Loot Crate Unboxing – September 2015

Greetings Looters!  Welcome to another unboxing post.  This month, we have a new theme: Summon!

Summoning the September Loot Crate. - photo by me
Summoning the September Loot Crate. – photo by me

Our first summoned item doesn’t require a devil’s trap… or does it?  No, this doesn’t.  It’s a 1:43 scale version of the Winchester ride: THE 1967 Chevy Impala from Supernatural.  I’ll admit that I am not only a fan of this show, but of the car.  The first car I ever had was my grandfather’s 1977 Chevy Impala.  Yes, Sam and Dean have a ride 10 years older than mine was, but the old Impalas were good, sturdy cars.  What makes this an exclusive you ask?  Well, how about the fact that it has the original Kansas license plate, not the new Ohio one?

Up next, we have a small vinyl statue of Homer Simpson as the Golden Buddha.  It’s true that Springfield’s own has the body of the Buddha, but his teachings are no doubt different.  This is most obvious by the statue’s accompanying necklace and pretzel.  What do pretzels go with? Beer.  Mmmmm, beer.

While I would have preferred a different character, I am a fan of the Pokémon laplander from Bioworld.  I grew up with Generation I and the show, so I’ve loved Pokémon for a long time.  I’m also a big fan of hats, so I welcome the addition of this to my collection.  My only issue is the continued overuse of Pikachu, simply because he’s Ash’s starter.  I mean, c’mon folks.  Enough with the little yellow electric rat.

The last two items this month are both from Blizzard Entertainment and both correspond to their game, Hearthstone.  First of these, is the actual hearthstone stress ball.  It’s a cool piece, and well-shaped to hold in your hand and soothe your worries.  Second of these is the Hearthstone collectible coin and card pack with an in-game code.  I have dabbled in League of Legends, which I understand is similar in concept, so I look forward to trying out this growing game.

Well, that wraps up another great month of loot.  What was your favorite thing this month?  Let me know in the comments!  Until next time, readers, loot on!

Rage, rage against the dying of a planet. (complete post)

Greetings again, readers.  As stated previously, here is another of my posts from quaintjeremy’s blog.  This is a direct follow up to my first post on the subject of The New Jedi Order book series.  It was originally posted August 5, 2014.

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In my last post, I commented briefly on how Chewbacca’s death had set a grim tone for The New Jedi Order book series.  I would like to take some time now and examine that a little more in-depth in the first post on this topic.

In Vector Prime, Chewbacca, Han Solo, and his son Anakin Solo, go to the planet Sernpidal at the request of Han’s “old buddy” Lando Calrissian.  Lando has asked them to pick up a shipment for him, but things are not well when they get to Sernpidal.  The moon, Dobido, looks awfully large and seems to be moving awfully fast through its orbit around the planet.

They are approached by the former mayor, who tells them the moon is on a collision course with the planet. Then Han and Chewie begin loading up people onto starships to get as many folks off the doomed planet as possible, while Anakin runs off with the former mayor to try and see what’s causing the moon to behave this way.  As it turns out, the Yuuzhan Vong are behind it all, using a dovin basal to manipulate gravity and literally pull the moon into the planet.

When Anakin is knocked away from the Falcon, Chewie runs after him and gets him back up on the ship.  Han asks Anakin to take over so he can help Chewie up onto the boarding ramp.  However, the planet is beginning to come apart at the seams.  The ground is in violent upheaval, the winds are hurricane-force, and the moon is about to make contact with the planet at any moment.  Despite Han’s protests, Anakin makes a hard decision to leave Chewbacca behind, to save themselves, and the dozens of people on board, all of whom are now homeless refugees.

Han watches, disbelievingly, as the Falcon flies away, and Chewbacca howls defiantly at the moon as it crashes into him and the planet.

Chewbacca howls defiantly in the face of death. Image from http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090626185056/starwars/images/f/f6/Chewbacca_Sernpidal.jpg
Chewbacca howls defiantly in the face of death. Image from http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090626185056/starwars/images/f/f6/Chewbacca_Sernpidal.jpg

Han is furious with his son and so overcome with grief-fueled anger, that he goes as far as to blame Anakin for Chewie’s death.  Han Solo, revered and hated throughout the galaxy, became a man consumed by grief.  He spent weeks alone in the Solos’ apartment on Coruscant, with the lights off and a bottle in his hand.  His family and friends feared that he would never come out of his grief.  They all tried to pull him back into the fold, to be there for him, comfort him, but he would just push them away.  Even after Chewbacca’s funeral on Kashyyk, Han was nearly inconsolable.

This whole ordeal causes a massive rift to form between Han and his family, and he goes so far as to fly off in the Falcon, leaving Leia and the kids to their own devices.  Even with a new temporary sidekick in the form of a Ryn named Droma, Han still refuses to even take comm messages from his wife for several weeks.  It is a full four books after Vector Prime before Han begins to return to his old self, but even then, it is not entirely his old self.  Chewbacca’s death breaks one of Han Solo’s most endearing qualities: his sense of invincibility.  For several months after Chewie’s death, Han second-guesses himself and errs on the side of caution much more than he ever did.

It is also some time before Han actually apologizes to Anakin for the blame Han placed on him.  Yet, even with his father’s apologies, Anakin is forever changed by the guilt he feels.  With or without Han’s blame, Anakin feels responsible because he made the decision to leave Chewbacca behind.  It is Anakin’s reaction to Chewbacca’s death that I wish to examine next time.  For now, how did Chewbacca’s death affect you?  Do you agree with Han’s reaction, as developed in the series?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Loot Crate Unboxing – August 2015

Greetings, readers!  I realize I am sorely overdue on this post, but I’ve been quite busy with a family vacation and home improvement things.  My apologies to any of you whom have been anxiously awaiting this unboxing.  This month (last month), we have another sequel theme: Villains 2.

Villains 2
Villains 2

As you can see, loot quantity this month is on the low end.  However, the quality has not suffered one bit, starting with that cool apron from 50/Fifty.  I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet.  It’s on my to-do list, but so are a lot of shows on Netflix.  That said, this apron is pretty cool and lightweight.  It’s a nice size, and obviously features the logo for Los Pollos Hermanos, from the aforementioned show.  I look forward to getting the reference some day.

Next, we have an exclusive wooden Joker figure.  This is a rather unique piece from DC Collectibles.  It features some movement of the arms and hands, but also has two different heads that can be swapped out.  One features menacing eyes with “heehee” in red for the mouth, while the other features slightly more maniacal eyes with “haha” for the mouth.  I’ll be using the “haha” face, as it strikes me as a little more Joker than the other face.

One of the reasons for the quantity shrink in this month’s crate is our next item.  A mug from Surreal Entertainment featuring one of two Marvel villains susceptible to sound waves.  In my case, I got Carnage, but other Looters could have gotten Venom instead.  For ceramic mugs, they are pretty good quality and do a decent job of capturing the faces of the symbiotes.  My only qualm is that they’re hand-wash only.  Maybe this will be a mantle mug instead of a drinking mug.

Lastly, we have a very impressive prop replica of a Hydra pin from the Captain America movies.  I’m going to pretend that it’s also tied to Agents of Shield, since that show is amazing and ties directly into the MCU.  The pin is a great replica and is based on digital files used to make actual props on the movie!  How cool is that?  Hail Hydra!!               Oh, sorry, got a little carried away there.

Well, there you have it folks.  Another month of great stuff from our Looting Overlords.  What was your favorite thing this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Weird Al Wednesday – September 2015

It’s that time again!  The first Wednesday of the month! Weird Al Wednesday is upon us again.  To think that it’s already September of 2015… my, how the time flies.  Well, this month, we go back to the album Even Worse for a big helping of Lasagna.

This is a parody of the hit song by Ritchie Valens, La Bamba, which is an adaptation of a Mexican folk song.¹  Al starts out with a very Italian sounding melody on his most famous instrument: the accordion.  He plays a few bars of something in a minor key with some mandolin accompaniment, then the mandolin strums us into the parody.

As with a lot of Al’s songs, the parody revolves around food.  In fact, he has so many food parodies & songs in his discography, that he even released an album called The Food Album.  One of the things that makes this song great is his ever-shining ability to parody lyrics so well.  He keeps the same lyrical rhythm as the original song.  Another great thing about this song is the good ole accordion.  This is arguably the instrument Al is most known for using in his music, and sadly one he uses less and less nowadays.

All in all, this is a song that is just as fun and upbeat as the original.  The band, once again, showcases their ability to play any style of music Al can throw at them.  It comes from a great album from fairly early in Al’s career.  What’s not to like about this song?  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Until next month, stay weird!

 

¹Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Bamba_%28song%29

Beetle of Balinor

Based on the third episode of Titansgrave, here is my proposal for the item stats of Lemley’s favorite insect: the Beetle of Balinor.

Beetle of Balinor
Made of gold, with blue gemstones inset to the carapace, this magical beetle only responds to the person who most deserves it. One cannot tell if the beetle is alive or not, unless you know the incantation that brings it obviously to life.

Worthiness
Make 5 opposed Willpower tests. For this test, the Beetle receives a +5 on the first test, dropping by 1 for each subsequent test.  If the player successfully passes 4 of the 5 tests, the Beetle is attuned to the person. If the player fails, they must wait one full day before making the tests again.

You Deserve This Most
Once the beetle is attuned to you, you may designate an activation word or phrase. The Beetle learns this command instantly as the first thing said to it after attunement.

After designating the activation word or phrase, the Beetle is yours to command.

What Does It Do?
When activated, the Beetle stirs to life, fluttering its wings before taking flight. It flies around for a few minutes, dazzling to the eye and very distracting to persons within 10 feet of it.

If a player activates the Beetle to use as a distraction, each person or creature within 10 feet must make a Willpower (Focus) test, with a Test Value of 12 plus the owner’s Willpower. If they succeed, they are not distracted. If they fail, they are distracted for 1 minute out of combat, or 1 round of combat, as applicable. A distracted person takes a -5 on any Perception tests made while distracted, or cannot make any attacks (including attacks of opportunity) until the start of your next turn.

The New Jedi Order – complete post

Greetings, readers.  I know some of you may have seen this before, but here is the entirety of my first major post for quaintjeremy’s blog.  My friend has not had the chance to be as active on his site as he once was, so I am copying my original work to my own blog, with his permission.  I strongly suggest you head over to his page and see all the great work he and his contributors have done there.  For now, here’s my first post as his resident sci-fi “expert,” posted July 15, 2014.

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Hello all!  For my first sci-fi post here at the Thoughts, I wanted to tackle the book series from the early 2000s called The New Jedi Order.  I was always under the impression that this book series was not well-written and generally not a good read.  However, some time ago, I decided that it would behoove me to know more about the details of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion.  This seemed to impact so much of the Star Wars galaxy that I felt under-accomplished as a Star Wars nerd for not having read the series.

Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Vector_Prime.jpg
Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Vector_Prime.jpg

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

…if you haven’t read any of these books or been on Wookiepedia at any point in time.

The series begins with a book by R. A. Salvatore titled Vector Prime.  This is Salvatore’s first Star Wars novel, and he does a fantastic job.  I doubt very much that this surprised anyone, as Salvatore is the rather successful author behind many of the Forgotten Realms books.  I’m sure what did shock everyone was his choice to kill one of the main cast from the original trilogy movies.  The death of Chewbacca was a hard one to take and affected the tone of the whole series, but the subsequent authors did a very nice job of picking up where Salvatore left off and expounding on the new society he created: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race from a whole other galaxy.

The Yuuzhan Vong are a completely alien entity to every facet of life in the Star Wars galaxy.  They embrace pain as a natural and very important part of life.  They intentionally inflict pain on themselves as a means of worshiping their gods.  Indeed, their creation myth tells them that the first Yuuzhan Vong were cut off of their most revered deity, Yun-Yuuzhan.  His initial sacrifice to bring his children into existence is a big part of why the Yuuzhan Vong practice ritual sacrifice of slaves and captives, as well as personal sacrifice of their person.

Another major differentiating factor is their use of biotechnology, or shaping.  The Yuuzhan Vong do not use any form of technology as we, nor indeed the denizens of the Star Wars galaxy, understand it.  But the Yuuzhan Vong take it a step further to the point that mechanical technology, no matter to what scale it is used, is blasphemous and an abomination to the gods.  This is usually the first thing they set about doing when they have conquered a planet during the invasion.

Perhaps the hardest thing to come to terms with for the Jedi is the fact that the Yuuzhan Vong exist outside the Force.  The Jedi can’t detect them, anticipate their movements, affect them with mind tricks, pick them up and toss them away, none of that.  However, the Jedi quickly become the focus of much of the Yuuzhan Vong’s efforts to splinter the factions of the galaxy by more or less posting a bounty on Jedi.

I will admit that I have not finished the series yet, but I am close to the end.  With only three and a half books to go, I believe I have found the part of the series where some start to take issue with the writing.  There is a trio of books toward the end of the series written by two authors: Sean Williams and Shane Dix.  Admittedly, I know nothing else by either of these authors.  However, they do seem to railroad the story line into a particular direction in their first book, and also have a distinctly different approach to some of the characters.

Jaina Solo is a major player, both militarily and as a Jedi, throughout the entire Yuuzhan Vong war.  She was deeply affected by the Mission to Myrkr with the other young Jedi, including her brothers Jacen and Anakin.  With the death of Anakin, and Jacen’s capture on that mission, Jaina was in a dark place for a while.  She eventually came to the conclusion that Jacen had also died in Yuuzhan Vong captivity.  As such, she closed herself off to a lot of her friends and family.  Her outlook on life became very grim as well, and she fully expected to die before the end of the war.  It therefore made absolutely no sense to me that suddenly, in Force Heretic: Remnant, she is quite jovial and optimistic about things.

I’m not sure which of the authors penned this part of the book, but it is making this trilogy within the series quite difficult to read at times.  However, my overall opinion on the series still stands.  It has been my experience that The New Jedi Order is a vastly underrated series in the Star Wars expanded universe.  I intend to have future posts that return to this series, so please tell me your thoughts on the book series in the comments.  May the Force be with you.

Titansgrave Creature

Hey everyone! I wanted to share the wondrous thing that is Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana with you.  It’s the RPG show on Geek & Sundry based on the Fantasy AGE system and run by Wil Wheaton.  I picked up both the AGE basic rulebook and the Titansgrave books while at Gen Con this year.  The show is great and the book is a great companion for running your own game based on the show.  However, there aren’t a lot of preconstructed things to expand the show’s storyline.  To that end, I decided to come up with a critter that I feel would be a common pest of the area of Valkana known as the Rustwastes. I call it a Junkmite. Let me know what you guys think of it in the comments below.

Weird Al Wednesday – August 2015

Hello readers! My apologies for not getting this up at the usual time.  I’ve been busy of late, with the usual work and fatherhood duties, but I was also at Gen Con all last weekend.  Of course, the reason you’re here is this month’s Weird Al Wednesday.  This month’s song King of Suede.

I like this song for several reasons.  Firstly, I like that this is a parody of a fairly serious song about misery and pain.  This speaks to Al’s ability to parody pretty much anything.  Secondly, it’s essentially a long commercial for a clothing store called ‘King of Suede’. They have anything you could want, but the specialize, some might say too much, in suede (including underwear).  Thirdly, who doesn’t like Elvis? More over, who doesn’t love Elvis references?  Well, this song has that, as you might expect.  While listing off a plethora of suede things, Al mentions that you shouldn’t “step on my blue suede shoes.”  Lastly, this song does a great job of showing the musical power of his band and their ability to play a wide range of styles.  This is arguably one of the best songs on the “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D! album, and so, readers, enjoy this wonderful song.  Until next time, stay weird!

Loot Crate Unboxing – July 2015

Hello readers, and welcome to another Loot Crate Unboxing!  This is the start of my second year subscribing to Loot Crate, and it starts off with their first sequel theme: Heroes 2.  Let’s see what we’ve got, shall we?

July 2015: Heroes 2
July 2015: Heroes 2

First up this month, a great mash up poster of Wonder Woman and the famous ‘We Can Do It’ poster from the World War II era.  The artwork is fantastic and a great style emulation of the old pin-up posters.  This will look great with my other Loot Crate posters above my computer desk.

Next, we have an awesome sweatband from Bioworld featuring a well-known symbol: The Tri-Force Eagle.  The stitching is very well done and looks to be very sturdy.  I imagine this would survive a lot of gym visits and washings… if I went to the gym.  Regardless, it’s quite comfortable.

Now we come to the first piece of loot tied to everyone’s favorite dark knight.  The Batman Multi-Tool Keychain is an item worthy of the utility belt itself.  The center is a bottle opener and each wing has a screwdriver head on it, with a Phillips on one and a flathead on the other.  I will be adding this to my keyring ASAP.

We have a hardcover book that is probably one of my favorite pieces of loot to date.  The League of Regrettable Superheroes is a most entertaining book.  It highlights some of the most ridiculous and crap-tastic superheroes of the Golden, Silver, and Modern Ages of comics.  You have to make an effort to read about some of these ‘superheroes’ at your earliest convenience.  You won’t be disappointed.

For our second piece of Dark Knight loot, we have a small statue from Quantum Mechanix of an Adam West-style Batman on a building gargoyle.  It’s a sizable statue, with very true-to-the-show colors.  This will make a great display piece in the nerd den (my living room).

We also have another game download for a game I’ve never heard of.  Brawlhalla, sounds like a game for the gods.  Just the name implies that it holds epic battles between various and sundry heroes (and possibly villains).  I will have to look into this game, that is likely popular, given it’s inclusion in this crate.

Lastly, we have a new air freshener for the car.  This time, a Star Trek theme, with Spock’s trademark hand gesture.  I find this tugs at my heart a little more, given Leonard Nimoy’s passing a few months back.  This is going in my car immediately, joining my MegaMan and Captain America, both of which have run out of scent at this point.

There we have it.  Another great box of stuff from the Loot Masters at Loot Crate.  What was your favorite piece of loot this month?  Mine was definitely the League of Regrettable Superheroes.  Tell me yours in the comments below!