Batzorig Vaanchig & Auļi: Mongolina and Latvian Music Mixed Together

Not Your Typical Music

One of the constants of music through the ages is that it often mixes well across cultures – even if you had never thought it would be possible in some cases. One excellent example is Batzorig Vaanchig & Auļi. This collaboration has only produced on e song so far, describes as “throat singing from Mongolia & Bagpipe and Drum music from Latvia.” There is also a horsehead fiddle from Mongolia as well as a Chapman Stick on the Latvia side, but I guess that didn’t really fit well in the description. Also, there are about 5-6 bagpipe players (assuming these are dūdas) and a good 3 or so different types of drummers, so you end up with a very rich and textured sound.

The main band apparently is Auļi: “The Latvian bagpipe and drum music group “Auļi” was founded in 2003. The group that consists of six bagpipers, three drummers and one bass player, creates unique sounds by mixing ancient and modern elements.” They are apparently doing a very interesting project called “Voices of the Ancestors”: “‘Voices of the Ancestors’ is a new concert programme by the drum and bagpipe group Auļi in collaboration with musicians from various countries around the world. Auļi have travelled far and wide to meet singers representing ancient and unusual singing traditions and techniques.”

Batzorig Vaanchig is a well-known and respected Mongolian Throat Singer. He is also the one credited with the lyrics and music for “Hunnu Guren” – the first “Voices of the Ancestors” song. They also created a very sweeping, majestic, and excellent music video for the song:

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The Cybertronic Spree: What If The Transformers Formed a Geek Culture Tribute Band?

Nostalgia Culture

The Cybertronic Spree

This seems to be a random entry that will actually fit in all three categories of this website: Modern Geekery, Nostalgia Culture, and Not Your Typical Music. The Cybertronic Spree is a band that is currently rocking around North America. Each member dresses as a character from Transformers: The Movie (and not just kind of dresses like characters: they have a Gwar-level dedication to their stage costumes). They cover songs like “Kashmir,” “The Pokemon Theme,” and “Nothin’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” (originally on the Transfomers: The Movie Soundtrack). Their live show moves are a mixture of classic cartoon poses with robots doing the floss, light sabers, and…. Shockwave twerking? Can someone get them to do a better video of their cover of Lion’s “Transformer’s Theme“?

I don’t know if this is Nostaliga Culture run amok or Modern Geekery perfected… or both. Listening to the lyrics of “Nothin’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” now, I am reminded of how so many of us Gen-Xers thought this way: We are the generation! We will fix this world! Nothing will stop us ever! But then we got older and, well, a lot of stuff got in the way. Some of us became the boomers that we swore to rebel against. We are now just as likely the ones saying “kids these days!” as our parents are.

So I try to listen to songs like this just to remind myself that its not too late to go back to this mindset. I just wonder if this group is made up of Gen X or Millennials or both? Anyway, here are two of my favorites by them:

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The Hu – Hunnu Rock From Mongolia

Not Your Typical Music

After getting into Tenngar Cavalry, I discovered that Mongolia metal and rock is actually an entire scene and not just one band. There are many different styles mixed in with traditional Mongolia music, from very extreme metal to hard rock. The Hu (sometimes The Hu Band or The HU) is one of the more popular ones, as they were the first Mongolian musical act to top a Billboard chart. They mix hard rock with Morin khuur and Mongolian throat singing. The first song I heard from them was “Wolf Totem”:

It has a slow build up that kicks into a nice groove and very effective mixing  of traditional Mongolian elements with rock. Listening to other singles like “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “The Great Chinggis Khaan“, it seems the band likes to go for driving and/or rollicking hard rock filmed in beautiful locations around Mongolia.

Things have been really taking off for the band: the president of Mongolia congratulated them for their accomplishments in promoting the country. The band toured Europe and North America. They had a song featured in the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order video game. They released a remix and new video of “Wolf Totem” featuring Papa Roach lead vocalist Jacoby Shaddix. They were awarded the highest state award for Mongolia, the Order of Genghis Khan, for promoting Mongolian culture around the world. All of this with just one album released. Hopefully the future will bring bigger things for the band as well. They have an official website, or you can find them on many streaming services like Spotify. But be sure to check out their epic videos on their YouTube channel as well.

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The Matterhorn: A Family Adventure

Nostalgia Culture

The Matterhorn Entertainment Park

I have a vague memory of visiting a restaurant inside of a mountain as a kid. For a while, I thought it might have been some random dream I mistook for reality, but it turns out this was not so. What I remember was driving a long time to a large fake mountain next to the highway, and then eating inside a large area inside of the mountain that had a pool, waterfalls, slides, and divers as part of a show. Also, I remember there were many back rooms, side caves, rooms hanging from the ceiling, and pretty much a maze of hallways to explore.

Sound like a weird kid dream? Turns out, it is real.

After years of searching for more information, I finally found out that this place was real: The Matterhorn. The Matterhorn was a Bavarian-themed amusement park in Prairie Dell, Texas that operated briefly in the early 1980s right off of the I-35 frontage road. I think I only went at night, as I don’t remember the park part. But apparently this park featured a train ride that went through tunnels, carnival rides (such as a tornado), slides, an inside roller coaster, an indoor roller rink, bumper boats, bounce houses, smaller carnival rides, ponies, a merry-go-round, a fake casino, a health spa, large-screen televisions, an arcade, and a dance floor with live bands on the weekends. As one person remembered it: “It was called the Matterhorn, since the main attraction was a huge fake mountain surrounded by Bavarian style shops. The inside had a waterfall and slide, where for a fee you could swim or just dine in the restaurant while watching professional divers. It also boasted of having the world’s largest indoor roller rink.” As you can see in the picture above, this “large fake mountain” was a replica of the Matterhorn itself.

By the way, fans of horror films might also recognize this place, as the park’s ruins were used for scenes in the 1986 movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre II after the park closed.

It seems that at first The Matterhorn was a success, but that changed fast. Apparently it had wonderful steaks and large crowds at first, but a change in management led to it flopping after only a few years. Kids loved it, of course, but apparently since it did not serve alcohol, adults weren’t as keen on making the drive (Prairie Dell is between Salado and Jarrell in Texas – South of Waco and North of Austin by a good drive from either direction).

Inside of the main Matterhorn was a restaurant in a large room with a large lake. This lake had cliffs around it with performers that would dive and slide into the lake for a dinner show. This is the part I remember. I also remember off to the side of the lake was a maze of dark rooms and caves that you probably weren’t supposed to go into at night, as they were usually abandoned. My brother and I would sneak off into these caves and look around. Eventually we found some stairs that went up to some hanging platforms above a large room that I now assume was either the dance floor or the roller rink (or a room that served as both). We thought it was the coolest thing, because it was actually a series of open platforms with bridges between them hanging from the ceiling like a mixture of tree houses and the Ewok village (without the trees).

Later on, the land became the Emerald Lake RV Park. That is now closed and the land seems to be private property.


It turns out that the Matterhorn was not the beginning of the story. The Matterhorn was created by a Temple, Texas restaurant owner that had previously made his Tex-Mex restaurant look like a cave. Basically, they used a paper mâché or blown-on expandable insulation like material to cover the walls and create a maze-like cavern. At one point the walls were even sprayed over with a layer of plaster and finished with sprinkle glitter. The man’s name was Frank Weis, who along with his wife Susie ran this restaurant, called El Chacho.

El Chacho (at the corner of 3rd and French) was described as a labyrinth that you could easily get lost in. There were different rooms, with different themes. Small gift shops were said to be scattered throughout the caves, complete with a man in a tamale costume that would hand out cheap toys. People remember seeing a toy train going through the restaurant as they got lost. One room had a waterfall. They had a wishing well right inside the front door. They even tried some dinner theater where a singer would go around singing to the guests. Sound familiar?

Part of the popularity was due to the food. People remember the sopapillas being “crazy good.” Many also fondly remember the queso. There was even a buffet on the weekend. The owner was famous for serving all-you-can-eat steaks that were cooked outside on pecan wood. Servers would even give you free cheese slices from a block of cheese while you waited for your table.

The other part of the popularity was the owners. Frank and Susie would pull in teenagers and special abilities kids, becoming like substitute parents to many. Frank was said to have big plans for the teens that worked for him. They even took the staff to Monterrey and Saltillo in Mexico as a thank you for their hard work.

However, it was the unique design that eventually closed the restaurant down (but possibly opened the door for the Matterhorn?). The fake walls and ceilings started to fall apart and land on customers. There were said to be lawsuits from this. All of this led to the restaurant caves being declared fire hazards and the restaurant shutting down. The fire department was worried about people getting lost in the case of an emergency, plus all of the candles on tables in rooms with flammable material falling off the walls was a source of concern as well. There is now a Cefco gas station where the restaurant used to be.


I don’t really know if people open roadside places like the Matterhorn any more. I am a bit too young to know much about Route 66, but the Interstate Highway system I traveled on for family vacations in the 70s and 80s still reflected the distinct influence of the Mother Road. There is a lot about the Route 66 days that fascinate me, especially how people would put together a bunch of cement and cheap building materials to make a “roadside attraction.” You can see by the pictures above and below that these were often not high quality attempts by any stretch. Probably not exactly safe, either. Route 66 is not a popular route anymore, and most of its influence has been removed from the interstate highway system to make way for wider, newer roads. My nostalgia definitely makes me remember these places as being cooler and more realistic than they were. I seem to find that a lot as I dig into the past: what seemed so cool as a kid turned out to be cheap plastic and cardboard (or cement and foam). A metaphor for modern life, or just progress at all costs? Hard to say.

The Matterhorn Entertainment Park

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Getting Lost in the Expanse

Modern Geekery

One of the disappointing things I have learned about Science Fiction through the years is that it is more fiction than science. Gravity (or the lack of) is hard to deal with in space. Explosions cause debris that can be destructive. Technology is not this magic cure all for everything. Then you find out that there is an entire sub-genre for Science Fiction that tries to stay grounded in actual science: Hard Science Fiction. While good examples of hard science fiction are less abundant, thankfully we have a current one that most seem to agree is also high quality entertainment: The Expanse.

I didn’t originally start watching The Expanse when it came out – but I kept on hearing so much hype (thanks again, Katrina) that I gave it a try after the third season. I was hooked. The first few episodes use Hard Science Fiction to create realistic problems where the stakes feel real. Let’s face it: sometimes Hard Science Fiction can be a tedious to watch or read. That is probably why it is not more popular. But The Expanse shows that Hard Science Fiction can also be riveting. An explosion in space creates deadly debris for other ships, and that its not just one quick fix to survive. Suspense over whether they will make it or not keep the story moving.

Where the modern remake of Lost in Space stumbles for me is in how they create danger for the characters. New aliens, new rules of science, mistakes made by people just create the same problems over and over again. The Expanse handles this much better, even though it is technically using things like equipment malfunctions and mundane routine tasks gone awry half the time as well. I know – it doesn’t sound logical. But The Expanse makes realistic problems for people to deal with that doesn’t come across as just throwing problems up for the sake of creating problems for another episode.

Of course, it helps that a lot of the problems they utilize are due to the complex political world they have created. The fact that Mars, The (Asteroid) Belt, and the Outer Planets have formed distinct political entities that are now starting to fight each other to gain autonomy is done in a way that feels realistic and familiar to our present problems. Throw in a lot of attention to hard science details about how humans would live on other planets, moons, and asteroids (and the dangers they would face), and it creates a constant series of realistic problems that doesn’t feel forced.

The one place the series does “cheat” a little bit on Science Fiction is in the creation of new space ship technology that allows them to fly faster between planets. However, they do acknowledge there was a long time before this breakthrough happened where space travel took a lot longer (and they made a great episode that looks back at how this break through was achieved). I’m not really sure if this speed increase is even possible in reality, so that is why I kind of call it a “cheat.” Maybe its not – I’m not sure. But they handle it well. They still stick with their own rules on how long travel takes (unlike Game of Thrones) as well as how dangerous that extra speed can be if they push it too fast (unlike Star Trek).

The real strength of The Expanse is in the characters. To call them complex is an understatement. However, you soon find yourself rooting for some of the toughest, most morally gray ones in the bunch once you get to know them: Drummer, Bobby, Christian, Amos, Klaes, Naomi… there are so many great characters (well written and acted) to love for different reasons.

You also can’t help but notice that the show strives for cultural representation as it dives deep into political issues of cultural assimilation. You also see some massive effects of climate change destruction as a background to the settings of the show (illustrated from the beginning of the series by being simulated in the opening credits). They don’t shy away from taking a political stance while still exploring the complexities, problems, and intersections of these stances. Not always perfectly, but I’m glad to see a series that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics just because they are difficult (while not slipping into being controversial just for the sake of being controversial). We need more shows like this in Science Fiction.

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Big Joanie: Black Feminist Punk From London

Not Your Typical Music

I don’t remember how I discovered Big Joanie, but I am glad I did. They describe themselves as “like The Ronettes filtered through 80s DIY and 90s riot grrrl, with a sprinkling of dashikis.” If you do searches for “black feminist punk,” they are pretty much the only band that comes up. Hopefully they aren’t the only band in this category, but if they are, I hope they are the first of many.

As you can imagine, the band is also very active in improving their communities:

“Outside of the band all three members have strong community ties, from helping run the festival for punks of colour Decolonise Fest, coaching new talent at Girls Rock London, or launching the ‘Stop Rainbow Racism’ campaign which works to stop racist performances in LGBT venues. Black feminism is at the heart of Big Joanie’s music and actions, and with the release of Sistahs the band hope to spread their message even further.”

My introduction to the band came through their video to “Fall Asleep.” Its an incredibly catchy song that captures their sound well, but I was an instant fan when that keyboard solo comes in. Its not what you expect and I love the unexpected. While you can hear their influences, overall they also don’t sound like anything else in punk or even rock music for that matter. Original music that rocks and has an important message for all of us to take heed? Yes!

Most of their music is available on their BandCamp website, and as you can also see from their Facebook page, they are still very active and going strong.

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Rise of Skywalker: Cash Grab or Nostalgia Trip?

Nostalgia Culture

Let me get this out of the way first and foremost: Every single star Wars film has had it’s haters, since the very first one. You or me not liking The Rise of Skywalker is not proof of anything other than different people can have different opinions. A lot of us hated, hated, hated The Empire Strikes Back when it came out. Then we (yes I am one of those) came around to loving it years and years later. For me, I am still not a fan of the prequels at all. I kind of liked Phantom Menace at first, but got tired of it quickly. By the time Revenge of the Sith rolled around, me and my friends were walking out of the theater making fun of each one.

Star Wars films are always full of problems. But if you let yourself not worry about those problems and just go with the narrative, sometimes (but not always) you can at least be entertained. Until you start thinking about the problems.

But on the other hand, you or I or anyone else liking The Rise of Skywalker is not really proof of anything, either.

For me, some Star Wars films (like A New Hope, The Last Jedi, and Rogue One) I liked in theater, and as I watched them several more times I liked them even more. Others (like Return of the Jedi, Solo, and The Force Awakens) I was entertained by them when I watched them, I am still entertained by them now, but I recognize their problems. I already mentioned Empire Strikes Back and The Phantom Menace. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are ones that I just could never get into. I tried re-watching them before the sequel trilogy came out, and I still couldn’t.

So where does The Rise of Skywalker fall for me? After only one viewing, I was entertained while still seeing the problems. I will see what further views will lead me to think.

First of all, lets deal with some of the fan weirdness. Star Wars has ALWAYS been about fan service. Yes, even episodes 5 and 6 had a lot of it back in the day. I remember the complaints. It was where I learned what “fan service” means. The prequel trilogy was major fan service by Lucas, until he found out he misunderstood what the fans wanted, and suddenly they became “an artistic risk” or whatever he is currently saying. So just saying “it’s fan service!” kind of makes no sense to me. And not just because Star Wars has always been fan service, but because, well… isn’t that how you get people to watch movies? Give them something they want? Where is this magical line between “creating something people will pay money to see” and “fan service”?

Obviously, that line exists in a different place for different people, between what they personally liked and personally didn’t like.

Another issue to address is this idea that the sequel trilogy was a cash grab after the “perfect ending” of episode 6. Sorry, but we have known that Lucas planned NINE movies from the moment he realized there could be more than one Star Wars. I remember back after Empire came out, Mark Hamill mentioned that Lucas had already talked to him about coming back as an old man Luke in the 9th movie. It was always going to happen. Lucas never envisioned Empire as the end, and no one really saw it as a “perfect” ending anyways.

Yes, I know that everyone saw Palpatine as dead at the end of Return, including Lucas and the actor that played him as well. But don’t forget: Luke was not Leia’s brother at the end of A New Hope, and Darth Vader was not Luke’s father at the end of the first movie either. Things change as new Star Wars movies come out. This is the way.

What I did see was a film that had to deal with wrapping up 10 films, 3 animated series, a bunch of books and comics, and so on. This means there would be huge problems doing all of that in one film. Which was probably the biggest problem many noted with Rise of Skywalker: too much going on in too short of a film.

For me, there are several things I would have changed. The beginning crawl just sounded bad to me. I would have worked more on that in general. There were some weird lines of dialog that just needed to be re-written here and there. Especially the whole meeting between Poe and Zorii Bliss. A lot of that just made no sense. Just cut it down to her pointing a gun at his head, making some faux gestures of being mad, and then pulling a Lando and being glad to see him. That whole “I think you are okay” thing (after nearly killing each other with weapons) was just… weird.

Also, why on earth would you start the whole thing about Finn having something to tell Rey and then not get to having him, you know, actually say what it was? J.J. Abrams has confirmed that Finn was going to tell Rey that he could feel the Force. But if you aren’t going to have him say that, then leave it out. The audience still got Finn’s force connection outside of that trope.

And the whole thing with Palpatine shooting lightning to take down a whole fleet? That was weird. They should have made it look like he was channeling some of the planet’s darkside energy to do that. Or… something. That was just too much of a stretch for me.

But yes, even for me there are several things that just go into the “bad fan service” pile as well, like Chewbacca getting the medal. After we were told things like that don’t matter to Wookies. The whole Charlie Hobbit role was basically a dude voicing fan theories only to get debunked. It really worked well when he shot down fan theories that were shooting down the Holdo Maneuver from The Last Jedi, but I would have honestly re-written his lines better and given them all to Rose.

Then there are those that feel that Rey’s Palpatine connection ruined the message of The Last Jedi because it destroys the idea that greatness can come from anywhere. I get that, and its a real concern to those that saw Rey as the embodiment of “greatness from anywhere.” To me, the boy with the broom at the end of The Last Jedi was more of symbol of that message. There are also the thousands of Jedi of the prequels that also support that idea as well, including Yoda, Mace Windu, and so many others that still had great power in the Force without powerful lineage. That may not be enough for some, but for me it seems to still support the overall idea.

I have a theory that Rian Johnson might have gone kind of rogue with The Last Jedi and left out some ideas that should have been in the movie. I think some of the big reveals in Rise of Skywalker would have paid off more if they had been hinted at in The Last Jedi:

  • Think about how much better it would have been if The Last Jedi had introduced the question of “why did Leia stop her Jedi training?” at the beginning. It would have made the reveal about why in Rise better, and it would have been a better context for the “flying through space before she died” scene in episode 8 as well. We didn’t have enough time with Leia in The Force Awakens to explore this, so The Last Jedi would have been the best place to raise this in a few places.
  • Hints about a mysterious force behind Snoke should have been mentioned in The Last Jedi as well. Again, we didn’t have enough time with Snoke in episode 7 to do this, but 8 would have been a great place for this. Just some hints about older ancient Sith magic pulling the strings in some way. This would have set up Palpatine’s revelation so much better in Rise of Skywalker. Of course, it could be that Maz Kanata was hinting at this in The Force Awakens. Or it could have been that all of the sequels were hinting at it all along.
  • Just one line in The Last Jedi about Rey’s parents could have set things up for episode 9 nicely: after talking about her parents, Kylo Ren says “but you are asking the wrong questions about where you come from” before getting cut off.
  • The Sith fleet was impossibly too big to just come out of nowhere. Someone would have noticed that massive amount of supplies and people going missing. While the fleet should have been smaller to be more realistic, I would have also planted some kind of mention in The Last Jedi about massive amounts of materials disappearing across the galaxy without a trace in The Last Jedi and even The Force Awakens.

So obviously my feelings about The Rise of Skywalker are closer to “its complicated” than outright “I liked it,” but a lot of that comes from nitpicking over details. But it is okay to like something while still thinking of ways to improve it. It seems to me that it also really spent a lot of time setting up future movies (Lando finds out Jannah is his daughter, Rey training a new form of force warriors called Skywalkers, even how Rey’s parents turned against Palpatine), adding to the issue of it being too much for one movie.

To me, what The Rise of Skywalker does is show that nostalgia is not a constant, but a contextual way of evaluating anything that reaches back to something in our past. Reviews of movies like The Rise of Skywalker become problematic, because we are all going to have different contexts for why some things work as callbacks to nostalgia and why other things fall into useless fan service categories. The ideal scenario would be to evaluate it as a stand alone movie, but the idea that episode 9 wraps up the entire Skywalker saga prevents this on many levels. They do reveal the conclusion to many long standing questions, whether we like those reveals or not. They also satisfied the studio’s desire to set up future movies. All of which would have happened had they been put out ten years ago under the direction of George Lucas as well. Except we apparently would have gotten Lucas doubling down on that whole midi-chlorians thing.

In some sense, the sequel trilogy ended up being a rough approximation of what we were always going to get. But it could have been worse. Just imagine what the Jar Jar Binks of a microbiotic Lucas world would be like….

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Negro Terror: Hardcore Street Punk from Memphis

Not Your Typical Music

Unfortunately, it seems that I am finding some bands after a member has passed away. I found Negro Terror through another band called 2Minute Minor that featured Omar Higgins on a song:

Negro Terror, the brainchild of bassist and reggae frontman Omar Higgins, is an all American, all hardcore punk group that just happens to be all black. But the music that’s played has no color, just the crimson red of pure aggression.

Omar Higgins passed away in April of this year from a stroke. It sounds like he was a pretty great guy from what I can read online:

Higgins was a beloved figure in the local music community, both for his work on stage and off. In addition to his bands, Higgins was also a church youth leader and praise tam music director, a musical ambassador for Le Bonheur, and an activist on the front lines of anti-racist and anti-fascist efforts in Memphis.

His band certainly was awesome. Just listen to what is probably their most well-known tune below. While they are playing some killer skate/street punk, Omar and company seem to infuse it with a fresh take that is much needed in this musical genre. I was a thrasher in the 80s, and I can without a doubt say that Negro Terror would have ruled the day in the 80s skate punk scene. You can hear their songs on BandCamp, or go watch a documentary on Amazon Prime (I just found out about it, so I will watch as soon as I can). Negro Terror had finished a full-length album called Paranoia, but I am not sure if it will still be released or not.

“Coming up playing this music, people looked at me funny. They’d say, ‘That’s white-boy music.’ But music doesn’t have a color,” said Higgins. “And it’s not about being an ‘all black’ punk band either. The whole idea is for young African American kids to feel comfortable doing whatever it is they want musically. [Negro Terror] is about destroying those old ideas.”

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Going Extra Dark With Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance

Nostalgia Culture

To be honest, I really had not thought much about the Dark Crystal movie since I saw it in the 80s. My brother and I liked it… and were creeped out by it. It really wasn’t a kids movie. The Henson company was convinced that muppets needed an adult image I guess, and they set out to prove they could be more than funny kids props.

Of course, the movie opened the door for thousands of years of history to explore in the Dark Crystal world, and a brave new world of possibilities to think about after the ending. But apparently not enough people were interested in that back in the day to make a sequel or prequel movie. Now with 80s nostalgia culture worship in full swing, it seems like we get the prequel series that not many were asking for? Or maybe many were and I just didn’t know.

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the idea. I am not against re-visiting older properties just for the sake of being against the idea. Sometimes – like in the case of Battlestar Galactica – revisiting older ideas can produce entertaining (even if imperfect) results. But focusing so much on gelflings before the time frame of the movie… knowing that they will pretty much all die? That’s dark, man.

To me, the beginning of the new Netflix series felt like 9.5 hours of “gee, look at the cool puppetry we can make” mixed with a half hour of plot development. Even once the series finally did pull me in and get me interested halfway through, they still needed to cut the character count way down. Just too many plots and creatures to keep track off.

And the darkness just kept getting darker and darker. At one point in the series, I felt that the 10th episode was just going to start off with a black hole mysteriously appearing next to the planet, followed by an hour of all of the characters screaming in agony as they get crushed by it. It was really just that bleak. I had to listen to some bleak black metal just to cheer up my mood.

Will I continue watching the next season when it comes out? I don’t know. I don’t mind dark themes, but I can’t really take as much as they put in this first season. And they didn’t even get to where the movie itself starts, where most of the “good side” in this series is all…. dead. But I will say that the rich mythology they have created for this world is interesting. Sure, it is rather Tolkien-esque in some ways (and hard to track fully without charts handy), but that is not a bad thing.

Even though the creators stuck with puppets and/or people in costumes for a lot of the effects, they did get an upgrade with some CG elements that does help. However, sticking with the puppets at times ends up falling flat, like when they try to show feet running. It looks about like what you would think – stuffed animal feet or paws hitting the ground with all the impact of cotton stuffed fabric, and all of the speed of someone moving those feet with their hands rather than being actual running legs.

So on a nostalgia culture scale between “okay, this works like Battlestar Galactica” to “this is just pure mindless worship like Ready Player One“… I guess Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance falls somewhere in the middle? Either that, or it is just off the scale somewhere in the “you might need counseling to deal with unseeing much of what the Skeksis do.”

Here is the original movie trailer:

And the trailer for the new series:

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Knock-Off Mystery Toys From the 80s

Nostalgia Culture

One of the more fascinating aspect of toys the 80s (and I am sure the decades before as well) is the fact that there was an abundance of cheap knock-off toys available everywhere. There was some effort to enforce copyrights on some things, but that really didn’t seem to have much effect until later decades. So your favorite toy you remember fondly might end up being a cheap knock-off of some more famous toy – and now you can’t find much (if any) information on it because it was so unofficial. Sometimes a few rare things will pop-up on blogs like Plaid Stallions, but that is a rare occurrence.

So you also have to wonder about the safety standards of the material used in these toys… especially the bane of all old childhood toys: lead paint. Yay.

While I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that could afford some of the bigger name Star Wars and Mego toys, I also had many family members that were “thrifty” shoppers – meaning they frequently hit the bargain toy racks at Gibsons, Eckerd Drugstores, and local mom and pop toy stores in the mall. These places were havens for stuff that would never be legally allowed today. And lets be honest – my parents also like to save money on things when the could as well.

One of my favorite toys in Kindergarten was this robot:

So much so that it is one of the few toys I have a picture with. I have cropped this old pic of me down to just the robot, and of course the awesome t-shirt with Spider-man playing football. Obviously, the first guess with this is that it is a Shogun Warrior toy. I have looked through every online collection I can find of Shogun Warrior toys – and can’t find one that looks like this. I have looked through their competitors – nothing. This toy was possibly an unlicensed knock-off. It was all plastic (Shogun toys this size at the time were die-cast metal), but the fists did shoot out… at first (until my parents decided that was too dangerous and they hot-glued them into the arms).

So who knows – maybe someone will see this and be able to tell me where to find more information about this toy?

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