About a year ago, I was out driving and heard a radio spot for a new TV show on The CW: A virgin discovers she’s pregnant. Hilarity ensues? This should be worth an episode of amusement, but not much more, I thought. And then Jane the Virgin turned out to be my television obsession for the next 22 episodes.
Not because it’s hilarious—which it is. Not because of the absurdly charming narrator—which it has. And not because of the occasional glimpse of Justin Baldoni’s abs—though I can’t say that hurts. But it’s a little bit of all those things and so much more. I’d say it’s that je ne sais quoi, but for this pseudo-telenovela, perhaps un no sé qué would be more accurate.
If you still haven’t jumped into this stunningly different and charming show, here’s the scoop: Jane is indeed a virgin, waiting for marriage, which is coming soon with her fiancé Michael. Then due to walking in on her wife with another woman, her gynecologist is quite distracted on the day of Jane’s annual exam and accidentally inseminates her instead of another patient. Continue reading ‘Jane the Virgin’: Time to Catch Up Before Season Two Premieres
We have to wait two more weeks for The Flash season two premiere, but you can spend that time revisiting season one today with the release of the Blu-Ray and DVDs.
Marvel may have been winning the big screen the last few years, but DC is dominating television, and The Flash is a big part of that. While sharing the universe that Arrow is set in, it offers a lighter side in comparison.
I’ll admit, I was slow to accept Grant Gustin as a superhero, having first met him as the truly nasty Sebastian Smythe on Glee. (I recently heard during the Flash cast panel at Dragon Con from John Wesley Shipp, who plays Barry’s father Henry, that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.) Now with the first season behind us, I can hardly imagine anyone else in the role. And he’s joined by such a fantastic supporting cast, including Shipp, who played Barry Allen in the 1990 version of the TV show. Continue reading Catch ‘The Flash’ Season 1 Out on DVD Today
Dragon Con attendees were happy to welcome Stephen Amell, star of Arrow, along with other guests from the show this past weekend. The show is about to enter its fourth season with new directions for many of its characters.
Amell began by premiering the trailer for the upcoming season, and it was full of treats for the fans, including Neal McDonough’s proclamation, “I am Damien Darhk.” It concludes with a Felicity line that’s so good; I recommend you just watch it yourself:
Amell then went on to answer questions from the audience:
On changes for Oliver Queen in season four…
“For the upcoming season, there’s a more patient, understanding, and team-oriented ersion of Oliver. We get into similar situations with bad guys and dire situations, but the way I deal with the repurcussions is almost fundamentally different.
At a certain point around the beginning of season two, we lost the public persona of Oliver Queen—the guy Starling City knows as the former playboy. But now, we’re reintroducing him to the public in a way that fans of the comic are going to enjoy. And we’re getting ever closer to the point where we met Oliver in the pilot. That was a dark, damaged person, and we’re seeing him right now as far away from the two people as we have since the first season when he was a scared kid on the island and a mercenary in Starling City. Now we’re moving in the opposite direction, where he’s a more pleasant person in the present day and darker on the island.”
On working with Matt Ryan…
You saw Constantine in the preview. I’ll tell you—it was so fun to work with Matt Ryan. It’s something about British actors. It reminded me a lot of the time I got to chat with John Barrowman, because John was the lead in the call sheet on his show, as Matt was on his. So we got to pick each other’s brains on process.
Matt was preparing for Broadway in the next couple of weeks with Keira Knightley, so I wanted to pick his brain about that process, as I haven’t done it since high school. And I think he fits in very organically to our show, and we sketch him into the Arrow-verse forever in a certain way, which is cool.”
And John Barrowman…
“You just never know what John’s going to be doing. You might be doing a shot, and suddenly he’s operating the camera, and he wasn’t even supposed to be on set that day.
Everyone has marks on the ground. I’m green, David [Ramsey] is blue. Six people are moving around, and it’s a difficult job to lay the tape as the actors are moving through. Typically, that person is really conspicuous. One day as we’re doing a scene, I look down, and laying the final tape is Barrowman. Not even supposed to be on set that day. Laughs his maniacal laugh, and then he was gone. Didn’t even say bye. That’s the John Barrowman experience in a nutshell.”
On Felicity’s growth as a character…
“The bare bones of making a TV show is that you’re going to shoot a pilot. We shot that in March of 2012. That pilot gets put together and picked up by the network. You announce you’re going to do a series. They need to be explosive and almost their own stories so the pilot gets picked up in the first place.
Then when you get into TV production, we had completed episode nine before the pilot appeared. So how do you know what’s going to resonate with an audience? You don’t really know until they watch it. After Emily [Bett Rickards]’s appearance in the third episode, people liked her.
I knew she was going to be an integral part when they built her a set. When they build someone a set, they’re going to be around for a bit.
But as late as the midway point of season two, I was like, ‘Do you think Oliver and Felicity will ever get together?’, and I swear the showrunner said, ‘Never.’ So never say never.”
On the team’s new space…
“The new Arrowcave is really something. I was having a conversation with a producer yesterday—it makes it feel like a new show, because the original Arrowcave, even though it was eventually populated by so many people, was really representative of Oliver on a solo mission. It was like a bachelor in a one-room apartment, and everybody moves in. But now it’s a foundry, a base of operations, that’s built for five or six people. It’s got a garage! And a gym!”
On whether we’ll see Matt Nable again…
“We had talked about the possibility of exploring the backstory of Matt Nable’s Ra’s al Ghul, between him and Merlyn and him and Damien Darhk, so he might come back, but it would be doubtful that that would be via the Lazarus pit. It would be magic. Magic called ‘flashbacks.'”
On why he chose to start a wine label…
“My buddy Drew, who I run the winery with, and I, we went to Paso Robles, CA, by accident with my buddy Nick. We were just sitting in wine country on a Monday on a pontoon looking out at the sunset, and I turned to Drew and said, ‘Hey, how do we do this all the time?’
Guys have this conversation all the time. And it usually ends with a semi-intoxicated conversation of how this would be great! It turns out, Drew is an entrepreneur, so we were able to start a winery in Walla Walla. We have six wines and work with three wonderful winemakers. Both of the white wines are named after our daughters.
There’s the new label with Drew riding a shark and me riding a grizzly bear! This is an actual company that we have! We enjoy it.”
This Saturday, the first episode of Game Shakers premieres on Nickelodeon. The show features two 12-year-old-girls who start their own gaming company, beginning with an app called Sky Whale. To add to the fun, Nickelodeon plans to release all of the games seen on the show. Sky Whale (iOS and Android) was released last Thursday, and I’ve been playing it ever since.
Really, how can you resist the lure of a flying narwhal in red high heels and a snorkel eating donuts and achieving things like “Double Money Monkey Toilet” and “Double Sushi Pig Nose?”
When you hit a cheeseburger in the game, it announces, “Welcome to Good Burger!” That’s because Game Shakers stars Kel Mitchell, of the “Good Burger” sketch in the series All That, which became its own movie in 1997.
The two-episode premiere will include other familiar guest stars, including Victorious’ Matt Bennett and Yvette Nicole Brown (Robbie Shapiro and Helen Dubois).
If the show turns out to be half as fun as the game, I won’t mind a bit when my kids won’t stop watching it.
Game Shakers premieres on Saturday, September 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon. Meanwhile, check out the trailer:
Dragon Con attendees have been watching the weather forecast more than usual this year, as for a while, it looked like we were right in Tropical Storm Erika’s path. That storm has since dissipated, but I’m still looking at the forecast, and if it stays that way, this could be the wettest Dragon Con we’ve had in a very, very long time. Thus even the veterans are wondering what happens with a rainy weekend.
Of course, this is a mostly indoors event—but that’s indoors across five hotels and the Americas Mart, some of which aren’t connected, and lines for popular panels often wrap around the block. There are also a few events that happen outside, namely Saturday morning’s extremely popular parade. I got in touch with the con to find out what we can expect in case of Stormageddon (and not the cute Doctor Who baby kind).
“The parade will go forward in most kinds of weather, up to and including light or intermittent rain,” Dragon Con’s director of public relations, Greg Euston, said. “It will only be canceled in the event of heavy rains or lightning that is not expected to clear by 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.”
And thus your everyday rain preparation applies—pack appropriately. Ponchos are better than umbrellas, especially for the parade. Even if it’s raining, you can expect a crowd. There’s enough risk of fairy wings to the eye without adding umbrellas to the mix.
Either way, remember to be polite to your fellow con-goers. Don’t splatter their freshly painted armor with your wet items when going into panels. If you’re in a dry spot, and someone else is in the rain, by all means get out of the way, and let them get in the dry space, too! But don’t crowd doorways just because they’re dry and you think it might stop raining soon or haven’t gotten the courage to make a run for it yet. Keep traffic moving in the hallways and “habitrails” (elevated connector tunnels between buildings), take your photos somewhere else, and listen to security’s directions.
On the rare occasion that the skies have dumped on the con, it does tend to slow up traffic as everyone flees to the habitrails, so allow plenty of time if you have somewhere to be. There are habitrails that connect the Hyatt to the Marriott, Marriott to Hilton, and the food court to the Hyatt, Marriott, and Peachtree Center parking lot. If you go through the Marta station, you can get from the food court to the Americas Mart underground without going outside. The Dragon Con shuttle is also available, and when it rains, they anticipate greater demand and adjust accordingly.
As for the lines that tend to wrap around the buildings, Euston said, “The rule of thumb is that we will activate our storm plans in the event of lightning or truly significant amounts of rain. For the primary lines—registration and those leading to the largest convention rooms such as the Marriott’s Atrium or the Hyatt’s Centennial—the plans involve moving people who are outside into the hotels.”
Beyond that, there are only a few outdoor activities, such as the Zombie Walk and Solar Astronomy sessions, as well as privately organized things like photoshoots and mermaid swims. Even if it didn’t stop raining all weekend (highly unlikely), there’s very little you’d miss out on by staying indoors.
“We’re keeping an eye on the weather, and know from past years that forecasts can change in the last week before Dragon Con,” Euston added. “While we are hoping that the current forecast will improve, we do have plans in place in case it doesn’t.”
Regardless of rain, Dragon Con still knows how to have fun, so pack your poncho and don’t worry. Alternately, you’ve still got time to put together a last-minute Wicked Witch cosplay, and stand outside yelling, “I’m melting! Meeeellllttttiiing!”
Dragon Con starts this week. That means it’s time for the last-minute frenzied packing. Quick, somebody make a list! No worries—got that covered for you. Even if you aren’t Atlanta-bound this weekend, you can bookmark it for your next con, or possibly even your next vacation, assuming you like to spend time on the beach in your Avengers suit.
I’m a frequent traveler with airline and hotel status and enough nights away from home that I can tell you what brand pillows are on the Sheraton beds. (Those things are awesome.) I’ve also been doing Dragon Con for 13 years. This is my ultimate packing list of that accumulated knowledge. It comes with one rule: If it’s not on the list, it’s not in the bag. You might say to yourself, “Of course I’ll remember the bobby pins.” Tell me that again when you get all suited up and can’t do your hair.
Costumes each get their own packing lists. To emphasize the rule, if it’s not on the list, it’s not in the bag. The last thing I do when I make a costume is make a list of every single piece that’s required for it. Need the black full-body Spanx? Pearl earrings? No matter how small, or clearly impossible to forget, they’re on the list. (I don’t list regular underwear in these since that’s in the clothing section, but if it only fits with a specific bra, that goes on the list.) For example, here’s my list for Nyssa al Ghul:
Black stompy boots
Flat black boots
Black Mehron disc (for hair)
Sponge (for applying the color)
I have two pairs of boots listed because while normally I wear the heeled boots, sometimes it’s day four of the con, and I want to suit up, but I just can’t look at the heels anymore, so I go flat. Thus, they both go on the list.
Don’t forget to list handheld items, like a weapon or other prop.
Whether you list makeup with each costume or in a separate makeup section is up to you. I end up packing a makeup arsenal, so I list it separately below, and I list a specific item only if it’s unusual to the arsenal, like a gold eyeliner I rarely use except for my Jean Grey costume or the blue lipstick my daughter uses for her Skylanders costume.
The Repair Kit
There was a time I swore I’d never take a sewing machine to a con. Then there was the time I did. Now I’m back to swearing that off. So this is what I now consider a repair kit. If yours includes a machine, you probably don’t need me to help you make this list!
Glue gun, duct tape, and safety pins: There is little that can’t be stuck back together with one of this magical trifecta. If you really want to get serious, add some E-6000.
Heat gun: Either for re-shaping foam pieces or melting hot glue that went where it shouldn’t.
Needles and thread to match all the costumes
Fabric scissors and sewing scissors
Paint and brushes for touch-ups
Spare parts of whatever is in your costume—rivets, buttons, grommets, buckles that might come loose—and the tools required to insert them.
Spare pieces if you think you might need to remake or patch something—for example, a few extra chunks of foam or Worbla if you have a fragile piece.
Hooks and eyes
Extra wires, batteries, LEDs, or other electronics parts if your costume needs them.
Tide pen, because you just had to have BBQ for lunch, didn’t you?
This is a good time to note that if you’re traveling by car, you can pack everything in the world. If you’re flying, you might have to pare down to the essentials. Think about what’s most likely to break on your costume, and bring the things to fix that.
I confess. We travel with too many electronics. Again, driving versus flying, but I carry much of this everywhere regardless. My husband has a bag we use that we even have come to refer to as “the electronics bag.” I list every item’s power cable separately because one inevitably gets left behind.
Laptop (play music, look for restaurants, download pictures from your camera)
Laptop power cable
Enough USB cables to charge the things that use them
Power strip—because no hotel room has enough outlets
Hair and Makeup
This one’s going to be more personalized, depending on your needs. But especially if you don’t travel often, it’s the most important one for the “on the list” rule. You will forget something.
Makeup kit (don’t forget to list any specific items that are costume-critical)
Mousse, gel, spray, or other hair products
Contact lens supplies
Band-Aids (entire first aid kit if you’re accident-prone or cautious—I was certainly appreciative of the person carrying one the year I cut my head open!)
Moleskin (if you’re blister prone)
Your lady-time supplies of choice, because even if you’ve never had breakthrough bleeding in your life, your uterus knows when you’re unprepared and not in a situation to deal with it easily.
Painkillers of your preference (that aren’t liquor)
I don’t usually pack the things that hotels have—soap, shampoo, blow dryers, but if you are attached to yours, add them to the list. And if you’re a wig person, don’t forget all your wig accoutrements.
Whatever liquids you do pack—hair gel, shampoo, contact lens solution—wrap it in a plastic bag. The last thing you want is to get to the con and discover all of your clothes are covered in conditioner because the lid popped open or something crushed it.
If you’re flying, this is the stuff that should be in your carry-on, just in case.
Lanyard (for your badge—they’re sometimes not provided, and Dragon Con is one of those times)
Badge pickup confirmation (for Dragon Con, your postcard)
Small bag for carrying around daytime essentials, like the program guide, water bottle, phone, camera, etc.
Reusable water bottle
Cash—the ATMs around the con are going to run out of money. Don’t forget to have small bills for tips.
Your hotel confirmation number, just in case
A couple of pens and Sharpies—I don’t know why this is, but you always need one and never have it.
In the Room
How much food you pack depends on how much you want to eat in the room. Some people bring PB&J and a loaf of bread and eat it all weekend. Here’s our approach for a five-day con:
Alcohol of choice
Pitcher for mixing
Bottle opener, because nothing is sadder than a six-pack you can’t open
Board games—now’s a good time for that Cards Against Humanity deck you never play because there are always kids around!
Just in case you aren’t actually in costume all weekend. Just in case you don’t want to ride home in a corset because you forgot actual clothes.
Enough clothes for the weekend—if you can’t imagine con without your favorite Batman shirt, list it specifically!
Underwear (extra underwear is never a bad idea—cons are sweaty times!)
Comfortable walking shoes
Hoodie if you’re cold natured
Pajamas (just because you don’t wear any at home doesn’t mean your roommates want to see that)
Hangers for anything costume or clothing that should be hung
If you want to be absolutely certain you’re as prepared as possible, I would read a few other lists as well. This is what I’ve found we need. You may want things we don’t care about, like an alarm clock, or have personal needs that aren’t on my list.
Finally, here are a few general packing suggestions:
Pack folded clothes on the way there. Roll your clothes to come home, which makes them take up less space, and you can fit in your new treasures from the dealers’ room. I usually roll dirty clothes and leave any still-clean ones folded so I don’t accidentally launder clean clothes when I get home.
If you’re flying with family, spread out your clothes. If you need three suitcases for three people, that is not one suitcase per person. That is one-third of a suitcase per person, so if one goes missing, nobody’s naked.
If you have to ship to the hotel, they will usually charge you a handling fee for the box somewhere between $5 and $25, depending on which hotel and the weight of the box.
I have one costume that requires two suitcases and a Rubbermaid tub. It is an epic game of Tetris to get it in. If you have a similar situation, when you get to the hotel room, take pictures as you unpack it so you know how to get it all back in. Nobody wants to spend the last night of con trying to figure out how to get it all back home.
When I’m packing for the family, I make a chart for items that each of us need so that I can check off for each person and separate it by what goes in which suitcase. Here’s an example:
You can see that in the purple bag, so far R and H have both of their formal outfits packed, but S and I do not. S has no underwear and should really get on that. S didn’t think he’d need a hoodie for this trip, so that spot is blank. Making this chart makes the list one-quarter the length compared to making each person an individual list!
Check with your roommates so you don’t end up with doubles of everything when one would be enough. Make a shared Google Doc and note who’s bringing what.
Last month, Lucasfilm announced an assortment of product partnerships for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including Verizon, Duracell, General Mills, Subway, HP, and FCA US. The seventh was CoverGirl cosmetics, and today we finally got to see what that will look like.
On the up side, Star Wars! Possibly on the down side, depending on your makeup preferences, the colors are very trendy and not necessarily daily wear, featuring shimmery purples, a gold, and a silver shade. But on the other hand, while a luminous lilac might not be office wear for your day job, they could be perfect for your next cosplay. The nail colors are a bit more wearable. (And I’m amused that one is named Nemesis, which seems more like a Star Trek color name.) There appear to be two mascaras, a Light Side and a Dark Side that are repackages of their Super Sizer mascara. They come in 10 different tubes, each with a Star Wars quote on it, from “Do. Or do not. There is no try,” to “You will meet your destiny.”
See all the pictures in the preview at Allure magazine and get it in stores September 4.
Each year before Dragon Con, we bring you a preview of what’s to come on DragonConTV. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, DCTV streams to the con’s host hotel rooms and is shown in between panels. It features a combination of Adult Swim style bumpers, music videos, and assorted parodies.
This year there’s a new Star Wars movie on its way, and that’s prime DCTV fodder. The result is their musical tribute to Taylor Swift and Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: “Sold It Off,” a parody of “Shake It Off.” You can watch it now (before Dragon Con!) below, and check out some of the older fun on their YouTube channel.
Starring Rachel Pendergrass as Princess Swift and Rory Gordon as George Lucas.
Written by Stephen Granade and Brian Richardson.
Directed by Brian Richardson and Tommy Byrd.
Video Editing and Music Production by Tommy Byrd.
If you’re like us, you can’t get enough of the Lego video games. Lego Dimensions comes out in September, and we just have to wait a little bit longer for the next one. Lego Marvel’s Avengers will be released on January 26, 2016 in North America and January 29, 2016 in Europe. It’s the first console game to include the stories and characters from The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
GameStop pre-orders will also get the Silver Centurion Iron Man minifig, also playable in the game. Pre-orders online will come with it, but if you buy in-store, it’s only available while supplies last.
Lego Marvel’s Avengers will be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Windows PC.
The game will follow the storyline of the two Avengers movies, which you can get a hint of in the peek at a few of the characters below:
Through September 7 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, you can visit an unusual beach—one made of plastic ball pit balls.
The BEACH is an installation created by the Brooklyn-based studio Snarkitecture. It covers the museum’s 10,000-square-foot Great Hall with an ocean of nearly one million recyclable, translucent plastic balls. White beach chairs and umbrellas adorn a 50-foot wide “shoreline,” and the ball-pit ocean ends with a mirrored wall to make the space seem even more vast. You can take a ball-pit swim or take up whatever you might do at the beach, including grabbing a drink from the snack bar.
Admission is first come, first served, no timed entry. Adult tickets to the BEACH are $16, ages 3-17 and seniors are $13. For locals, there are also season passes available starting at $30 for an individual adult, $15 for youth, and $75 for a family (good for up to 6 admissions per visit).
This past weekend, ConCarolinas returned to Charlotte, NC, for the 14th year. It’s a great con that I always enjoy, and this year was no different.
It was, however, quite different from last year’s event in two significant ways. Last year’s guest of honor was George R. R. Martin, which was amazing, but it gave the con a significant slant in attendance to Game of Thrones fans. This year was back to a broader audience with far fewer Khaleesi costumes.
The con also moved to an Embassy Suites with a convention center space in nearby Concord from its previous location at the University Hilton. Opinions from long-time con-goers varied on the change. Some felt the new space was a bit too large (and perhaps would have been more useful for last year’s roving bands of Khaleesis). Indeed, some panels that would have felt full in a more size-appropriate space seemed sparsely attended in the expansive rooms available in the new hotel. On the other hand, the layout on a square was quite convenient (keep walking; you’ll find what you’re looking for!). And with the amenities of an Embassy Suites (read: massive, cooked-to-order breakfast and evening drinks both included), not to mention the spacious hotel rooms for con-goers who like to pile in, I found it to be a great space for a con.
Despite a Kids Track, there didn’t seem to be particularly many children in attendance. (This apparently shortage may also be because I left my own children with their grandmother!) The schedule also featured several panels for parents that I attended, including “Getting Your Kids Into Gaming” and “Raising Scientifically Minded Children.” The latter spurred an interesting debate amongst some of the panelists over whether and to what extent we should be pushing all children into science.
Jim Craig, the panel moderator and Planetarium Director at The Schiele Museum of Natural History, commented that science doesn’t have the same cool and exciting portrayal in pop culture that it did in the 1950s and 1960s. He also noted that today, we tend to blame problems on scientists instead of politicians. After the other panelists suggested ways we can change this, such as through encouraging children with competitions and games, author James Maxey said, “The whole concept of how you make it cool is the wrong way to go. Coolness isn’t the problem—science doesn’t have a marketing problem.” He went on to say that a century ago and even more when so many great discoveries were being made, it wasn’t 50 percent of the population who understood science. It wasn’t even 5 percent. “We never needed a majority of people to understand a science in order for it to advance,” Maxey said. “So I don’t know that trying to get everybody engaged is the wisest route.”
Science guest of honor Catherine Asaro rebutted that we’re in a scientific time unmatched in history, where we all take technology for granted. She argued that to keep up with that pace, the population in general needs to be more scientifically aware. Craig replied that that’s why the smart people work to make the technology more idiot-proof, explaining that while he has a broad understanding of his phone, he doesn’t have any idea what makes the earphones work or what the science of the glass in the screen is. “I could devote years of studying to understand it, but would that enhance my life?” he asked.
“We don’t all need to be specialists,” Asaro said. “We just need the awareness that you just demonstrated.”
In far less serious hours of the con, there was a lot to take in. Doctor Who fans gathered with Fourth Doctor scarves, which they laid end-to-end in a Guinness World Record attempt. (No word yet on the outcome.) One of my favorite geek entertainers, Mikey Mason, gave several concerts. Nerd-Vana Burlesque made their ConCarolinas debut, although my favorite part of that show was not the burlesque, but emcee Rich Sigfrit’s readings of 50 Shades of Grey as characters like Ron Swanson and Pinky and the Brain. (You can see a few other of his “50 Shades of Wrong” characters on Nerd-Vana’s YouTube channel.)
If you find yourself looking for a great Southeast con to add to your schedule, you can register for 2016 now for only $30. Next year’s event will be held June 3-5, 2016. Check out the photo gallery below for some of the con’s highlights, including the great costumes.
Only a little more than six weeks to go until one of the founding members of The Avengers sees if he can measure up to the standard the rest of the MCU has set–even at a half-inch tall. Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd up against Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and premieres July 17, 2015. Watch the latest trailer here:
Warner Brothers has just released a new collection of what are likely 18 of your favorite Looney Tunes cartoons, collected in a DVD calledLooney Tunes Musical Masterpieces.
It’s more than a few of our generation whose classical music knowledge started with “What’s Opera, Doc?” and “Rabbit of Seville.” This DVD is a chance to introduce your kids to two hours of that same experience. One of my favorite jokes is in “Rhapsody Rabbit,” which involves primarily Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” Bugs Bunny’s piano concert is interrupted by a ringing telephone, which he answers, “Eh, what’s up doc? Who? Franz Liszt? Never heard of him. Wrong number.”
The included shorts are:
Rabbit of Seville
One Froggy Evening
What’s Opera, Doc?
I Love to Singa
Page Miss Glory
Pigs in a Polka
Three Little Bops
Rhapsody in Rivets
Back Alley Oproar
Holiday for Shoestrings
Those of you who already own Looney Tunes DVDs, specifically the Golden Collection and Platinum Collection, will see that you already own these musical shorts scattered across those volumes. Some fans have commented that this makes the Musical Masterpieces DVD not worth owning. I suspect these people are not parents of young children.
I do own the larger Collection sets, but to my kids (ages 6 and 9), who love those, this still might as well be a completely new DVD. It’s all of these musically focused pieces together, rather than scattered across seven separate discs, which has a different feel. If you consume your cartoons differently, you may not feel the same way.
These are great shorts to watch with your kids—they’re not only a musical education, but also an occasional history lesson, as these cartoons were made largely in the 1940s and 1950s. (Though none are the 1940s war-related cartoons.) You’ll be even more amused today than you were as a child by the depiction of 2056 (which would be 101 years after the cartoon was made) in “One Froggy Evening.”
Also note that if you’ve been waiting to replace your old VHS also named Musical Masterpieces, this DVD is not identical to that release. It contains many of the same songs, and those that aren’t are available in the aforementioned Collections sets, with the exception of the 1941 short “Notes to You.”
We know you’re all waiting with all the patience you can muster, ticket in hand, for this weekend’s release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. To tide you over, here are a few new featurette videos, starring Black Widow and Scarlet Witch.
Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to review Annette Simon’s books, Robot Zombie Frankenstein and Robot Burp Head Smartypants. And as much as I love those two robots, it’s following her on Facebook where I found something I never get too much of: her book spine poetry.
“I started playing with spine poems, or ‘centos,’ shortly after I began working at our local indie, The BookMark, in 2011,” Annette told me when I asked how she started creating these wonderful mini-poems. “A perk of being a bookseller is getting the chance to read books not yet published,” she continued, “and one day a colleague, Pat Laurence, and I starting playing with the fun titles of the advance copies piled on the cart. I had my camera with me, and one thing led to another. I didn’t really know spine poetry was a ‘thing’ until the store received Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books. Then the blog Brain Pickings mentioned it, and I learned that Travis Jonker at School Library Journal had been talking spine poems since 2010. So they get the credit; I get to play. Won’t you join us?”
Because I never tire of seeing them and in honor of National Poetry Month, I asked Annette if she’d share her favorites with us, so here they are along with a few of my favorites she’s created as well.
Annette prefaced this one with, “For those who scribble, scratch, draft, and doodle. Yay, you!”
We’ve all had this day:
And this feeling:
For all those graduations and birthdays and awards and futures waiting to happen:
What I want in friends:
Career planning? This one’s for you:
If you’ve developed a close relationship with your electronics, you’ll understand:
If only the answers were inside:
We all learned this truth:
Watch out for bears and dragons. Especially if you’re hungry. Or if they’re hungry, come to think of it.
Lost fans, it’s the day you’ve been waiting for. The numbers. They’ve arrived. 4. 8. 15. 16. 23. 42.
There’s only one possible way to mark the occasion. Today, April 8, 2015 at 16:23:42, you must press the button. A button, anyway. No button handy? Here, we made you one:
But it’s just a button. It doesn’t actually do anything. Not satisfying enough? If your timing is right, you can also press the button at enterthehatch.com, which has been running for 529 days and counting.
And if that’s still not satisfying, you can reminisce through a real button debate over at reddit, where users have been pressing (or not pressing) the button for a week now in what started as an April Fool’s Day post. Any user account created before April 1, 2015 can choose to press the button once and only once. A timer counts down from 60 seconds. If a user pressed the button, the timer will reset to 60 seconds and continue counting down. As the announcement post said, “We can’t tell you what to do from here on out. The choice is yours.” And the pushers vs. non-pushers continue to watch and debate at /r/thebutton until the countdown finally ends.
Of course, you could go back and rewatch all of Lost, but who can survive those last two seasons again? Instead, maybe you can catch up with some of the actors in their newer roles:
Emilie de Ravin (Claire Littleton) plays Belle French/Lacey on Once Upon a Time
Daniel Dae Kim (Jin Kwon) plays Chin Ho Kelly and Terry O’Quinn (John Locke) plays Joe White on Hawaii Five-0
Michael Emerson (Ben Linus) plays Harold Finch on Person of Interest
Alan Dale (Charles Widmore) plays Tom Morrow on NCIS and General Riesen on Dominion
Ian Somerhalder (Boon Carlyle) plays Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries
Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert) plays Sheriff Alex Romero on Bates Motel
Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond Hume) plays Stephen Finch on Scandal
Rebecca Mader (Charlotte Lewis) plays Zelena/Wicked Witch on Once Upon a Time
Harold Perrineau (Michael Dawson) plays Manny and Jeremy Davieson (Daniel Faraday) played Ritchie Simpson on Constantine
Evangeline Lilly (Kate Austen) will be appearing in Ant-Man in July
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko) played Malko in Game of Thrones and was recently announced to play Killer Croc in Suicide Squad in August
Remember about six months ago when HBO promised us you’d be able to have HBO streaming without a cable or satellite subscription? It’s finally here: HBO Now. All you need is Internet and an Apple device. Unfortunately for now, at least, you have to have an an Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone. You also must be in the US. (Sorry, Android and Roku people. We’ll keep waiting.)
If you sign up for it this month, you’ll get a 30-day free trial period. Shows available now include Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, True Blood, Deadwood, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Veep, and Entourage. You can also catch up on movies, like Jersey Boys, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Godzilla.
Want to know which flash drive or SSD gives you the most GB for the dollar? Or trying to find your options for a laptop with a touchscreen, 10 GB of RAM, and a 17″ screen? If you haven’t seen www.productchart.com, it does all those things, comparing smartphones, laptops, tablets, flash drives, and solid state drives in a convenient chart form. And as of Thursday, the site lets you compare 3D printers as well.
Germany-based programmer Marek Gibney created the tool. Clearly excited by data, he also created Gnoosic, a tool that helps you find new music you’ll like based on the stuff you already enjoy.
Are you ready for Arduino Day this Saturday? If you’ve been thinking about getting the kids started with this popular hardware, the day dedicated to the purpose seems like as good a time as any! There are events happening around the world as well as online. Here’s how to find the best celebration for you:
If you live near Sparkfun in Niwot, CO, you can visit in person and check out the Atmel Tech on Tour truck a day early on Friday, March 27. You must register in advance, though. They’ll be showing a sneak peek at the new Arduino RF101 Wi-Fi shield using Atmel’s own WINC1500 SMART Connect module.
Find a project! If you’re already Arduino-proficient, it’s a great time to start a new project or to help someone you know get started. Browse Sparkfun, Adafruit, Instructables, Make, and the Arduino site for ideas and instructions.
Know of other ways and places to celebrate Arduino Day? Let us know in the comments.
What is it about Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ groove-tastic “Uptown Funk” that seems to beg for parodies and remixes? The original spent 11 weeks in Billboard‘s #1 spot and broke records for the highest number of streams, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
Even Barry Allen digs this tune, playing it while he gets ready for a date in “The Nuclear Man” episode of The Flash.
Whatever it is—perhaps simply the fact that we don’t seem to tire of the promise that uptown funk’s gonna give it to you, it’s hard not to love both the original and these parodies…
Do you miss the musical stylings of Strongbad in Homestar Runner? Fair warning: You may have trouble getting the “Uptown Fhqwhgads” mashup out of your head.
If Harry Potter were a musical, this is how You-Know-Who would get his murderous groove on, with lines like “It’s Saturday night, and we’re taking Hogwarts” and the Harry Potter theme mixed in:
Mark Ronson is a YouTube breakout with his impressions. In this one, he does “Uptown Funk” in cartoon voices, largely from Family Guy:
Cruising the town in a minivan? So do these moms in “Suburban Funk,” clad in yellow dishwashing gloves and yoga pants:
College Humor went… classier (?) with a Downton Abbey edition:
This one’s about donut love. Up, down, dunk your ‘nuts. They’re too hot. Hot jam. (Bonus: It even has a recipe!)
Make a creeper wanna explode, my man. For the Minecraft lovers:
Or if your gaming is more Call of Duty:
Still not your game? How about “Clocktown Funk,” a Zelda parody?
And of course, a parody list isn’t complete until Darth Vader gets in on the action. Jedi training, hallelujah. Star Wars funk gonna give it to ya:
This first GeekMom playlist has the songs you named in that thread. We’d like to keep making more of them for you, though, so if there are songs you’d like to see on future playlists or themes you’d like (zombies! pirates! the best of filk!), leave a comment, and we’ll start making the lists.
One of my favorite things about the Game Developers Conference the last two years has been the exhibit from the Videogame History Museum. You may also have seen their displays at other conferences, including PAX East, E3, and SXSW.
It was founded by the creators of the Classic Gaming Expo to document and preserve video game history. Growing out of the touring Classic Gaming Expo museum exhibit, the Videogame History Museum is approaching having a permanent home in Frisco, Texas, where the city has voted to finish 10,400 square feet with room for expansion.
This year’s GDC exhibit focused on the history of Atari. The Atari 2600 was my own first game system. My kids have played it, and I most recently bought a game for it last April.
The Museum’s Atari exhibit includes not just that 2600 system, but many example systems from the company, including systems like the Touch Me, a handheld game system that was the inspiration for Ralph Baer to create Simon. Other systems and games on display were never publicly released, such as Game Brain, a cartridge-based prototype system for which only five cartridges were ever made, and Atari Cosmos, the result of Atari buying many holography patents to create a hologram-based game system.
You could also have a seat on the sofa and play a few rounds on the 2600, or in another area, you could play a modified version of Adventure, the game that introduced many people to the concept of Easter eggs in video games. Because game designers weren’t getting a lot of credit for their work, Adventure designer Warren Robinett buried his name in a secret, difficult-to-reach room within the game. The version of Adventure on display simplified finding the Easter egg so that more people could have the experience firsthand.
Finally the exhibit featured cases of Atari memorabilia, including t-shirts, golf balls, stickers, Frisbees, and more.
If you weren’t able to see it in person, have a click through our gallery, and later this summer, you can visit the National Videogame Museum 1.0 when it opens in Frisco, Texas.
In two weeks, a Wizard World-branded convention descends on my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. Last week, all of of my Facebook friends had a simultaneous squee of joy when David Tennant was added to the guest list. If I had a dollar for every person who asked if I was going now, I’d be kept in Starbucks for the rest of the month. But no, I’m still not going. I have no interest in any Wizard World events.
First, let’s just look at this from a rational point of view. Admission for the three-day event is $75 in advance or $85 at the door. Or you can choose a “VIP Experience” with the aforementioned Tennant for $400 or with William Shatner for $275 or $500, depending on just how VI you want your experience to be. What does that extra $225 get you? A Shatner lithograph instead of a trading card and a photo pre-signed by Leonard Nimoy. (These prices were set and this post written before Nimoy’s death yesterday.)
I can’t tell you what the programming will be since, 12 days out, they’re still accepting suggestions. But having looked at other Wizard World schedules in the past, there are usually 15-20 programming panels/sessions over the course of the weekend. Total. Not per day. Not per room. Total.
In the end, you’re paying $75 minimum to get in the door, largely for the opportunity to spend more money on autographs ($25 to $150) or photos with celebrities ($40-$110). That’s not what the con experience is about for me.
To compare, for $95, you could buy an advanced membership to Dragon Con for a much larger guest list with a similar caliber of names and four days of constant programming that adds up to more than 3500 hours, not 15. And if you want to go get an autograph and a photo in a spare moment, you can do that, too. And a lot of other stuff. So much other stuff.
Or for $5, you could go to the Oak City Comic and Toy Show today, only a week before Wizard World, also in Raleigh. (Free to the first 200 in costume!) In fact, Wizard Worlds have a bit of a reputation for moving into town within weeks of another show. First by scheduling their Big Apple Comic Con during the same weekend as New York Comic Con in 2010. Then in Toronto, Seattle/Portland, and in Minneapolis. Sometimes they just straight up buy the local con, like in Ohio, where they then increased the cost of an artist’s table from $125 to $200 (on top of a buying a pass to attend at only a 26% discount). A vendor described how, post-purchase by Wizard, the cost of a 10’x10′ booth went from $50 to $1,245. “By the end of the day I was noting vendors who’d been present for years posting signs reading ‘RIP Mid-Ohio Con,'” he says. These are hardly isolated incidents. Read tales from Wizard World experiences in Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Wizard World has also started charging $600 for fan tables, something offered for free by many cons, including Dragon Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. As a result, jilted fans have gathered through the Facebook page “Boycott Wizard World,” where they share tales of assorted bad experiences with Wizard Worlds. In Philadelphia, reports of those hundreds of high-priced photos being thrown on a table for retrieval by their owners. In New Orleans, a band providing music for free wasn’t even given comped badges—they were effectively asked to pay to perform. A winner of their online cosplay contest was told that Wizard World had no idea what he was talking about when he tried to collect the promised prize.
This fan-excluding money-grab isn’t the type of fandom I’m interested. In fact, I’m not sure you can call what Wizard World does “fandom” at all. “Fan exploitation,” perhaps. It’s not the type of show I want to support, and I suggest you don’t either.
Even the non-geeks among us recognize Leonard Nimoy for the years he spent as Spock on the original Star Trek series. But he was so much more, as an actor, a director, an author, a musician, and more. His contributions will leave a long impression in the arts.
Nimoy was no stranger to TV or movies when he landed that memorable Vulcan role. He was on many of the memorable programs of the 50s and 60s to varying degrees, including Dragnet, Sea Hunt, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, and The Outer Limits.
Then came Star Trek, three Emmy nominations, and a lifetime of being recognized as Spock, a character he played in multiple Star Trek TV shows and movies over the years.
Over those subsequent years, he played many roles while alternating between embracing the Spock character and the occasional desire for some distance. His two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock discuss how that character affected his life and in many ways became a part of him.
But he was so much more than Spock, with a master’s degree in education and creating works as an artist of many stripes, working in photography, poetry, and music. He had his first photography exhibit in a gallery in 1973 and eventually published three books of photos, Shekhina (2002), The Full Body Project (2007), and Secret Selves (2010). He also had seven books of poetry published from 1973 to 2002.
He was also a philanthropist and activist in art, music, Holocaust remembrance, and other causes. In 2001, he and his wife donated $1 million to help create the 190-seat Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles based on their belief in the importance of astronomy education. In 2003, they established the Nimoy Foundation to support artists and fund their work.
So while many of us and you reading this will miss Mister Spock or perhaps Dr. Bell from Fringe, Leonard Nimoy will be deeply missed well beyond our geeky circles for his influence in so many areas.
But Nimoy also invented the Vulcan “live long and prosper” hand symbol, based on a Jewish blessing. Thus to say farewell, the GeekMoms send those wishes on to all of you. Live long and prosper, and carry on fulfilling your dreams and acting on your beliefs in the way that Nimoy did for his 83 years.
Yesterday something happened with “net neutrality”—or “Title II,” if you have particularly savvy Facebook friends cheering about the decision. You’re not entirely sure what that means or if you should care? This primer is for you.
What is net neutrality?
It means the Internet that you know. The one you’re using right now. A free and open Internet where anyone can access anything equally because all traffic coming and going is treated the same.
The opposite is an Internet where your ISP can change that. For example, a company could pay the ISP to speed up traffic to their site.
Think of the other two major content carriers in your house: your phone and your cable TV. Your phone doesn’t care much about who you’re calling. It will connect you to your credit card company exactly the same as it will connect you to grandma. Your cable, however, is quite different. Ever lost a channel because the cable company couldn’t come to an agreement with them about their contract? Imagine that applied to your Internet access. Your ISP could make your access to Netflix unusably slow (or block it) because Netflix wouldn’t pay them enough. If you’d like to imagine what shopping for Internet in that world looks like, visit jointhefastlane.com, created to show you what an Internet without net neutrality might look like.
And it’s not just important for you as a consumer. It’s important to the freedom of commerce online. Imagine you’d like to start a new video service, but Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube all have big budgets to pay to have their content delivered more quickly and clearly than you and your new company do. Is anybody going to watch your videos instead?
OK, so what changed this week?
Nothing changed and everything changed—and that’s what’s so exciting.
Nothing changed because the Internet is going to remain neutral, as it is now. Well, to be more accurate, the new FCC rules won’t be ready for a few months, and there will no doubt be court challenges. But I like to believe in optimism.
Everything changed because now we don’t have to worry about that changing. The FCC included broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act. That’s the “common carrier” section. “Common carrier” is a term that applies to things like telephone lines, things that must be provided to everyone equally.
Until yesterday, there wasn’t much really stopping companies from violating neutrality. And they did. For example, back in 2007, it was proven that Comcast was throttling or blocking BitTorrent.
Yesterday, in its announcement, the FCC reiterated the three main rules of the open Internet:
No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”
This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
Isn’t this old news? I feel like we’ve been hearing about “net neutrality” since before Luke sipped his first blue milk.
You’re right—this debate has been going on for quite some time. And that’s because since the dollar signs first appeared in some ISP executive’s eyes somewhere, defenders of the Internet have stepped up to speak about the importance of net neutrality. People like Tim Berners-Lee, who created this fantastic “World Wide Web” that we all love. (Boy, it’s been a long time since I typed those three words!) More recently, four millioin people wrote to the FCC to support net neutrality.
In 2010, the FCC passed the Open Internet Order, but parts of it were overturned in 2014. In that case, Verizon Communications Inc. v. Federal Communications Commision, the DC Circuit Court said the FCC didn’t have the authority to enforce net neutrality. Reclassifying broadband under Title II changes that.
For me, visits abroad always include at least a few minutes in the hotel of the local television fare (even if I don’t speak the language—sometimes that’s even better). My visit to London last week came not too far behind the January 12 launch of Sport England’s already-viral “This Girl Can” campaign, designed to both celebrate women being athletic as well as to encourage them to be so more often, regardless of whether they look like any other ad campaign might portray them. Because I’m a woefully out-of-touch American, this was the first I’d seen it, so for those of you who already have, forgive me for the late sharing.
My first reaction, before I even knew what it was, was an internal cheer of solidarity to the opening shot, as we see the rear view of a woman who no doubt has been discouraged from wearing a two-piece swimsuit. She adjusts her bottoms in a defiant snap.
I jiggle, therefore I am, the spot later echoes.
I’m not an especially large woman, but I’m also never going to look like a Danskin ad in ballet class, much to my teenage self’s chagrin, nor a Lululemon ad in a yoga class, which my adult self is quite OK with. And that’s what this campaign reinforced. Real athleticism doesn’t look like the photos in the gym brochure. (Except when it does, that every once in a while, and that’s OK, too. Somebody has to be in those other ads.) Every body has the potential to be an athlete’s body.
Sport England launched their campaign based on researched that showed 75% of women aged 14-40 would exercise more but held back for fear of what others thought of them. Let’s put that more bluntly. A solid 3/4 of women surveyed chose to negatively impact their health because somebody thought they might look a bit chubby in their yoga pants.
Similar to SmugMug’s internal project, the women featured in the spot are street-cast, not actresses, simply doing the sports that they enjoy doing, montaged to the beat of Missy Elliott. (Read more about the production of the spot at thedrum.com.)
The Guardian had a quite different response to the ad, though. I’m not going to link to that story, but I will share this excellent response to it for those who didn’t find the Sport England spot encouraging.
The bottom line is a spot that tells the important story: Fitness isn’t just for the already-fit. It’s for the will-be-fit and once-were-fit and would-like-to-be-fit and the dammit-I’m-going-to-try-this-one-more-time-anyway.
There’s a sentence every creative person hears eventually (or frequently) that’s a slap in the face every time:
“You have too much time on your hands.”
It’s in Urban Dictionary. There are snarky (and occasionally inspirational) Pinterest boards with “too much time on your hands” titles. Even Engadget, a site that arguably is for people with “too much time” to play with gadgets, is guilty of using it as a post title. (And it’s a Styx song, but that’s different.)
You may not think you’re being rude when you say this, but that’s because you’re not. You’re being incredibly, rudely, offensively mean. But you’re also revealing a lot.
When you say this phrase, what the creator hears is, “Wow, that was a really pointless thing you did.” And let’s be honest: That is exactly what you just said; it’s just not quite what you meant. What you were really saying was more like, “Wow, you spent a lot of time doing something you really enjoyed and created something you felt was worth sharing with me. I spent the same amount of time re-watching all of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix, pinning recipes I’ll never actually make, and playing through to level eleventy billion of Candy Crush. Now I would like to avoid reflecting too long on any of this.”
Let’s look at that. Especially this part: You spent a lot of time doing something you really enjoyed and created something you felt was worth sharing with me. It can take a lot for a creative person to share what they’ve made. It’s an act of trust. Creativity often comes with a pretty large ladle of self-doubt. And instead of supporting, encouraging, or even so much as politely smiling and nodding, you’ve declared the creation a waste.
If you’re a creative person yourself, let me offer some advice. The appropriate reply to the offender is, “No, actually I have the exact same 24 hours in a day that you do. I just choose to use them differently.” My experience is that this usually results in gobsmacked silence, which is exactly what should happen.
You can reserve the bonus snark for people who use the even more offensive version, “You should get a hobby.” (Wait, what? I just showed you the result of hours of learning a craft, but I don’t have a… I’m sorry, what?) To these people, you actually ask how they’ve been using their time. Rarely do they have a real answer. When they do have hobbies of their own, all you’re left with is the knowledge that this person, whether it was an anonymous commenter on a blog or your favorite aunt, is a little bit of a jerk. Then you have to choose whether it’s worth the time and/or potential loss of relationship to point out that you do have a hobby, and this is it, and that it’s incredibly rude to call someone’s hobby less valuable than your own.
And if you do? Worst case, you’re labeled “the weirdo,” but I gotta tell you—there are more of us. And we’re way more fun. Alas, what we don’t have is much time on our hands. We’ve got too many awesome projects.
To that, in closing, I offer you five fantastic things I found online with the phrase, “too much time on their hands”:
Project Superhero‘s Jessie and her friends are the kids you want your daughter to be and be friends with in the eighth grade. She has an enviable comic book collection, and she loves journalism and science. (Things like the likelihood of Black Canary’s scream being possible bothers her.) Her friend Audrey is an electronics lover who has a room full of computer parts and builds robots.
In Project Superhero, written as Jessie’s journal, their class embarks on the Superhero Slam, a year-long 8th-grade project to explore heroes and superheroes—culturally, scientifically, and sociologically—culminating in a one-on-one debate for superhero supremacy.
Jessie’s stories will sound familiar to grown-up comic book geeks. They’re your friends talking about the characters. (“Zatanna…has cool sorcery powers, but I am kind of not so much into “magical intervention” when it comes to superheroes.”) They’re talk about women in and working on comics. (“There are lots of women on that team but they are still X-MEN—what is up with that?”) And it’s a pre-teen girl talking about her friends, parents, and figuring out who she is through the lens of her love for comics.
– Clara Hughes, six-time Winter and Summer Olympic medalist
– Bryan Q. Miller, writer for Batgirl and Smallville
– Jessica Watson, author of True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World
– Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympic gold medalist and World Champion in ice hockey
– Mike Bruen, NYPD sergeant-on-duty at Ground Zero
– Kelly Sue DeConnick, comic book writer for Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble
– Yuriko Romer, filmmaker (Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful)
– Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut and engineer
– Christie Nicholson, contributing editor at Scientific American and SmartPlanet
Project Superhero is all of this wrapped in a package of a lot of comic book history with a dash of science, history, and language lessons. It’s also delightfully illustrated by Kris Pearn, who co-directed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Though described as for 8- to 12-year-olds and perfectly appropriate for that audience, some of the heavier topics (9/11, friends in the hospital, dealing with medical issues like depression and insulin injections) may warrant a parental pre-read before giving it to the younger end. (You know your kids the best.) I’ll be happy to hand it over to my 9-year-old comic book fan.
There’s not much shopping time left before Christmas, but it’s not too late to fill in the gaps with gifts for the makers and hackers (or would-be makers and hackers) on your list! Here are our recommendations, sorted by skill level.
Snap Circuits (price varies)
You can get basic Snap Circuits sets for as little as $20, and they’re a great introduction to young ones with an interest in how things go together. You get to make lights light up, sounds buzz, and fans whir without soldering, but still with the ability to see what a complete circuit looks like.
These items are ready for someone who has little to no programming or hardware experience.
Makey Makey ($50)
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Gee, self, wouldn’t it be great if somebody would turn this banana into a game controller?,” then the Makey Makey is just the thing you’re looking for. Basically, it turns anything into a keypress. Like what? The product description suggests ketchup, pencil graphite, your grandma, pets, and rain. Anything that can conduct at all. It’s a super-easy entry point to electronics.
This is the anybody-can-do-it path to LEDs in your hoodie. As long as you can hand sew without crossing the threads, you’re good to go. It comes with the board, battery, thread, and even the needles, as well as four white LEDs. Sew a path from the board to each LED, and you’re finished. Tip: The Firefly Jar Kit at Sparkfun is the same board and same price, but with a felt “jar” to give you a starter project. And you can always reuse the pieces later. Those ready for more complicated projects should check out the more advanced LilyPad board in the next section.
Soldering Iron (price varies)
Any electronics builder is eventually going to need a soldering iron. There are several basic kits out there, including ones from Elenco, the company that makes the fantastic Snap Circuits toys. (Those are a great gift for the much younger future makers on your list.) Elenco also offers a Deluxe Learn To Solder Kit with more practical application practice.
Electronic Dice Kit ($19.95)
This is a fun kit to build for someone who knows how to solder but not how to program, especially if they also happen to be gamers. About an hour of building, and they’ll have an LED D6 device.
Similarly, the Metro-Gnome is a basic digital metronome for the music-loving maker on your list. It requires basic soldering skills (or serves as a learn-to-solder project).
This programmable introduction to wearable electronics includes three LEDs and built-in light and temperature sensors. But you don’t have to know how to solder!
These are the gifts for someone a little bit older or a little bit more experienced. They don’t need to be programmers (yet), but these things will help get them there.
Raspberry Pi—and related items ($35 and up)
A Raspberry Pi itself costs $35 from any number of retailers. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, you could buy a few accessories for a project you think might interest the recipient. There are also starter kits like this one from Adafruit, which are useful if you have no idea what to buy. However, in my opinion, they tend to be a bit overpriced for anyone who has any tinkering items at all already. Of course, I also have to mention my own book, Raspberry Pi Hacks: Tips & Tools for Making Things with the Inexpensive Linux Computer, which includes more than 60 tips and projects for users of every experience level. (See notes in the next section about whether you should get a Pi or an Arduino.)
ProtoSnap – LilyPad Development Board Complete ($69.95) For those who would enjoy the LilyTwinkle mentioned above, but with a few more bells and whistles, the more robust LilyPad Protosnap includes more LEDs as well as a light sensor, temperature sensor, and buzzer.
These gift recipients know what they’re doing and are ready to build. They probably already have some programming experience.
Bare Conductive Paint ($9.95)
Bare Paint is a water-based paint that lets you draw (well, paint) conductive lines on just about any surface where you can paint. It’s safe and way easier than acid etching, but it’s not waterproof.
Arduino—and Lego! ($25 and up)
People often ask me whether they should get a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. It’s an apples and oranges situation—the Pi is a full computer. Plug in an SD card and peripherals, and you can boot right into Linux. The Arduino is only a microcontroller. So for someone who has no idea what to do with it, it can be a lot less satisfying to dive right into after Christmas dinner. That said, if you do have someone in the family with more patience and/or programming experience, I recommend also picking up Arduino and LEGO Projects, a book of projects you can build with Lego bricks and enhance with an Arduino. There’s even a TARDIS project on the cover!
DIY Gamer Kit ($56.95)
If you want to give a ready-to-build Arduino-based gift, this is a good starting point. It’s a tiny screen (8×8!), but you can upload your own game’s code to an Arduino and play it on this board. Tutorials are available for those who need some inspiration.
Membership to a local hackerspace (price varies)
Of course, anyone can benefit from this gift, but I put it under the advanced listings because they tend to not be inexpensive. If you’re not sure where yours is, check the listings at hackerspaces.org.