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Stuff I Bought Week: Lightsaber Room Light

Posted on March 29th, 2016

Dave!My new home has an utterly bizarre design choices. It's a nice place but, logically, rooms are positioned strangely, walls don't align as they should, and absolutely nothing is centered. Some of this I was able to address in the remodel, but other things ended up sticking around because there's just not enough remodel money to deal with all my ADD issues.

One of the areas that my new home's quirks made especially challenging was decorating. Since nothing is lined up and nothing is centered, placing pictures on the walls is a maddening struggle.

Take, for instance, my upstairs hall.

I decided I wanted to decorate it with movie posters. One wall has two small windows above a stairwell (off-center, of course), another wall has bizarre angles cut into it, another wall ends in a desk nook that's off-center from two bedroom doors. And, as if that wasn't bizarre enough space to try and align some wall hangings, the far wall comes out of a stairwell and has the HVAC vent return! It's enough to drive you crazy.

For this wall I decided to put a couple Star Wars posters (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back... the only two that matter) and have them line up with both the stairwell and the upstairs hall. This left a big gap in the middle that needed filling.

I decided a light saber might be cool.

Only to find out that replicas are insanely expensive.

And then I happened across a "science kit" from "Uncle Milton" that featured a "Build Your Own Lightsaber" style room -light... for just $25! SOLD! I liked the design of Darth Vader's lightsaber best, so that's what I went with.

Opening the box had me bust out laughing, because it's not actual-size. It's a mini-saber that's tiny, tiny, tiny...

Light Saber

As if that wasn't funny enough, the "Darth Vader" lightsabers come in a box with a picture of Kylo Ren!

Light Saber

Even though it's billed as a "room light" it sure doesn't glow bright enough to light up a room... even in total darkness. But it does make a lightsaber sound when you turn it on, so I guess that's something. It comes with a remote control, but the remote doesn't turn the thing on, so I have no clue what the hell it's for (you have to push the button on the hilt to get it to "activate"). The description at Amazon said that the blade changes to eight colors with the remote, but the Darth Vader blade only glows red.

Ultimately, a big disappointment, as this is not the lightsaber you're looking for... move along.

Eventually maybe I can find a decent FULL-SIZE replica with a glowing blade that's affordable. Until then, a mini-saber it shall be.

May The Force be with you.

Always.

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Freemaker

Posted on February 12th, 2016

Dave!It is no secret that I love LEGO Star Wars.

The video games, the TV shows, the building sets, the books... all of it. Given how the absolutely heinous prequel trilogy nearly destroyed all things Star Wars for me, it was the coming of LEGO Star Wars stuff that brought me back from the brink. What LEGO was doing was smart, fun, beautiful, imaginative, and highly entertaining... basically everything that the three shitty prequels were not.

And yesterday I learned that a new cartoon series is coming set in the LEGO Star Wars universe...

LEGO Star Wars Freemaker Adventures

The Freemaker Adventures sounds fantastic...

Told in the whimsically-charged style that audiences have come to expect from LEGO Star Wars entertainment, the series stars the Freemakers, a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from the scoured debris of space battles strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact – the Kyber Saber – his world is turned upside down, and he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. Throughout their adventures, the Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters, and learn the true value of what it means to be a family.

Needless to say, I hope and pray that we'll be getting a video game out of the franchise.

Of course, I'm still waiting for a game adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which is supposed to be coming in June?), so patient we must be...

In the meanwhile... I finally had a chance to sit down and play LEGO Marvel's Avengers for a while. It's pretty great in all the right ways, despite being another mediocre port to the Wii U (why in the hell Traveler's Tales have been unable to work with the technical limitations of the Wii U when they did such an amazing job with LEGO City Undercover, I have no idea. LEGO Marvel's Avengers certainly has more laugh-out-loud moments than usual, which is great.

And... speaking of LEGO Marvel's Avengers... I should have time to get through another level before bedtime!

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Bullet Sunday 466

Posted on January 4th, 2016

Dave!A new year, 52 new opportunities for bullets, because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

   
• STRANGE! As a huge, huge, massively huge devotee of the Marvel Studios films, I'm ecstatic that The Powers The Be are finally getting around to exploring the mystical, magical side of the Marvel Universe. I've long been a fan of Doctor Strange, and everything we've been teased with shows that they're doing it right. Starting with the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch...

Doctor Strange Movie

Will be very interested to see how they integrate magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's going to be a delicate line to walk.

   
• ARETHA! Watching Carole King's reaction is almost as entertaining as watching Aretha Franklin flawlessly belt out her song at age 73. Almost.

Talent like that don't come along every day.

   
• WEESA GONNA DIIIIE! I loathe the Star Wars prequels with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. And then there's this...

Not that it would make me hate Jar Jar Binks any less, but it would certainly make me feel better about his presence in those shitty films.

   
• Grapes! "I sold Star Wars to white slavers?" Really? Sour grapes are sour. Geroge Lucas is just pissed that people loathe his shitty prequel movies with a passion reserved for explosive diarrhea while JJ Abrams unleashed the Star Wars film everybody wanted. The Force Awakens is on target to becoming the most successful movie in the history of the universe, and that's gotta hurt. Though I'm sure the billions of dollars Lucas got for selling off Lucasfilm to the "White Slavers" at Disney is some small consolation. Time to go count your money and shut the fuck up, George.

   
• ZONE! I'm the mayor of The Friend Zone...

It's funny because it's true.

   
Thanks, internet, I needed that.

   

Bullet Sunday 464

Posted on December 21st, 2015

Dave!Thanks to Home Automation Week, Bullet Sunday is on Monday and starts... now...

   
• The 1975! Definitely a highlight of my week... if not a highlight of my entire year... was flying to San Francisco so I could see The 1975 in concert with Jester. This has quickly become one of my very favorite bands, and their live show did not disappoint. Not only did they play tracks from their flawless debut album, there was plenty of amazing new stuff off their forthcoming one. Like my favorite song of the night, Change of Heart...

I was very surprised by how fantastic their stage set was. It's dead simple... consisting of a large video screen and four video columns... but it's what they DO with it that made the show so spectacular. If you have a chance to see them in concert (which might be tough... they're selling out everywhere) by all means give them a shot.

   
• Elephant Walk! When I was on vacation in Africa last year, my first stop on safari was at Ruckomechi camp in Zimbabwe. It's a beautiful reserve in a region known as "Mana Pools" and is billed as "The Elephant's Favourite Camp" because elephants are roaming around everywhere. They were always around, and you are constantly running across them throughout your time at camp... I even found an elephant in my shower once. For the most part, if you leave the elephants alone, they leave you alone. Just don't approach them. And absolutely do NOT get near a baby elephant unless you want a momma elephant getting annoyed with you. I loved having the elephants around, and never once had any problems with them. Which is why I was surprised to see this viral video going around of an elephant attack that was most definitely shot at Ruckomechi camp. I ate at that very table...

While this incident is alarming, it also has to be exceedingly rare, because thousands of guests (including me) have been through Ruckomechi Camp without incident. Hopefully this won't dissuade people from visiting, because it is easily one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life.

   
• Star Wars! I have no intention of seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens while the hype is still running high. While I love Star Wars, that's greatly overshadowed by my hatred of people at the movies now-a-days. Used to be you only had to worry about people talking during the film. Now you've got mobile phones, which has made things even worse. I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers for The Force Awakens, but am still getting excited by the build-up to the movie. And this video by Jimmy Fallon with The Roots and stars of Star Wars is pretty awesome...

   
• Feeding! Probably one of the funniest things I've seen all year...

Ghost Mom

   
• Kitten! And now, before I go, the most heartwarming thing I've seen all week...

Amazing. I love happy endings like this. Best of luck, Lazarus!

   
Enjoy the rest of your Monday, everybody!

   

Awakens

Posted on October 19th, 2015

Dave!And so the new trailer for Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens has dropped. Is there really anything else that matters today? Probably not.

Meh, I think I'll give it a shot come December...


   
This movie is going to make a gazillion dollars.

   

Dorling-Kindersley

Posted on June 4th, 2015

Dave!This post has been a long time coming.

When it comes to book publishers, far and away my favorite is the house of Dorling-Kindersley.

I first became aware of them through their amazing Eyewitness Travel Guides. With the motto "We show you what others only tell you," they raised the bar so impossibly high that once I discovered them, I never purchased another brand of travel guide. And, indeed, once I stopped buying travel guides in favor of web research, I threw out over a hundred books... save for my impressive collection of DK guides, which I still have. They were simply too beautiful to trash...

A portion of my DK Eyewitness Travel Guides Collection

Back in the day I was so addicted to Eyewitness Guides that I would even buy them after I visited places because they were the best possible souvenir of the region. Many times I ended up buying them for locations I had no intention of visiting because they were the next best thing to actually having been there. The sheer depth of visual information paired with clear, well-written text proved irresistible to my travel-nerd tendencies, and I ended up with close to fifty of them...

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

Even today if I ever find a DK guide on sale and it's one I don't have yet, I buy it. They are still one of the best resources for travel you can get... even though I rarely look at them to plan my travels.

As you can imagine, once I learned that DK was broadening their focus outside the travel arena, I was thrilled. They've created visual guides for all kinds of topics, and they're every bit as good as their travel books.

Cartography...

DK Visual Books Sample

History...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

Sewing...

DK Visual Books Sample

Photography...

DK Visual Books Sample

Religion...

DK Visual Books Sample

Astronomy...

DK Visual Books Sample

Even Batman...

DK Visual Books Sample

   
Most any topic you can think of, DK has a visual guide for it!

But far and away my very favorite of the DK visual guides? Star Wars. Especially Star Wars LEGO Universe books...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

   
But they have an amazing selection of "regular" Star Wars books as well. I think I own just about all of them, but there are a few standouts. Like the Star Wars: Incredible Cross-sections books...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

   
DK's latest Star Wars book has just been released, and it's pretty great.

The title is ULTIMATE STAR WARS! And they mean it. This book has an extensive guide to the characters & creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles of both the Original Trilogy and the crappy Prequel Trilogy. As if that wasn't enough, it seamlessly blends in the various canon animated series as well...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

Most of the information has already been released in previous books, but this "Ultimate" guide attempts (and succeeds!) in blending a variety of updated sources into a kind of narrative you can follow. This is bad news for those wanting a more encyclopedic take on the information... but you get a full index for that, so I wasn't too bothered.

As expected, the quality of the book is amazing. All 320 pages are artfully constructed for both visual appeal and clarity. Major characters and locations get a beautiful double-page spread, while minor characters get space appropriate to their place in the grand scheme of things... Wedge Antilles, for example, gets a half-page... Biggs Darklighter gets a quarter... Jek Prokins gets an eighth. Even the lady shaver "Comlink" is given an eighth, which should tell you just how complete the material in this book is.

Now that new LucasFilm owner Disney has completely jettisoned the "Star Wars Expanded Universe" and redefined what's "canon" when it comes to all things Star Wars. this book presents a streamlined and surprisingly complete look at what's "official" when it comes to a universe far, far away. So if you're looking for a Star Wars companion to prepare you for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film coming this December, this is the book to get.

A warning, however... the information provided for all the characters, creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles is limited to only official canon sources... which, apparently, is what we know from the movies, novelizations, and animated series. Anything that was elaborated on in the "Expanded Universe" sources is gone, gone, gone as if it never happened. This is a bit sad for fans of the stories that have now gone missing, but I suppose it's for the best in the grand scheme of things now that Disney is revitalizing the franchise.

The retail price of the book is $40. Amazon is selling it for $25, which is a heck of a bargain. The problem being that Amazon doesn't give a shit about getting books to you in good condition anymore. They used to shrink-wrap them to cardboard so the cover wrap would stay pristine and the corners don't get banged up. Now they just toss the thing in a box and put a tiny air pillow on top. Your cover-wrap WILL get fucked up. Your corners WILL get dinged. Which is unfortunate, but that's what a $25 price tag gets you now-a-days.

In any event, as a massive Star Wars whore, I really can't help but give the book a coveted Dave Approved seal...

DK Visual Books Sample

If you're even a passive Star Wars fan, this is $25 well-spent. Go get a copy.

   

Digitally

Posted on April 18th, 2015

Dave!My relationship with Star Wars is a complicated one.

The original film revolutionized cinematic sci-fi and cemented my love for the genre that originated with the original Star Trek series. After The Empire Strikes Back came along, I became obsessed with the Star Wars Universe and it felt as though my entire life was leading up to the premiere of Return of the Jedi.

At which time my faith in Star Wars was completely shattered. Jedi was more burp and fart jokes than sci-fi. More silly than serious. More an effort to sell toys than to close out the Holy Trilogy with the respect it deserved. If not for the lightsaber duel at the end (and one amazing space battle), the film would have been a complete loss.

Then, as if fucking up the final installment wasn't bad enough, George Lucas decided to go back and take a huge shit all over the two original films with his "Special Edition" insanity. Adding stupid shit that had no business being there and generally changing stuff for the worse.

So I moved on to bigger and better things.

Eventually the Star Wars prequels were unleashed.

After the travesty that was Return of the Jedi and the "Special Editions," I held out zero hope that any new Star Wars movies would be worth a crap, but secretly I hoped. Hoped in vain, as it turned out. The prequels were utter shit, and Star Wars became nothing more than a fond memory.

And now Star Wards: The Force Awakens is coming and I find myself excited about Star Wars again. Perhaps with George Lucas exiting the franchise there's reason to hope. JJ Abrams did okay with his take on Mission Impossible and Star Trek, after all.

But that's not until Christmas.

In the meanwhile, Disney/Lucasfilm has decided to finally release all six Star Wars films on digital.

Which would be reason to celebrate if not for a few things...

  1. They're the shitty "Special Edition" films.
  2. There's no option to watch the original cuts with updated special effects, which is the only way I want to see them.
  3. The only bundled savings available are when you buy all six movies together... there's no way to get a savings on the original trilogy only.
  4. It's a massive cash grab to purchase the films individually... $20 each.
  5. You just know they're going to do another release of the original films in HD that everybody is waiting for, so if you buy the movies now, you'll end up buying them again down the road.

So... nope.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

There's only so much suffering a Star Wars fan can put up with.

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Awakens!

Posted on April 16th, 2015

Dave!GAAAAAHHHH!

I am losing my ever-loving' mind here!

We have to wait until CHRISTMAS for this?

Please just put me into a coma after Avengers: Age of Ultron... wake me up for Ant Man... then drop me back into slumber until Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I just can't handle it.

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Bullet Sunday 414

Posted on January 4th, 2015

Dave!Time for a new beginning... because the first Bullet Sunday of 2015 starts... now...

   
• Back! Anybody who's a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy knows that it's the year 2015 that Marty travels to in the second film when he follows Doc Brown to do something about his kids. The result is a funky look at what the future has in store... as envisioned by filmmakers in 1989. Though, to be honest, I think they were more concerned with entertainment value than actually attempting to predict what was coming down the pipe in 25 years...

Doc Brown and Marty from Back to the Future II

Newsweek interviewed some futurists to take a look at what Back to the Future II got right... and what they got wrong... and the result is worth a read.

   
• Snoopy! Usually, I'm dead-set against "improving" old animation techniques... especially with a property as beloved as Peanuts, but this looks amazing...

Nothing like what's come before, and yet oddly in-tune with the Peanuts aesthetic. I am hopeful that eventually there's a "making-of" which explains how they're achieving this perfect compromise of old and new.

   
• Remastered! Back before the original Star Wars hit theaters, Marvel Comics had an adaptation in the works... written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Howard Chaykin. It didn't even hit my radar until I saw Star Wars, at which time I was obsessive about tracking down anything and everything that even mentioned the film. Including Marvel's over-sized movie tie-in. Since it would be years before home video would happen, it was about as good as I could get in re-living the movie. Flash-forward to today, and the adaptation of Star Wars is being remastered for release as a hardcover graphic novel this March. The "remastering" is basically cleaning up the original pages and then recoloring them using today's computerized technology. The original looks something like this (which I've muddied a bit because the paper back then was far from white)...

Marvel Star Wars Original

And here's the new hotness...

Marvel Star Wars Original

Nice. I guess. I mean, the Death Star is no longer day-glo yellow and Darth Vader is no longer day-glo blue which is good. But I think they went a bit too far. The intro panel, for example, doesn't look much like the original Chaykin art... it's all coloring. They even colored over the text panel for crying out loud! While I like the idea of having an updated edition of these comics, I just wish they hadn't gone quite so over-the-top gradient air-brushy with everything. More flat colors and a little more respect for the original linework would have gone a long way towards a better looking updated book.

   
• Giving! Taylor Swift, who seems to have a genuine appreciation for her fans, decided to celebrate her hugely successful foray into pop music this year by sending presents to some of the people who made it possible...

It's a sweet video, and I would have thought that anybody seeing it would love Taylor just a little bit more. And most people did. Except, of course, her haters, which were quick to point out that the millionaire country/pop star spent a mere couple hundred dollars of her massive fortune on this obvious publicity stunt.

So I'd like to point out that even if you're this cynical, there is one thing you can't deny: Taylor Swift doesn't stop at a couple hundred dollars when it comes to giving back. In fact, she topped the "Most Charitable Celebrities" list for 2014... for the third year in a row. Say what you want about her music or how she interacts with her fans but, when it comes to charity in the world of celebrities, it would seem as though few people are doing more than Taylor Swift.

   
• Connectivity! When my Mac displayed an incoming call at work, I couldn't find my iPhone so I accepted the call through my Mac. After the call was over I tore my office apart trying to locate my mobile (which was obviously on silent mode) and couldn't find it. Finally I realized that my Mac was connecting to my iPhone out in my car. I parked close enough that Bluetooth could still reach. Wonderful and bizarre at the same time. Which is how new technology should be, but often isn't. Most of the times now it's just frustration. Like trying to get a file from my iPhone to my Mac using "AirDrop" only to find that it only works half the time. Why? FOR THE LOVE OF JOBS, WHY?!? WHY CAN'T IT WORK EVERY TIME? You got me. And, while I should be happy for the times that this stuff "just works," the fact that you can't count on it is enough me make me want to light my Mac on fire.

   
• Devil! Back when I was at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I posted photos of insane people on the Zambia side of the Zambezi taking a dip in what's known as "The Devil's Pool"...

Victoria Falls

Yesterday I was searching YouTube for people who might have actually filmed the event, and was surprised to find all kinds of videos. Here's just two of them...

   

Given the opportunity, would I partake in this craziness? I really don't know.

   
And there you have it. Don't forget to use "2015" when you write the date!

   

Bullet Sunday 412

Posted on December 21st, 2014

Dave!Don't let that crazy solstice celebration get out of control... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Goodbye! After nine years of being a huge fan of The Colbert Report, I was saddened that the show had to come to the end this past Thursday...

Stephen Colbert Defender of American Justice!

Best of luck to Stephen Colbert when he takes over The Late Show next Spring.

   
• Primate! It was only a matter of time before we figured out how to translate monkey-speak... and Scientific American says we are there...

NASA emails a wrench to SPAAAAACE!

I wonder how you say "GIVE ME THE BANANA AND NOBODY GETS POOP THROWN AT THEIR HEAD!" —?

   
• Wrench! BEHOLD THE MAJESTY OF SCIENCE!

NASA emails a wrench to SPAAAAACE!
Photo courtesy of NASA.

When the commander of the International Space Station needed a specialty wrench, NASA emailed it to him for printing on the lab's 3D printer. The future is now, people.

   
• Leia! Just because I want to keep the internet adorable...

"It's actually a pretty good look for her."

   
• Trek! Over at Playboy they have an article that ranks ALL THE STAR TREK! And that includes the animated episodes! For the Star Trek fan, it is must-read material. I agree almost completely at the bottom of the list... disagree a little at the top... and disagree a lot with the middle (but I'm not much of a fan of the non TOS episodes, so shoot me)...

Star Trek Graphic Compiled by Playboy

Many of my differences with the list are debatable, but the one episode that just baffles me beyond all reason is the Enterprise episode Carbon Creek at THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO?!?? WTF?!?

   
• OBAMA! Thanks to my laptop and the internet, I can work anywhere in the world where I have access to both. But apparently The President of the United States can't work from Hawaii (despite being one of the most well-connected people on earth) since every moron with a lifeline to FOX "News" is shitting all over him for spending the holidays away from the White House during the "North Korean Hacking Crisis." Stupid shit like this drives me insane. What... is the president's desk MAGICAL and he loses all his "Leader of the Free World Powers" whenever he's away from it? Hackers IN NORTH KOREA can run the film industry from half a world away, but The President of the United States can't gather information for a response because he's back home? Do the idiots who say this moronic crap actually listen to the words coming out of their mouths? Even if President Obama DID cancel his trip, the same dipshits would STILL lambast him because they he'd be "letting the terrorist win" by not keeping to his schedule. The ultimate irony being that a job like "President of the United States" doesn't actually get ANY vacation days, because the world doesn't stop, there's always a crisis somewhere, and your job as president never ends... no matter where you are.

   
Annnnd... back to your solstice celebration.

   

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