Last night on Twitter, I earned a few favorites and reTweets when I sent out the one-liner, “At last, my months of following “The Great Space Coaster” on Twitter have paid off: I just won an autographed photo of Gary Gnu.”
Funny thing is, though, I wasn’t joking: I really did get selected to receive a Gary Gnu photo which — unless I very much miss my guess — will bear the signature of puppeteer Jim Martin, who brought Gary to life on the show.
Reminiscing about that live-action kids show in turn got me to thinking about other such shows from my youth which, for the most part, tend to have been forgotten by just about everyone who didn’t experience them when they were originally on the air.
Here, for your reading enjoyment (and possible education) are a few that crossed my mind. Some were on broadcast networks, others were in syndication, but they all clearly left their mark on me in one way or the other, since it’s been at least 30 years since I’ve seen full episodes of most of them. Mind you, that’s not to say that they’d hold up for me now, but I’ll say this much for ‘em: every damned one of the theme songs has a hook that’ll stick in your brain for the long haul…except maybe the one that leads off this list, but, damn, even that’s screaming to be sampled by an industrious DJ somewhere.
1. Curiosity Shop (1971-1973)
Chuck Jones, the man behind some of the most memorable Warner Brothers cartoons of all time, brought his unique sensibilities into a live-action setting for this educational program which, at least as far as ABC was concerned, seemed like a perfect opportunity to pull in some of the audience of this new PBS show called “Sesame Street” which was all the rage for the single-digit set. Thanks to Jones’s cartoon connections, he was able to pull such luminaries as Mel Blanc, June Foray, and Don Messick to give voice to the various characters, but there were also actual cartoons incorporated into the show, including animated adaptations of such comic strips as “Dennis the Menace,” “The Wizard of Id,” and “Miss Peach,” and trivia buffs may also be interested to know that the Schoolhouse Rock song “Three Is A Magic Number” made its debut on the show.
After totally redesigning the Mazda 3 in 2010, their engineers kept pushing the envelope to see how far they could take this design. Well, here we are in 2013, driving the 2013 MAZDASPEED3 Touring, and we have to say, Mazda has done quite well. When you drive a car for a week, you can get a really good feel about the soul of the car, and this car has rock ‘n roll in her soul.
The 2013 MAZDASPEED3 Touring is an aggressive looking car, and with velocity red bicolor as tested along with 18-inch gunmetal painted alloy wheels, there is some serious testosterone happening here. Our test model included the Technology package, which adds automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights. Other exterior notables were foglights, keyless entry, sport type front and rear bumpers and hood, grille insert and trim, sport-tuned dual exhaust outlet with bright tips, two toned dual power mirrors with turn signal lamps and unique MAZDASPEED3 two-tone rear-lift gate spoiler. The car just screams speed, but also incorporates a clean and stylish appearance.
The cabin space looks sleek and refined compared to past Mazda models and was loaded with options. Our media car boasted 5-passenger seating, tilt and telescopic steering column, audio cruise and Bluetooth steering controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with contrast stitching, power windows with auto and power door locks, cloth and leather seats, very cool and unique MAZDASPEED3 sillplates and rear armrest with cup holders. Additional optional equipment included interior lighting kit, mirror comp homelink with rain sensor, blind spot monitoring system, full color touch screen navigation system, Sirius satellite radio, HD and Pandora radio, SMS text message delivery and reply, E911 auto emergency notification, alarm system and rain sensing windshield wipers. Yes, this car is loaded and quite comfortable for the driver, as the 2013 MAZDASPEED3 Touring is a work of art for the price.
Nobody ever expects a gaming app to match their console counterparts in terms of looks and controls. Instead, mobile game developers have learned to focus on the benefits of the format and not the hindrances in order to craft brilliant titles separate, but equal to console games, and not dependent on graphics and the like.
“Real Racing 3” has a different approach. It says screw all that.
First the obvious. “Real Racing 3” is a beautiful game that truly offers console quality graphics, and doesn’t just use it as a tagline. From the cars to the courses, everything is immaculately designed and loses no wow factor even at high speeds. There’s still noteworthy competitors, but I truly believe this is the best looking gaming app yet. You’ll never stop being impressed with this game’s looks.
But there’s more than just looks to “Real Racing 3,” as its controls are as pristine as that shiny coat of graphical paint. Acceleration is handled automatically, tilting your phone takes care of turning (and actually works, though a touch option is available), and everything from traction control to braking can be computer assisted (the level of which it helps is adjustable). Overall control is nice and tight, and I never once had to question if a bad manuever was the game’s fault or my own (mostly because I suck).
Furthermore the game’s AI is very, very impressive, and is aided by a new multiplayer concept called Time Shifted Multiplayer, which fills each race with AI versions of your friends and other racers around the world while online, meaning you can essentially still race your friends even offline as they can create ghosts of their laps that imitate their habits. However you choose your opponents though, the competition is fierce and fair.
Put all those features together, and the one limit that mobile gaming supposedly had (that it couldn’t match consoles in certain aspects), seemingly no longer applies, meaning that in all technical regards, “Real Racing 3” is the most notable gaming app in some time.
Otherwise, you’ve got your basic, though well executed, realistic racing game. There is a variety of races and challenges (900 events altogether), a nice selection of 40+ cars, real life racetracks, and in general enough to keep you busy for some time trying to beat and see everything available, and even more time afterwards trying to best your efforts.
The only other notable aspect is the freemium model of the game, as “Real Racing 3” is free, but for a price.
Like many other gaming apps, in-app purchases are available and highly pushed by the design. See the currency in “Real Racing 3” is handled by both funds and coins. Funds are used for buying parts, cars, and the usual and are earned through career progression, while coins are used for other enhancements and are earned by leveling up. Where the dark side of this design emerges in the repair and maintenance system, as you’ll be constantly repairing and maintaining your car’s basic features such as the engine, tires, and oil and using funds to do it. However, it can take several minutes (or even near an hour for multiple repairs) for the work to be done during which time the car is unusable.
This is where coins come in. For a few coins you can make the repair and tuning process instantaneous. The same applies to buying new cars and the like, as purchasing them still requires a waiting period before they can be used, which coins eliminate. The trouble is coins are hard to come by, and you’ll never have an abundance of them to keep up with the need. Instead you are encouraged to buy coins, or cars and upgrades alltogether, with real money to eliminate the tedium.
It’s not the worst pay model I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty bad. Every non-racing activity is a grind, and it takes forever to complete or unlock even the basics, much less the high end stuff due to how money and time is used. You can buy more coins through in-app purchases if you’re desperate, but you can never eliminate the waiting feature, and I really wish that wasn’t the case as it is a huge detriment to the game. Patience is a necessity, and not a virtue, to get the most out of “Real Racing 3.”
While I sometimes wish then that the game cost a few dollars to eliminate that nuisance, the fact it is free means you can, and should, at least try it. Remove the freemium system, you are left with the gold standard of pure racing games for mobile devices, and a benchmark to the capabilities of the medium as a whole, as well as a game that leaves all other competitors at the starting line, and takes home the trophy for app of the week.
My app this week is really only for residents of NYC. Everyone else, please feel free to proceed to the nearest sexy lady picture you find on this site.
Are they all gone?
So you know how annoying it is trying to catch your subway train on time right? Even though they stick to a supposed schedule (unless it’s the C train, the slacker of the transit system) sometimes your morning bagel takes a little longer to toast, or you have an unexpected stop and chat, or it’s raining and you debated for too long to call in or not, or maybe (as you told your boss) the train truly was running late, and your morning is now officially in peril.
It happens far too often, and even though the MTA has updated platforms with arrival estimates, and support a host of apps to help, it wasn’t until the recently released MTA Subway Time app, that straphangers now have the ability to get real time train schedules.
The app currently supports 7 lines (1-6 and the 43nd S), and provides updated arrival times of the major lines as they occur. The arrival times include trains running in both all directions, and has data for both arriving and upcoming trains. Along with that, you also get the usual train routes, work updates, and all other information you would need in actually organizing your commute.
It’s not the world’s prettiest app, and is very basic in its current stage, but should still be immediately downloaded by any commuters of those lines, and really by all straphangers in anticipation of additional lines being added. Never before have commuters had this kind of accurate information available to them at any time, and the only reason it doesn’t feel more impressive is because it seems like something that should have been done long ago.
You can’t overstate how welcome this app is, and as the MTA chairman Joseph Lhota described it, represents a “day that generations of dreamers and futurists have waited for”. While I wish the app could give false updates to my boss that are more in line with my current, personal schedule, this miracle program arrives right in time to be named by app of the week.
Need a stylish, sophisticated “man bag”? An alternative to that backpack you’ve been using since college, or that boring briefcase you’ve been using in your endless attempt to look professional? Check out the new line of bags from Graf + Lantz.
This season, the designers have brought on additional styles to their iconic Juant Tote collection, fold-over styles and boats bags assortment. This Resort 2012 Graf + Lantz added a twist to their classic Parker bag, adding waxed canvas to the mix. This is a perfect all-around bag to bring on vacation — be it the Caribbean, Hawaii or Europe, you are sure to arrive in style with these classic head-turning totes.
Graf + Lantz are masters of color-blocking and mixing bold bright colors. For the Parker take horween leather straps, minimal Nickel hardware detailing, zip or magnetic closures, and pockets both in and out, these new pieces are 100% cotton waxed canvas. Utilizing the rare, intricate and age-old technique used by early mariners (before the age of heavy-duty water absorbent Nylon and PVC materials that took ages to dry), this process of impregnating cotton with a paraffin based wax, woven into cloth provides the utmost in waterproofing. These bags are not only ideal for those splendid yachting and sailing trips abroad, but they will also effortlessly transition into your day-to-day life.
Graf + Lantz have always been known for paying meticulous attention to form, function, detail and the highest qualities of handcrafting. The varied color combinations of olive, navy, rust, grey and natural gives this collection an astute sense of color, eye-catching visual appeal and clean lines.
For the purposes of this review, I tried the Carry On, made of merino felt with tan leather. To say the bag was well made was an understatement. And even though it was lightweight, flexible and easy to carry, it was tough. This is the perfect bag for the man in your life (or yourself if you happen to be the man in your life) who spends a lot of time travelling. The rectangular shape lends itself well to a laptop, business documents or magazines, and the inner pockets on opposing sides of the interior serve to hold smaller items like an MP3 player or various electronic accessories needed during travel. And on top of that, the bag just looks cool when you’re strolling through an airport or transit station.
The Graf + Lantz collection can be found at high-end boutiques and specialty stores nationwide, as well as major department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York. Also, feel free to review the entire collection at www.graf-lantz.com
I was only a child of the 80’s in the strictest of technical senses, so I don’t share the same nostalgia for the decade that some do. However, it’s still entertaining to look at the 80’s objectively as you wonder what the collective masses of Americana were thinking, and if the mounds of cocaine being passed around enhanced the bad hairstyles and pastel color patterns, or merely numbed the pain of them.
I do however have a fond recollection of the growing up with the “GTA” series in my teenage years, and among those games, I have the fondest memories concerning the 80s influenced “GTA: Vice City”. Hot off the heels of the groundbreaking “GTA: III”, “Vice City” did many of the same things as its predecessor, but added more weapons, missions, characters, rampage options, in-jokes, cars, and everything else that makes the GTA series what it is. In fact, many fans still consider “Vice City” to be the peak of the series to this day.
And now it comes to iOS and Android systems courtesy of Rockstar, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the game’s release. The conversion carries all of the usual aspects such as enhanced graphics (which look phenomenal on the iPad), custom radio station option (always welcome),and re-worked touch controls (which are always hit and miss for the GTA mobile series, but are serviceable). Other than that it is more or less the same game.
Which is exactly why it’s here. After working out the kinks from the 3D conversion in “GTA:III”, but before becoming burdened with the RPG elements of “San Andreas” or the misguided attempts at realism with “GTA:IV”, “Vice City” ran with its chance to perfect the “GTA” formula, and never looked back. It’s story is still the tightest in all of the series, the voice acting is also among the best (featuring Ray Liotta’s best performance of the last decade), the soundtrack is a hit on all stations, missions are creative without becoming burdensome, the vehicle selection (which included motorcycles and helicopters) is top notch, the weapon variety is fun, the property buying system is inspired, and the use of the over the top 80s with the over the top “GTA” series is a match made in heaven.
Of course you still get the usual “GTA” brand of mayhem, which regardless of the game in the series, is always entertaining. The touch controls will always keep the mobile versions from becoming the definitive version of the games, but they’re about the only thing that isn’t better than the original. One quick note though is that the Android version is having some technical difficulties at the moment and isn’t currently available for download. However, once it is, this is a strong recommendation for all platforms, and a must buy for iPads.
Eventually you can see “Scarface” too many times, listen to Thriller only so much, and don your Don Johnson jacket for the final time while still getting away with it being considered ironic. In those moments, you need an 80’s fix that will never go out of style, and “GTA: Vice City” is just that, making it the app of the week.
Peter Molineaux has made his career off of hyping his titles to impossible degrees. From promising you the ability to play God with all that entails, to his infamous claim in “Fable” that you could plant a seed, and live to watch it grow into a tree, he’s defined by promising lemonade and delivering lemons.
Well, maybe that is a bit harsh as his titles are always interesting, even if they are never quite what you though they would be. He’s without a doubt one of gaming’s most unique minds, and he’s just released an app that might just be his most ambitious title yet. It’s called “Curiosity” and if you haven’t heard of it in your everyday life yet, you can expect that to change soon, as it is slowly taking the mobile gaming market by storm.
“Curiosity” is a game that starts with nothing more than a black cube. Zoom into the cube and you will see that it is comprised of millions of smaller cubes which can be removed with the touch of a finger. The goal couldn’t be more simple, as you are tasked with removing every single one of those cubes on one layer by taping them, in order to do the same on the next layer, earning coins for in game purchases that will let you dig faster.
That’s it. That’s the entire point to the game. Why would anyone want to do this? Well there are two reasons really, as it’s not just you chipping away at the seemingly infinite sized cube but rather thousands all working on a cube on each server, making this a pretty significant multiplayer title. The other is the vague promise that at the center of the cube is a life changing, mind blowing secret, which will only ever be revealed to one person, and that’s whoever removes the last cube first.
The whole “world changing” secret bit reeks of classic Molineaux, and will no doubt be a resounding dud. However, “Curiosity” is slightly different than the typical Molineaux hype job, as instead of promising the journey of a life time, he’s only promising the destination of a lifetime, and leaving the journey to those who wish to discover it.
It’s a key difference that is already paying dividends in the entertainment factor of the app, as the thousands that have played so far have already started creating sayings and photos of all kinds en route to the center of the cube. The sheer size of the structure makes it easy for a large number of hidden images and messages to be found, as every angle usually yields some new surprise, even if it is just a dirty word or two. Of course, they already go along with the hidden visuals the developers have put into each layer.
Much more than the contents of the cube then, it is the community aspect that drives what is better described as a global social experiment than a game. Since the only real gameplay consists of removing a seemingly infinite amount of blocks one at a time (even if there are coin and combo incentives), the real joy comes in gaining a new layer, and exploring what players have done with the layer you are on. Every would-be-monotonous step is now instead one step closer and filled with wonder, and of course pure curiosity.
“Curiousity” is also very controversial, as many are saying it is a joke to call it a game, and consider it to be more of an elaborate prank than a form of entertainment. There’s also the issue of how many people are trying to join at once causing massive server issues, and preventing many from joining at will.
Faults aside though, “Curiosity” may represent a small step toward the future of mobile gaming, as it brings the whole world together for one common goal and lets the define how they get there. Whether you are in it for the hunt for the center, or just want to see what creative works others before you have done, I recommend trying “Curiosity” out while it’s busy setting the world on fire as it is, if nothing else, a memorable experience that may turn into something much more.
We don’t know when “Curiosity” will end, what will come of it, are what stories will be crafted along the way. For whatever the answers to those questions eventually be, it’s important to get onboard with “Curiosity” sooner than later if you want to find out, which is all the more reason for it to be my app of the week.