Loot Crate Unboxing and Review for September 2015

Well, it’s October, so that means it’s time for the subscription boxes that should have been here in September. It’s not my fault, I tell you! But you guys already know that, so let’s get right down to business.

The first unboxing of the month is Loot Crate, which had an interesting-sounding theme for September: “Summon”. I had high hopes, especially since I saw a silhouette of Castiel from “Supernatural” in the bumper images of the monthly emails, but what was my final impression? Eeeehhhh…how about you take a look at the unboxing video first?

I’m sure you could probably tell that I was less than enthused with the box, overall, but just for arguments’ sake let’s go ahead and continue the post with a breakdown of the box.

“Pikachu” toque:
Right out of the gates we have this lovely little hat designed after everyone’s favorite electric rat Pokemon. I gave this item a hard time in the video, mostly because the majority of nerds I know would never actually wear something like this out in public. My husband argued that there are definitely tons of nerds who would wear a Pikachu hat in public, and I guess he is actually right, but it still struck me as an extremely childish kind of item to include in a subscription box that’s aimed at adults. That’s just my opinion, sorry! That said, my daughter actually does like Pikachu, and she seemed to be perfectly happy with the idea of getting to wear this hat, so I guess we’re okay on that front. This item retails for about $17.

“Homer Buddha” figure from Kidrobot:
This is a cute, weird little collectible that will only really appeal to “The Simpsons” fans, of a smiling Homer posed like as Buddha sitting on a donut. What’s really, truly amazing about this item is that the original it was based off of was a 6″ colored version, and it retails for FIFTY-FREAKIN’ DOLLARS. I mean, seriously, what the hell, people? And, believe it or not, this 3″ version actually goes for $20. Honestly guys, it’s like, this squishy plastic material, like what a chew-toy might be made out of. Who the heck would pay $20 for this? Okay, okay, that’s all I can say about that.

“Hearthstone” stress ball:
Just throwing this out there right off the get-go: I’m pretty sure I have infinitely more stress balls than I will ever need thanks to subscription boxes. That said, this particular stress ball is based off the “Hearthstone” mobile game, of which I know next to nothing. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t like this item. It’s cheap box-filler. It’s technically a Loot Crate exclusive, and crazy people are trying to sell it online for outrageous amounts of money, but I figure it’s worth…$2, tops.

’67 Chevy Impala die cast car from “Supernatural”:
This is my item, right here…this little Hot Wheels-style die cast car of Dean’s Impala from “Supernatural”. This is literally the one item in this box that is truly for me, and it’s an itty bitty toy car. There’s only so much I can say about that. I do like it, I really do, because I love the Impala and wish I had a real one, but it’s also a bit depressing that the only item in the entire Loot Crate that I truly enjoy for myself is a toy car. Rawr. Okay, enough about that. This teeny-weeny “model” can be purchased online for $10.

“Summon” button:
As always, we have the collectible Loot Crate button, this one stating the theme of “Summon” and sporting a strange little design that incorporates Pikachus. This is just a cheap little pin, but for the sake of keeping the numbers even I’ll allow it a $1 value.

“Hearthstone” card pack download code:
Again, I don’t play this game, so this code doesn’t really mean much to me at all. I might try it sometime just for the hell of it, but if it’s the kind of “freemium” game that damn-well requires you to spend money in order to play it properly, then just no. And it probably is, so just no. Anyway, I couldn’t find anything on the Hearthstone website that indicated what a download code for a card pack might be worth, so ya’ll can correct me if you know but I’m going to go ahead and take a wild guess that it would probably be something along the lines of $3.

“Master Summoner” game:
I’m including this in the list simply because it’s a game that was made by Loot Crate specifically for use with the “Summon” box and the rip-out cards from the magazine, so it’s kind of an “exclusive” in that sense, but I can’t really put a value on it because technically it’s free. Also, from the few reviews I saw of it, you can finish the entire game in about an hour, so…just throwing that out there.

Loot Crate mini-magazine:
I don’t usually include the mini-mag in my breakdowns, but I’m actually stretching a bit because this box was so tiny. This is the basic little 20-ish page magazine that is in every Loot Crate; it’s main purpose is to describe the items within the box, but it also sometimes has little interviews and such. It’s probably only worth about $1.

Total approximate value of box: $54
Total cost to me: $40

So, I’ve been saying this a LOT lately, but with the Canadian dollar down the way it is right now the value of my subscription boxes is really affected. $54 actually isn’t that bad for a box value (although it’s on the lower end of what it has been in the past), but when what you’re paying is about $40 it makes it feel like a heck of a lot less of a value. When I first started getting Loot Crate I was only paying about $31, so what I’m paying now is about a 25% increase, while the contents have not improved in any way, so we’ve got to keep that in mind.

Secondly, I just have to say that this particular box was all kinds of disappointing. I’ve come to terms with the Pikachu hat simply because my daughter actually does like it, but with it being a large part of the value of the box and not actually being something for me, that’s pretty annoying. Then add in that the most “valuable” item in the box is the Simpsons item (which, seriously, feels like a frikkin’ chew toy), and the Hearthstone junk, and it’s just lots of thumbs down. I love the little Impala car, but it’s tiny and not exactly high in value, so it hardly makes the box worth it.

All in all I really have to give this box two thumbs down because it did not impress me at all, and I really hope Loot Crate steps it up in October because I’ve loved it so much in the past!

So what did you think? Was it a “yay” or a “nay” for September’s “Summon” Loot Crate? What did you think of the Pikachu hat? Which item did you think was the junkiest? Please share!

Still a Nerd, Just One Who Hates the Cold

I’ve always found it interesting how people change as they grow up; or rather, how they both do and don’t change.

A lot of it, of course, is because of what side of a situation you are on. When I was a kid, for example, I absolutely loved the winter. Snow was one of the greatest things ever. I could bundle up and spend all day outside, digging tunnels, making snow angels, building snowmen. Sometimes my mother would have to tell me to come in and eat, because I’d completely lose track of time. I didn’t even feel the cold, because I was too busy having fun. I could never understand how my parents could hate winter so much, and get more and more frustrated every time it snowed. How could they hate snow? Snow was so awesome!

Now, of course, I’m a grown adult and I’m on the other side of the situation. When it snows, my husband and I have to shovel. When it snows a lot, we have to shovel a lot. We spend a great deal of money keeping our house warm while it gets colder and colder outside. We have to put up with the disgusting mess that seems to end up everywhere as a result of the half-slush-half-mud crap that inevitably becomes the most common substance in the world during the winter months. We curse and growl while trying to de-ice the windshield in the morning while our daughter laughs from the inside of the car and declares that she loves snow. In short: I’m a cranky adult and I hate winter now.

Just LOOKING at this fills me with a Hulk-like rage.

This is an example of how people can change as they get older, and there are plenty more. I think a fair bit of the music I listened to as a kid is complete trash, because my musical palette has matured. Some of the foods I used to eat daily as a kid now make me gag because just knowing how bad they are for you changes my ability to taste them the same way. I care a hell of a lot less about what other people think about me because I’ve found myself in the excellent position to understand that in most cases it doesn’t matter two iotas what other people think of me. I’ve changed over the years. My thoughts and opinions have changed, sometimes dramatically.

But then there’s the exception side of the coin, because no one ever really changes completely, do they? There are always going to be remnants of who you were in an earlier time.

For me, you can see it in my nerdiness. I still love almost all of the fandoms I loved as a kid. To this day I can happily sit down and watch and entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without coming up for breath. I’ve been known to track down shows like Sailor Moon and Pokemon just to see if I can still stomach them and found myself curling up to binge-watch with a stupid, giddy smile on my face. I don’t watch Star Wars nearly as often as I used to, but I can still kick a lot of ass at trivia games because all that useless info seems so important to my brain for some reason. I was genuinely upset to find out that they only make three of the Power Rangers as Funko Pop figures because I would kill to have the whole set. I have almost every gaming console that has been available over the past two decades, but I will still happily curl up and play an entire run-through of Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger. And the thing is, maybe I’m wrong (because who can really tell?), but I don’t see any of this changing any time soon. I mean, if I’m still playing Final Fantasy III almost twenty years after first discovering it, then there’s probably a pretty good chance that I’ll be playing it in the nursing home when I’m 90, while complaining to the nurses about how this virtual reality junk that the kids play today is nothing compared to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

I don’t know. It just seems funny to me how some attitudes and options can change so dramatically, and yet other things can stick to you like glue throughout your entire life. There’s a psychology research paper in there somewhere, I think.

What about you? Which aspects of your personality have changed so much that the younger version of you wouldn’t understand what the hell had happened, and which things are so much the same that part of  you wonders if you ever really grew up at all?

Nerd Block (Original) Unboxing and Review for August 2014

It’s Nerd Block time again, so before we get on to the breakdown, please check out my unboxing video!

Now, let’s check out the value breakdown of the items, shall we?

Harley Quinn exclusive Funko: As with the exclusive Groot that I received in this month’s Loot Crate, I’m assigning this Funko a higher value than what it would normally cost based on the fact that it is, actually, and exclusive variant that you can’t get anywhere else. My hubby pointed out that I may have actually low-balled the Groot a little since it is exclusive, so for Harley I’m assigning a value of about $20, as opposed to the $10-$12 you would pay for the regular version.
Pokeball t-shirt: I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’m starting to think that all of the shirts that Nerd Block sends out are exclusives because I can never find them for sale in an actual store. Therefore I’m going to stick with my previous system of assigning $15 to a shirt.
Bravest Warriors keychain: These keychains, which you can get in other characters as well, seem to go for about $5
Adam-Bomb Mini-Fig: It looks like about $1.50 for these
Two Doctor Who exclusive comics: It’s difficult to put a value on these since they’re Nerd Block exclusives, but based on the cost of comics I’m assigning them a value of $5 each.

Total approximate value of box: $51.50
Total cost to me: $33

So the “value” of this box wasn’t too bad, but it also depends on what kind of value you assign to all of the exclusive items. I, for instance, assigned $5 each to the Doctor Who comics, but if you’re neither a fan of Doctor Who nor comics you probably wouldn’t value them that highly. Most of the box was Nerd Block exclusive stuff this month, so it really comes down to personal preference when you try to talk about “value”.

Personally, I’m on the fence with this one. I love the Harley Quinn Funko, the comics are pretty cool, and the t-shirt is something that I will happily wear, but the other two items are complete junk in my opinion, especially the mini-figure. This is a problem that I’m finding with a lot of the Nerd Blocks. It’s understandable that not every item in every box will be for every person, but each Nerd Block seems to have at least 2-3 items that are super-cheap junk used to fill up the box a little more. It therefore becomes a debate on whether the remaining decent items are worth the cost of the box. For myself, this month wasn’t too bad, and I’d say that the three good items were worth putting up with the two bad ones, but next month I may feel very differently.

All in all, I’d say that I was pretty happy with this month’s block, but with Nerd Block as a whole I haven’t been terribly impressed so far. As mentioned in the video I’ll be getting at least one more month because I’m too late to cancel for the September block, but I don’t know if I’ll be going any further than that.

Pop Culture Peeve

Every reader has something (possible multiple things) that ruins a book for them. These are little pet peeves that are unique to each individual reader and do not necessarily have anything to do with the writing skill of the author. These are simply things that a reader does not enjoy reading. For me, my reader pet peeve, my little brain tick, is pop culture reference in fiction.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but pop culture references in fiction really, really bother me. If a character refers to using her cellphone, that’s okay, but if she says the word “iPhone” I get a twitch in my jaw. If a character is playing a video game, no problem, but if they’re playing a Nintendo 3DS I start grinding my teeth. A character can be watching Saturday morning cartoons, but if the specific cartoon happens to be the most recent incarnation of Pokemon, I want to tear the page out of the book.

This pet peeve has made itvery difficult for me to get through some books that I otherwise enjoyed very much. In one particular series the main character makes constant reference to her MacBook Pro… That’s a triple whammy for me because it’s not just a Mac. It’s a goddamn Mac Book Pro.

What’s really funny about this little tick of mine is that it’s present-time exclusive. Only pop culture references that are current to the times bother me. Ageless pop culture is perfectly fine. So a character is safe if they’re watching Star Wars, but not if they’re watching The Hunger Games. I don’t mind if a character is listening to ACDC, but I can’t handle it if they’re listening to Justin Bieber. By all means, have your character own a mobile phone, but if you feel the need to tell me that the phone is the latest, greatest Samsung Galaxy S4, I might just toss the book out the window.

I suspect that the problem stems from a pop culture reference’s ability to forcefully mix fantasy and reality, while additionally forcing the reader into the present. Say, for example, we’re talking about an alian invasion story. Okay, well we know that aliens have never yet invaded Earth, so we suspend disbelief and imagine that the story is taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet. But if a character starts talking about their PSP, we get hauled back to the present and suddenly it’s hard to get back into the story because we are fully aware that an alien invasion is not currently happening.

But Tracey, you might ask, what about stories that take place in the past, but crazy things like alien invasions happen, like in the movie Cowboys and Aliens? Easy. Those stories occur in alternate timelines or parallel universes, thus the differences from reality are fine…unless you use current-time pop culture references that bring the reader back to the present and thus screw up the illusion.

Okay, okay, it’s a flawed theory at best, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel about these things. Being slapped in the face with a piece of information that proves a story is meant to be taking place in real time, right here, right now, takes me out of the story and makes it harder for me to enjoy. To me, even if a piece of fiction occurs in modern-day Earth, I like the illusion of it being some other world. I read to escape the real world, and trying to make me feel that the story world and the real world are one in the same ruins that mood for me. I’m certain that not all readers think this way, but I’m also sure that there are plenty of readers who do. Keep pop culture out of my fiction!

How do you feel about pop culture in fiction? Annoying or unnoticeable? Do you have an other reader-specific pet peeves? Please share!