I got this book as a gift. It's been sitting in a pile of stuff I want to read and I finally decided to take it for a spin.


This is a Scholastic book from 1965. Let's stop and think about that for a second. The physical book that I have is over 50 years old! I bet the book itself has had quite a few adventures.

The cover right up there is the reason my stepdad picked this up for me in his travels. I mean, look at it. Retrofuturism at its best! There are quite a few versions of it that I'll scatter among the post but this is by far my favorite.

This isn't the blurb on my book but it's a better summary of the story:

The robot named Rex had been bought as a companion for Paul when the Simpsons decided to pioneer on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter...a rough, dangerous satellite where a small boy needed a strong, intelligent robot to protect him. By the time Paul is sixteen, they are inseparable. Robots, of course, have a personality leeway that gives each one a certain individuality within its pattered capacities - and Rex had a wonderful personality, with a logic quotient that allowed him to reason. But when the Simpson family is ordered back to Earth and Paul refuses to part with Rex, the robot plans to stow away on a spaceship to Earth - no easy feat, even for a robot with Rex's abilities. Thrilling chases in skimmers, through spaceports, and over the deserts of Mars are just the start of the problems for The Runaway Robot!


There is just something about 50s/60s scifi that's...I don't want to use words like quaint or simple. Maybe matter of fact? There's no techno-babble or long explanations about the hows or whys of the technology. The way everything is presented there's nothing flashy about it, it's all just this is how things are in everyday life and I love that about it.

In addition to the wonderful cover, there are a few chapter illustrations.


One of the things that makes this an interesting read is that the story is told completely from Rex's, the robot, point of view. He makes some interesting observations at times like that he knows things not because they were learned but because that's how he was programmed. One of the other things I really got a kick out of is the way he uses part names when talking about his eye or ears. Which of course makes total sense when you think about it. Over the course of his adventures with Paul, Rex becomes more than his programming and begins to understand what it's like to be human.

As you might guess, this is a story about friendship. I couldn't help but think that it was very much like a Lassie story. That is if Lassie were a humanoid, sentient robot.


Doing a bit of research on the book naturally lead me to Amazon to read reviews. Turns out, a lot of people read this when they were in grade school. For some it was their first chapter book or intro to science fiction and I think that's pretty cool. Because the book is over half a century old, I just presumed it was one of those random things that turn up at a flea market after someone cleaned out their attic and no one would remember it.

When I started the book I had no idea that I was going to be reading something that people have such fond memories of.

Also while poking around, I found just how much some people love the book in this great post where a fan of the book created this display piece. The post itself is worth checking out to read people's reactions/memories about the book.


If you're a fan of old sci-fi movies, it's worth checking out. While reading, I was picturing in my mind what the special effects would look like if it was a movie from the 60s. As cheesy as that may be, the story has some heart to it that I wouldn't necessarily expect.

You can sign up at Archive.org for a virtual library card and check the book out online or, using Adobe Editions, get a pdf that's good for two weeks. If you want physical media, you can snag a used copy from Amazon for under $5.


Not a fan of this cover.

Aug 7, 2017

Galactic Empire Invades Boston

Not so long ago in this very galaxy, there was a Kickstarter by some crazy guys calling themselves Galactic Empire. They play heavy metal versions of Star Wars themes while dressed as the bad guys. They sounded awesome and although I thought they'd get shutdown for legal reasons, I backed the project. I was pleasantly surprised when the project finished and I got the CD. Now, they are on the road, bringing their music to the masses.


There were three other bands that opened for them. The first two were local: Quick Machine (80s style rock and my fave of the three) and Without Warning (metal with a bit of prog mixed in, they covered Iron Maiden's The Trooper). The third band has been on the road with Empire and they're called Dangerkids. I think the term for their style is metalcore and while it's not something I'd seek out, they put on a hell of a show. It was a cross between what I always imagined an 80s punk show would be and 90s metal.

And then it was time to witness the power of a fully armed and operational metal station! I thought it would be fun to do a FB live video of their first song, the Main Title. FB Live was not designed for shooting in dimly lit clubs while on wifi apparently. Not only that, but it turned my landscape into portrait view during the feed which made me a little embarrassed. The video quality is not great but the audio is decent if you want to check it out.


The band was amazing. I have never yelled so much at a show where there were no lyrics to be sung. You may notice that their outfits kinda sorta look like the characters but are different. They did their own takes on the characters, not only to avoid legal trouble, but to make it easier to perform in them.

A Rebel spy is brought on stage and dealt with
 They did a couple bits during the set that were fun but mostly they played all the songs from their album. Dark Vader prefaced "Across the Stars", the love theme from Attack of the Clones, by saying "This song is very personal to me. It's about my love for Padme and my hatred of sand!"


This guy, Bass Commander, was my favorite. 
He had an incredible energy throughout the set and was constantly in motion.


During the show, a couple guys dressed as Jawas were moving through the crowd and rocking out. I'm pretty sure they weren't even with the band!


This video I shot with my camera and it came out much better than the live stream.

 
After the show, the guys came out (sans costumes) to meet people and I got them to sign my poster. I had to follow another guy around because I had no idea what they looked like out of costume! They were genuinely cool dudes who appreciated the fans.

The tour has wrapped but I highly recommend checking them out. Head over to their Facebook page to keep up with news and buy stuff. The album is totally worth it! I can only hope there is another.

There's a few more pics on Flickr if you're interested.

2017.08.05 - Galactic Empire

Aug 1, 2017

Monthly Movie Recap - July 2017

Last month I discovered a new streaming service thanks to my Tivo. It's called TubiTV (yes, there's an app for that!). They have free to watch movies and TV shows with ads. I think in this day and age, we forget there was a time when we had to sit through commercials to watch TV. Or maybe I'm just old!


Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Definite fun for all ages! While the kids will enjoy the animated antics, the grown-ups will enjoy the 80s soundtrack. Trey Parker is great as the former child star turned villain, Balthazar Bratt.

Cool: More Minion craziness
Lame: Why would you use a Madonna song for the final dance fight?

Rating: 7/10


XX (2017, Netflix)
A horror anthology with all four segments directed by women. Like any anthology, there's not much time to develop characters and you're sometimes left with more questions but overall I really enjoyed it. None of the shorts are like another subject-wise and most have an almost artsy style to them which is an interesting change in horror.

Cool: The first short, The Box, is amazing
Lame: The final story has very brief animal violence

Rating: 7/10


Arachnicide (2016, Amazon Prime and TubiTV)
Imagine the worst SyFy movie you've ever seen and somehow make it even more terrible. The movie's called Arachnicide but you have to sit through 50 minutes of military BS before you even see a spider! Once they do start fighting, there is about a 5 minute (feels longer) badly lit scene of soldiers shooting giant spiders.

Cool: The only possible redeeming thing about this would be some MST3K style fun if you start watching at the 51 minute mark
Lame: Horrible English dubbing, reusing same shots during a fight, awful day-for-night scenes

Rating: 2/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
If John Hughes made a teen superhero movie, it would probably be very similar to Homecoming. I can't say if it's my favorite, I'd have to go back and watch the first two McGuire movies, but I will say it's the most fun version of Spider-Man we've gotten.

Cool: I wasn't sure how I felt about the Stark tech suit but I love it and it totally makes sense in the MCU
Lame: I got nothin!

Rating: 8/10

Trolls (2016, Netflix) 
Further proof that if it's got Anna Kendrick singing and it's not Pitch Perfect, I"m probably going to be bored. Take the Smurfs, add music, replace Gargamel with a race of creatures that want to eat Trolls and you've just about got it. Yeah, there's some life lesson stuff along the way about being who you are and all that but it just wasn't for me. Kids will likely enjoy it though.

Cool/Lame: I was more interested in some of the supporting characters than the main characters

Rating: 4/10

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (2017, RealD 3D)
Since seeing the first trailer, I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to be able to put it with Star Wars and Guardians as a place to get lost in. On some level, it does that for me. I want to go there, I just want to hang out with anyone other than the main characters. I'll be checking out the comics this is based on because right now, the first issue is free on Kindle.

Cool: Visually, the movie is gorgeous. Lots of cool sci-fi stuff. I want to explore this universe.
Lame: The main characters aren't that interesting to me. Not only do they have little chemistry but I think they look like they could be related which makes the will they/won't they even more awkward.

Rating: 6/10 (8 for the world, 5 for the main characters/plot)


The Void (2016, Netflix, Amazon Prime)
I'd been seeing lots of people rave about this one so I checked it out not knowing anything about it other than some people hole up in a hospital and fight off cultists. It's a great 80s weird horror throwback that wouldn't feel out of place on VHS. If you like Lovecraft, Barker, and/or Carpenter, check this out!

Cool: Plenty of gooey bits. Love the weirdness of it all.
Lame: Some aren't a fan of how strange the ending gets but I think it just makes it better

Rating: 7.5/10,  a great non-Lovecraft Lovecraft flick

What have you seen recently that's worth checking out?

Month Total
 New: 7  Rewatch: 0

Year Total
 New: 36  Rewatch:3

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