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With the recent release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray, and Hallowe’en on our doorstep, a sci-fi geek’s thoughts naturally turn to dressing up as a Jedi (or Sith, if one’s inclination is to the dark side of the Force).

Authentic Adult Jedi Robe

BuyStarWarsCostumes.com offers you the Authentic Adult Jedi Robe (a Child Robe is also available), officially licensed from Lucasfilm. This is the Jedi robe you’re looking for! Made in the USA, the Authentic Adult Jedi Robe is a high-end piece that’s durable, well-stitched, and constructed of a thick polyester fabric, made thicker by the entire outfit being fitted with a backing of the same material. As a result of the extra fabric weight, the robe drapes in a very attractive fashion, unlike cheaper, less solid robes that have the consistency of heavy netting, and are practically see-through. The Authentic Adult Jedi Robe is so warm and snuggly, it’s tempting to throw it on around the house in place of a bathrobe or Slanket. You certainly won’t feel the chill while out trick-or-treating, even in Hoth-like conditions, though indoors, in close, stuffy environments like convention halls and house parties, the robe’s thermal efficiency might necessitate stripping down to your Jedi tunic. Since it’s one-size-fits-all — the packaging says that it’s a men’s standard cut that fits up to a 44 jacket size — the hood and sleeves are very roomy, and the robe’s length (67″) is cut to accomodate Jedi of all sizes. Shorter Jedi will definitely need to take the hem up, unless they want a train of fabric trailing behind them. Fortunately, shortening a cloak is fairly simple with basic sewing skills, and, in a pinch, double-sided tape can be used instead of a sewing needle to make alterations. The care label on the Authentic Adult Jedi Robe suggests hand washing and hang-drying the garment, but it can be put through the washing machine on the gentle cycle and tumble dried on a low setting. In fact, it’s actually advisable to run the robe through the wash a couple of times before wearing it in order to remove the layer of fuzz still clinging from the manufacturing process.

Those who are sticklers for 100% complete screen accuracy, and have the funds to support their obsession, may wish to upgrade to the Collectors Jedi Robe, which is made of wool instead of polyester and therefore has the coarser texture that the robes in the films have, or, for the ultimate in movie replicas, there’s the Authentic Luke Skywalker Costume, Authentic Obi Wan Kenobi Costume, and Authentic Anakin Skywalker Costume. Conversely, if both the Authentic Adult Jedi Robe and collector’s robes fall outside your range of affordability, BuyStarWarsCostumes.com does carry a selection of less expensive, standard Hallowe’en costume fare:

In addition, BuyStarWarsCostumes.com sells many Star Wars costume accessories, such as the Princess Leia Bun Headpiece.

Princess Leia Bun Headpiece

The Princess Leia Bun Headpiece, made out of synthetic brown hair, quickly and easily adds a realistic touch to your Princess Leia costume. Just part your hair down the middle, pin it back, and pop the hairband on to complete the hair-do. From a distance, the hair looks quite real, and, if you’re a brunette, blends quite well into your own hair. The hair buns are sewn onto a brown, felt-like fabric, which also covers the plastic headband, and strands of the fake hair are attached bun-to-bun across the top of the hairband, as well. The large buns fit comfortably over the ears, doubling as toasty warm earmuffs on a cold Hallowe’en night. Since the buns are a solid mass of hair, they’re rather heavy compared to plush headpieces, so you might want to consider hairpinning them in place if you plan on energetic activities, like dancing, as sudden, sharp movements tend to dislodge the headpiece. Due to this, and the headband being adult-sized, the Princess Leia Bun Headpiece is not intended for use in play by children under 14 years of age.

Hallowe’en sales have already begun at BuyStarWarsCostumes.com, so save on your next cosplay outfit, pick up a deal on Christmas presents for the Star Wars fans on your list, or just get a head start on next year’s Hallowe’en costume. Of particular note are sales on Authentic Star Wars Costumes: the Supreme Edition Boba Fett is now $300 off, the Luke Skywalker Collectors Ceremonial Jacket with Medal is discounted by more than $100, and the popular Slave Leia bikini (better than lingerie on Valentine’s Day!) is on sale, too. An inside tip from BuyStarWarsCostumes.com says that these prices are only going to last through the first week of November, so be sure to take advantage of these amazing deals while you still can!

Order now at Amazon.com:
Authentic Adult Jedi Robe
Princess Leia Bun Headpiece

Or order directly through the BuyStarWarsCostumes.com website.

The Authentic Adult Jedi Robe, Princess Leia Bun Headpiece, and other costume items are distributed by BuyStarWarsCostumes.com, sister site of HalloweenCostumes.com, in partnership with Rubie’s Costume Co. (Amazon Shop), under license from Lucasfilm. For more information on Star Wars, please visit the official Star Wars website.

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I Am Maru

I Am Maru by mugumogu
Hardcover (96 pages)
Recommended Reading Level: All Ages.

Meet Maru! This round, adorable Scottish Fold cat may be an internet sensation, but he knows how to keep his celebrity status from going to his fluffy head… mostly. Maru and his owner, mugumogu, give readers a peek into the low-key life of the world’s most famous cat. See all his favorite hiding places — trash cans, cupboards, cereal boxes… if it’s cozy, he’s there — meet his treasured toys, and learn what it means to wield just the right amount of cat-titude.

Anyone who spends time online and loves cat memes is doubtless already familiar with Maru, the cat with a passion for boxes of all sizes and shapes, through his popular YouTube Channel. If, however, you somehow have missed Maru’s cardboard escapades, then the trailer for his first book, I Am Maru, gives you an overview of what Maru’s so celebrated for:

I Am Maru was first published in 2009 (as Maru Desu) by Maru’s owner, who remains anonymous behind the username “mugumogu”, in her and Maru’s native Japan. Now English-speaking fans have access to the book in this new, translated version that gives readers the full experience of the original by retaining the Japanese text descriptions beneath the English translations. For those learning the Japanese language, I Am Maru makes a great primer, especially with such a fun topic as motivation!

The dust cover of the book reverses to reveal a glossy, full-colour poster of Maru, featuring one large picture in the center and two smaller images lining the top and bottom. The poster’s long, skinny format is ideal for hanging on the inside of a locker or on the panel of a closet door. Since the dust cover is intended to be removed, the cover of the book itself has been printed with the title and sepia-toned images of Maru so that it will still look attractive when displayed on your bookshelf. Inside the book, mugumogu’s full-colour photographs are printed on thick, semi-gloss white paper, of the kind found in quality art books, with English text printed in black and the Japanese text in a more muted brown ink. The photo reproduction is sharp and clean, without any of the muddy look that often characterizes books that include content from the Internet. A portion of the photos aren’t brand new, having previously been displayed as still images in Maru’s YouTube videos, but that doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the book. Just think of I Am Maru as an offline scrapbook, or family album, with bonus text available only in this format.

I Am Maru is divided up into sections, with photos grouped into categories like “As long as there is a box…” and “Funny face collections”. “Snapshots” offers a peek into Maru’s everyday life — sleeping, lounging, posing, playing, and eating, like any normal cat. Between groups of photos are selected blog entries, mostly written from Maru’s point of view, but augmented by some behind-the-scenes entries penned by mugumogu. The book opens with an in-depth biography of Maru, including a “résumé”, which is written like the character profiles typically found in manga. There’s even a complete floorplan of Maru’s current home, with notes on his favourite spots and where he typically does the things that fill his daily schedule. At the back of the book is an episode guide that highlights Maru’s most popular videos.

Not enough Maru for you in I Am Maru? Then check out mugumogu’s Maru blog (written in Japanese and English), Maru’s posts on Twitter, and, of course, mugumogu’s frequently updated YouTube Channel dedicated to Maru’s entertaining antics.

Order now at Amazon.com:
I Am Maru (Canada)
I Am Maru (US)

I Am Maru is distributed by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsCanada and HarperCollins Publishers.

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The Saboteur 66 Ultra-Wave Equaliser

Grordbort Industries, in partnership with Weta, has opened their armory again, this time to unveil the second in Dr. Grordbort’s line of genuine “imitation metal” (or “plastic”) Infallible Aether Oscillators. The successor to the magnificent Righteous Bison Indivisible Particle Smasher raygun, The Saboteur 66 Ultra-Wave Equaliser is “The Wave-Weapon of Choice for Assassins, Space Ninjas and Competitive Hair Stylists.”

You’re deep underground in the Moon Men lair. Silently you approach the power core, ready to detonate this hive of tyranny and stinky smells, when UNHOLY BISCUIT-TIN OF SATAN you’re surrounded by Moon Soldiers! Look down, what have you got in your hands? A handkerchief? Some moisturising lotion? A length of garden hose? Egads! What were you thinking?

Quickly, open this Dr. Grordbort’s package and arm yourself with its contents — The Saboteur 66, and dissolve those brigands back to the primordial soup from whence they came!

Before we crack open the box, let’s take a gander at that packaging, shall we?

Packaging:
The Saboteur 66’s wrappings are pretty much utilitarian; once you’ve removed the raygun, you probably won’t have further use for the box. It has no clear acetate window under a top opening flap like the Righteous Bison’s box, and isn’t covered inside and out with glossy, full-colour artwork, but there’s a large photo of the Saboteur 66 on the cover and the box exterior and inner tray are printed in weathered sepia tones. Three smaller photos, showing the raygun at different angles, run along the top of the box’s back, accompanied, as has become standard on Dr. Grordbort weapons, by a humorous warning: “Not suitable for adults”, amended at the bottom edge of the box by “unless you like running around in the garden playing space soldiers of course” (and who doesn’t enjoy defending the backyard from invading alien hordes?). Essentially, the Saboteur 66’s box is much like a doughnut box in design, except that it’s made of heavier cardboard and has a lift-out tray liner. Instead of being held closed by magnetic or velcro tabs, the lid has tabs on the front that tuck into side slots, and, in place of a moulded plastic tray, the raygun is attached directly to the back of the cardboard liner with protective foam-covered wires. Okay, so it’s fancier than the average doughnut box, but it still performs the same function — protecting its sweet contents — and does it well. Anyway, you’re buying a raygun, not a decorative box. Weta clearly intends for you to get hands-on with the Saboteur 66, so break it out and start playing!

Sculpting:
Compared to the Righteous Bison (2.6 pounds), the Saboteur 66 (1.1 pounds) is notably smaller. A stamp on the box reads “Now with 35% less Atoms!”, and this fact is reflected in the raygun’s price, which is somewhat lower than the Righteous Bison’s. The size reduction doesn’t mean a reduction in quality, though. Like the Righteous Bison, the Saboteur 66 is just as detailed; if anything, it has a bit more detail on its compact frame. Where the Righteous Bison’s two cast sides are mirror images, the Saboteur 66 has some asymetry that lends to its realism, since steampunk weapons tend to have a cobbled together and added-on appearance to them. In addition to the two valves on either side of the raygun’s body labelled “POW” and “Wheel of Fun”, with tiny raised needles, there’s an extra valve affixed to the top-left bulb marked “Science!” (yes, the exclamation point is included, to let you know that this is serious science here). The bulb that’s below the muzzle, in front of the trigger, appears to be a separate component from the body moulding, as well. Seams are unavoidable with plastic casts, but the Saboteur 66’s seam is so excellently minimized, even better than on the Righteous Bison’s, that it’s only really noticable along the top fin and on the trigger guard. The Saboteur 66 doesn’t have the built-in scratches and dents that the battle-worn Righteous Bison does, but this seems in keeping with its newer, more modern aesthetic, which is most apparent in a grip that looks like it was lifted straight off a military-use handgun. It would have been a nice touch if there was a red LED within the drilled-out muzzle, which lit up when the trigger was squeezed, but that feature would likely make this piece significantly more expensive, and the point of the plastic line is to be a less pricey alternative to the metal collector rayguns. While the Righteous Bison was rooted firmly in the realm of classic sci-fi, the Saboteur 66 is clearly a few steps along the munitions evolutionary chart. It’s interesting to see the progression, but hopefully this sci-fi/real-world hybrid is as far as Weta takes the experiment. A raygun sculpt that borrowed any more heavily from modern reality would appear out of place in the Grordbort world.

Paint:
Once again, the paint quality in the plastic raygun line simulates metal to an amazing degree. From a distance, it truly does look like the genuine article. Where the Saboteur 66 differs from the Righteous Bison, paint-wise, is in the finishing touches. The paint job is, as expected from Weta and their exacting standards, spotlessly clean, but apart from the faces of the red and white pressure gauges, the Saboteur 66 has very little antiquing, especially on the grip, so it doesn’t look very old or worn. Steampunk purists who can’t abide the clean, unused look, and have some hobby painting skill, can easily add their own aging and weathering effects, though, to complete their cosplaying prop.

Articulation:
The Saboteur 66’s one moving part is its trigger, the same as the Righteous Bison.

Accessories:
Being a play piece, the Saboteur 66 comes with no attachments or accessories, and doesn’t include a stand or case like the metal rayguns. If you really want to display it in style, though, Weta offers a Universal Gun Stand for separate purchase. The small, square hole at the bottom of the Saboteur 66’s handle fits a matching rod on the metal stand, and the stand’s circular base is stamped with the Grordbort Industries logo. Another Weta item that complements the Saboteur 66 is the Dr. Grordbort’s Satchel. This roomy, hand-made canvas bag with multiple pockets matches the military look of the raygun, and the Saboteur 66’s concealable size means that it will fit neatly in the satchel’s large main compartment.

Dr. Grordbort's Satchel

An open-ended edition priced at $89.99 US, the Saboteur 66 is a steal, especially considering that the full-size metal rayguns run several hundred dollars each.

So far, the plastic rayguns have been completely new, original designs. Continuing the practice of offering affordable versions of its wares, Weta should consider releasing plastic copies of some of its collector models, such as the Pearce 75 Atom Ray Gun, the most classic piece in the entire Dr. Grordbort range. It’s easy to imagine shouting “Zap!” when firing the Pearce 75, as opposed to the Saboteur 66, which has more of a “pew pew pew!” vibe to it — though, as befits the futuristic weapon of an assassin or space ninja, perhaps it has a silencer. After all, in space, no one can hear your target scream.

Order directly through the Weta website.

The Saboteur 66 and the Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators collection are distributed by Weta. For more information, please visit the official Dr. Grordbort’s website.

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Monster High — “Freaky Just Got Fabulous!”

Universal Monsters are very popular amongst sci-fi afficionados, and there have always been Universal Monsters-based toys that have allowed them to share that interest with their sons, but, until recently, their daughters have been largely left out. The launch of Mattel’s Monster High franchise gives the classic screen icons a “freakishly fabulous” make-over that finally welcomes girls into the monster club. Monster High’s characters are the trendy teenage offspring of monster legends, and attend a school full of students whose supernatural heritage has resulted in such unusual physical traits as green skin, fur, fangs, and pointed ears.

Monster High Plush Dolls

The highlight of the Monster High toy line is a collection of plush dolls, its first and second waves including a selection of the most popular Monster High students:

The dolls come in “Friends” box sets with their signature pets: Frankie Stein & Watzit (franken-dog), Draculaura & Count Fabulous (bat), Clawdeen Wolf & Crescent (kitten), Cleo De Nile & Hissette (Egyptian cobra), Deuce Gorgon & Perseus (two-tailed rat), and Lagoona Blue & Neptuna (piranha). Cute profiles on the boxes’ back panels give background info on each of the pets, written from the pets’ point of view.

If you’ve read Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s creepy children’s novel, then the Monster High plush dolls, with their big button eyes, will immediately remind you of the book. Their sewn-on eyes are friendly looking, though, unlike the Other Mother’s sinister black buttons. Also, instead of being made of hard and shiny plastic, they’re sculptured on with soft, embroidered thread, as are the entire faces of all the dolls and pets. The embroidery adds to the folksy charm of these ragdoll-style toys, and the stitched-together look seems appropriate to monsters, especially since one of them is a Frankenstein’s Monster. While traditional ragdolls are usually fairly basic in design, the Monster High dolls are lavished with detail. They have full heads of thick, multicoloured yarn, the strands tacked into place for some of the more elaborate hairdos. Their outfits, which look like miniaturized sets of real clothes, are made of a variety of materals, trimmed with fur and other accents. Clawdeen Wolf even has tiny loops of ribbon sewn into the edges of her ears to recreate her gold hoop earrings. These dolls are almost as enjoyable to touch as they are to look at, and the only real complaint to be made is that Deuce Gorgon’s snake-hair is reduced to a tuft of green yarn instead of recognizable snakes. (Granted, plush micro-snakes are probably difficult to produce.) At ten inches high, the dolls are big enough to be huggable, yet still small enough to be easily toted around. The pets are a fair size, but if you’re giving the toys to younger children, you may want to tether the pets to their friends with a yarn leash so that they don’t go astray.

Monster High Fashion Dolls

In addition to the plush dolls, Monster High features a line of fashion dolls that are similar in appearance to Bratz dolls, their articulated limbs removable to allow for quick and easy fashion changes. Each doll comes with a plastic pet figurine, spooky fashion accessory, skull hairbrush, doll stand for posing and display, and a diary written by the character. Wave 1 consists of the same six monsters that appear in plush form, with couple Cleo De Nile and Deuce Gorgon paired together in a gift set. Wave 2 adds two new characters: Ghoulia Yelps (daughter of Zombies) & Sir Hoots A Lot (owl), and Holt Hyde (son of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde/alter ego of Jackson Jekyll) & Crossfade (chameleon). As in all fashion doll lines, there are themed variants, such as “Dawn of the Dance” (Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf, Cleo De Nile) and “Gloom Beach” (Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf, Draculaura, Cleo De Nile, Jackson Jekyll); separate fashion packs, such as the “School Spirit Uniforms” (Clawdeen Wolf — soccer, Deuce Gorgon — casketball, Frankie Stein — fearleading, Lagoona Blue — surfing); and playsets, like Frankie Stein’s Mirror Bed and Draculaura’s Jewelry Box Coffin. Every bit as detailed and elaborately dressed as their plush versions, the Monster High fashion dolls will appeal to both adult collectors and mini-geeks.

In the age of the Internet, Monster High isn’t just about the toys, of course. An immersive, sign-up website at monsterhigh.com allows junior monsters to register at Monster High, meet and interact with its famous students, explore the campus, participate in school activities, play several games, and download music, wallpapers, buddy icons, and a ringtone. Special codes, obtained from toy packaging or hidden locations on the website, unlock even more content. Best of all, the website hosts an animated Monster High web series. The webisodes are brief but very entertaining, and can be viewed on the Monster High YouTube Channel, as well. Of higher quality than a lot of cartoons on TV, this is a show that parents can actually enjoy watching with their little ghouls. (Episode 1 is “Jaundice Brothers”.) The Monster High Fright Song music video is also posted on YouTube, its upbeat lyrics encouraging everyone to embrace their “freaky chic ‘n’ fly” differences.

Perhaps of greatest importance to geek parents is that Monster High promotes reading, with a tie-in series of novels that’s fun and prepares geeks-in-training for when they’re old enough to read Dracula and Frankenstein. The debut book, simply titled Monster High, deviates somewhat from the web series, but since it’s a prequel of sorts, chronicling Frankie Stein’s creation and arrival at school, it may eventually synch up with the web series in future volumes. The book’s reading level is aimed more at teens than the tweens that the toys are primarily targeted at, so it’s recommended that you preview it before giving it to young readers, to make sure that it’s appropriate for them. Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door continues right where the original story paused at a frightful cliffhanger, and is set to be published on April 5.

Order now at Amazon.com:
Monster High Plush Dolls
Monster High Fashion Dolls
Monster High Frankie Stein Mirror Bed
Monster High Draculaura Jewelry Box Coffin
Monster High (Book)

Pre-order at Amazon.com:
Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door (Book)

Monster High is distributed by Mattel. For more Monster High information, please visit the official Monster High website and the Monster High Wiki.

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The Art of How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, but if you’ve already worn your disc out and need a new Dragon fix, then pick up a copy of the film’s companion book, The Art of How to Train Your Dragon by Tracey Miller-Zarneke. Published at the beginning of this year to coincide with the film’s premiere, publisher Newmarket Press has posted an announcement on their website that the title is now back in stock.

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon is a gorgeous hardcover, divided up into five easily accessible sections:

  • The Dragons: The next best thing to having a Dragon Manual — the dragon field guide that Hiccup consults on-screen (and needs to be replicated in real book form) — this chapter details each of the dragons that appear in the film, from preliminary design sketches through to finished CG animation stills. Stats on the different species, some that aren’t revealed in the film, accompany the illustrations, and thumbnails of several dragons that didn’t make it to the screen are included, as well. Budding fantasy artists will find the material in this section invaluable, not only as a tutorial on how to draw credible dragon anatomy, but as a creative reminder that dragons come in more shapes and sizes than the traditional green dragon seen in storybooks. Not surprisingly, Toothless, as the main dragon and the character who underwent the most changes as he winged from book page to silver screen, dominates The Dragons, with considerable coverage also given to his nemesis, the monstrous Red Death, who received a number of progressively scarier make-overs.
  • The Vikings: Early sketches, character studies, CG models, and biographies of the film’s human characters add background and depth to the main cast: Hiccup, Astrid and the other dragon trainees, Chief Stoick the Vast, and blacksmith/dragon trainer Gobber. As an added bonus, original drawings by the author of the How to Train Your Dragon books are reprinted alongside the film drawings. A two-page spread is devoted to the design of Berk’s Viking “extras”, and Hiccup’s mother, Valhallarama, who didn’t survive the journey from book to screen, is memorialized.
  • The Dragon World: Dragon Island’s forbidding environment is showcased, with a focus on the immense Dragon Cave. A maze of shadowy dragon dens, pits, and winding passageways, the intricate Dragon Cave proved to be quite a challenge to build in 3D, leading to it being dubbed “the Swiss Cheese set”.
  • The Viking World: In an exploration of Berk’s varied landscapes, from the sea to the highest mountain peak, digital paintings take readers on a breathtaking tour of the Viking village, houses, Meade Hall, harbour, and training grounds. In addition, visits are made to Toothless’ secret cove and some intriguing locations that were unfortunately dropped during script revisions. A wealth of sketches and illustrations delve into Viking culture, examining the Vikings’ props, iconography, boats, weapons, statues, and the fascinating Meade Hall carvings and tapestries.
  • Bringing the Worlds Together… and Bringing It All to the Screen: The final chapter offers a run-down of the tasks assigned to individual units of the film team: story, layout, cinematography, 3D rendering, animation, character effects, general effects, lighting, and editorial. Filmmaker comments take viewers even further behind the scenes of creating a full-length animated film, and the job descriptions may help those who aspire to work in feature animation decide where their skills lie, much like Hiccup finding the place he fits best in Viking society.

The book’s preface is written by Cressida Cowell, whose children’s book of the same name (the first in a series) inspired the How to Train Your Dragon film, which The Art of How to Train Your Dragon classifies as a prequel of sorts to Cowell’s stories. In her introduction, the author engagingly relates the story of her family’s annual camping trips to a remote Scottish island, a tiny, rugged spot that sparked the idea for How to Train Your Dragon and served as a model for the Isle of Berk, the place that her imaginary tribe of Vikings inhabits. Comedian and late-night television host Craig Ferguson, the voice of Gobber, provides a humorous yet heartfelt foreword that reveals how he conquered his fear of flying, singling out a favourite scene from the movie that expresses his newfound passion for flight.

Expertly penned by Walt Disney Feature Animation alum Tracey Miller-Zarneke, The Art of How to Train Your Dragon benefits from the knowledge of an animation insider, coming to life as Miller-Zarneke deftly pulls quotes from the production crew, sprinkling them throughout the book to enhance her narrative. Compared to other “The Art of…” books, the The Art of How to Train Your Dragon does seem to have less of a text-to-pictures ratio, but is still as enjoyable and informative a read as Miller-Zarneke’s prior film animation book, The Art of Kung Fu Panda, and Dragon’s 350-plus images really do speak for themselves. Beautifully printed in full colour on large, glossy pages, the development art, sketches, pencil and marker drawings, storyboards, digital paint renditions, and finished artwork collected in The Art of How to Train Your Dragon makes reading the book feel like a stroll through a fantasy show at an art gallery. The volume’s binding is stitched, rather than glued, so the book lies perfectly flat, which is particularly handy for artists using it as a reference work.

Fans of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, the previous film helmed by How to Train Your Dragon writer-directors Chris Sanders (whose unique visual style is evident in the look of both films) and Dean DeBlois, will obviously be drawn to this book, but, as Newmarket Press points out, The Art of How to Train Your Dragon is actually “a book for anyone who loves moviemaking, animation, art, Vikings, and, of course, dragons.”

Order now at Amazon.com:
The Art of How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon Book 1
How to Train Your Dragon (Single Disc Edition)
How to Train Your Dragon (Double DVD Pack)
How to Train Your Dragon (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
How to Train Your Dragon (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Dragon Double Pack)

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon is distributed by Newmarket Press. Follow Newmarket Press on Twitter. For more information about How to Train Your Dragon, please visit DreamWorks Animation’s official How to Train Your Dragon website.

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Geeks sure do love their online kittehs, the reigning feline of the moment being the star of Simon’s Cat, an award-winning series of short animated films that launched in 2008 and instantly became a YouTube phenomenon. Simon’s Cat made the leap to print last year with the publication of the bestselling Simon’s Cat book, and this season sees the release of its much-anticipated sequel, Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence.

The first Simon’s Cat book focused on the homelife of Simon’s Cat, giving readers a peek into his daily routine: exasperating his owner Simon with mischievous antics, hatching plans with his garden gnome friend, playing with a family of hedgehogs that live in the yard, and trying (mostly without success) to get one over on the birds who invade his territory. Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence offers up another, bigger helping of Simon’s Cat’s charming, signature style of black-and-white line drawings, but instead of being a fairly random collection of sketches, this book’s illustrations string together to form a loose story. After an encounter with the vacuum cleaner, and being subjected to the indignity of a bath, Simon’s Cat decides to hit the road in search of greener pastures. Along the way, he makes new friends and experiences things that he never imagined as a sheltered housecat, but ultimately realizes, as he eventually tires of his wild adventures, that he had it pretty good back home with the doting Simon. On his return trek — during which he reveals how cats are connected to crop circles! — he’s followed by everyone that he’s met on his journey, resulting in quite a reunion with his old friends… and an even bigger surprise for the poor, unsuspecting Simon.

Publisher Canongate Books says on their website — referring to volume one of Simon’s Cat — that “Simon Tofield’s beautiful drawings and warm humour come alive on the page in the first of a series of irresistible stocking-filler humour books”, hinting that readers can look forward to several more books to paw through between film releases. To that tease, fans of the ever-hungry Simon’s Cat can only respond with a demanding “Meow!”, while pointing expectantly to their mouths.

Order now at Amazon.com:
Simon’s Cat (Canada)
Simon’s Cat (US)
Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence (Canada)
Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence (US)

In addition to the books, a line of Simon’s Cat merchandise, such as mugs, calendars, and plush, is available at the Simon’s Cat Official Web Shop. The brand manager of the Simon’s Cat online store promises that “T-shirts will come eventually. We’re working on getting them into the web-shop.”

Simon’s Cat and Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence are distributed by Canongate Books and its international affiliates, including Penguin Group (Canada) and Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. For more information about Simon’s Cat, please visit The Official Simon’s Cat Website. Simon’s Cat may also be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX

Shout! Factory serves up Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX, another well-balanced DVD box set of the cult TV show.

You are cordially invited to step aboard the stranded Satellite of Love as its crew continues its ongoing assignment of viewing (and mocking) the most… ahem… misunderstood… films of all time! Join hosts Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson as they celebrate the very first — and only — 19th DVD box set of the hilarious cult phenomenon Mystery Science Theater 3000 with their loyal, albeit morally misguided, crew — Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot and, of course, Gypsy!

The first two episodes are from The Comedy Channel seasons, hosted by Joel Hodgson, and the remaining pair are Sci Fi Channel entries hosted by Mike Nelson. Dividing the set even more neatly, Hodgson’s episodes both have the word “Monster” in the title, while Nelson’s begin with “Devil”.

Robot Monster, Season 1:
This hunk of cheese regularly shows up on Worst Movie Ever lists. It’s also fairly short, so the episode opens with a double dose of the Commando Cody serial Radar Men from the Moon: Chapters 4 & 5, “Flight to Destruction” and “Murder Car”. Then it’s on to the classic sci-fi B-flick, Robot Monster, featuring randomly inserted stock footage of stop-motion dinosaurs and dino-lizards, a bubble machine slash alien device that inexplicably gets a lot of screen time, and the titular robot monster, Ro-Man, who’s just a guy dressed up in a gorilla suit and space helmet. Ro-Man uses the “advanced” technology of his world to wipe out the human race in the first few moments of the story, but somehow has trouble tracking down the lone surviving family over the rest of the film, even though they’re only a stone’s throw from the primitive cave that serves as Ro-Man’s base of operations. To further complicate matters, Ro-Man develops a disturbing crush on Alice, the movie’s requisite hot-chick-scientist. In other words, Robot Monster is perfect riffing material for Joel and the ‘Bots, who spend the host segments imitating the aliens and mocking the complete lack of sense that the movie makes. Of note to MSTies, this is the final episode of the show to have a green theater seat silhouette, before it changed to the more familiar black. The bonus features on this disc are a new introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein (the original “Tom Servo”), the Larry Blamire Geeks Out featurette that gives indie filmmaker Larry Blamire’s perspective on the movie, and Robot Monster’s original theatrical trailer.

Bride of the Monster, Season 4:
As a prelude to the movie, the Satellite of Love crew riffs on Hired!, Part 1, in which a car salesman is really, really bad at his new job, inspiring Joel and the ‘Bots to stage Hired!: The Musical during one of the host segments. The main feature, Bride of the Monster, is an Ed Wood title that practically riffs itself. It stars two of Wood’s regulars, Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson, as mad scientist Dr. Eric Vornoff, and his mute henchman, Lobo, who are attempting to create a race of atomic supermen. Alas, Lobo gets distracted by the pretty lady his master intends to experiment on, and Vornoff discovers that a giant, man-eating octopus — a limp rubber prop in half of its scenes — isn’t, perhaps, the safest choice of pet to guard his lab against unwanted visitors. The bonus features on this disc are the retrospective featurette Citizen Wood: Making the “Bride”, Unmaking the “Legend”, the Inventing the “Invention Exchange” conversation with Joel Hodgson, and Bride of the Monster’s original theatrical trailer.

Devil Doll, Season 8:
Devil Doll is a typical possessed-ventriloquist-doll horror tale, except that the ventriloquist, in this case, is way more creepy, evil, and expressionless than his wooden puppet. Everyone is the movie seems to be mesmerized by The Great Vorelli’s stage act, despite his utter lack of talent and the peculiar tension between him and Hugo the Dummy. The film plods along as Vorelli plots to hypnotize a wealthy beauty into becoming his unwilling meal ticket… er, bride, with plenty of dead air in the script for Mike and the ‘Bots to throw their voices into. The bonus features on this disc are The Puppet Master: Richard Gordon on “Devil Doll” featurette (Gordon being the film’s executive producer), and Devil Doll’s original theatrical trailer.

Devil Fish, Season 9:
A French-Italian production filmed in Florida, Devil Fish is essentially a cheap knock-off of Jaws. Rather than simply presenting a freakishly big shark, though, the “devil fish” is a genetically engineered octopus/shark hybrid that’s escaped its creators and gone on a rampage, much like in Roger Corman’s recent Devil Fish-inspired Sharktopus. When the devil fish isn’t chomping anyone who gets within six feet of the water, the movie focuses on the characters wearing skimpy swimwear, tosses in a gratuitous love scene, and plays a soundtrack that sounds like it was lifted from softcore porn. Meanwhile, in between bouts of movie-riffing, Mike and the ‘Bots have to deal with some angry sealife of their own when they manage to offend dolphins with their prank call to SeaWorld, and the dolphins, who turn out to be a superior, space-faring species, show up at the Satellite of Love in their battle destroyer. The bonus features on this disc are the hour-long convention panel MST3K: Origins and Beyond at CONvergence 2009 (with Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff, and Joel Hodgson as panelists), and Devil Fish’s original theatrical trailer.

The Steve Vance-illustrated covers of the slimline DVD cases are included as mini-posters, as usual, and the discs’ animated menus incorporate sound clips from the episodes that they go before, a now-standard detail for Shout! Factory’s MST3K box sets. What’s new in the Volume XIX set is the inclusion of a Gypsy figurine. It’s become a tradition that the end-of-year MST3K DVD release comes with a limited-edition bonus, beginning with the Crow. T. Robot figurine that accompanied Shout! Factory’s very first MST3K set in 2008, followed by Tom Servo in 2009. Gypsy’s arrival in 2010 sees the completion of the ‘Bot trio, and marks the first time that Gypsy has appeared as a toy or model. She’s in scale with her two smaller companions, so she towers above them, the hose that makes up her body coiled into a disc-shaped base that keeps her top-heavy purple head from toppling over. Tom Servo’s catchphrase of “I’m huge!” would be an appropriate tagline for this figurine, as would Crow’s “You know you want me, baby!” After all, the Satellite of Love wouldn’t function properly without the big-hearted Gypsy.

The question now, with all three ‘Bots accounted for, is what will the next bonus be? If you’d like to suggest action figures of Joel and Mike, or perhaps a Christmas ornament of the Satellite of Love, then e-mail Shout! Factory or post your ideas on their Cult Faves message board.

Pre-order at Amazon.com:
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX (Canada)
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX (US)

Or order directly through the Shout! Factory website.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is distributed by Shout! Factory. For more Mystery Science Theater 3000 information, please visit The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Website and Satellite News: The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fan Site.

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Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs: A LOLcat Guide 2 Kittens

“I can haz new Cheezburger book, with a book giveaway contest on the side?”

The I Can Has Cheezburger? website launched its line of LOLcat books in 2008 with I Can Has Cheezburger?: A LOLcat Colleckshun, an introductory guide to the world of LOLcats that outlines the basics of LOLcat language and culture. A year after pouncing onto bestseller lists, it was followed up by How to Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLcat Guide 2 Winning. Not surprisingly, for a book focused on feline global domination, the manipulation and subjugation of cats’ human “owners” is the theme of Volume 2’s selection of LOLcat images. If a cat were to write an inspirational book on how to get ahead in the rat race, then How to Take Over Teh Wurld would definitely be the result.

The newest title in the captioned-kitty series, presented as the “threequel to the LOLcat dynasty”, is Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs: A LOLcat Guide 2 Kittens. If you’re a fan of LOLspeak and the geeky memes that circulate at I Can Has Cheezburger?, but secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly), visit the site mainly to squee over the adorable pictures, then this is the Cheezburger book that you’ve been waiting for. With chapter headings like “Yr kitteh and u”, “Kyootness: resistance is futile”, “Kitteh to-do list”, “Teh artz of lol”, “Momcat knows best”, “Uh-oh bad kitteh”, “Rules kittehs live bai”, and “Itteh bitteh kitteh committeh hall of fame”, you know you’ll be responding to each page with an awww or giggle. Iconic LOLcats Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat make appearances, their kittenhood pictures showing Ceiling Cat starting out on the bumpy path to achieving divine goodness, and Basement Cat and his minions at a more playfully naughty than personification-of-evil stage. Dogs, usually the bumbling arch-nemeses of adult LOLcats, also get a gentler treatment in Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs, posing cutely and safely interacting with the less-threatening LOLkittens.

Like its littermates, Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs is a small, square book, the purr-fect size for popping into Christmas stockings. The pictures are printed on thick, glossy paper, securely bound so that the book will survive long after it becomes dog-eared… er, cat-eared from use.

Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Committee Boxed Set - Collectors Edition

The soon-to-be-released Teh Littr Boks Set: A LOLcat Colleckshun gathers all three volumes in a tidy box, but if you already have the first two books, and just need Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs to complete your set, you can enter now to win a copy. Leave a comment on this post, or tweet ÜberSciFiGeek using the hashtag #USFGcontest, by November 2, 2010, and one lucky reader will be chosen at random to receive a free copy of Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs from Gotham Books!

Order now at Amazon.com:
I Can Has Cheezburger?: A LOLcat Colleckshun
How to Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLcat Guide 2 Winning
Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs: A LOLcat Guide 2 Kittens

Pre-order at Amazon.com:
Teh Littr Boks Set: A LOLcat Colleckshun

I Can Has Cheezburger?: A LOLcat Colleckshun, How to Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLcat Guide 2 Winning, Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs: A LOLcat Guide 2 Kittens, and Teh Littr Boks Set: A LOLcat Colleckshun are distributed by Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), and its international affiliates. For more information about I Can Has Cheezburger?, visit the official website at icanhascheezburger.com.

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"Star Wars" Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport)

In honour of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Hasbro has released two versions of the movie’s most iconic vehicle: the AT-AT.

As Hasbro says in their press release for the Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport), “in space, size does matter”. Everyone who sees the deluxe AT-AT for the first time is struck by the sheer enormity of it. While it isn’t fully to scale with the 3.75” action figures that man it, it does currently hold the title of largest AT-AT toy ever made, fitting a crew of 20 action figures, six of those in the head’s command cockpit alone. The yellow starburst on the packaging, proclaiming the 2010 AT-AT to be “Over 2 Feet Tall!”, doesn’t really manage to convey just how big this behemoth is out of the box. It has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Unpacked and assembled, the deluxe AT-AT stands approximately 24 inches tall, 28 inches long, and 12 inches wide, about the size of a medium-sized dog, and, loaded to full capacity with action figures and a speederbike, weighs nearly as much as one, too. It’s instantly the focal point of a room, even if, in the absence of a sizable enough table or display case, it’s relegated to the floor.

Despite dominating the average Star Wars collection, bigness isn’t the deluxe AT-AT’s only selling point. A gorgeously crafted toy, it quite faithfully recreates the stop-motion models used in The Empire Strikes Back, putting it closer to being a studio scale model than simply a plaything. The attention to detail is impressive, particularly in the interiors. Also contributing to the high-end air of the piece is Hasbro’s meticulous paint job. Applied with model maker precision, the paintwork capably matches the appearance of metal, with dark, rusty stains weathering the vehicle, and panels painted in mismatched shades giving it the realistic look of a patched-up war machine. As an optional bonus, a sheet of battle damage stickers is provided to further age the AT-AT’s armor. (These stickers are permanent ones, rather than the reusable peel-and-stick kind, so choose carefully how you place them.) Seven more stickers fill in the AT-AT’s viewscreens, and there are three Imperial markings to apply to the included speeder bike.

"Star Wars" Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) Details

Most importantly, the deluxe AT-AT is huge fun to play with, as it’s loaded with features. It emits vehicle, walking, and laser firing sounds, accompanied by 27 random-play Darth Vader, General Veers, Imperial Officer, and Clone Trooper sound clips from The Empire Strikes Back (three 1.5VAA/R6 batteries required; the American version speaks phrases in English, but the mainline product in Canada is sound-effects-only to accommodate the French market). More than one sound can be active at once, permitting Imperial commanders to bark orders while the AT-AT is in motion. LEDs light up the cockpit viewscreen and forward laser guns, which move by means of slider buttons under the chin, and the guns on the cheeks shoot projectiles quite a distance when buttons are pressed on them. A pull-up handle behind the head pops up hidden laser cannons, and enables you to lift and swivel the head. The deluxe AT-AT has a multitude of hatches to explore, as well. The top of the head opens to access the cockpit, where the included AT-AT driver action figure sits, and double hatches open on both sides of the body. A zip-line pulls through the trapdoor in the floor of the main compartment, then winds back up with the press of a button on the upper deck. At the rear of the AT-AT, a large hatch drops down to reveal the speeder bike bay. A speeder bike is included, and snaps onto a launch/landing pad that extends when a button is pressed (there are a lot of buttons on this AT-AT). There are even a couple of tiny hatches on the sides of the docking bay that let you peek in at the parked bike when the hanger is closed. Inside the two-level main compartment are a pair of repelling platforms that swing out, each capable of holding two figures. They’re lowered by pressing a button, and retracted by turning a thumbwheel. The AT-AT’s articulated legs have ratcheting joints at the hip and knees that securely lock poses into place with a loud, satisfying click, providing extra stability. Adjustable at the ankle, the feet are bigger than those on the original Kenner AT-AT, raising the Imperials’ chances of stomping a Rebel snowspeeder.

The instruction sheet warns against knocking the AT-AT over, but after watching it tip over numerous times, it didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear. The thick plastic is sturdy enough to take a pretty heavy beating, and the doors are designed to release when too much pressure is put on them, then snap right back on. As long as kids don’t lean their weight on the head or try to use the AT-AT as a riding pony, it should hold up to many years of enthusiastic play.

Need another reason to want Hasbro’s Star Wars Imperial AT-AT? Fans of the nostalgic short film AT-AT Day Afternoon, who missed out on getting the vintage Kenner AT-AT, now have the opportunity to adopt their very own robotic dog from a galaxy far, far away!

"Star Wars" Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker

For children (ages 3 and up) who aren’t old enough yet to play with a Super Deluxe AT-AT, Hasbro offers the Star Wars Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker. This junior edition AT-AT is a little over knee-high to the deluxe AT-AT, and looks absolutely adorable when displayed next to its towering big brother. Like the rest of the toys in the Galactic Heroes line, it has a chunky, stylized look that will appeal to kids and/or fans of the Japanese “chibi” style made popular in anime and manga.

"Star Wars" Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker Details

The Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker is basically a “training wheels” for the deluxe AT-AT. It has the same features, but in a more stripped-down form. Electronic lights, weapons, and walking sounds (two 1.5VAA/R6 batteries required) are activated by a single button on the head, but don’t play concurrently, and sound bytes aren’t part of the package, so children are free to do their own movie quoting. There are two hatches, one for the cockpit and another on the left side of the body. The AT-AT Walker is completely in scale with other Galactic Heroes toys, though the bulky blaster wielded by the included AT-AT driver necessitates a bit of wiggling to fit him into the driver’s seat in such a way that the cockpit will close. A speeder bike, also included, clips onto the main compartment’s hatch, and inside the compartment is a trapdoor and simple zip-line that’s manually operated by pulling a plastic tab in the roof that the cord is tied to. The legs and hips are labeled with numbers for quick, easy assembly, and articulation is limited to the hips and ankles. This small AT-AT won’t be achieving any deep knee bends, but its range of movement still allows for multiple action poses.

Both of the AT-ATs have screw-on battery compartment covers, with the screw safely attached to prevent loss or a choking hazard. (Note: These toys are not recommended for lolcats!)

Order now at Amazon.com:
Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport)
Star Wars Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker

The Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) and Star Wars Galactic Heroes: AT-AT Walker are distributed by Hasbro and Hasbro Canada. For more Star Wars information, please visit the official Star Wars website.

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Adios & Ciao Ciao by tokidoki

It’s pronounced mee-mo-bot.
Refresh. Enjoy. MIMOBOT!

Flash drives, while extremely useful, aren’t generally the most exciting looking pieces of technology. They’re usually just little lozenges of plastic in a limited selection of solid colours. In 2005, Mimoco changed the face of flash drives forever by introducing MIMOBOT, a line of designer USB flash drives. Inspired by pop culture, and borrowing from the idea of collectible toys, Mimoco turned flash drives from merely practical devices into a means of artistic expression.

MIMOBOT come in three categories: original characters created in-house by Mimoco, a series of collaborations with popular artists, and licensed brands. Currently, these categories include Mimoco’s Core Series, Artist Crossovers (such as FriendsWithYou and tokidoki), Community-Designed ‘bots contributed by talented MIMOBOT fans, and the hugely popular Licensed Crossovers, or “Artist Series”, that includes Hello Kitty and Mimoco’s most well-known output, the Star Wars MIMOBOT Series. There’s even a line of keychain “outfits”, called protoHoodies, that clip MIMOBOTs to bags or clothing while preventing wear to their painted cases.

As if having a beautiful computer accessory wasn’t enough, every MIMOBOT is preloaded with exclusive avatars, icons, wallpapers, screensavers, sound bytes, and other multimedia goodies, including the latest issue of Mimoco’s video publication, mimoZine. Since MIMOBOTs are compatible with Mac and Windows, their bonus contents come in formats for both systems. All drives are available in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB sizes, and feature a tail light that flashes when the MIMOBOT is plugged in.

Aside from their unique appearance, the most interesting thing about MIMOBOTs is that they have a back-story, which claims that the flash drives are sentient creatures who hail from Planet Blõôh. The MIMOBOT designs are merely identities that they adopt on Earth to better enable them to infiltrate human society. One set of these disguises is provided by tokidoki.

Renowned Italian artist Simone Legno’s tokidoki brand is crossing over to the consumer tech world with the introduction of the tokidoki for MIMOBOT collection of designer USB flash drives, another entry in the MIMOBOT Artist Series. tokidoki, which means “sometimes” in Japanese, was named such because of Simone’s love for Japanese culture and his belief that “everyone waits for moments that change one’s destiny.” After his destiny-changing moment arrived in 2003, he went from being an artist who used his website to promote his freelance work to an artist who successfully built tokidoki into a world-famous international brand!

The tokidoki MIMOBOT collection was launched by a pair of tokidoki x MIMOBOT characters, Adios and Ciao Ciao, with the slogan Love is… in the Air:

As legend has it, Adios spent 500 years in fire and brimstone before the devil discovered his good-natured ways and kicked him out of hell. Too mischievous for heaven, Adios was condemned to live forever on earth, in his modern grave-loft with his girlfriend Ciao Ciao. Together, Adios and Ciao Ciao wander the world, sharing with others how to make the most out of this life… A perfect love story for fashion-tech lovers everywhere.

This gothic-anime duo, in a matching “his-and-hers” style for the tech crowd, ensures that couples won’t accidentally grab each other’s data. They make great little gifts for any romantically geeky occasion, and, like true love, will also withstand the test of time — MIMOBOT flash drive cases are made of a thick, sturdy, molded plastic, and the caps, while easy to remove, snap on firmly. The boldly coloured designs are cleanly applied, with no paint overlap or bleed, and Adios and Ciao Ciao’s silver and gold caps offer a hint of metallic flair. Bellissimo!

Transfer Rate: Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (backwards compatible with USB 1.1).

Mimoco encourages the recycling of their packaging and products, so check out the GreenBot USB Recycling Program (GURP). It offers discounts on future MIMOBOT purchases when you send in your old flash drives… assuming that you can bear to part with them. Even non-functional MIMOBOTs still have value as tiny works of art. This collectibility is really the only downside to MIMOBOTs, as soon you’ll have so many, you won’t know where to display them all. Then again, can a techno geek ever really have too many flash drives?

Order now at Amazon.com:
MIMOBOT

Or order directly through the Mimoco website.

MIMOBOTs and protoHoodies are distributed by Mimoco. For more information on tokidoki, please visit the official tokidoki website.

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Sometimes science is gross. It doesn’t have to be, though, especially when it comes to science-based toys. GIANTmicrobes, “stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes — only a million times actual size!”, are more intellectually stimulating than a teddy bear, but still just as cute.

GIANTmicrobes

GIANTmicrobes are available in Original (5-7″), Petri Dish (3 Minis), and GIGANTICmicrobes (15-20″) sizes, with each strain of GIANTmicrobe having regular and miniature versions, and the most popular styles mutating into GIGANTICmicrobes*. (GIGANTICmicrobes, aside from being huge, huggable stuffed toys, are suitable as decorative throw pillows, so if you have a science-themed room in need of whimsy, these jumbo microbes fit the doctor’s bill.) New GIANTmicrobes are spawned regularly, at a rate that makes action figure lines seem like relatively small outbreaks. The complete catalogue of specimens, to date, is as follows:

  • Aerials: House Fly, Mosquito
  • Alimentaries: Acidophilus (New!), Beer & Bread (Yeast)*, Cavity, E. coli*, Listeria (New!), Salmonella*, Yogurt
  • Ambulatories: Lyme Disease
  • Aquatics: Algae, Amoeba (Blue, Orange, or Yellow), Copepod (New!), Krill, Red Tide, Scum, Sea Sparkle, Waterbear (New!)
  • Calamities: Anthrax, Black Death*, Ebola*, Flesh Eating*, Mad Cow*, Typhoid Fever
  • Corporeals: Brain Cell*, Egg Cell, Fat Cell, Nerve Cell, Platelet, Red Blood Cell*, Sperm Cell, White Blood Cell*
  • Critters: Bed Bug, Black Ant, Bookworm*, Dust Mite, Flea, Louse, Maggot, Red Ant
  • Exotics: Bird Flu, Martian Life*, Penicillin*, Swine Flu*, T4
  • Health: Common Cold*, Cough, Ear Ache, Flu*, Sore Throat*, Stomach Ache*
  • Infirmaries: C. Diff, Chickenpox, Measles (New!), MRSA*, Pneumonia, Rubella (New!), Staph*, Toxic Mold
  • Maladies: Athlete’s Foot, Bad Breath, Giardia, Kissing Disease*, Pimple, Ulcer
  • Menageries: Heartworm, Mange, Rabies, Toxoplasmosis
  • Professional: Hepatitis, HIV*, Polio, TB
  • Tropicals: Gangrene, Leishmania (New!), Malaria, Sleeping Sickness, West Nile
  • Venereals: Chlamydia*, The Clap (Gonorrhea)*, Herpes*, HPV (New!), The Pox (Syphilis)*

The GIANTmicrobes’ low-pile plush fabric is soft and brightly coloured — a pile of the toys looks like a spilled box of Crayola 64-pack crayons — and accent materials like shiny plastic eyes, embroidery, fringe, cord, felt, and shimmery metallic cloth add tactile detail that make GIANTmicrobes so invitingly touchable. Hang-tag booklets and other packaging on the GIANTmicrobes provide pictures and scientific bios of the real lifeforms they caricature, humorously written in the manner of Bill Nye the Science Guy, allowing GIANTmicrobes to be both educational and fun. Parents and teachers can use them to introduce their little scientists to the world of microorganisms, while school health classes and medical professionals will want to employ them as props in discussions with young people about sensitive topics, such as pregnancy and STDs. Or, you can skip the real-life science lessons and just play. Gather a group of friends to recreate the infection process on a grand scale by throwing GIANTmicrobes at one another and yelling things like “I just gave you kissing disease!” (This game is great exercise, as you’ll need to run and dodge to avoid being “infected” back.)

Martian Life Petri Dish

Perhaps the most entertaining of the GIANTmicrobe toys are the petri dishes. Three mini microbes are sealed in a plastic “petri dish”, a heavy, clear plastic container subtly embossed with the GIANTmicrobes logo on the lid. The paper labels are all loosely attached with bits of transparent tape, so they’re easily removed to give you a fairly realistic looking petri dish. Mad scientists-in-training can amuse themselves for hours, combining the contents of petri dishes to see what “results” they get. The more petri dish selections in the “lab”, the more interesting the “science experiments”! Bookworm + Brain Cell = Smart Bug. Martian Life + Swine Flu = Pigs in Space? Amoeba + Flesh Eating Disease + Rabies = Microscopic Zombie. Yikes!

If you work in a doctor’s office or science lab, and want to add a touch of humour to your formal wear, GIANTmicrobes are printed on stylish neckties in three eye-catching designs. For informal settings, there are t-shirts and hats. Other GIANTmicrobes-related items tailored to your workspace are coffee mugs, keychains, and, for anyone wanting to apply fake cooties to their skin, temporary tattoos.

The GIANTmicrobes brand even has a line of medical supplies. There’s a liquid soap dispenser shaped like a common cold bug, moist wipes, and a digital thermometer. The bright orange and white thermometer is less clinical in appearance than a regular thermometer, and has an adorable picture of a sad cold bug on the handle, a teensy GIANTmicrobes thermometer stuck in its mouth. The digital thermometer comes in a protective clear case, and, being electronic, contains no toxic mercury — seriously, why stick poison in your mouth when you’re already sick? Since the device is American-made, it displays degrees in Fahrenheit, so converting the results will be a necessary inconvenience in other countries, where Celsius is standard. The thermometer only takes about a minute to spit out an accurate reading, however, and its tip is flexible for a comfortable fit under the tongue. A beep indicates when the temperature readout is ready, and a fever alarm lets you know when a visit to the doctor is in order. An auto-off feature conserves battery life, which lasts around 200 hours.

Germs are tenacious little beasts, and frequent hand-washing only controls them for so long. As a last line of defense, you may need to bring in the big guns to keep your playful GIANTmicrobes in order:

Camo Shooter

Marshmallow Shooters, recommended for ages 8 to 88, are similar to Nerf guns, except that instead of shooting foamy, marshmallow-like projectiles, they use real marshmallows as ammunition. Depending on which Marshmallow Shooter you choose, mini or full-sized marshmallows are loaded up and launched, and if you prefer a firearm that’s more medieval issue than a pistol or bazooka, the extensive range of Marshmallow Shooters includes bows and crossbows. Weapons aren’t usually described as Earth-friendly, but these toy shooters hold that unique distinction. Unlike foam pellets, the “biodegradable payload” used by Marshmallow Shooters simply melts away, leaving no trace behind, aside from a few diabetic squirrels who get to the treats before the next rain shower. Everyone knows that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, so blast those microbes into submission with a barrage of sugary sweet marshmallows!

Order now at Amazon.com:
GIANTmicrobes
GIGANTICmicrobes
Marshmallow Shooters

Or order GIANTmicrobes directly through the Giantmicrobes website. Order Marshmallow Shooters directly through the Marshmallow Fun Company website. GIANTmicrobes and Marshmallow Shooters are also available through ThinkGeek.

GIANTmicrobes, GIGANTICmicrobes, and GIANTmicrobes in a Petri Dish are distributed by Giantmicrobes (US) and Stortz & Associates (Canada). Marshmallow Shooters are distributed by Marshmallow Fun Company (US) and Stortz & Associates (Canada).

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Liebrary

Bookworms who enjoy intellectually challenging social games like Trivial Pursuit, Scattergories, or Balderdash will delight in the creative-thinking gameplay of Liebrary, “The Game Where the First Line Speaks Volumes”.

In Liebrary, players are given a book title and the plot summary and then asked to create the most believable first line of the book. The object of the game is to bluff other players into believing that your first line is the correct one. The more outrageous, the better!

Liebrary was co-designed by actresses and best friends Daryl Hannah and Hilary Shepard, who took inspiration for their game from an old parlor game that had the same concept as Liebrary, but required access to hundreds of actual books to play. When Hannah and Shepard decided to create a portable version of the parlor game that could be played in the absence of a library, or taken along on family vacations, Liebrary sprang into creation. (If you do have new or favourite books on hand, though, you can easily incorporate them into gameplay.) A set of book cards lists the title, author, plot, and first line of books, conveniently condensing hundreds of novels into a single, small card box. The card box is styled after a card catalogue drawer, a reference that may likely be lost on younger players, since the card catalogue has largely disappeared from libraries in the age of computers, but players over the age of thirty will appreciate the nostalgic touch. Along with the game board and other playing pieces, the card box fits inside a larger box that, appropriately enough, resembles a thick book. Liebrary’s elegant box cover recreates the look of a worn, green, leather-bound volume, and can be gorgeously displayed on a bookshelf with real books.

Fantasy fans know Hannah best as Madison the mermaid from the classic 1980s film Splash, but she’s also a dedicated environmentalist, so it’s no surprise that a sticker on the front of the package assures eco-friendly game players that Liebrary is “printed on recycled paper using soy-based inks”.

In addition to the standard, travel-size game, there’s also a deluxe Liebrary: Family Edition, which Hannah introduces in the following 2010 Toy Fair video:

You don’t need to be well-read to play Liebrary, just really convincing, and the gameplay is quite easy to learn, so even children and novice players can jump right in. Up to six players move across the simple game board using wooden, book-shaped tokens called Liebrary Book Pawns. To move ahead, you must earn points: one for every vote your first line gets from the other players, and two if you vote for the book’s real first line. Three points go to the Liebrarian if nobody picks the right line. There are 350 book cards in the card catalog box, divided into five genre categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction, Classics, Mystery/Sci-Fi/Horror, Romance, and Children’s. A Category Die is rolled each round to determine which book category the book card will be drawn from. The Liebrarian then reads aloud the title, author, and plot on the book card (but not the first line!), and sets the sand timer. Players have two minutes to write down their first line — either a creative guess or, if you’re familiar with the book, the actual opening sentence. (The less seriously you take the game, the more fun it is!) The first lines are read out and each player votes for the line that they think is best, after which the Liebrarian reveals the true first line written on the book card. Some squares on the game board also require a random Liebrary Card to be drawn. There are ten Liebrary Cards, and, depending on the messages printed on them, such as “You got a book deal! Move ahead two spaces!” or “Writer’s block! Go back one space.”, will forward or hinder your gameplay. The winner of Liebrary is the first player to make it to the final square on the game board, marked “THE END”.

Liebrary supports 3 or more players, ages 12 and up. Game length: variable.

After playing Liebrary, be sure to check out Discovery Bay Games’ Locale, a geography-themed bluffing game featuring “Exotic Destinations and Hilarious Deceptions”:

The object of Locale is to make up a story by explaining as much as you can about a given location. (Do you know where Bird-in-Hand is? How about Timbuktu?) Bluff your way around the globe!

Daryl Hannah and Hilary Shepard have two more games coming soon, as well. Famous Last Lines, “The Party Game Where You Have the Last Line”, is a movie version of Liebrary, while Call It!, “A Quick-Thinking Game Where There’s a Perfect Call for Every Match!”, is a memory challenge card game.

Liebrary and its fellow games are certain to become playtime favourites… no lie.

Order now at Amazon.com:
Liebrary
Locale

Or order directly through the Discovery Bay Games website.

Liebrary, Locale, Famous Last Lines, and Call It! are distributed by Discovery Bay Games.

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