Saturday, September 26, 2015

Loot Crate September 2015 Summon Unboxing

After far too long a break, it's time for another unboxing. This month I decided to go with a titan of the subscription box world, Loot Crate. When I first started looking into boxes, this one got set aside due to having what I viewed as somewhat lackluster offerings. However; over the summer they're boxes raised dramatically in quality with plenty of cool exclusive stuff, especially in the heroes and villains boxes. I even hunted a joker figure from the villains box down on ebay for my brother. With nothing else of interest in the September box offerings and the promise of an exclusive Supernatural item, it seemed like the right time to give it a go. Did it live up to expectations? Let's find out.

First off, we should note the theme for this month is Summon, so a general mix of magic/mysticism/the occult was in order. It's a fairly appropriate theme for this time of the years as we kick off Halloween festivities without jumping in completely. Overall, they abide by a theme better than other boxes I've tried which garners a few points.

As for the service itself; the box is fairly cheap at only $19.99 shipped with plenty of coupon codes floating around for anyone who wants to shave off a few bucks. Their website is nice & functional, very easy to access. Shipping was....ok. I'm not used to having things sent through Fedex so I don't know if this is normal, but despite one of their trucks going around town yesterday, they left my crate with the post office where it sat for a whole day before being delivered. Just seems very odd to me. You don't run a ball all the way down the field only to hand it off to a different team for the touchdown.

Once the box was open and my hand went searching inside, the first thing I felt was a lump of cloth. It's a Pikachu knit hat with lil pokeballs attached. I'll admit to not being a fan of Pokemon, or headwear for that matter, but I don't completely dislike this. Thing's well made and big enough to fit even my massive dome. Just a shame that I only wear hats for about 30 minutes of winter. It's not really an issue though as my sister has snatched this up as her own.

The second item on hand is a Hearthstone stress ball. Guess stress balls show up quite often in boxes but it's a first for me and as a very touch sensitive type it's definitely a fun item to have. Interesting looking too.

Next came another of the highlight items. When the theme was announced, the art included Homer Simpson and they noted there would be a kidrobot item included. I surmised this could only mean the Homer Buddha and boy was I on target. Very happy to have this lil guy. From his donut throne to his prayer beads and pretzel accessories this is just one awesome figure. To top it off, the regular price for one of these on is almost as much as the crate itself.

Even though I've been a fan of Supernatural for years, collectibles related to the show have never managed to enter the house. Naturally this made the prospect of an exclusive more than a little interesting. The final product is a little mixed though. It's a lil replica of Dean's Impala. I'd come across some of these at the store just a couple nights ago so I wasn't sure what made this one special. The key difference is this Loot Crate version has the original Kansas plates from the pilot episode while the mass market version features the later Ohio plates. Not exactly what you'd call a big deal and I'm disappointed it's not something more character focused since this month's art showed Castiel, not some classic car. It's not an awful item. I'll definitely hold on to it and place it on the shelf with other goodies. Just wish they'd had something slightly more unique than a really nice Hot Wheel.

Lastly we've got the smattering of tiny bits & pieces. Every Loot Crate comes with a pin, so that's joined other pins on the lampshade. The solid coin was a promo item or something from Blizzcon and it's pretty cool. In fact, my coin flipping nephew pestered me into letting him have it. The coin's also perfect for scratching off the code on the voucher for exclusive Hearthstone cards. Never played the game. Not sure if I'll give it a try and use the code or maybe sell/give to somebody who's already into it. There's also a flier for some Master Summoner app that uses augmented reality features to interact with your box once it's been turned inside out and turned into a summoners book. Yes, even the box itself is a toy with these guys. Lastly is the magazine which tell you all about the items, clothing available through the lvl up programs, a few articles, and stuff for a Summoner Wars card game (not the plaid hat one). Dunno for sure if it's supposed to work with the aforementioned app or what. Haven't taken the time to find out.

In the end I'm fairly satisfied with Loot Crate. This month didn't live up to the expectations set by the previous three but overall it makes up for shortcomings with a combination of good price, decent service, some customization (the lvl up cloths), you get the idea. It's good stuff. I'd rank it above box of dread and comic bento, maybe even toy box since it has the advantages of lower price and shiny new items. My sister actually wants to subscribe for next months time travel theme which works out great as I've got some other boxes to try. Speaking of which, the plan for next month is Marvel Collector Corps with their villains box. After that, November will be all about Killer Crafts Friday the 13th box. If you're an Elm Street fan, they're using that theme in October. I'll wait for Jason.

That's all for now folks. There are plans for two more blog entries before this month is out. In the meantime wish me luck cause I'm going to the yearly pumpkin carrying contest. Few things embody fall quite like an armload of gourds.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Show and Tell September 2015

Fall is officially here at last dear readers and I feel great. The windows are open, ghost shows air nightly, and store aisles are filled with so many fun things. It may be out of fashion these days but I take a considerable amount of pleasure from senseless materialism. Over the last week I've been allowed to indulge like never before. Not all of it was silly though as I now have life insurance for some odd reason. The main purpose of this post was to write about a Thursday evening shopping spree but seeing as I've written this intro three different ways already and have a mystery box inbound, it's definitely time to get a move on and show off all the new spooky items.

With seasonal d├ęcor finally on full display it was time to shop for new Halloween items. Dollar tree is always a fine spot as they have the best wall and window clings around though they're sadly lacking in the toilet cling department. I'd already nabbed a batch of clings a couple weeks ago but decided to toss in one more for my sisters apartment as it's in dire need of ghost babies. The inflatable eyeballs are yet another bit of visual clutter to hang from the trees.
Michaels has a lesser offering than previous years but these new half pumpkins for carving and hanging on the wall were absolute must haves. I'd hopped to get a truckload of em but of the small amount still in stock many were damaged. On one hand this saves me some money. On the other, it prevents me from staging our hallway like a late 90's music video.
It's possible that I've never spoken of my admiration for Menards. For a place that's meant to serve hardware and home repair needs it's a true bastion for novelties. Like Michael's, their offering was a little lighter this year but there were still some items of merit, among them were light up eyes for the yard and a screaming face for one of the trees.
Of all the stores visited during the spree, Target had the best decorations available though I chose to hold off until some of it goes on sale. Honestly $25 isn't too bad for an animatronic cat but it's hard to budget such item in when your work schedule is “sometime.” Expect something from a return trip in the coming weeks as there's just too many goodies to pass up.

Before I even knew when my shopping trip would commence, I was finally able to get a good price on the big box for Smash-Up. For those who've never encountered it, Smash-Up is a card game where each player mixes two distinct groups together (think zombie pirates, or ghost dinosaurs) and battle over bases with different abilities. It's akin to taking a game like Magic the gathering and stripping away complexities only to replace them with fun & chaos. Proper Storage for the game ran dry quite some time ago and this big box provides enough space for at least a decade worth of expansions while adding geeks to mix in with the other cards. Thanks to the inclusion of different monsters & fantastical creatures this is a fine tile to include in your Halloween game nights.
Barnes and Noble was in the midst of fall clearance which usually provides nothing of interest for me. That was pretty much the situation once again except for the presence of a Gracie Law Funko Pop. Seeing as I'd received Lo-Pan for my birthday, this presented an excellent opportunity to give him a bride for just over four bucks.
B&N also had the producers cut of Halloween 6 which I simply couldn't resist. While far from the best entry in the series, The Curse of Michael Myers served as my entry point to the franchise when I was just a wee lad. The Producer's cut is a very different flick from what the theatrical version had to offer but I wouldn't call it a better movie. There's less obnoxious musical score (good) that's more repetitive (bad). There's more mysticism and thought put into the cult subplot (good) but it veers into the silly when Paul Rudd stops Michael with magic stones (bad). It's kind of a mess and not wildly different enough to make up for the shortcomings.
We still had a small stack of games and movies which folks refused to buy during our yard sale. This meant a trip to disc traders was in order to turn the stragglers into something else. I was able to garner just enough cash to add a few titles to the horror collection and finally give Watch Dogs a try. Overall I'm enjoying the game despite some a fair share if irritations. No clue how I'll feel about the whole experience once it's done though so far it's more enjoyable than Assassin's Creed Unity,
As for the movies; if you've never seen The Pact I recommend you remedy that soon. It's not an amazing flick but there's some solid scares to be had and Caity Lotz spends a good amount of the film in very tiny underwear.
Coraline was a movie I'd been cautiously avoiding for years mainly due to it's director. Much as I love Nightmare Before Christmas, I can never forgive Henry Sellick for his version of James and the Giant Peach. As it was one of the first books I really read on my own, it was an important story to me and the film proved to be a great disappointment. Coraline on the other hand was surprisingly fresh and spooky. Not as good as the studios second effort, Paranorman but then again what is?

It's basically a given that if I'm in Lansing, a visit to Horrocks is in order. If you're ever in town it's a really fine spot with good produce, unique foods, awesome candy, and a massive beer selection. I pieced together a rather pricey six pack of different seasonal goodies. Let's go through em left to right.
McKenzie's Pumpkin Jack is a solid idea. I mean pumpkin hard cider stands a very good chance of being tasty yet like the standard flavors in this line it's just a little too sweet and overbearing. Not bad mind you, just a bit overdone.
Nosferatu Imperial Red from Great Lakes Brewing had me with the label art. The brewery itself has a fiarly decent track record as well. This one failed to thrill though and my brother actually thought it was awful. His opionion might be a little harsh but this was pretty disappointing.
Traveler Pumpkin Shandy is pretty tasty though like McKenzie's goes a little overboard in the sweet department. Honestly, I'd rather go with Leinenkugel's variation on this flavor as it goes down smoother.
New Belgium Pumpkick snuck into the pack at the last minute with me thinking it was a simple pumpkin ale. Not so as this is both pumpkin and cranberry, making for one of the better drinks I've had in the last week. It's not for everyone since the cranberry portion is pretty strong but I liked it.
Samuel Adams Pumpkin Batch was the pick of the litter thanks to a very balanced taste that never veered too far into the spice or beer department. It's odd as I don't recall Sam Adams pumpkin efforts being this good. Suppose that explains the new name.
Coronado Brewing Punkin Drublic was problematic to say the least. It has a fairly high alchohol content at 8% but the flavor was just way off mark. Not sure what the problem is since the label fails to mention anything that makes this brew unique. There's simply another flavor mixed in that doesn't completely work with the base pumpkin goodness.

Got my hands on some seasonal cookies and candies as well. Those should make good fodder for a separate post so let's hold off on those for now. However, two more funko pops were added to the collection over the weekend. Deathwing is an awesome dragon who hails from World of Warcraft. I've zero experience with the game itself but I couldn't resist getting a pop this cool, all the more as I got a buy one get one half off deal with Pumpkin Jack who makes for an outstanding spirit totem for the season.

That's all for for now. Be sure to come back soon. Really soon, like maybe later today, for an unboxing. See ya then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

M&M's, Apple Jacks, and Cider Mill Donut Ice Cream.

Autumn walks are one of life's finest pleasures. The crinkle of leaves underfoot, cool breeze rattling the branches of every tree, and color everywhere you look. It's a good thing too, as the influx of new snacks necessitates as much exercise as possible to avoid becoming the subject of a TLC series. Judging by news of this years snack food crop we're all going to need a gym membership.

M&M's may only be in second place behind Oreo for output of seasonal varieties. The past few years they've given us fall flavors like pumpkin spice or candy corn (which has returned this year). The first flavor I heard of for this year was pecan pie which I'll admit nearly made me vomit in my mouth, a reaction I nearly acted out upon opening a bag of them. No joke, these smell terrible. One of the worst smelling candies I've come across in a good while. Sure I'm biased as I've no love for pecan pie but it's still a rotten stink all the same. Taste on the other hand is another matter and I'm surprised to report these are pretty yummy. They don't really achieve the full pie flavor so much as the praline goo at the bottom yet it's an overall pleasing experience. I wouldn't tell anyone to go out of their way for them unless you're huge on praline and nose based challenges but if you come across a bag, they're not a bad addition to the season.
Pumpkin spice latte is an alteration from the previous attempt at normal pumpkin spice. The experiment didn't quite pay off in the manner they may have intended as the result is closer in taste to chai than it is to latte. If you're a big chai lover like my sister, consider this a ringing endorsement. I should note however that like the previous pumpkin spice variety these have an element of scented candle in both their scent and flavor. It doesn't ruin them, but it does make everything seem a little too artificial for my liking.
While these new flavors neither make or break my seasonal spirit, they are a decent addition to the snack crop. Most important of all is they taste best when mixed together. If you have stores nearby with both in stock, toss em in a bowl for best results. Just make sure it has a lid to seal in the smell.

Hudsonville Cider Mill Donut ice cream came as a complete surprise to me. Being regional brand it doesn't get the social media press that a lot of other companies receive but it more recent years Hudsonville has been issuing some outstanding flavors and this ranks among their highest achievements.
What we've got here is apple cider flavored ice cream with am apple swirl of some kind and donut pieces throughout. That part was particularly tricky as the last ice cream I'd tried with donut pieces failed severely. These were fresh and tasty though and combine perfectly with the ice cream which comes across as refreshing rather than tart. So far this is the champ of the new Halloween snacks and it's liable to stay there. If you're within reach of a store that carries the brand do your best to hunt down a tub of this fine treat. You won't regret it.

Of course no Halloween would be complete without the return of the monster cereals. Got a box of Booberry in the pantry at this very moment. A few other cereals are doing their best to get in the spirit as well with spooky boxes, orange coloring, or bone shaped marshmallows. Speaking of which, let's talk about Apple Jacks. AJ has long been out of the running for favorite breakfast foods. It's just not potent or flavorful enough to make up for being a nutritionally lackluster cereal. Not bad stuff mind you, but why waste your sugar intake budget on a lesser snack?
This spook season, AJ along with Fruit Loops have put on some solid new boxes and thrown in skeleton marshmallows and the results are quite pleasing. The marshmallow bits are really good. Very creamy tasting which combined with the apple flavor almost gives off an apple pie vibe. There's a lot of those flavorful little bones too. I mean a lot. These things must be going out of style cause the ratio of cereal bits to mallow is probably along the lines of 60/40. I'd honestly prefer AJ stay this way as I'd be more inclined to pick up the occasional box. For the time being, we can all just pretend this is another part of the monster cereal line up only this one features some kind of terrifying voodoo cinnamon stick man.

That's all for today folks. I'm planing a good sized shopping trip this week so don't be surprised if you end up reading a dozen more paragraphs about snack cakes and bat shaped chips. Ah the glories of the season.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Berenstain Bears and the Ghost of the Forest

Cleaning house always yields a few surprise flashbacks to days gone by. Quite recently I dug out the family collection of Berestain Bears books to post on ebay. A very successful endeavor I might add. Still, one can't help but remember nights as a child perusing tales of a middle class bear family. If you've never been subjected to them, the basic formula is that brother and sister bear encounter some potential life challenge only to be taught an easy, two-dimensional (and possibly false) lesson by their parents or some other elder. There was a book for everything from bullies, bad vacations, strangers, and even a racism one with pandas. The whole thing was quite a success and...oh my god, through some quick studying I just found out that these damn things are still going!...and there's a third kid! Well I've just lost my train of thought. No wait...ghosts! Yes! This entry is about a ghost story!

Before shipping out the book lots, I made sure to photograph a few stories that would be ripe for all the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas fun to come. Today we kick things off with a light spooky tale that I thought would fit right in with so many folks getting back from their last camping trip of the summer. Prepare yourselves as we meet The Ghost of the Forest.
A good deal of these bear stories revolve around fear and phobias. Not sure if it's something in the countryside drinking water or if these animals are just prone to being terrified of a stiff wind. Suppose we can't blame the kids too much. Just look how papa bears leers at them from under the steps as they head out to camp. What a massive creeper.

The old man is such a turd in fact that he tells the kids of all the spooks who live in the spooky forest. Variations on spook are used so frequently that it almost made my lily white ass uncomfortable. Papa tries his best to mess with the kids before Mama shows up to assure them that their father is full of it. He uses this as an opportunity to do the adult thing. By which I mean dash up to the attic and make a ghost costume so he can terrorize his children and nephew later that night.

Out in the forest, the kids tell their scout leader about their fears which she quickly dissuades before setting them to work by setting up the camp. Instead of helping out, she surveys the surrounding area and comes across Papa talking to himself like a crazy old prospector. Not unlike Papa, Scout Leader Jane decides to handle this situation like an adult. Does she talk to Papa? Nope. Does she call the cops about the crazy man in the woods? Nah, she makes up a ghost of her own.

That night, the kids sit around the campfire telling stories before settling in for a good night's rest. Then their father runs out of the forest like a bat outta hell, shrieking that he's the ghost of the forest. The cubs run to their troop leader's tent for help only to discover she's gone. Guess they didn't notice she'd abandoned them in the woods for the sake of arts & crafts.

Thankfully it's not long before she appears behind Papa bear, sending him into s frightened tizzy. She reveals herself and everyone shares a hearty laugh. That's when a third abomination from hell appears before the group, wailing with the fury of countless dead. Sure enough both the children and adults are wetting themselves in terror when sister points out several items from home. Turns out Mama wanted to teach Papa a lesson by giving everyone a heart attack.

The lesson for this book is supposed to be that ghosts aren't real but it's fun to be afraid of them. Tell that to some chronically frightened child ya damn bears! If anything the true lesson of this tale comes from the smug expressions on Mama & Papa's faces which tell us all that at a certain point in marriage, romance is replaced by cruel pranks and that's all we have to look forward too.

Thous ends this sorry story of adults getting their jollies by tormenting children and significant others. The bears will return next month with Trick or Treat. Oh I can't wait for that one.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Descend Into Madness with The Rainbow Dictionary for Young Readers.

September is here at last, dear readers. The beginning of the Halloween season has hit and I'm in the mood for boogeymen, pumpkin spice, and chilly weather. While the weather portion requires a few more weeks to hit proper stride, there's nothing stopping us from kicking things into gear. And what better way to do that than with an educational tome from the 1970's? No, seriously just take a gander at this mess.

During our grand house cleaning project (still in progress) my sister dug out The Rainbow Dictionary for Young Read Readers by Wendell W. Wright. It only took a few pages to realize that we'd stumbled across the answer to the question “what if David Lynch wrote a children novel?” I knew there was some massive potential for an article within these pages but it wasn't until I'd started snapping photos that I realized this book is a gift that just keeps giving. I was up to something like picture fifteen by the time I'd reached the letter D. Nearly every page astounds with profoundly odd writing. It all reads like a serial killer's stream of conscious. Or perhaps one of those psychic medium free writing exercises.

Throughout most of the book, the examples alone are off putting and strangely worded. Almost any shot will suffice here so let's go with.....

"Jack is going to play he is a clown." Who the fuck says something like that? "If Bobby is tired, he will behave like a bad boy." What the hell is that about? On top of being downright creepy it's somewhat misleading. Like is Bobby actually going to be a brat or just pretend to be one? It doesn't stop there, as odd quotations are scattered around as well.

And if that wasn't enough for ya, the illustrations stand a good chance of haunting your dreams.

What kind of baby is that!? It's like someone perched an albinos head atop a sleeping bag!

Page after page continue in such a manner, providing nearly endless entertainment. It's the kind of item when finds in the attack of any haunted house. Speaking of which, I promised you guys the start of Halloween entries, and this book serves that need as well.

I love the idea of those kids spending their entire Halloween knocking on Mike's door. Guy probably isn't even home but nothing will stop these denizens of terror from rapping on the door.

It's kind of amazing that for as much as I want to wright about this book, I'm at a total loss when it comes to actually doing so. It's all nuts and that was just what I needed to get me in the spirit of things. August was a total drag around here but now is where guy's like me start feeling invincible. For the next few months there's more adventure and mystery to every aspect of life and I intend to provide you all with some fine entries to make the season just that extra bit better.

Yes there will still be a lot of the normal features like Ninninger recaps, show & tell, and some unboxings as skipping last month has left me craving another mystery box. Everything's gonna have some seasonal touches to it though and I've already got some special entries waiting in the wings. God, there's so much more I wanna do with this post but I'm just so excited to get the season started. Plus I have to get to sleep sometime this morning.