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.
Who else noticed Google’s new logo that appeared on September 1st? Cute, isn’t it?
Being the curious geek I am, I took some time this morning to Google [like what I did there?] why Google chose to update its logo. The Google Blog has a story that’s written in propaganda-ese regaling the new logo as a “sign of the times,” indicating that the new sans serif design will work better with mobile platforms and will transition to the “Ok Google” microphone feature and bouncing dot icons more easily. Continue reading Google Takes Over the World in 2 Minutes
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 #17on 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
GeekMom received family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.
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.
GeekMom received family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.
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!
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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!
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??
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Anywhere, Amazon, 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!
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’sAdam 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:
Hide and Seek
The History of Wrestling
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.
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.
This month Cartoon Network launched another themed DVD with Adventure Time: Frost & Fire, paying homage to the battle between the Ice King and Princess Flame in what’s been regarded as Adventure Time’s most popular episode, “Frost & Fire” from the end of Season 5.
While there are only a few episodes that truly feature the Ice King (“Frost”) and Princess Flame (“Fire”), Cartoon Network made sure to add several other popular episodes to round out the fun. These 16 episodes range from Seasons 1 through 6, and includes one of my own favorites, “Jake the Brick” from Season 6.
It also includes one of my not-favorite episodes, “Freak City” from Season 1. Where Finn is turned into a giant foot. Ew? But that’s okay, my sons love all of these episodes!
Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time: Frost & Fire is available now on DVD at major entertainment retailers. It has a run time of 176 minutes and retails for $19.82, although as of this writing, Amazon is selling it for $11.99!
GeekMom received a copy of this product for review purposes.
Santa brought the Vollmer family a four-night Disney cruise vacation! The trip happened to coincide with our youngest son’s birthday. In a very uncharacteristic move, my husband and I agreed to take our sons out of school for a solid week and drove out to Port Canaveral, Florida, the home port to the Disney Dream, the Disney Cruise Line’s most-recently christened ship.
I don’t plan to discuss too much about the cruise itself. Anyone can write about taking a cruise, right? We stopped in Nassau, Bahamas, and on Disney’s island, Castaway Cay. Our sons got to experience snorkeling for the first time. I’ve cruised with Carnival in the past, but that didn’t hold a candle to a Disney trip! My family was geeking-out at some of the amazing little subtleties that make the Disney Cruise Line experience second-to-none!
1. Hidden Mickeys everywhere!
Need I say more?
2. Characters everywhere!
Obviously, there are Disney characters on a Disney cruise, right? After having experienced many hours in line over the years waiting to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pooh Bear, Rafiki, Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. Fredricksen at Walt Disney World, it was a breath of fresh air to not have to wait long for characters at all. My sons filled up their autograph book on a family trip to Disney World in 2009, so they were rather laissez-faire about the characters this time around. In fact, we only waited in line for one character: Jack Sparrow! Most of the others we encountered almost by chance throughout the cruise ship.
3. The Key to the World
Like other cruise lines, many things are tied into the key card. Disney calls their card the “Key to the World,” whether you’re on the cruise or staying at a Disney resort on land. If you are combining a cruise with a Walt Disney World vacation, the same card will have your resort key, park tickets, and Disney Dining Plan information loaded onto it.
On the Disney Dream, we used the key card to enter our stateroom, turn on the lights, enter/exit the ship at ports of call, drop off/pick up children from the Oceaneer Club, and charge beverages and souvenirs. It was even tied into a photography account when the on-board photographers take snapshots.
The Disney Dream was so new at the time that instead of swiping the key card in many places, we instead had a touchpad that was similar to MasterCard PayPass touchpads. To enter/exit our staterooms, the kids didn’t even have to remove the key cards from their lanyards. Just touch the card to the pad. We used similar touchpads for entering/exiting the ship.
Another thing the key card is used for is to control the electricity in your stateroom. I found this a great energy-conservation tool. There was a slot near the front door for the key card. A card needed to be in the slot before lights or the television could be turned on. I discovered that it didn’t matter what card was used for the switch—I’m guessing it was a manual connection switch in the slot somewhere. I saw a stateroom host using a Sleep Inn key card while cleaning a nearby stateroom. Ha ha!
I didn’t get a picture of the wristbands, but each child ages 3-10 who wants to participate in the Oceaneer Club or Oceaneer Lab kids’ clubs on the Disney Dream are outfitted with waterproof wristbands. These two kids’ clubs together (they’re connected) offer over 10,000 square feet of playspace, covering everything from playground space to arts and crafts to interactive play. You may fit the children for the wristbands in the cruise terminal before boarding, at the registration temporary office as soon as your board, or any time during the cruise at the Kids’ Club check-in/check-out area (which I don’t recommend because there’s often a line of parents that you tend to hold up while the attendant is printing and fitting the wristband).
It seemed simple enough for the kids to tap their wrists to the gate to enter and exit. Very secure! You provide a password through the Disney website that approved adults can use to check out the kids from the secure areas.
Note: As a safety measure, the kids’ club policies changed significantly starting in January 2012. Whereas previously parents could freely participate with their children at any time, now the kids’ clubs offer “Open House” and “Secured” areas. If you desire your child to be at the kids’ clubs without parents present, they have to go to the “Secured” area and no other parents are allowed in. Only DCL child care employees. If the family desires to do the kids’ club activities together, they can take advantage of “Open House” periods in 2-4 hour blocks throughout the cruise.
Another hidden feature of the RFID bands—the geeky part—is that in the kids’ club spaces, the wristband is transmitting what rooms you child travels to. This helps the counselors maintain their ratios and helps the parents quickly find their children when it’s pick-up time.
5. The automatic hand washing machine!
Also in the kids’ club areas were these most awesome machines. Automatic hand-washers! The kids simply stick their arms inside and the machine automatically starts. Water spirals around your hands and forearms, then soapy water, then another cycle of fresh water. All in about 25 seconds. Take out your arms and dry them off! Even my youngest son, for whom washing hands always seemed to be a monumental task, was looking forward to this cool machine.
6. The amazing cast
Unlike other cruise lines, families aboard Disney Cruise Line trips are assigned the same service team for dining and stateroom care throughout the entire cruise. This has both benefits and drawbacks.
Of course, a benefit is that you get to know several of the cast members. This is great for the kids. We had very friendly servers and the stateroom host was a sweetheart. At the end of the cruise, you are presenting gratuities to the servers and stateroom host themselves, instead of their pooling the money. Our boys learned quite a bit about Bulgaria from our server, Dimi. Dimi was relatively new and was practicing his Mickey-Mouse ears-shaped ketchup patterns every night.
One of the drawbacks is that I could imagine if someone received substandard service (which wouldn’t be tolerated for long by Disney Cruse Lines, I’d imagine), you’re left with that server for the duration. I didn’t see this, so let’s just hope this is purely hypothetical.
If you’re celebrating while on-board, stand back! Disney gives you several opportunities to tell them whether you’re getting married (there were several weddings during our cruise), celebrating an anniversary or birthday, or on a honeymoon. Since our youngest son was celebrating his 7th birthday during the cruise, they gave him a button to wear. Cast members left and right would say “Happy Birthday” to our son as we were walking throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay.
7. Disney movies galore at the Buena Vista Theater
Are there any Disney films in theaters while you’re sailing? If so, you have several opportunities to see them during the cruise for no additional charge.
Since we sailed in January 2012, I was thrilled to see Beauty and the Beast 3D being offered, but I didn’t get to see any movies during the cruise. It’s tough debating what items to cut from the packed schedule.
War Horse and The Muppets were also showing. Other movies offered included The Help, Cars 2, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
8. A cruise ship tradition: Turn-down service, Disney style
Anyone who’s been on a cruise vacation knows that the stateroom host makes up your room in the morning, and then during dinner he/she comes in and performs a “turn-down service.” For our particular stateroom, this meant pulling the bunk bed down from the ceiling, laying out chocolates, and leaving the kids a cool towel origami animal to enjoy.
In celebration of the release of Clarence: Mystery Piñata on DVD earlier this month, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago, we are pleased to offer you a chance to win a copy of the DVD along with your very own “Mystery Piñata”, courtesy of Cartoon Network and Click Communications.
One randomly-selected winner will receive these two items:
1. One copy of the Cartoon Network Clarence: Mystery Piñata DVD.
2. A festive piñata filled with Cartoon Network-themed goodies.
Enter through our Rafflecopter widget below. The more times you enter this giveaway, the better your chances of winning! You may use each method to enter once daily.
A winner will be randomly drawn on March 2nd and notified via email (so we do need a valid email from you), and will be displayed on this post.
“No, despite some of my favorite actors and actresses getting nominations, and the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris hosting, I guess my invitation got lost in the mail….”
Neither did I. I think my invitation got lost too…
If you’re going to be spending Sunday evening watching the big event, feel free to join GeekMom Rachel and me as we live-chat about the Oscars on Facebook starting at 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST/5:00 p.m. MST/4:00 p.m. PST.
“OOOOoooo… I love watching Oscar night and would love to dish about it with other geeky parents! Where do I go to join in?”
This year, we’ll be on the GeekMom Facebook page, but if you want to let us know what you are thinking or hearing on Twitter, speak your mind with hashtag #oscarsgeekmom, and we will chime in over there too.
Are you looking forward to Oscar night? What do you enjoy the most about it?