Up, Up, and Away?!?

So I haven’t really been keeping up with Super Powers in many years (and I’m posting my my blog because I think this also gets reposted to the Super Powers blog). I know a few things have popped up here and there, like the unproduced Power Plus Darkseid, but for the most part we have been assuming that most of was was in production either has already been seen or has been lost to the ages at this point.

Except… a few years back there was an auction for this piece. I was alerted to it by a reader after it had already been taken down; I guess someone made a big offer as it was cancelled almost immediately. I’m also assuming this now sits in the collection of one of the “big collectors” of Super powers, as some of those guys don’t like to talk about their acquisitions. ;)

In any case, this pic is all that I’ve ever seen. I was originally planning on putting it online when I relaunched the Super Powers Archive, but considering that I started the redesign in 2007 and am still far from finished with it…well, when the subject came up on the Facebook group today I figured I might as well put this up now while I have some (very rare) free time. At some point I’d like to get back to the archive…

So: does anyone know what this was? Is it an actual proof sheet for an unproduced playset?  And of so, just how far along in the process did this thing get?!?

fortress86

UPDATE: So yes, of course this was an April Fool’s gag!

I fooled more people than I thought I would, but a few folks caught on right away. I thought the proof color bars would be the dead giveaway, but only one person actually called those out…
In any case, it wasn’t actually meant to be an April Fool’s joke. I made this last Summer as a wedding present for our very own Julius Marx, to match his Tower of Darkness proof sheet. Had I made this for only the joke, I would have been much more careful with details, but also would probably have spent much less time on it.

Once you see the bigger version of the artwork below, you’ll be able to pick out a bunch of details that would have given it all away really quickly. But again, it was meant more to be a neat matching companion piece of art than it was a “forgery”. We only thought about the April Fools aspect after the fact. ;) Hope everyone enjoyed it! And if you pin this image or put it up somewhere else, please credit me and link back to this article! Thanks!

fortress_final2

Posted in action figures, Kenner, ottertorial, Super Powers, toyotter, unproduced toy | Comments Off

Return of the Rejected Star Wars!

Welcome to part three in my series of reminiscing about the old days of concepting for Star Wars items that never were made. Except some of these were actually made! Amazingly, this post is following the last one not even a year later, which is a lot better than the four year gap between part one and part two. Unfortunately, this installment isn’t quite as fascinating as those first two, from the stand point of seeing a lot of crazy concepts that may or may not blow your mind. But it might be fascinating from the standpoint of taking a look behind the curtain at the process these things go through on the way to store shelves. Go check out the first two installments here and here if your memory is hazy on the events that came before. And here’s a look at some rejected mini-figures that would have gone in bags of chips, and our abandoned Jabba beanbag.

Of course, I’m writing this in part because I have Star Wars on my mind with the news last week that Lucasfilm is being bought by the Walt Disney Company for 4 Billion dollars. Y’know, in normal conversation that sounds like some kind of hyperbole or crazy exaggeration. But no, they are paying $4 BILLION for all of George Lucas’ companies and legacies. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Disney, if you’re looking for ideas for merchandise to reclaim some of that investment… give me a call! But I digress. Ok, so when last we left our story, my team and I had just landed the job of making Life Size Star Wars characters to promote Episode One: The Phantom Menace in stores for Pepsi. While good news at the time, I would end up spending months living in China, staying in the factory every day overseeing many people as they made thousands of full size replica Jar Jars and Yodas in less time than an action figure normally takes to be manufactured and at the cost of a typical deluxe Hot Toys figure. And we did it! That’s a tale for part four of this series, though.

For now, we’ll concern ourselves with what happened once I was back in the states, and The Phantom Menace was about to hit theaters. Pepsi was happy with our work, Lucasfilm was happy with our work (and we were now approved vendors!) and we had established good factory relationships. And even thought the movie was nearing release, there were still a lot of opportunities to extend the license with some of our current clients, along with others that already had part of the Star Wars license. And even though at this point we were nearing a year of being immersed in Star Wars every day, we still had enough enthusiasm to tackle a new challenge. The only obstacles now were being totally mentally drained when thinking about the movie (this only intensified after we actually SAW the movie; my thoughts on that experience also in a later blog) and that instead of having a blank canvas to work with, we would now be concepting for companies that made “home goods”. You know: Toothbrushes. Soap. Bandages. All things that scream, “we need Star Wars branding!” And, of course, they did!

You can tell at this point that we were stretching things. But when designing these types of functional products, you are faced with two things: one, that no matter what you design, they’re going to end up going with character toothbrushes because people in general are scared to try new things, and two, whatever you make needs to be functional, usable, and safe. So right off the bat you’re limited. But we had been working with these characters now for long enough to understand what we could and couldn’t get away with, and what made sense to propose. You’ll also notice that by now the great artists Kerry Gammill and Keith “Kez” Wilson were fully on the team and the quality of the art went up considerably. (Not that we had “bad” art before, but these guys are really good.) For whatever reason, we didn’t take anything to color for these concepts. Probably because we had established relationships with the companies, and they didn’t need to see the art as polished at the concept stage. I know there were at least one more batch of rough concepts that are not here (things like bath clings and Pod Racer soap-on-a-rope. If I ever find those pieces I’ll update this blog). And these are in no particular order. I know we didn’t pitch them all at once, but I can’t remember when we did what at this point. Just know they were pitched right before and/or right after the movie’s premiere in May 1999.

So with all of those ideas being presented, what did we end up making? Character toothbrushes! Yes, Colgate came back and asked for straightforward character sculpts. And we were happy to provide them! First, we did a series of character designs in color. Then, after some back and forth with both Colgate and Lucasfilm, we narrowed those down and refined the poses. R2D2 got dropped, Darth Vader was added, Anakin gained his helmet, and Yoda lost his vine cave. Interestingly, when it got down to the final mix we lost Amidala at the sculpting level, and Yoda got his vines back, as we ended up making the Empire Strikes Back version of Yoda, NOT the prequel one. Probably so that Darth Vader wasn’t the only original trilogy character. And while Darth Maul made it all the way to sculpt and paint master, he was dropped before they went into production. Looking back, I have absolutely no memory of why this happened. Maybe they thought he was too scary for kids to brush with? Or maybe with his bad teeth, he was a poor role model for good hygiene? The answer is lost to the ages. We ended up not making any of the bandage items, although Curad sure went all out with bandages.

Speaking of paint masters, here is a funny story of what happens during a normal production cycle (for you kids out there who wonder how your precious toys can have mistakes by the time they hit the store pegs). So the sculpts were being handled by a major design house who shall remain nameless (and let me state at the outset that they did wonderful work, and continue to do wonderful work to this day). Because of their relationship with Lucasfilm, they were able to handle all approvals as each piece was being made, which streamlines the process considerably. As long as we were kept in the loop (we were) then each item can be modified as it’s being worked on. So they four characters were completed, and painted, and approved. Everyone is happy. We send the masters off the China for the factory to start production. And then I get a call from the factory. They are puzzled, and somewhat agitated. Well, it turns out that the painter who painted our wonderful prototypes misread the specs. Instead of having 40 paint apps TOTAL, he thought we had a limit of 40 paint apps PER CHARACTER. And, of course, that is what they showed Lucasfilm for approvals. And now the factory is telling us that we do not have the budget to make these anywhere near so extravagant. So now I have to get on a call with our contact at Lucasfilm, with the painter, and explain as nicely as possible that those awesome toothbrushes they thought they were getting was more of an “April Fools!”

Luckily, this is where having good relationships really comes into play. Lucasfilm couldn’t have been nicer, considering the mishap. Looking at it from their point of view, it could have easily looked like we were trying to pull a “bait & switch”, and shown nicer product for approvals and then begged forgiveness once it was made and too later to fix (i.e., spend more money). And we all know, this happens more often that companies would care to admit. Still, looking at the original paint masters (on the left of each production sample below), it’s a shame we couldn’t get those extra paint apps. The other pictures are of carded samples, and one of the Darth Maul test shots along with durometer tests of Darth Vader and Yoda in translucent plastic. (Durometer measures the hardness of the plastic. You want it hard enough to be durable, but not brittle and easily shattered.)

So at this point, it’s nearing the end of the Summer 1999, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace has broken some records and left general confusion amongst fandom. We are tired, but now we get the word that it’s time to think about the video release! These days, end of Summer would be far too late to be starting the design process as the average video window in mere months following the general release. 12 years again, however, we were still in the dusk of the age of VHS, and The Phantom Menace didn’t hit on home video until April 3rd, 2000. (The dvd release was still some time away). Two clients wanted us to work toward designing items that would celebrate the video and incent consumers to buy one (Really? Star Wars fans need encouragement to spend money on Star Wars? A very interesting theory.) Blockbuster wanted to explore something that could be packaged with the video if bought in-store. After batting around a number of concepts, many recycled from our earlier pitches to Pepsi, we landed on collector coins with a planet display case. This idea was based on the old Power of the Force coins; there was much internal debate over how close we should make them to the 1980s coins made by Kenner. Ultimately, Blockbuster wanted a higher perceived value so we went with real gold plated coins with a metallic base and a hologram in the lid (Ha ha! The 1990s were goofy!). This got as far was a working prototype being made, but the idea died there for more reasons I can’t remember. I also don’t remember if all of the coin prototype was original, or kit-bashing from existing pieces. It obviously owes a lot to the Kenner Planet Balls that were just being made for the action figure line. Blockbuster ended up just ordering a lot of life size Yodas to be store displays, minus the base that the Pepsi one had.

Speaking of Pepsi, they were the other client who wanted some sort of store display to herald the video release (along with chips and soda). After the very involved production of the life size characters, we all wanted something easier and cheaper, so it was decided that this would be a more traditional paper display that could go in Walmart or similar vendors. We designed a fair number of concepts, and then made full size mock-ups to make sure that they would work and figure out how large to make each one, and how it would actually interact with stacks of Pepsi cases. They ended up picking the Pit Droids fooling around with a TV over any of the main characters. Sure, why not? It would have a base wrap made up of junk from Watto’s junkyard, and we even were able to put a tiny motor behind it, so that they’re arms and legs moved. I’m not sure that I ever actually saw this display in stores, but that’s nothing unusual. I’ve designed a lot of chip, soda, and candy displays over the years and I’ve probably only seen 10% in stores, if that.

In any case, at this point I was all Star Wars’d out. Two straight years of messing with Jabbas and Pit Droids and Jar Jars sorely tested my love for the brand. Today, I’m much more at peace with the prequels and the Star Wars phenomenon in general, and am actually looking forward to see what Disney does with it all (Seriously, Mr. Iger, call me.) That’s just about it! Look for part four (the final chapter)…um…sometime before the new movie in 2015. And as always, huge props go out to my former buddies in the trenches, who came up with all this stuff and fought to get it made: Steve Ross, Mike Hawkins, Kerry Gammill, Keith Wilson, Laurie Brownlow, Mark Mears, Mike Flecker, Amy Wagner, Keith DeWaters, Mike Dethloff and Brad Weston.

Posted in Rejected!, Star Wars, toyotter, unproduced toy | Comments Off

Meanwhile, At The Hall of…Jedis?

…Or something like that.

So, with the big breaking news of Disney buying Lucasfilm, I’ve been in a Star Wars mood these past few days. I may just break down and write the next chapter of the “Unproduced Star Wars Concepts” saga. To be honest, it’s taken me so long to revisit it because this has been a very busy year at my day job. In fact, today is the first day I’ve had off in over two months! And of course, the concept of “not working” is alien to me now, so when a goofy mash-up idea popped into my head I immediately sat back down at the computer to flesh it out, instead of grabbing some much needed rest time.

Still, this was an enjoyable few hours creating what are more or less virtual customs. And no paint & sculpey mess that comes with the regular kind of customs! Anyway, it’s an odd idea, but a fairly self explanatory one. Hope everyone enjoys it.

*a few caveats: Yes, I know the second series should be The Legendary Super Powers Show,  with Galactic Guardians being third. But I took a little artistic license based on what fit the respective logos better. Apologies to the anonymous cosplayers whose pics I snagged. If this is you, send me your name and I’ll credit you! (Plus keep an eye out for a cameo by our very own Danny Neumann as Plastic Man, plus Allen Hansard as Firestorm and Brian Parsley as Green Arrow!). And finally, I really hate to watermark these, but we all know they are going to go around the web without attribution immediately. Even worse, I don’t want folk selling these on ebay as custom cardbacks. If you want to put these on your website, feel free, but please link back to  this blog post so people can see where they came from.

Posted in Rejected!, Star Wars, Super Powers, toyotter, unproduced toy | Comments Off

George Lucas Was Right

So I was browsing through Netflix the other night, looking at their range of mediocre to abysmal choices of things I haven’t seen when I stumbled across the newish documentary “The People vs George Lucas”. With no better choices at hand I proceeded to watch it as I wrapped up some late night editing for a project I’m behind on at my “real job”. Let me rephrase that: I tried to watch it. I got about halfway through it before I had to turn it off and put on a Beatles album (FYI: A Hard Day’s Night) to wash away the taste it left in my brain. At its most basic, this was nothing more than what any Star Wars fan has seen thousands of times in every nerd/geek/fanboy forum online since the special editions were released in 1997 up through Revenge of the Sith in 2005. And honestly, I’m kind of tired of going over the same ground over and over and over (Han shot first, Jar Jar sucks, George doesn’t care about us, fans have equal ownership, ad infinitum).

To make it perfectly clear, I didn’t really care for the film. Decently made, but I didn’t see the point to it (even if you tell me at the end they defend George’s right to do whatever he wants with his films…who cares? That point was debated a decade ago). But it did really open my eyes to something I’ve never really thought about before: George absolutely did the right thing when he made the prequels. What did he do right, you ask? Well, going all the way back to Star Wars in 1977, George has continually said that these are kid’s movies. Made for kids. Now, most fans see that as a cop-out. An excuse, a shoddy justification for everything they don’t like about the prequels. And I’m not the first person to point out that he is right, these are kid’s movies. We fell in love with them as children. If you really go back and look at Star Wars today with a clear, cynical grown-up’s eye, you can see how juvenile the first movie was. How black and white. How simplistic.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

Somewhere down the line, “kid’s movie” became synonymous with “dumbed down crap”, but it wasn’t always that way. E.T. is a “kid’s movie”. Every Disney classic is a “kid’s movie”. You can say that The Wizard of Oz is a kid’s movie. But what we’re really saying is that these are family films- enjoyable for all ages. Now, the prequels are regrettably lacking in finesse. They definitely could have used a rewrite or two and a little better character motivations. But look around: kid’s today still love these movies. They like Jar Jar. They think the Battle Droids are funny. Go read Drew McWeeny’s great series on introducing his sons to the Saga: http://in-my-head.org/2011/11/07/recommended-reading-drew-mcweenys-film-nerd-2-0-star-wars-edition/

George made the right call here. He kept aiming that target in the same place he aimed it in 1977 and 1980 and 1983. And the kids that are enjoying the prequels today (and the Clone Wars, and the video games, and the toys) are going to grow up thinking just as fondly about all of this as we did 20-30 years ago.

I know what you’re thinking. I know, I know. You wanted to see something else. You want Jar Jar gone. You didn’t want silly Battle Droids and endless Jedi fighting. Or C-3PO’s antics. I get it, I really do. But let me point you in the direction of a comparable genre that didn’t take the path that Lucas did. No, this property at some point decided that instead of staying aimed at kids, it would grow up with them. It would evolve and start experimenting with just how far it could push the characters and the existing boundaries. It would get dark, it would get edgy. You know where I’m going with this: it’s comics.

At the same moment that Star Wars was capturing a generation of kids, comics was telling those kids that it was OK to never grown up and leave them behind like the previous generations did. No, once the 1980s hit continuity became king. If you weren’t on board from the beginning it became harder and harder to get on the ride. And every year less and less kids were reading comics. And comics responded by catering to that 80s generation’s every whim in a self-destructing feedback loop. So here we are. Comics exist almost solely as fodder for merchandise and movies and once the 40 and 50 year olds stop buying them the industry is pretty much going to die off (How’s that New 52 treating ya, fans?). Or move onto the web. And collectors alone can’t sustain all the toys or even movies when they are anything but a crowd pleasing, family friendly hit (looking at you, Green Lantern!) But Star Wars? Well, kids will be watching that just like they do the Disney films. Every seven years a new generation will pick it up, and the juggernaut starts up all over again.

Because George Lucas was right.

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Happy April Fish!

When I was in high school French class I was introduced to the concept of “Poisson D’Avril”, literally, “April Fish Day”. This was the supposed origin of April Fool’s Day, where French people go around taping fish to each other’s backs on April 1st every year. This sounded like great fun to me and my high school buddies, so we started trying to see who can tape a fish to the other’s back without getting caught, pretty much on any random day of the year that we could.

We made mimeograph copies of a fish drawing that I made, and cut out hundreds of these paper fish. I’m not sure when we stopped this awesome practice, but I do remember for a couple of years after you could still be walking around the mall before someone told you that you had a fish on your back. Ah, the 1980s…

So how did April Fool’s really start? Well, no one is quite sure, but this video has a few theories (including the aforementioned April Fish!). Enjoy!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhVCTkpVX2Y[/youtube]

Posted in Pop Culture, Tomfoolery | Leave a comment

Leader of the Pack

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As I’ve grown over the years, one thing I’ve always been afraid of is becoming a packrat. Scratch that, I’m afraid of becoming a hoarder. I already am a packrat (albeit with the more socially acceptable title of “collector”). I’ve spent years saving and collecting things that I will never need or look at again, all in the vague suspicion that I will one day regret it if I throw it out.

That is really not the case, though, as I’ve found out. In the past couple of years I’ve been actively throwing away decades worth of paperwork, toys, and clothes that have been packed away in boxes, unused and unseen. I don’t miss any of it. And while it never got to the point of cluttering my house, my eventual goal will be to divest myself of most things that I do not actively use. I’m not sure if I can give up the books and dvds just quite yet, though. Giving up my toys is a blog for another time.

What brought this up was discovering the story of the Collyer Brothers. This fascinating tale of maybe the two most famous hoarders ever is both cautionary and in a way romantic, as most larger-than-life endeavors are. What young boy did not make forts out of couch cushions and dream of living in a house full of bobby traps and secret tunnels? Of course, you didn’t exactly picture those same traps and tunnels being your downfall:

On April 8, 1947, workman Artie Matthews found the body of Langley Collyer just ten feet from where Homer died. His partially decomposed body was being eaten by rats. A suitcase and three huge bundles of newspapers covered his body. Langley had been crawling through their newspaper tunnel to bring food to his paralyzed brother when one of his own booby traps fell down and crushed him. Homer, blind and paralyzed, starved to death several days later.

I think I’ll be putting Ghosty Men on my Kindle reading list…and packing away a few more boxes for charity this weekend.

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Retro Reality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZGG9Kw70BM[/youtube]

 I saw this video over at Kottke today, and after marveling at the sheer incorrectness from today’s perspective I got to thinking about how interesting these short subjects and newsreel fillers were back in the 1930s and 1940s.

And really, when you think about it, they were kind of the “reality shows” of the day. Many times they featured either an unusual or grotesque subject for viewers to gawk at as the waited for the main feature to start. Ripley’s Believe It or Not even started as a series of shorts. Of course, not all of these short subjects reflected the unusual; there were the forerunners to MTV, the prototypes of the sitcom, and my favorite, Dogville.

Dogville shorts all featured dogs in people clothing, walking on their hind legs and talking by way of both camera tricks and what we would most likely consider abuse. Still, who can argue with a college betting scandal? Enjoy! Also, you can find many of these on DVD at the great Warner Archive site!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u775XF6ihT0[/youtube]

Posted in Nostalgia, Pop Culture, Tomfoolery | Leave a comment

Things We Read Today


Last year Rolling Stone published a special edition that chronicled their picks for the 100 “Greatest Beatle Songs”. I never found a copy on newsstands, but now it is available online in its entirety. Lots of interesting nuggets of info on each song. The one tidbit that I hadn’t heard before was that the Beatles wanted to record ‘Revolver‘ in Memphis to capture more of the blues sound,

[It was] the band’s idea to record Revolver in Memphis. They had long emulated the bass and drum sounds found on American soul records, so they recruited guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG’s to produce and dispatched Brian Epstein to scout potential recording locations. All the studios wanted an exorbitant fee to host the Beatles, so they ended up back at Abbey Road.

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Get Carter


Tomorrow I’m going to see John Carter, and hopefully be vindicated in my view that Disney really dropped the ball in the advertising and it really is a great movie underneath all of the lackluster trailers and posters (speaking of posters, check out my really half-assed version of a more pulp styled poster at right).

The reviews are mixed to put it mildly; some are fairly big raves, some are…not.  In any case, John Carter will have a tough time making back it’s budget + advertising costs, let alone qualify for a sequel. We’ll see how it does this weekend, although it’s not off to a great start just yet.

Speaking of profitability, A Cat Called Frank has a really great interactive chart showing just how profitable most movies of the past few years really were. Semi-Pro had a higher profit ratio than Avatar? Hmmm…

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99 Problems…

…but the GOP ain’t one?

As I was driving to work last week on my hour long commute I was listening to the Sirius XM channel “Backspin”, which for those who don’t know is a Hip Hop station. Well, really a “Rap” station. Actually, to be specific, an oldies Rap station. And I pondered that: has Rap really been around so long that it has an oldies station?!?

Well, yes. Back when I was in my formative years (the 1980s) I would often listen to the local oldies station (on AM radio!) while my friends were listening to Heavy Metal or New Wave, or yes, Rap. And it felt like that music was from a much distant time, one that had no reflection on what was happening around me. But I was seeing it strictly from the eyes of youth, where all time flow seems long and past events seem ancient. The truth is that the music being played, Rock from the 1950s and 1960s, was really only about 10-15 years old at it’s tail end. Because it hadn’t happen within my lifetime, it only seemed very old.

The same is true for Rap. To today’s kids, it probably very much sounds like oldies music. In fact, classic Rap is now edging on 40 years old, and most of the material on “Backspin” was popular between 20-30 years ago (full disclosure: I didn’t really become immersed in Hip Hop until my 30s. But my eclectic musical journey is the subject of its own future post). So if Rap/Hip Hop is hitting the big “4-o”, and we have a sitting president who is only 50 years old, is Barack Obama the first “Hip Hop President”? Now, obviously, this issue does involve his race a bit. Being the first black President makes him more likely to be the first Hip Hop President for two reasons: back then (and still true today) Hip Hop was mainly performed by black artists, and its popularity was larger in black audiences. So being black, he would more likely be on the Hip Hop train before a white person of similar age.

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Costume Or Uniform?

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Every time one of these big budget superhero movies is announced there is a process of fear that fans go through. Will it get a good director? Will they get the casting right? And what is the costume going to look like? This last bit has probably cause more anxiety and grief than any other element. Because the costume of the superhero defines them. In large part, it is what accounts for their popularity, as it is the instant visual hook that initially draws in the reader, garishly jumping out from the cover of a comic book.

It’s odd then that this is the one area where filmmakers keep getting the genre wrong. Over and over we see either wild departures from the comic look, or bad attempts to translates what works on the page into something that has no business existing in real life. And don’t get me started on Warner Bros., who can’t seem to figure out the genre at all if Christopher Nolan isn’t involved. Most of the attempts fall somewhere in between, though. The one studio that seems to have really been nailing it, though, is the one that actually owns the characters: Marvel. Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk have all been very true to the spirit of the character, if not the exact letter. And the Avengers movie looks to continue the trend, with a pretty faithful Ultimate Hawkeye outfit along with Black Widow. Except for one small thing: Captain America, the ostensible star of the picture.

Posted in Design, Movies, Pop Culture, Retro, Star Wars, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Happy Independence Day, Ya’ll!

When I was growing up I thought every state had this feeling of “state pride”, where they felt that their state was the best state. I thought everyone learned about their state’s history as mandatory classes in school. I thought most foreigners could recognize their state just by it’s outline. I thought everyone’s state was its own country at some point. You see, I grew up in Texas.

It took me quite awhile to realize what Texans take for granted is not the norm in other states. Sure, some states such as New York and California have rich, storied histories too. But I’ve found the people there tend to be more mythologizing of specific regions, such as Manhattan and Los Angeles than they are of the whole state.

Texans, on the other hand, are raised to believe that their state is the best state. The biggest state (of course, Alaska just doesn’t count).  And in fact, that it’s really its own country just borrowing space in the center of America (insert smiley here). A big part of that reason is that Texas actually was a separate country after gaining independence from Mexico, but before joining the Union. And today is Texas Independence Day, celebrating that fact.

Having lived all over, I’ve always found it fascinating how some people treat Texas (and Texans) as larger than life symbols of the legend and others have an instant disdain for those very same outsized qualities. As for myself, I love my state. It’s hard not to self-identify as a Texan, being from the heart of this great state, but even more so knowing my heritage: I’ve always know that my family was descended from the earliest settlers of San Antonio, but I didn’t find out until I was an adult that my great-great-grandfather was the last living survivor of the Battle of the Alamo. And his Uncle, José Navarro, was one of the fathers of the Texas Revolution. In recent years my parents have become very involved in preserving the legacies of this important time in our history, so my ties to the state have only become stronger as time goes by.

So all of you out there who may feel overwhelmed by the typical Texas braggadocio please let us slide just a bit as we celebrate this day that marked the birth of a new country. Yee ha!

Posted in Nostalgia, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Just Do It.

Change is hard. This is the number one reason most people don’t accomplish what they want to accomplish: they cannot change their current state of inactivity to activity (also known as a correlation of  Newton’s First Law of Motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest). I’m here writing on this blog nearly every night to force myself to do something other than just surf the web when I should be working.

In fact, to motivate myself to do just about anything I don’t want to do, but especially exercising, I repeat a well-known mantra to get me into motion and through the task at hand: “Just do it“. To me, this is one of the most brilliant slogans ever created, and it gets to the heart of what it takes to keep moving. Whenever I want to quit on the treadmill, when I don’t want to go that extra bit past what is comfortable or easy, I say this over and over.

Just. Do. It.

It’s that simple. You will never do anything by wanting to do something. Or hoping you will do something. Or wishing someday that you will do something. You have to do it yourself. No one ever got to the top by taking the easiest path. There is no easy path anywhere but downhill.  It sounds simple and cheesy, but it’s true. Don’t let “cheesy” give you an excuse to cop out.

And one of the best explanations I’ve ever read for how and why to get what you want is this blog by Jesse Thorn, full of real world examples to go with the motivational pep talk. I know, I know, it’s long and you don’t have time to read all of it. Trust me: Just Do It. You’ll thank me later.

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Gimme an “F”…

…for “Furry Fandom”! Namely, those crazy mascots that show up as the cheese in between the meat of the sports sandwiches that we love so much. What? I wasn’t going to talk about the sports? Well, then I guess I will let Chris Jardieu do the talkin’ in his new series about all the crazy mascots you may not have heard about. Head on over to his blog, ‘This Is How We Jardieu It’, and check it out!

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Severely Arrested Development

I haven’t followed the comics industry much in the past 20 years, but I’ve stayed aware of it through my connection with toys and toy culture (much of which is based on comics). But up until I was in college, I was an avid reader and a frequent customer of many comic shops across Texas. So I understand the culture, and appreciate how much of today’s entertainment is driven by those who grew up as I did, like Joss Whedon (writer and director of this Summer’s Avengers film) and J.J. Abrams (creator of LOST, Cloverfield, Super 8, etc).   So it’s too bad for us that AMC seems bound and determined to throw away whatever good will they spent years building with prestige series such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. First came the beyond infuriating “The Killing” last year, and now they’ve unleashed a “reality” series, Comic Book Men, that has easily set back Geek Culture 20 years.

Wait, let me rephrase that: it’s set back the perception of geek culture. This is an important distinction, because for a long time being a “nerd” or “geek” meant being seen as the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, a socially awkward know-it-all who is by turns overbearing and grotesque. But over the past decade we’ve seen those proto-geeks of the 1970s and 1980s grow up to drive popular culture, and their spawn have embraced all things nerdy, from Lord of the Rings to Spider-Man, to The Big Bang Theory (the tv show, not the science phenomenon).

But AMC’s new show does a really good job of ignoring all that in favor of a truly distasteful look at a group of unlikable caricatures and stereotypes, all led by that paragon of the downtrodden, Kevin Smith. Hey, I like watching Smith perform his speaking engagements. He’s a gifted raconteur who really understands his material and sells it. But like his movies, this shows just wallows in the vulgar and is so transparently staged it is nearly unwatchable. (And not surprisingly, Smith is the best part, even if his participation on camera feels like an afterthought.)

gsi-160x250.jpgDaniel Pickett and Jason Lenzi do a really good job of explaining just why this type of thing is bad for those who actually do read comics in their latest “Geek Shall Inherit” podcast. “How much of this is even remotely real?”, says Lenzi. And it’s worth listening to for his viewpoint, as Jason has been a producer of these types of shows himself while at the same time is very much a part of the geek masses. As for me, I can only hope Comic Book Men gets cancelled quickly and AMC returns to the type of quality programming that allowed it to make such drivel in the first place.

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