Friday, January 29, 2016

Subscription Box Round-Up

My wife has an addiction to subscription boxes. For those not in the know, subscription boxes are mystery boxes based around a certain theme. You pay a certain amount of money, and every month or two months or whatever, you get a box full of stuff based around that theme. She has subscribed to boxes of skin care products, makeup, Japanese snacks, young adult literature, and many others.

To be honest, I started feeling a little jealous. For her, it was like Christmas every couple of days, whenever a new box would show up in the mail. I wanted that thrill, but there aren’t a lot of boxes aimed at men. However, because my wife loves me, she sought out subscription boxes that she thought would fit me. As it happens, I received three of them in the past week, so I thought I would share what came in them.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos. My wife has a nice tabletop photo studio, and I think I'm going to try to use that the next time I do a blog like this.)

The first box is a fairly new one for me; this is only the third time I’ve received it. It is called the Gentleman’s Box and contains men’s fashion accessories and other items themed around a particular individual. (A couple of months ago, it was Tom Cruise.) As you can see, the box is packaged in a very classy wood-grain pattern.

Opening it, I found the usual booklet explaining the theme and the person who inspired it. Without naming him, this month’s box appears to have been inspired by Bill Gates. 

Once I removed the booklet and opened the wrapping paper, I could immediately see that I had received another nice pair of socks. (Another subscription my wife found for me is Sock Fancy, because I was always running out of or losing socks. Sock Fancy sends me two pairs of brightly colored socks every month.)

These new socks, from a company called Happy Socks are 100% cotton. I haven’t actually worn them yet, but they feel nice and comfy. We will see if they live up to their name.

Also inside the box, I found… another box! Inside that, I found a watch from Winners Circle Fashion Company, which came with three different wristbands, I guess to match my clothing choices or mood for the day. It’s a very simple, elegant design, and I like it quite a bit.

I also received  wooden lapel pin from My Suited Life. I don’t often wear suits, but the next time I do, I’m wearing this little wooden flower.

Finally, they included a tube of mint-flavored lip balm from a company called Brickell Men’s Products. It’s a relative new company, started in 2014. I like the lip balm; the flavor isn’t too intense, and it doesn’t feel thick or greasy or waxy like other lip balms I’ve tried.

So, out of the various items I received, I’ll be using the socks, lip balm, and watch on a regular basis, I’m sure. And I’ll wear the lapel pin when I actually wear a lapel to put it in.

Another box I received this week was Nerd Block. This is a monthly collection of geek stuff, themed around a particular genre, book, or movie. This month was fantasy. (Mostly Harry Potter, but also some other stuff.)

The box, as usual, is nothing spectacular, but at least there’s no longer a customs label listing all the contents on the outside.

Inside, it’s not packaged with quite as much class as the Gentleman’s Box, but it’s not the wrapping that counts.

I got a Harry Potter film frame bookmark, which is exciting for me, because I love bookmarks and never have enough of them. This one is sealed in plastic, so it won’t get worn around the edges. It’s a 35mm film frame and a card, and the back of the card is printed with a “certificate of authenticity,” for what that’s worth. It looks neat, even if the frame is just a shot of Filch’s face.

Continuing with the Harry Potter theme, I also got a Hogwart’s crest keychain. It’s very intricate and beautiful. I’m not sure it’ll go on my keys, because it’s like two inches long. Maybe it’ll go on my work keys. That would be appropriate, I think.

The last Harry Potter item I received is a Deathly Hallows T-shirt. It’s nice, so that’ll go into my T-shirt rotation.

My wife was jealous of the small notebook bound in faux leather and embossed with the title, “Your Neverending Story,” inspired by one of her favorite books and movies. As much as I love her, this one is just too cool to give up. (Maybe.)

One item that I can share with my wife is the Game of Thrones Khal Drogo action figure from Funko. My wife loves Daenerys from that show and series of books, and already has an action figure of her. Unfortunately, the Daenerys action figure is from after Khal Drogo dies, because she has her baby dragons with her. I suggested that we could set the Khal Drogo figure on fire, but we decided to just leave them together anyway.

Finally, the Nerd Block box included a nice print of the Shire from JRR Tolkien’s books. It’s pretty, in a style that reminds me of the detailed linework of James Owen. However, I’m usually at a bit of a loss as to what to do with these prints. I get so many of them, and little postcards, from these boxes, and I can’t think of a good way to display them.

Overall, it’s another nice collection of geek swag from Nerd Block, and most of it, I’ll use.

Finally, the same day that Nerd Block arrived, I also received the latest Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty box from Funko. This is—as the name would suggest—a bi-monthly box of specifically Star Wars themed toys manufactured by Funko. They promise that the items in the box are exclusive to the box, so this is the only way to get these specific versions of the figures.

As you can see, there is nothing subtle about the Smuggler’s Bounty packaging. No way does my mail carrier not know what I’m getting. 

Immediately upon opening, I found the usual cloisonné pin and patch; one of each comes with every box. This time, I got a Poe Dameron pin (again, my wife was jealous; I offered it to her, but she refused) and a BB-* patch. I love BB-8, and it’s a nice patch, but I’m not sure where I would sew it onto.

Inside, the first thing I saw was a Funko Force Awakens T-Shirt, featuring the stars of the movie in their Funko Pop bobblehead versions. I’ve gotten a couple of similar T-shirts from Funko’s Marvel Collector’s Corps box, and they’re super cute. This one is, as well. I look forward to showing it off.

Once I lifted the shirt out of the box, I could see that this month’s exclusive Pop figure was not—as I had hoped—BB-8. Instead, it’s the world’s cutest Chewbacca. What makes this one exclusive, I think, is that it’s flocked, instead of hard plastic.

My other item is a C-3PO mug. It’s a really nice design, with enough attention to detail to include his ears and that thing on the back of his head. I think it would cooler if it had been gold instead of bright yellow; the paint makes him look a bit like Tweety Bird. On the other hand, painting the handle red (like his arm in the new movie, my wife had to point out to me) is a nice touch.

I had previously received a Star-Lord mug from the Marvel Collectors Corps box, and I like the design of the Funko mugs from a visual standpoint. However, they are so huge, I don’t know if I could practically use them. Either they would look completely empty, or I would have to drink so much coffee I’d have the jitters for a month.

Practicality of the mugs aside, I feel like I got some cool stuff from my boxes this month. Do you subscribe to any boxes? Please let me know in the comments, and please check back next week for more things that make me happy!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Jago & Litefoot & Strax: The Haunting

I think part of the reason I have been a lifelong Doctor Who fan is because the first three Doctor Who episodes I ever saw were The Deadly Assassin Part Two, Robots of Death Part Four, and Talons of Weng-Chiang Part Six. I had read that the characters of Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, the charming supporting characters from Weng-Chiang, had been under consideration for their own spin-off series at the time. While that never materialized on television, the good folks at Big Finish Productions have picked up the baton and run with it, producing ten boxed sets of Jago & Litefoot adventures on audio, plus numerous guest appearances and spin-offs.

While my wife is also a Doctor Who fan, she isn’t particularly interested in listening to most of the stuff Big Finish produces. However, the one series that she is addicted to is Jago & Litefoot. We generally listen to it together when we go on long drives. Last week, we drove to Disneyland, and that gave us the opportunity to listen to the latest Jago & Litefoot special release: Jago & Litefoot & Strax: The Haunting.

This story teams up Victorian-era theatrical impresario Jago and forensic pathologist Litefoot with a character from the new series of Doctor Who: Strax, the Sontaran who acts as butler and muscle for Victorian detective—and reptilian Silurian—Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny. Through a series of parallel investigations, they end up teaming up to solve the twin mysteries of alien technology on earth, and a series of mysterious murders that involve someone removing the brains from the victims.

The plot is fairly straightforward and moves quickly, but it’s mainly an excuse to bring the characters together and play off of each other. Jago and Litefoot continue to be a fantastic double act, and Strax is every bit as hilariously literal as he is on the television. An extra layer of comedy is added by the notion that Strax believes Jago & Litefoot to be Jenny and Madame Vastra in disguise. 

Teaming Strax up with Jago & Litefoot works much more effectively than I think would a team-up that also included Madame Vastra and Jenny. If the story had included everyone, there would have been too many strong investigators, too many leaders. I suppose, as my wife suggested, you could break them up into smaller groups, but if Jago and Litefoot aren’t working together, it doesn’t really feel like a Jago & Litefoot adventure. This story absolutely works.

Cleverly, writer Justin Richards has devised a story which plays to everyone’s strengths. Jago & Litefoot very much take the lead while the investigation is in Victorian London. However, when the action shifts to an alien space ship, Strax is in his element, and he very much takes charge. It’s a good use of all the characters, making Strax feel like a vital part of the story and not just a superfluous guest star. Even Jago & Litefoot series regular Ellie the barmaid features quite prominently, although she doesn’t have as much to actually do as the others. Still, this is a story that needs someone normal to whom the leads can explain things.

This was another great story from Big Finish Productions, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters team up again.


It’s been a while since I’ve blogged regularly, but I’m hoping to get back in the saddle again. I’ve been inspired by my wife, who regularly posts to her makeup blog

I’ve also been inspired by what often feels like overwhelming negativity on the part of the Internet. I go looking for blogs or other Internet articles about things that I like, only to find people just bitching about them. I get that writing snark is more fun than writing praise or enthusiasm, but it’s not always fun to read. Especially when it’s just kind of silly. Like when I go looking for someone writing about comics I enjoyed in the 1980s, and all I find are people talking  about how they read like they were published in the 1980s. You think? It’s like complaining about the lack of CGI in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

So I’m going to focus on writing almost exclusively about things that I like. For those who know me, it’ll mostly be about comics, TV shows, books, and movies. Hopefully, my enthusiasm will show through, and those of you who read my post here will be inspired to check out the things that I love.

One thing I want to state clearly: I will not be writing reviews. I will be writing about my reactions and responses to the things I enjoy, but I’m not going to be analyzing them in detail. This may occasionally come across as if I am overlooking the flaws in things; more accurately, I am probably just not writing about them. 

I will try to post something at least once a week, so I encourage you to please follow me and let me know what you think. And feel free to share the things that you love in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.