Another Blaster

I just picked up my “stunt” E-11 blaster.  This one is made of solid plastic and is much more rugged than the blaster I posted about earlier, which is intended more for display.  This is the one I’ll actually carry around when I’m in costume, because this won’t break if I drop it.  I’ll probably be carrying it around the house for the next few days, too.

E-11 Blaster (stunt)This particular version of the E-11 is the one depicted in The Empire Strikes Back, as opposed to the previous one which is the version of the blaster as seen in A New Hope.  Aside from some very minor bits, the main differences are that the ESB version lacks the shot counter box on the left side and the two cylinders atop the magazine receiver.  It also has a slightly different scope.


So Uncivilized…

I have acquired an E-11 blaster rifle for my snowtrooper costume:E-11 Blaster RifleE-11 Blaster - movie shotThe actual props in the movie were made from modified Sterling L2A3 submachine guns.  The replica I have (which is made of resin, plastic, and aluminum) is made from molds take from original props and contains many little details that clearly show the prop was a modified real firearm.

In fact, actual firearms served as the basis for pretty much every blaster weapon from the original Star Wars trilogy (save for the scout trooper pistol and maybe some other background weapons).

The Great Escape

A week ago, some friends and I finally tried out one of those “escape rooms” that have gotten popular over the past couple of years. The concept of an escape room is a sort of game that a group of people play in a single room.  The players are presented with a series of puzzles that they need to solve in a limited amount of time in order to effect their escape.

There’s usually some sort of dire theme involved: you have to defuse a nuclear bomb, or escape the clutches of torturers, or something like that.  Furthermore, no electronic devices are allowed (you’re provided with a locker to stash your smartphones in before the game); it’s just you and your brains.

Companies set up and maintain these rooms, designing the puzzles, renting the rooms out for an hour or so, and resetting the puzzles between uses.  There’s very little to it, and I think that’s part of the reason why there are so many places that offer various “escape” experiences. There are over half a dozen such companies in my city alone, and each one appears to offer multiple rooms (and even portable rooms).

The particular theme of the room we “played” was a situation where we were trapped in a room in an insane asylum by some psycho — somewhat akin to the Saw series of movies.  We had one hour to solve a series of puzzles, each of which led to a clue to solving the final puzzle that would free us from the room. It was the most challenging room this particular company offered, and it had an 18% success rate.

When we first started, it took a while for us to get accustomed to how the whole thing worked.  None of us had done an escape room before, and although we knew they consisted of puzzle-solving, we had no idea what form these puzzles would take.  We all went in pretty confidant, but during the first twenty minutes I seriously started to doubt whether we’d even get close to escaping the room.

After some time of confusion and cluelessness, we suddenly had a rapid series of breakthroughs that led to us solving a couple of the puzzles.  Our confidence restored, we spent the rest of our time in the room working on the rest of the puzzles with vigor.

Near the end of the hour we entered another progress-drought, and I started thinking we would just not have enough time to figure out the few puzzles we had yet to solve.  With about ten minutes to go, we split into groups and attacked multiple puzzles simultaneously instead of combining all our brainpower on one puzzle at a time.

With five minutes left on the clock we managed to solve all but one of the puzzles in the room.  Despite missing one of the puzzles, the clues we got for the puzzles we did solve were enough for us to figure out the solution to the final puzzle which led to our ultimate escape.  We successfully beat the sadistic kidnapper at his own mind games and won our freedom.

Escape Room SuccessWe’re definitely going to try more escape rooms in the future.  Most of them seem to be geared toward groups of four to six people, but there are a couple that are apparently pretty large and which require a dozen people or more to play.

Because of the low startup and maintenance overhead, I can see the concept of escape rooms and similar sorts of amusements staying around for a while.

With the dawning of AR and VR technologies, escape rooms and similar “false reality” games could become quite an incredible experience. Case-in-point: check out the Ghostbusters Experience at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York.  In it, players are given VR goggles, a “proton gun”, and a proton pack (which contains a portable computer) and immersed in a virtual world of spooks and spirits.

I firmly believe we’re at the dawn of a new type of entertainment experience where people will essentially be playing the parts of characters in true 3-D movies themselves instead of watching moving pictures on a screen.


Das Autodoppelgänger

I came across my Camaro’s double earlier this week:

Camaro doubleHe doesn’t have side spears like the ones that I put on my car a few months ago, nor does he have the gill inserts, and I can’t tell if he has a black spoiler or not (and he’s missing two cylinders ;-), but he does have the same hood wrap, fender hashes, and powder-coated wheels as my car does.  It’s difficult to tell here, but I’d bet he’s got the same window tinting, too.

When I first picked up the car from the dealership, the person who sold me the car took a photo of it to show other prospective customers (I had the tinting, hood wrap, fender hashes, and gill inserts put on by the dealer).  On a later visit to the dealership, the salesperson commented that another guy had seen the photo of my car and ordered the exact same thing.  I wonder if this is that guy?

As a driver of a very distinct looking car, this photo also gives me something that might come in handy in the future: plausible deniability.

The Power of Copper

Nothing beats a solid lampooning of a ridiculous product that purports to essentially work by magic (e.g. healing you with magnets, extracting toxins through your skin with body wraps, etc).  That’s where the sorely underrated Auralnauts come in:

The joints in your hands are achy and useless.
Using your legs produces an unreasonable amount of heat.
Your spine has been targeted for destruction by an unknown assailant.
There is only one solution to all of your problems.
Introducing: COPPER!

And, we cannot forget these other great products: Zoomies (“Welcome to the future, Mr. Cool Dude.”) and BEAMZ by FLO (“BEAMZ is an instrument so advanced, it’s made out of lasers.”).

The Auralnauts just don’t put out enough content.  Maybe if more people bought some of their music?…

If you’re curious, here are the original commercials for the aforementioned ridiculous products for comparison: