Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Gif from According To Whim Season 2: Episode 2

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)
 

This pretty much sums up our relationship...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Interview about Geekfest 2013

By Chris McGinty (AccordingToWhim.com)

Nathan and I have been watching for conventions and other sci-fi and Anime themed shows to sell at, and that is how we found out about Geekfest 2013 in Killeen, Texas, which will run on August 16-18, 2013. I asked for an interview and received a speedy reply from Barbara Merlo, Director of Marketing and Outreach. 


ATW: How did Geekfest start?

Barbara: One of our student ambassadors, Jennifer Hetzel (who is now an employee and one of our three primary event POCs) came up with the idea of doing something related to sci-fi.  She teamed up with Fred Chavez (another of the three), our planetarium director and they brainstormed. I joined the team to try to figure out how we could maximize the money-making effort and Geekfest was born!  We added a few members to our planning committee and started working on vendors and volunteer presenters and we were on our way.

ATW: How many years has Geekfest been running?

Barbara: This will be the fourth year!

ATW: Before we get into what Geekfest 2013 offers, can you tell me a little about Central Texas College in Killeen Texas?

Barbara: We are a public, accredited community college with about 13,000 students in Texas, but more than 70,000 around the world.  We are located across the street from Ft Hood, so many of our local students have some affiliation with the military. In addition, we operate on military installations worldwide and ships at sea.

ATW: Your website says that proceeds from Geekfest 2013 go to the CTC Student Ambassador Program. Can you tell us about the program?

Barbara: Our student ambassadors provide tours of our campus and do outreach in our local schools. They go to middle schools and tell their college story, which often includes barriers and bumps along the way, so that all our local youth see college as attainable. All are students, and the funds raised help compensate them for their time so that they can focus on school and not have to get other jobs.


ATW: Please tell us a little bit about Geek Fest 2013.

Barbara: We will have many flavors of Geek! 

Our programs and guests will feature costuming clubs, along with programs on all types of gaming, anime, Steampunk, special effects, comics, Cosplay, Brony panels, live podcasts, kids programs like Robotics, tons of Harry Potter programs for adults and kids (including Quidditch) and a Humans vs Zombies game. Most programs are free, however we do have a wristband for admission to movies in our 60’ dome, to watch our video game tournaments, and select other programs.

We will host our annual screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show on both Friday and Saturday night—featuring the Queerios shadow cast on Friday and a local shadow cast on Saturday.  We will also show the classic sci-fi flick “The Fifth Element” on Saturday.

Being in a military community, we focus on a wide variety of programs—but our favorite part of Geekfest is watching parents introduce their kids to the world of Geek! We try to have kids programming during the day, and this year we are excited about a Dungeons and Dragons for kids program!

We will hold our annual “Humans vs. Zombies” game, this year with a pirate theme, on Saturday morning.

Our vendor area will be in a separate building, along with food and entertainment. We hope to keep the day full of demos and music in that area.  We will accept vendors up until July 26 and programs up until August 2.  Vendor spaces are $100, and half can be paid with merchandise or services. We will be holding prize drawings during the event—tickets to win will be issued with wristbands, and additional tickets may be purchased.

For more info, follow us on facebook at www.facebook.com/ctcgeekfest or check out our website at www.starsatnight.org/geekfest

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Unsigned Bands: Black Math (US) and Black Math (South Africa)

By Chris McGinty (AccordingToWhim.com)

The problem with this modern era is that since everybody has a band, and everybody is online (I exaggerate a little), there seem to be a lot of bands who come up with the same name. Today, we will talk about two of them.

Black Math (Chicago, Illinois)

I’ll start with the band I found first, back in late 2011. Black Math is a band from Chicago, and I’m not even too sure if they’re still around. When I found them, they had 1 single, 2 EPs, and 1 full album available to download, so I did. And I listened to them every night for an entire winter. I still listen to them a lot. Their website seemed abandoned, so they may have already been disbanded before I started listening to them. Now it looks like the website is gone.


Black Math has a sound that I’m part of the target audience for. It’s a low-fi, hint of new wave, alternative rock. This is why I listened to them so much. They were wedged right into one of my genres of choice.

This is their Last FM page:

This review has a Mediafire link to download their Counterfeit Unrealities (EP)


There is a lot available on You Tube. We’ll start with a live video they did for a video series on Chicago bands. I’ve listened to a number of the bands that were part of this series, and I might post about some of them another day. Then after the live video, I’ll link everything else I can find, in roughly the order of how much I enjoy the song (note that I enjoy them all a lot).

Black Math – Bottomless Sea

Black Math – Reckless Thoughts

Black Math – High Dive

Black Math – Part of Me

Black Math – Did He Get 2U1st

Black Math – Suck City

As a quick aside, I found pictures of them on Flickr that seemed to be part of a professional shoot, so I contacted the photographer to make sure it was ok to use a picture, since I wasn’t borrowing it from the band’s website. She was super cool, so I want to give her a quick link here.


Check out her blog on the website. She has a lot of great work on there. I particularly liked her photographs of India, linked below. Check out the nighttime shot on the water.


The Devils

Let me take a quick break from the unsigned bands, and point you in the direction of something major label, but underground, that I found out about soon after I started listening to Black Math. It’s the Duran Duran side project known as The Devils. You can tell what kind of listening mood I was in at the time. These were modern recordings of early Duran Duran songs (I mean previously unreleased early) when Stephen Duffy was the lead singer. He and Nick Rhodes got together to record the tracks using old demos as their sound map.

The Devils – Memory Palaces

The Devils – Hawks Do Not Share

The Devils – Big Store

The Devils – Dark Circles

Black Math (South Africa)

There is also a Black Math from South Africa. If I didn’t like them all that much, I would probably just ignore their existence and pretend that there is only one Black Math. But I think they’re quite good. There is a White Stripes song called “Black Math,” and as you hear this group, you’ll presume like I do, that that’s where they got their name.



Black Math – Scandinavian Serenade

Black Math – The Devil Will Eat You

There’s also a White Stripes cover on their You Tube.

And an interview with them here:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Developing Rise of the Rock Star as a group

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

As apart of the 60 day long Rise of the Rock Star Kickstarter project we have been brining you a blog each weekday. Some are focused on the actual Kickstarter and some are random, According To Whim... if you will (just look to the left at the archive to see them all). Today's post is about my experience developing our board game: Rise of the Rock Star with a partner.

When I look at many Kickstarter projects I typically see one person in charge of a whole project. Someone came up with an idea for a game and saw it through development to crowd funding. My experience in this field has always been with my According To Whim co-conspirator: Chris McGinty.

Our group (names According To Whim after Chris' idea for an audio show) took off to become public access TV show and grew encompass anything we did (along with Miguel Cruz from time to time) from movie scripts to books to games.



I can't say its been a path of roses. We argue about stuff. Typically we have a big blowout once per major project and this board game is no exception. We usually get over our differences and find a middle ground and move along. For the most part it helps get things back on track.

Chris is the brains behind the game play in Rise of the Rock Star. He will ask for ideas for cards (because the game has a deep level of card customizability) and I will throw a bunch at him. He then studies them, revises them to fit better and then we play test them. Chris has an unhealthy obsession with Magic The Gathering and its creators and reads lots and lots of articles on game and card design. He is perfectly suited to working out all the details and getting the mechanics of a game right.

I am more focused on the design aspect (art design, not game design). I also focus on the business side of things as well. When we start working on a game I tend to be more interested in how it looks and how it will be presented as opposed to the mechanics. It's not like I don't enjoy doing the gaming side, I just know Chris is better at it.

In a team situation you have to find out who is good at doing what. I suggest you have all team members try all aspects of the project and I am sure you will quickly find out who is better at what tasks. In our situation the parts of game making are all covered by both of us which is useful and I hope will continue to create some great games.

Thanks so much and keep and eye out for the rest of the KickStarter's 60 day project because we will be posting many more blogs. Enjoy!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Interview: Francis Kershaw of Odd Socks - Bristol, UK

By Chris McGinty (AccordingToWhim.com)

In May, I wrote a blog post discussing a couple of unsigned bands I’d been listening to recently. I listen to a lot of groups when I’m searching for obscure music, but very few of them become part of my regular rotation of listening. Odd Socks quickly became part of that rotation.

When I wrote about Odd Socks, I simply said that I didn’t know anything about the project other than that I enjoyed it, and mentioned that I would try to get an interview. And I did.


According To Whim: Tell me a little about you and a little about Odd Socks.

Francis Kershaw: My name's Francis Kershaw but all music I upload is under the name Odd Socks. Initially because I wanted to keep a bit of anonymity from friends and family (I was pretty tentative/shy about the songs I'd written) but now more because someday I see Odd Socks being more than just me, but a band setup with more members contributing to the creative process. I live in Bristol, UK studying at the university so I'm hoping that this year I might do something more with the project, but only if I find the right people.

ATW: What is your course of study?

FK: I study French and Politics at the university.

ATW: Is there any particular reason you chose the name Odd Socks?

FK: Honestly I can't really remember why I picked that name. I feel like there should be some profound story behind why, but in the end, I think it must have been that at the time I thought it sounded cool.


ATW: What is your recording process?

FK: The recording process literally involves nothing more than my guitar and a tiny four-track Boss recording device. Any riff or idea I have goes directly onto the Boss and I go from there in terms of making a song. The main issue I have with it is that I'm actually primarily a drummer. Being unable to record my own drum parts gets very frustrating, since I’m limited to the drum loops provided on the rhythm section of the device, but I do my best with them to make demos that are acceptable.

ATW: So would you play drums in a full band set up, or is that tentative based on who you find to work with?

FK: It's hard to know what role I'd play. Part of me feels far more confident drumming than singing. At the same time, I'm sure I'd get uncomfortable with someone else singing songs that I'd written, so it would really depend on the situation.. Unless I found a front-man who really delivered the tunes better than I ever could, I reckon I'd have to take control of that aspect.

ATW: What motivates you musically?

FK: My main motivations musically, I guess, stem for my obsession with a number of bands, such as the Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, and the Strokes, and trying to emulate their sound in a small way. For the moment, I'm not particularly ambitious with the songs I've written, but I try to make stuff that I enjoy listening to myself, so I'll continue along those lines and see where things go.

ATW: Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?

FK: I've been on a bit of a roll with new songs in the past couple of weeks so it’s worth mentioning that I've uploaded four songs recently to Soundcloud, entitled 'Vicious Triangle', 'Broke Man', 'It Would Be Rude' and 'Shock Revelation' and would appreciate any feedback from people who've given them a listen!


http://www.youtube.com/user/OddSocksOfficial

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Magic: The Gathering: A Solution to the Reserved List Problem

By Chris McGinty (AccordingToWhim.com)

I’ve read the articles of Mark Rosewater for years. He’s my favourite “Magic: The Gathering” writer followed by Mark Gottlieb and Aaron Forsythe. Recently, in regards to Modern Masters, Rosewater made a statement on his blog to look at the history of Chronicles. Chronicles? All I know about Chronicles is that the cards aren’t worth much on the secondhand market, and there seems to be a lot of them.

As it turns out, it was at the core of the creation of the reserved list. It seems that some people spent large amounts of money on cards that were reprinted in Chronicles, while not understanding the concept of investment. This is a topic for another article, but the simple version is that we live in a society where people want sure things with their investments, but collectibles are one of the most inconsistent investments.

One side of the reserved list argument feels that Wizards of the Coast is protecting the feelings of a small percentage of the Magic community while inadvertently punishing everyone who came to the game late. Some Wizards employees have talked about frustration of not being able to reprint some cards that aren’t highly valuable on the secondhand market, but could be useful in current sets. Some fans of Legacy and Vintage feel that the reserved list is slowly killing those formats. Please note that these are not necessarily my opinions.
Theme Deck Idea: Un'reprint'ant Sins
The biggest problem I personally see with the reserved list is that it’s widely considered to be a mistake that possibly a majority of people wish could be taken back. It’s the entity that is Wizards of the Coast that is being held responsible for a promise that was made well over a decade ago. Many of the people that make up that entity now were not part of that promise.

In fact, there was a point where Wizards gave a “fair warning” to people buying the game that there would be no new cards added to the reserved list. If we’re being honest, this was a violation of the reserved list to begin with. Part of the promise was that so many cards would be added to the reserved list each year, but a future generation of Wizards employees realized that was a bad idea, and put a stop to it. The funny thing is that the game survived that decision, as well as the decision to remove some commons and uncommons from the list.
Mirage reserve cards all bought for 2 cents or less. I hope they don't reprint these and lower their value.
My solution is similar to that “fair warning” thinking. I got the idea while reading Aaron Forsythe’s article about Modern Masters. He felt that the mistake of Chronicles was the printing level. Had the print run been smaller, it might not have tanked values of collections so highly. In this way, Wizards decided to make a smaller print run of Modern Masters to help the Modern format while not increasing availability of some cards to the point that they were no longer sought after by secondhand market collectors. So here is my solution:

Step One: Wizards announces that the reserved list will be slowly phased out over the next so many years. This might have to be a long time. A decade. Maybe longer. And in fact, they will have to pick a reasonably long amount of time before the process starts. For purposes of this article let’s pretend they find the best solution to be to start in three years and be done in ten years, and they announce it in December of 2013.

Step Two: Starting in 2017, they remove a number of cards from the reserved list. They continue this process until 2024 going from the least valuable cards (based on the current secondhand market) to the most valuable, and possibly starting with a small number to remove and slowly increasing. The plan should be made public and include what comes off the reserved list when.

Step Three: Once a card is off the reserved list, it cannot be used in a set with mass printing for a number of years, say three. During that time, Wizards can reprint these cards in supplemental sets with low print runs. After the three years, they may reprint as they see fit.

Step Four: Wizards never does anything like the reserved list again.

This would give everyone a reasonable amount of time to be aware that if they buy a Black Lotus or other high price card that in so many years the value will decrease. Meanwhile, collectors and Legacy and Vintage players who don’t want to wait that long to buy certain cards, might still be willing to pay a high price for the cards. A decade is a long time for impulse buyers with disposable incomes. Cards removed from the reserved list would still retain some value as initial print runs would be low.

This would give the secondhand market, and collectors, plenty of time to predict and adjust to the future values of cards, and players of non-rotating formats time to predict and adjust to the future power levels. It would also give the future generations of Wizards employees the freedom to make the game as they feel it should be made. This might not mean that Black Lotus will ever be Standard legal, but that if Wizards felt it should be, it could be.

Long term, I believe this to be a reasonable solution because eventually players will simply not be able to afford to buy the high end cards of the reserve list, so those cards will be relegated to the collector’s market only. When it is a collector’s market, the cards will retain value based on the set they were printed in. A collector will pay more for an Alpha version of a card than they would for a 2024 reprint, much the way a book collector will pay more for a first edition print, but meanwhile casual players can afford to play with older cards.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Army Men! (Post 6 of 6)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is the last post were I close up shop with Army Men I didn't buy. All these dudes were located at one store... Hobby Lobby. Have you guessed why I didn't buy them?


Look at the price on that puppy... $22.99! ARE YOU CRAZY???!!!

That is the price at Hobby Lobby, which is pretty typical. They have become one of those stores that followed Kohl's into the abyss of 'mark it up 200% then have a 50% off sale'. These guys are just waiting for that half-off sale.

Anyway, Hobby Lobby has a wide range of Army Men, first off they have the 'Action Figure Solider Set' from Stevens International (you see above). One of the tubs was open so I grabbed a couple to take some pics...


This German figure looks only so-so. No classic molds here. From what I remember the plastic was softer than many of the Army Men I have checked out. The sculpting isn't horrible but it isn't great either. At the princely price of 21.99 these dudes (which includes a couple of vehicles and flags) come out to almost 11 cents each. Highway robbery!
 

Here is our G.I. and he is about to lob an apple or something.

On the pegs nearby are the nice Army Men. These are the collector-oriented figures for dioramas and such. Not only Army men but Native Americans, Colonial and Civil War men as well.



These guys I don't really consider Army Men but I thought I'd just mention them since they were close at hand. They run around $9.99 for each package.

 Next up is another package of 'normal' Army Men which could be found down below the nice miniatures. There were also Pirates, Space Men, and Native Americans. There might have been Knights too but I was only focused on the Army Men.



 'Super Army' here by Americana Souvenirs and Gifts seems more cheapness but I couldn't get a good look so I can't really rate these guys. Nothing here makes me say 'Oh yeah, this is the STUFF'!

My final Army Men to look at were on a different isle all together. Once again, they aren't really Army Men in the traditional sense but they are the same scale (1/32) and they look just like Army Men (the package was open... I swear I didn't do it). The are SUPER detailed and come in parts that you have to glue together but at a distance you couldn't tell them apart from real Army Men. AT A DISTANCE.


At a $1.50 per figure these guys would quickly break the bank.

So that's it! I hope you have enjoyed my little trip through the land mine-studded (pun intended) world of Army Men. I just wanted to see what was out there and have a little fun in the process.
 
Want to buy some Army Men off Amazon? Great! Please go to our site: AccordingToWhim.com and go to Amazon through the link at the top of the page (to help support us and it don't cost you a penny)!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Making the Kickstarter intro video

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Here is a post about the Kickstarter project we are in the middle of (RockKickStarter.com). During this 60 days we have been posting all sort of blogs about the making of the game (among many other posts). Here is another one of those 'making of' posts... about the intro video we did for our Kickstarter.

I am no expert in any one subject. At my 8-5 job I can do many IT related things. I have had my fingers in many different systems and can support most of them and fix complex issues on others... still, I am no expert in any one of them. This kinda sucks because it limits your career. The same is true of the creative world. I can do some doodling but I am not all that great at it. I can make videos and can (passably) act... barely, but I am no expert in either of them. Finally I can edit videos but once again, I am no expert. When push comes to shove and you have to get something done and don't have the resources to do it, you must jump in and give it your best shot.

One thing you will hear about creating a successful Kickstarter is that you need a snappy intro video. It needs to be short and to the point. It needs to catch the attention and introduce what you are wanting to get made.

I have had the idea for the intro video since Chris and I decided to run the project on Kickstarter. I envisioned a slick video of a rocker plugging into an amp and then strumming on an electric guitar. The camera would then move back rapidly past a crowd of people cheering him on... on his way to becoming a Rock and Roll Legend!

I didn't want to use any one's face or noticeable features, I don't have a crowd of friends to fill in for the audience. I decided it would look cool if the people were all silhouettes and everything had a dark blue/purple glow. How to do it... hummmm.

Like I said I am no expert in video production but I am proficient. I know how to use the most popular effects software out there enough to get by and YouTube is full of tutorials so I decided to try it out.

We have done some green screen work on According to Whim (like this gem, and this one) and I know how to get it to look 'alright' in post.

I setup a green screen (aka a few pieces of green cloth from Hobby Lobby and some poster board) and I had Chris stand there with a guitar and act like he was rockin' out, easy enough as long as I could get him to stay within the boundary of the green screen.

Next Chris and I got on our knees with our backs to the camera and raised our hands up and acted like we were at a concert cheering and such. We even put on hats and I put on my wife's foam Rangers finger and kept 'cheering'. We did this for like three or four minutes.

Fast forward a month later. I got the footage into the program and started working with it. I started with Chris' rockin' but cutting him out (via the green screen) and having his video 'shrink' to simulate the camera moving away from him. Then I placed the footage of Chris and myself and made about ten copies of it. I took the footage and cut it up to show different parts. One part shows the back of us with hats on, one with me and my foam finger, one with Chris jumping up and down... etc. I made sure I never duplicated the same action on the same 'layer' of audience members. I had about six members on each layer including some of the same footage mirrored so you couldn't distinguish that all these people are just Chris and myself over and over again.


I then removed all our details, making us look like black cutouts so you REALLY couldn't tell it was us then rendered 2 different layers of audience members. I then just laid each of the 2 layers (tweaking a bit to make it look more like a real audience and not two people) and simply copied them to produce many layers of audience, some slower, some faster, some a little more to the left, some a little more to the right.

After that I linked those layers to the original layer of the rocker and played with the timing of audience moving past the camera. Viola!

Finally I added some visuals like artistic background, lighting, and other small effects to give it the illusion of a concert. It took a long time and it only lasts for just a couple of seconds but it gives the video the POP I needed. After that footage was some titles and such and Bob's your Uncle!

We ask that you help us make Rise Of The Rock Star a reality and back us on KickStarter. You can back us with as little as $1 (but it would help so much more if you backed us with alot!).
 
Thanks so much and keep and eye out for the rest of the Kickstarter's 60 day project because we will be posting many more blogs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Army Men (Post 5 of 6)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to the next part of my look at Army Men! Today's pick is Toys R Us brand True Heroes Military Forces.


There are 72 pieces in the set but only 54 are Army Men.



At 12.99 that comes out to 18 cents per piece.

Toys R Us has these guys on sale from time to time for 'buy one get one 1/2 off'. That's what I got when I bought my samples. I also got the pirate set. It comes with skeleton pirates!

 

There is something about these guys that doesn't sit well with my mind.... hum...


Here is the only casualty, Private Doofy. He seems to have melted or something.


You get a couple of tanks, rocks, a helicopter too (nothing matches scale-wise).


You get these fortifications and that cool barbwire fence too. These are great!


Here are the tanks. These guys look just the old ones I remember from back in the day.



Ah ha! Here were go. This is what is not sitting well with my mind. These guys 'look' like the original molds but they are in fact different sculpts made to look like the old ones. Here is the Tim Mee Toys version next to the True Heroes version.


True Heroes on the left, Tim Mee Toys on the right.


You can see that the True Heroes guy doesn't have the belt packs.


That machine gun must be really hard to hold in mid-air. True Heroes truly are... Heroes!
 
It is nice to see Toys R Us selling some good old Army Men. Although they are not the original molds I remember from my childhood they are pretty good. When you get them for 1/2 price (when you get them with the buy 1 get 1 free) it's a pretty good deal.
 
My nephew in-law played with them (along with the Pirates) a couple of weeks ago during Easter and he loved them. That's what it is all about!
 

My rating system: 1 out of 5 (with 1 being worst).

Price: 2
Quality of Sculpt: 3
Material Quality: 4

Monday, June 24, 2013

Making the board game box top

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Okay, here is a bit of 90's humor for you. If you get it, give yourself a pat on the back.

EARTH!
 WIND!
 WATER!
 FIRE!
 HEART!
 
BY YOUR POWERS COMBINED I AM RISE OF THE ROCK STAR BOX ART!
 
 
What you see above are the initial pieces of art work comissioned for our board game: Rise of the Rock Star. Our artist (Jason Chalker) produced these pieces first. We paid him for an initial 5 works to be used for the Kickstarter project (at $200). As time went on I decided that it would benefit us to have the box art finished before the launch of the project. We could have a 'virtual' game box to show people and it would double as the main art for the KickStarter page. I contacted him and ponied up the $300 for the largest piece of art for the project.
 
Although ready to roll for promotional use, etc... the art isn't finished. It will have more elements once the project is funded (with help from you) and we can pay him the rest of the money. Overall I am happy with the work and will have little changed before the final goes to print (not including the new art he is adding to it).
 
We ask that you help us make Rise of the Rock Star a reality and back us on Kickstarter. You can back us with as little as $1 (but it would help so much more if you backed us with alot!).
 
Thanks so much and keep and eye out for the rest of the Kickstarter's 60 day project because we will be posting many more blogs. Enjoy!

Friday, June 21, 2013

An Interview with Chris Park

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today we are taking a break from our 60 days of Kickstarter (all about our Kickstarter game: Rise of the Rock Star) to sit down for a few and find out a little bit about Chris Park. You will notice that Chris is a million years apart from the theme of our game but in a way he is a Rock Star to many people around the world.

I discovered Chris on a BBC TV show several years back and tracked him him down (not an easy thing and you will see) for an interview for our Blog (apart of the Friday Interview Series).

Thanks for taking the time and finding a PC to get this interview done on. I suspect you don't come into contact with them often... Can you describe, best you can, who you are and what you do so people who do not know you can get a feel for your unique existence ?

My name is Chris Park, born in Henley on Thames, UK. in 1973. My ancestry is Welsh, English and Scottish, my home is in Oxfordshire, I live in a straw bale self build on an organic farm. My work is creative, therapeutic and educational involving ancient technologies, timeless stories, contemporary re-connections to natural materials and traditional crafts, folk music and arts, skep beekeeping and natural spirituality. I originally trained as an artist/sculptor... Then studied contemporary religion, archaeology and music. Always learning. I am a Druid of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and have trained in other forms of native British wisdom traditions. I grow some food, practice and teach skep beekeeping and make much Metheglin (like getafix's potion)...

 
I am the same age as you Chris and we couldn't be more apart in our cultural existance and I find that facinating. In 2001 you took part in a BBC "experiment" about Iron Age living. How did you find out about it?

Aha, yes. 'Surviving The Iron Age' ( U.K. title) was televised here in 2001, and filmed in Wales from September to November 2000... earlier that year I was at a Druid Camp called 'Lughnasa Camp', named after the Celtic festival of first harvest. Professor Ronald Hutton, an order member and regular speaker at the camps, announced the intentions of the B.B.C. and handed out some details. After the camp I got in touch and they took my details. Then later on a friend, Ana, asked if I'd like to apply together as a 'family unit' with her and her daughter. So I did that too. We were rejected... But at the eleventh hour they roped me as an 'expert' on Iron Age religious practices, plus some knowledge of herbs and herbalism. Most tragically and awfully I later learned that the young daughter of a family who had originally been accepted was killed, I think in a car accident, or hit by a car. So under sad circumstances the B.B.C. needed some more volunteers. The location for the project was 'Castell Henllys' an iron age hill fort, or holy hill, close to Carn Ingli. The roundhouses there had been reconstructed according to the original post holes and hearth fires. We were given woollen and linen clothes to wear, and all I took in from the 21st century was a mead horn. I learnt many things, experienced much depth of being with the elements, the weather, community, livestock and nature, crafts and myself. At the end of the project (nearly 7 weeks) I was so settled in that I didn't want to leave! I had Welsh ancestors nearby and the spirits of the place kept me strong. We made iron, we made ceremony, we made wonderful and terrible food, we made mischief and merry, we made crafts, conflicts and frustration, we made songs, sacrifices and soap, we made love and laughter, we made fools of ourselves and sovereigns of our souls. The B.B.C made an insensitively sensational, highly entertaining, beautifully crafted with artistic license, celebratory documentary of the little footage they took of our lengthy experiences there.

That is the show where I first discovered who you were and I did get the feeling that out of everyone there, you were most at home and were least wanting to leave. By far I found you the most interesting person on the show and wondered how it would have been if everyone in the group had been on similar footing as you (knowledge-wise). The website where I found your email was Acorn Education, is that your endeavor? Is it your "full-time" job?

Yes it is. It began as my way of sharing some of what I learnt from the Iron Age experience with the world. Today's western lifestyle is highly mechanised. To reconnect with natural materials, natural rhythms, our own nature and a deep connection and a deeper peace is a universal yearning. So to craft a career out of marrying culture and nature, creatively and educationally has been very fulfilling. I'm self employed, I never know what work is around the corner, but something usually turns up to keep the wolf from the door! Touch wood! Sometimes sculpture, other days storytelling, sometimes Druidic work, other days school projects, one week mental health projects, another music, then arts and architecture, perpetually beekeeping etc etc...
 

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently setting up the British Beekeeping Heritage Society. Beekeeping history and heritage is under-represented in this country, once known as 'the Isle of Honey'. Many countries have at least one beekeeping museum, we have none! There is work to be done. The skep apiary here is expanding here also... Log hives and experimental skep arrangements. There is more Metheglin to make. Its a herbal mead... The root of the word 'medicine'. We are also constructing a forge as a focus for a men's group. I feel like recording an album of music and songs... Perhaps write a book, which is a big deal for me as I consider the world to have too many books already, too much time is spent engaging with text! Less text more telling! Less mechanism more organism! Less abstraction more traction! Whenever we are absorbed in a computer/phone/movie/device/book, there is usually a loved one or pet or friend close by who would so much love to be enjoying eye contact, simple human organism, acknowledgement, engagement, play, togetherness. Then there's a world out there! Scary, but worth it! Most good books were written by someone who has remembered how to live and read by those who need reminding... The rest is just storytelling... Which is far richer from a teller, and we can all be storytellers. Text gets stuck, stories evolve... A bardic tradition contains a dynamic equilibrium between the stories that emerge from it and the spirit of the time it is perpetuated within.

Yours with love and laughter an eagerness to disengage from this machine! Chris

 
Thanks so much to Chris for this fantastic interview. I have interviewed musicians, international stars, and artist but I have yet to have someone be so succinct about their views on life... quite frankly, knowing what I already knew of Chris, his responses are right on target! Thanks!

Nathan

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Army Men (Post 4 of 6)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today I am going to veer wildly off course and cover Tim Mee Toys 'Galaxy Laser Team'!!!!!! Sure, they aren't true Army Men but they are in the same vein of toys and I used to have these as a kid and I'd like to cover them.

Tim Mee Toys has re-released these 70's guys. I used to have them back in the day and I have fond memories of them. If you didn't know what they were called you will have a hard time finding them on the net. Once I did find them I found out that there has been a bit written about them.



Tim Mee Toys 2012 re-release.


Here is the original packaging (that I found on the web).
 


You get 50 guys (6 of each with 3 robots of each color and 2 'X-fighters') for 11.89 which comes out to 24 cents each. My o my!





The R2-D2 rips offs were my favorites (what kid didn't like R2-D2).


I was never for sure why regular astronauts were in this set. How boooorrrring. Probably a fake moon landing they are preparing for...



Give me sword-wielding dudes and turtle space aliens any day!



It looks like they took the standard F16 and modified it slightly to make the X-Fighter. Pretty cool. Oh yeah, there's a chick with a computer... yawn...

There you go. These guys bring back happy memories and nice change from the normal Army Men. I am glad Tim Mee Toys re-released them. You can find these and the original crazy colored ones on Ebay so never fear, they are easy to get.

Here are a couple of links to articles about these toys:

My rating system: 1 out of 5 (with 1 being worst).

Price: 1
Quality of Sculpt: 5
Material Quality: 5

Monday, June 17, 2013

Halfway point for: Rise of the Rock Star Kickstarter board game

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to our ongoing coverage of According To Whim's Kickstarter 60-day project: Rise of the Rock Star.

Today's post marks the halfway point of the Kickstarter. We have 30 days to go and a long way to travel to reach our goal but with your help, we can do it! Please take a moment to back us. Thanks!

It has been a long road to get to this point and we really appreciate everyone who has backed us and given us words of encouragement. We began years ago with the uniting of a couple of different ideas for this game between Chris and myself. We dived into the game again last year at our friend Loren's suggestion and we began working on it again (for real this time)!

After much game play, adjusting, and preparing we launched our Kickstarter back in May at the Dallas Comicon. Preparing for a Kickstarter is a long (and sometimes tedious) process but ultimately rewarding with all the knowledge how the system works. You will see a few more blogs in the coming 30 days about setting up a good Kickstarter so keep your eyes peeled (and subscribe to this blog)!

We will keep pushing this Kickstarter right to the end and guess what... we have more on the way! Chris and I have a few ideas we have already begun testing (and even gotten quotes for).

Thanks for stopping by and check out our other posts. We have HUNDREDS (literally) so bookmark us and we will see you later!

Nathan (and Chris)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Promoting our Kickstarter Project

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today I am going to talk about what we (According To Whim) did to advertise our Kickstarter Project for Rise of the Rock Star.

Planning a Kickstarter (doing it right, anyways) relies on 2 methods:

Method 1: Assumption: You are already well known or are dealing with a well known brand.
Method 2: Assumption: You are unknown.

Some examples of Method #1 is the Robotech Kickstarter from April/May. Robotech has a big following and they had a big turnout for their miniatures game. Another example is Steve Jackson's OGRE game. Steve Jackson has clout and it shows in KS support.

According To Whim: Method 2

We have a concept and a game that we enjoy. We think others will enjoy it too. Our idea is to create a game that when people play it, they want to play it again and again. A simple roll and move game isn't going to do that (unless your name is Monopoly). Chris did a great job in taking the card aspect of the game to a whole new level. The amount of combos and game altering card moves pushed the game from being 'ok' to being 'fun'. That was our goal and we made it... now to convince everyone else about it. We still get people claiming our game is the 'detested' roll and move type but we disagree.

Promotion is really a topic Chris could talk your ear off about but I beat him to the punch with this post (so he will have to give you his take on it later). We approaching the promotion aspect of our Kickstarter we have taken about 50% of Chris' ideas and 50% of my ideas on board.

Chris: Promote the game by promoting ourselves (via blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and videos)
Nathan: Promote the game by promoting the game (via social media, game forums, print, conventions).

I this it is a well rounded and powerful promotion engine.

Many people (via forum posts) say that one thing they find interesting is that many Kickstarters are not advertised at all. Someone comes up with an idea, makes a Kickstarter and sits back, waiting for it to succeed. This might work for the Robotechs and Steve Jacksons of the world, but not for unknowns like us. Unknowns need to get out there, make a presence well in advance of their project going live.

How do you get out there? That is the question we asked ourselves in between test games of Rise of the Rock Star. We brainstormed, wrote lists, discussed, dissented many times and finally came up with a plan of attack.

Please join me next time for a post where I lay out that plan of attack. It might give you some ideas and pointers in setting up promotion for your KS project! Later!

** Please help us see our game come to reality by backing our Kickstarter board game: Rise Of The Rock Star. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Army Men (Post 3 of 6)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

We are going to step back from our promotion of our Kickstarter: Rise of the Rock Star to take a look at something different.

Welcome back! Today I get my hands on the goods... Tim Mee Toys 'Soldiers'! These guys are just about as close as you can get to the Army Men you grew up with. Tim Mee Toys seems to be more of a nostalgia type of toy manufacturer so these guys are more expensive than most Army Men.

I got these guys on Amazon in a 100 count bag. Let's take a gander, shall we?


You get 100 guys for 12.50, that's a pricey 13 cents each!


 Here are the tan guys. Lot's of 'frog crawlers' and flame throwers.


These were always my least favorite Army Men. I don't know why. I think maybe it was just that this was one type you got the most of. Tim Mee Toys version had a lot of plastic flash left around the base (see pic).


You get 2 commanders here! Woo hoo!


Here is the green side. No commanders... poo. You seem to get a lot of that one dude (below) and a lot less of all the others (except the flame throwers).




Oh, and here is that one dude. He is only in green, no tan versions of him. I can foresee the green side getting wiped out since so many dudes are not actually fighting but just waving their hands (and guns) about.


Here is our only casualty... Poor Peewee. His flame tank must have blown up on him.


Flame throwers ready!


Here is a comparison shot of the Delta Force flame thrower and Tim Mee Toys flame thrower. It looks like Imperial made a copy of a copy of the original. Man that looks bad!


After a count I got 53 green and 54 tan soldiers. That's 7 freebies (including Peewee) bringing my total down to 12 cents each. A penny saved... Either way I still feel that's a bit high for Army Men. I think they shouldn't be more than about half that (considering that they are just colored plastic with no embellishments).

I am still happy that these guys still exist in a more pure form (as opposed to the Imperial copies). I think the True Heroes versions are like these guys too but I will have to get them to verify this.

I also bought Tim Mee Toys Galaxy Laser Team 'Army Men' set which I shall cover as a special blog post in this series since they really aren't Army Men but they have great sentimental value to me. Later!

My rating system: 1 out of 5 (with 1 being worst).

Price: 2
Quality of Sculpt: 5
Material Quality: 5