Category: Con Culture


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Random chance can set all kinds of activities into motion.  Remember Abed’s discussion of the dice role and its impact in Community?  Do you recall the potential impending doom as a kid shaking the Magic 8 Ball, one of the toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame?  Sure, you could settle with a coin toss or dice roll, but why?  How about mixing up your next Dungeons & Dragons event with something different?  Today we’re building a study model of a device that generates random numbers and provides different random results based on probability theory, including a 360 degree rotating octahedron that acts like an orrery, triggered by a button, with a rack-and-gear drive, overrunning clutch, and a driven wheel.  It’s the UGEARS Random Generator, the third model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here) and the Gearbox (reviewed here).  The Random Generator is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit is full of surprises, and as it comes together you’ll see how science puts the “magic” in the Magic 8 Ball.

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Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

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One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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Ten years of movie reviews.  How do you pick the best?  Our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great movie?  #1 for us is great writing—great storytelling.  #2 is re-watchability.  Lots of movies are good, but if every time you watch it you enjoy it all over again and maybe find something you didn’t see before, then you likely got far more value from the movie than the price of a movie ticket.  #3 is innovation—there’s nothing to top off a good story like new technology surprising us.  Finally, the experience must be fun—why else would you devote two hours or more of your valuable time?

So in Casey Kasem style, here are the Top 40 movies we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these movies.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new movies to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre movies, so don’t expect to see strict dramas or a lot of Best Picture Oscar winners here.  Title links are to our original borg review.

Let’s get started!

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The latest from Dungeons & Dragons following Candlekeep Mysteries and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft are now available for pre-order.  The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is D&D’s next big adventure storyline that “brings the wicked whimsy of the Feywild” to the 5th Edition for the first time.  Wizards of the Coast invites you to tune into D&D Live 2021 presented by G4 on July 16 and 17 for details including new characters, monsters, mechanics, and story hooks suitable for players of all ages and experience levels.  Later in the year, look for the next Magic: The Gathering crossover with D&D in Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos.  You can pre-order The Wild Beyond the Witchlight with the standard cover here from Wizards of the Coast at Amazon now (or order the alternate soft-touch edition from your local game shop) and pre-order Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos here.

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UGEARS Gearbox final

Today we’re building a study model of German engineer Karl Benz’s gearbox, the same mechanism you’d find in the transmission of any modern automobile, complete with drive shaft, layshaft with gear couplings, reverse idler, and a gear shift.  It’s the UGEARS Gearbox, the second model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (check out our first UGEARS review here).  The Gearbox is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  Anyone who has ever driven a car should know the fundamentals of how a gearbox works, and this model is an excellent start.

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Escape from New York book Walsh

Forty years after the release of the sci-fi classic Escape from New York, fans will at last get a look at the making of the movie.  In celebration of the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s one-of-a-kind story of Kurt Russell’s future criminal Snake Plissken and his attempt to rescue the President from a downed plane over a locked-down New York City, Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film pulls from the studio archives a trove of behind the scenes photographs to showcase the creation of the movie.  You can pre-order the book now here at Amazon, and check out a preview of the book below.

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You may have recently seen advertisements for UGEARS, maker of some incredible moving models made entirely from precision laser-cut plywood parts.  We laid our hands on several STEM Lab kits and are going to feature our builds of each model over the next few weeks.  These are projects that can be made generally in less than a day, and provide multiple avenues of entertainment and education.  Each model improves the maker’s ability to assemble a model, fun in itself, but like LEGO expert builder series models and Erector sets of the past, these models are engineering marvels that replicate machines for mathematics, physics, and engineering study.  More advances models in the catalog include working trains, cars, and a dragon with moving wings, which we’ll work up to.

First, let’s take a look at the Multiplier and Addiator builds, both included in the UGEARS 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (available here at Amazon and also via model shops and online game and craft stores) tools students from grade school through college engineering can use and display, featured as one of the starter builds in the UGEARS catalog.

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