Category: Con Culture


Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, you probably think of the incredible scope of its collection.  It houses some of the most famous and rare paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other artifacts from ancient times to the present day.  Its collection can be parsed in so many ways to record the history of almost any subject.  So it was a brilliant idea for The Met to open up its collection to focus on imagery for the holidays to illustrate a book about traditional Christmas stories.  Christmas is Coming! Celebrate the Holiday with Art, Stories, Poems, Songs, and Recipes is an ideal single source book of traditional Christmas songs and stories, illustrated with attractive imagery from artists celebrating the holiday across the centuries.  It also includes new poems commissioned for the book and holiday recipes created by the chefs from the restaurant at The Met.  If you’ve ever tried to find that one book with stories to read by the fire, with songs to sing to pull out every year, this is for you.

Along with excerpts of The Christmas Story and The Three Wise Men from the Bible, are historic Christmas stories from Arthur Conan Doyle, the Brothers Grimm, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Leo Tolstoy, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, and poetry from William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Christina Rossetti, H.P. Lovecraft, E.E. Cummings, and Robert Louis Stevenson.  It includes Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Francis Church’s timeless editorial Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. 

The artwork spans the entire collection of The Met, ranging from religious paintings depicting the Nativity from the 15th century and a winter landscape by Camille Pissarro to a collection of three dimensional holiday-related objects, illustrations of Santa Claus, and several images curated from a collection of vintage holiday cards donated to the museum.  Christmas is Coming! includes sheet music for ten of the most familiar Christmas songs, and recipes hand-selected by chefs at The Met that include Shepherd’s Pie, Turkey Pot Pie, English Toffee, Cranberry-Thyme Shortbread, and more.

Here are some excerpts from The Met’s Christmas is Coming!:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you can align the right fan with a project and come up with something great.  Add Mark Edlitz to that list and his fascinating, broad look at the James Bond franchise in The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy As audiences get ready for 2020’s No Time to Die, the franchise continues to be as popular as ever, through new fiction and non-fiction books, comics, music, posters, and more.   But how do you translate the master British spy from Ian Fleming’s original stories into new stories, or adapt the character to the big screen, to audio books and radio plays, and to spin-off comic books and novels?  Mark Edlitz is a long-time fan who took his tape recorder along to Bond conventions over the years and interviewed everyone he could find in front of and behind the camera, then expanded that into people behind the books and everything else he could find.  The result is the largest collection of Bond oral histories anywhere.  The result is The Many Lives of James Bond, now available for the first time, from Lyons Press.

Supplemented with sketch art (from artist Pat Carbajal) and peppered with black and white photographs of the interview subjects, Edlitz makes up for some of the big creators he was unable to interview by interviewing people close to them.  Interviewing people is not easy: Sometimes the subjects aren’t good at being interviewed, and oftentimes subjects are evasive for whatever reason.  But most subjects in the book said they felt a certain family connection to the honor of working on a Bond project, and were open with their thoughts.  It’s full of all kinds of surprises, and more insights than you can imagination about being Bond, from interviews with Roger Moore and George Lazenby, a stunt double, Hoagy Carmichael and David Niven’s sons (Fleming’s initial visions for Bond), and Glen A. Schofield, who provides his account of working with Sean Connery as voice over actor in a video game 20 years after his last Bond performance.  The Many Lives of James Bond also looks back to some early, pre-Bond film era performers.

  

Edlitz covers casting the role and directing Bond (from movie directors Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), Roger Spotiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), and editor and unit director John Glen (who worked on eight films with four Bond actors)), writing words and working with the famed producers who own the Bond legacy (from interviews with more than a dozen writers, including three-time Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein), creating music for Bond (from songwriters Leslie Bricusse (Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice) and Don Black (who wrote songs for five films)), creating clothes for Bond (from Jany Temime (Skyfall, SPECTRE)), and even marketing Bond (in movie posters created by Robert McGinnis (Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die), Rudy Obrero (Never Say Never Again), and Dan Goozee (Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill)), all while trying to be faithful to Fleming’s vision while adapting when necessary to changing times.

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This month Wizards of the Coast is celebrating 45 years of fans and gaming and 5 years of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons with a one-time opportunity.  The D&D Sapphire Anniversary Dice Set: Collector’s Limited Edition will be available to commemorate the occasion, a set of eleven aluminum dice with a special sapphire set in the d20 die.  Wizards of the Coast hopes this to be the jewel of any gamer’s dice sets.  You’ll want to mark your calendar for December 12, 2019, at 9 a.m. Pacific/11 a.m. Central, the go-live date for sales of the set.  And you’ll need to act fast, as the number of sets will be limited to 1,974, reflecting the first year of D&D.

“When the D&D team realized the sapphire is the traditional anniversary stone for both five years and forty-five years, and that adding a laboratory-created sapphire to a twenty-sided die wouldn’t jeopardize the integrity of a roll, we couldn’t pass up the chance to make something really cool to celebrate the milestones,” said Nathan Stewart, vice president of the D&D for Wizards of the Coast.  “The team put together a fun product for our fans that includes art and newly updated stats for sapphire dragons, making these classic dragons ready for play in your next D&D session.”

Here are the stats for the set from Wizards of the Coast:

  • A complete set of eleven precision anodized luxury aluminum dice, including two d20s, one d12, two d10s, one d8, four d6s, and one d4, all created exclusively for Wizards of the Coast by Level Up Dice.
  • The centerpiece of the set is a dice masterpiece, a d20 that contains an inlaid lab-grown sapphire in the place of the twenty.
  • All other dice sport a fully engraved and anodized official D&D ampersand on the highest value of each die.
  • A custom dice box and dice tray combo only available with this set, perfect for protecting and showcasing the set everywhere you play.
  • A premiere foldout card featuring official D&D fifth edition game statistics for adult sapphire dragons, along with vibrant, full-color art.
  • An exclusive sticker sheet with the D&D ampersand.
  • A sequentially numbered collector’s card confirming the set’s authenticity.

Take a look at this trailer with close-up images of the dice, which also doubles as a bit of a “moment of Zen”–

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the Victorian holiday tradition of spending Christmas sharing tales of ghosts and other haunts, comes James Lovegrove′s latest novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon Another excellent addition in Lovegrove’s long list of new tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero and his earnest confidante and co-conspirator in sleuthing, Dr. John Watson, here readers encounter the master detective in a tale of murder and high crimes in the yuletide season.  Like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, expect an ample serving of curiosity and cleverness, and perhaps a side of the supernatural.

It’s 1890 and Holmes and Watson are called to Fellscar Keep in Yorkshire by one Eve Allerthorpe, the heir-apparent to a family fortune.  She believes she is haunted by a Krampus-like being, the legendary Christmas demonic spirit known as the “Black Thurrick.”  Holmes and Watson believe she’s being duped–the family fortune will belong to her when she turns 21 this Christmas Eve unless she is found to not be of sound mind.  So who is trying to prove that she is insane?  As the family and extended guests arrive for the holidays, Holmes and Watson ruffle feathers, encounter strange happenings, and investigate the wing of the house where the family matriarch died, as Watson finds himself the next target for the demon.

Lovegrove knows how to take Holmes and Watson for an unusual spin, having wrapped his Holmes trilogy The Cthulhu Casebooks this year with the final chapter, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils (reviewed here at borg and just out in paperback).  As with Lovegrove’s previous Sherlock Holmes novels and his Firefly novels Big Damn Hero and The Magnificent Nine, the story is rich and funny, and the action clips along to a surprise, satisfying ending.

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WKRP Nessman reporting Thanksgiving stunt

Pull the TV dinner out of the oven.  Throw some butter on those peas.  It’s time again for your annual tryptophan coma.  And another annual tradition.

Yes, it is time again for your annual viewing of the best Thanksgiving episode that ever graced the small screen.  Finish this phrase: “As God is my witness, I thought…”

Then watch and enjoy our traditional viewing of the greatest Thanksgiving episode of TV ever (note: no actual turkeys were harmed in the making of the show):

(YouTube versions change a lot, so feel free to look around for a better version, unless it’s already carried by one of your streaming providers)

And in between your seconds and thirds of tofurkey, this epic roasted cabbage (we tried it, it’s actually good), mashed potatoes (or cauliflower), corn casserole, bean casserole, pea casserole, brown and serve rolls–and don’t forget the gravy–and PIE, then check out other Thanksgiving blasts from the past here.

And don’t forget the cranberries.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The BORG Staff

 

Of all John Carpenter’s films, They Live may be the most riveting.  It’s one of those uses of science fiction to advance social commentary, and it did it like nothing before.  When you think of science fiction movies, the big franchises probably come to mind first, but then there are those gold nuggets that had a mid-level of success that reflect unique, special visions.  Films like Total Recall and They Live built fan followings over time.  Right before They Live star Roddy Piper’s death, he was in discussions to attend a local event, but it wasn’t meant to be.  But 31 years after the film’s release, who wouldn’t be excited for Super7 to get their mitts on the They Live license for some retro Kenner-style action figures?

We first previewed the cards for the figures coming out of this year’s New York Toy Fair.  The slated figures were for Roddy’s lead badass and a male and female alien (the movie and Super7 call them ghouls, but we all know they were aliens).  The figure of Roddy was destined to be one of the coolest figures ever, based on the great prototype displayed at Toy Fair.  Unfortunately, the incredible sculpt for the Roddy Piper figure (his character was called Nada) didn’t make it to the production stage for failure to secure the image or similar rights and so the two alien figures are the totality of what is being released for the film.  (Keith David’s character Frank would have made a great figure, too).

Roddy Piper’s Nada prototype figure from Super7 would have included his sunglasses and three weapons as accessories, but no bubblegum.

In the film, aliens have arrived and coerce some humans to sell out–to allow the aliens to dig their claws into society and take over. A small group has discovered the truth, and its band of resistance fighters uses specially developed sunglasses and contact lenses to identify the aliens among us. The show’s heroes acquire the glasses and learn that it’s not only the people hiding secrets, but an entire world of subliminal messaging has lulled the bulk of society into complacency.

This week Super7 previewed a variant for the male “ghoul” (which may be available for a single or both of the “ghoul” figures, but we’ve only seen the male so far).  And its packaging may be Super7’s best retro “ReAction” packaging yet.  So what’s so great about the variant figure?

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Reviewed by Art Schmidt (with commentary from a few Ricks)

Today Wizards of the Coast is releasing two new supplements for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, one a hardcover sourcebook based on the Fourth Edition Eberron campaign setting, and the other a new boxed set themed after the popular Adult Swim cartoon Rick and MortyThe Eberron hardcover Rising from the Last War (available today here at Amazon) is sure to appeal to those folks who enjoyed playing in the dark, techno-magical, pulp fiction world of Khorvaire, but the Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons set (available here) may appeal to a broader audience, including fans of the show who may never have rolled a twenty-sided die before.

Similar to previous boxed sets, the Rick and Morty set is named for the popular comic Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons written by Patrick Rothfuss (author of the Kingkiller Chronicles and The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle) and Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, The Young Adventurers Guide series and the upcoming run of Conan the Barbarian) and illustrated by Troy Little (Chiaroscuro, The Powerpuff Girls).  The boxed set contains a 64-page rulebook with the basic rules to get a group of players exploring, a set of five pre-generated characters for the players to use (or they can of course make up their own), a dungeon master’s screen to help the game master run things in relative secrecy, a set of eleven sickly-yellow polyhedral dice, and a 32-page adventure (written by the legendary D&D adventure writer Rick Sanchez of Earth C-141, himself), designed to take a group of up to five characters from first to third level.

Seriously, you game nerds should have seen this coming.  D&D, once little more than Satan’s Gateway to the Occult, is friggin’ everywhere these days.  A crap-ton of folks even sit around watching people live-stream their play sessions, which is, apparently, more fun than actually playing the game.  Think about that, Wizards of the Coast: ever heard of the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’?  Read a book!  The more popular the game becomes, the less copies you’ll sell!  You’re digging your own graves! – Rick C-137

Like the comic series, the game Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons is filled with self-aware and fourth-wall breaking commentary and dialogue, giving the characters an unsettling but hilarious point of view of being viewed while also knowing full well the world of the viewer.  The result is a gaming experience sure to please fans of the series and the roleplaying game equally, while introducing those who may be unaware of the other to new and enjoyable experiences.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Wizards of the Coast and Abrams ComicArts have come together to give Magic the Gathering trading card game players something they haven’t seen before, a high-end art book visual history of the game.  It all begins with Magic the Gathering: Rise of the Gatewatch–A Visual History, the latest of Abrams’ books highlighting the artwork of the best-known trading card series.  More than 25 years ago Magic the Gathering became the first ever trading card game, and this volume looks back to the Planeswalkers.

The first superhero-esque team of Gatewatchers is all here like you’ve never seen them before: Jace Beleren–the telepath with a mysterious past, Ajani Goldmane–the ferocious leonine, Gideon Jura–the reformed criminal who became a protector of the meek, Kaya–the rogue dualist, Chandra Nalaar–the pyromancer, Nissa Revane–the elf warrior and protector of nature, Liliana Vess–the necromancer, Nicol Bolas–the oldest Planeswalker, and Teferi–the formidable mage.   The book includes character histories and images of the actual cards, but more than that you’ll find concept art, original artwork created for the game, packaging art, and images only available in exclusive releases in the past.  If you loved specific cards and always wanted to see larger looks at the card art, this is your chance.

Each character is represented in dozens of images in roughly 30-page feature sections for the six primary Gatewatch characters, beginning with over-sized images of the character cards, plus a large section of combined Gatewatch imagery.  The highlight for fans of the game will be seeing cards they’ve never had in their hands before, but it will also be seeing the full artwork before it was cropped for the card.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How do you get your kicks?  Maybe you buy them online, maybe at a mall shoe store, or a classic locally owned standalone shop.  Wherever you buy your sneakers, tennis shoes, running shoes, however you define them and whatever you call them, they are as personal a purchase as anything you need, jeans, T-shirts, socks, etc.  According to author and frequent writer on the shoe industry Elizabeth Semmelhack, a small but growing crowd of shoe buyers are looking for shoes that express their personality, in what has become an industry taking in billions of consumer dollars in a merger of haute and popular culture.  This week fans of exclusive shoe wearing–and collecting–have a new guide to this burgeoning trend, Collab: Sneakers X Culture, from Rizzoli/Electa books.

This is the latest of the high-end art books from Rizzoli that focus on style and culture in areas you might not have thought about.  This full-color hardcover with a textured leather shoe feel–and a book mark that is really a yellow shoe string–has photographs representing the spectrum of designer sneaker collaborations with a key focus on the 21st century.  Shoe companies have partnered with all sorts of “personalities of the week” to advertise, market and even influence the evolution of sneakers going back to the very first examples of the modern athletic shoe.  You can search your favorite shoe manufacturer right now on Amazon with the word “Collab” and find the latest combination of celebrity–usually the latest pop music icon or athlete, but sometimes including social media influencers, too–and shoe manufacturer that partnered with them because together they believed they had the right fit.

Concept artwork for the Pyer Moss x Reebok, DMX Daytona Experiment 2.

It begins with a smart foreword that sets up the background for anyone not familiar with this mash-up of two worlds by rapper Jacques Slade.  Author Elizabeth Semmelbeck takes readers back to the beginning, with shoe innovations conceived by Adi and Rudi Dassler, Josef Waitzer, Jack Purcell, Robert Haillet, Stan Smith, and Chuck Taylor.  She documents Walt Disney, Run-DMC, Chanel, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, Rihanna, and dozens of other shoe and artists “collabs” in the book’s 256 pages.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Traveling Wilburys had a Volume 1 and 3–two fantastic, memorable albums each with chart topping hits, and it was said Tom Petty’s successful and acclaimed Full Moon Fever fit between as a sort of unofficial Volume 2.  Jeff Lynne′s ELO′s eagerly-awaited next album is out, From Out of Nowhere, and it could be the unofficial Traveling Wilburys Volume 4–all the beats, all the instrumentation, tempo, and lyrics are there.  But this time it’s Jeff Lynne carrying the album, since we’re long past a time when Tom Petty, George Harrison, or Roy Orbison are around to contribute anything but in spirit.  The evocative sound makes sense, since Lynne worked with Harrison and Petty on other albums in addition to Lynne’s status in the rock god supergroup as Otis-Clayton Wilbury.  Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr. would be proud–you couldn’t ask for more from Lynne and ELO, the combination of songs on the new release is a mix of styles across the catalog of ELO songs and absorbs several of the band’s biggest influences and partnerships over the band’s 40-plus years.

All of the songs were written by Lynne, including the great romping roadhouse blast One More Time, which fits the Wilburys sound in songs like She’s My Baby (with a little cow bell and a little… Phantom of the Opera (!?) as a bonus).  The biggest hit here might be Time of Our Life, another chugging, Wilbury soundalike that would have fit perfectly with the back of the railcar videos from that band’s Volume 1 album.  The title song From Out of Nowhere begins the batch of Wilbury-esque songs–it’s like Tom Petty and George Harrison are singing back-up (they aren’t, of course, but this sounds like it could have been written for Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Into the Great Wide Open album, another project produced by Lynne).

It’s not just the Wilbury sound that comes through.  You’d swear Goin’ Out on Me is a cover of an old Beatles hit–Lynne conjures the sound of Paul McCartney’s trademark voice in this slow, bad-love ballad (Lynne worked on McCartney’s Grammy-nominated album Flaming Pie).  Or Help Yourself, a song made for George Harrison’s voice if there ever was one, which would have played nicely on Harrison’s Cloud Nine album (another album produced by Lynne).

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