Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Monday, July 31, 2017

It’s Alive!



Kirk Hammett is my kind of collector.  He loves classic horror and sci-fi movie posters.

His collection is spotlighted in the new book from Shira Rizzoli/Peabody Essex Museum called ‘It’s Alive!’ edited by Daniel Finamore.

Featuring a cover reminiscent of the old EC Comics Horror Comics, the ‘It’s Alive!’ title text is spot-varnished to make it pop off the front cover!

Kirk Hammett of the Rock and Roll group: Metallica is a huge fan of classic horror and sci-fi films and his collection is impressive.

Starting with such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein and other films
from the Universal Studio monster classics film series the book proceeds to travel through the decades and examines classic Cold War monster films, sexy sixties sci-fi fantasies and all the way up to present day with such films as Alien.

As a lover of monster and sci-fi films I am thrilled to have the opportunity to read and absorb the fascinating text and see the classic posters.

The book is a real visual treat and if you’re anyone like me it brings back many childhood and young adolescent memories.

They just don’t make films like that anymore.  More’s the pity!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

My Art Desk and My Work Bench


Speaking as a father and grandfather I can testify to the fact that as kids grow up they want to be busy.

Their little minds seek to explore, learn and take in what they’ve discovered and make and do things.

Toy play sets that encourage kids to create are vitally important to a young child’s development.

It doesn’t matter what a child creates looks like anything.  The effort and challenge to their dexterity and imagination are enough.  As they grow older then they start to recognize, emulate and perfect their ability to create copies of actual objects.

Alex Brands understands this.

Kids love things that are bright and inviting.  Ask any balloon vendor or toy manufacturer.  The brighter the better.




Alex Brands ‘My Art Desk’ fits the bill with its vibrant, primary color scheme, star cutouts and inviting, no hard edge design.

Perfectly kid size the Art Desk makes the ideal way for young children to show off their blossoming creativity.  All you need is crayons, paint, pencils, markers and whatever other art supplies a kid is sure to love.

What you don’t need is a roll of paper, as it comes with the Art Desk.

Attached underneath to a wooden rod with large removable ball ends the paper slides easily on the Desk top and inserts into the small wooden ‘cutter’ (no blades) at the bottom of the Desk top (which also serves as a small ledge so pencils and crayons don’t slide off.  Simply pull the paper and once an art project is done, slide the top edge to the cutter and tear off.

The entire Art Desk comes in a large flat box with its contents carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and foam sheets.

Using the enclosed instructions I was able to assemble the Art Desk in a snap using the screws and wrench along with my own screwdriver.

All of the pieces for both the Desk and Chair went together with little effort.  Parts matched up perfectly and once the screws were tightened the Desk and Chair were secure and extremely stable.

The Desk features a large surface in black with primary and secondary color spots decorating it.

Fours large yellow ringed holes hold the four supply cups where kids can store their paint brushes, pencils, etc.

Two green dowel assemblies slide through the Desk top holding it securely in place. 

Simply undo the dowels, reposition them in various slots on the Desk top undercarriage and the Desk surface can be raised or lowered at different angles best suited for a child.

A large dowel hangs underneath the top of the Desk top where a large roll of paper can be stored and then dispensed.

The base of the Art Desk also includes a horizontal slate for stability and makes for a handy foot rest.

The small chair slides underneath the Desk for easy storage and is the perfect size for small children.

As I mentioned before there are no sharp edges and the entire Art Desk assemble is made of durable solid wood painted in virtually chip free paint making it safe for kids.

I can imagine my grandson spending many hours enjoying his Art Desk, especially considering his grandpa will be right there with him showing him how to draw and paint.


Alex Brands’ ‘My Work Bench’ is the perfect solid wood, child safe toy that encourages kids to build.

Like ‘My Art Desk’, ‘My Work Bench’ is easy to assemble following the enclosed instructions.  Screws are included.  All you need is a screwdriver.

Painted in bright primary colors (red, blue and yellow), the Work Bench is perfect scaled down version of a real woodshop Work Bench.

A small wooden hammer, saw, wrench, screwdriver and scale hang on pegs for the blue stripped backboard.

The Work Bench top is perforated with holes so kids can pound in the wooden ‘nails’, set in ‘bolts and nuts’ and have a surface to work on.

Smooth surfaced nails and nuts and bolts allow kids to use the tools and make their own creations.

A wooden robot and truck are included, which (along with other items) can store on the lower shelf.

The front edge of the top surface is marked off as a ruler.

The Work Bench is made of solid wood with smooth corners and edges and painted in chip resistant paint.

Little builders and carpenters are sure to love this colorful and fun Work Bench and enjoy hours of hammering, bolting and unbolting, screwing in pieces and pretending to make wooden masterpieces.

Both the Art Desk and Work Bench are made of the highest quality wood, smoothed and finished for little hands and painted with safe, non-toxic paint.

Both pieces are guaranteed to last for years and make for fine gifts for young kids to ignite their imaginations and creativity.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Rockford Files and Miami Vice

Actor James Garner had a knack for playing likable rogues with a heart of gold and the talent for getting into trouble.

He proved it when he starred in Maverick and later in Nichols-both Westerns.

Much like his TV persona his movie character portrayals tended to follow a similar template.
That’s not to say he wasn’t a fine actor and on more than one occasion he proved his impressive range.

In the 1970s Garner was offered the starring role in a new detective series about an ex-con who becomes a private investigator, lives in a trailer on the beach and shares his domicile with his rambunctious father.

As a P.I. Jim Rockford often used his knowledge of both within the law and without to solve cases.

What made the show so unique was that Rockford shied away from violence, often took the coward’s way out, abhorred being injured and didn’t always get the girl, the money or solve a case.

The show was played for fun, tongue-in-cheek and still managed to turn out episode after episode of solid detective/crime stories that still have and affect on TV cop and detective shows today.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s ‘The Rockford Files: The Complete Series’ Blu-ray collection contains each and every episode of the award-winning series spanning 122 episodes and six seasons.

The Rockford Files was and is a true TV classic that never seems to grow old.  The episodes are as entertaining and well-crafted as the day they were first broadcast.

I can remember it as if it were yesterday.

I was working as a graphic designer at an ad agency in Florida and one evening I went home, exhausted, plopped myself down in front of the TV and began flipping through the channels.

Suddenly I spotted the opening sequence to a new cop show unlike anything I had ever seen before.

The cinematography looked better suited to the large screen, pastel colors, gorgeous exterior shots, extreme close-ups and quick edits, aided by a heart-pounding theme, caught my attention immediately.

Intrigued I sat through the first episode and that’s all it took-I was hooked.

I am talking of course about ‘Miami Vice’ the ground-breaking and trend-setting cop show that redefined the genre.

Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs were the high-fashion, over-the-top, fast-car-driving, party kings, girl magnets detectives that fought crime in all of its various forms in Miami.

The show was a high octane, in-your-face, unconventional cop show that took America by storm and set the standard for other trend-setting shows to follow.

Excellent scripts, powerful acting, impressive directing, killer costume and set design and contemporary music soundtrack all combined to make Miami Vice a hit.

Al five seasons of the ground-breaking TV series (which includes lost episodes) come courtesy of Mill creek Entertainment on Blu-ray.  Pink, teal and pastels never looked so good!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Andrea’s Rifle, Utility Belt and Jungle Friends



When I taught I used to tease my high school students about The Walking Dead.
 
I would tell them the definition of The Walking Dead: they are always hungry, make guttural noises and wander around aimlessly.


Once I described The Walking Dead I would then tell them why they like the show so much.

It’s easy really-the Walking Dead are teenagers!  The description fits!


OK, on to more serious matters-or at least onto the reviews.


Alex Brands’/Buzz Bee Toys’ bolt action, dart-blasting Andrea’s Rifle from The Walking Dead is a perfect, functional replica of the deadly weapon from the TV series.
 

Of course the bullets are soft tip darts, but they can fire up to 100 feet!


The rifle features real bolt lever action, a removable scope, a working trigger, a heavy stock, an Ultra-Tex Clip for holding the eight darts and a short barrel for maximum carnage.


It’s a real beauty of a brute made of heavy and durable plastic, featuring recreated details from an actual rifle and offers more fun than you can shake a dismembered zombie leg at.


Proudly displayed on its ‘The Walking Dead’ display box, that is decorated with art from the comic book series, Andrea’s Rifle is a proud member of the ‘Air Warriors’ series of action toys.


When I was a young boy my friends and I used to trek out to the wilds, pitch a tent and tackle the rugged terrain and harsh conditions of living in the wild.


Actually we would put up a pup tent in the backyard, string out an extension cord for our radio, cook up some hotdogs inside my house, grab a few snacks, lay out our padded sleeping bags and spend most of the night talking, telling jokes and making strange noises that young boys do.


One of us might have brought along a compass or a pack of matches but that was about the extent of our camping equipment.


Backyard Safari Adventures bumps up things a few notches with its awesome Utility Belt set.


Here’s what kids get: a utility belt, a protective case, a field microscope, a pencil and notepad, patch and field guide.


The utility belt includes a belt buckle, D rings, elastic loops and the elastic holster attaches to it.


The portable field microscope also has adjustable lens, a view finder and the entire assemble folds down for easy storage and transport.


Everything fits snuggly into the clip case sans the belt and buckle.


It’s an awesome kit that I wish I had when I was a kid.


I’m excited.  My grandson just turned three months old and he’s starting to really get active.

One of his favorite things to do is to take a bath.


Now he has something to make bath time even more fun: the Alex Brands’ Jungle Friends Block Squirters.


These cute, little, cubed animals stack on top of each other, can fill with water and with a simple squeeze out shoots a stream of water!


They are colorful, cute and feature a tiger, hippo, elephant and zebra.


It’s a wild and wacky water world of fun that little kids are sure to love and which make bath time a real treat.

Passages

Ever since I retired over two years ago I’ve had a lot of time to think about things and life in general.
 
I’ve watched my body age, my hair thin, my waistline expand, muscles that were once toned have started to sag (in fact a lot of things have started to sag), my teeth are yellowing, I have more hair growing in my ears and nose than on my head and my sexual urges have almost disappeared.

Time has seen me loose more friends than gain new ones.  Things that seemed so important when I was younger seem so trivial now.

I tend to do things at a slower pace and my recovery time from exercising or injury has slowed.  I have more aches and pains than before and my memory is not as good as it once was.

I tend to get side-tracked and my hearing has dimmed, or at least become more selective, ask my wife.

I’ve seen my kids grow up, celebrated the birth of my first grandchild and mourned the death of two brothers and many friends.

My mom and dad are gone, as is my wife’s.  We have a huge number of nephews and nieces and great- great nephews and nieces.

When time affords me the opportunity to go back to Michigan where I was born it’s never the same.  I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  It’s true what they say, ‘ you can never go home again.’

I’m not as patient as I once was.  Little things annoy me.

As I grow older I've started to notice that reading books and watching movies and TV seem redundant to me.  After all there are only so many stories that can be told certain ways.  

Often I read a book and within a few chapters I already know its inevitable outcome.  The same thing go for movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment.

I find myself thinking about the past and ‘the good old days’ when actually they weren’t that good as far as living conditions went.

Cars, electronics, communications, entertainment and all the other trappings of a modern society are much more efficient and easy to use than in the past.  Still, memory tends to gloss such things over.

But, growing older does have its advantages.

As I mentioned before, things that concerned me so much at an earlier age seem so trivial now.

Making a name for myself, establishing a career, catering to other’s wants and needs and being a part of the ‘Rat Race’ has no appeal to me now.

Family has become important.  Friends and loved ones are treasures.   

Worshiping God takes top priority.  Trying to get others to accept Christ and being the best I can for God-not because I have too, but because I want to.

Loving my wife and looking after her needs.  Appreciating the small things like waking up each morning, health, mobility, sight, smell, speech, taste, hearing, being able to think and rationalize and trying new things.

I used to draw-I made a living from it.  Now I seldom pick up a pencil.  Instead I write: reviews, commentaries-it doesn’t matter.  I’ve become a veritable wordsmith.

I love tinkering because now I have the time.  I don’t worry about the small things and I’m learning to take life one day at a time.

I cherish the past and all those that I had the privilege to meet and love.  I enjoy things and trinkets from when I was a kid because now I understand their worth.  Not so much monetarily, but their association with time and events throughout my life.

I look forward to one day meeting my Savior and reuniting with loved ones and dear friends.
Growing old has its disadvantages but the advantages far outweigh them.

With age come wisdom, clarity of thought and emotions and the control of both.  Things that are really important come into focus while trivial, impractical and foolish things fade away.
I’ve learned to accept myself as I am-as God created me-blemishes and all.

I’ve also learned to accept others whether I agree with them or not.  Jealously, hatred and pettiness are slowly disappearing as I have start to see others through the eyes of God.

I was never one to take a stand but as I age I find myself proud of my opinions.  I respect others but refuse to bow down to social or immoral pressure.

Right and wrong are crystal clear and there is no such thing as ‘gray areas’.  Yes is yes and no is no.  Sin is sin and despite modern society’s political correctness and distorted view of tolerance God has shown me the true meaning of both.

I enjoy quiet time with no one around as equally as I do meeting with family and friends.  I have nothing to prove and no one has anything to prove to me.

My passion for writing and collecting has intensified and yet if at times it wanes I can accept it.

I’m in no hurry, I have no urgent task I must perform and it has become evident to me that when this mortal life is over I still have all of eternity to live thanks to God.

Movies, Aliens, Robots, Cyborgs, Heroes and Story



Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am a HUGE comic book and movie fan.

In fact, at one point in my life I considered being a comic book artist (yes, I can draw) and/or becoming part of the movie industry.

The problems I encounter with many of the books about how to draw for comic books or create characters is that the books tend to be overboard when it comes to explaining how to do each.

There really isn’t that much involved.  You simply have to know how to draw (almost anything) and how to tell a story using panels.

Comic book illustration is much like staging a film, only artists use paper, not film.

The Rosen Publishing Group Company, Inc./PowerKids presents two books about how to draw and tell stories that simplifies matter in fun and entertaining ways.

Mark Bergin’s ‘How To Draw Comic Book Heroes’ is a great resource for up-and-coming comic book artists.

The book explains in easy-to-understand text and clear, concise drawings everything a young artist needs to know to get started.

Subjects covered begin with perspective, drawing materials, creating heroes of all shapes, sizes and types using simple geometric shapes and ending with full illustrations.

So what do you do with your characters?

Frank Lee writes and illustrates a very compelling sequence explaining the elements of the page, panels, composition, telling a story and much more in his ‘Telling A Story In Your Graphic Novel’.

I have to tell you this book is probably the best example of how to draw comics that is easy to comprehend and understand.

Movies, ya gotta luv ‘em!

I especially love Monster and Science fiction movies.

And what make them so interesting?  Throw in some Aliens, Robots and Cyborgs and you are guaranteed a good time at the movie theater.

David Kassnoff in his ‘Robots and Cyborgs’ book, part of the ‘Greatest Movie Monsters’ series, delves into the mechanical monstrosities that fascinate movie goers.

Starting with classic creations such as Maria from Metropolis, Robby The Robot from Forbidden Planet and other mechanized marvels such as The Terminators, the Star Wars Droids, The Transformers and many more the book is a tour-de-force of technological terrors.

Equally impressive is Greg Roza’s ‘Aliens’ book with such creatures as Aliens, Gort, Martians, The Thing and many more outer space monsters.

Both books are filled with fascinating text and black and white and full color photos and offer fun reads.

For the hopeful movie director check out Mary R. Dunn’s ‘I Want To Make Movies'.

The small hardback book offers a short and concise glimpse of what many would consider a ‘Dream Job’.

Kids will get a kick out of seeing their favorite stars, characters and movies along with tips on costuming, directing, sets and much, much more movie magic.