I am (working on) Groot!

I still haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet (but still am looking forward to seeing it) but I kept coming across pictures of a baby Groot on the inner-net. Being a sucker for cute stuff (guess I’m an old softie at heart) I decided to make my own baby Groot figure.

I am Groot...and I am unpainted, too.

I am Groot…and I am unpainted, too.

Using the very same pictures I collected on the net, I sculpted the little bugger out of Sculpey. The sculpt worked out well enough except for one problem: his body was too slender to hold up his head. So when I baked the piece (to harden it) I kept the head and body separate.

I am painted!

I am painted!

Now that baking had firmed up the body to support the head, I super-glued it to the neck, and reenforced this with Apoxie putty. I also added more “roots” to the base of the figure with Apoxie in order to make him stand better.

Like my new haircut?

Like my new haircut?

I gave him a base coat of flat black, then covered this with Nutmeg Brown. I noticed that Groot had a vine growing along his body, so I painted this a bright green–then I saw that it was TOO bright, so I darkened this somewhat with a black wash.

Excuse me, I have a hot date. Which way to the tulips?

Excuse me, I have a hot date. Which way to the tulips?

And here we have Groot! I’m tempted to stick this in a pot filled with dirt and see if he’ll grow any larger.

The USS Charleston: a new Star Trek ship

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They recently released a 1/1000 scale model kit version of the USS Reliant from Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan. I bought it, and being the sort of weirdo that I am, I couldn’t just build it right out of the box.

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The Reliant has two engines that hang below the main body, but my ship, which I call the USS Charleston, only has one.

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I also added several of what looks like solar panels on the ship. They are actually very sensitive sensor equipment, which enables the ship to pick up communications and scientific data from very long distances. The giant array on the back is the main sensor dish. The other smaller dishes are on the hull itself.

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This vessel has seen its share of controversy. The Klingon and Romulan Empires both accuse the Charleston–and the other ships in her class–as being spy ships designed to steal information from them without even crossing their boarders.

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But the Federation denies all charges of spying. The Charleston is strictly a science research vessel, nothing more. And the fact that a third of her crew is made up of members of the elite spy organization Section 31 has nothing to do with anything….

See Outlander for free here

"This ren faire will be to die for! The kilts alone are amazing! You coming, or what?"

“This ren faire will be to die for! The kilts alone are amazing! You coming, or what?”

The first episode of the new Starz series Outlander has been posted up on Youtube. This isn’t the first time this has happened; the first episode of Penny Dreadful had also been posted on Youtube as well.

This series, based on a very successful line of books by author Diana Gabaldon, deals with a former army nurse who gets transported from her own era of 1945 to Scotland in 1743.

It looks to be a little on the soap opera-ish side, but there is a science fiction element (time travel) involved, and the TV series is run by Ronald Moore, who I thought did a spectacular job at updating Battlestar Galactica for the twenty first century.

So give the first episode a whirl. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll give it a shot. What the hey, it’s free:

Goodbye, Robin

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Like most kids back in the 1970s, I got to know Robin Williams through Mork & Mindy. I loved the show, to be sure, but Williams wasn’t really on my radar then. He was just another celebrity in a sea of celebrities that kept washing up on the shores of our collective consciousness.

What really put Robin Williams on my radar was a stand up special that he did for HBO back then–I believe while he was still on M&M–where he did his own version of a Shakespeare scene by proclaiming: “The moon, like a testicle, hangs low in the sky….”

Well, shit, that just blew my mind. I couldn’t have been any more than twelve or thirteen at the time, and not only was I watching Mork curse like a sailor, but I was watching him unleashed, unchained, untethered by the restrictions of regular TV. And he was not only brilliant, but he was damned funny in a way that no comedian has ever reached me, before or since. I had become a fan. A seriously devoted fan.

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I’ve made it a point to watch for Robin whenever he did another stand up special–and I even sat through the Comic Relief telethons that he did with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. I vividly recall one of these when Paula Poundstone had her bit interrupted by a heckler in the audience, and afterwards Williams came out and gave the heckler holy hell in that wild-eyed, manic manner that only he could conjure up.

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Or course, I also watched his films. I sat through some great movies (Good Morning Vietnam, The Birdcage) and some bad ones (Bicentennial Manugh, sweet Jesus, Robin….) just because he was in them.

But I always enjoyed Robin Williams most when he just standing onstage, by himself, making up a wondrously weird little world right there on the spot. His imagination was as fierce as his sense of humor, and I marveled at his ability at giving us a new perspective on this inane world that we shared just through his stand up comedy.

Jonathan Winters, who was Robin’s friend and mentor, famously did a skit on a talk show where the host gave him a stick–just a plain stick–and Winters created all sorts of crazy-funny moments using it as a prop. While appearing on Inside The Actor’s Studio, Robin did the same thing, using a woman’s scarf as his only prop:

There were a lot of times when life really sucked for me–many of those moments were just within the last few years. But Robin always seemed to be around to remind me that if I just relax and keep laughing, the problems don’t seem as big as I thought they were.

So long, Robin. Thank you so much for all that you’ve given us. And I’ll remember your lesson; I’ll remember to keep laughing.

Riddle me interested, Batman!

When Gotham–the new series based on Batman that’s coming to Fox next month–was first announced, I thought it was another “not-quite-a-superhero” show like how Smallville was; in other words, it will show everything but Superman. And with Bruce Wayne still just a boy mourning the death of his parents, we also won’t be seeing Batman any time soon.

Meh, who cares, right?

However the main show runner on Gotham is Bruno Heller, who did a magnificent job on HBO’s ROME. So that’s a really hopeful sign right there for this show.

And then I saw this trailer:

Holy Bat Guano, Batman! A young Jim Gordon, arriving at a crime scene, is shown walking past an even younger Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) and Edward Nigma (the Riddler). Jim Gordon’s partner at the crime scene is Harvey Bullock. And then, near the end, they tease the Joker!

Oh yeah, you can now consider this long-time Batfan to be very excited to see this one.

Straining through The Strain

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I just watched the first episode of The Strain, which was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim) and right off the bat, before the show even started, I got pissed off about something. I don’t have cable, so in order to see these shows, I buy them from iTunes. I figured since the price was only $1.99 for an episode that was directed by the great del Toro himself, that’s a pretty good deal, right?

But wait, although I paid $1.99 to watch this POS (more on that later) I still got an ad from FX! Yes, it was an ad about another series called Tyrant. And for the record, you can’t fast-forward past it, you HAVE to watch the frigging ad. This is one of my pet peeves–if I pay for something, I really shouldn’t get advertising on top of it, right? It’s why I don’t have cable TV; I got tired of having nonstop ads continuously stuffed down my throat while still paying $145.00 a month just for that privilege.

But, anyway, let’s get to the show.

Ha, you actually thought this would be good? Sucker!

Ha, you actually thought this would be good? Sucker! No, I mean the dude next to me. Who do you think I was referring to?

The Strain, based on the books by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, basically retells the story of Dracula. Instead of traveling to England aboard the ship Demeter, this regurgitated version of Drac travels to New York City aboard a 777 wide body passenger jet, and then promptly drinks everybody dry on the jet before they even had a chance to dock at the airport.

Never mind the fact that a mystery involving an airplane loaded with dead passengers has been done before (and much better) on Fringe, but the story logic here just doesn’t work: because if this Master Vampire really wanted a foothold in the New World, you’d think he would wait before snacking down on a few people until he was safely in the country.

And, really, why come in through New York City, after all? There’s plenty of unprotected coastline up and down South and Central America for a Master Vampire to slip through. But, ok…this is basically del Toro’s updating of the Dracula legend, right? Ok, so we’ll cut him some slack on this, because The Strain just gets better as it goes on, right?

No, nuh-uh…it doesn’t.

Hey, you dead?  I think this guys's dead. Let's take off these funky suits, now, ok?

Hey, you dead? I think this guy’s dead. Let’s take off these funky suits, now, ok?

Corey Stoll stars as a CDC expert who’s called in to investigate the plane, and at first he does this smartly, fully clad in a hazmat suit with its own air supply. Cool. But what’s not cool is the giant coffin-like box that they find aboard the plane. The box is not on the plane’s manifest, nobody knows what the hell it is or what’s in it. So Stoll, along with several others, just open the damn thing without any protective gear whatsoever–even though they suspect it might have something to do with the deaths of the passengers on the plane!

In this day and age, you’d think they would treat every item from the plane, especially an unknown item like this, with the most extreme caution. They’re dealing with a possible contagion here, which is why the CDC was called in in the first place, right? But oh no, caution is for weenies, let’s just crack open this big, ominous box and see what’s inside!

In addition to cardboard cutout characters who do stupid things just to advance the not-very-well-thought-out plot, the episode overall is just extremely hoary and predictable. We have the Van Helsing character, played by David Bradley, who runs to the airport and starts screaming about how they need to cut the heads off the dead bodies, and right quick (just before he gets arrested)! Oh yeah, real slick move there, fearless vampire hunter….

My deceased wife's heart is always close to me...no really, it's in the jar right here.

My deceased wife’s heart is always close to me…no really, it’s in the jar right here.

It’s as if del Toro was trying to update the vampire legend by forcing the 19th century story aspects into the 21st century, and doing a really horrible job, because…you know, who cares about the details, right? But even the wildest flights of fantasy require some grounding in reality in order to be properly accepted by the reader/viewer.

A far superior updating of the vampire lore in book form is Justin Cronin’s fantastic series of novels that begins with The Passage. And if you’re looking for a far better TV series in the same vein, look no further than Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which does a superb job of updating the classic monsters while still setting them in the 19th century (and it features an outstanding performance by the always good Eva Green).

As far as The Strain is concerned, no thanks. One helping of this steaming pile of idiocy is more than enough for me. I’ll pass.

Batman’s back (and the Kindle’s got him)

"I am the Dark Electronic Knight!"

“I am the Dark Electronic Knight!”

When I saw recently that Amazon had a special electronic version of a Batman comic for the Kindle Fire, I just had to get it. I haven’t bought a Batman comic–nor any comic at all–in about ten years, now. But a good reason to get this was because this year is the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight, which this special issue celebrates by being a blend of the old Bob Kane origin story and newer tales. Another reason to get this e-comic is that it would be the very first such comic that I would read on my Kindle Fire, and I wanted to see what that experience was like.

But, really, the main reason I got this Batman e-comic was because it was cheap…really cheap–it was so cheap, it was absolutely free. And you can’t argue against getting free stuff, now, can you?

This isn’t so much a review of the comic itself, but of the format that it’s presented in. As I’ve stated before, this is the very first time I’ve read an e-comic. I don’t recall the first time I read an actual paper comic; that was when I was just a little spud back in the 1960s. My parents were both strong advocates of getting me to read, and so they started by buying me comic books back when I was very small (I still recall reading a scary Mickey Mouse adventure back then that terrified me witless).

So how’s the new “comic book” format? Very nice, thank you very much. You “turn the page” on the Kindle Fire by tapping the right or left side of the screen–the same if you were reading an e-book. But unlike an e-book, the comic has some very colorful imagery that simply looks gorgeous on the bright and clear screen of the KF. Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this comic in this format.

I think I enjoyed this so much because getting the comic was very easy and hassle free; a big plus is that there’s no need to worry about tracking down issues that might be sold out already in a comic book store. If you want it, just get it right on the KF (or the e-reader of your choice).

Diehard comic fans may consider this viewpoint blasphemy, and I used to be one of them–right up until the bottom fell out of the comic book market some years back. All I have to show for my avid (and expensive) hobby is a vast comic collection that’s now actually worth less than what I paid for at the store.

But if you just want to read a good story (like me), if you just want to enjoy a Batman story by just having it delivered to your Kindle (normally for a fee, of course) then this is definitely the way to go. DC is still printing paper editions of the comics they provide to the Kindle, but something tells me that the days of paper comics is on the way out (and if so, then maybe my comic collection will finally be worth something…but probably not).