Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quick Reminder

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Just a quick reminder that tomorrow is the beginning of 'Christmas in July' here at the Astro Lounge. We will be spending the next 24 days looking at the 2011 Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar and maybe a few other Christmas surprises in between.

And speaking of Christmas, I was out at the local shopping mall the other day and found not one but two different stores that had started setting out holiday decorations. Mostly it was just the small ceramic Santa Claus statutes, a few reindeer and elves. Hallmark had some discounted ornaments from 2011 that they stuck back out with a huge 80% off sign above them. I am assuming they are getting ready to start selling the new 2012 ones and are trying to make room.

The biggest surprise came from the Hobby Lobby store, which was smack dab in the middle of setting out a full fledged Christmas section. Complete with lights, trees, ornaments... the works. If its red or green and flashed it was going up. As a matter of fact they had about five isles filled with holiday merchandise going and  clearly had plans to add in even more.

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. I honestly do not mind seeing a few of the 'mall sized' stores putting out early decorations. Its the huge sections coming up this early in the year that bother me. I cannot help but be reminded of that scene (pictured above) from 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown' in which the Peanuts Gang finds the local shopping mall completely covered with Christmas decor.

Either way 'Christmas in July' is ready to go and I am excited to start sharing these posts with everyone. Once we are through the month of July... it will (almost) be time to start the 2012 Halloween Countdown!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Christmas in July -- A Prologue

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry.... Christmas? No your eyes do not deceive you this is indeed a holiday smack dab in the middle of the year. I have been periodically teasing everyone about a new themed countdown that will be taking place throughout July and am pleased to present "Christmas in July! The Star Wars Advent Calendar!" It's Star Wars. It's Legos. It's Christmas. It is everything I love wrapped up into one awesome package! But before the countdown officially begins I wanted to do a small Q&A "prologue" post to get everyone up to speed and ready for the festivities begin, starting on July 1st.

Why do a Christmas in July theme?
  • Most people (ie: normal folk) only celebrate Christmas in November and December but there are a select few of us who are just outright crazy about the holiday and will celebrate it at any and every opportunity. Christmas in July is indeed a real phenomenon, proof by the fact that it has its own Wikipedia page. And anything with its own Wiki must indeed be true. I've always wanted to get in on the Christmas in July fun but never found a creative way to do so until now.
Why use the 2011 Star Wars Advent Calendar?
  • I think the better question is why not use the Star Wars Advent Calendar? Its something fun, easy to cover, and combines three of my favorite things together as one. The longer answer here is that I originally purchased the 2011 Star Wars Advent Calendar as something that I was going to cover during the websites 'Christmas Countdown', but ended up deciding against it. Mostly because if I would have started to write about this daily, I never would have gotten around to writing all the other articles that I enjoy doing that time of year. Instead of trying to juggle this calendar and everything else, I simply chose not to use it.
Will July only have Star Wars Advent Calendar items in it?
  • No. As a matter of fact that is a big part of the reason why I chose to do it now instead of last winter. You see I really beat myself thin, starting with "Two Months of Halloween" in September and October, then going right into the "Christmas Countdown" in November and December. Unless I plan way far in advance, I don't really have time to write articles ahead of time. However here in the middle of the summer, I'm not really rushed to cover four hundred things at one time, I can take a break between articles and work ahead to get bigger 'event pieces' such as this one done. As of this prologue piece I have finished drafts of every article already done. Its just a matter of me logging in each day and clicking "publish". Therefore, I will still be able to keep a normal routine of posting "Summer Toys" and other summer related items going on throughout the month.
Will this be a yearly countdown that happens?
  • Like everything else, it depends. This website has sort of grown organically over the years. I only write about, and will only ever write about, things that I love. But I am starting to find a bit of a 'groove' for how things work. "Christmas in July" seems like something that I will enjoy doing for years to come. So long as I enjoy doing it and people enjoy reading it I do not see any reason why it will stop.
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Now that we are all on the same page, let's kick off the first annual Christmas in July! This year we are going to take a look at 2011's Star Wars Advent Calendar. Which features an impressive looking box that is about four times the size it needs to be... but that is part of the fun of Advent Calendars. They are always a little bit bigger and seem a little grander than they actually are.

For those of you who have never heard of an 'Advent Calendar' before allow me to explain how they work. This big box folds open to revile a series of sealed flaps. Each flap has a different number on the front it if, one through twenty four to be exact. These numbers correspond with the day of the month, so on December 1st you open the flap marked with a "one" on the front of it. Then on December 2nd you open the one with the "two" ... so on and so fourth until you reach Christmas Day.

Behind each flap you will receive some small gift. Depending on the calendar it can range anyplace from  pieces of chocolate to bars of soap. In the case of the more modern "commercial" calendars they tend to be small toys. This one is obviously comprised of Star Wars themed Lego toys.

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Lego has been selling Advent Calendars for years now. While the themes change from year to year, sometimes its construction equipment, sometimes its pirates, this time its Star Wars. One thing manages to always stay the same. December 24th gives you a Santa Claus figure. 2011 was no different... except the motherfucker is an EXCLUSIVE YODA MINIFIGURE!

Ladies and Gents that is not just a statement but quite possibly the statement to end all statements. Not only do we have a Lego Yoda figure to look forward to but we have a Lego Yoda figure dressed up as friggin' Santa Claus. We have ourself a Christmas miracle in July, folks. His name is Yoda Claus.

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Here is our Advent Calendar with its top flap opened. It presents an epic scene of Star Wars related mayhem, one in which the Death Star has a gigantic Christmas Bow tied around it! Words cannot describe how awesome this thing is. You see all those numbered flaps? Those are the ones that we will be opening all throughout July. So be sure to check back... Christmas in July officially begins on July 1st!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Dark Berry Mtn Dew!

Dark Knight Rises
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When 'The Dark Knight' was released in theaters back in 2008 the film had quite a viral campaign behind its release. If you are into that kind of thing there was all sorts of promotional stuff that came out in correlation with its release. Because of all of that, the film still has one of my favorite marketing campaigns of all time. 

The thing about viral marketing though, is that you have to sort of actively seek out the items which are released. It is fun and a unique way to celebrate the release of a film but it lacks a bit of the excitement that comes with walking into a store and accidentally finding something with your favorite film characters stuck onto the side of it.

With the impending release of 'The Dark Knight Rises' Warner Brothers is set to correct that mistake by forming a partnership with Mountain Dew and releasing a limited edition soft drink, Dark Berry Dew, to go in conjunction with the films theatrical release.

Dark Knight Rises
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And what Mountain Dew has created is most definitely something special. This is not your run of the mill soft drink partnership, in which the name of a product gets haphazardly thrown onto the side of a bottle and it is called a day. Nope, what we have here is a fully formed and realized alternative brand of soda. One that looks very cool and actually manages to taste equally as well.

For starters, this is hands down the most beautiful looking soda I have ever photographed. Never have I been so pleased to be using a $600 digital camera to take pictures of a $1.50 plastic bottle than what I am right now. I feel like it truly does capture the very essence of what makes Dark Berry Dew so visually pleasing.

The color of this soda is something straight out of a science fiction film. To simply call it blue is a flat out injustice to the drink. It is more than that, its like seventeen colors all rolled up into one depending on what angle your looking at it and what lighting conditions you are in.

Just looking at it straight on and you'll think its just your average dark soda, black with a slightly blue hue. Hold it up to a light source watch in amazement as Dark Berry Dew does its best transformer impression and its color scheme completely shifts to a dark purple / blue scheme that is sort of see through but not quite. All the while doing a fantastic job of reflecting light around inside of it. 

Yes, I just spent four full paragraphs talking about the color of Mountain Dew.

Dark Knight Rises
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As soon as you get over the way this drink is colored, the next thing that will draw you in is its label. Entirely done up in black and white. As a soda collector, I am pretty sure this is the first time Mountain Dew has done almost an entire label in black and white. I cannot emphasize that enough... black and white!

Folks, this is Mountain Dew we are talking about here. Even when they shy away from the traditional neon green that is associated with the brand it is usually replaced some other equally neon color. Live Wire and Code Red are two of the brightest shades of orange and red that you are likely to find. Nothing on this soda is brightly colored and somehow, that is what makes it stand out from all the other traditional looking color schemes that surround it.

I love, love, love Dark Berry Dew. Finding it for sale is like finding some long lost child that I had years ago which never knew existed. And to make up for lost time, I feel the need to cut off the kids head and drink his delicious berry flavored insides ... or something to that effect. I probably shouldn't have kids. Though it is worth noting that Dark Berry Dew tastes as good as it looks. Sometimes these 'limited edition' flavors tend to look nice but taste like your Uncle Phil pissed in a 20 oz bottle and it accidentally got put on the shelf of your local 7-11. That is not the case here, Dark Berry Dew is well worth working into your regular drinking rotation.

If I had to rank this soda flavor up against Mountain Dew's previous efforts, I would put this one right up into the same category as Pitch Black. It really is that damn good. I strongly suggest going to your local gas station and purchasing as much of this stuff as possible. A little research tells me that Dark Berry Dew is going to be limited to an eight week run on store shelves. Then it is going to be gone forever. So get out their and get ahold of some while you can. This is not something you will want to miss out on!

Dark Knight Rises

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Limited Edition 'Michael Jackson' Pepsi!

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I was walking through the store the other day and I may or may not have been looking to see if I could find something with a fall or Halloween theme plastered onto the side of it. Turns out its still June and it may be a little early for that. You cannot fault me for at least trying.

While I was not quite able to locate anything Halloween related, save for a couple bags of Branches Candy Corn (but it was in its generic wrapper, not the black and orange Halloween kind), I did manage to locate something else worthy of a couple blocks of my poorly wrote text. Sitting in a fairly makeshift display on the floor was a bunch of sixteen ounce Pepsi cans with the phrase "KING OF POP" wrote on the side of it. It seemed like a pretty brash statement, even for a company like Pepsi which is sort of known saying brash things.

Then I turned the can over and suddenly the "KING OF POP" slogan makes a little bit more sense. It was Michael Jackson! I guess not even death can break the bond formed between M.J. and the Pepsi corporation. Readers younger than myself or ones not quite as versed in pop culture from previous decades may not remember the time when Pepsi shocked everyone and got Michael Jackson to appear in what is probably Pepsi's most well known television commercial:

If Pepsi and Coke were both characters in a television program I would picture Coke being the slightly older wiser brother to Pepsi's younger, naive self. Coca-Cola gets to do all the really good things that people remember, such as limited edition Christmas cans and commercials that feature Santa Claus. Pepsi, despite its best efforts, always seems to be forced to settle for second place.

Except for the time it paired with Michael Jackson. Coca-Cola is almost universally recognized as part of the holiday season therefore people expect it and sort of take it for granted. Nobody expected Pepsi to team up with Michael Jackson. And this is M.J. of the 1980's mind you, the full fledged mega star of the decade. Not the crazy doll faced Jackson that dangled a kid out of a second story window and became the blunt end of every comedians joke.

At this specific point in time M.J. was hot off the release of 1987's "Bad" album. The follow up to his immensely successful  "Thriller" album. To say that 'Bad' was one of the most anticipated albums of all time is literally not an understatement.

To give you a perspective as to what the Michael Jackson name meant to the Pepsi corporation just take a look at the sales numbers. It is estimated that just within the United States alone, the 'Thriller' and 'Bad' albums sold a combined 39,000,000 copies. Coke may have had its name all over Christmas but Pepsi had fond the one thing bigger than the biggest of holidays. Michael Jackson.

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Flash forward to the year 2012 and we are coming up close to the one year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. It appears that once again Pepsi is trying to cash in on his name and likeness. As you can see there is not much to this cans design. It is basically just an elongated Pepsi can with the silver outline of M.J. on one side of it.

Once I realized who was on the can I was sort of surprised by how much Pepsi appeared to be downplaying the release of this item. There was no fancy display, I have not seen any TV commercials, heard any radio spots, seen anything online about it. I have to wonder if this is in part because Michael Jackson of the 1990's and 2000's was a far cry from the 'King of Pop' that so many fondly remember from the 80's.

Whatever the case may be, I am glad to see this item released. It is tasteful. A nice reminder of what Michael Jackson meant to the world when he was at his best. As someone who was a big fan of his music growing up, I like seeing the occasional bit of memorabilia to remind us all who the true 'King of Pop' really was! Kudos to Pepsi for paying tribute to Michael Jackson!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spider-Man Cereal Showdown!

I think it is best to admit when one fails. This year I failed in the grandest way possible with the websites E3 coverage. For starters I neglected to do any prior promotion for it and while I did manage to do a writeup for Microsoft's press conference, ended up missing out on both Sony and Nintendo. Its a bummer that I didn't get a chance to write about them but unfortunately sometimes other things come up and I am not able to dedicate an entire afternoon to writing.

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So let's forget about this years E3 disaster and move on with something more entertaining. Amazing Spider-Man Breakfast Cereal! A little over a year ago I wrote an article entitled "Limited Edition Spider-Man 3 Cereal" about a brand of cereal dedicated to Spider-Man 3. If you guys can remember back to 2007 prior to the films release, Sony Pictures pretty much found a way to get your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man plastered over everything imaginable.

And here in 2012 with a new film just around the corner, its not much different. Spider-Man is starting to take over our grocery stores one isle at a time. And once again his most prominent 'limited edition' item is a box of cereal. Since I figure I have sort of technically wrote about Spider-Man cereal once before, I think something a little different is in order. The only logical thing I think we can do is to have ourself a good old fashion Spider-Man Cereal Showdown! We will take 2007's Spider-Man 3 cereal and compare it to 2012's newly released Amazing Spider-Man Cereal and see which box comes out on top!

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On the right we have the new 'Amazing Spider-Man' breakfast cereal. Over on the left its the 'Spider-Man 3' cereal from 2007. As you can see both boxes are actually fairly close in design. I prefer the darker color scheme of the 2007 box to the lighter brighter look of the new one. You'll also notice that on the 'Spider-Man 3' box our hero is sitting in front of a tall city backdrop while the new one sort of just has Spidey floating in the middle of a big blue void.

The new cereal makes up points by providing a much nicer pose for Spider-Man to be in. On the '07 box he looks hunched over and crowded, the new one fixes this mistake and provides a much cleaner "swinging" effect. They have also fixed the web shooter issue that I had on the original box. It no longer looks like hes shooting web directly into the bowl... Spider-Man is now simply shooting at a block of text. A very important block of text that we will get to here in just a moment.

ROUND ONE: The first round goes to.... Spider-Man 3. It was a close and tough call to make but I generally like the darker look of the original box, even though the new one actually has Spidey in a more natural looking position. +5 points goes to Spider-Man 3!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Microsoft E3 2012 Keynotes!

 Well this sure did sneak up on me. Its time for our annual E3 2012 coverage, starting today with Microsoft's keynote speech. For those of you new to the website here is the drill. E3 is the years biggest video game trade show. The Big Three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) all do live keynote speeches were they show off the latest in games, system exclusives, new features, and technology. This year we are expecting a big focus from Nintendo for the brand new Wii U hardware. While there are rumors that both Microsoft and Sony could have announcements about the next generation of hardware also.

How I cover the event is a little bit different from other places, I do something called a "live blog". Which basically means as I'm watching the live stream of the show, I type up my thoughts as to what is being shown and shortly after the end of the conference, post them for everyone to see. It is an interesting way (at least I think so!) to read about the even.. in a more opinionated way, instead of just seeing a list of straight facts. Which I don't think my readers would be interested in.

 As of the start of this post we are about forty five minutes away from Microsoft's keynote so I figured I would do some quick predictions for what I expect to happen. We'll see how many of them are correct.

As per the norm with Microsoft I expect a big, expensive looking stage. E3 has been described as a bit of a circus and Microsoft is one to embrace this philosophy ten fold. As a matter of fact one year they actually did have a high wire circus act preform in the middle of their conference. So who knows what they'll do to try to show up Sony and Nintendo.

It also would not be much of a stretch to assume lots and lots of Kinect related talk from the house that Bill Gates built. They have made lots of money from this unit and would like to find ways to get it into even more households. I am sure there will be plenty of casual Kinect experiences shown but I bet they try to push more of a "core Kinect" experience also.