1) Household Tech Tip: If your vacuum cleaner motor continues to provide suction power, but the roller brush stops moving, before removing the entire bottom plate looking for something jammed in there; then borrowing your mother-in-law’s vacuum; then driving yours all the way to the repair shop – you should perform this simple step: Look for a button marked “BRUSHROLL ON/OFF.” If you own the same vacuum cleaner we do, you’ll find it cleverly hidden right on top of the vacuum, next to the main power switch. In the event you have already reached the local repair shop, you and the helpful repair person may share an enjoyable laugh at your own expense, which is still miles ahead of a vacuum cleaner repair bill. (In my defense: I’ve never used this particular button. Why the heck would I?)
2) That voice in your head you hear when you’ve returned from a trip to the store that says “You know, you really should take an extra two seconds and set down the gallon of milk to unlock the front door rather than try to juggle everything and risk dropping that milk and making a ridiculous mess of the door and sidewalk.” Yeah, you should listen to that voice.
3) Holy shit, The Legend of Korra is even better than I expected – and I expected a LOT, given the enthusiasm for this show. Binge-watched the first season on Amazon over the past few days. It’s gorgeous and well-written and amazing.
Here are the 16 books I read in 2014. Still not near the quantity I was reading five or six years ago, but more than last year (11 total, 5 re-reads), and only one re-read in the bunch.
- Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
- The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
- Among Others – Jo Walton
- The Alphabet Not Unlike the World - Katrina Vandenberg (Poetry. Really, really good poetry. Like “Inspires John Green while he’s writing The Fault in Our Stars” good poetry.
- Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
- The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
- Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
- The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi - Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
- Alpha Centauri – Or Die! – Leigh Brackett (I picked this up a couple years ago at a bookstore in the small Ohio town where Brackett and her husband Edmond Hamilton lived. I wrote about it for StarWars.com.)
- Star Wars: A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller (I stopped reading most Star Wars novels long ago, but this one caught me, and it was quick and fun.)
- The Art of John Alvin - Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
- The Future of the Mind - Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
- The Importance of Being Ernest - Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player One. Interior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury (re-read)
- Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It - Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
- Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (No, I can’t believe I’d never read it either. What an incredibly fun book.)
I also spent a lot of enjoyable time in the pages of the following four role-playing game books last year, and I expect it to continue in 2015:
- Numenera (core rulebook) – Monte Cook
- Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (5th ed.)
I got home from Gen Con fifty-some days ago (Yes, it was – as expected – another completely fantastic trip.), and I’m pretty sure I’m finally caught up on all my game-related writing.
I played 16 games at Gen Con this year, 11 of them for the first time, plus I came home with one more game to review.
So, here’s our series of GeekDad Gen Con collaborative posts, to which I contributed:
From that “Best of” post:
Pretty sure I’m not alone in this, but since being re-introduced to D&D a few years ago, I get such a kick out of picking up new dice. They’ve become not just part of my game-playing, but little souvenirs and memory triggers, too, since I have generally only added dice to my (relatively small) collection when I’m visiting a convention, or playing in a local game store.
And when it comes to dice, if you can’t find the ones you’re looking for at Gen Con, then those dice just don’t exist in this ‘verse.
With my recent fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set purchase, I needed a new dice bag, and Gen Con was the perfect place to find one. I also bought a set of oversized dice, a CritSuccess d20 spinner ring as a surprise for my wife, and added a couple free d6s courtesy of Crystal Caste (which provides an official Gen Con die every year) and Stonehaven Miniatures.
Gen Con’s non-stop nature remains one of the reasons I love it so much. I love this picture that Jonathan Liu took when we were playing Machi Koro. If memory serves, it was well past midnight, and we were far from the only people hanging out and playing games in that hotel lobby.
While the exhibitor’s floor at Gen Con closes every evening, several of the massive open gaming halls stay open so you can meet up for late-night Lords of Waterdeep or Lewis and Clark. And after-hours gaming at the hotels or the convention center can mean a chance to cross paths with the game designers themselves, since most of them tend to be busy during the day. We had one of the Wizards of the Coast creators stop by our table as we were playing his game at last year’s Gen Con, and this year, we wound up playing some nifty as-yet-unreleased games, simply because we were in the hall late, and Jonathan happened to see a few game designers he knew.
And here’s what I played at Gen Con:
Dungeons & Dragons
(I did a GeekDad write-up on all three, “The Shiny, The Weird, and the Neoclassic.”)
Roll For It
Golem Arcana (demo)
D&D Attack Wing (demo)
Steve Jackson Games also sent me home with a copy of Munchkin Adventure Time, which I just wrote up for GeekDad.
Dang, do I love Gen Con. Let’s do it again sometime.
From a recent exercise in storytelling. Assignment: In roughly 100 words, describe a time when your life changed.
At the last minute, I threw out my first, more serious draft, switched topics entirely, and wrote on the fly –
When we got home, I couldn’t get to my crayons fast enough.
I couldn’t find the black one, so I skipped Darth Vader and drew my stormtroopers in blue-green.
That’s how I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I was six.
Since then, I have seen better movies. I have read better stories.
But this was more than spaceships and lasers and robots:
Star Wars is what got me interested in science and writing and history and mythology; in authors, characters, symbols, and archetypes; in storytelling and classically-inspired music and film-making.
This was a Big Bang. This was my world blowing up.
Also: spaceships and lasers and robots.
I liked the way it turned out, and it got a good reception. I saved it because I enjoyed looking deeper than nostalgia and remembering the first time someone else’s art really inspired me.
Spent about five hours gaming on Saturday, in celebration of International TableTop Day.
Started off with a three-person game of Love Letter –
– which we followed with Tsuro.
After that, another friend showed up, and the four of us took on Forbidden Island –
Alas, victory eluded us.
On to Pandemic – another first for me.
Another cooperative game – really enjoyed this. (And we were so freaking close to winning this one!)
Another gamer arrived, and we played a five-person game of Tsuro, and then something none of us had tried before: We Didn’t Playtest This at All.
I think we played three complete games in about 12 minutes. So bizarre and odd and chaotic and fun.
A few non-work-related photos from my trip last week to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.
I love amusement park skylines. This is part of Kentucky Kingdom, re-opening in May.
Next: Nerdworld and truckland collide:
Western Star Trucks’ Optimus Prime, from the next Transformers movie.
I’ve said before how excited I am to have played a small part in this project, so when the finished DVD of Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys landed in my mailbox last week, it was a little like the day I got my Bossk.
Here’s the elevator pitch from the DVD web site:
Like no toys before them, Star Wars toys were a phenomenon that swept the nation, transforming both the toy and movie industries, and ultimately creating a hobby that, 30 years later, still holds sway over its fans.
Plastic Galaxy is a documentary that explores the groundbreaking and breathtaking world of Star Wars toys. Through interviews with former Kenner employees, experts, authors, and collectors, it looks at the toys’ history, their influence, and the fond and fervent feelings they elicit today.
I may not be the most impartial reviewer, of course, but think the movie turned out well. It’s a nice balance of nostalgia trip, toy merchandising history lesson, eye-popping show-and-tell, and behind-the-scenes storytelling. There’s some fun animation work throughout, too.
Several nifty people I’ve met and/or know from fan circles are also in the movie, like Jim Swearingen, and a couple OSWCC and KennerCollector.com friends, and Steve Sansweet, who wrote what’s still one of my all-time favorite Star Wars books, “From Concept to Screen to Collectible.” (A book, which, it should be noted, also inspired Plastic Galaxy. It’s still a good read 20+ years after its publication. Most of what has become common knowledge about the Kenner/Star Wars backstory was unearthed by Sansweet first.)
It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that if you remember the Kenner brand or coveted the neighbor kid’s Landspeeder or grew up in the twin-sun shadow of the original Star Wars, then Plastic Galaxy is probably in your wheelhouse. You can order it from Brian and Karl’s Futurious Industries.
In terms of quantity, I had kind of a lousy year in 2013: I only finished 11 books, and five of those (marked with asterisks below) were re-reads.
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
- Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn
- Await Your Reply – Dan Chaon
- Han Solo at Stars’ End – Brian Daley*
- Han Solo’s Revenge – Brian Daley*
- Codex Born – Jim C. Hines
- Beyond the Blue Event Horizon – Frederick Pohl
- The Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi*
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
- Maus I: My Father Bleeds History – Art Spiegelman*
- Anathem – Neal Stephenson*
On the other hand: Quality. I really enjoyed all of them, and my six first-time reads were a nice mix of popcorn fun, mind-bending, gut-punching, and thought-provoking.
Postcards from Christmas vacation, 1983:
A Christmas Story came out in November, but I know it had been out for awhile by the time I saw it at the Gold Circle Cinemas. My parents had seen it already, as had this kid at school who told me how it ended after I asked him about it. Seems likely I went to see it over the winter break.
I was a big Bloom County fan This is my best “Bill the Cat” face:
So, if you recall, Return of the Jedi had come out earlier that year. This meant Star Wars gifts were pretty popular at Christmas. My brothers got a a bunch of Jedi toys and stuff: Speeder Bikes, the Ewok Village, action figures, big Presto Magix kits. It was really the last big Star Wars Christmas of the original trilogy era.
As a newly-minted teenager, I had pretty much taken Star Wars toys off my wish list. The last Kenner Star Wars toy I specifically asked for was the Y-Wing. As I wrote in Collect All 21! –
Couldn’t help it. This thing was light years ahead of the old X-Wing, armed with not only that squealing laser cannon, but a rotating top turret and a plastic bomb to drop from its underbelly. And it had a socket behind the cockpit for Artoo units. I may not have actually role-played with my figures anymore, but I did send that ship on many a run over card houses in our living room, and somewhere in our family albums there’s a snapshot of me using the ship to dive bomb my little brother and his Knight Rider-inspired remote-control black Camaro.
Now, for years, I remembered that Y-Wing as a 13th birthday request: But this picture was clearly taken on Christmas, judging by my sweet striped sweater and cool brown corduroy pants – the same outfit as in that first shot. And the Y-Wing box is in the background of another Christmas picture, so while I may have asked for it in November, the evidence suggests I got it on Christmas. I think the only other Star Wars toy I got that year was the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, which paired up nicely with the ship.
And with that flash-forward, I wrap up This is Me in ’83.
Big thanks to my mom, who kept and organized shelves full of photo albums that held a lot of these pictures.
I’ve really enjoyed this project. I didn’t wind up writing as much as I thought I would when I started, but I also dug up and rediscovered things I didn’t have in mind a year ago. I also found some other pictures and photos and memories that I want to share and write about.
I hope you’ve had a good year. Thanks for visiting 1983 with me.
This begins with an overdue thanks to the guys behind JediCon WV, who earlier this month published a really moving and heartfelt Tumblr post about Collect All 21! and my presentation at their 2010 convention.
John writes he was six when he was first swayed by the Force. I was more like 11. But so many of his recollections are similar to my experiences. Here he was, five years my junior living in Ohio while I grew up in Virginia, older – not wiser – and it’s like we lived next door to each other.
So I want to thank you, John, for bringing out the Star Wars kid in me once again. Each re-reading brings back memories of the best childhood anyone could’ve asked for. Maybe that’s why I’ve never really left it behind.
I mean dang. Thank YOU. It feels like I’ve said this a million times, but god, that kind of reaction, and hearing that someone read what I wrote and enjoyed re-discovering long-lost secret joys? That’s one of my favorite things in the world, and it’s a huge reason I wrote Collect All 21! in the first place.
So, that’s the first part of the post as referenced in the title.
Naturally, the second part is this: You know what makes a good Christmas present? Unbridled Star Wars,-1970s-and-’80s nostalgia, conveniently packaged in classic paperback format, or in an expanded electronic book edition.
There’s an excerpt, and some nice things that nifty people have said about the book, and things like podcasts and interviews, and some non-Amazon Collect All 21! links here.
Deep and sincere thanks again to everyone who’s supported this book for the past five-plus years and encouraged me to keep sharing my Star Wars memories.