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Game/Life Balance U.S. Podcast #43: We’re back! Weddings, Extra Life, and SNES Classic Plans

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Cody and Jon return from a 6-month hiatus to talk weddings, classic Star Trek, the Extra Life video game marathon, Super Mario Odyssey, retro gaming, and their SNES Classic plans for the future of the podcast!

Show Notes:


Highlight from the 2016 Indiana Comic Con: Brent Spiner

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During the 2016 Indiana Comic Con, I attended a panel featuring Brent Spiner, best known as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spiner has also worked on other sci-fi projects; he’s the voice of Gall Trayvis on Star Wars Rebels, and he is reprising his role from Independence Day – Dr. Brakish Okun lives again in Independence Day: Resurgence.

Mr. Spiner has quite the sense of humor. He started the panel by saying, “Welcome to the Indiana Comic Con, I’m Brent Spiner, your moderator for today. The buses are right outside. Please do not be unruly when getting on the buses. We’re going to take you to St. Elmo’s for lunch.” [St. Elmo Steak House has been in Indianapolis since 1902.]

And the jokes continued throughout the entire panel.

The moderator hasn’t asked a question yet, but Mr. Spiner is a pro at attending cons, so he knows how to handle himself.

“This is a really nice town. I’m serious. A lot of people, when I come to their town to do a convention, they say to me, ‘How do you like our city?’ And I usually say, ‘Not so much.’ Isn’t that the most leading question? What are you supposed to say? ‘Oh, it’s just great. I love it.’ But Indianapolis really is nice. What’s the deal? I live in L.A. It’s not so nice.”

The moderator chimed in, “We have water.”

Brent replied, “You have water. Yeah, that’s true. We do not have water. We have vodka.”

He then explained why he felt his voice wasn’t 100%. “A couple of weeks ago I was doing looping. Do you know what looping is? It’s when you make a movie, after the movie has been shot, while they’re editing it, sometimes they bring the actors in later because an airplane was going over while we were saying something or they just thought you were lousy, and they have you redo dialogue to picture. They watch you listen, they give you three counts, you then come in on the fourth one and try to match your lips. And I had to scream because I was doing Independence Day 2.

The crowd cheered. He continued, “That’s right, I’m alive. And no one can be happier about it than I. Well, perhaps you. I am the happiest. And I had to scream, and I remember later that when I actually did it on the set, I sorta prepared for it and did it properly and supported my diaphragm and did it correctly. For some reason, in the looping stage, I threw caution to the wind and just screamed. And I haven’t been able to talk for two weeks, not properly. I hope one day my voice will come back.”

Brent Spiner enters his Indiana Comic Con panel. Photo by Michelle Ealey

Brent Spiner enters his Indiana Comic Con panel. Photo by Michelle Ealey

When asked if he thought Star Trek: The Next Generation would last as long as it did, he replied, “No. I had no idea. I thought basically I’m going to pay my rent, which I owed at that point, and it would be on for a year, and hasta la vista. That was almost thirty years ago. And it’s still going on. I’m still here, talking to you about it. People still shout the character’s name in my face. Who knew I could have that joy?”

He is happy that there will be a new Star Trek series. “But I am excited the series continuing, the show continuing, because I think Star Trek is the great American epic. It really it is. I am a Star Wars fan, I love Star Wars, it is a wonderful thing they’re doing more of it, but there have been 800 and something hours of Star Trek. They’ll never catch up at this point. I think there’s Doctor Who, there’s James Bond, there’s Star Trek, there’s Star Wars, but Star Trek is the great American epic. I hope it goes forever. It very well might. I mean fifty years this year. You know once something goes fifty years, you sorta have to take it seriously.’”

The moderator mentions that he has worked with Patrick Stewart, and he immediately goes into a perfect imitation of Sir Patrick. “You know I can still do his voice even better that I’ve lost mine. You know, perhaps that’s what I’ll do, I’ll become Patrick.” He briefly discussed how funny Patrick is on Blunt Talk, which Brent has appeared on.

Before he got the role on TNG, Brent was doing theater in New York. He auditioned for a part in Little Shop of Horrors, and he got offered a role in the show, but not in New York; he got offered a part in the L.A. show. On the last night of the L.A. run, a casting director helped him get work. He worked on various projects including Night Court as Bob Wheeler and on Hill Street Blues as Larry Stein. Eventually he got a call from his agent about a new Star Trek series. After he read the script, he auditioned for the casting director. He couldn’t tell from the script if they wanted Data to be more machine or more human, so he made a choice to go more human than machine. Six auditions later, the part was his.

At first, he watched TNG when they aired, but soon quit. “In truth, I’ve only seen about twenty of the ones we did. I started watching it when it was first on to see what we were doing, and then it occurred to me this was sort of redundant because I had read them, I had acted on them, I really didn’t need to watch them. And I was also spending so much time. We shot for sixteen hours a day, almost every day, so ten months out of the year we did over twenty episodes a year, so I figured out I was Data more than I was myself. Then to watch them, literally there was almost none of me left, so I decided to watch other things and act on the show.”

Although days were long on set, they had a lot of fun. “We really pretty much all enjoyed each other. I enjoyed working with everybody on the show, except for Dorn.” The crowd laughed. “We had a good time, we laughed all day long, every day. And we laughed most when we were doing serious scenes. The more serious the scene, the more trouble we had getting through them.”

Brent Spiner at the 2016 Indiana Comic Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey

Brent Spiner at the 2016 Indiana Comic Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey

During the last part of the panel, Brent took questions from the fans. Fortunately, I was able to ask a question.

Me: I was raised on the films with the original cast, and that’s what got me interested in science. I’m actually a science teacher, so I feel like I’ve earned this color [I was wearing my science officer blue Star Trek hoodie]. Have you had any fans come up to you and say it’s because of Data, it’s because of Next Generation that got them into science?

Brent Spiner: We did this series and it was just, our idea was to entertain people, that was our work, we’re actors, that’s it, nothing more important. We just wanted to do the best we could with the material, that’s our job, you illuminate the material as best you can, the author’s intent, and entertain people, and I was perfectly satisfied doing that. That’s what I wanted to be doing. But subsequently, in the last few years in particularly, so many people have come up to me and said, “I’m a doctor, I’m a scientist, or I do research, or I do physics or whatever, and it’s because I was so dedicated to Next Generation and it inspired me to do these things.” It’s kind of overwhelming if you think of this. It’s really just an ancillary thing, it’s nothing we planned on. But the impact, it just landed in such a profound way that we had nothing to with really. I’ll tell you what though, there’s one thing that even more that means more to me than anything and that is, I’ve had a lot of young people come up to my table when I’m signing autographs or whatever, and say, “I have Asperger’s or I am autistic or in that spectrum, and when I was a kid, the only character I could relate to on television was Data.” For obvious reasons, because of his struggle to understand emotion and humanity and so on. I actually met Dr. Oliver Sacks, who wrote Awakenings and an expert on autism, and he came to my trailer while I was shooting and said, “You’re the poster child for autism.” And I didn’t know what he was talking about at the time, but now I do, and it really is so overwhelming and moving to think that we had that sort of impact. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time because I think I would have pushed to the writers further to do more about that, and I probably would have ruined everything. But it’s been a very rewarding thing to see the ancillary impact the show had.

I was not expecting such a beautiful and heartfelt answer, and I appreciate the time he took to answer my question and go beyond it as well.

September 8, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Like Mr. Spiner, I hope Star Trek continues far into the future.


Game/Life Balance U.S. Podcast Episode 16: Netflix mobile featuring Daredevil Season 1

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Cody and Jon have a Netflix extravaganza, prompted by Cody’s choice to watch Marvel’s Daredevil Season 1 on Netflix almost exclusively on his cell phone. Hear them discuss everything from Black Mirror to horror movies to various versions of Star Trek, then get Cody’s aggressive thoughts on the newest Hearthstone expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods.

Show Notes:


Unqualified Gamers Podcast #124: Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below review

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Jon reviews Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, including a brief history of the Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior franchise and a primer on Musou games. Plus, Cody has a potentially exciting announcement for the future of Unqualified Gamers!


Star Trek Beyond Casting: Idris Elba Officially Joins Cast

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It’s been speculating for quite some time that Idris Elba would be joining the cast of Star Trek Beyond. The announcement was done in a way that’s a little unusual – at the end of a video promoting a Star Trek charity movement.

The announcement was as simple as Idris walking into the shot and Chris Pine saying “Idris, glad you could join us.”

The video is a promotion for a charity which offers fans a chance to win a walk-on role for a donation of $10 or more.


Harlan Ellison®’s Acclaimed Star TrekTM Script Comes to Comics

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IDW Will Adapt the Award-Winning Original Teleplay of “City On the Edge of Forever” As a Comic-Book Miniseries

San Diego, CA (March 6, 2014) – Star Trek: The Original Series episode “City on the Edge of Forever” is regarded by many (including a TV Guide poll of the “100 Best TV Episodes of All Time”) as the greatest Star Trek episode of all time, but there’s much more to the story than fans saw on TV. Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay for “City on the Edge of Forever” was modified before the episode was filmed, but now, at long last, fans will be able to enjoy his original teleplay in the form of an all-new miniseries coming from IDW in June: Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay.

Ellison’s original teleplay won both the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation as well as the Writer’s Guild of America’s Award for Most Outstanding Teleplay.   For decades, legions of fans have speculated about the episode’s history, but few people have read the original teleplay, which is very different from the televised version. This comic-book miniseries, produced under the guidance of Harlan Ellison himself, now offers fans everywhere the opportunity to see a classic Star Trek episode the way no one has seen it before.

Adapting the teleplay for the comics series are writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton, no strangers to IDW’s Star Trek comic universe; interior art will be painted by J.K. Woodward, coming off the well-received Star Trek: TNG/Doctor Who maxi-series written by the Tipton brothers. Each issue of the series will feature a special cover by artist Juan Ortiz, whose artistic interpretations of every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series were recently published in an oversize hardcover collection, Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz. Variant covers will be provided by movie poster artist/Star Trek: Khan cover artist Paul Shipper.

“Presenting Harlan Ellison’s brilliant original script for ‘City on the Edge…’ has been a goal of ours since IDW first began publishing Star Trek comics in 2007,” said series editor and IDW Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall. “The episode justifies its position atop ‘best Star Trek episodes’ lists but even it ain’t nuthin’ compared to what Ellison did in his original teleplay. This is truly going to be a Star Trek adventure unlike any other, even to fans who have that beloved episode memorized.”

Harlan Ellison says: “It was a superlative joy of my long life to have worked with Leonard Nimoy, who became my friend, and many others at Star Trek; and an equally heart-happy joy to be working with J.K. and the Tipton Bros. and Chris Ryall on this long-awaited visual of my (humbly, I say it) brilliant original ‘City…’”

Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” originally aired on April 6, 1967, as the penultimate episode of Star Trek’s first season. The episode is, at its most basic, a poignant love story as well as a breathtaking trip through space and time, from the future all the way through 1930s America, as Kirk and Spock race to apprehend a renegade criminal and restore the order of the universe. IGN awarded it the number-one spot in their list of the Top 10 Classic Star Trek Episodes. Further, TV Guide named the episode one of its 100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History. The first-ever comic-book adaptation of the teleplay as Harlan Ellison originally intended it is a true publishing event.

Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s Original City on the Edge of Forever Teleplay #1 (of 5) will be available in June and is under license by CBS Consumer Products

™ & ©2014 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE and MY LITTLE PONY; Paramount’s Star Trek; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; 2000AD’s Judge Dredd; The Rocketeer; Toho’s Godzilla; Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons; and the Eisner-Award winning Locke & Key series, created by best-selling author Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints, Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio, and the multiple award-winning Artist’s Edition imprint.

IDW’s critically- and fan-acclaimed series are continually moving into new mediums. Currently, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney are creating a feature film based on World War Robot; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Warner Brothers are producing a film based on Ashley Wood’s Lore; Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes and Sony are bringing Zombies vs. Robots to film, Kurtzman/Orci are producing a movie based on Locke & Key at Universal.


Confessions of a YouTube Addict: Captain Picard Sings Let It Snow

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Its the holiday season, so in that spirit this week’s YouTube video will have a holiday flair to it.  If you’re a Star Trek fan this video is incredibly funny, but even if you aren’t a Trek fan I think you’ll still laugh.  The creator of this video has cut multiple clips from Star Trek The Next Generation together to make it seem the crew of the Enterprise is singing ‘Let It Snow.’   Honestly, its a great watch.


Unboxing the Star Trek Into Darkness Gift Set

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If you all know me, you know I’m a sucker for prop replicas of any type.  One of my favorite companies that makes replicas is Quantum Mechanix.  I currently own a Captain Malcolm Reynolds replica pistol and scale replica of Serenity.  On top of that, they make an awesome tribble that I got my girlfriend as a gift just recently.  To say I’m a fan of their products would be an understatement.

Quantum Mechanix partnered with Amazon to create a Gift Set for the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray release.  This gift set paired a copy of the 3D Blu-ray of the movie with a 1:1 scale replica of the phasers used by the Federation.  As soon as I saw this, I had to have it.

Here’s a look at the gift set, feel free to drool.  Don’t forget if you want a larger look at any of these pictures just click on them for the full resolution versions.

STID Box Set

The gift set comes in a nice shrink wrapped box featuring Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk on the cover.  Looking at it at first glance you wouldn’t realize there was a movie included in this box, instead you would think its just the phaser.  Don’t mind the dinged corner on the box as that happened in shipping.  The phaser inside was still in perfect shape.  I was most interested in the phaser inside so a damaged box corner was no big deal.

STID open box

Once you open the cardboard box you see that the phaser is contained within a styrofoam container.  The styrofoam has a small cut out to hold the blu-ray of the movie.  Its a snug fit but the movie comes out pretty easily.  In a nice touch, the Quantum Mechanix logo is featured in the cutout and is nicely centered in the styrofoam.

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Once the styrofoam is opened the phaser and its display stand are viewable.  The phaser fits into the styrofoam perfectly, there is no room for it to slide around and get damaged.  Both the display stand and the phaser are wrapped in plastic to prevent any additional damage.

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Once the phaser is out of the box it fits into the display stand quite snugly.  Its definitely not going to fall out of the display case easily as the ‘weapon’ is cradled up top and fits into a cut out in the bottom of the stand.  In what is probably the coolest feature, the barrel of the phaser spins around just like in the movie.  This spin occurs when Kirk or any of the other Starfleet character switch their phase between stun and kill.

display case

This phaser was a great addition to my collection of replicas and scale replicas.  It looks great next to the Captain Mal pistol.  The folks over at Quantum Mechanix also have some other photos of the phaser replica for you to drool over.

If you’ve looked at all these pictures and decided you have to have the replica phaser you’re in luck.  There are still gift sets available on Amazon where you can get the bundle for $79.99.  Personally, I love this replica and its a great addition to my collection.  For $80, I got both an awesome prop replica and a movie, to me that’s a good deal.  If you’re a fan of Star Trek and love replicas pick up this bundle, you’ll never regret owning a Quantum Mechanix piece.


Tabletop Tuesday: Holy Red Shirts and Russians, Batman!

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Greetings once again, dice slingers, card wizards and tabletop enthusiasts!  This week’s Tabletop Tuesday takes us from the 40’s to the 60’s and then all the way to the 22nd century.

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To begin, we start with an old favorite of mine – Batman.  No, not Christian Bale.  Obviously not Clooney or Kilmer, either.  Not even Keaton.  That’s rights, folks.  We’re talking Adam West.  The year is 1966 and for 3 seasons Adam West and Burt Ward would don the guises of Batman and Robin (respectively) and face off against a colorful array of the caped crusader’s most conniving criminal counterparts.  With Caesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredeith as the Penguin, Vincent Price as Egghead and no less than 3 Catwomen (played by Julie Newmarr, Eartha Kitt and Lee Merriwether), this campy take on the Dark Knight is a far cry from the darker and more violent films of recent memory.  I only ever caught episodes in syndication more than 20 years after it had aired, but the show definitely has it’s charms and more than it’s fair share of fans.  To that end, WizKids has been releasing teasers for their next line of HeroClixBatman Classic TV.

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Now, the HeroClix site has been abuzz with updates for this expansion for a while now, but it wasn’t until I saw this Joker preview that I got really interested.  I’m still waiting on the set as a whole before I can put together any sort of opinion on the new mechanics/abilities/figure options, but the fact that WizKids is reaching way back to the Batman TV Series is pretty exciting.  I think there’s a lot of potential here for them to have fun  and for players/fans to snag some really great models.

I also think the “Bang! Boom!  Zap!” bubbles are a great touch.

Who knows?  If this takes off, Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond sets might not be far behind…

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As a quick addendum, in other Heroclix News, Wizkids announced the original Enterprise (as in, the one from the show of the same name) would be debuting for Star Trek HeroClix Tactics Series III.  They’ll be joining the likes of the Borg and will allow players to conceivably field 3 generations of Enterprises on the battlefield!

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Moving away from Clix, there’s been some hot buzz over on Kickstarter lately.  Way back in March, Fantasy Flight Games announced that they were handing the reins of their excellent World War II board game series Tide of Iron over to 1A Games.  The transition of ownership took place over the summer months and now 1A Games is set to begin distributing the same great game on their own.  To that end, they’ve begun a Kickstarter campaign for a new starter set and the Stalingrad expansion.  Both the new core box and the expansion will be 100% compatible with the Fantasy Flight original and Stalingrad is set to add more urban maps and an entire Soviet army.

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The Tide of Iron franchise offers a rich, deep WWII strategic combat experience with many of the bells & whistles of a full-on miniatures game in a neat, controlled board game package.  It also has a ton of top-notch components ranging from variable boards for different scenarios to oodles of detailed plastic infantry and tanks – so, you know, I’m sold.

Tabletop Term of the Week: Board & card games are a substantial investment and protecting them so that they’ll last is always a good idea.  There are a great many things you can do to extend the lifespan of your games, but one of the big ones is sleeving your cards.  Companies like Ultra Pro, Mayday and Fantasy Flight Games all make plastic sleeves for various different card sizes.  Choosing which ones are right for you is largely a matter of preference and you can get them in a myriad of colors or with artwork on the back to suit you.  The only downside?  Sleeving cards can be expensive.  In the end I often have to decide which games are worth sleeving and which ones probably aren’t going to see enough action to warrant worrying about wear and tear.