Shapescapes at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Museum Store (Photo by David McDaniel/The Oklahoman)
These finger puppets are some of the kids items offered at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. (Photo by Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman)
From Sunday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Give gifts kids will love
Present possibilities run from high-tech to handmade items
It’s a Christmas scenario all parents dread: After the effort and expense of shopping, their child gets more excited about the crumpled wrapping paper and empty box than the actual present.
From high-tech stuffed animals to environmentally friendly tea sets, this holiday season offers many creative gift ideas for parents willing to look beyond the usual options.
Everyone loves a puppet show, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman carries hand-knitted finger puppets in a variety of species, from turtles to turkeys. All ages, $4.50.
The music of Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood, Johnny Cash and George Strait are converted into soothing lullabies in the “Hushabye Baby!” CD series. Infants; $16.98; www.hushabyebabymusic.com.
A colorful Muppet-like character named eebee helps tykes play and learn in the quirky ebee’s Adventures toy, book and DVD line, which includes a cute plush bowling set. Infants and toddlers; $17.95 to $38; Barnes and Noble and www.eebee.com.
This year’s Kohl’s Cares for Kids program includes books and plush toys featuring longtime favorite Curious George. The special edition books and toys are $5 each, and net profits go to children’s health and education efforts. Ages 2-8; at Kohl’s stores.
An 18-inch-tall cloth Strawberry Shortcake doll complete with berry-scented hat is in this year’s catalog from the venerable Madame Alexander Doll Co. Ages 3 and older; $44.95; www.madamealexander.com.
Children can sip green tea or grow green beans with Green Toys’ plastic tea sets or indoor gardening sets made from recycled milk jugs. Ages 3 and older; $26; Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
Glo-E Plush Animals are snuggly stuffed monkeys, puppies or teddy bears with seven-color shifting light shows inside. Ages 4-10; $21.99; www.glo-e.com.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art Discovery Packs include watercolors, a sketch pad and other supplies to help kids experiment in a variety of media. Ages 5-10; $25.
Learning Resources Weather Center includes a thermometer, barometer and hygrometer in a case, making it ideal for budding meteorologists. Ages 5 and older; $40.95, Science Museum Oklahoma.
California sculptor Peter Mayor developed Shapescapes building toys to get children creating. Ages 6 and older; $35; Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Children can get a whiff of the celebrity life when they design their own fragrances with Scientific Explorer’s Perfumery. Ages 8 and older; $19.95; Science Museum Oklahoma.
“Star Wars” fans can turn their Ninetendo Wii remotes into a pair of light sabers for more lifelike gaming fun with the Thrustmaster: Glow Saber Duo Pack. Ages 8 and older; $34.99; www.amazon.com.
Between the 84 new songs to the wireless peripherals, “Rock Band 2″ improves on the already outstanding concept of creating a cohesive band experience through a video game.
My family first played “Rock Band” last summer at my husband’s cousins’ house in Florida, and we really got into fun of playing rock star together.
So, for my older son’s combined Christmas and birthday gift (that’s the upside of a late-year birthday, you can combine to get bigger, better presents), we picked up the new “Rock Band 2 Special Edition,” which includes the microphone, drums and guitar.
This time out, the drums and guitar are wireless, which is much more convenient. As an added bonus, the introduction of the wireless components has driven down the price of the earlier versions, so we were able to pick up a used a guitar with a cord for about $20. This allows us to have both a guitarist and bass player perform together.
My experience with “Rock Band” was limited, but it seems that the biggest improvement to the game is the addition of 84 new songs. It’s a diverse lineup representing many different eras and subgenres of rock. AC/DC, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jethro Tull, Panic at the Disco, Kansas, Megadeath, Modest Mouse, Rage Against the Machine, Bon Jovi and more all have songs in the game. My son Chris and husband Patrick were most pleased with the inclusion of Journey in the new game.
“Shackler’s Revenge,” the first Guns N’ Roses single in more than a decade, from the upcoming and long-awaited album “Chinese Democracy,” is one of the new songs. In my opinion, that idea is cooler than the actual song itself.
Even better, the game is compatible with all the songs from the original “Rock Band” and any songs you uploaded for it. So, if you already owned “Rock Band” or can pick up a used copy cheap, you can get a really robust selection of songs.
The sequel also includes a No-Fail option that makes it a lot friendlier for first-time users. In fact, we attended tonight a Halloween party some friends were hosting and one of the attendees brought “Rock Band 2.” We were able to even let the little kids play without worrying that the game would penalize us.
That really is the strongest endorsement I can give “Rock Band 2″: It is the ultimate good-time game. We had people of a variety of ages and skill levels all playing together and having a great time. All that’s required, besides the game and console, are a love of music and willingness to have fun.
For the first time, the music of The Beatles will be featured in a video game.
The Fab Four will enter the lucrative video game market in a deal with MTV Games and Harmonix, creators of the “Rock Band” series, according to this Associated Press story.
The game is set to debut in time for 2009′s holiday season.
“The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of The Beatles and their music. I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out,” Paul McCartney said in a statement to the AP.
The game will not be titled “Rock Band,” but will work with the existing instruments: guitar/bass, drums and microphone. Game developers were dodgey about whether new instruments, such as a keyboard or perhaps a sitar, would be introduced for the game.
The game will span the Beatles’ diverse musical and personal styles, from the bubble-gum pop and mop tops to the psychedelia and hippie attitudes.
“The Beatles continue to evolve with the passing of time and how wonderful that The Beatles’ legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in,” Beatles drummer Ringo Starr in a release to the AP. “Let the games commence.”
Giles Martin, son of Beatles’ producer, George Martin, will serve as music producer, with input from McCartney, Starr, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison.
While we’re on the subject of music games, my son, Chris, received a copy of “Rock Band 2 Special Edition,” and I’ll be bringing you a review in the coming days.
Today’s featured event:
Play like a rock star during at Guitar Hero Monday at 8 p.m. today at Lit Lounge, 209 Flaming Lips Alley in Bricktown.
For more information, go to www.lit-okc.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
On Sunday, Electronic Arts unleashes its anticipated creature creation game “Spore.”
The game lets players create unique creatures and then grow them from single-cell organisms to civilized beings and eventually into space travelers.
“Spore” comes to the world courtesy game designer Will Wright, who created “The Sims.”
The free Spore Creature Creator launched earlier this summer at www.spore.com, attracting curious players from across the globe. According to a news release, more than 2.6 million Spore creatures have been designed and uploaded so far. They are available for viewing at www.spore.com/sporepedia. (Before you go, you might want to check out the words of wisdom loyal reader 3D posted in the comments below.)
“Spore” will be available on Mac, PC, Nintendo DS and mobile phones, including the iPhone. It is rated for everyone 10 and older.
I’m trying to decide whether or not I’m interested in the actual ”Spore” game. My family and I have enjoyed designing several oddball animals on the Creature Creator, but personally, I tend to admire my creations, play with them for a few minutes and then quickly lose interest. I’m not sure if I can commit to turning any of them into star trekking higher beings.
Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan in this production still from “Watchmen,” courtesy the Associated Press.
English actor Matthew Goode readily admits he wasn’t familiar with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ watershed graphic novel when director Zack Snyder asked him to audition for the part of Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt in the film version of “Watchmen.”
But he counts himself among the graphic novel’s avid fans now.
“Once I read it and sort of then started investigating after I got the part, I was like I can’t believe (it), because it is regarded as the ‘Citizen Kane’ of the graphic novel world. And obviously all the other actors, like Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup and Patrick Wilson, I was like ‘Oh, my God, they’ve got a fantastic bunch of people together as well.’
“And Zack is such a formidable, likeable, intelligent guy, that when we first started talking about it, I was like I think this can be quite special,” he said in a phone interview last week, just hours before he flew to his first Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif.
He joined the Snyder, the rest of the cast and Gibbons on the “Watchmen” panel, which our own Matt Price of Nerdage calls “one of the toughest-to-get-in panels of the entire convention.”
According to Matt and other news reports, reaction to the footage was mostly positive. For Goode, it would be his first time to see any snippets of the movie outside the first trailer, which he described as “f—ing hello. It was amazing.”
He has yet to see the whole film, and he is aware that ”Watchmen” creator Moore has publicly detached himself for the project. But he still has confidence the movie, which is set to open March 6, 2009, will be true to the source material.
“I know how much Zack upheld the integrity of the novel. So, they’re a lot of people out there who are … gunning for it to fail, a lot of Alan Moore fans, which I can respect that and totally understand it,” he said.
“But I think as I say it should be a real showstopper.”
Click here to read Matt’s roundup of Comic-Con, including word on “Watchmen.”
You can also click here to read an Associated Press story about plans for two video games related to the movie.
This week, the devilishly clever minds at Rooster Teeth have left us dangling from last week’s cliffhanger.
Instead of posting the new chapter of their latest machinima series “Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction,” they offer this week one of their famously funny “RvB” public service announcements. You can check it out at www.roosterteeth.com.
Apparently, we’ll just have wait a little longer to find out what happened to Caboose, the Meta, Delta and all the little creepy whispering AIs after all the action in Chapter 8,
The really great aspect about this particular PSA is that it features Grif, Simmons and Sarge, three of the Red Team guys who haven’t gotten much face time in “RvB:re.” However, from the looks of last week’s installment, we may be seeing more of the Reds.
The PSA basically has Simmons introducing Sarge to the concept of video game achievements. Naturally, Grif scoffs at the notion of achievement of any kind, so you can image the sarcasm (some of it foul-mouthed) involved here.
Not only does it include the instant-classic one-liner “We can’t do porn. This is the Internet. Show some class,” the video also has Caboose causing his usual humorous chaos.
But it also functions as a promotional tool for Rooster Teeth’s new Web site AchievementHunter.com, which chronicles and gives news into video game achievements. It’s extremely geeky over there, but if you’re into achievements, you’ll probably dig it.
Watch out for the “case of the Mondays,” the Easter egg and the final (or crowning, if you will) achievement in the video.
We’ll finally get to find out what happens between the third “Star Wars” prequel (“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”) and the original 1977 film (“Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope”) when LucasArts releases “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.”
The video game will come out on Sept. 16. As the Associated Press reports, the game will “serve as George Lucas’ official median” between the original trilogy and his prequel trilogy.
Players will become Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, using The Force to hunt down the Jedi who survived the official onslaught on the galaxy’s peacekeeping force.
LucasArts project lead Haden Blackman told the AP that the game will alter the way fans view the original films – “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”
“There’s a couple of big twists and turns in the story,” Blackman told the AP. “One revelation in particular really impacts the rest of the saga as a whole. It goes way beyond filling in gaps. We try to make a bridge on every level. The story has a real implications on ‘Episode IV.’ In some ways, without the apprentice, ‘Episode IV’ couldn’t happen.”
He and his team worked with Lucas to develop the game, which includes already familiar aspects of the “Star Wars” canon with new characters, places and concepts. It will feature a TIE Fighter construction facility, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and teh Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk.
“The Force Unleashed” will be available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2. Blackman said the story is set up to allow for the sequel.
I haven’t seen what the game looks like, but I’m already looking forward to it. This was really the movie I wanted to see when Lucas created the prequels. Sure, I wanted to see how Anakin turned into Vader, as shown in “Revenge of the Sith.” But for the other two movies, I would like to have actually seen more of the Clone Wars and seen how Anakin really hunted down the Jedi and created this intergalactic Empire.
Of course, we’ll get to see more of the Clone Wars in theaters next month, when the new computer-animated film “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” opens Aug. 10. The film takes place between “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Episode III.” The movie ties into a new weekly animated TV series and a new “Clone Wars” video game for the Nintendo DS and Wii.
My family and I just returned from our vacation in Florida, where we visited my husband’s family, frolicked at Indian Rocks Beach and traipsed around Disney World for hours. It was fun, except for the sunburns and the stolen (and later recovered) stroller and all the wonderfully goofy things that go wrong on a halfway cross-country trip.
We learned a lot, so in the spirit of sharing, elementary school and BAM’s Blog, my older son Chris, 13, and I present the 10 entertaining things we learned on summer vacation:
1. It really is a Magic Kingdom, especially when it rains. So, it’s incredibly overly commercialized and has a line for everything (including the parking shuttles), but Disney World really is magical. It’s hard to feel the magic when the weather is hot enough to melt the asphalt, but if a big thunderstorm rolls through the alleged Sunshine State and cools everything down, you can easily fit in 16 attractions, multiple shopping sprees and a fireworks display into a 13-hour visit.
Yes, we were crazy enough to spend 13 hours at Disney World, but we really did have a great time, especially since it was the first visit for Chris and Gabe, who’s only 19 months old after all, and for me, since we went to Disneyland when I was a kid.
Space Mountain is still a thrill ride, and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster is lots of fun, too. My husband got to return to Snow White’s Scary Adventure, a ride that made an impression on him as a child. Despite the heat, the boys really liked climbing, running and exploring on Tom Sawyer’s Island.
They might take away our personalized Mickey Mouse ears, but they will never take our memories.
2. It’s not so annoying after all. The song “It’s a Small World” used to set my teeth on edge – and it might still if you played it for me today - but I happily listened to it for 15 solid minutes while watching Gabe the Babe gaze in wonder at all the animatronic glory of the classic Disney ride.
It was nearly as cute as his continuous pleas of “please” while we were waiting in line for “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” ride. He just couldn’t wait to get in that giant honey pot and see Pooh, Piglet and friends.
But nothing will compare to the expression on his face when he got to meet the Buzz Lightyear outside “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.” He could barely take his eyes off the costumed character long enough to get his picture take. (He also enjoyed the ride, but not as much as I did. I scored 36,500 points with my blaster, and that was with a toddler steering my ship.)
3. “Rock Band” vs. “Guitar Hero.” “Rock Band” wins! While visiting my husband’s Florida cousins, the youngsters of the bunch, Kyle, 21, and Taylor, 16, helped us occupy ourselves during the rainy weather by treating us to hours of XBox 360-induced instrumental entertainment. It was my first time to play either “Rock Band” or any of the “Guitar Hero” games. (We played “GH” 2 and 3. Why can’t I ever start at the beginning of a video game franchise?)
Although “GH” had some better song choices – including “Trogdor” – I preferred “Rock Band,” since it was a little less difficult and you could get more people involved. My husband Patrick showed some mad vocal skills on Faith No More’s “Epic.” Even Gabe played the drums a few times, although he wasn’t exactly plugged in at the time.
4. I have a whole new respect for the Scorpions. After playing “RB” and “GH,” I feel I should issue an apology to every rock band I’ve ever made fun of that actually plays or played its own instruments. I knew I couldn’t play an instrument before, but I definitely got humbled several times trying to master different songs on these games.
Tip: If you are playing one of these games, try recruiting someone who actually plays an instrument to bail you out of the Sucksville Jail. Taylor plays guitar, and his star power paid my bond many times. Plus, Patrick, Chris and the cousins have crack gameplay skills, which also come in handy.
I had no idea that the Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane” had such an intricate baseline. The Strokes’ “Reptilia” sounds really brilliant, and is actually brilliant in its simplicity. And Heart’s “Barracuda” is just as impressive as it sounds.
5. So Dr. Moreau wasn’t that crazy. Just as engrossing as the musical games was the creature-creating demo for the game “Spore.” We spent hours designing all manner of many-eyed, multi-limbed, crazy-colored critters, which we forced to dance, sing and produce babies for our sick enjoyment.
You can go to www.spore.com to download the demo, but be warned, it is amazingly addictive. There’s just something about building an entire zoo of wild animals; I understand now why Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated so many books.
6. Johnny Depp makes everything better, but Eddie Murphy doesn’t necessarily. My husband and I found the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride to be much changed from our childhood Disney visits. Mostly, that involved incorporating Capt. Jack Sparrow from the movies into the storyline. Watching the wily Capt. Jack pop up throughout the tour was really entertaining.
But I was relieved to find that the “newly enhanced” “Haunted Mansion” ride did not incorporate Eddie Murphy, who is in way too many “family-friendly” projects in my opinion. I’m not totally sure what they changed on this ride, but it was terrific fun for the whole fam.
7. Unfortunately, Hilary Swank doesn’t necessarily make things better, either. The 3,000-mile car ride to Florida offered adequate time for me to finally read the book “P.S. I Love You.” I reviewed the DVD a few weeks ago and found the movie to have numerous flaws - the most notable being its two-time Oscar-winning star’s inability to do anything remotely light-hearted.
But reading Cecelia Ahern’s novel made me realize that the filmmakers made numerous changes to the story, none of which seemed to enhance it in the slightest. If the premise – a young widow gets help through her grief from a series of letters her husband wrote before he died – sounds interesting to you, do yourself a favor and read the book.
8. “WALL-E” is still wonderful. My husband and I took the boys to see “WALL-E” on the way back home, and I could hardly wait to share it with them after giving it a glowing, four-star review. Chris and Gabe both got posters from the press day I attended, and they got their pick of the new robot-related merchandise at Disney World.
Amazingly, I actually liked the movie better the second time I saw it, and they all loved it, too.
9. There’s more spitting than you might think at Disney World. Chris and I counted three attractions that featured this rather icky habit. The tiki statues outside the “Enchanted Tiki Room” doubled as sprayers, while the giant golden camels at “The Magic Carpets of Aladdin” would hose you in mid-flight.
But the biggest violater: “Stitch’s Great Escape,” which is undoubtedly the weirdest “attraction” at Disney World. It isn’t really a ride, it’s more of a “special” effects experience in which the harnesses bring you the sounds and, unfortunately, smells and spit of Stitch causing mayhem at an intergalatic prison. Not only do you get to smell a chili dog burp, you also get splashed with Stitch-spit multiple times! This movie, one of the best non-Pixar Disney flicks of the last decade, deserves a better attraction.
10. Elvis has left the building, but you’ll pay plenty to get in anyway. We traveled through Memphis to and from Florida, and we discussed stopping at Graceland after we passed by it on the way there. We were all set to see the King’s castle until we looked up the price on the Internet. The cost just to get in the door and take the one-hour self-guided tour: $27 per adult. (Chris could have entered for the bargain price of $24.30.)
I’m definitely an Elvis fan, but this seems excessive to visit a house. Maybe it’s my Disney experience talking, but is there a Elvis-theme roller coaster inside? (Maybe even one that showers you with his spit?) Can you get your photo taken with his ghost? We decided our money would be better spent on something like an Elvis album or DVD. After all, the King really lives on in his music, not the jungle room.
The fantastic Web series “Red vs. Blue,” a machinima series based on the “Halo” game engine, has returned.
“RvB” came to an end last spring with its 100th episode, but the insanely brilliant minds at www.roosterteeth.com last week launched “Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction.” The new series is based on the engine for “Halo 3.”
According to the site, new episodes will be posted every Monday throughout summer. Episode 2 appeared two days ago, and after viewing it, I’m hooked into their zany world all over again.
The first episode – and the trailer from YouTube that I’ve posted above - starts out looking a bit on the serious and dramatic side. It centers on an Agent Washington, who is sent to Blood Gulch to investigate new developments concerning the Omega AI.
But Episode 2 sees the reappearance of some of our favorite “RvB” loons and alludes to a search for even more of the lovable crazies.
I won’t reveal any more, letting you experience and rejoice in the return of the craziness yourself. Go to www.roosterteeth.com to see the first two episodes.