Friday, April 5, 2013

A Sweet "Spica" Chair Modeled After Disney's Monorail

When Epbot reader Katie J.'s little niece Hannah recently had double hip surgery, she needed something called a Spica Chair - a specially designed seat for young children in plaster casts. Since the whole family loves Disney, Hannah's dad got together with a friend to build little Hannah something positively magical:


Yep, they based the chair on Disney's monorails! More specifically, on a Disney pop-up book that Hannah's mom has had since she was little:

They made it as a surprise for both Hannah and her mom, who I can only imagine was just as thrilled.

Hannah's dad built the chair/desk combo, and his friend Keith handled all the painting. In fact, you can head over to Keith's blog for more photos, including in-process pics!

I just love seeing how fans incorporate their passions into even the most necessary and potentially un-fun things in life. Mega kudos to Hannah's dad and Keith for the gorgeous work, and for making this big beautiful smile possible:


(And hey, a chalkboard desktop? So smart!)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Weekly Favs 4/4/13

(I'm kind of bored with my usual "Jen's Gems" title, so I thought I'd switch it up with something a little more descriptive this week. I'm open to suggestions, though, if you have any!)

First up, Thomas Zahler (author of Love and Capes) tweeted this ADORABLE mini Joker from WonderCon last weekend:

And the pants - but in my size. And the flower. :)

John and I keep an IM window open all day while we're working (or, "working"), so he likes to send me links to his favorite finds. Here's an especially squee-worthy one from yesterday:

Photo by Karin Thorell

These are baby geese ducks leaving the nest for the first time. (D'AWWWWWW. Must...nuzzle...)
Don't you want a little plush toy of these guys? With beanbag filling so they're extra squishable?

[Note: Holy bird corrections, Batman! Apparently calling ducks "geese" is all it took to get our very first Epbot Epcot. Ha!]

John and I finished BioShock: Infinite last weekend, and let me tell you: it's every bit as amazing as you've heard. There *was* a scary section with some spooky bad guys, and John nearly jumped out of his skin one time when he turned around and there was a bad guy RIGHT THERE, but other than that, it's still way, WAY less scary/disturbing than the first two BioShocks. If you're on the fence, definitely give it a go! (I've even started a new game on my own at the "easy" level, although I don't know how far I'll get!)

If you're not interested in playing it yourself, though, then check this out: someone has edited together the entire story to make a 3.5 hour long movie! And believe me, this is a *fantastic* interactive movie, so I'd highly recommend you watch it any way you can.

Found via SuperPunch

One of my most popular finds on Pinterest this week: Comic Book/Pop Art nails!

By Reddit user ReneeJade, who has a Tumblr nail blog here.

So fun, and relatively simple, too! As someone already pointed out, this would be perfect with a Roy Lichtenstein face paint/costume.

This has been all over this week, but in case you haven't seen it yet: artist Michael Lee Lunsford decided to explore the question: What if female superheroes were fully clothed? So he drew new versions of classic superhero costumes while still striving to maintain the overall feel. Even for the ones where you might prefer a little more skin showing, this is a great conversation starter for fans and young kids alike:

Fully clothed Elektra & Supergirl

See the rest over on GeekNative! (Found via my friend Alex on FB.)

Related, but also covered just about everywhere already: The Hawkeye Initiative is both hilarious and a valid commentary on the "hyper-sexualization" of women in comic books. Take a look, if you haven't already!

And finally, since it's been days since I tempted you with goodies to drain your bank account on, BEHOLD:

The pendant from The Neverending Story! Only $15.99 from Geekify Inc.

That's the same Etsy seller who makes those stellar iPad and Kindle covers that look like the book from the movie, but I like that you can snag just the pendant, too. It'd be perfect as-is for a necklace, or for custom projects!

John and I have a crazy ten days or so coming up, as we're headed off to a renaissance faire this weekend and my parents are arriving for their big Disney vacation on Monday. It'll be nice to break out of my reclusive hermit routine, but I'm hoping my anxiety plays nice! How about you guys? Any fun plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do We Need a New Word for "Geek"?

Last week Felicia Day - who I love -  posted a quick video talking about the next season of her Youtube channel, Geek & Sundry. In it, however, she posed some interesting questions and observations on the label "geek." Here, take a look:

(Video link here for those who need it.)

I've seen some push back on this, of course, with people accusing Felicia of adding qualifiers to "geek" and therefore risking more of the fake geek girl controversy that has been beaten to death this past year.  Overall, though, I think the response to her stance has been pretty positive.

Personally, I see both sides of it: by defining "geek" - or any label, really - you automatically add exclusions, which risks a "geek police" mentality. But on the other hand, if "geek" means anyone who owns an Xbox or watches Game of Thrones, then you risk diluting the term to the extent that our sense of community is lost.

Why does that matter? Because the geek identity is something that draws us together, and (ideally) lets us know we're among friends. You may be into Anime and I may be into Steampunk, but we share this common thread of experience: of loving something even when it's unpopular, of being ridiculed or excluded for it, and of not letting other people's judgement dim our passions, but rather fuel them. THAT, to me, is what being a geek is all about.

You can already see that definition changing, though, as things like Avengers and Star Trek and, yes, even mash-up t-shirts go more and more mainstream. That's not a complaint, by the way - I LOVE seeing more people get excited about everything from comics to steampunk, and if I'm being marketed to more now by savvy businesses, then that's a win for everyone. I'm more than happy to support sites and stores like ThinkGeek and etsy sellers that cater to my interests, so hey, bring on the geek gear!

Still, the question remains: how do we remain an open, inclusive community while still retaining a strong sense of identity? Or should that even be a concern?

Do we rename "geek", or reclaim it? Do we start using words like "nerd" or "fangirl" instead, or maybe just qualify what kind of geeks we are, ala a Dizgeek, comic book geek, etc.? And keep in mind I'm not talking about labeling ourselves for the sake of labels; I'm talking about a means for finding each other - online or off - so that we can share our passions and grow together as a big, geeky family.

It's easier for me, I know, since I put all my interests right out here in the open on Epbot. When I get to meet you readers IRL, you already *know* who I am and what I'm into. Like I tell everyone: if you think we'd be friends in real life, then odds are you're right. Letting all my awkwardness and crazy passions hang out online makes it SO much easier to find kindred spirits and new friends - but what about everyone who *doesn't* write a geek-centric blog? Even I have a hard time connecting with geeks offline, so frankly, I don't know how the rest of you do it!

I can't claim to have all the answers, but I do know I'm never going to stop sharing the things I love here on Epbot, with the hope that inspires the rest of you to get unashamedly excited about the things *you* love. We're geeks, and I like to think we know who we are and what that means. Whether we find a new label or reinvent this one, I believe as long as we remember the ultimate goal: of sharing our passions and banding together to encourage others to do the same - we're going to be just fine.

So what do you think, guys: Rename, or reclaim? Also, how do you connect with your fellow geeks, both online and off? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Reviews: Across The Universe & Off To Be The Wizard

I've got two great books to share with you guys today, so let's get right to it!

Oh, but first I have to say: I absolutely love that there are so many authors reading this blog. I have a standard policy of accepting pretty much any book offered to me, but I make it clear that I won't necessarily read and/or review it, just to keep the pressure and expectations off. Even so, I get a little thrill every time someone tells me, "I love Epbot, and I wrote a book! Want one?"

So anyway, that was the case with Beth and her book, Across the Universe:

This book grabbed me by the gut by the third sentence, and it refused to let go. When John asked me how I liked it after the first few pages, the best word I could find was "gripping."

It's not that there's immediate action or nonstop suspense; the story just sucks you in with this unbelievably vivid description of undergoing cryogenic freezing, and the first person narrative makes you practically FEEL the sterile room, the needles, and the painful cold.

The story is equally fantastic, and everything you could want from great science fiction. A ship is sent out to colonize a distant planet, with a society onboard that hasn't seen Earth in more generations than anyone can remember. Then people start dying. The heroine, Amy, teams up with a boy named Elder to find out what dark secrets the ship's leadership is hiding. (Dun dun DUNNNNN.)

I loved just about everything with this book, from the characters to the mystery to the chilling commentary on power, control, and human nature. The ending was a perfect mix of resolution with some lingering mysteries left for the two sequels, which I look forward to reading.

I will say this is definitely a more adult Young Adult book due to sexual content - although not in a romantic sense - so I'd advise parents read it first before handing it over to their teens. Specifically, there's an attempted gang rape that gets a little graphic, and which spoiled what would have otherwise been the perfect sci-fi mystery/adventure for me. But then, you guys already know I'm pretty sensitive to that kind of thing, so unless you have similar or stronger qualms, don't let that keep you from reading Across the Universe.

(By the by, I was surprised at how much controversy/conflict my last review stirred up on that count, when I mentioned not being about to stomach certain things in my entertainment. I really didn't intend for it to be that big of a deal, which is why it's kind of funny how many book recommendations since then have included an enthusiastic, "... and there's no rape!" Ha! Anyway, here's hoping you guys know I *do* judge a book by more than just that - and also to take my own "sensitivities" into account whenever you're reading my reviews.)

Ok, next up is a book I'm super DUPER excited to tell you guys about, for three very important reasons:

1) My friend Scott wrote it.

2) I had the honor of being the final proofreader/copy editor for it. Yep, you can pin any misspellings or grammar errors ON ME. [gulp!]

3) It's freaking awesome.

 Off to Be the Wizard, by Scott Meyer

Here's the official blurb:

"It's a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble.

"Oh, and boy meets girl at some point."

This is a light, fun read reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and/or some of Terry Pratchett's work. It's not nonstop zaniness, though; the story stays grounded just enough to make the funny bits really sneak up on you. Those unexpected, laugh-out-loud moments were my favorite, simply because it's so rare for me to laugh out loud while reading. (That's one of the perils of writing humor for a living; you get pretty jaded to other people's attempts at humor.) Happily Scott was able to catch me off guard several times, though, and his use of the occasional geeky homage is the metaphorical cherry on top. (Btw, Scott didn't implicitly say that he included the one Ghostbusters reference just for me, but I'm going to go ahead and believe that's the case anyway. Cool? Cool.)

While Scott doesn't bill it as a YA title, Off To Be The Wizard is perfect for pre-teens on up. Anyone who's a little bit geeky and/or old enough to remember Commodore 64s will probably appreciate the tech and pop-culture humor the most, though.

You may already know Scott from his web comic, Basic Instructions, which also blends smart humor with the occasional dollop of geekery. If so, then I can tell you firsthand that Scott and Missy are pretty much exactly how he depicts them in the comic - and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. ;)

Off to Be the Wizard is $3.99 for the Kindle version, or you can grab the paperback for $9.99 here. Best of all, you can also read the first 35 pages here, for free!

As always, I welcome your book suggestions in the comments! And if you're looking for more of my reviews and recommendations, be sure to check my book review page, where I've listed them all by author and title.