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

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