Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye And Good Riddance To 2011!

Dear Lord, what a steaming turd of a year this turned out to be. I bet I can count the number of good things that happened in my world in 2011 on one finger– and I bet you can guess which finger I mean.

It seemed to me that virtually every day of 2011 was just a little bit worse than the one before. There was the Japanese tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant disaster, severe flooding in Thailand, the death of Steve Jobs and Elisabeth Sladen, and the continuation of our miserable, stagnant economy.

In my little corner of the world things weren't much better.  There were lots of minor annoyances, like crippling computer problems, my favorite store Borders filing for bankruptcy and closing, a part time job that became more trouble than my full time one and various and sundry other irratations.

Then there was the big bombshell that 2011 dropped in my lap: I lost my job. The bank at which I worked had been having financial trouble for a couple of years and at the end of July they finally threw in the towel. The FDIC swooped in like the vultures they are, closed us down and put us up for sale. If they'd have sold us to a bank with no presence in town, things probably would have turned out OK. Instead the FDIC sold us to the highest bidder, which was a rival bank with branches next door to every one of ours. It was the absolute worst possible scenario. The rival bank swallowed us up like the Borg, wiping us out as if we never existed.

I guess in a way I was lucky– unlike many of my fellow employees, I was allowed to stay on in my position from August until the end of December. As part of the deal though, I had to help my old bank merge with the new one. Staying on kept me employed for an extra five months, but it was like my executioner forcing me to dig my own grave. I was very literally being paid to eliminate my position and place of employment. Not a good situation in which to find oneself.

I did manage to find a part time job at the end of December. It's not a bad job, but it's a significant pay cut and of course there's no insurance, which is a big worry to me. I'm hopeful that more gainful employment will come along soon.

I'm also hopeful that 2012 will be a better year for me and the world at large. I mean it has to be, right? Please tell me it has to be. I don't see any way it could get any worse. Unless that Mayan thing turns out to be true...

Friday, December 30, 2011

It Came From The Cineplex: Hugo, Immortals, The Sitter, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was one of the worst holiday movie seasons in recent memory. Hollywood generally saves their big-budget tent pole pictures for May and December, but they definitely dropped the ball this winter season. There's seriously very, very little worth seeing in the theaters right now. If you like talking chipmunks and penguins you're in luck, but for the rest of us it's slim pickin's indeed.

CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Hugo
One of the very few theatrical bright spots this Xmas was Hugo, the latest from director Martin Scorsese. Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Hugo tells the story of a young orphan (are there old orphans?) who lives in a bustling train station in 1930s Paris, where of course everyone speaks with a British accent. Hugo hides and lives among the walls of the station, watching the sea of people from his hidden vantage point, keeping the station's various clocks wound and trying to stay one step ahead of the Station Master (played by Sacha Baron Cohen, who seems to be channeling Peter Sellers).

In addition to his clock winding duties, Hugo also constantly searches for parts to repair a strange automaton rescued from a junk heap by his late father (played by Jude Law).

Eventually Hugo meets an old man named Georges Melies, played by Ben Kingsley (who's no doubt ecstatic to be starring in something besides The Love Guru and Thunderbirds). Melies is a toymaker who owns a shop in the station, and befriends young Hugo. He also meets Melies' young niece Isabelle, played by Chloe Grace Moritz (Hit Girl, from the Kick-Ass movie), and the two youngsters go on a series of adventures in and out of the train station. They eventually manage to repair the automaton, which offers them proof that Isabelle's uncle is actually THE Georges Melies, one of the real-life pioneers of early cinema.

Hugo is a beautifully shot film that takes its own sweet time telling its story and expertly mixes fact with fiction. The performances are great, the plot is interesting and the film looks amazing. And there are no explosions! When's the last time you saw a movie where everything didn't blow up at the end?

That said, it's also quite an odd film. The first half concerns Hugo's life and his adventures in the station, while the second half is all about Melies. In fact once we discover Melies true identity, Hugo pretty much takes a back seat in his own movie.

It's also being marketed as a family film, which I suppose is a fair assessment. Kids will most likely love the first half of it, as what kid wouldn't want to have a secret lair in a train station, complete with a robot pal. As for the second half, I don't know. I have a hard time believing very many kids have ever heard of Georges Melies or give two hoots about him and his career. They're definitely not going to have any interest in silent film or the subject of film presentation.

Pros:
• Great cinematography.

• Great performances, especially from the character actors who populate the station.

• Cool robot (OK, automaton). There really were automatons built in the early 1900s that could write letters and draw pictures.

Cons:
• A bit too long, especially for what's being marketed as a kid's movie.

• Georges Melies may not appeal to the youth of today.

• Hugo's hair features a very obvious and noticeable dye job, making it look unnaturally black. Sort of like first season Bobby Brady. It's very distracting and I spent a good deal of time wondering why a multi-million dollar movie production couldn't afford to give their star a better dye job.

It's a good, if odd movie, and one of the very few films worth seeing this holiday season. I'm going to be generous and give it an A.

Immortals
Eons ago the Gods waged war against the Titans. The Gods were victorious and ruled from Mt. Olympus. The Titans lost and were imprisoned forever under Mt. Tartarus.

Years later, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), bitter because the Gods ignored his prayers, searches for the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of mass destruction that can free the Titans and destroy the Gods. Unable to intervene directly in human affairs, Zeus recruits Theseus (Henry Cavill) to defeat Hyperion and save the Earth.

Immortals is certainly a slick looking film, directed by Tarsem Singh (who also directed the equally visually-striking The Cell). Although it has a unique and original style, it's tough to not compare it to 300.

Mickey Rourke puts in his usual intense and bizarre performance as the ruthless but strangely sympathetic King Hyperion. John Hurt is suitably theatrical as the originally named Old Man. And if nothing else, this movie gives us a good look at Henry Cavill, the new Superman from next year's reboot of the franchise.

The story was interesting and easy to follow (unlike some sword & sandal epics), but I had a couple of problems with a few of the details. First of all, Zeus absolutely forbids any of the Gods from interfering in human affairs. So what's the point of the Gods then? Seems to me that a god can only ignore a person's prayers so long before they get fed up and find a new deity to worship. No wonder nobody prays to the Greek Gods anymore.

Along those same lines, Zeus feels so strongly about not interfering with humanity that he actually kills one of his children for defying him. But later we find out that the Old Man, who is Theseus' mentor and has been training him in warfare his whole life, is really Zeus in disguise. If that ain't considered interfering, I don't know what is.

We're told that there are twelve (I think– it might have been sixteen) Titans imprisoned under Mt. Tartarus. When they eventually escape, it appears that the Gods kill at least forty or fifty of them. Were the Titans regenerating off camera and heading back into the fray? Or are they like a hydra; cut one in half and two take its place?

Pros:
• Visually striking.

• Surprisingly bloody!

• Cool weapon in the Epirus Bow.

Cons:
• Stephen Dorff as the comedy relief.

• Hard to ignore the similarities to 300 (especially the old "Slo-Mo/Super Speed" visual trick).

I give it a B.

The Sitter
Apparently this movie exists and I saw it, as I found a ticket stub for it in my pocket. I'll have to take my pants' word for it though as I have little or no memory of anything concerning this movie.

The Sitter stars affable oaf Jonah Hill before he slimmed down and became an action hero. He pretty much plays himself here as a twenty-something slacker who's roped into babysitting a trio of problem children. Hijinks then ensue.

That's pretty much all there is to say about this movie. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen, but I'd pretty much forgotten everything about it by the time I pulled into my driveway, and I don't think it was due to early onset Alzheimer's. It's a familiar tale that's been told many times before and brings little or nothing new to the table.

There was one joke about Morrissey that made me laugh out loud, but other than that it elicited little more than mild chuckles. Actually I wouldn't even categorize them as chuckles; I just sort of breathed a little harder than normal out my nose at a few of the jokes.

I don't even remember enough about it to make a Pro and Con list.

If you're dead set on seeing it, it's probably already available at the video store. Again, since it's Xmas I'll be generous and give it an C-.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
Before I get to the movie, a word or three about the title. In years past Hollywood would churn out sequel after sequel and imaginatively name them by adding a number to the title. Cineplexes were littered with films like Extreme Prejudice 5 and Beyond Vengeance Part 7. I thought it was a stupid and lazy practice and it annoyed me no end.

I was wrong.

These days Hollywood has seemingly eschewed the "Numbered Sequel" practice and the new fad is to add a colon and subtitle to movie titles. I find this system very confusing. Although I hated numbers in the titles, at least I knew in what order to watch a movie series. Now I have no idea. I couldn't tell you the proper order of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies if you held a gun to my head (which you'd have to do to get me to watch those sequels again). I think the second was called Dead Man's Chest? Or was that the first one? Then wasn't there one called Here Comes the Tide? Then I think the next one was Shiver Me Timbers, followed by Polly Wants A Cracker and Arrrrh!

Maybe it's just me, but my brain doesn't seem capable of remembering all these subtitles and their order. I think I'd like to go back to the Numbered Sequels.

OK, on with the review.

Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and director Guy Ritchie return for another Holmesian outing. This time the boys face Professor Moriarty, Holmes' arch enemy. Moriarty is hatching a complicated plot to buy up various businesses around the world. He then plans to start a war which will require goods and services from the companies he owns, making him a millionaire.

In addition to thwarting this plan and saving the world, Holmes also has to save Watson, who's been targeted by Moriarty.

Eventually Holmes and Moriarty have a final confrontation in Switzerland and the two plunge seemingly to their deaths at Reichenbach Falls (which as all Holmssian scholars know, happened in the books).

If you liked the first movie, there's no reason you won't like this one, as it's more of the same. Not that that's a bad thing. The banter between Holmes and Watson is fun as always. Stephen Fry makes a memorable appearance as Holmes' brother Mycroft, and Jared Harris is suitably icy and villainous as Moriarty.

Pros:
• Good performances by the cast.

• The semi-steampunk look of the movie is a good way to sell it to modern audiences.

• Fun banter between Holmes and Watson

• Noomi Rapace, who plays the gypsy woman Sim, looks about a thousand times hotter here than she did in the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Cons:
• Holmes seems very unaffected by the death of his former lover Irene Adler. She's killed off in the first ten minutes and never mentioned by anyone ever again.

• I don't think it was a good idea to kill off off Moriarty so soon. He's pretty much the Joker to Holmes' Batman, so now what? How do you top Moriarty? I suppose if they make a third movie they can always bring him back, but still... Save the plunge over the falls for the third leg of the trilogy.

• Guy Ritchie got a little carried away with the "Slow Motion/Speed Up" shots in the movie. If you took a drink every time one occurs you'd pass out 3/4 of the way through the film.

If you liked the first one, you'll love the second. I give it a B+.

Happy Belated Birthday Stan Lee!

December 28th was the birthday of one Mr. Stanley Lieber, better known to the world as Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is probably the only comic book creator in existence who's recognized by the general public as well as the world of fandom. Lee, along with artist Jack Kirby, created most of what we know as the Marvel Universe back in the early 1960s.

For the first time in comics, Marvel's superheroes actually seemed like real people, rather than stiff mannequins (I'm lookin' at you, Superman). Stan Lee's heroes had relatable flaws and even (gasp) bickered with one another from time to time.

Stan Lee never talked down to his audience either, which may be one factor that explains his enduring popularity. He regularly used words that sailed well above the heads of his grammar school readers (like me), prompting them to crack open a dictionary to learn what words like "annihilate" meant.

Back in the day I naturally assumed that Stan Lee wrote every monthly comic that Marvel published. Of course the fact that every book was emblazoned with a line proclaiming "Stan Lee Presents" probably helped reinforce that notion. In a similar vein I also used to think that Hanna-Barbera was a woman who wrote and drew all the Flintstones and Jetsons cartoons.

I almost met Stan Lee ten years or so ago. I was at Wizard World in Chicago and saw him sitting at a table. I was walking over to him to tell him how much I enjoyed his work when suddenly an ill-mannered, foul-smelling stereotypical fanboy cut in front of me and plopped a stack of at least a hundred comic books on the table in front of Stan, demanding that he sign each and every one. Not wanting to wait in line for an hour behind such a basement dweller, I walked off. So close!

I hope Stan Lee has even a small inkling of what his work has meant to me over the course of my life. Because of him (and Jack Kirby) I tried my hand at making my own comics as a kid. I probably wouldn't be an artist (and fledgling writer) today if not for him.

So Happy Belated 89th Birthday, Stan Lee! Here's to another 80 or 90 years!


Just for fun, here's a shot of Stan from the 1970s, when apparently everyone looked like a porn star.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Festivus!

Technically Festivus was yesterday (the 23rd), but I was busy and didn't have a chance to post.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of this time of year, it's so easy to overlook the real reason for the season.

Festivus isn't just about gazing in awe at the bare aluminum pole standing in the living room, free of distracting tinsel. It's not just about telling everyone how much they've disappointed you over the past year during the Airing of Grievances, or attempting to pin the head of the household during the Feats of Strength.

It's about togetherness and sharing a nice meatloaf with friends and family.

Happy Festivus, everyone! Hope you have a true Festivus Miracle this year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Doctor Who Korwin Figure

I first started buying Doctor Who action figures around 2007. The original plan was to buy the Tenth Doctor and Rose and maybe a Dalek and that's all. You can probably imagine how that turned out, four years and several hundred figures later.

This is my newest Doctor Who acquisition: the rare and elusive Korwin figure from the third series episode "42."

You're probably thinking, "What's the big deal? It's just a figure of a guy wearing a weird welder's mask," and you'd be right. But this has been an action figure Holy Grail of mine for years now.

See, pretty much every Doctor Who figure made in England in the past five years has made its way to American shores, but for some reason poor old Korwin never traveled across the pond. As near as I can determine he was sold only in England, and even then he was part of a 3-figure set exclusively available at Tesco, which is sort of the British version of Target.

Oddly enough the other figures in the exclusive 3-pack were Captain Jack Harkness and a generic Time Lord, which were available in the States. Why Korwin was never sold here, I have no idea.

You could snag yourself a Korwin on ebay of course, but sellers always wanted more than I was willing to pay. After years of searching I finally found a reasonably priced Korwin and was able to snatch him up. Huzzah! My Doctor Who action figure collection is now almost complete!

So scarcity aside, how does the figure stack up? Was he worth the wait? Actually, yes. He's very detailed and his iconic red helmet is sculpted spot on. He's also fairly well articulated; more so than the Tenth Doctor figures released at the same time!

Only two small complaints (you knew I'd have a complaint, didn't you?): first off, his welder's mask is not removable. Repeat, NOT removable. As you can see above they went to the trouble of sculpting the back of his head, but the mask is firmly glued into place and there doesn't seem to be a face behind it. It's not a deal breaker for me, but it seems a bit odd.

Second, in the "42" episode Korwin was possessed by a living star. When he'd lift the visor on his helmet, blinding light would stream out. It would have been cool if the figure had a similar light up feature.

Minor complaints aside, I'm happy to finally acquire him. There are still a couple more figures I need before I consider my collection complete. One is the Amelia Pond figure that's available only at the Doctor Who Experience exhibition in England. Since it's highly unlikely I'm going to find myself in London anytime soon, that particular figure remains tantalizingly out of reach, mocking me. The second is the rare (in the States anyway) Revenge of the Cybermen 3-pack. Once I get those two items I'll be content.

In case you're wondering, I don't have every figure they've produced. There have been a few that I purposefully didn't buy, most of them slight variations of figures I already had. Unlike Waylon Smithers, I'm not re-buying a figure just because it comes with a hat!

It's Two. Two. Two Hits In One!

Now that audiences gave grown bored and frustrated with the 3D fad, Hollywood is scrambling to find another gimmick to lure us into the theaters. Their latest attempt: the Two Part Movie.

Warner Bros. started it all when they announced they were going to split the final Harry Potter movie into two parts, whether it needed it or not. Of course they said they had to have two movies in order to "properly service the story," but it doesn't take a genius to figure out their true motive: extending the franchise from seven movies to eight and raking in another billion dollars.

Then the Twilight franchise got in on the act, splitting the last movie "Breaking Dawn" into two very lucrative parts. New Line is also splitting The Hobbit in two, which will come this close to giving them another profitable trilogy.

So who will be next to split their movies in twain? According to actor Vin Diesel, it's the Fast and The Furious franchise (!). Said Mr. Diesel in a recent interview:
With the success of this last one, and the inclusion of so many characters, and the broadening of scope, when we were sitting down to figure out what would fit into the real estate of number six, we didn’t have enough space.

We have to pay off this story, we have to service all of these character relationships, and when we started mapping all that out it just went beyond 110 pages. The studio said, ‘You can’t fit all that story in one damn movie!’
Spoken like a true marketing man. So there's really enough story and character relationships in those F&F movies to fill two whole films? I must have missed all that between the scenes of cars jumping over buildings.

It's painfully obvious that excess story has nothing to do with these two-parters; like everything else in Hollywood it's all about money. If you make a plain old sequel, there's no guarantee that the audience will come back for it. But if you end your movie on a cliffhanger with a big ol' "To Be Continued In Part Two!" then it's a given they'll be back.

Looks like we're returning to the days of movie serials, except now you have to wait between six months and a year for the next chapter instead of a week.


UPDATE: Not long after I posted this, New Line added yet another installment to The Hobbit, officially stretching it into a trilogy after all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Krazy Kristmas Traditions: Tio De Nadal

We live in a strange and wondrous world that sometimes just makes no damned sense. Case in point: the Tio de Nadal.

Once again we have a Krazy Kristmas Tradition that originates in Spain, which is apparently trying to wrest the coveted title of "Most Insane Country" from Japan.

The Tio De Nadal (which means "Christmas Log") is a large hollow log decorated with a painted face and red sock hat. It's generally supported by either two or four legs and is covered by a blanket so it doesn't get cold. It's also sometimes known as the Caga Tio, which means... "poop log."

It's brought into the house on December 8th, which as everyone knows is the date of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Each day the children of the house "feed" the log little bits of food to help it grow. The log starts out fairly small, but over the weeks leading up to Christmas the parents will covertly swap it out for increasingly larger logs to give the illusion that it's growing.

Now we get to the really Krazy part. On Christmas day the children command the log to poop. When nothing happens, the kids, armed with sticks, very literally beat the crap out of the Tio de Nadal. The log "poops" out small edible gifts, such as candy, nuts and dried figs. The kids even sing a traditional song as they beat it and it voids its bowels onto the living room floor.

I know it probably seems like I put socks on both of my hands and mashed down a bunch of keys on the computer to generate that last paragraph, but it's all well-documented truth. 

You know that the log has completely emptied itself when it craps a salted herring onto the floor. That signals the end of the Tio de Nadal ritual.

I have so many questions... How did something like this every get started? Why a salted herring? And why do all of Spain's Christmas traditions have to do with defecating?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Well, I Am Now Officially Unemployed

Photobucket
It finally happened– as of today I have officially joined the ranks of the nation's unemployed.

The image above is a pretty good approximation of me right now as I sit wondering what in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair I'm going to do next.

Fortunately (I guess), this didn't come as a surprise. I've known it was going to happen for quite some time. I've been sending out resumes, filling out applications and trying to network with the handful of people I know around town, but there just isn't anything out there right now.

Obviously I would prefer a job in the advertising/marketing field, but I'm a realist; I may have to do something else for a while until things improve.

If anyone needs a creative graphic designer or illustrator with twenty years of experience, don't hesitate to call me!

In the meantime I will be working on my new country & western song, titled "Pink Slip for Christmas."

[subliminal message] Buy a Doctor Who poster! [/subliminal message]


UPDATE: I am now officially employed again!

Krazy Kristmas Traditions: El Caganer

We live in a strange and wondrous world that sometimes just makes no damned sense. Case in point: the El Caganer figurine.

A Caganer is a small figurine from the Catalan region of Spain. Caganers are generally depicted as peasant men with their pants pulled down and in the act of defecating. They have been around since at least the 18th century and are a traditional part of Spanish nativity scenes. Yep. I said nativity scenes.


In Spain (as well as parts of Italy and France), nativity scenes don't settle for just the manger. They often depict the entire town of Bethlehem. complete with a farmhouse and figures of women washing clothes in the river, shepherds herding sheep, and more. And of course over in the corner, a little guy taking a dump.


The Caganer (pronounced sort of like caga-nair and meaning "pooper") is usually the most popular part of the Spanish nativity scene (natch!). Some families hide the Caganer and challenge their kids to find it.


So why a figure of a guy dropping the kids off at the pool? Some believe it's symbolic of fertilizing the Earth or some such Circle of Life crap. Some think it's to bring some levity to an otherwise solemn religious occasion. Others just think it's because poop = funny.


I just hope they have the good sense to leave the Caganer out of the Living Nativity scenes.


The traditional Caganer is always depicted as a man in peasant clothing, wearing a hat and sash and often smoking a pipe. In recent years Caganer figures have expanded to include celebrities, athletes and political figures.

All I have to say about Caganers is WHY AM I JUST NOW HEARING ABOUT THIS?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Weird Retro Xmas Ads

The only explanation I can come with for the existence of these Xmas ads is that it had been a long, hard year at the Ad Agency and the Art Director just didn't give a frak anymore...

Cigarettes were apparently a popular gift back in the time when you could advertise them. There are dozens of Xmas-themed ads like this one. Giving out smokes for Xmas was so popular they even made special holiday cartons, complete with pre-printed gift tags!

It might seem tacky, but a carton of cigarettes is certainly not a cheap gift; these days it would set you back at least 60 bucks.

You know what else guards against "Throat-Scratch?" NOT SMOKING, THAT'S WHAT!

Even Actor/Former Governor/Future President Ronald Reagan got in on the act. Here we see him addressing a pile of coffin nails to all his Hollywood pals.

It's a known fact: Depression and thoughts of suicide increase dramatically during the Holiday Season. So what better gift for the sullen loner on your list than their very own handgun?

That's a pretty ominous note too, lying there next to the pistol. And who exactly wrote it? The guy who bought the gun? Or one of the many voices in his head?

This year everyone in the Compound got their very own rifle, and it was the best Overthrow the Government Day, er Xmas ever!

In a survey, nine out of ten serial killers indicated that they absolutely loved this campaign.

Dear Lord, could this ad be any more disturbing?

Aw, what could be more adorable than an innocent little girl leaving milk and cookies for Santa. Right in front of a roaring fireplace.

Looks like Frosty sleeps with the fish sticks.

A brand new Hoover vacuum cleaner is the perfect gift for your paraplegic wife.

This poor family of wretches has apparently been without proper head support for a very long time. Dad's positively in ecstasy as he paws at that new pillow. Little Suzie is even ignoring her brand new doll so that she can cop a feel off of that stuffed sack of Nirvana.

Eyes front, Santa. 

He's so desperate to get her up on that ladder that he's making up reasons for her to do so. Why else would he be handing her presents to lodge into the tree branches, twelve feet off the ground? Who's going to be able to reach those?

You know, whenever I get the urge to play with my model train set I always strip down to my underwear.

Somehow it just doesn't feel like the Xmas season to me until I listen to the Six Million Dollar Man Christmas Adventure Album.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hanukkah Canes!

Oy vey! Just in time for the Jewish Festival Of Lights, it's Hanukkah Canes! Finally candy canes that aren't just for the goyim!

They're available online at Archie McPhee, sellers of all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. They're a little steep at $4.75 for six pieces (shouldn't there be eight?), but where else would you find such a thing?

All I know is that I HAVE TO HAVE THIS! NOW, NOT LATER!


And for your after-Hanukkah enjoyment, Archie McPhee also carries Hebrew Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Same great gummy taste and comes with a tiny comic strip in Yiddish!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Very WhoNA Xmas

This past weekend my nephews and I paid a special visit to WhoNA in Indianapolis, Indiana.

WhoNA, which stands for Who North America, is an online store specializing (almost) exclusively in Doctor Who merchandise. How a store devoted to such a British institution popped up in the corn, basketball and meth capital of the world, I have no idea.

It's run by Keith and Jany Bradbury, who are two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Their customer service is amazing, especially in this day and age of surly clerks and uncaring companies. I've ordered many, many, MANY items from WhoNA and am consistently surprised at their level of customer service. I've never had any issues with them and my packages usually arrive within two days. Other online businesses could learn a lesson or two from them (I'm lookin' at you, Amazon and Mattel!). I know, I sound like a commercial, but it's a really cool place.

Because it's primarily an online store, they're normally not open to the public. However, if you call and ask nicely, they'll usually let you come in and shop in their warehouse. Now that's my kind of store: one where you have to make an appointment and are the only one there!

This past weekend WhoNA hosted their First Annual Customer Appreciation/Xmas Bash. It was a chance to visit the facility, meet up with other Doctor Who fans, eat some donuts and do some shopping.

I picked up my nephews Kyle and Aaron (who due to my subversion have become big Doctor Who fans) and with many a cry of "Allons-y" and "Geronimo" we headed for Indy.


Here we are outside of WhoNA. Who would ever guess that behind this unassuming store front in the middle of a nondescript industrial park lies a veritable Doctor Who Wonderland?

As we went inside, we were greeted by Jany, decked out in a bright red Xmas sweater. She asked my name and when I told her she nodded thoughtfully and said, "I recognize that name. We send a lot of packages to your house!" On the one hand I was flattered she remembered me. On the other hand, that's probably not good news for my poor old wallet.

We'd been to their old location about three years ago, but they've since moved to new and larger digs. The new location features the front lobby, a viewing room complete with a projection TV (which shows Doctor Who episodes, of course), a showroom featuring Keith's personal collection of Who memorabilia, a packing/shipping room, a gaming room, and of course the warehouse.

The centerpiece of the store may just be the full sized TARDIS. That's Aaron standing in front of it. Looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world, doesn't he? That's how he looks in every photo ever taken of him, regardless of how much fun he's having.

It's a pretty impressive replica of a TARDIS, complete with flashing light on top. It even played takeoff, landing and console sounds.

Here's a shot of Aaron and me in front of the TARDIS.

There were actually quite a few people in attendance there, many of them dressed as characters from the show. There were at least two Eleventh Doctors, a couple of Tenth Doctors and one Ninth Doctor. There was even a Captain Jack and an Amy Pond. We decided I had inadvertently dressed asRory Williams.

Here we are trying to break into the TARDIS, but unfortunately it was locked. You can't tell it here, but it's not really an actual four-sided prop. Keith built it a year or two ago to take to comic and gaming conventions. Two sides of it look like the TARDIS, while the back two sides are full of shelves and pegs to hold merchandise.

Here we are in our "action poses." I couldn't be more proud of this photo.

Here's Kyle in front of the TARDIS.

Kyle apparently forgot his TARDIS key.

And one more Rory action pose. I hope no prospective employers see this.

Here's some shots of the large warehouse at the back of the store. As you can see, the BBC is riding the Doctor Who gravy train pretty hard right now, pumping out an incredible and surprising amount of merchandise.

This may very well be the world's neatest, cleanest and most organized warehouse! Seriously, you could eat off of that floor!

Need a Dalek? They've got 'em. I was going to buy one of those black Cybermen there, but I couldn't remember if I already had one or not. That's generally a sign that you have too big a collection; when you can't remember what you have and haven't bought.

In addition to action figures, pretty much every Doctor Who DVD is available at WhoNA.

These masks were sitting around the top of the warehouse shelves. I think they're display pieces and not for sale. At the left is Davros, creator of the Daleks, and in the center is a Silurian.

 At left is a Zygon, then K-9, the Doctor's robot dog, and Davros again.

 The ball at left is an Ood orb (we think), then a Dalek.

This was an inflatable Dalek that you can actually ride around in (well, if you're a kid) and was for sale. Next to it is some kind of TARDIS vinyl playhouse deal (I think).

This is Aaron thoughtfully contemplating his purchase choices. He had 30 dollars to spend and was weighing his action figure options very carefully in order to get the most bang for his buck. That's my other nephew Kyle behind him, trying to lift his shopping basket.

Here's a piece of Cyberman wall art just outside the warehouse. I can't tell who's more emotionless, the metallic Cybermen or Aaron! Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I'm here all week!

Even the bathroom at WhoNA has a Doctor Who theme. The walls were adorned with autographed photos of various actors from the show.

Here's Kyle in the showroom. It appears that they've got one sample of everything they've ever sold in the store in here. It looks not unlike my own house.

Look at that! I don't know what he's pointing at, but Kyle wants to make sure I see it.

"Hmm. How can we break into this case without making any noise? Quick, Aaron, give me your glass cutter!"

In addition to new merchandise, the showroom also contains Keith's impressive collection of old school Doctor Who merchandise. Not for sale, of course!

The showroom also features an authentic Doctor Who pinball machine, which is a favorite of Aaron's. Who'd have thought a kid from his generation would be such a pinball wizard?

There's the Doctor's enemy The Master sneering at you on the bottom of the pinball game.

I love how the art on the pinball game tries to depict the various Doctors (up to #7) as kick-ass action heroes.

There's a crocheted Fifth Doctor hanging out in the showroom.

Along with a crocheted Master.

 You've got to watch your head at WhoNA.

I took some more shots of the TARDIS after the crowd thinned out a bit.

I figured the TARDIS' instruction sign was probably just a sticker but upon closer inspection I saw that it's a real metal plate, complete with engraved lettering. That was no doubt expensive!

Here's the other side of the TARDIS, which is actually a display case for merchandise.

We shopped the warehouse to within an inch of its life, paid for our stuff and headed for home. If you're a Doctor Who fan and are ever in the Indianapolis area, give WhoNA a call and arrange a visit. You'll be glad you did!
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