Friday, November 30, 2012

Star Trek Next Gen remastered theater screening

Last night we took the kids to a special showing of Star Trek Next Generation at the local IMAX theater.  This was to promote their new release of the remastered season 2 on blu-ray. 

In the car on the way over, we were discussing it, and our agreed opinion was that we wouldn't be getting the blu-ray, because we have the entire series on DVD and that's good enough.  We've recently started watching it with our kids, ages 5 and 7, and they seem to be getting into it.  As one of my friends commented, "You had them watch Farpoint first?!  If they got through that, they will love the rest!"

We were half an hour early and the screening room was already plenty crowded.  They were projecting a series of different shots on the screen, cool imagery but also some before/after shots of the remastering.  I have to say, it was looking pretty good, and those were all it took to convince us, we would probably be buying the blu-ray after all. 

The showing kicked off with a big chunk of the documentary included in the new release.  You KNOW I'm a sucker for documentary, so I was delighted.  Also surprised the kids made it through that.  About 45 minutes later, Q Who? was shown.  The kids loved it (especially the hot chocolate spilling incident at the start).  It was also just so cool to be in an audience full of trekkies laughing at Riker's chastisement of Wesley, and just enjoying the show on the big screen.

When that episode ended, they next showed a bunch of blooper outtakes.  Once again, it was fun laughing together as an audience, along with the crew.

There was going to be about an hour more of stuff including the Measure of a Man episode, but we figured we'd pressed our luck far enough and ushered the kids out at that point.  It was a great night though, and as we drove home, my daughter said, "When we get home, can we just settle down on the couch and watch another one?" :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pinball Mods: Custom Apron Cards

You know those two information cards at the bottom of the playfield, above the ball trough?  That area's called the apron, and those are known as "apron cards".  For pinballs in public, they will usually be the game rules on the left, and the price to play on the right.

Image by robinvanmourik via Flickr

In a home environment, of course, "price to play" is a waste of space.  Enter custom apron cards.  If you're good with graphic design, the world is your oyster (and please, post your creations for the rest of us!), but if not, the internet is full of 'em.

Lord of the Rings custom apron card by PinZach

One maker of custom cards I kept coming across was Zach Wolf of  You can also see his apron card work in his section on Pinball Rebel, but he does a lot more with pinball than just cards.  I contacted him and asked a few questions.

Interview with Zach Wolf

Keeping My Cool: When and how did you first get into pinball?  How quickly did you become a collector?

Zach: Have played pinball for 40 years (since I was little).  Had my first machine in my house when I was a teenager – Paragon.  Always had 2-4 machines until about 10 years ago when I started collecting in earnest.  I have 20+ games now.

KMC: When did you first get the idea to make apron cards?

Zach: Around 2006 I saw a few custom cards on machines I bought and also read about others on pinball discussion sites (RGP, Pinside).  I also happened upon the granddaddy of custom card sites, and saw their great collection.  Since I like fooling around with Photoshop, I thought I‘d give it a whirl.

KMC: You have a sizable set of cards on your website.  How do you choose what games to make custom cards for?

Zach: Many are games that I own or owned.  Some are new Stern machines because I know people want them.  But mostly, they have been requests from people who saw my cards – of course the game has to interest me too.

The Simpsons Pinball Party custom apron card by PinZach

KMC: How would you walk a newbie through making their own cards, especially as far as getting the format right for printing, and the best format in which to share them with other pinheads?

Zach: It depends on their computer knowledge.  I create all my stuff as composites in Photoshop.  You can find out the correct size for your machine from many sites (pinballrebel and others).  I make my cards available in both jpgs and PDF files.  Jpgs can be a little dicey for other people to use because some photo and printing software will automatically resize them.  If you know how to create PDFs, the size is standardized and anyone with a little knowledge should be able to print them successfully.

KMC: Are you still making cards?

Zach: Haven’t in about a year, but I run in streaks.  I’m sure I will again.  I’ve been focusing on my classic arcade site.

KMC: You seem to be pretty dedicated to the hobby.  What are some of the other things people can find on your site?

Zach: If they are interested, you can also find a bunch of flipper decals I created.  They are art templates that you can print on clear decal paper on any inkjet printer.  Then, you stick them on your flippers to add design to them.  There are some other things on the website, some is dedicated to the Internet Play-at-home Pinball League I used to run, the RGPL.  Also, it’s the home of “Pinanigans”, the pinball comic my wife and I do for PinGame Journal.

Pinanigans comic by PinZach

KMC: What are some of your favorite pins?

Zach: Paragon, Iron Man, Flash Gordon, Guns and Roses, Volcano, and Congo.


Thanks for taking the time to chat, Zach!  I look forward to seeing more of your great designs. Can you do Champion Pub next? :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jersey Jack Pinball is making The Hobbit next

The Sunday after Thanksgiving started off quietly, like any other Sunday.  We slept in about an hour later than normal, I did a coffee run, and we settled down to a nice lazy morning.  I loaded up the Pinside forums, as I often do, and one innocent little post caught my eye:

Pinball heaven uk announces 2nd pin from jjp

It seemed a distributor in the UK had announced that Jersey Jack pinball machine #2 was officially The Hobbit. It was certainly possible, the most recent information from Jack himself was that the next machine would be a licensed title, and that big news would be coming this month.  In the past there were mutterings that Jack had The Hobbit license rights secured.

This turned out to be true. There are going to be 1,500 Limited Edition versions, and the anticipated scramble is going to be for the 500 new Limited Edition slots opening up. Customers who have reserved a Wizard of Oz LE have first-dibs on the first 1,000 Limited Edition numbers, and they have two weeks to commit or release their reservation. The estimated completion date for this title is July 2014. From now to February, 2013, the cost of an LE is $7500. After February, it goes up to $8,000.  No, it's not cheap. But Lord of the Rings by Stern is one of the most highly regarded modern pinball machines, and there are plenty of LOTR owners out there envisioning a Hobbit next to their LOTR.

Now, there hasn't been a big official announcement on this yet. And if you want a Hobbit pinball machine, there will be however many standard versions the market demands. At this time, nobody even knows what the differences will be between the LE and the standard. But if you want to snag one of those limited edition versions, you should contact Jersey Jack Pinball directly and it can be arranged. Or, wait and see how many WOZ LE owners relinquish their LE options for The Hobbit, and hope to snag a lower number in the production run. This is going to be a long wait, so along the way, probably people will surrender their LE spots here and there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

This Christmas, give the gift of a Linkedin recommendation

I'm already pretty burned out on the idea of Christmas Commerce.  So much spending, so much wrapping paper waste... so many scratches from opening those damned blister packs.  Seriously, why does unboxing a $20 toy have to be like breaking into Fort Knox now?!

Anyway, something occurred to me just now.  In the spirit of giving, and the holidays, I'm going to take some time out of my busy schedule and write Linkedin recommendations.  Totally unsolicited, unexpected recommendations.  These are going to be solid and well thought-out pieces for people I genuinely admire.  I'm going to do this because it is far more meaningful than a holiday card or a fruit basket, and it could contribute to the career of someone I regard.

We all have so many social media contacts now, to the point that it's become impersonal.  Taking the time to even drop one of your Facebook friends a personal note catching up on how they are doing is the equivalent of a hand-written letter these days.  It shows that in a sea of connections, you still remember them as a person, too.

What could be a better gift than that?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Impending Pinball Announcements

November's going to be over before we know it.  There's going to be Thanksgiving, and a couple days of recovery, and then in a blink it's going to be November 26th.  And I can't wait, because the tail end of November is looking to be PACKED with pinball news.

First up, Jersey Jack pinball has said they will be announcing their next title within the week.  It was last weekend when they said that, but I doubt they'll make an announcement in the middle of all the Thanksgiving/Black Friday noise.  I wouldn't.  It's going to be another licensed title, and it's going to be a widebody, like Wizard of Oz.  These two facts alone are very intriguing.

Everyone already knows Stern's next machine is Avengers, but they have been very frugal with the details so far.  Gary Stern, however, stated that lots of details will be released at the end of this month.  Possibly even a video.

We're not in a position right now to be able to afford a new pin, but I'm still VERY excited to find out these new details.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interview with Gary Stern about the state of pinball

I wanted to share this update from 904 Pinball Zine from the Southern Pinball Festival.  It's a great interview with Gary Stern, who has been in the pinball business "for 65 years... because I'm 67." :)

So, about Avengers... official announcement at the end of November, pictures of all the different versions, spec list, possible gameplay video.

Alright then. 13 days to go.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Top 10 Regular Show Episodes

There's a cartoon channel progression that parents go through.  When the kids were first born, it was Sprout, then Nick Jr., then Nickelodeon. There was an Angelina Ballerina phase, a Spongebob phase, and of course Yo Gabba Gabba. Right now it is all about The Hub (Ponies), Boomerang (Powerpuff Girls), and Cartoon Network.  I might not have realized this if I weren't a parent, but Cartoon Network has got it goin' ON these days.  I know several people who love Regular Show but dislike Adventure Time, but they are neck in neck for my the #1 spot as my favorite cartoon ever, even surpassing Beavis & Butthead. So as an excuse to talk about Regular Show, I've thrown together a list of my 10 favorite episodes below.  In no particular order (except #1, that's totally my favorite), I present 10 awesome Regular Show episodes:

1. Rock/Paper/Scissors (You're Hired)

The first Regular Show episode ever is still my favorite.  Partly because of the tie-in to Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Geek Tragedy, and partly because as I mention below, it has an 80's song video sequence.

2. Rap It Up

I've seen the Power of Poetry persevere half a dozen times, but I never get tired of it.

3. Carrey O'Keys

The best Regular Show episodes often seem to include a sequence with a musical number from my childhood.  The Footloose sequence in this episode is possibly my favorite Regular Show moment of all time.

4. Hangin' Tough

This is that awesome episode that introduces GBF. "Euuuugh! Giant Bearded Face!"

5. Viral Videos

Makin' viral videooooooos... oh Wedgie Ninja... we hardly knew ye.

6. Road Trip

Episode where they make a pitstop at "Joyspot" aka Funspot in the real world, but also the electro-pop music sequence rocks. :)

7. Exit 9B

It's not even entirely fair to put this on the list, as this season opener featured pretty much every single cool character in the show's history together for an epic battle.  EPIC.

8. Roadkill Bingo

This was one of the first episodes we saw, but so memorable.  Especially the skunk spray battle.

9. Summertime Lovin' In the Summertime

Awesome ode to earworms!

10. Fist-Pump Concert (coffee.  Coffee coffee coffee.  Coffee?)

I was all set to end this list with the Night Owl episode, but then I remembered how one of the things I love most about Regular Show is its constant appreciative nods to coffee.  And 80's musical interludes...

I hope this show continues to get the credit and attention it deserves.  If there were a Cartoon Network theme park, I would be all over it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Pinball Documentaries Rundown

My greatest obsession right now is with pinball, and it can be traced back to pinball documentaries (geekumentaries being my OTHER greatest obsession).  There are actually several pinball documentaries available, so I thought I'd outline the ones I know about here.

TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball

TILT takes place at the tail-end of the golden age of pinball. It tells the story of an effort by Williams to turn slipping sales trends around in the late 90s with a new type of pinball machine, Pinball 2000, that integrated video on the playfield in an inventive way.  It is one of my favorite geekumentaries, pinball or otherwise.

Trailer for "TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball" from Greg Maletic on Vimeo.

TILT can be had digitally on iTunes, Amazon Instant, and so forth, but I recommend the 2-DVD set for the awesome bonus materials.

Pinball Passion

The Pinball Passion is sort of just a general overview of pinball, but it covers some really great topics and includes a good sampling of the big names in pinball.  It was completed in 2008, so it's a lot more recent look at the hobby than TILT and specifically discusses how Stern is the only remaining pinball manufacturer left from the golden age of pinball, and how they are pulling that off.

Pinball Passion DVD Documentary Teaser Trailer from Bracken James Batson on Vimeo.

This one is another 2-DVD set (also available digitally), though the bonus material isn't as robust as TILT's.

Special When Lit

Whereas TILT told a story focused on pinball designers and manufacturers, Special When Lit dives more into the collector/player side of pinball. Some feel this film went out of its way to show pinball enthusiasts as non-socialized nerds, but I've heard others say that the people in the film were portrayed accurately, if not as representatives of the average pinball fan, at least as a fair overall representation of those individuals' personalities.  I have noticed that so far, pinball documentaries seem to focus mainly on collectors who collect mostly the older machines, EM era vs. SS.

Special When Lit was completed in 2010 and covers pinball after the pinball apocalypse of the late 90s. It portrays a rediscovering of sorts, though it has an overall somber tone and dubious forecast for pinball as a hobby.

Pinball 101

Pinball 101 isn't really a documentary per se, but I include it here because it is another DVD  you can buy about pinball, and it teaches you something that the previously mentioned films don't really delve into; pinball gameplay and how to become more skilled at the game.

And, by the same people, there is apparently also The Pinball Collector, which appears to be about collecting older machines (they say Pinball Collector part 2 will cover newer machines).  Aaaand, they are working on a Pinball 102.


There are definitely more pinball-related documentaries out there, including some really great little featurettes that are available online for free.  Two of my favorites are The Robert Gagno episode of Ingenious Minds, and A Lifelong Love, about collector/competitor John Reuter.  I've posted these before, but they are both just great, so here's an encore:

A Lifelong Love from David Lovejoy on Vimeo.

And lastly, looks like the Japanese were hip to the pinball resurgence way back in 2010 in this featurette about pinball in New York City, New York City Pinball Documentary, featuring - guess who - Reciprocal.  Man, those guys gets around! :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jersey Jack Pinball reveals Wizard of Oz crystal ball functionality

Makers of the Wizard of Oz pinball machine have been keeping a secret.  Every time anyone asked about the crystal ball on the playfield and what it "does", they would coyly avoid the question in a way that made it obvious it was going to do something cool.

Today they have revealed the crystal ball's functionality, and it is undeniably cool.  The crystal ball, like in the movie, will display video.  Many people suspected this was what they might be planning, but it's pretty neat to see them pull it off.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cool pinball t-shirt on Threadless

One two three FOUR FIVE six seven eight NINE TEN eleven twe-ehh-ehhh-ehhh-ehhh-ehhh-ELVE! Really cool pinball-related shirt I just noticed on Threadless.  I do have to say, I wish it came in another color besides white.  A light parchment yellow would have rocked it retro.

It's $23.50 and you can get it here on the Threadless website.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Like Timmy, I was on the fence about Jurassic Park 3D

I just saw the news via Wired's GeekMom blog that Jurassic Park is returning to theaters this coming April.  In 3D.  My first reaction was, "Do they have to 3D EVERYTHING?"

There is a teaser trailer for it.  I next thought, "What's the point of a teaser trailer for Jurassic Park 3D on my computer?"  I saw the film 13 times in the theaters when it first came out, even more times than I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy films combined.  Jurassic Park was magic for me.  I wanted Laura Dern's boots.  I wanted to be a chaotician.  I wanted us to clone dinosaurs.  SO BADLY.  My point being, I'm more than familiar with the trailer, and obviously it's not going to actually be 3D.

I'm kinda sick of 3D this and 3D that, even though most of the time it's done pretty well.  One problem with going to see a movie in 3D is that if you want to take the glasses off, the movie looks crappy.  Our kids are all about wanting to take the glasses off about 20 minutes into any given movie.  Furthermore, making a movie become 3D when it wasn't originally shot with 3D in mind is not always going to work.  It was a colossal failure for Clash of the Titans, if I recall.

But heck, I'll watch this trailer...

And as the music swelled and all those memories came rushing back and tears considered forming in my eyes, I jumped off the fence.  Of course that is exactly why there is a teaser trailer... to remind you about the magic.

Count me in.  They could have just re-released the film like they did for Jaws at our local theater.  Because in the end, getting to see Jurassic Park one more time in a theater... in IMAX this time? I'm ready to go back.  To Jurassic Park.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Avengers Pinball Confirmed

It's been called "the worst-kept secret in pinball" but the cat is well and truly out of the bag now on Stern's next pinball machine, and it is indeed going to be Avengers (advertisements for "Avengers coming soon from Stern" have shown up in a couple trade magazines this month).  It's assumed that the machine is being designed by George Gomez, and as he himself said about some of the whitewoods of his current project, "some of 'em are green..."  I'm all the more certain about my prior speculation of this meaning a Hulk Limited Edition version of Avengers pinball. 

And while Stern still has made no official announcement or released details beyond "Coming soon", some pinball retailers are already taking pre-orders.  The rumor mill has also hinted that this will be a very different design from the typical "fan layout" that Gomez is known for (he is also the designer of Lord of the Rings, one of the most highly regarded modern pinball machines, and definitely an example of the fan layout style).

There's a good chance that more information will come out in the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) show next week (November 13 - 16) in Orlando.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Pinball Resurgence continues to grow

I'm not the only one saying pinball is coming back, you know. On a recent episode of G4's X-Play, Andrew W. K. investigated the pinball scene in New York.  One thing you'll notice is that they kick off by saying, "Pinball is making a big resurgence..."  Not "pinball MAY be making a resurgence" or "there are signs pinball is making a resurgence".  Just sayin.

This segment takes place at Reciprocal, which I'm told also happens to be the new home of our Shadow pinball machine.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The King of Belair

Just try and tell me the Fresh Prince song isn't going thorugh your head now.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Best Pinball Video of 2012

This video gives me joy (thanks so much to the Nerdcore blog for the heads-up!).  This is the opposite of the pinball experience at Disney Quest.  It was filmed at an arcade called Lost Ark Video Games in North Carolina, clearly a place where they love and care for their machines.