Chicago Geek Guy

Comics, Cosplay, LARPs, RPGs, Fiction, and more... all from Chicago

Author: SheriOZ

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Vendor Room

From my perspective, one of the highlights of every con is the vendor room.  As usual, I was pulled in by the vendors’ siren song of at Midwinter.  At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed with the vendor room.  When compared to other cons I’ve attended, like Anime Boston, which has a giant hall with hundreds of tables, the smallish ballroom of 38 vendors was unimpressive. Upon further examination, I changed my mind.

The vendors were a variety of mostly smaller, individual crafters as opposed to larger retailers selling mass produced products like posters, magic cards, etc. They were selling all types of wares that would be of interest to gamers with a variety of interests including stuffed dice, weaponry and various steampunk items.  I will admit to being a girly-girl, so my own personal focus was more toward the ornamental as opposed to weaponry. 

I purchased items from a number of vendors, and sharing my favorites with you.  In my opinion, the most talented vendor was LisaSell, a 2D and 3D artist who is a magician with resin.  Lisa Sell, the owner, makes gorgeous resin masks from obviously laboriously hand-carved molds, with breathtaking results.  I had spent most of my money by the time I arrived at her table, but I happily plunked down $25 for two smaller pieces (a beautiful steampunk metal fascinator and a resin steampunk charm).  Luckily, Lisa also has an ETSY store (also called LisaSell) where I can purchase one of her lovely masks once I’ve saved up my pennies.

Another favorite vendor was Tops It Off – Custom Crochet Shop, owned by Mimi Refici, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She makes and sells wonderful, winter, geeky creations including but certainly not limited to pokeball hats, a batman hat complete with a mask to cover the wearer’s eyes, and a variety of other characters.  If she doesn’t have the exact item you want, I understand that she can make anything (based upon what I saw, I believe it).  I fell in love with an adorable hippo hat and hard warmers that I’ve worn pretty much every day.  If you can’t wait until the 2018 Midwinter Gaming Convention, you can contact her on her Facebook Page, Tops it Off – Custom Crochet. 

If I had one complaint about the vendor room, it would be the jewelry.  Practically every vendor selling jewelry carried some form of chainmail necklaces and bracelets.  There was else to choose from, other than the not necessarily geeky beaded jewelry, although I did see one vendor selling a variety of jewelry with bones (or resin looking bones).   

My final shout out goes to the Mobile Stress Relief Unit, who did a fabulous job of massaging away my aches and pains.  In general, I have to declare the vendor room a success.

Fruitman and the Senior Moment

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As a small child in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, my grandpa owned a market store in a small town in Northern Minnesota.  To me, the best part about his occupation was free ice cream treats and leftover comic books (the out-of-date ones no one had purchased).   These unwanted issues were wide-ranging.  My brothers and I shared our collection; we had everything from Marvel and DC superheroes, Classics Illustrated, to the run of the mill Disney and Harvey comics.  We each had our favorites. For my older brother it was the super heroes and for my younger brother it was Disney (especially Duck Tales).

My favorite childhood comic, however, was called “Fruitman”.  I loved it!  I only had one issue, so I read it over-and-over. In fact, I read it so much, I destroyed it.  The premise of the series centered on a guy who owned a fruit stand, the kind you see in New York City, with fruit proudly displayed on the sidewalk. As an average looking man, the main character, Mr. Pineapple wasn’t handsome, smart or strong. His  special power enabled him to change into fruit and fight crime.  Looking back, I think I loved the idea of this average Joe superhero because he resembled my grandfather. It allowed me to imagine this man who I loved with his humped back, thin frame and coke bottle glasses fighting crime in small town Minnesota (I imagined there must be loads of crime up there near the Canadian border – perhaps smuggling across the oh-so-very dangerous northern frontier).

During my teenage years I lost track of Fruitman, and lost interest in him until my 30’s.  By that point, I didn’t know what had happened to the comic book itself.  I tried to research it, but I couldn’t find anything about Fruitman on Google (keep in mind this was back in the 2000’s and although Google was the best search engine, AOL still actually competed for market share by mailing out CDs to potential customers).

Over the years, I’ve asked most of the comic book collectors I’ve crossed paths with (including our very own Chicago Geek Guy) if they could tell me anything about Fruitman.  They gave me a blank stare for a response, every time.  I started to wonder if Fruitman was a figment of my imagination.  It plagued me. Perhaps I had dreamed him up?  Was I having a senior moment, pre-50?  And if so, what were the implications for me in the future? Would I begin to remember old TV shows that didn’t exist either?

By last summer at the age of 48, during a visit to my parent’s home in Minneapolis, I decided to dig out the old comic box and find out exactly how worried I should be about my future capabilities.  I carefully sorted through every issue and every old piece of paper in the box. Lo and behold, I found two tattered pages of Fruitman!  I was thrilled to know I wasn’t losing my mind.

On that day, I decided to learn more about Fruitman. He had been on my list of things to do for about a year. This week, I decided to finally research Fruitman.  I Googled the comic again.  This time Fruitman showed up right away!  In fact, for $55.86 (plus $5 shipping) another copy of Fruitman could be mine!

I’ve since learned that Fruitman’s run lasted only one issue (and perhaps the reason no one purchased it from my grandpa’s store). Harvey comics originally published the stories in the back of an Archie-like comic called “Bunny, Queen of the In-crowd.” In 1969, Fruitman appeared as the star of his one-and-only issue. With some additional research, I learned that the issue was drawn by Ernie Colon, but otherwise the folks who created my favorite comic remain unknown.

I actually located jpegs of the entire comic online.  Reading the issue as an adult, I can understand why I loved it. The issue is a silly spoof on superhero comics, perfect reading for a seven year-old girl.  As I remembered, he really wasn’t anything special, and certainly closer in physique to my grandpa than to Superman. It’s not terribly well written. As an adult, I would describe the short vignettes as mostly disjointed and incomplete.  However, on the whole I still find parts of it perfectly silly in the best possible way. Rather than describing the issue any further, I will let you judge for yourself.  So, without further ado, I bring you Fruitman:

 

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Geek Weekend Guide for May 20-22, 2016

This weekend is chock full of interesting and unusual events for geeks of all shapes and sizes!

Chicago Zombie Prom

From their website:zombie prom

Zombie Army Productions will once again be hosting its annual Chicago Zombie Prom. As Chicago’s #1 Zombie Event, Zombie Prom is a ghastly, affectionate, cheesy blend of nostalgic high school Americana and the living dead. Zombie attire and makeup are required, but if you do not have your own makeup, zombie makeovers will be available for a $10 donation. For more information: http://www.zombiepromchicago.com/

The Cubby Bear, 1059 West Addison, Chicago, Il  – Saturday May 21st, 8:00 pm – 2 am

The Midwest Anime and Manga Connection (ACEN)

ANIME CentralAnime Central’s annual Chicago’s convention rolls into town this weekend. There will be a wide variety of entertainment options over the weekend including an interesting array of panel discussions, table top and video gaming, dances and costume competitions.

Hyatt Regency O’Hare/Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, IL

A Nude Hope: Star Wars Burlesque

Show_NHnov2014_1A motley group of geek girls takes the audience on a burlesque parody journey of the original Stars Wars IV: A New Hope released in 1977. The whole gang is there (except they are all wearing decidedly skimpier outfits).  According to Gamerfront the show is, “Utterly amazing… If you are a Star Wars lover in the Chicagoland area, this is a must-see.”

Gorilla Tango Theatre Chicago (Bucktown), 1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago

 

Nerdling Family Fieldtrips

With summer on its way and never-ending days of activities to fill, we decided to dig up some new and interesting options that might deserve a visit.

American Science and Surplus

This store has both an online presence as well as brick and mortar stores.  It sells pretty much IMG_1526anything from the absurd to the sublime.  Kids and adults will find all kinds of interesting kitschy tchotchkes, lab supplies and science kits, and arts and crafts.  Today I found tiny finger puppets in the shape of hands for $4.95, velociraptor bones model kit for $24.95, and a $17.50 electromagnet for at-home physics projects.

It’s the kind of place you can stop in a grab something or make it a destination. It’s easy to wander around for hours with your nerdlings looking at all kinds of interesting science stuff.  Also, keep a look out for their free science nights. The last one offered a free evening of hands-on science experiments, interactive demos, telescope and microscope viewing and a science scavenger hunt with a science kit for each child that competed.

IMG_1525American Science and Surplus has two Chicagoland locations, 5316 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 33W361 Roosevelt Road (route 38) – ¼ mile East of Kirk Road in Geneva, and 6901 W. Oklahoma, Milwaukee, WI

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities

1315 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago

ElkDoes your nerdling enjoy the dinosaur bones and the animal dioramas in the Chicago Museum
of Natural History?  If you’re looking for a change of pace, you might want to check out Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities.  However, this little gem is not for the faint of heart, or kids who are easily grossed out. It’s filled with vintage and antique taxidermy, unusual medical devices, bones and teeth, and all type of other curiosities.  A visit to Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities should prove to be educational and surprising for the whole family!

Robot City Workshop

3326 N. Sheffield Avenue

photo-4-454x270Robotics has become extremely popular with kids. In fact my own son is a member of his high school robotics team.  He happily spends three-to-four afternoons a week designing, building and testing his robot for competition.  If your child’s school doesn’t have a robotics program, it might be fun to visit Robot City Workshop. They offer three levels of beginner workshops for kids as young as 5. The lesson is $35 + the cost of the robot kits and batteries.  If you have more than one child, the cost of each additional child (in a beginner class) is $15 + the cost of the robot kits and batteries.  This store also offers intermediate and advanced level workshops. The advanced workshops seem to focus on teaching specific skill sets that participants can then use to build their own robots at home.  The downside to their programs seems to be the derth of creativity allowed within  in the workshops, but it’s still worth checking out.

Exploring Fractals with ABACABA

Years ago, my three-year-old son asked me, “Why do numbers start at zero but go to infinity?” Much to my bewilderment, his young mind was somehow able to grasp this incongruity. For my reply, I used a number line to show him that for every positive number there is actually a negative number on the “other side” of 0, also to infinity. His response was the first time I heard his particular giggle. A giggle I would hear many times over the years and the sign he’s learned a new concept that tickles his brain. Using another number line for inspiration (a ruler), this post explores some interesting opportunities to explore fractals.

ABACABA

According to Wikipedia, a fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. One well-known fractal pattern called ABACABA, has long been used by artists, musicians and writers for creative inspiration. My own nerdlings have enjoyed exploring this mathematical pattern while gaining a deeper understanding of the potential inter-relationships between mathematical concepts and the arts.

The ABACABA pattern on a ruler demonstrates this pattern in its simplest form. In the space of one inch, the long mark dividing the inch in half represents the letter C (see picture below). The two shorter marks dividing the space on either side of the C in half represents the B’s. Finally, the shortest marks represent all of lines divided in half again, represented by A’s. Spelling out the pattern ABACABA.

Imagine this pattern continuing indefinitely, splitting lines in half until they are too small to see.

ABACABA inspired Art – Sierpinski Gasket

Source: http://ecademy.agnesscott.edu/

Source: http://ecademy.agnesscott.edu/

A Sierpinski gasket (above), created by the mathematician Waclaw Sierpinski (1882-1969), uses the ABACABA fractal pattern for the amazing picture above. Ask your nerdling to try zooming in on different parts of the gasket, she will see the same basic shape appearing no matter now far in she zooms, as the pattern continually repeats itself.

Binary Trees

Creating binary trees is a great place to begin playing with the ABACABA pattern. Follow the steps below to create a ABACACA binary tree:
Step 1: Draw a long line (this represents the longest line) in the example this is the complete inch.
binary tree

Step 2: Make two branches coming off of the trunk. These lines represent the C (and should be shorter than the tree trunk).

Step 3: Make two lines coming out of each branch to represent the B’s (also shorter than the previous lines).

Step 4: Draw two shorter lines attached to each of the B branches (these are the A branches)

Step 5: Feel free to continue to make smaller and smaller lines until the lines are too small to draw!

Paper Structures

Source: fractalfoundation.org

Source: fractalfoundation.org

http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/fractivities/fractal-cutout/ provides instructions and other information for fractal cutouts needed to make the pop-up above. Another website, ABACABA.org also has loads resources, including this pdf (http://www.abacaba.org/abacaba-article.pdf), with instructions to another pop-up structure on the last page (page 13).

Fractal Software

Making fractal art with markers or crayons can be a complicated process, but perhaps worth the effort to make an awesome picture. With modern technology, nerdlings can easily explore the world of fractal pictures with software apps designed for smart phones and computers.

Fractal picture I created with Frax

Fractal picture I created with Frax

I made the fractal picture here with an inexpensive iphone app ($.99) called Frax. It is a straightforward program that folks of any age can use to make inspiring art that can be saved, or even printed and hung on a wall. For a list of additional fractal software apps and a host of other activities visit fractalfoundation.org

ABACABA in Music

Since the Baroque period, musicians have been composing with an ABACABA structure under the name of Rondo. This form of music has a principal recurring theme (often called a refrain) that alternates with different, and usually contrasting sections called episodes, digressions or couplets. Use the links below to play some classical and/or modern ABACABA structured music for your nerdling(s).

“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

“Every Breath you Take” by Sting and the Police

Abacab by Gensis

“March from the Nutcracker” by Tchailkovsky

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, last movement

“Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” K 525 by Mozart (last movement)

 

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