Go Navy! Beat Army! Star Wars Style

As an Air Force officer, it’s really tough to take sides in the Army/Navy football battle our country participates in at this time each year. Being that I’m a huge Star Wars geek, though, I’m afraid I’ll have to root for Navy as gratitude for coming up with such a brilliant “spirit video” as the one that was uploaded this week in advance of the Army/Navy football game on December 12.

Spirit videos are a tradition at America’s service academies. Cadets and midshipmen let their creative juices flow on YouTube, showing off what’s great about their own service academies while (respectfully) ribbing their competition.

Midshipman First Class Rylan Tuohy is the creative force behind the Star Wars parody video, as well as numerous other professional-quality videos issued on behalf of the U.S. Naval Academy over the past several years

including this recent parody of the Air Force Academy, but I’ll forgive him.

Titled “STAR WARS at Navy”, this latest video takes the cake, bringing in the 3-star admiral superintendent of the Naval Academy as “Supe Solo” and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, as “CNO Kenobi”. The midshipmen who took on the rules of Luke, Leia, and especially R2D2 and C3PO did a great job taking on their respective roles. The middie portraying C3PO did the walk perfectly!

Viewers will see and hear references to “the 14” in this video, which is referring to Navy trying to beat Army in football for the 14th year in a row. Viewers may also recognize a few other inside jokes, such as a reference to Army West Point’s pillow fight scandal.

May the 14 be with you!

P.S.: In the interest of full disclosure, I just discovered the Army response to the video, in which you will hear a sound byte from the above Navy video (pretty sneaky, sis!). Check it out here.

‘Inside Out’ on Blu-ray: Pixar Makes it Clear Women Can Do Anything!

This week, Disney-Pixar’s latest creation, Inside Out, will be released on Blu-ray. The digital version was released through Disney Movies Anywhere on October 13th, with which you can buy the download on iTunes and Amazon. If you buy this movie you will not only enjoy a touching story of a pre-teen processing her emotions through several major life changes, but also the numerous bonus features.

Our family had a chance to get a sneak peek at the Blu-ray and digital download and really enjoyed the bonus features.

Continue reading ‘Inside Out’ on Blu-ray: Pixar Makes it Clear Women Can Do Anything!

We Bought Our Sons a New Gaming System…and a History Lesson

"Like" this post if you have ever used one of these! Image credit: Patricia Vollmer.
“Like” this post if you have ever used one of these! Image credit: Patricia Vollmer.

You’ve said it to your kids when they complain about how difficult life is. Go ahead…admit it.

“Back in my day, we had it hard!

“We walked uphill in a blizzard to school…both ways!”

“Your Dad and I had only seven TV channels! And if you missed your favorite show, you were doomed until the rerun came on!”

“If you didn’t rewind the video cassette rental before returning it, you were charged a fine!

Recently, my husband and I had heard some commentary from our 10- and 13-year-old sons about how primitive their Wii video game system is compared to their XBox 360. That seemed to spark quite a family conversation one evening.

Continue reading We Bought Our Sons a New Gaming System…and a History Lesson

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Diamond Edition Blu-Ray Honors Robin Williams

This coming week, Disney is releasing a time-honored classic through its Diamond Edition Blu-ray label. Aladdin, from 1992, is one of my husband’s and my favorite animated films and we were so excited to get to share the movie with our sons.

Yes. You heard right. Our 10- and 13-year-old sons hadn’t seen Aladdin till now. At least, not in its entirety. They’d seen several bits and pieces over the years as it was aired on Disney Channel and the Starz Network, but on Saturday night we all sat down to watch not just the movie itself, but also all of the extras featured on the Diamond Edition Blu-ray. Continue reading Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Diamond Edition Blu-Ray Honors Robin Williams

GeekMom Secret Origins: Our Weather Wizard, Patricia Vollmer

Boy, this post was a long time coming. I’ve been with GeekMom for 4 1/2 years and I’ve yet to summarize my geeky origin story for you…let’s remedy that, shall we?

I can think of numerous memories in my youth that I think contributed to my geekiness. Among my first memories is getting to see Star Wars in the theater with my parents in the late 1970s. I was a preschooler at the time, but remember, those were the days before the PG-13 rating, and there was a WIDE spectrum of what was appropriate for a PG movie back then. As a matter of fact, I went with my father to see all of the Star Wars original trilogy films in the theater.

Continue reading GeekMom Secret Origins: Our Weather Wizard, Patricia Vollmer

Can the Amazon Dash Button Change Your Household Forever?

Earlier this month, I had the chance to pick up a couple of those Amazon Dash buttons that the shopping website had first announced around April Fool’s Day (which definitely confused a lot of us!). At first, I was snickering at this concept, but admittedly, it might work out pretty well in our house. Continue reading Can the Amazon Dash Button Change Your Household Forever?

Can “Regular Show: The Movie” Cash in With Streaming?

Image credit: Turner Entertainment.
Image credit: Turner Entertainment.

Next week Turner Entertainment and Cartoon Network will be doing something unprecedented: it will release a full-length feature film for digital download ahead of a DVD release…and even further ahead of the film playing on Cartoon Network itself.

Continue reading Can “Regular Show: The Movie” Cash in With Streaming?

Good Idea or Bad Idea? Taking the Kids on an Anniversary Vacation

We couldn't bear to see Alaska and the Pacific Northwest without our sons, so we brought them on our anniversary celebration -- and we're so glad we did! Photo: Patricia Vollmer (with a selfie stick!)
We couldn’t bear to see Alaska and the Pacific Northwest without our sons, so we brought them on our anniversary celebration—and we’re so glad we did! Photo: Patricia Vollmer (with a selfie stick!).

Earlier this month, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Well over a year prior, we had decided to plan a very nice trip for our anniversary. Since we had such a wonderful experience with our 2012 Disney cruise, we made reservations for a Disney cruise to Alaska. Continue reading Good Idea or Bad Idea? Taking the Kids on an Anniversary Vacation

Need to Visit My 50th State: North Dakota

North Dakota, inspire me. Image: Wikimedia Commons by user TUBS via CC BY-SA 3.0
North Dakota, inspire me. Image: Wikimedia Commons by user TUBS via CC BY-SA 3.0

This summer my family and I have done quite a bit of travel. In fact, we recently wrapped up an Alaskan cruise that included driving from Colorado to our cruise port in Vancouver, British Columbia. And back. At the tune of 1500 miles and 2 days in each direction.

There were numerous benefits to our driving instead of flying to include the cost savings and the ability to be liberal with our packing since we didn’t have to pay extra to check luggage for a flight. Obviously driving took more time but we looked forward to seeing a new part of the country: the Pacific Northwest.

The most appealing reason for my husband and me was the chance to “check off” more states. Before the road trip, my husband had been to 48 of our 50 states (all but Oregon and Alaska), while I had been to 47 of them.

Continue reading Need to Visit My 50th State: North Dakota

Geeky States of America: Bishop Castle, Near Pueblo, CO

Bishop Castle is tucked back in Colorado's Wet Mountains. The nearest large city is Pueblo. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Bishop Castle is tucked way back in Colorado’s Wet Mountains. The nearest large city is Pueblo. This doesn’t stop hundreds of visitors from paying homage to Jim Bishop’s creation every day. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

In July my family and some friends took a camping trip into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado. We were near the northernmost part of the range, and our family’s plans included hiking in the mountains, as well as a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park near the town of Alamosa.

On the drive back from the camping trip, our family took a detour to a place known as Bishop Castle, tucked deep in the Colorado backcountry, along the ridge topping the Wet Mountains west of Pueblo, Colorado.

I hadn’t heard of Bishop Castle, and my girlfriend said, “You have to see this place, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” She also prepared us for the weirdness that was forthcoming, “Don’t expect the Biltmore or anything like that.”

So we made the drive through the incredibly-windy Colorado Route 165, expecting a quiet, pretty castle in the woods.


Do You Trust Your Kids?

Out of nowhere, the road became clogged with parked vehicles and families walking along the very skinny shoulder of the road. We passed numerous hand-painted signs, such as this one:

Here is the sign announcing our arrival. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Here is the sign announcing our arrival. The smaller words at the bottom read, “Open to the Public on a Donation Basis.” Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

We parked the vehicles, unloaded the kids and our dog, and headed in.

The first thing visitors see is an honest-to-goodness drawbridge, gate, and moat! Unfortunately, that area is heavily wooded and it was tough to get a good photograph of it. You cannot raise or lower the drawbridge, but it wasn’t difficult to walk around it.

On the other side of the drawbridge is a clearing with the castle.

A full view of Bishop Castle. Note the people all over the catwalks. I'll get to that momentarily. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
A full view of Bishop Castle. Note the people all over the catwalks. I’ll get to that momentarily. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
I called this the hamster ball. Visitors can climb up one of the turrets to enter the ball. I didn't make the trip up, nor did anyone in my family. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
I called this the hamster ball and it’s about 60′ high over the ground. Visitors can climb up one of the turrets to enter the ball. I didn’t make the trip up, nor did anyone in my family. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Bishop Castle is private property, but has invitations throughout the area for visitors to explore the castle. There are also warnings that visitors are exploring the property at their own risk.

There are handmade wrought-iron catwalks all over the exterior of the castle, and people can walk all over it. Knowing everything is handmade was somewhat nerve-wracking, but I explored some of the areas. My husband, sons, and dog remained firmly on the ground.

The interior is very rough-hewn, and there is evidence everywhere of the handmade nature of the castle.

The interior of the main hall of Bishop Castle.
The interior of the main hall of Bishop Castle. All of the iron work seen here was handmade. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
An upward view of one of the turret staircases. The steps are tiny, and two adults have a hard time passing each other on these steps. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Can you see me? I’m in a very open opening in one of the turrets. With little more than a single horizontal bar keeping me safe. Photo: C.P. Keyser.

The castle is empty, and there are numerous areas still under construction, or else undergoing repairs. There are safety hazards everywhere! Parents need to keep an eye on younger children, and I saw dozens of very young children exploring.

Bishops Castle is a good place for a conversation about repurposing. The dragon's head is made from repurposed stainless steel warming plates that was discarded from a Pueblo, Colorado hospital. The top of the head sits 80' above the ground! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Bishops Castle is a good place for a conversation about repurposing. The dragon’s head is made from repurposed stainless steel warming plates that was discarded from a Pueblo, Colorado hospital. The top of the head sits 80′ above the ground! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Bishop Castle is a combination of creepiness and danger, but once you understand some of the story behind the castle, you too will find it worth checking out if you’re ever in southern Colorado.

Jim Bishop’s Dream

The castle wasn’t supposed to be a castle. Jim Bishop, an ironworker, had purchased 2 1/2 acres of land as a teen, and over the years worked on making the land a summer getaway location for his family. Bishop’s affinity for ornamental ironwork and architecture, along with the natural resources of the area (in other words, endless rocks!) made a small cabin project bloom into the castle visitors can enjoy today.

Jim Bishop’s dreams haven’t gone completely smoothly, though. He encountered numerous confrontations with federal and local authorities, between his use of rock from the nearby San Isabel National Forest (federal lands), to his posting of homemade signs on the local highways inviting visitors to see the castle. In 1996 the state made up official signs helping bring visitors to the castle.

Plan Your Visit

Even the locals know it’s a must-see for families, whether native to Colorado or just visiting. Once you arrive at the castle, allow at least one hour to visit, which includes a stroll through the eccentric gift shop.

If you’re lucky, you might see Jim Bishop himself sitting on the property. He’s happy to talk to anyone about his view about federal government (which I won’t get into here). However, he was recently diagnosed with cancer, so his appearances have been more scarce than in recent years.

Bishop Castle is located on Colorado State Highway 165 near the town of Rye, Colorado. Visitors can easily reach the attraction via I-25 exits 71 or 74. There is no admission fee, but there are donation locations throughout the property. The donations help with the Bishop Family’s legal fees and their non-profit foundation for newborns. On weekends someone sets up a hot dog stand, with meals for $3-5. Visitors need to parallel park along Highway 165, so be careful when taking children in and out of vehicles.

‘Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season’ Offers Nearly 10 Hours of Fun!

Image credit: Cartoon Network Enterprises.
Image credit: Cartoon Network Enterprises.

This week, my family and I had the chance to check out Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season on Blu-ray, which was released this week through major entertainment retailers. Unlike the 26 episodes in previous seasons I had reviewed, the fifth season includes 52 episodes of Pendleton Ward’s pop culture phenomenon.

It takes some mental adjusting to fully realize what “Season Five” actually includes. The season spanned 16 months, between November 2012 and March 2014. After watching the first couple of episodes, I realized that I had seen the majority of these episodes on DVD already through Cartoon Network’s other Adventure Time compilation releases, such as Jake the Dad, Frost & Fire, and Finn the Human (all of which I had reviewed over the past couple years).

My Adventure Time fan is very excited to have the complete fifth season. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My Adventure Time fan is very excited to have the complete fifth season. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

That being said, this is my first Adventure Time Blu-ray review (as opposed to DVD), and the difference is quite evident on my television. The colors are more brilliant and the sound is clearer.

In addition to the 52 episodes, Adventure Time fans will especially enjoy the two extras. First of all, the 15-minute documentary Adventure Time Forever is a series of interviews with artists and writers about the journey into Adventure Time’s popularity. In addition, fans will enjoy the animatic clips of all of the episodes, in which storyboard panels are played along with the original soundtracks. Both extras offer a fun glimpse into the creative process.

Nearly 10 hours of Finn and Jake should satiate anyone’s appetite. Don’t worry, the series has been renewed through Season 8 so there’s plenty more fresh adventures to come! Enjoy a clip to learn more about the Fifth Season release:

In summary, the complete season 5 release is somewhat underwhelming when so many of the episodes had already been included in other DVD releases, but to have them available on Blu-ray provides true Adventure Time fans with the beauty and clarity you don’t see on a DVD. My youngest son had lamented that we can’t take the Blu-ray discs on our upcoming road trip to play in the vehicle’s DVD player.

Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season is a two-disc Blu-ray or DVD set and has a run time of 572 minutes. The set will included an Ultraviolet Digital HD download code which works with the Flixster app for iOS and Android devices. The set is available at major entertainment retailers for an MSRP of $39.99 for Blu-ray and $29.97 for DVD. It will make a great gift for the Adventure Time fan in your life!

GeekMom received a copy of this product for review purposes.

JBL’s Splashproof Charge 2+ Bluetooth Speaker Perfect for Summer Fun

Image: Patricia Vollmer.
Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Just in time for summer, our family received a JBL Charge 2+ bluetooth speaker to check out. Having had experiences with the JBL Flip and Charge speakers already, we were no strangers to this compact sound system’s great sound quality and versatility.

However, this time around we had a couple extra features to check out. Let’s explore a little more, shall we?

What Comes in the Box

  • Charge 2+ speaker
  • 40″ USB charging cable
  • A/C Adapter for USB cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety instructions
Connecting the Charge 2+ wirelessly is easier than ever! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Connecting the Charge 2+ wirelessly is easier than ever! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

General Usage

Setup for these speakers has been becoming more straightforward over the years, and connecting my iPhone 5S to the Charge 2+ was easier than ever. Simply hit the Bluetooth logo button on the top of the speaker and consult your device’s Bluetooth settings to look for “JBL Charge 2+” to connect.

If Bluetooth isn’t an option for your device, you can use an auxiliary cable to connect any phone, iPod-type player, or computer to the speaker and still enjoy the Charge 2+’s sound.

With the connection in place, you can now explore the Charge 2+’s sound capability. Turn up the volume for some awesome bass, and check out the JBL Bass Radiators on the ends: they pulse with the bass beat. Volume can be controlled either via your device or on the speaker itself.

In addition to using the Charge 2+ for tunes, it can also function as a speaker for your cell phone. Use the telephone icon button on the top to answer phone calls or transfer your phone’s speaker to the Charge 2+.

Finally, as the speaker’s name implies, the Charge 2+ can also charge your devices. Use your device’s USB charging cable and plug it into the USB female port in the back of the unit. The Charge 2+ has a 6000mAH lithium-ion battery can support up to 12 hours of playback (at a lower volume), so there is plenty of juice to spare for charging. I plugged in my iPhone 5S at 59% and it had charged up to 95% in one hour (I had turned off all apps on the phone and wasn’t playing music on the Charge 2+…although one can simultaneously play music and charge devices).

New Feature: Social Mode

JBL’s new “Social Mode” feature allows up to three devices to be connected to a single Charge 2+ speaker. There’s a button on top that needs to be pressed before connecting the multiple devices; otherwise the speaker will kick any additional devices off.

Multiply your playlists: The Social Mode button allows for up to three Bluetooth-enabled devices to connect to the JBL Charge 2+. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Multiply your playlists: The Social Mode button allows for up to three Bluetooth-enabled devices to connect to the JBL Charge 2+. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Hold down the button until it illuminates, then invite your friends to join you in playing from multiple playlists!

I tried this feature out by connecting my iPhone 5S, my MacBook Pro laptop, and my son’s Motorola Droid Turbo. We took turns taking over each others’ playlists, with my son choosing Green Day’s “Holiday” versus my Eminem and Katy Perry. At first we were just hitting “play” on our respective devices over and over again, which was some silly fun.

When we let one of the songs play for a minute or so, it was taken over abruptly by other things. My iPhone took over the Charge 2+ when I received a text message, which made a sound. When the TweetDeck app on my MacBook received a new Tweet, it beeped and hence took over the speaker. Users will need to keep this in mind for the Social Mode to work smoothly.

Another thing to know about the Social Mode: the Charge 2+ will play based on each device’s own volume settings. So when users first set up their respective playlists, they should agree on a volume. Ideally, each device should have maximum volume; use the Charge 2+ volume for the master control.

Battle of the Playlists! While Social Mode can be cool for multiple smartphones, when my laptop was added to the mix, however, every time my Tweetdeck tweeted it would take over the speaker. Oops. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Battle of the Playlists! While Social Mode can be cool for multiple smartphones, when my laptop was added to the mix, every time my Tweetdeck tweeted it would take over the speaker. Oops. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

“Splashproof”, Not “Waterproof”

The Charge 2+ features “splashproof” operation. What this means is it can operate near water, but not in water. For example, if someone towels off poolside and drips on the speaker, it’s fine. If you want to have the speaker at the beach, that also shouldn’t be a problem. I was even willing to take it into the shower, so long as the shower stream wasn’t directly spraying onto the Charge 2+.

However, do not try to submerge the speaker altogether. This is not designed for underwater listening.

"Splashproof" operation means the JBL Charge 2+ can operate near water, but not in the water. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
“Splashproof” operation means the JBL Charge 2+ can operate near water, but not in the water. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

We took our Charge 2+ near our hot tub on a chilly evening earlier this spring. Since my husband has a Lifeproof case on his iPhone 4S, he was able to take his phone into the hot tub and control the speaker from within. Being able to listen to tunes and control things from within the hot tub was a lot of fun.

We had to be extra careful not to let the speaker fall into the hot tub altogether.

Get enough friends together (with splashproof cases, of course) and you can enable the Social Mode and have a fun music party in the pool, the beach, or the hot tub. Summertime just got a lot more fun!

In addition to the standard black and white, the Charge 2+ comes in a variety of additional fun colors, such as red, orange, green, blue, and pink. With these additional new features, the Charge 2+’s price is no more than the Charge 2 that’s on the market currently, with an MSRP of $149.99. The JBL Charge 2+ is sold at major electronics retailers and online through the JBL-Harman website (where, as of this writing, it’s on sale for $119.99) or Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Create Your Own ‘Kaiju’ in the July 7th Google Doodle

Image: Google.com
Image: Google.com

The July 7th Google Doodle gives props to cinematic history, offering up a game to celebrate Eiji Tsuburaya’s 114th birthday.

Perhaps you’re wondering, “Who is Eiji Tsuburaya?” That’s a very good question.

Tsuburaya is the father of kaiju movies, featuring the giant monsters that crush cities, destroy shipping ports, and wreaks havoc throughout Japan.

Everyone has seen evidence Tsuburaya’s work, from the multiple reboots of the Godzilla movies, to the Power Rangers movie, even to (one of my favorites!) Beastie Boys’ ‘Intergalactic’ music video!

Upon hitting the “Play” arrow on the Doodle, you will enter Eiji Tsuburaya’s studio and be given 10 tasks to help him make his movie. Glue together sets, string actors up on harnesses, and help the puppets stomp out vehicle and tank props. I haven’t been very good at the game, and to do the whole thing you need 3-4 minutes of time as each task loads up. But you could the team who put it together had a great time honoring this cinematic pioneer.

Becky Cloonan Talks ‘Gotham Academy’… Then We Pondered What Happened to Grocery Store Comics

Image credit: J. Vollmer
Image credit: J. Vollmer

During Denver Comic Con, I had the opportunity to meet up and chat with the awesome Becky Cloonan, co-writer of the DC Universe series Gotham Academy, which returned last week after a late-spring break. On June 23, the first six issues are being released as the Volume 1 trade edition, and will be available both in hard copy and online at comic and book retailers everywhere.

Cloonan is known for numerous other titles with DC Comics, such as being the first female Batman artist in 2012. We had a fun conversation that covered a wide variety of topics. Read on to hear what she has to say about developing Gotham Academy.

GeekMom Patricia: Gotham Academy is a comic that is meant to run in parallel with other DC Comic story arcs. Tell me more about how that works.

Becky Cloonan: Yes, Gotham Academy is running in continuity. We’re part of the larger Batman universe. Being in continuity has a lot of perks, but it also is kind of difficult because DC hadn’t run a lot of YA before. So we’re running into some situations that I don’t think people have had to previously worry about. While the individual issues are still coming out monthly, I think issues 1-6 coming out in trade format as Volume 1 in June is how the story is going to live on. As an example of a continuity challenge, currently Batman is a robot. Let’s say that in Gotham Academy #8, Batman shows up as a robot. Then someone who’s reading Volume 2 [where issue #8 will appear in trade] might wonder why Batman is a robot. Do we want to tell our readers, “Read these comics if you want to know more about why Batman is a robot?”

GMP: I’ve seen that type of thing before in comics.

The cover of Gotham Academy #3, which shows that kids will be kids. Image: DC Comics.
The cover of Gotham Academy #3, which shows that kids will be kids. Image: DC Comics.

BC: Right, but in our case, those other comics might not necessarily be age-appropriate. Or what if a reader isn’t interested in those particular comics? So the question becomes, “How ‘in-continuity’ do we keep it?” Do we worry about it or can we elegantly tiptoe around it or do we just ignore it completely?

We are having those discussions right now, regarding whether we keep this book in continuity, or can we keep it as canon?

GMP: That’s very interesting, but I have to admit, I had never given continuity that much thought.

BC: It is very interesting. You will have some readers who are really into it. Someone might be comparing Arkham Manor with the story arcs in Gotham Academy [which are in continuity] and point out where things don’t match. Some of the younger Gotham Academy readers probably aren’t, or shouldn’t be, reading Arkham Manor as well.

GMP: It seems continuity is a very important, very serious consideration.

BC: Yes. We want to maintain it, while keeping the audience in mind. I think Gotham Academy potentially could be a lot of people’s first comics or books. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Gotham Academy is my first comic! Thank you!”

It’s great to hear, but then you have the responsibility of this book being someone’s first comic. And I remember my first comic…

GMP: What was your first comic?

BC: Silver Surfer Annual #1 from 1988. My dad bought it for me at the grocery store and it was about the Super-Skrull that could change shape. And there was this huge war that I found so fascinating, and so I got into Kree-Skrull politics at this very young age.

GMP: I think mine was more the order of Betty and Veronica, but similarly, my dad bought it for me at a grocery store or a five-and-dime.

BC: See, we’re dating ourselves now…

GMP: You’re right! We don’t see that anymore, do we? It’s almost exclusively the comic book retailers that are carrying the most recent editions.

BC: Yes, and that’s why the trades are so important. That’s what’s going into the bigger bookstores and libraries. A lot of kids won’t be able to get to a comic book store. When I was growing up, my local comic book store was a 20- to 25-minute drive. I couldn’t get comics on a regular basis until I was 16, when I had a part-time job and could fund my habit.

GMP: I’m grateful for the ability to download the latest issues on our tablets. My younger son is the bigger comic book fan among my two sons, while my oldest hadn’t read much lately because he has to balance the books he has to read for school.

BC: Part of the fun of Gotham Academy is that it is a school. We spend quite a bit of time thinking about what they’re studying. There are a lot of literature references in the story.

We were trying to think of good books to put on a new character’s desk in issue #8, the guidance counselor’s desk. I suggested Turn of the Screw because of the numerous parallels with Gotham Academy: the ghosts, the boarding school, and the supernatural.

GMP: Oh! That’s fantastic! I had to read that in high school.

BC: I believe I read it in a Gothic literature class in college. Thematically, it’s a perfect fit in Gotham Academy.

GMP: I noticed on the DC Comics website that Gotham Academy is considered “All Ages.” Do you think it is?

BC: Well, I don’t necessarily consider Gotham Academy a children’s comic. But younger and older audiences alike will enjoy it.

GMP: My last question is about the strong female characters. I came across one strong female after another, from Maps [Mizoguchi] to Olive [Silverlock] to Pomeline [Fritch]. I’m curious about the, for lack of better terms, consciousness that goes into creating such characters. In other words, do you develop the characters and then say, “This one should be a female” or “This one should be male?”

BC: For this book in particular, I always knew Olive would be the main character, and Olive would be a girl. And she would have a foil in Maps. Ultimately, this comic is about Olive and Map’s friendship, facing adversity together, and helping one another grow.

It wasn’t a conscious decision for me, and I know that Brenden [Fletcher, co-writer] and Karl [Kerschl, artist] tend to gravitate towards female leads as well. I’ve written about male characters as well, but in this case, I had a female in mind all along from when I pitched it to Mark Doyle [Cloonan’s editor].

GMP: Thank you so much for sharing some of the behind-the-scenes glimpses of what it’s like as a comic writer. The continuity challenge you face is incredibly fascinating to me, and I hope our readers find it interesting also.

BC: You’re welcome. This is kind of new to me also, since I had been an artist for writers for several years, and now I’m on the other side, writing for artists. This is my first time in the DC Universe as a writer, so this is new territory for me.

After a break this past spring, Gotham Academy is back now with #7 in your local comic book stores or online. Do you need to catch up? On June 23, the trade volume becomes available with issues #1-6 in its entirety, as well as over 20 pages of variant cover art, scripts, a closeup on the logo, and artists’ first sketches. I had the chance to check out the full volume and my sons and I really enjoyed it. The hard-copy volume will retail for $14.99 at booksellers such as Amazon, and the electronic versions will be available for $11.99 either in Kindle format or else through DC Comics online or Comixology.

GeekMom received media access to Denver Comic Con, as well as a sample of Gotham Academy Vol. 1, for review purposes.

Lego Announces Release Date for Fan-Designed ‘Big Bang Theory’ Set

Image credit: Lego.com
Image credit: ideas.lego.com

This week Lego announced an August 1st release date for the much-anticipated Big Bang Theory set, which was submitted and voted upon through Lego’s Cuusoo project*.

Earlier this month, Lego released preview images from the set, revealing everything from Howard’s smirky face to Raj’s dog, Cinnamon. Fans will enjoy all the details embedded throughout the set, between the Chinese food containers, one of Howard’s unique belt buckles (the press release photos are showing a game controller buckle), and the equation-filled white board.

Who do we need to thank for such creativity? Alatariel from Sweden and Glen Bricker from the USA, who both have submitted numerous other designs through Lego Ideas, came up with this great design that Lego is now bringing to life.

The set is expected to retail for $59.99.

*The Lego Cuusoo program was re-designated the “Lego Ideas” project about one year ago. Any Lego fan can design and submit ideas through the Lego Ideas website. Simply create an account, assemble a set, take lots of good photos, and garner support. You need 10,000 votes for the set to move on to the Lego review phase. With the Lego Ideas account, you can also browse submitted ideas and vote for your favorites. If your set is chosen to go into production, you can expect to earn 1% from sales.

Jimmy & Amanda Talk ‘Starfire’, ‘Harley Quinn’… and Harley-Davidsons at Denver Comic Con

A Gang of Harleys for Jimmy & Amanda! Photos: Patricia Vollmer.
A gang of Denver Comic Con Harleys for Jimmy amd Amanda! Photos: Patricia Vollmer.

One of the highlights of my Denver Comic Con weekend was the time I spent with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, the writers for DC Comics’ Harley Quinn and the upcoming return of Starfire.

I had the chance to see the sneak peek of Starfire, with issue #1 coming out on June 10, and was excited to talk to Jimmy and Amanda about it. I also got the chance to sneak in a couple of questions about the immensely popular Harley Quinn, whose series is resuming this week. Did I mention that Harley Quinn was DCC’s most-popular cosplay character all weekend?

Starfire #1: June 10

We started our conversation discussing the Starfire reboot that’s coming out on June 10. Frankly, I’m not sure “reboot” is the right word, since her backstory isn’t necessarily being rewritten. Instead, the writers plan to feature the alien warrior princess, who will go by Kori (a variation of Koriand’r), trying to adapt to normal human life in a trailer park on Key West. All the while, she continues to figure out her place in society and the part she can play in improving it. They gave several examples of how readers might enjoy Starfire’s adventures trying to be human.

  • Realizing that wearing clothing is what civilized people do.
  • Understanding how certain foods are eaten. Jimmy cited an example of Starfire trying to eat a watermelon like an apple, simply taking a bite out of it.
  • Social customs: Look for Kori enjoying drinks in a bar that were purchased by numerous suitors. She learns that it’s customary to at least engage in conversation with the suitors.

Jimmy made it clear that this new version will be designed for readers who had never read about Starfire in previous stories. Amanda pointed out that fans of Starfire on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go! will appreciate this new version of her, with the bubbly personality and charm. Fans will also see the extreme emotions, another thing that Starfire will need to learn to adapt to human interaction.

Fans will quickly see Kori called to action as a natural disaster strikes Key West within the first two issues, and she learns that she can’t simply stop some of these afflictions on her new friends.

We discussed the strong female characters that will be introduced in the first several issues, such as Sheriff Stella Gomez, who will take Starfire under her wing, helping her adjust to life among the humans on Key West, and will mentor her through the first issues’ conflicts. Stella’s brother will be a character worth watching for, a Coast Guard officer who will get to know Kori during the natural disaster of the first couple issues.

Geography was a theme during our interview, particularly with the challenges and new frontiers of pulling a DC character out of Metropolis or Gotham and having adventures in real locations. Jimmy and Amanda pointed out the research that’s required to do that, as well as the differences readers will encounter having settings on Key West as opposed to the urban settings in most of the DC Universe.

Starfire #1 comes out on June 10, and you can download the sneak peek now through the DC Comics website. I hope you’re as excited for it as I am!

Harley Quinn returns with #17 : June 10

Our discussion of geography was a perfect segue into talking about Jimmy and Amanda’s Harley Quinn coming out of Gotham and setting up operations on Coney Island. By taking her out of Gotham, she is able to really establish her own identity, without the influence of other characters’ story arcs that might have been occurring in parallel.

My friend's daughter who was at DCC at Harley. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.
My friend’s daughter was at DCC as Harley. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.

The specific question I had about geography came from a young fan I know, “Why did you remove Harley from Gotham?” Jimmy made it clear that taking her out of Gotham allows him and Amanda to really develop her character. I loved Jimmy’s analogy: “It’s like having a new boyfriend, but the only time you interact with him is with the rest of his family. You have to go out of town with your boyfriend to really get to know him.” He felt that keeping her in Gotham would keep her adventures restricted to those that also involve the Joker, Batman, Catwoman, and so forth.

I asked about any challenges with having Harley among true locations in New York City. Amanda couldn’t emphasize enough how perfect it is to have Harley in a building with a freak show on Coney Island (and I agree!). Jimmy was grateful for the support and creative liberties DC Comics had given them, and the writing duo has had a field day developing her character into someone who can do more than just foil Batman. I especially enjoy the good this new Harley is trying to do for her community.

Another question I had from my friend was about Harley’s roller derby costume. Amanda claimed the roller derby storyline is her fault… and it all stems from her having some fun with the costume design. The story followed. There was a request from DC Comics that Harley remain somewhat true to her original appearance from the New 52 Suicide Squad from 2011. However, Amanda wanted to experiment with her appearance for their own relaunch on Issue #1. She changed the colors back to black and red, added shoulder pads, and thought to herself, “It looks like she belongs in a roller derby!”

After a springtime break, Harley Quinn—and her newly hired Gang of Harleys—returns in Harley Quinn #17 on June 10.

How About a Gang of Harleys on Harleys?

At the end of the interview, we discussed the numerous Harley Quinn cosplayers at Denver Comic Con, and Jimmy said he’s hoping one day to see a gang of Harleys… riding on Harleys!

Obviously, you can’t have an official Harley Quinn Harley-Davidson without some licensing (such as what Marvel did for Captain America and Black Widow), but Jimmy thinks a “Harley Harley” would be perfect. He plans to keep his eye out for custom bikes!

Blast Into Summer With Nerf’s Latest!

Our sampling of Nerf summer products! Summer arrived quite literally on June 1st here in Colorado Springs. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Our sampling of Nerf summer products. Summer arrived on June 1st here in Colorado Springs. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My sons were thrilled when a box full of Nerf products appeared at our door about three weeks ago. We unpacked a Mega BigShock blaster, Zombie Strike Flip Fury blaster, the FireVision Ignite flying disc, and a Super Soaker Flash Flood water gun.

Sadly, while those east of the Mississippi were enduring a pretty incredible heat wave, we here on the front range of the Rockies were dealing with cold, wet conditions. Our neighborhood had accumulating hail, record rains, and an average temperature of only 52.3F. Yikes!

It wasn’t until this past weekend that my sons were able to truly break out their new blasters and give them a whirl.

My oldest son quickly claimed the Mega BigShock. This is his first blaster that takes the large red “Mega” darts, and he is thrilled to finally have one! Included with the blaster itself are two whistler darts, and my son wasted no time buying himself a package of dart refills with his own money.

The Mega BigShock blaster is small but packs a punch! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
This little guy can send its darts across the length of our backyard (80 feet) and even over the fence! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My youngest son took the FireVision Ignite flying disc out for a spin. Literally! This flying disc is a standard size, but has a battery pack tucked into the back. The disc comes with three A76 batteries ready to go (pull out the protective tab before turning on), and you have a disc that lets you play in low light conditions. I could see this being a perfect thing for an evening on the beach, nighttime tailgates, and good old-fashioned summer play as the sun sets.

My youngest son shows off the Nerf FireVision Ignite flying disc in its well-lit glory. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My youngest son shows off the Nerf FireVision Ignite flying disc in its well-lit glory. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Nerf’s Super Soaker FlashFlood hits victims with a double-whammy of water: Out of the same 23 oz. reservoir, there’s a bottom pump that fires off a traditional stream of water, but you can also use a top launcher that blasts your opponents with a “flash flood” of water. Or, as my son said, “A whole mess of water!” The streams are advertised to travel nearly 40 feet, and my oldest son, who claimed the FlashFlood as his own, proclaimed that he thinks it works as advertised.

The Nerf Super Soaker FlashFlood water blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Nerf Super Soaker FlashFlood water blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Nerf's Zombie Strike Flipfury double-revolver dart blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Nerf’s Zombie Strike Flipfury double-revolver dart blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Finally, there’s the Nerf Flipfury dart blaster, the company’s latest in the immensely popular Zombie Strike line. My youngest son enjoys the Flipfury, which holds 12 of the traditional Nerf blaster darts in two 6-dart revolver drums. The double triggers look bewildering at first, but you will fire the darts with the top trigger, and use the bottom trigger to flip the revolvers back and forth. The darts travel fast and far, routinely exceeding the 80-foot length of our backyard.

My son’s feedback on the blaster is that loading was easy, and he has yet to experience any dart jams. He’s happy with it.

So where can you get your own Nerf blasters and flying discs? Look no further than your local big box retailer or online through outlets such as Toys ‘R Us or Amazon. To sum up:

– The Mega BigShock is small in size, includes two whistling “Mega” darts, and retails for $7.99.
Nerf’s FireVision Ignite flying disc lights up for fun evening play with an MSRP of $14.99.
– The Super Soaker FlashFlood allows for traditional water gun play with a flash flood option to really soak your opponents. It retails for $19.99.
– The Zombie Strike Flipfury has a double barrel revolver feature that lets users carry double the dart load, with an MSRP of $19.99.

GeekMom was provided with samples of these products for review purposes.

Denver Comic Con DIY Cosplay: ‘Big Hero 6’

Not perfect, but it'll work. My older son's Megabot prop to use at Denver Comic Con this weekend.
Not perfect, but it’ll work. My older son’s Megabot prop for Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Last month, our family had a fun time with costume preparations for our Big Hero 6-themed family cosplay for Denver Comic Con. While most of our parts were commercial-off-the-shelf purchases from places like Amazon and our local craft store, some of our items had to be homemade. I used a Pinterest board to collect all of the ideas we found.

For a refresher on the looks we were trying to achieve with our sons, check out our inspiration pictures for Hiro and Fred.

Iron-On T-shirts

With the help of some iron-on printer paper, I made the T-shirts with simple $5 T-shirts from our local hobby store.

Iron-on printer paper is a godsend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
Iron-on printer paper is a godsend. We were also pleased with Fred’s pendant. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Fred’s Pendant

The green pendant around our Fred’s neck is homemade from Fimo clay. It turned out really well; bright and sturdy. I used plastic lacing for the cord.

Fred's pendant. It's not precisely the same, but I'm very pleased with how similarly it turned out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred’s pendant. It’s not precisely the same, but I’m very pleased with how similarly it turned out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Fred’s Knit Cap

I’m afraid time got the better of me for Fred’s knit cap. I found some great hand-crocheted ideas online, and bought some some blue-green yarn. But then, I got diverted—and diverted again… and again… and again.


I ended up not starting on the knit cap until mid-week just before the con, and I feverishly finished it about 12 hours before we headed out the door!

Hiro’s Megabot

Our older son asked about whether we could buy a toy Megabot to carry around the con. He asked this question about two weeks prior to the event, and some basic interneting yielded no such toys. We saw a cute Megabot flash drive, but it ships from China, so there was no way we’d get it in time. We saw numerous ideas for making homemade Megabot props out of paper, styrofoam, or Fimo clay.

We didn’t trust the paper or foam versions lest it gets destroyed during the con, so we tried our hands at the Fimo clay version, with guidance from this Spanish-language video we found on YouTube.

Rolling out the Megabot body and limbs. Pro tip: Do what you require with the lightest colors first, then work with the black clay. As you can see, we did everything in reverse and spent a lot of time scrubbing our hands before handling the white and yellow clay. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My son assembles the Megabot, using wooden kabob skewers as supports. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Not perfect, but it'll work. My older son's Megabot prop to use at Denver Comic Con this weekend.
Not perfect, but it’ll work. My older son’s Megabot prop for Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The Final Result

Fred and Hiro ready to enjoy Denver Comic Con! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred and Hiro ready to enjoy Denver Comic Con! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Dr. Callaghan

My husband pondered quite a bit about how to fit in with our family theme. We started investigating the “evil” Dr. Callaghan with the kabuki mask, but we didn’t give ourselves enough time to make it successful. Instead, he came up with a clever, but subtle, idea.

Look closely. My husband had a fun time making up a San Fransokyo Tech Showcase badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Look closely. My husband had a fun time making up a San Fransokyo Tech Showcase badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My husband quite literally paused Big Hero 6 to capture the logos and the name of the robotics lab for this faux conference badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Feedback from DCC? It was all very subtle… perhaps too subtle. My husband insists that no one noticed he was anything other than a guy attending a con in khakis and a sweater vest. My sons found their doppelgängers and I got some photos of with them.

Two Freds. They traded costume tips and ideas too. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My oldest son found his Doppelganger. It was the only other Hiro Hamada we saw at DCC all weekend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My oldest son found his doppelgänger. It was the only other Hiro Hamada we saw at DCC all weekend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Denver Comic Con’s ‘Animaniacs’ Celebration

We met this fantastic cosplaying family while in line for Animaniacs voice actor autographs. The kids thoroughly enjoy Animaniacs, and like my husband and me, the parents were enjoying the show while in high school and college. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
We met this fantastic cosplaying family while in line for Animaniacs voice actor autographs. The kids thoroughly enjoy the show today, and like my husband and me, the parents enjoyed it while in high school and college. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Okay, where are our Animaniacs fan GeekMom readers? Go ahead, raise your hands! I know you’re out there!

My husband and I remember watching the show while in college. If you go way back in time, my husband and I went to college at a time when the dorm’s one cable television was in a “TV lounge” so students would gather together for “viewing parties” once a week. Sometimes it was tough to agree on what to watch, but there were a couple universally accepted shows, such as the early 1990s episodes of Saturday Night Live…and Animaniacs!

If you have never seen Animaniacs, it’s never too late to check it out with your geeklings. Like current episodes of children’s shows such as The Amazing World of Gumball and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the multi-layered humor is able to run in parallel: making the children laugh on one level, the adults on another. The show aired with the new “Fox Kids” programming and even was allowed to have the “E/I” logo with some of their segments, such as with “Yakko’s World.”

As I had touched on in my Denver Comic Con preview, and this week’s wrap up of our family’s panel experiences, one of DCC’s headline events was the Animaniacs Celebration, where all of the voice actors, along with composer Randy Rogel, reunited on stage to perform the show’s music. You can read more about the queueing experience in the DCC panels post I wrote earlier this week, but our family waited about 35 minutes in the queueing room, and ended up with some really good seats. With my telephoto lens, it looked as though I was right there! The Jumbotrons also helped those further back in the audience see the action.

Jess Harnell, who voiced Wakko on Animaniacs, performs the song "Hellooooooooo, Nurse!" during the Animaniacs Celebration at Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Jess Harnell, who voiced Wakko on Animaniacs, performs the song “Hellooooooooo, Nurse!” during the Animaniacs Celebration at Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Animaniacs voice actors (from left) Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Rob Paulsen perform the song “I’m Mad” together. Paulsen actually voiced two of the characters in this song, Yakko and Dr. Scratchandsniff, and would make faces to adapt to those characters. Can you tell who he’s voicing here? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Most of the panel ended up like a music concert, which was enjoyable in and of itself, but we also enjoyed the stories behind the songs. For example, the well-known “Yakko’s World” was Randy Rogel’s composition that convinced the network executives that he was the man for the songwriting job…like his resume piece.

Enjoy a performance of Jess Harnell voicing Wakko in the “States and Capitals” song. Go ahead, sing along!

Rogel and Paulsen tour the country and perform the Animaniacs repertoire with symphony orchestras with their Animaniacs Live! show. They pitched to us that if it’s something we’d like to see in our community, to contact our local orchestras and see if a performance can be arranged. The Colorado Symphony had hosted the show in 2014, but I’m curious if they’d come to Colorado Springs.

The day after the Animaniacs Celebration panel and sing-along, when my oldest son and I returned to Denver Comic Con, my son asked about getting the autographs of the actors and Mr. Rogel. Rogel had these songbooks for sale with the sheet music for the songs that were performed the day before. Wouldn’t you know it, we got the last one! My son was so thrilled to have this!

He proceeded to meet all three of the main character voice actors for autographs on the cover of the music book and then had quite a discussion about music with Mr. Rogel.

My oldest son, who takes piano lessons, had questions for Mr. Rogel about some of the bass clef chords in the music. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My 12-year-old son, who takes piano lessons, had questions for Randy Rogel about some of the bass clef chords in the music. You can see Maurice LaMarche, the voice of “The Brain” from Pinky and the Brain is over Mr. Rogel’s shoulder. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The Animaniacs voice actors have performed dozens of other voice-over parts. For example, if you are familiar with the show Drawn Together on Comedy Central, Jess Harnell is the voice of Captain Hero. Are you a fan of The Simpsons? MacNeille voices numerous female characters on that show: Bernice Hibbert, the crazy cat lady, Lunchlady Doris, and Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon. Rob Paulsen voiced both Raphael and then Donatello on the 1980s and 2012 version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series.

If you can see a version of Animaniacs Live! or the Animaniacs Sing Along, you need to drop everything and make sure to see it. It’s a family-friendly fun experience, and you’ll get a glimpse of the personalities that made Animaniacs such a fun show for all ages!

GeekMom was provided with family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.

Denver Comic Con: A Panel Experience That Worked!

A view of the nearly full house for the Animaniacs Sing Along in the Main Events room. Denver Comic Con's panel experiences were much better than I thought they would be. Another reason why DCC is the place for families to get their geek on. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
A view of the nearly full house for the “Animaniacs Sing Along” in the Main Events room. Denver Comic Con’s panel experiences were much better than I thought they would be—another reason why DCC is the place for families to get their geek on. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Full disclosure: In the past, I tended to frame my con panel experiences around the “easiest” events on the schedule. In other words, I’d attend panels that I figured wouldn’t have the same popularity as the more celebrity-laden ones. For instance, we attended an International Space Station panel at Dragon*Con that wasn’t at all crowded.

Some of the members of my family have a pretty hard time with crowds. They crave their personal space and when things get out of hand, they tend to shut down and just want to leave the event. I was planning to focus mainly on more vapid panels for Denver Comic Con to help mitigate that.

But then the press releases for the “Animaniacs Celebration” and the Weird Science 30th anniversary cast reunion came out.

Oh no! Those are going to be big events! I quickly changed my scheduling to include those two events and prepared my family for the “big panel” experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the entire experience went at Denver Comic Con.

I made it clear to my family that I was going to move mountains to see the “Animaniacs Celebration.” Not only did I want to get into the room, but I wanted to sit nice and close to get good photographs for GeekMom.

The "Main Events" room, which seated several thousand people. At the two events I attended in this room, the room was very full, but not quite at capacity.
Denver Comic Con’s “Main Events” room in the Colorado Convention Center seats several thousand people. At the two events I attended in this room, the room was very full, but not quite at capacity. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

At other cons I’ve seen, some queueing areas that were smack dab in the middle of the convention floor, adding to the chaos, but this is not the case at Denver Comic Con. Right as my sons’ claustrophobia was kicking in while meandering through hordes of cosplay towards the large panel rooms, we were pleased to see that a separate space was dedicated to the “Main Event” queueing.

The Main Events room was the largest of the panel rooms. There was also a Mini Main Events room, as well as several dozen smaller panel rooms.

This is a closed-off room, expressly for the Main Event panel queueing. I thought this was a great idea. There was some serpentining going on, but once you set yourself up in the queue, you could have a seat to read your new comics or upload photos of your favorite cosplay to Twitter. We were also able to come and go from our spot in line; everyone around us was very good about letting us save our spots. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

When the queueing area filled up, other guests were allowed to remain in “overflow” out on the main floor of the Main Events area.

For both of the large Main Event panels that our family attended, the full queueing area only encompassed about a third of the room. Once the overflow crowd was allowed in, the room nearly filled to capacity, but not quite. I saw a couple rows’ worth of seating still available in both cases.

Our family attended one panel in one of the smaller rooms. It was a Geeky Parenting Panel hosted by AnomalyCon director Kronda Seibert and artist Sarin Tatroe. Unfortunately, the target audience for that panel was more for newer parents, but that room could hold 200 guests or so, and there weren’t more than 50 people at that particular panel. For starters, the panel rooms were set rather far apart from the main convention floor that had celebrities, vendors, comic artists, and food. DCC’s earlier panels didn’t have the best participation while the guests were still trying to make their way around the huge Colorado Convention Center trying to interpret the maps.

The view from our seats in one of the smaller panel rooms. You had a great view from anywhere in the room. The audio and video support were also well-done. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The view from our seats in one of the smaller panel rooms. Guests had a great view from anywhere in the room. The audio and video support were also well done. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Finally, I’d like to address DCC’s efforts at making the fan panel experiences relevant for everyone. After Kelly’s hilarious post about how to ask a proper con question, I’m convinced DCC took her queue and set up reminders throughout the panel rooms.

It appears DCC took a queue from Kelly’s post from last month? These were slides displayed before the large panels, and there were also posters on easels at each microphone. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

To conclude, if you’ve all but written off the ability to see some of the larger panels at larger cons, hopefully you will feel inspired by the great experience our family had at Denver Comic Con. With some schedule planning and some time in the queueing rooms…heck, even if you try at the last minute to see a panel, with very little exception*, you will be able to see all of your favorites!

*There was a Joker 75th Anniversary panel that was put in one of the smaller rooms. It filled to capacity pretty quickly; perhaps it should have been considered for the Mini Main Events room.

With some planning, and about a 50 minute wait in the queueing area, you could be this close to the cast of Weird Science! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
With some planning and about a 50-minute wait in the queueing area, you could be this close to the cast of Weird Science! It looks like Ilan Mitchell-Smith is looking right at me, doesn’t it? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

GeekMom received family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.

Denver Comic Con: Family Cosplay at its Finest

Our ‘Big Hero 6’-inspired family cosplay was much less outrageous than our 2012 experience, which wasn’t altogether a bad thing. We are posing with a replica Back to the Future DeLorean for a TeamFox fundraiser. Photo: Terry Holler, used with permission.

The amazing Denver Comic Con weekend is over, and I’m now overflowing with so much to write about! Our family’s whole weekend was such fun! Let’s talk about it!

About Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con is an education program of the Pop Culture Classroom, a non-profit that serves the Denver area with programming that centers on pop culture.

During DCC itself, the Pop Culture Classroom was ready to go with nearly 400 hours of educational programming and 9,000 sq. ft. of convention floor dedicated to the Pop Culture Laboratory, an area designed to engage kids in STEAM educational activities, youth-based programming, and fun activities for our younger attendees and their families. Younger guests were able to work directly with professionals from the comic book and animation industries as well as other creative professions.

Family Focused…No, Really!

Denver Comic Con prides itself on being family-friendly, and they mean it. You see evidence in this with the low prices for children to attend ($5 for one day, $10 for the entire weekend—the same costs as taking your kids to a movie!), as well as the plainly published rules for cosplay and conduct during panels.

As mentioned in the previous section, one of DCC’s most celebrated features is the Pop Culture Laboratory (which is pronounced “La-BOHR-a-tory,” as explained on signs around the con). Located in the dead center of the upper convention center floor, this area is meant expressly for younger guests; the kids have priority for all programming, however, parents and kids-at-heart can take part if space is available. In fact, at some point during the con, some makeshift signs appeared reminding guests that the laboratory area is alcohol-free. Who wouldn’t want to take part in comic art classes, a forensics lab mystery, or hearing Patrick Warburton read Green Eggs and Ham?

Family Cosplay: The Rule, Not the Exception

Children are everywhere at Denver Comic Con. While I was pleased that my sons are old enough to keep up with my crazed roaming all over the Colorado Convention Center, I was constantly making googly faces at the adorable younger children dressed as everything from Steven Universe (easy peasy: jeans, flip flops, and a red t-shirt with a yellow star painted on) to Harley Quinn to Princess Peach to one of Daenerys Targaryen’s baby dragons.

When our family was at Dragon*Con in 2012, we were stopped constantly because family cosplay, by which I mean the family is dressing together with a common theme, isn’t as popular there. In fact, there simply aren’t many kids at all. But if are looking for all the fun of an affordable, large—and by large I mean over 100,000 guests!—con with a focus on youth and doesn’t sell out in two minutes, come to Denver!

Enjoy photos of some of the family cosplay from this past weekend.

Several of our neighborhood families were part of the Denver Comic Con fun and dressed together. Can you guess who these kids are? Hint: the two in the middle are twins. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.
Several of our own neighborhood’s families were part of the Denver Comic Con fun and dressed up together. Can you guess who these kids are cosplaying as? Hint: two of the kids in the middle are twins. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.
Is this couple cute or what? I tried so hard to get the baby dragon to smile but she was just too tired. This was late in the day on Saturday and mom said she was wiped out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Is this couple cute or what? I tried so hard to get the baby dragon to smile but she was just too tired. This was late in the day on Saturday and mom said she was wiped out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Okay, not a family, but I couldn’t ignore a set of Ghostbusters complete with realistic (and HEAVY!) proton packs now, could I? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Last, but not least, with one of the weekend’s big-ticket events being a reunion of the Animaniacs voice actors, this family’s costumes were a huge win! I’ll be writing more about these folks in another DCC post. I’m very grateful this family was willing to step out of line to pose for me. Little Wakko was very tired but still smiled. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

GeekMom received family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.

Denver Comic Con Storify

We had a chance to enter the con vendor area about 1/2 hour before the general public. It was heaven browsing the collections virtually by ourselves! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
We had a chance to enter the con vendor area about 1/2 hour before the general public. My “Fred” was heaven browsing the collections virtually by ourselves! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Phew! Am I tired! For those who didn’t see my Tweeting to death* this weekend about Denver Comic Con, here’s a Storify summary through the eyes of my Twitter feed. Enjoy!

*Unlike other cons our family has been to, I had ZERO problems on the Verizon network at the Colorado Convention Center. This was such a pleasant surprise!

Celtic. Nerd. Music. Colorado’s The Stubby Shillelaghs’ “Critical Fail” Kickstarter

Help fund The Stubby Shillelaghs' Kickstarter campaign to get them into a high-quality recording studio to bring their Celtic geek rock to the masses. Image: The Stubby Shillelaghs, used with permission.
Help fund The Stubby Shillelaghs’ Kickstarter campaign to get them into a high-quality recording studio to bring their Celtic geek rock to the masses. Image: The Stubby Shillelaghs, used with permission.

With Denver Comic Con coming up this Memorial Day weekend, the local scene is pulling out all the stops to bring national attention to the awesome group of people that lives in our great state. Among them is the Celtic-inspired band, The Stubby Shillelaghs, which hails from Greeley, Colorado. Their fun blend of Celtic rock is popular here locally, and they’re excited for the chance to bring their music to the masses of DCC this weekend, with two performances at DCC’s Stage 5280 at 3:00 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

This week, the band also announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to record their next album, titled Critical Fail. The 20-sided die on the proposed album cover will tell you volumes about what to expect. With songs like “I.R.A.” (which stands for “Interstellar Rebel Army”), you can expect some Celtic pop-culture fun. I’m particularly excited that this is a family-friendly album, with no language or topics that might make your kids ask too many questions.

If you haven’t heard of The Stubby Shillelaghs, here’s a video for you to enjoy. If you buy the track, all proceeds from your purchase of this song go to the Children’s Miracle Network. Trust me, it’ll make you smile.

If you like what you hear, go check out the Kickstarter and help this band out!

America Needs More STEM…But…

Image credit: Argonne National Laboratory (Science Careers in Search of Women 2009) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Young women participate in a conference at the Argonne National Laboratory. Image credit: Argonne National Laboratory (Science Careers in Search of Women 2009) [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]
It’s funny that I’m writing a post such as this, since for years I’ve been a huge advocate of STEM in schools. Some of my Facebook friends might argue that I’ve been downright pushy about it. I am vocal not just about the need to further develop STEM topics in Common Core and No Child Left Behind, but also the critical thinking skills and scientific reasoning that emerges as a consequence.

Recently, since I’ve become more active in STEM outreach such as the Southern Colorado Girls’ STEM Initiative and the Girls in the Middle program, I’m finding myself tempering my near-militant rhetoric. I seriously used to say things such as:

“Of course you want to become a scientist when you grow up! Why wouldn’t you?”

“We don’t have enough women inspired to pursue STEM careers; what would change your mind?”

The highest-paying jobs in America are based on STEM skills!”

“America needs to return to that science and technology dominance we had during the Apollo program! Those great things were done by SCIENCE!”

I’ve come to two realizations in recent weeks about my personal treatment of the STEM movement. Others are already heading in this direction, as evidenced by programs such as the Maker Movement and a shift in nomenclature from “STEM” to “STEAM.” I want to join in with open arms. Many of you might think, “I knew that already!” but bear with me as I continue to find my place in making the world better than I found it.

STEM Isn’t Necessarily for Everyone, But the Scientific Method Is

STEM is well and good for those who clearly have a passion for it, but what about those who have a passion for American literature? For ancient history? For politics? Perhaps it’s the GeekMom in me, but it’s important to let one’s passions bloom, and if there’s someone who doesn’t want to pursue STEM as a career, let’s not push that too hard.

Starting this year, at the programs where I run physics, mathematics, and meteorology exploration programs for middle school students, I dig deeper into the students’ interests and open a dialogue about whether those interests—irrespective of whether the interests are STEMmy or not—could translate into careers. I help the students explore whatever they come up with, regardless of whether it’s STEM. If a student tells me, “I love reading, and my favorite book is The Giver. I want to be a writer just like Lois Lowry”, we can have a conversation about what it might be like to be a writer for a living [with the caveat that I don’t write for a living, but I write for fun and have an anecdotal understanding of the benefits and challenges of doing it for a living].

I understand that even though STEM may not be for everyone, America is still working hard, from the White House to grass-roots organizations, to bring back the problem solving and scientific method practices that seemed to fall by the wayside as American public schools overhauled its curricula due to No Child Left Behind. These skills are necessary to return the science and mathematics “higher ground” that we held during the Cold War. Scientific method concepts should be taught to all students, whether they ultimately pursue STEM careers or not. Embedded in the scientific method are tasks that will help our students become better readers, better problem solvers, and better citizens. For example, establishing a hypothesis inspires learners to think through a problem from start-to-finish before rushing into a solution. In addition, the skills developed when analyzing data helps students question everything, a trait that I think will instill success not just in science and tech fields, but also art, management, finance, sports, and history.

STEM and the Humanities Work Hand-in-Hand

My inspiration to write this post came from a Washington Post Op-Ed from last March that was shared by a Facebook friend of mine who happens to be a history professor. His meme-inspired comment with the post, “STEM will help you clone a T-Rex. Humanities will help explain why it’s a bad idea,” caught my attention and put a smile on my face.

The author of the Op-Ed, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, recently published a book titled In Defense of a Liberal Education, and much of the material in the Washington Post piece is drawn from the book. His opinion is worth checking out, as I discussed in this month’s “Between the Bookends“.

Granted, I think using the word “dangerous” in the Op-Ed title is on the dramatic side, but as I read the article, I found myself nodding my head in agreement more than I thought I would. Zakaria presents a historical context to why American public education was revolutionary, even in the 19th century, for breaking away from the European apprenticeship-model of educating only in the skills required for a trade. American public schools are more well-rounded, allowing graduates to head in one of several directions, regardless of his or her upbringing, gender, race, or economic status.

Zakaria hypothesizes that the emphasis on producing skilled STEM labor at the expense of liberal arts graduates, is a step in the wrong direction as a nation. I agree with Zakaria, but I would go a step further to say that producing skilled STEM labor at the expense of someone to wants to be a liberal arts graduate is a disservice to the American dream. If someone wants to be a liberal arts scholar, certainly don’t discourage it. America needs such scholars.

The skills students learn by studying the humanities and social sciences has inspired true visionaries in America, from Elon Musk to Steve Jobs. In fact, Jobs has told the story of how a calligraphy class served as an inspiration for the work he put into accurate type-facing on the first Macintosh computers.

What Can We Do as Role Models?

If you’re a geeky parent reading this, you probably already received the memo: inspire your children to delve into their dreams, with passion, always performing their best. As your children get older, perhaps a goal-setting exercise is in order. We’ve done things like that with our own children… even if their passions change direction along the way, we will help them redirect to meet their new goals. If you have the chance to serve as a role model to other youth, such as as a schoolteacher or sports coach, never discourage a child’s dream. Don’t get me wrong, if a child’s dream is to be the “king of the world”, perhaps a slight nudge is in order, but never be discouraging. Most of you know that already…I doubt our audience thinks otherwise.

The other thing I’d like to suggest is that you encourage your mentorees to consider the applicability and practicality of their career choices. If your children are choosing more-obscure fields that may not have well-paying jobs upon graduation, do they have a plan for making a living? For paying back student loans? For giving back to the community? These are also lessons that need to be embedded in our conversations about whether or not our country’s youth should be flocking toward STEM careers. Are we about to flood the market for chemical engineers, nurses, and spectroscopists? Will there come a time when an engineering graduate will not be able to find a job…because there are none? Will there be an outright void in America’s humanities talent pool?

Obviously we don’t have those answers yet. Just the same, think about how to strike that balance between letting America’s youth pursue their dreams (whether literate or numerate), filling a need for STEM jobs, and reestablishing the wholesale critical thinking attitudes that brought us STEM and non-STEM greatness in our country, such as the Apollo space program, the Human Genome Project, or the designs of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and the iPhone.

Denver Comic Con: Who’s Joining Me?

Image credit: denvercomiccon.com
Image credit: denvercomiccon.com

Well, it’s been a while for my family, but we’re looking forward to getting a chance to attend another con in a couple weeks! This time, it’s Denver Comic Con!

During my interview with Erin Gray at Dragon*Con in 2012, it came up that I was at Dragon*Con with younger children. She told me that of all the cons she’s attended (and that would be many), among her favorites was Denver’s, expressly because it is so kid-friendly.

My family is very excited to be able to join me while I cover DCC for GeekMom. The con is May 22-25 at the Denver Convention Center and (unlike the bigger, more commercialized events), there are still tickets available!! There are only day-passes remaining, but that sure beats getting shut out of the event altogether. That’s awesome, isn’t it? While the venue is just as big as some of the larger events such as NYCC, the organizers work pretty hard to keep it down-to-earth. With an all-star lineup of film, comic, and gaming celebrities, it doesn’t appear to be too overwhelming.

Here are some of the things my family is particularly looking forward to at Denver Comic Con:

A Truly Family-Friendly Con

How do I know? Well, two things jumped out at me. First of all, the cost for children to attend can’t be beat! At $5 for one day or $10 for the entire event, you can attend this Comic Con for less than the cost of a movie or even a trip to our local zoo! DCC clearly wants children to be there.

The second thing that indicates how family-friendly this event is can be seen in the cosplay rules. “Denver Comic Con is kid-friendly. Keep it PG.” The website requests that all “bits” be covered and that all costumes have proper undergarments.

We have several friends in our neighborhood with young children who make a family weekend out of DCC, and we look forward to collaborating with them on costumes and what panels they’ll be attending.

The Animaniacs Celebration

Okay, okay, okay… this one has our entire family excited! DCC announced in March that they’ve confirmed the four voice actors from Warner Brothers’ hit animated series, Animaniacs! Wakko, Yakko, Dot, Pinky, and the Brain will all be featured in an “unplugged” style music event. This is at the top of our family’s “to do” list while at DCC.

While my husband and I enjoyed the original series run in the mid-1990s while we were in college, we were pleased to share the show with our sons when it aired in syndication on Hub Network between 2012 and 2014.

Weird Science Cast Reunion? Yes, Please!

While most people will think of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and St. Elmo’s Fire for 1980s pop-culture films, sometimes Weird Science falls in between the cracks. It’s a classic as well, topping off Anthony Michael Hall’s string of mid-1980s roles as the awkward geek archetype.

To celebrate Weird Science’s 30th anniversary, DCC announced a cast reunion panel on May 23, featuring Hall, who played Gary, Ilan Mitchell-Smith as Wyatt, and Kelly LeBrock as the stunning Lisa.

My husband and I are interested in this reunion panel, and we’re curious if they can get Bill Paxton—Chet—to make an appearance.

Image credit: Breckenridge Brewery
Image credit: Breckenridge Brewery

DCC’s Official Microbrew, “Hulk’s Mash”

I can’t speak for other cons, since we haven’t been to many others, but no event in Colorado is complete without a microbrew! Breckenridge Brewery designates an official DCC beer every year with fun comic-inspired names (such as “Brews Wayne” and “The Fantastic Pour”). This year’s “Hulk’s Mash” was the winning name from over 700 entries, featuring a 6.0-percent ABV pale ale. While in years past the label has been designed by comic book artists, this year they looked to a local Breckenridge, Colorado, art student for the design.

The beer will be for sale at venues throughout the Denver Convention Center area, and my husband and I are looking forward to giving it a try. We had Breckenridge Brewery’s Christmas Ale at our family’s Christmas party last year and it was very popular.

DCC’s Local Scene

One of the things I’ve grown to love since moving to Colorado in summer 2013 is this state’s pride. DCC is very proud of the local talent in literature, music, and comics. I’m looking forward to hearing some of the geeky bands that have been announced so far, such as The Stubby Shillelaghs and Hello McFly, which is a consolidation of numerous Northern Colorado bands to play Back to the Future-inspired tunes at the DCC May 24 Cosplay Shindig event. The Stubby Shillelaghs particularly caught my attention because they bring together two things near and dear to my heart: Celtic music and geeky goodness!

Getting Back into Cosplay

My family hasn’t done much cosplay since we moved here—unless you count my younger son’s Adventure Time birthday party from 2014.

Since we immensely enjoyed the last time our family cosplayed altogether, we decided to give it another go this year. It turns out my oldest son bears a not-so-bad resemblance to Hiro Hamada, so you can guess what direction we’re taking. We are now working on the loose ends for the Big Hero 6 theme (I’ll keep my husband’s and my costumes a surprise); here’s a sneak peek of what we’ve finished so far. Now…where can I find a toy Megabot??

Fred's knit hat and mullet wig are forthcoming, but right now I couldn't be more pleased. Image: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred’s knit hat and mullet wig are forthcoming, but with what we have so far, I couldn’t be more pleased. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Emily Jones at ColoradoMoms.com wrote up a great A-to-Z post about how to make the most of DCC with kids in tow (except for the 21+ after-party). We will be sure to check out the tween/teen STEAM and craft areas with our sons.

Even if you can’t join us, you can still follow along! Be sure to keep in touch with me on Twitter at @vollmerdp, where I will be using the hashtag #DCC2015 to let you know what my family and I are enjoying during the event.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Hubble!

Image Credit: Hubble25.org, NASA
Image Credit: Hubble25.org, NASA

Who remembers April 1990?

I was a junior in high school. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor topped the Billboard 100, while the films Pretty Woman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were dominating the box office.

On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off carrying a remarkable piece of hardware: the Hubble Space Telescope, named for American astronomer Edwin Hubble. The day after liftoff, the telescope was placed into low earth orbit. By having this telescope outside of Earth’s atmosphere, brilliant images in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared spectra are possible.

Today we honor this invention’s 25th anniversary with commemorative events and celebrations of the amazing discoveries we’ve had based on the brilliant images it’s sent back to earth.

Image credit: NASA.gov
The Hubble Space Telescope is placed into low-earth orbit. Image credit: NASA.gov

I remember the news about how there were problems with the first images. Within a few weeks the cause of the problem was identified: the blurriness was due to errors in mirror construction. What’s remarkable is that the error was on the order of just a few nanometers, yet it caused significant problems in the sharpness of the images.

It wasn’t until late 1993 that the first repair mission was launched, and a series of corrective components were installed during a record-breaking five-days worth of space walks.

The difference in image clarity was amazing!

Note the clarity in this image of Melnick-34 after the correction components were installed on the Hubble! Image credit: NASA.gov
Note the clarity in this image of Melnick-34 after the correction components were installed on the Hubble! Image credit: NASA.gov

I remember the news about the corrections: I was in college, having had made several friends in the Penn State Astronomy Club. My friends had access to the first of the images coming in. For those who are familiar with the Apollo 13 story, the spirit of innovation and critical thinking rose to the challenge in a similar manner. America as a whole was rooting for science!

Yesterday, in honor of the 25th anniversary, NASA and ESA released a gorgeous image of the Westerlund 2 star cluster. The image was deemed “celestial fireworks” in honor of the anniversary.

There are events scheduled throughout the year honor this great invention. To learn more, be sure to visit the telescope’s anniversary site, the official Hubble Space Telescope site, and the Hubble’s Flickr site to enjoy the best images.

The ‘Star Wars’ Saga Coming to Digital HD!

Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm.
Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

Did you hear? The complete Star Wars Saga will be available on Digital HD this week! You guys don’t know how excited I am about this!

Perhaps I’m dating myself here, but I do vividly remember all the hubbub when the original Star Wars Trilogy—as a trilogy—made itself available to the masses on VHS video cassette. It was in the mid-1980s. It was a big deal. This was back before owning VHS tapes was affordable ($75-100 per movie!), so we were content to get into the queue at our local Erol’s Video to see a rented copy. In the first VHS release…Han indeed shot first! By the mid-90s, the prices for video tapes had come down considerably, and it wasn’t hard to buy the Special Edition box set…but by then the movies had been significantly remastered.

I also remember the announcements and excitement when the series came out on DVD in the mid-2000s; of course, by this point Episodes I and II had been released and had even been issued on DVD before the original trilogy. My thoughts on the matter were mostly in the neighborhood of, “I can’t believe I had to endure Jar Jar in vivid detail first!”

The complete saga will be available starting Friday, April 10th, and will be offered as a complete set for $89.99 or else as individual movies for $19.99 each. I’ve seen announcements for this release at Disney Movies AnywhereAmazon, iTunes, Google Play, and even on my sons’ XBox! With the movies are numerous never-before-seen special features, so you certainly won’t want to miss this! Let me leave you with this fun video hosted by Bill Hader about some of the saga’s unforgettable creatures.

If you want to see more videos like this one, be sure to check out Disney Movies Anywhere for more of Star Wars @Lightspeed, where you can learn more about the greatness that is the Star Wars Saga!

Say Good Mornin’ With ‘Uncle Grandpa’ on DVD

Uncle Grandpa DVD art 3D
Image credit: Turner Entertainment.

On April 7th, Uncle Grandpa fans everywhere can celebrate. Twelve episodes are being released on DVD in Cartoon Network’s latest compilation: Uncle Grandpa: Good Mornin’.

My husband and both sons are all Uncle Grandpa fans, eagerly awaiting each new episode, especially since Season 3 started last month.

So perhaps you’re wondering: What’s Uncle Grandpa about? Most of the stories follow the (mis)adventures of Uncle Grandpa and his friends, who include his Belly Pack (a talking fanny pack), Pizza Steve (a vain slice of pizza, voiced by Pitch Perfect’s Adam DeVine), Mr. Gus (an analytical dinosaur), and a realistic cutout of a tiger.

Yes, you read right. I know, I know, the strangest thing. I thought so too. The animation itself is rather basic, drawing on influences from Mad, The Far Side, and classic Looney Tunes cartoon characters. After my sons watched most of Season 1 without me, they convinced me to watch several episodes from Season 2, and I enjoyed the review of Uncle Grandpa: Good Mornin’ DVD as well.

The cartoon is hilariously surreal, filled with personified objects and hilarious personality conflicts that will leave both the kids and adults laughing. The plot lines are clever, and many of the episodes’ antics will leave you nodding in agreement, thinking, “Yes, I’ve thought those same silly things when <insert mundane task here>.”

Uncle Grandpa is a spinoff of another Cartoon Network show that came out of The Cartoonistute, Cartoon Network’s 2008 program to bring in new animation talent. From the program, two of the numerous pilots were greenlit: Regular Show and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome (which is also created by Uncle Grandpa’s Peter Browngart; the latter is a spinoff of the former).

In the Good Mornin’ DVD, you will enjoy the following 12 episodes from Seasons 1 and 2:

  1. Brain Game
  2. Moustache Cream
  3. Nickname
  4. Locked Out
  5. Mystery Noise
  6. Bad Morning
  7. Bezt Frends
  8. Hide and Seek
  9. The History of Wrestling
  10. Vacation
  11. Aunt Grandma
  12. Grounded

Many of the 11-minute episodes are capped with parody commercials and how-to videos between 1-2 minutes in length. On Episode 12 of the DVD, be sure to watch for the commercial for “Uncle Grandpa Babies“, which shamelessly makes fun of pays homage to Muppet Babies, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, and The Flintstones Kids cartoons from the 1980s. I got a kick out of Pizza Steve as a ball of dough with a diaper.

Like many of the other Cartoon Network compilation DVDs, there are no bonus features. There is a simple menu that allows viewers to choose episodes to watch, or else one can choose to play all of the episodes in order. In addition, these episodes aren’t in order of original air date. In the context of this series, that shouldn’t matter. Each short stands alone perfectly well.

Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa: Good Mornin’ on DVD is available starting 7 April 2015 and will retail for $14.97, although I saw it on Amazon for only $9.98. The DVD makes a perfect gift for elementary-school-aged kids…and their parents!

GeekMom received a review copy of this product for review purposes.

The Planet Tatooine, Realized!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
Image an Earth-like planet orbiting what’s known as “binary stars,” similar to what Luke Skywalker saw every day from Tatooine. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

This week, researchers from the University of Utah and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory announced submission of a paper discussing the possibility of “rocky” planets forming such that they would orbit what’s known as “binary stars.” In other words, a planet such as Earth could exist in the universe with two suns.

Titled “Planet formation around binary stars: Tatooine made easy,” and stemming from the Kepler telescope discovery of numerous gaseous planets that have already formed near binary stars, Ben Bromley and Scott Kenyon ran mathematical models that prove that it’s plausible for “planetesimals,” clumps of asteroid rocks, to form and settle into orbit near binary stars.

Until now, it had been assumed that the competing gravitational pulls of two suns would prohibit a rocky planet from surviving in a steady orbit, but it appears that a steady orbit might indeed be possible.

Ben Bromley and Scott Kenyon have submitted their paper to The Astrophysical Journal, and are awaiting formal peer-reviewed publication, but for now you can read the submission at the website ArXiv.

A real live Tatooine. Out there. Somewhere.

Mind blown!