History Geek: 1930s Week

Image By Lilianna Maxwell
Image By Lilianna Maxwell

Swing dancing! The creation of Superman! Adagio for Strings! Radio Plays! Migrant Mother photojournalism! Heath bars! The Wizard of Oz! Monopoly!

The last few weeks I’ve been preparing for and directing a History Through the Creative Arts Camp about America during The Great Depression. Originally history was written down by conquerors who took political power. This legacy continues in history textbooks that think that war and politics are the most important parts of history to study. I disagree. I think history is the whole human experience during a time period. Of course, this makes it tough to design a children’s summer camp that only lasts five days. So I turn to passion.

Rebecca explaining something with lots of hand movements…. Image By Lilianna Maxwell
Tasting historic recipes each day. Image By Rebecca Angel

Passion makes for great teaching. I’m passionate about the creative arts, culture, and social justice. So that’s my focus on history. And when students learn why certain songs were written, when the photographs were taken, how the plays were created, they learn about the power struggles during that time and place. I run the week by having the campers sing, dance, write, eat, sew, and create their way through the time period.

A student talking about their own research. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

I also asked for help. During the week of camp there were other adults bringing their expertise (geeky excitement) to the campers. Plus, the kids themselves taught each other. My daughter ran the camp newspaper, “Typewriter Talk,” with the campers taking turns being reporters for the day. Another student of mine asked if I was covering Europe during the ’30s. I wasn’t getting into the details of the start of World War II with this camp. She asked if she could do a five minute presentation each day because she thought it was really important for everyone to know this stuff. Sure!

Campers taking their parents on a tour of camp. Image By Rebecca Angel

What I wasn’t covering in active learning, I put out on display. In the space I use for camp is a huge wall for push-pins. The other counselors and I fill this wall with all the things we found out, but couldn’t squeeze into the time allotted. Scientific achievements, slang terms, maps about the Dust Bowl (then and what’s happening now!), details on the stock market, the 1936 Olympics, weird advertisements, and lots more. My daughter created a display on photojournalism. My son did one on the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP—he pointed out it sounded like a sound effect). There were puzzles and written activities available during downtime where the answers could be found on The Wall. Whoever completed a sheet got a tiny harmonica (so they could sound like hobos around a campfire…) or candy created during the 1930s.

In the spirit of the '30s, I asked the kids to wear the same clothes everyday (washing was encouraged) and they worked on making outfits for Friday's party. Image By Lilianna Maxwell
Sewing clothes for Friday’s party. Image By Lilianna Maxwell

I’ve run many history camps over the years, but this was the toughest to research; so many aspects made me cry. A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness—and a Trove of Letters—Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression is one example of trying to get to the heart of The Great Depression. I read some of it to the campers. I focused on the positive things of sharing and kindness, but the fact that people were so grateful for so little during this time—is enough to make the tears flow. (I kept myself in check during camp.)

Family history as decorations. Image By Rebecca Angel

I’ll write a few more posts about aspects of camp I think you might enjoy: games, comics, movies, and radio plays. If anything, I encourage everyone to do one of the projects during camp: Research your own family history. The campers presented how their families got through the hard times of the 1930s, and there were some great stories. My own grandfather was a newsboy in the lower East side of NYC.

I could write so much more because everything was so cool! I hope I inspire you to get geeked about history! Here’s a video of the swing dancing each day:

The Indiana Jones Mail Mystery Solved

Image Courtesy the University of Chicago

Remember that mystery package addressed to Indiana Jones that landed at the University of Chicago? Well the mystery has been solved. The solution is almost as awesome as the package. Ready for this?

The elaborately recreated journal was sold on eBay by an artist in Guam and intended to be delivered to a customer in Italy. It was wrapped in another, properly addressed envelope. The fake postage stamps and University of Chicago address were part of the inner packaging. Somewhere along the line, the outer wrapping was damaged, and the post office continued to deliver what appeared to the casual glance as a perfectly legitimate package.

The artist, Paul from Guam, has agreed to donate this package to the University of Chicago, where they promise to make part of an awesome educational museum display. I hear tell their Oriental Institute already looks like it could be the set of an Indiana Jones movie. The purchaser in Italy will get a new replica from the artist. Maybe also some stronger wrapping material.

Congrats to Young Women Artists Part 2

Womanthology: Heroic — described in a post last weekis a compilation of graphic art by women. It can now be found at your local art, gaming, and book stores. It is an exciting time for all who are involved in the project, including Summer Hemingray, a 10-year-old artist. She contributed an illustration of Joan of Arc. Summer kindly answered the Muse of Nerds questions, and I was intrigued by what inspired her:

1. How did you find out about the Womanthology project?
My cousin, Laura Morley, told me about it.

2. What was your process for selecting the pieces to submit?
I thought about the title, heroic, and I assumed it would be about heroic tales of women. I came up with the suffragettes and Joan of Arc. I didn’t know much about suffragettes so I went with a comic of Joan of Arc, which I drew both in and out of school.

3. What are your thoughts on the whole Womanthology project, how it impacts you, how it might impact other young artists, girls and women.
In my opinion the whole Womanthology idea is a truly magnificent one, which will go down in history. As for how it impacts me, I am proud to be part of something as great and as interesting as the project, and it is a great opportunity to be published. I personally think it will inspire hidden artists to send their work into the world.

4.Do you have a favorite time and/or place to do your art?
My favorite place is in my parents’ bedroom just after school when I’m full of ideas.

5. What/who inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
I get inspired by lots of people who leave their mark, even if it’s just in a small area. I get my ideas at school when my teacher, Chris Youles, shows us Odd Box on the BBC Newsbeat website, or an amusing website where people have done interesting things.

6. What are your future artistic plans and/or career hopes?

I’d like to do paintings and/or models on my weekends, but most of all I would like to be a politician.

7. Part of the reason Womanthology was started is because women artists have a hard time being respected in the comics industry. What do you think about that? If you or another young girl is interested in being a comic artist, what do you think could help change this problem?
I think that the general comic society is quite sexist in that way and as an answer, maybe a group of famous female comic artists could build a comic company where they could display their work, by in doing so, get the public interested, therefore making a change in the way the comic society thinks about female artists.

Thanks, Summer! Good luck on all your future endeavors!

Art, Sex and Beautiful Men

Relying on seductive art to draw in your audience is akin to a comedian swearing. It doesn’t take skill to get a reaction.

There have been several recent posts GeekMom and elsewhere about the sexualization of women in comics. Although that’s nothing new, female geeks are finally getting fed up- realizing that being loyal and vocal fans does not grant any respect in the industry.

The discussions on the internet got me thinking about a conversation I had last summer with an artist friend of mine. We were on our way back from ConnectiCon where he had worked with his art and enjoyed chatting with other artists. He excitedly told me about a woman next to him who showed him her “boobie pictures.” Her out-front display was cartoon cats, but she showed him her Adults Only folder with mostly women in sexy poses with big breasts. She encouraged him to display his own “boobie pictures” because they’re fun to draw and sell really well. She said both women and men like pictures of sexy, naked women.

He then waxed poetically about the female figure in fine art, explaining to me how the female form is universally recognized as most beautiful. He talked about slope, curve, and roundness, about masters in the art world, and famous paintings and sculptures. He has a degree in Fine Art and I had no reason to doubt him.

The following day I departed to teach at a teen music camp up in the Adirondacks. The conversation with my friend would not leave me, and I realized I disagreed. However, I’m a musician, what do I know about art? But as the week progressed, I couldn’t let it go.

At a break time by the beach, I informed a fellow counselor about the whole thing. I explained that I don’t find the female form to be any more beautiful than the male form, in fact, I think men are MORE beautiful than women. Why? Because I’m freakin’ attracted to them- duh! And if the masters of the art world, and the majority of art teachers are straight men, then they are going to believe that women are more beautiful because they are attracted to them. Isn’t that obvious? Why should art have all these depictions of naked women? I shouted loudly, “I want more naked men!”

My counselor friend chuckled softly, and slightly uncomfortably. Perhaps this was because we were currently next to cavorting teens of both sexes in swimwear. Did I mention this was a Catholic music camp?

Anyway, comics are just the latest incarnation of the oldest way to show a story (music is the oldest way to tell a story.) I appreciate art with an uneducated eye. This does not devalue my opinion in any way. I know this because the value of an uneducated musician’s opinion is very worthy to me when I write my own music. If someone doesn’t like it, I don’t care how many degrees they have.

Comics are obviously marketed towards men. The covers are to attract the twelve year-old, straight boy’s eye. Do men purchase because of hyper-sexed women and powerful men bursting out of the pages? I know I purchase despite the covers, hoping there’s a good story inside, and wondering why a woman fighter would ever have that much skin exposed. Is it eye-catching? Of course. So is this:

Another Back By Akseru

Would I purchase a novel solely on this cover? My stereotypes tell me this would be called Fields of Passion. And unless the hot guy on the cover is going to come out of the book and snuggle with me while I’m reading, I wouldn’t buy it. I like plot (call me wacky) and many books geared towards women, the ones with hot men on the cover, are sorely lacking in it. That is why I pick up stories with a scantily dressed woman on the cover calling down lightning.

If I told a heterosexual man that Fields of Passion was a gripping tale he really would enjoy, would he try it out? Would he hide the book from friends? Do women hide the “boobie pictures” spilled on our favorite comics? It is taught in library school that girls will read a book with a boy or girl on the cover. Boys are rarely drawn to books with a girl on the cover.

So men only care about stories involving women if they are seducing them?

And women just want a good story?

The picture above is a sexy picture I found while perusing deviantart (some people watch YouTube videos, I browse artwork.) The Greeks believed the male form was the most perfect (and this is not because Greeks were fine with being gay; homosexual practices depended on the city-state) and women were rarely depicted in the nude until late in the age. Why don’t we acknowledge that any human body can be made beautiful by a skilled artist?

But you know, I don’t need a skin shot to catch my eye. All you need is a talented artist who can capture a moment, and I want to know more.

Unison IV By Lukas Sowada

Do I really want more naked men in graphic novels? If the scene requires it- I’m more than happy to drink in the sight. For that matter, I don’t mind looking at a beautifully drawn naked woman. Sex is part of life, a part of stories- a very exciting part! But if it doesn’t follow the plot, then no thank you.

Are the top graphic artists so talentless that they can’t create eye-catching, beautiful art without sex attached- women and sex to be specific?

I am not an artist, but I love art. I love beauty. I love stories.

Don’t give me swear words.

STEM to STEAM: The Importance of Arts in Science

For this month’s Muse of Nerds, I quickly grabbed onto the STEM to STEAM movement (adding ‘arts’ to the technical.) Creativity is the foundation for advancement in all fields. The arts — writing, music, art, theater and dance — paired with science, technology, engineering and math, foster a relationship between both sides of the brain for maximum human innovation potential. Trying to place STEM at the top of the educational plant stifles growth.

In 1858, Friedrich Kekule published a paper that showed, visually, how atoms bond chemically. He continued to play with the design until in 1865, he put carbon as a six-sided ring (hexagon) with chains and links, which gave rise to organic chemistry. Kekule started out as an architect before switching to the new science of chemistry. The visualization of chemical bonding didn’t come out of experiments in the lab, but a daydream while riding the bus. His brain looked at chemistry with an architect’s eye.

Daniel Tammet holds the European world record for reciting pi from memory. Daniel can “sense” if a number is prime. I think it’s important to mention that Daniel has high-functioning autism because many educators tend to steer children on the Autism spectrum towards STEM fields. However, Daniel uses the arts to “see” numbers. He is a lucid writer with his book, Born on a Blue Day. The way he was able to memorize pi was by creating a visual landscape in his mind. Clearly, art and math are tied for him.

Science News had a special issue on August 14, 2010  devoted to our minds on music. It was a fascinating look at how music influences our growth emotionally and mentally. In it there was a quote from Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, “In terms of brain imaging, studies have shown listening to music lights up, or activates, more of the brain than any other stimulus we know.” That’s just listening! As Daniel Levitin, director of the music perception, cognition and expertise laboratory at McGill University in Montreal explained, “Music processing is distributed throughout the brain…and playing an instrument, in particular, is an ensemble activity. It involves paying attention, thinking ahead, remembering, coordinating movement and interpreting constant feedback to the ears, fingers and, in some cases, lips. It is one of the most complicated tasks that we have.”

How could that kind of thinking be considered extracurricula? That’s the saddest part. STEM in education is not just getting the funding for special programming, but amazing mental tasks like music aren’t even in the BASIC CURRICULUM!

This very morning I was teaching a creative writing class to some junior high students. The stories will be used to later design and program robots (based on challenges the writing students come up with). The writing students have to be creative to make their challenges cohesive with their story lines. The robotic students have to be creative in designing and programming robots. Tying the two endeavors together gives the project more weight.

Have you ever been to a science museum? Did you attend any of the fantastic theater shows? Watching a story unfold is basic human communication. Lecturing is not.

My children were taking a botany course and convinced their teacher to demonstrate their plant family identification ability using interpretive dance. Seriously. Their teacher was cool about it and let them try. They took all the information they knew about these plant families (memorizing), decided on what was the most important and distinguishable traits (critical thinking) and then came up with movements to convey the information in a clear way (innovation.) By using their full body to translate the concepts, more parts of their brain were used. Do you think they will remember the information better than if they wrote it out on a test? Can your fingers remember a song on the piano from when you were a child? Muscle memory is a powerful tool.

My husband teaches genetics and is frustrated at the lack of “creative and independent thought” the students portray. Students walk in the classroom lacking good reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. The scientists getting prizes don’t spit out what they were taught. They dream, they doodle, they hum, they dance their way to success.

The GeekDad’s Guide to Weekend Fun, Put to the Test

The GeekDad’s Guide to Weekend Fun is the latest book by GeekMom publisher Ken Denmead. All photos by Cathe Post

GeekMoms are no stranger to the GeekDad books. Most recently, Ken Denmead’s book The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun: Cool Hacks, Cutting-Edge Games, and More Awesome Projects for the Whole Family was put to the test in our house. GeekMom Julia has already reviewed the book. So I am offering the outcomes – success and failure – of several attempted projects. Please keep in mind, I am doing projects with primarily early elementary aged children, so less than perfect results were due to our own mistakes.

Pokemon Bingo: This project was just done with my daughter. She loves Pokémon. The research involved with making the cards was good for her because she started separating the factual parts of Pokémon (Pikachu is an electric mouse), from the fictional character part. Since my daughter is learning how to play the card game, we incorporated the type of Pokémon (water, electric, grass, etc.) into the game as well in an effort to learn about animals and elements. Of all the projects we did out of the book, this was her favorite. She likes cutting, gluing, and crafting. The bonus of getting to watch Pokémon and go through Mom’s Guide to Pokémon was a complete bonus. Playing the game was the cherry on top.

Shaving cream art is on three different summer curriculum lists for my daughter’s age. It promotes sensory learning and hand eye skills. Plus, the shaving cream cleans up really easily. We started with toothpicks to draw our designs. My daughter wanted to do a Star Wars design, so we dipped Star Wars cookie cutters in the food coloring to create what we titled, “Abstract in Dark Side.”

Homemade Root Beer: The first time it was made by three kids aged 13, 7, and 5. The second time it was just the 5-year-old (with help from mom). The root beer was made on a out of town family trip. We had to leave before it was ready to drink. But it has been reported that it was very fizzy and had an odd aftertaste. I have a feeling this has something to do with the climate we live in, so I am going scientific this summer to find out recipe tweaks work best for the cool and wet Pacific Northwest.


Measuring speed of light with chocolate: This was a very cool experiment even though we were really far off in our measurements. The two younger kids layered the chocolate into a dish (and ate the chocolate), while the older kid worked the microwave and did the math problems. Due to an old microwave with no sticker, we used the frequency given in the book. The speed we came up with averaged out to 240.5. After we had cleaned up the project my husband posed the following: Given the constant of “C” (as in E=MC^2) “C” is measured in a vacuum. Doesn’t light travel slower through air than it would through chocolate? (We don’t know for sure.) This experiment prompted a compelling discussion about how different things move through air. I felt a little rushed doing the experiment and math is not my strong suit. Those two variables probably also contributed to the skewed outcome.

My kids and I will be attempting other projects throughout the summer from The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun. It doesn’t matter to us if the projects go perfectly the first time or not, it’s the science and learning from successes and failures that matters – just like in life. Though the root beer and chocolate experiments didn’t work out the first time, I would do them again. The hidden scientist in me wants to experiment with variables (different microwave, different storage for root beer, etc.) to see if my results come out closer to what is expected. I have a feeling the kids will enjoy helping…if I let them :-)

Try The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun for yourself. It is available in stores and on Amazon for $12.24 and can also be found at a bookstore near you.

*I received The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun for review purposes.*

A Long Time Ago, on a Campsite Far, Far Away…

The approach of Memorial Day finds me waxing poetic about the joys of camping. After leaving the hills and valleys of England behind and finding myself in the foothills of Maine, a place that is home to mosquitoes, black bears and other such lovely treats, I find myself married to someone who camps… in a tent… in the woods. For many years now we have joined with friends in making an annual pilgrimage to Acadia National Park; this year we do so with our toddler and their (almost) one year old in tow. Certainly Toby will be relying mostly on his father for survival skills, but now I have something to pass on to him as well: The Pocket Guide to Camping by Linda White and Katherine L. White.

Maybe I have been misled in the past, maybe I am no judge of size, but when I got this book and realized that it would actually fit comfortably in my pocket I was already willing myself to enjoy the contents. It seems to be geared towards kids of all ages and levels of expertise, without being condescending or too far advanced. Quite honestly it’s also great for an adult who didn’t grow up with this kind of adventure. The authors ask questions that prompt you to think about what you are doing, and why, so that you might get the most out of the experience. “Feel the bark of the trees. Are they rough or smooth? Cool or warm?” This book contains enough useful information and hints to appeal to the seasoned woods-loving camper, as well as things that will make your average wired-in city dweller stop and smell the pine needles. It has short sharp paragraphs, lists and highlighted boxes to keep the attention of those whose minds might wander.

The Pocket Guide to Camping contains useful information about equipment—“Watch out when the tag says the tent sleeps three – that may not include room for even the next day’s clothes!”—and helps keep your expectations real by differentiating between long trips/hikes and day trips/hikes. The authors detail how to read maps, and how to mark your own trails. Since one of the things Toby has enjoyed on our recent hikes has been following the trail markers painted on the trees, I’d say they are very well tapped in to what kids want from a guide book. The Macguyver-like instructions throughout the book, such as how to make a shelter out of dental floss and an emergency blanket, or how to make a solar oven, will certainly appeal to the blossoming geek in the family. One of my favorite features speaks to my OCD in that it contains lined pages with headings such as, “Things to remember next time you pitch camp”, and blank pages for drawing things you have seen, so that things might be properly enjoyed through documentation. It also contains check lists so that you don’t find yourself caught unawares once you leave home. Check lists that I write, and promptly lose every year!

This book is great for the independent child, in that it uses symbols to highlight dangers, thereby putting parents at ease, but shows them how to do everything from skim rocks to making different kinds of fire. There is no condescension within. The authors also encourage the reader to explore further by taking full advantage of local libraries and information centers. As we tend to leave technology behind us when we camp, it’s nice to be pointed somewhere other than the internet for such information.

If your family’s camping inclinations aren’t adventurous enough for a car packed with supplies, then join in with hundreds across the nation on June 25 for Johnson’s Great American Backyard CampoutThe Pocket Guide to Camping contains all sorts of helpful information for backyard camping, such as making a tent out of a large blanket, and making your own sleeping bags. It even shows you how to make a camp stove from a tin can! We travel four hours to our favorite camp site, but there is definitely a backyard excursion in our plans now.

If your backyard doesn’t appeal, and state or national parks don’t quite cut your need for adventure, you might want to check out some sites further from home. Which brings me to my next must-read-guide this camping season. Should you choose to take things to the next level, I strongly advise that you peruse The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, by Terryl Whitlach and Bob Carrau, before making your choice. It’s not suitable for travel, as is The Pocket Guide, but you’ll certainly be thankful you consulted it before picking a planet for your excursion.

This beautifully illustrated guide details the animal population of the eight most popular Rebel “vacation” spots, so that you might fully prepare. Organized by planet, it contains a brief description of each ecosystem, before delving into a more detailed account of individual species. Annotated and rendered in pen and ink, it is one of the more beautiful guides I have encountered, but don’t let its aesthetics fool you: this work is full of useful survival tips for the hardy adventurer. By putting themselves at great personal risk, Terryl Whitlach and Bob Carrau have gifted both the intrepid camper, and the Alliance, with an exceptional resource. Many thanks, of course, do go to the Intergalatic Zoological Society.

Combining the two guides will allow you to determine the weather you are likely to encounter on, say Tatooine, and the clothing that you should therefore bring with you. It will allow you to accurately track the native inhabitants, and avoid mating grounds as necessary. Certainly, now that we are made aware of the intense bond between a Bantha and its Tusken Raider, we know to avoid one for fear of being taken by the other.

Image: http://starwars.wikia.com

Perhaps the most useful information offered by Whitlach and Carrau is the clear delineation between herbivore and carnivore. As many of these animals are peculiarly native to their terrain, one might be afraid of mistaking an Anoobas on Tatooine for a friendly bloodhound, whilst a Clodhopper on Naboo might be feared as one fears the vulture on earth, when in fact it is merely a dim-witted herbivore.

The detailed illustrations will be highly useful when wandering the grasslands of Theed or Forests of Endor but it is in the cross section of the Dagobah Rainforest that the artistry of the field guide really shines. Science and art are combined in a way that is sure to have universal appeal.

Little is left out by our guides; we are even given notes on the glacier fields of Hoth, though I would not want to pitch tent there even with my dental floss and emergency blanket. There is some description of Coruscant, of which most of the wildlife consists mostly of parasites, rats and politicians, by far the deadliest species encountered in this book. In the final pages we are also given a glimpse of the lost species of Alderaan, which is a wonderful way to end the guide, by reminding us to respect the surroundings we choose, to observe correct camping etiquette so as not to destroy the natural habitats of these beautiful, though often seemingly monstrous, creatures.

Note: I received a copy of both books for review purposes.

Steampunk Philosophy

© Dave Clifton 2011

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure to host a steampunk discussion at Mythic Faire, a fantasy/myth/alt culture convention that features live music, masquerade balls and special guests. I had a stellar time, both as a guest and an attendee, with the steampunk panel discussion being the highlight of my weekend. I  type “panel discussion” with a bit of a smirk, because truth be told it was just me up there on the dais.  Every faire or convention has it’s little surprises and this wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself without panel partners. Thankfully I’m an experienced public speaker with a background in theater and improv, so crowds of people wearing expectant expressions don’t generally intimidate me. And hey, at least I know how to make an entrance.

The great thing about doing a panel discussion on your own is that you have the freedom to turn what would be an “us talking at all of you” experience into an “all of us talking to each other” experience. So that’s what we did. The result was a lively and informative discussion on the deep roots and underlying philosophy of steampunk. Beyond top hats and goggles, beyond modded keyboards and brassy rayguns, beyond cos-play, corsets, and Lord and Lady RPG – what exactly is at the heart of steampunk?

What we discovered as we explored this topic together is that to many of us (certainly to the people present in the room that day) steampunk is so much more then a simple aesthetic. It’s a philosophy for life. Steampunkian principles can be applied to any aspect of your life. A commitment to self sufficiency and the creativity of the individual, support of small and local business, respect of artisanship and traditional materials are core steampunk concepts. Hardcore steampunk enthusiasts tend towards a longing to downsize the material aspects of their lives, while simultaneously demanding more function, better design and romantic execution of the objects they choose to have around them.

In fact you might say that the steampunk philosophy could be summed up in this golden rule:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful‘

Guess who said that?

William Morris, the Victorian era designer and founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.

I firmly believe that steampunk as a philosophy has it’s deepest roots in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 1860s. This movement was largely a backlash to the Industrial Revolution of the early 1800s. Arts and Crafts philosophy favored the skilled work of human hands and master craftsman over mass-produced and commercially made items. It was this same debate that dominated the discussion at Mythic Faire. Is the value of an object inherent only on it’s surface? What about how, or where the piece was made? Is an object steampunk because you’ve glued cogs to it, or because of it’s purpose? It’s this very same discussion that spurred on the development of glorious movements of art and design that we so treasure today. 150 years later we are having the same debates over mass produced imported goods, versus locally made and artisanal items. It’s a good debate, with complex questions and few simple answers.

For my part I enjoyed the lively discussion that manifested and look forward to exploring the connection that steampunk philosophy has to current social and economic issues more in the future. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments!

Editor’s Note: There’s still time to enter to win one of Brigid’s Steampunk figurines! Deadline for the giveaway is Sunday night.

Pokémon: Should You Catch The Call Of Legends?

“Their names are legend: Raikou. Entei. Suicune. Lugia. Ho-Oh. Kyogre. Groudon. Rayquaza. Deoxys. Dialga. Palkia. And when Legendary Pokémon come together, only the greatest Trainers can control their might. In the Pokémon TCG: Call of Legends expansion, not only will you discover incredibly powerful Pokémon— including very rare “Shiny” versions of some of them—but you’ll also find exciting new Lost Zone effects to expand your gameplay choices. The Legendary Pokémon have gathered—are you ready to answer the call?”

I am ready to answer the call!  I’m hooked.  I had a passing interest in the Pokémon collectible card game before looking through the cards for the new Call of Legends (I have been more in to the video games – I’ve tried to catch em all on the Game Boy Advance, Gamecube, and DS).  The continued use of “holo” and “foil” cards caught my attention quickly – I mean, I will admit to falling into the stereotype of being a girl who likes sparkly things.  But, with these new decks, an additional win scenario has been introduced which makes game play more intriguing than before.

Serious players will buy booster packs to find the new cards “Lost World (Stadium Supporter card),” and the “Lost Remover (Trainer card).” Another card of note is the “Groudon (Basic Pokemon).” Are these new cards worth the hype? I believe so, since the Stadium and Trainer cards will introduce another method of winning matches.

With the introduction of new cards, and the reprint of old cards, is Call of Legends worth the money? Decide for yourself:

Theme Decks: In general, the theme decks are better balanced (having fewer energy per deck and more Pokémon than previous theme decks), making it easier to play the deck straight out of the box. There are better evolution lines provided in the theme decks than previous releases. And finally, the re-prints have beautiful new artwork.  These decks would be good for any beginning Pokemon player or any experienced player looking to add to their collection.  Most collectors will be happy as well with the addition of more “prime,” holographic, shiny, and foil cards.
Booster Decks: As stated previously, the big excitement about the booster decks comes from the new “lost” scenario cards.

Theme Decks: Some players (especially juniors) might think these decks have too many “crappy re-prints” and not enough new cards, though I think the re-prints do the well-loved characters artistic justice.
Booster Decks: Are the “lost” cards going to be enough incentive for beginning and young players to buy ten cards for $5 (with no guarantee of getting those cards, but getting at least a couple of rarer cards)?

Pokémon: Call of Legends theme decks and booster decks are available for sale in retail stores nation wide. Theme decks and booster packs would make great Valentine gifts for the Pokémon trainers in your life (hint-hint, Honey-Deary-Poo).

*I received theme decks and booster decks for review purposes*