GeekMom http://geekmom.com Smart. Savvy. Social. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:20:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 GeekDad Speaks Out About Gamergate http://geekmom.com/2014/10/geekdad-speaks-gamergate/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/geekdad-speaks-gamergate/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:20:45 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=155094 A group of GeekDad's editors and writers have something to say about Gamergate, and a pledge to do something about it.

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ShallWePlayAGame

We can’t stay silent any longer. We know what’s happened to people who have spoken up before, and we are well aware that people are going to leave comments on this post that would make a Klingon blush. Staying silent would be the easy thing to do. But we don’t consider staying silent an option for us any more.

Gamergate began as revenge-motivated backlash against an indie game developer named Zoe Quinn, sparked by her ex-boyfriend. Fueled by criticism of the video game industry for treating both female characters in games and female developers of games as less useful and interesting than their male counterparts, the flames from a depressingly large number of men on Twitter and other social media grew higher and higher. It got to the point where media critic Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speaking appearance because of threats of violence. From there it got to the point where any woman who dared speak up about the subject found her personal information immediately revealed online for anyone to find (doxxing), and herself threatened by complete strangers with sexual assault and violent death. And it’s kept going, under the guise of being a discussion about journalistic ethics (because the original, false, allegations against Quinn were that she had traded sexual favors for positive reviews of her games).

It’s very clear that the atmosphere has been corrupted. We’re guys who are gamers, and we don’t want awesome people like Felicia Day to think we might be misogynist jerks. We have mothers and sisters and, more importantly, daughters, and we want them to be able to wear their geeky gaming shirts proudly, to go to conventions and enjoy the camaraderie, to enjoy the basic human right not to live in fear.

The internet is the greatest vehicle for free expression that has ever existed. Websites gave birth to blogs, which gave birth to social media. Social media, combined with the smartphones in everyone’s pockets, is a wonderful and terrible thing. Gamergate has brought this into stark relief, and on some level we suppose we should be grateful for that. This is a problem that’s been there for too long, like a nagging pain that only sends you to the doctor when it turns agonizing.

Free expression is one of the most misunderstood concepts this side of special relativity. Too many people seem not to realize that their right to express themselves stops where other people’s rights begin — in particular, in this case, other people’s right not to be threatened with injury or death. The fact that this isn’t obvious to some people is depressing, perhaps mostly because we aren’t as surprised as we’d like to be that it isn’t.

We geeks like to think of geekdom as accepting. We like to think of ourselves as a group that will let anyone in who wants to join, because we were once the outcasts. We were the ones who were bullied in school, who were looked on with derision by so many adults, who, yes, often had trouble dealing with members of our preferred sex. We made our own manhood rituals fighting trolls and owlbears. We got our triumphs figuring out how to get the Babel Fish in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Infocom game, or how to use the Warp Zone in Super Mario Bros.

There were plenty of girls who played games in the ’80s, too, of course. But if we knew any of them then, we KNEW them; they were our friends. We played with them, so they didn’t intimidate us. We didn’t have a World Wide Web to constantly encounter perfect strangers with similar interests. Perhaps the problem is that lots of guy geeks have become hardwired to see other guy geeks, and particularly gamers, as “normal,” so they accept them pretty quickly. But women? Women that they DON’T KNOW? Hell, no. They’ve got to protect their territory from those GIRLS! And after that, with fear as a motivator, things can get ugly.

Whatever the case, we know there isn’t anything we can say that’s going to change the behavior of anyone who’d sink to the level of making personal threats against strangers. Heck, the likelihood of any of those people reading this article is minimal at best. If you’ve read this far, you probably feel the same way we do, and if so, we’d like you to join us in a pledge:

Read the pledge at GeekDad.

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Black Cats Mean Halloween http://geekmom.com/2014/10/black-cats/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/black-cats/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=155068 Do you have a black cat running around your house? Join the club! So do many of the GeekMom writers!

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Phoenix Photo: GeekMom Judy

Phoenix
Photo: GeekMom Judy

When we visited the shelter last May, looking for a new kitty to adopt, we had no intention of picking a pure black cat. We held and snuggled many other kitties but the quiet, little, dark guy in the last cage stole our hearts. It was then that I began to learn about the plight of the black cat.

Sure, we all know black cats adorn all the Halloween decorations, right next to witches and ghosts. But in real life, that doesn’t necessarily end up being a good thing. The shelter staff told us that during most of the year they have trouble adopting out pure black cats. The only reason I can even imagine is that they are very hard to capture on film. Unless our kitty, who we named Phoenix, is against just the right backdrop, with just the right lighting, he turns into a black blur in any photograph.

Our new family member had been taken to several adoption fairs and had never been picked, yet he was the sweetest and most loving cat we held that day. It never occurred to us not to pick him because of his color.

As a side note I do have to tell the story about our first night home with our new kitty. It was Mother’s Day and here in Colorado we were in the middle of a big snowstorm. By midnight our power had gone out. We suddenly found ourselves in a pitch black house, with a pitch black cat underfoot somewhere, but we weren’t quite sure where. Not knowing his patterns yet, paired with his intense curiosity of his new home, led us to tread very lightly until the lights came back on.

His first night in our house. Fitting right in.  Photo: Judy Berna

His first night in our house, fitting right in.
Photo: Judy Berna

The folks at the shelter had also told us that they will not adopt out black cats in the weeks leading up to Halloween. There have been too many bad things that have happened to these innocent little guys at the hands of people claiming they are celebrating the holiday. So this year we have kept our kitty indoors for the past two weeks. He sits by the door and cries, intensely watching all the bugs jumping in the tall grass in our backyard. He just doesn’t understand why his loving family suddenly turned cruel.

After posting a picture on Facebook of our little beauty, several of my friends commented that they also had black cats. Pure black cats, just like mine. Then I realized that every one of the comments had come from a GeekMom writer. We started to wonder, what is it about black cats that makes them end up in geeky households? Ours happened accidentally but I love hearing the stories of how others came to find their furry friends.

Have you ever had a black cat, or do you have one now? Does he/she have an interesting story? Have you ever had trouble with people bothering him/her in the last weeks of October? We’d love to hear your stories, and see your pictures.

For now, here is a small sampling of our black kitties, to get you in the Halloween mood today.

Patriotic Phoenix Photo: Judy Berna

Patriotic Phoenix
Photo: Judy Berna

GeekMom Judy’s boys carry him around like a baby and he pretends not to like it. Having only had older cats before, they are enjoying the spunk and silliness of a younger kitty.

Arianne

Raven Photo: GeekMom Ariane

GeekMom Ariane says, “Her name is Raven after a character from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. The verdict is she IS plotting to kill us.”

cathe

Echo Photo: GeekMom Cathe

GeekMom Cathe reports: “Echo is 7lb of pure black, annoying sass. She kicks the butt of cats three times as big as her, and is the most tolerant of small children. Bonus points for the loudest purr ever.”

Ezra Photo: GeekMom Jenny

Ezra
Photo: GeekMom Jenny

GeekMom Jenny’s feline baby: “This is my black cat, Ezra. My daughter gussied him up for the purpose of who knows what. He is a hellion and probably deserved it.”

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DC Comics’ LEGO Variant Covers for November http://geekmom.com/2014/10/dc-lego-variants/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/dc-lego-variants/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=155035 You can find your favorite DC Comics characters in their LEGO form gracing their respective comic book covers throughout November.

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© DC Comics

© DC Comics

If you and your kids love comic books and LEGO, have I got some news for you! Not only will this November bring LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham to video game stores everywhere, you can also find your favorite DC Comics characters in their LEGO form gracing their respective comic book covers throughout the month.

Stop by your local comic book store to find LEGO variants for November titles including Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Catwoman, Justice League, and more.

Check out the covers in the gallery below. Isn’t Sinestro the cutest? There’s a sentence I’d never imagined I would type…

Click to view slideshow.

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How to Make a Dancing Baby Groot Costume With Only a Few Failed Attempts http://geekmom.com/2014/10/how-to-baby-groot-costume/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/how-to-baby-groot-costume/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:00:46 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=151174 Instead of a tutorial, I plan to drink wine. Acceptable? While drinking, I will share what my husband did for the other three members of our household.

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IMG_6090

Chef, Honey-Where-Are-My-Pants Guy, Dancing Baby Groot, and Rocket Raccoon.

When my husband and I got married, we were warned that we would fight about money or sex. Not us. We fight about the direction a costume is taking during construction. It has happened every time we have made costumes. After the second design failure on Groot, we just let it go (great, now that song is stuck in my head). Neither of our ideas were working, and we weren’t doing so well.

IMG_4530

What you will need for your Dancing Baby Groot costume. Image: Cathe Post

For this Dancing Baby Groot tutorial you will need:

A Flower Pot (Ours was about 14″ in diameter, choose your accordingly)

Leggings (Brown)

Sweatshirt (Brown)

Close-cell foam 1″ thick

Gorilla Glue

Cheap Sunglasses

Cheap Plastic Foliage

Brown Painter’s Paper  Brown Paint

Green Painter’s Paper Green Paint

Brown Gloves?

Cardboard

Moss

Old Tennis Shoes

More Gorilla Glue

Patience

A sense of humor

Instead of a tutorial, I plan to drink wine. Acceptable? While drinking, I will share what my husband did for the other three members of our household.

Let it be known that gender roles do not apply in my house. Not only does my husband cook, he also busted his butt to sew and paint our costumes in time for GeekGirlCon in mid-October. He is the most awesome guy in the world.

Groot

First we tried gluing, then we tried sewing, finally we said a few choice curse words and painted the grain on. All images: Cathe Post

We first tried twisting and crumpling painter’s paper and using Gorilla Glue to adhere it to the sweatshirt. This worked, but was a big mess and hard to keep positioned while the glue dried. There were many colorful metaphors uttered…

Next, the twisted pieces of paper were hand-sewn onto the sweatshirt. This made our daughter look like a brown box instead of a long treeling. Plus the paper was stiff and LOUD. More cursing ensued.

Groot’s pot was constructed by cutting a flower pot in half, adding cardboard, and using copious amounts of Gorilla Glue to attach old sneakers to the bottoms. For grip, a collectible card game playing mat (basically a giant mousepad) was cut and adhered. There was no cursing involved in the making of the flower pot. Now, wearing the flower pot did cause my daughter to utter a few choice phrases (to be fair, that thing had to be a pain in the arse to walk in).

As a finishing touch, I loaded I Want You Back onto my phone and connected the iFrogz Tadpole speaker GeekMom Jenny previously talked about to the inside of the flower pot. When we get around a bunch of people, my daughter could dance like Baby Groot.

IMG_8613

Rocket Raccoon and Groot

The Rocket costume went much more smoothly, though my costume had the most materials and items to purchase of our three costumes. Thankfully, with the announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 being a definite, I know I will get future use out of my costume—and have time to make a sweet gun!

IMAG2295

“Honey, where are my paaaaaants?”

My son’s costume (only to be worn for our Halloween commitments) went the smoothest of the three costumes, was the cheapest, and took the least amount of time to make. My son, quite specifically, asked to be the guy from “Honey, Were Are My Pants?,” the silly fictional sitcom from The Lego Movie. Honestly, when you are four, isn’t that the best part of the movie? Thanks to having a cardboard supply that multiplies like tribbles, having yellow rain pants (needed in the Pacific Northwest), and a pajama top the same color as the guy’s shirt, we only had to purchase blue spray paint and World Market Cheesy Snowballs (because the container looks like a Lego mini-figure head with a bit of modification). We had a selection of acrylic craft paints and a few different spray paints, so we didn’t even have to purchase those either. My son, needless to say, thinks that the costume is awesome—because, “Everything is awesome!”

Great. Now I have that song stuck in my head…

Thankfully, we got most of our arguing and Vulcan-Death-Match fighting out of the way on Groot’s costume. By the time the Lego guy’s costume was finished, we didn’t care where our pants were.

If you want to tell my husband that he did a geek-tastic job on our costumes, tag @timsmartini on Twitter. After making costumes for everyone else, he was too tired to make one for himself, so we dug out an old chef’s jacket and hat we’d ordered from a uniform supply. Instant costume!

Happy Halloween from Rocket, Groot, Honey-Where-Are-My-Pants guy, and Chef!

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You Are Here: A New Book From Astronaut Chris Hadfield http://geekmom.com/2014/10/new-book-astronaut-chris-hadfield/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/new-book-astronaut-chris-hadfield/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:32 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154815 From astronaut Chris Hadfield is a new book showing us what we all have in common, our home. This is planet Earth as seen from the ISS, one picture at a time.

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You Are Here by Chris Hadfield. Image credit: Little, Brown and Company.

You Are Here by Chris Hadfield. Image credit: Little, Brown and Company.

I’m assuming that GeekMom’s readers already know about astronaut Chris Hadfield. If you don’t, you really should! As aforementioned, he is an astronaut, but his name to fame with the population at large is probably the countless viral photographs and videos he’s shared from his multiple trips to the International Space Station. Now Hadfield has a brand new photography book out, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.

Page sample from You Are Here by Chris Hadfield.

Page sample from You Are Here by Chris Hadfield. Photo of book taken by Ariane Coffin.

The ISS completes an orbit around our planet every 92 minutes, hence the title of this book. Split up by continent, the book travels around the world with photographs taken by Hadfield from the ISS. These are brand new pictures, not the same ones you might have already seen on Twitter. Hadfield himself cherry-picked some 150 photos out of the many thousands he took from space. In an interview with podcast Probably Science (explicit), Hadfield explained he picked the photos he thought told a story about our world. From down here on the surface, it’s so easy to lose perspective and feel no connection to someone half-way across the globe. However, when you see a view of Earth as a single entity from your space station, it becomes so much more obvious that we’re all sharing one world. We’re all in this together, and that’s the story Hadfield wanted to share.

Commentary by Hadfield complements the images. All photos or group of photos get an accompanying paragraph containing an explanation of what you’re seeing, along with an interesting tidbit to go with it—something about the geography of the area, and perhaps how it was formed. Some of the comments are serious, some are silly, some lean on the philosophical. For example, from the book:

“A big gush of orange or pink in the ocean is almost always a sign that something has changed dramatically upstream. In Madagascar, it’s evidence of extensive deforestation: large swaths have been cut through the rainforests and coastal mangroves. Now when it rains, there’s nothing to stop red topsoil from tumbling into rivers like the Tsiribihina on the island’s west coast, dyeing them an improbably shade of coral and clogging their mouths with sediment.”

The book is incredibly well designed, with a visually interesting mix of typography and layouts. The pages are thick quality paper, featuring many full bleed single-page and two-page spread photos. It is sure to capture the attention of adults and kids, and evoke a sense of wonder about our beautiful but slightly banged up rock we call home.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Bringing Halloween Back to the Neighborhood http://geekmom.com/2014/10/bring-halloween-back/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/bring-halloween-back/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154983 How my childhood neighborhood did trick-or-treat right—as a community.

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halloween parade

A parade of trick-or-treaters get ready to hit the houses in El Paso’s Kern Place. The West Texas neighborhood has become known throughout the area for its Halloween celebrations. All photos by Rick Tate.

My brother and I were always Halloween nuts, and we would get increasingly excited as the night of festivities approached.

Our neighborhood, Kern Place, was always filled with kids racing from house to house, and our proximity to the United States/Mexico border drew several visitors from Ciudad Juarez. My father would dress up as a stuffed dummy, complete with a grim mask, and sit deathly still just out of view of trick-or-treaters until they reached the door. He would jump up and scare the living daylights out of the older kids and adults. Many homes had something similar going, and one house even created a walk-through haunted attraction, long before it was the vogue thing to do. Everyone looked forward to the next year’s scares and surprises.

Then something seemed to go a little sour with Halloween. In the early 1980s, many of the kids in the area begin to grow up, and the nation-wide focus of Halloween seemed to shift more and more towards adults. Drunken bacchanalia at nightclubs seemed to outnumber the family-friendly carnivals, costumes for men were getting sleazier, and costume for women were just plain insulting. Gore often replaced the gothic in people’s decorating choices, and it felt like there were less places for kids to go that seemed safe. Even my dad gave up his monster role when some stoned teens threw a five-pound weight on our porch, narrowly missing his head. There were still trick-or-treaters, but not as many.

There were some good things happening, too. Eventually, more and more schools, community centers, and places of worship began offering trick-or-treat alternatives, which many families appreciated (my own church still does an incredible “trunk-or-treat” event) but many people missed that “old school” romp around the neighborhood.

It took the next generation of residents to rebuild it, and in the last couple of decades, Kern Place has taken back the night. More young families moved back into the area, fixed up their old homes, and made Halloween an event known by nearly every other neighborhood in the city, as well as surrounding communities in Southern New Mexico and Northern Mexico.

halloween dog walkers

Even dog-walking takes on a spooky edge on Halloween.

Today, nearly everyone in Kern Place geeks out on Halloween night. Residents and guests gather by the hundreds in the neighborhood park for an impromptu costume parade, then flee in all directions for a night of trick-or-treating and house parties. Many homes maintain elaborate displays or little haunted houses. One house I recall, would show classic monster movies on the lawn, where families could sit on hay bales and take a short rest from walking. People often choose the evening to set up an open house style party spread for their friends, and families from less fortunate areas bus in their kids to be part of things in a place they know they are welcome. Some high school and college groups have taken advantage of the opportunity to host door-to-door food drives for area food banks for the upcoming holiday season, and trick-or-treat for canned goods and other nonperishable items.

To accommodate the large throngs of ghoulies and ghosties, some of the neighborhood additions in past years have included temporarily blocking off the busiest streets around the park to vehicle traffic, and hosting live bands in the gazebo.

It’s like a mini, family-friendly, spooky Mardi Gras, and it has become a proud neighborhood trademark.

There’s no waiting at the door for the bell to ring, as visitors form neat little queues at the door of every participating home, which don’t seem to dwindle for a good two or three hours, and visitors, for the most part, know to not disturb the homes without a lit porch light or some form of Halloween trappings out front.

My dad is now purchases enough candy, wrapped cookies, plastic rings, and other Halloween trinkets for nearly a thousand kids. He always runs out.

Some may think, “Noooo way! I don’t want anywhere near that chaos.” That’s fine. There are those within the Kern Place community who share that sentiment.

A few years ago, one neighborhood resident was so averse to the idea of this trick-or-treat romp, this person hired an off-duty police officer to stand guard on their lawn, lest some stray little costumed hooligan dare ring a doorbell. I remember feeling sorry for that poor officer spending his Halloween in the edge of a lawn looking slightly apologetic at the crowd. I assume he was making good money for his troubles, but I also felt sorry for whoever felt they had to barricade themselves away from the events.

Maybe it was simple fear of living in a border community where there had been, that particular year, some pretty scary drug-related violence neighboring Juarez. Maybe they were just grouchy by nature. Maybe the evening’s activities interfered with their faith. I tend to think this person was just feeling alone and depressed, with no friends or family around to pull them out of their loneliness.

That’s the beauty of what my childhood neighborhood did—and still does—every Halloween. It does strive to bring people out of their individual isolation, and onto their porches. Family members take turns manning their “candy stations” while others roam the neighborhood, visiting friends and neighbors they might not have taken the time to see during the regular rush of everyday life.

The best part is, everyone has the excuse to be someone else. Parents and kids walk side by side as hordes of friendly zombies, teams of superheroes, or covens of colorful witches and wizards. There is no competitive pressure of costume contests, no need to try attract the hormonal attention of a potential mate, and no worries what other people will think.

This is an evening for fun… And family.

death race

Many of the Halloween displays are over-the-top and photo-worthy.

No one should be forced to celebrate something they don’t want, but those who haven’t taken advantage of the camaraderie in Kern Place are missing out on an absolute blast of a time.

Case in point was another Halloween curmudgeon, a single friend of my brother’s who had just purchased a new home near the park. We were all enjoying the neighborhood celebration with my brother’s young son, and decided to swing by his new home. My brother found him, pouting miserably in the back room of his dark home, watching television.

“That’s the only bad thing about this neighborhood,” he lamented. “Halloween.”

They left him to his movie in peaceful moodiness.

A couple of years later, this same friend found himself married, with his own young child. We caught him sitting on his porch that Halloween, surrounded by glowing pumpkins and trick-or-treaters. He didn’t have a costume, but he wore something even better—a huge, genuine smile. He had finally taken the open invitation to be part of things, to loosen up and geek out a bit over a time meant for fun. It’s easy to say it was being part of a family that drew him out of his shell, but sometimes a party’s just too welcoming to ignore.

Yes, Kern Place does Halloween right. Anytime I get down looking at the shrinking size of women’s costumes, the tendency for torture porn to replace monsters and ghouls, or the lack of safe places for kids to enjoy the thrill of the genuine trick-or-treat hunt, I am thankful for the people of Kern Place keeping their traditions alive.

trick or treat

Long-time Kern Place residents know it is best to just set up shop on the porch, as the lines don’t cease until the evening winds down.

I hope everyone can find a neighborhood like Kern in their area, and if not, I hope they take it upon themselves to get something similar going. Call it Halloween, call it Harvest, or just call it Family Night Out, but whatever its title, make it happen.

Halloween in Kern Place has taught me that when a neighborhood plays well together, maintains a family atmosphere, and welcomes others of all backgrounds, it is a winning combination.

When I worry about the world today, I turn to Halloween in my old neighborhood, and my faith in humanity is restored for a little while.

I hope everyone out there, wherever they are, has a safe, spooky, festive, and very happy Halloween.

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My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Giveaway! http://geekmom.com/2014/10/my-little-pony-rainbow-rocks-giveaway/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/my-little-pony-rainbow-rocks-giveaway/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154958 Who's ready for a rocking giveaway with some serious pony style?

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the top playing kids show in my house. You could say that my son and I are obsessed with it. With the Equestria Girls line of movies, we have been able to journey into a new world with the same characters we love. Rainbow Rocks is the second movie in the Equestria Girls line of My Little Pony movies, and it doesn’t disappoint.

A trio of girls known as The Dazzlings shows up at Canterlot High with a mysterious ability to bring the negativity out in everyone, Sunset Shimmer calls on Twilight Sparkle to return to the human world to help save the day.

Their mission to defeat the evil Dazzlings is not as easy as they first anticipate and eventually they must remember what true friendship is or face losing the battle.

Just like in Equestria Girls, this movie is full of rocking tunes that had me and my son dancing in our seats. Thankfully, whoever is in charge of the soundtrack realized they could make some money off of the music and released it on iTunes the day before the movie was set to release in theaters. It took them two years to release the soundtrack for Equestria Girls.

This movie has opened up a few new doors for the MLP universe, including the return of sea ponies, and more adventures at Canterlot High since Twilight now has a magical door she can pass through anytime. I think Flash Sentry’s continued crush on Twilight also has possibilities.

The plus side to Flash is that he is has a crush on Twilight and we don’t see Twilight going all boy-chasing-crazy. Nice turn of events for a female character.

I know a lot of fans don’t want to see Twilight with a boyfriend, but to me, her relationship with Flash would open new doors for the show. It could even serve as a lesson to young girls on what a relationship should be like and teach them that going slow and having fun is what matters over serious steps that should wait until they’re older.

Overall, Rainbow Rocks delivers a rocking soundtrack and story that showcases all the characters in a way that makes them shine. If you are a My Little Pony fan, then make sure you get your hooves on the My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Blu-ray and DVD out now.

Now that we have the nitty gritty out of the way, how about a giveaway! Starting today and ending on Monday, November 3rd, you will have a chance to win some awesome My Little Pony prizes.

One grand prize winner will receive:

Rainbow Rocks Dolls \ Image: Hasbro

Rainbow Rocks Dolls \ Image: Hasbro

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks equestrian girls singing toy dolls from Hasbro. Win either a Pinkie Pie or Twilight Sparkle. They talk and sing when you give them a high five! (Retail: $20.00)

Rainbow Rocks DVD \ Image: Hasbro

Rainbow Rocks DVD \ Image: Hasbro

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks DVD (Retail: $15.00)

Rainbow Rocks Book \ Image: Hasbro

Rainbow Rocks Book \ Image: Hasbro

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks: The Mane Event Hardcover book (Retail: $9.99 )

Two runner-ups will get a copy of My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks DVD (Retail: $15.00)

If you, or a My Little Pony fan in your household, would like to get your hooves on one of these prizes, leave us a comment telling us what your cutie mark would be and then log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two entries! If you already like/follow us it will still enter you in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget so you can check back to see who won.

This contest is only open to our readers in the USA and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

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Beta-Testers Wanted! New PBS KIDS Site About Technology and Media http://geekmom.com/2014/10/beta-testers-wanted-new-pbs-kids-site-technology-media/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/beta-testers-wanted-new-pbs-kids-site-technology-media/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:33:31 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154965 Our friends at WGBH have asked us to check out their brand new site for PBS KIDS

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Our friends at WGBH have asked us to check out their brand new site for PBS KIDS, produced by GeekDad’s very own Bill Shribman.

It’s a pilot project at pbskids.org/ruff and it stars Ruff Ruffman of FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman. But it’s not FETCH – it’s a new site for kids and parents about media and technology. The GeekDad and GeekMom blogs have offered to push this out to all of you to jump in, to poke about, and to let WGBH know here – or through their site – what you think. And if you like it, they’re hoping you’ll share it also to get the word out.

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GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — My Little Pony, Astro City, and DC Comics http://geekmom.com/2014/10/comic-book-corner-10-29-2014/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/comic-book-corner-10-29-2014/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:01 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154865 Happy New Comic Book release day! This week, we look at My Little Pony and Astro City, as well as discuss DC Comics' quality issue in comics.

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My Little Pony Halloween ComicFest 2014. Image IDW Publishing.

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week, I enjoyed the Star Trek references in My Little Pony, Lisa flew high with Astro City, and Corrina has a few words with DC Comics and their current quality of work.

Dakster Sullivan — My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – Halloween ComicFest edition by Jeremy Whitley and Tony Fleecs

The comic book I was most excited to check out during Halloween ComicFest this past Saturday was My Little Pony. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the My Little Pony stories, and I was sure that this would be a joy to read.

I’m only on the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic right now, so the Cutie Mark Crusaders and especially Discord are still new characters for me to digest. Discord is played by Star Trek: Next Generation actor John de Lance, whose character on MLP is like a ponified (is that a word?) version of his character “Q” on Star Trek. As I was reading this issue, I could hear de Lance’s voice and see his mannerisms in the character.

When the Cutie Mark Crusaders run out of things to try for their cutie marks, Discord shows up to “help” them out. The story is full of bouncing back and forth between various activities, with a special “Trekkie” scene that made me laugh out loud.

It’s no surprise that at the end of the story, the Cutie Mark Crusaders still don’t have their cutie marks. I’d have to say that my favorite part was the warm fuzzies I got on the last couple of pages between the Crusaders and Discord.

It’s rare for me to find a free comic book that I would actually pay for to get in my collection. This one not only hits the mark, I can honestly say if I had not been able to get a copy, I would have searched high and low for one on eBay.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Lisa Tate — Astro City #16 by Author Kurt Busiek, art by Brent Eric Anderson, and cover by Alex Ross (Vertigo)

Astro City #16 \ Image: Vertigo

Astro City #16. Image: Vertigo

The beauty of Astro City creative team of Busiek, Anderson, and Ross, is that they have been consistently together since the creation of the title. As a result, their familiarity has given them the opportunity to fine tune and explore more and more aspects of the Astro City universe. This has taken them to Markham High School in a nearby community, where a teenage super villain and hero have come to a shaky arrangement. The villainous genius Simon Says, who we learned was the product of bullying, sets a brief truce and asks an unusual favor of the kindhearted town hero, Starbright. When Starbright grants his wish, Simon betrays him in true super-villain form, later to discover the secret that makes him look deeper into his own personal prejudices.

What struck me about this story is that it began with an often-visited theme of bullying those who are different. I am by no means criticizing this, but it sheds a new light onto those who are often accused of being the bullies. Simon learns to accept who he really is only after realizing his own tendency to stereotype. It is a nice twist on the usual bullying scenario, while still sharing the message of loving who you are in Busiek’s well-crafted gift of storytelling.

Age Recommendation: Teen +

Corrina — A Gotham Resurgence in Quality?

I’ve jokingly referred to DC’s reboot of their entire comic line three years ago as the “anti-Corrina” reboot, because it has done basically the exact opposite of what I love to read in comics. All the terrific stories and familiar character interactions and even character growth were tossed aside. In their place was some weird amalgam of gory violence and cynical happenings. Not heroic, not interesting, and not for me, aside from a few outliers.

Harley Quinn Comic Con

Harley Quinn at Comic Con. Image via DC Comics.

But lately, things are changing. That was evident to me when I opened the last two packages of books that DC sent me to review. Last week, I enjoyed all but one title. This week, all the titles. Granted, I only get a sample, but those of you who read my reviews know how rare that it. Usually, I find a gem in a bunch. Now, I find a few shiny stones and a few gems.

batman eternal

Gordon gets arrested in Batman: Eternal. Image via DC Comics.

Leading this resurgence is Harley Quinn by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin, the most twisted and the most fun comic I’ve read in a long time. It’s also one of DC’s top-selling titles, which no one expected. For the regular Bat-books, the weekly title Batman: Eternal brings in all that wonderful Gotham history surrounding an over-riding mystery.  Gotham Academy continued the trend of innovation from the Bat-comics, with its Hogwarts-meets-Gotham approach and distinctive art and voice, along with the new direction for Batgirl. But I considered those outliers until last week, when I also received Catwoman #35 by Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown and Arkham Manor #1 by Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal.

The new direction in Catwoman features her taking over Gotham’s crime families, in an effort to bring some order to a Gotham now falling apart due to the events in Batman: Eternal. I approached the idea with skepticism, but was won over in this issue by the portrait of a Selina, who does care about Gotham and the people in it, but because of who she is, takes a much different approach to helping them than the police or heroes like Batman. Selina is smart, resourceful, courageous, and ruthless—and it all works.

Arkham Manor’s premise is that Wayne Manor is taken over by the city as the new criminal asylum, since Arkham Asylum has been destroyed and the mentally ill patients are sleeping in tents in the city’s stadiums. A cool idea, especially as Bruce lets this happen, because these people do need a roof over their heads and a place where they can be helped. However, this being Gotham, something goes awry and people are murdered inside the new facility. Bruce steals the identity of a homeless man and gets admitted to Arkham Manor as a patient. The story promises not only a mystery, but a chance to flesh out the history of Wayne Manor and, thus, Bruce’s own history.

Grayson Futures End

Grayson: Futures End issue. Copyright DC Comics.

The one title in the Batman line that I’m not enjoying is Grayson, with its trippy Prisoner-like stories. I don’t understand the characterization of Dick Grayson, nor do I always follow the trippy logic. However, I give high points to the creative team for doing something different and original, even if it’s not to my taste.

I can only hope that this quality lasts, because DC does still have two weekly titles that seem obsessed with death and destruction and heroes being not-very-heroic, and that’s the apostrophe-less Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End.

The first concerns a horrible future five years in the DC future and the second is about the events that led to this future. My fondest wish is that by the end of these titles, those bleak futures are swept away and the titles that result are a change in the overall tone of the line.

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

100 Bullets Vol. 1 TP
Batman Eternal #30
DC Comics Zero Year HC
Earth 2 World’s End #4
Green Lantern Vol. 4 Dark Days TP
Green Lantern Vol. 5 Test Of Wills HC
Harley Quinn Annual #1
Justice League Dark Annual #2
Justice League United Annual #1
New 52 Futures End #26
Preacher Vol. 6 TP
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #3
Sinestro #6
Swamp Thing Annual #3
Vertigo Quarterly Yellow #1
Wonder Woman #35
All-New X-Men #33
Amazing Spider-Man #6
Axis Carnage #1 (Of 3) New Mini-Series
Axis Revolutions #1 (Of 4) New Mini-Series
Deadpool And Cable Omnibus HC
Deadpool Annual #2
Death Of Wolverine Deadpool And Captain America #1
Death Of Wolverine The Logan Legacy #3
Deathlok #1 New Series
Elektra #7
Fantastic Four #12
Guardians Of The Galaxy #20 GeekMom Recommended
Hawkeye Vs Deadpool #0
Howard The Duck Omnibus HC
Inhuman #7
Iron Man Epic Collection Vol. 1 The Golden Avenger TP
Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration #1
Marvel Masterworks The Avengers Vol. 6 TP
Marvel Previews #135 (November 2014 For Products On-Sale January 2015)
Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man #31
Miracleman Vol. 2 The Red King Syndrome HC
Nova #22
Original Sin HC
Savage Wolverine Vol. 2 Hands On A Dead Body TP
Thanos A God Up There Listening #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Thunderbolts #32
Uncanny X-Men Iron Man Nova No End In Sight TP
Wolverine And The X-Men #11
Wolverine And X-Men Vol. 1 Tomorrow Never Learns TP
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

Anne Rice’s Servant Of The Bones HC
Basil Wolverton’s Weird Worlds Artist’s Edition HC
Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War #5 (Of 6) Kid-Friendly
IDW Fall 2014 Kids Comics Sampler
Little Nemo Return To Slumberland #2 Kid-Friendly
Rot And Ruin #1 New Series
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #34
Aliens Fire And Stone #2 (Of 4)
Baltimore The Wolf And The Apostle #1 (Of 2)
Blackout Vol. 1 Into The Dark TP
Blade Of The Immortal Vol. 30 Vigilance TP
Captain Midnight #16
Chronicles Of King Conan Vol. 9 The Blood Of The Serpent And Other Stories TP
Conan The Avenger #7
Deep Gravity #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
EC Archives Tales From The Crypt Vol. 5 HC
Goon Occasion Of Revenge #3 (Of 4)
Groo Vs Conan #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Massive #28
Mike Norton’s Battlepug Vol. 3 Sit Stay Die HC GeekMom Recommended
Mind MGMT #27
Project Black Sky Secret Files TP
Sundowners #3 New Series
Vachss Underground HC

Acronym Key: HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback

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Chilling Reads for Chilly Days http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chilling-reads-chilly-days/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chilling-reads-chilly-days/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154940 Love to read creepy books on chilly nights? Here are 10 to try this fall and winter, from middle grade to adult.

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Chilly Reads

Coldest Girl in Coldtown cover © Hachette, 2014. The Strain cover © HarperCollins, 2009.

Halloween is in two days, and winter is right around the corner. This is my favorite time of year to read thrillers and spooky books. There is something about the chill that seems to arrive with Halloween that makes me want to curl up under blankets and read something unnerving—or, as is more often the case in this busy day and age, crank up the heat in the car and listen to the audiobook version.

Here are some books that I have really enjoyed. Some are set against wintry backdrops, which always adds to the mood. Some are just creepy or evoke the cold. Some are middle grade, some YA, and some are adult. All were great fun to read.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. This is a middle-grade retelling of “The Snow Queen,” and it is unsettling in a perfect middle-grade way. Minnesota fifth grader Hazel is struggling with her parents’ divorce and with her own identity as someone adopted from another country. Jack and Hazel are inseparable best friends, until Jack gets a sliver of a dark magic mirror in his eye. Overnight, he abandons Hazel and disappears entirely with an evil woman on a white sleigh. Only Hazel sees them go, and no one in her town seems to notice or care. She cannot bear to lose him, too, so she sets off into the woods herself to rescue him. Fabulous, moody, and everything a winter book should be.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Coldtown is the walled city where captured vampires are quarantined to protect the rest of the population. It’s also where anyone bitten should report to wait out an infection. If you can last long enough without biting someone, then you’ll recover from the infection; if not, you’ll be a vampire, too. But everyone knows that once you’re in Coldtown, you never leave. Tana wakes up from a wild party with her high school classmates to find everyone else dead except her newly infected ex-boyfriend (who is tied to a bed) and a mysterious boy who turns out to be a vampire—but not the one who killed all of her friends. Those vampires are still in the house trying to finish the job. Tana decides to rescue her ex and the innocent vampire and maybe, possibly gets bitten in the process. She can’t be sure, so she decides to take everyone straight to Coldtown. She can only hope she doesn’t become Cold, too. A great YA creeper by one of my favorite dark YA writers.

The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I read The Strain one October and then waited anxiously for the next two installments the following fall and the fall after that. Del Toro’s gift for creepy films translates to novels, too. This is the creepiest vampire series I have ever read. It’s creepier than any vampire movie I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the TV show yet, because I’m not sure the books can be topped. Now I kind of want to reread them. A plane lands at JFK, shuttles down the runway, and then just…stops. The lights go out, communication goes silent, and the dead plane sits there until the CDC is called in to investigate. Dr. Eph Goodweather witnesses the beginning of a vampire plague that takes over New York, and we follow him as he tries to protect his family and find a team to help him fight it. So. Much. Win.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg. If you’ve seen the 1990s Julia Ormond movie, you know where this book is going. I’ve never been happy with Hoeg’s answer to the whodunit in his book, but I enjoyed so many other things about this Danish import. Smilla is half-Danish and half-Greenlander, and she is aloof, harsh, and happier studying the snow than interacting with people. I like when protagonists are tough to like, especially a woman. Her gift is what she can read from the snow, learned as a child in Greenland. The only person close to her is her six-year-old neighbor in Copenhagen, a Greenlander boy who sort of adopts her. When he falls to his death from the roof of their building, only Smilla can read the snow and see that it wasn’t an accident. So she starts her own investigation into what happens. The ending is preposterous, but Smilla’s narration, her feelings for the boy, the tragic history of her family and that of other Greenlanders still make it a great mystery. Who did it is less important than the story along the way.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. When Rory, a Louisiana teenager with an eccentric Southern family, starts boarding school in London, she is worried about making friends, fitting in, and handling crushes on classmates. But it turns out her school is smack in the heart of Jack the Ripper territory and not long after she arrives, someone starts copycatting the Ripper murders. Rory talks to a strange man outside her dorm and when another body is found, she becomes a witness in the investigation. London is a character here, which is what helps make this so great when the temperature drops. Plus, Jack the Ripper. A great teen read that’s hilarious (all of Johnson’s books are just laugh-till-it-hurts good) and super, super creepy.

Snow Angels by James Thompson. During the annual two weeks of solid darkness in Lapland (right around Christmas), a Somali actress is murdered and left mangled in the snow on a reindeer farm. Inspector Vaara takes the case. He lives and works in his hometown, which is also home to a huge upscale winter resort run by his pregnant American wife. She hasn’t been in Finland long and is totally unnerved by the constant dark. The creepiness of the murder mystery is wonderfully offset by the additional creepiness of the weather, which affects the detective and his foreign wife. Also, when I think of Lapland and reindeer right before Christmas, I can only think of Santa. This book is so not about Santa.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. This is one of the first books from the awesome YA author of the Leviathan series, and it is spooky and hilarious. It’s another vampire tale and while it may be for teens, it is definitely not Twilight. That is the highest YA vampire novel compliment I can give. In Westerfeld’s world, vampirism is an STD. Some are carriers, who unwittingly pass the disease onto others who become bloodthirsty monsters called Peeps. That’s what happens to our hero Cal, who was a normal college kid until he became a carrier and then infected his next three girlfriends. Now Cal is a vampire hunter in New York City who has to find and stop his ex-girlfriends before they make more vampires. If you’re going to write about vampires, you might as well also make it an allegory for safe teen sex. New York is a great vampire backdrop (just look at The Strain), but Westerfeld makes his teen vampire novel absolutely hilarious and gross in a kind of perfect New York way. I read this book when I was in grad school and living in Hoboken. It stuck with me because one of the first scenes has Cal doing some vampire hunting in the old Hoboken train station. I passed that train station every day, along with several other New York sites thrown in the story. It’s kind of a delicious book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. This one is an obvious addition with its Swedish setting. The whole trilogy is creepy and great, but the first one is a standout winter read. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is offered a chance to rebuild his reputation and finances by spending a year on a private island owned by an eccentric Swedish billionaire. His job is to comb the grounds and all of the family records to solve the disappearance and murder of the billionaire’s beloved niece. Blomkvist enlists hacker Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, to help him find the truth, and the truth is just awful. It’s a great start to a trilogy that embraces Sweden’s good side (an endless chapter in the second book describes Salander’s IKEA purchases in excruciatingly awesome detail) and its bad (a terrible track record when it comes to crime against women).

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This children’s novel isn’t usually thought of in the chilling category, especially after the lush Disney adaptations of the books. But a magic wardrobe that leads to a not-quite-right winter landscape run with an iron fist by a white witch? And the whole good versus evil sibling dynamic of the Pevensies? It’s an elementary school spook fest.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. Karou is a 17-year-old who lives in Prague, goes to art school, and has bright blue hair that grows that way. She speaks otherworldly languages and runs errands for a strange shopkeeper who looks after her and collects teeth. Teeth. She doesn’t remember a life before this one until she meets a real, live angel and is thrown into a supernatural war. This is such a gorgeous, strange, gothic YA novel; the first in a series. Prague is a perfectly romantic and sinister setting, and the world Taylor has created is so realized and so incredible.

What are your favorite cold weather bone chillers?

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