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Category: Pop Culture


plaza c

Humans gravitate toward benchmarks.  Anniversaries and events that end in zero, like 50th anniversaries.  Turning 20.  They like superlatives.  The biggest.  The best.  The fastest.  The youngest.  The oldest.  It’s human nature.

You never know what’s going to happen to you in a given day.  Maybe you meet someone new.  Maybe you work on a new project you hadn’t contemplated before.  Or, if you’re lucky, you wander into a new town and stumble upon something new.  Or something old.

It could be in any town in any city, but it just happens to be in a town you hadn’t planned on visiting, on a side jaunt along the way to someplace unrelated to where you now find yourself, staring up at an old building with a marquee.  A movie theater like any other old movie theater on any other main street across the Midwestern United States, that dot towns here and there.  Yet this one makes a surprising assertion.  This one claims to be the oldest.  If you find yourself in front of a theater like that, then you must be in Ottawa, Kansas, a quaint town about a half an hour’s drive south of Kansas City.

And like a trip to The Twilight Zone, the next thing you know you’ve paid the price of your ticket and you’re sitting alone in a movie theater, soaking up that old familiar place that smells like popcorn and feels like home.  You marvel at the gray metal 1930s art deco ceiling lights, the tall vintage curtains, and find yourself watching a film from 1903 that played in this very town in its opening months 109 years ago, then viewed by a crowd of turn of the century townsfolk from a very different turn of the century.  Like you, they were watching this movie for the first time, only they were watching it as the first movie they’d ever seen.

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Monster Manual cover

Wizards of the Coast gets an “A” for effort

Review by Art Schmidt

So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?  Your time is valuable and so are your hard-earned gold pieces, unless you are a thief, in which case let’s face it, it’s not really your gold no matter how hard you “worked” to pick that fat merchant’s belt pouch (c’mon, be honest, we both know it’s true).  The 5th Edition Monster Manual from Wizards of the Coast (or WotC, for short), which goes on sale on the 30th of this month, is a well put-together book, with tons of classic monsters in it, and is really a must-have for anyone looking to run a homebrew 5th Edition game, or looking to convert any of their existing modules/adventures to 5th Edition.  Go out and buy it, though please do not pay the $49.99 suggested retail price.  Most game stores and online retailers will have it for around $30, including Amazon.

Okay, so… if you are still reading this then I will assume that: (A) you don’t fit the Dungeon Master description I used above, (B) need some more convincing, or (C) you have some time to kill right now.  Either way, cool.

The book itself is nicely bound with thick high-quality covers which are a must for a book that’s primarily going to be hauled around from game session to game session in a book bag, backpack, plastic tote or other means.  So, it’s going to see a lot of handling and miles (unless you are nice enough to be hosting the game, in which case, Huzzah to you!!!), and it should take the abuse quite well.

Monster Manual excerpt A

“Knock, knock.” “Who is it?” “Land shark.”

The pages are also high quality, thick glossy paper stock and the book is lively and colorful throughout.  I was not a huge fan of the background on every page which was introduced in 3.0, but in this series of books (the Players Handbook and Monster Manual so far, anyway) WotC is not placing thick borders on every page which in previous versions squeezed the content and gave it a skimpier feel (lots of artwork, less content).  The Monster Manual is chock-full of good information and continues their current trend of combining good humor and retro-elements into the content, as was done in the Starter Set and the Player’s Handbook.  The references to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Emirkol the Chaotic and the Demi-Lich Acererak are nice touches and an appreciated wink to both older gamers and the previous creators and contributors who have helped keep the game going for so many years.  I especially like the disclaimers at the beginning of each book so far, which are quite humorous and show that while the WotC Team took its work seriously, they didn’t fall prey to taking themselves so.

You will find nearly every classic monster you could ask for in the book.  And while at 350 pages it is a hefty brick of a book, its usefulness to the Dungeon Master can’t be denied.  From the mandatory entries of giants, dragons, fiends, elementals, constructs, undead and humanoids of all flavors, to the more exotic modrons, yuan-ti, the warring githyanki and githzerai, and the ever-present but rarely used axe beak, the book has a ton of monsters across the spectrum of challenge ratings.  (Seriously, how many times have you encountered an axe beak in all of your adventures?)

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Smee as Richard III

Three huzzahs for historical re-enactor Domenic Smee, a 26-year old from England who has become part of the coolest event in non-fiction television in years, revealing that a skeletal deformity may not necessarily result in a disability, and a king may have been equal to the legend that he left behind.

You may recall the September 2012 archaeological dig in a parking lot that resulted in the confirmed find of the bones of King Richard III, who was said to have died bravely during the Wars of the Roses at the Battle of Bosworth Field against Henry Tudor and the Lancasters.  The discovery pulled together nearly every branch of science, and scientists even were able to create a 3D image of the famous king from Shakespeare’s play (“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York”).  We at borg.com listed the discovery as the Best Science News of 2013.

King Richard III printed bust

Now scientists have gone even further to get us to the truth behind the legend of this great king of 1485, revealed on Public Television’s Secrets of the Dead series episode “Resurrecting King Richard III.”  We thought the initial story from February 2013 that used DNA from a known distant descendant of the King’s royal line to prove the bones were indeed Richard III’s was incredible enough–the odds of locating a discarded or misplaced body and finding it 500 years later and not only identifying it, but identifying it as a famous king… it’s astronomical.

The bones of Richard III included a very disfigured spine–scoliosis.  Was the legendary story and contemporary accounts accurate?  Could he really have led the battle and fought so well in armor with such a condition?  When a researcher was airing a show in England on the king’s scoliosis, Domenic Smee was watching.  Turns out he has the rare scoliosis the king had, and he volunteered to be tested to see what physical limits the king may have experienced.

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And now a word from our sponsor…

GE idea creature

Too many commercials.

Everywhere you go advertising is thrown at you.  From the margin on every web page showing you an ad for something you looked at yesterday at Amazon.com or on eBay, to the signs behind left field at the baseball game, to billboards on your way to work and quick-talking radio ads on your way home.

But once in a while you don’t mind so much.  Take the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials.  We’ve given our thumbs up to several past ads here at borg.com, like Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in his Volvo commercial, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” and his sci-fi milk ad, the Volkswagen Star Wars Cantina re-creation commercial went above and beyond, too.

So what are the best commercials you’ve seen this year?

GE has a new commercial featuring a giant muppet-like fellow that should get some consideration for all the emotion it packs into a fantasy-themed promotion.  Check it out here:

Earlier this year genre favorites Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes), Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Sneakers, Gandhi), and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor 2) created a fun commercial for Jaguar with a British villain theme.  If you missed it earlier, here it is an extended version:

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George Takei Sulu in The Naked Time

If holographic television were available today, would you go right out and buy it?

We’re more than four years into the widespread availability of affordable consumer 3D television and the viewing public hasn’t embraced it yet.  My best guess is simply because they haven’t seen it yet, or they are basing their lack of interest on a poor viewing experience with 3D in a public theater.  At borg.com, we’ve got no skin in the game–we don’t work for or with the studios–we’re just after the best viewing experience possible.  And we’re completely sold on both 3D Blu-ray and the lesser discussed 2D/3D “upconversion” technology.

Distributors have been relatively slow at releasing 3D Blu-rays, the current standard for 3D home viewing.  Many films actually produced in 3D, like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series, are very quickly released now in a 3D Blu-ray.  Other films are converted to 3D in post-production, like Star Trek Into Darkness, and they are also released on 3D Blu-ray.  Both films look far superior to standard films–you can’t even compare the quality.  The distinctions between a true 3D film and a conversion are probably not all that noticeable to the average moviegoer with normal vision.  But what we’re focusing on today is something different.

Dathon and Picard in Darmok

A different category of conversion, called 2D/3D conversion, is available on certain affordable 3D televisions today.  This is a technology available to anyone with a 3D television that includes the upconvert technology and compatible 3D glasses.  For films, TV series, or even real-time live or pre-recorded television, this technology manipulates the images to create a real 3D experience for the viewer.  Sounds like a gimmick?  It’s not.  To test it, we tried 2D/3D upconverting on an episode of each of Star Trek, the original series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The result?  We were blown away.  We think if you try it, you too will ask:  Why don’t we watch everything now in 3D, and why isn’t everyone talking about it?

If you’re waiting around for holographic TV, that’s pretty much what you’re getting here, too.  You can even get up and walk around without the 3D image going away.  The only thing you can’t do is walk completely around a floating object, which is what a true holographic TV experience should be.  But this is the next best thing.  We watched two acclaimed, classic Star Trek episodes, the original series episode “The Naked Time” and the NextGen series episode “Darmok” using a 3D television, a Blu-ray/DVD player and, for “The Naked Time” a remastered DVD version, and for “Darmok,” a remastered Blu-ray version.  We then applied the 3D television’s upconvert and easily adjusted the various 3D settings, such as “Standard” or “Cinema” or “Extreme,” tint, and brightness/backlighting, to create the best picture possible for the room lighting.

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Wheaton Binderup McDaniels at Planet Comicon 2014

Why are you here?

To read?  To learn something?  To kill time?

OK, not why are you “here” at this website.  Think Big Picture:  Why are you here?  To narrow the gap between the rich and the poor?  To help people?  To have fun?  To create?

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run-DMC, who we met at Planet Comicon last year, asked himself that question after returning to a hotel after a night on a European tour.  He’s pictured above with Wil Wheaton and my pal William Binderup.  McDaniels asked himself that simple question and wrestling with that question set him on a path that he recounted to a crowd of college students years later.  National Public Radio located an audio recording of that talk that they re-broadcast this past Wednesday night.

The result is a great story, and may serve as inspiration for anyone suffering from depression, anyone who was adopted, and it surprisingly serves as a great message about the power of fandom.  It also should cause you to consider the possibility that you can do anything you want to do with your life, and sometimes you may even surprise yourself if you aim high.  Maybe there’s more to who you are, who you like, and what you know–and don’t know–about yourself.

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Scotty in kilt

That is, if you’re in Scotland.

Census records estimate that more than twice as many people of Scottish ancestry live in the United States than in Scotland.  Is it the destiny of Scotland to declare its independence from Great Britain?  If not now, then when?  At the beginning of the day everyone has been waiting for, polls show the likely outcome as a dead heat.  We’ll soon learn the answer we’ve all been asking:  Will they or won’t they?

Of course there are all sorts of implications to a yes vote, not the least of which is what kind of economic impact it will have on England, on the United States, and the world.  If Scotland wants to make a statement to the world this could very well be Scotland’s day.  So if you’re one of those Scots that are 16 years old or older and done voting or you’re in the States and can’t vote today, then what better than a brief celebration of all things Scottish?  As Mike Myers’ character Stuart Rankin, proprietor of the store “All Things Scottish,” said on Saturday Night Live, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Sean Connery

Scotland is well known for its inventors and their inventions.  You wouldn’t be reading this website or surfing the Internet at all without the communications technologies that sprouted from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  John Logie Baird would invent the first television.  Scots invented the refrigerator and the flush toilet, the kaleidoscope and the lawnmower.  And–shazam–James Goodfellow invented ATMs so we can get money to buy stuff on nearly any street corner.

Our future is defined in part by the adventures of a Scot in space–James Doohan’s Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek, an engineering miracle worker who exemplifies Scottish ingenuity.  And of course, there’s James Bond, the character, whose parents were Scottish, and Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, the most famous Bond, and a supporter of today’s “yes” vote.

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Tonight Show Family Feud Fallon Steve Harvey

Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred and twenty episodes in of his first year at the helm of The Tonight Show and somehow we managed to fail to mention Jimmy Fallon’s incredible big year here in our ongoing quest for the best in entertainment.  We’ve watched Fallon since his days on Saturday Night Live and figured we’d give him a try as he took over for Jay Leno.  We gave the same college try to Conan O’Brien when he started out on his TBS gig, but that show quickly fizzled out.  Fallon hit the ground running, taking comedic bits from his Late Night hosting stint and expanding them into the weightier format of the classic king spot of nightly live comedy.  And we haven’t laughed out loud this much in a year in a long time.

Go back and watch David Letterman, Leno or Johnny Carson late show episodes on YouTube and you’ll quickly ask yourself why we thought those guys were so funny.  We’re saying this after years of enjoying the best of The Tonight Show for decades.  Fallon’s sincere, boy-next-door-makes-good, and unapologetic fanboy image was a perfect choice for this show, and his use of social media incorporated into his weekly line-up makes the show potentially appealing to every demographic.

Credit goes to Fallon, of course, but also his great writing staff that comes up with all this fun, as well as The Roots, the complicit house band (probably the coolest band ever to appear on a regular TV gig), and Fallon’s own Ed McMahon, the quick-witted banter partner, Des Moines native Steve Higgins.

Rivers last Tonight Show

Recurring bits include Fallon’s obsession with Canadian politician Rob Ford, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Vice President Joe Biden, the Eww girl, and a would-be one-time stint dancing bear that became the out-of-breath show mascot Hashtag the Panda.  Fallon’s “Pros and Cons,” “Thank You Notes,” and “Hashtags” are now locked into the national weekly calendar.  Fallon also gets the best A-list celebrities around on his show on a regular basis, and even entices many to play crazy party games and lip sync battles or act in skits like you’d see on the best days of Saturday Night Live.

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barriers - Great wall of China

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I love when a story starts me guessing like “The Wall of Darkness” by Arthur C. Clarke.  I have so many notions of walls and barriers that once Clarke reveals there’s a mysterious black wall in the dark lands where the planet’s sun doesn’t reach, my mind immediately guesses likely conclusions.

Due to the surge in popularity of all things Game of Thrones, the Wall of Westeros first came to mind.  A structure built of ice and stone to separate the civil from the uncouth and things unimagined.  The dangers were so serious that an elevator is needed to get you to the top of the wall for it is so high. Would the wall of darkness be the same?  What monsters must inhabit the lands devoid of starlight where the wall only becomes accessible at the highest days of summer?  Would they be blind?  Would they be legion, held back by the material of the wall, waiting for a foreign object to infest so as to spread throughout the light?

Wall of Westeros

Then again, the other side of the wall could be something more akin to George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for the Wall – Hadrian’s Wall.  On the other side might be a separate version of the planet’s inhabitants, people that have learned to live without the warmth and light of a star.  They may have fashioned great cities lit by artificial light and have evolved in different ways while exploring cuisines that flourish in the night.  (Think lots and lots of catfish sautéed in mushrooms.)  Maybe this time it’s the Morlocks that are kind and just and they built the wall to keep out the Eloi.  It’s much more romantic than thinking of the Romans and Scotsmen of the very earliest part of the AD centuries separating with a wall due to differences in distance over now adjacent time zones on the same continent.  It’s more romantic to think of Starks and white walkers.  As an earthbound human, our walls are just another case of separating ourselves from those that are “different.”

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Entertainment Earth

Now through September 2, 2014, Entertainment Earth is having a summer blowout sale, including more than 100 Star Trek items.  You’ll find everything from toys to prop and costume replicas to art prints–all on sale at the below links.

Looking for Juan Ortiz’s retro original series posters?  How about some pips for your Star Trek: The Next Generation Starfleet uniform?  How about a sphere from Star Trek: First Contact from the Earth invasion by The Borg?

See something you like?  Just click on any of the links below to get more details and place an order.

Star Trek: First Contact Borg Sphere Monitor Mate Ship Star Trek White Phaser & Medical Tricorder 2-Pack Exclusive Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Lt. Commander Scotty Tunic Star Trek Movie Deluxe Spock Blue Shirt Star Trek USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A Launch Rocket Model Kit Star Trek USS Reliant 13-Inch Launching Rocket Model Kit Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Poster Set 10 Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Poster Set 7 Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Posters Set 3 Star Trek The Original Series Blue Uniform Dog Bowl Star Trek the Original Series Deck-Building Game Star Trek United Federation of Planets Buckle Star Trek Into Darkness Falling Movie Poster Lithograph Star Trek Enterprise NX-01 Starfleet Commad Patch Star Trek Enterprise 1701-C 1:2500 Scale Model Kit Star Trek Attack Wing Romulan Kraxon Expansion Pack Star Trek The Original Series Red Uniform Dog Bowl Star Trek The Motion Picture Yellow Engineering Patch Star Trek Scotty Red Beach Towel Star Trek Expeditions Expansion Board Game Star Trek Original Series Red Cross Insignia Patch Star Trek: TOS 1st and 2nd Season Starfleet Scienc Patch Star Trek Petty Officer First Class Rank Pin Star Trek Klingon Bird-of-Prey Launching Rocket Model Kit Star Trek Trekkies Nyota Uhura Q-Pop Vinyl FigureStar Trek The Motion Picture Silver Science Patch Star Trek Starfleet Academy Cufflinks Star Trek Original Series Lt. Commander Unifrom Rank Braid Star Trek Chief Warrant Officer Rank Single Black Pip Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 1Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 2 Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 3 Star Trek Original Series Communicator - an EE Exclusive Star Trek Classic Gold Handle Phaser - EE Exclusive Star Trek Trekkies Captain James T. Kirk Q-Pop Vinyl Figure Star Trek Vinyl Figures: Quogs Captain Kirk Star Trek Sulu Cologne Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 10 Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 6 Star Trek The Original Series Fine Art Shot Glasses Set 7

After the break, check out even more from Entertainment Earth…

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