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Fact: I have never placed a bet on a sporting event, and unless I happen to pull a Marty McFly and head back to the future for a copy of the Grays Sports Almanac, I never will. I'll also never place a bet on a pop culture event, but as recent years have shown, handicapping movies and tv has become a big business, and people will throw their money at anything. That said, I do love to speculate when it comes to the events of a galaxy far, far away, and this morning an email landed here at Rock Father HQ with some predictions from Jim Murphy - an oddsmaker, sportsbook consultant and handicapping theorist - who had some thoughts on STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI... specifically, who will become "one with The Force" first.

It's that time of year again - the First Wave lineup announcement for my favorite music festival, Chicago's RIOT FEST! This morning, the crew behind the fest (taking place September 15-17 at Douglas Park) unveiled over 70 artists including Nine Inch NailsQueens of the Stone Age, and the exclusive reunion of Jawbreaker. Additional highlights include New Order, Paramore, Prophets of RageM.I.A., Wu-Tang Clan, a DJ set from Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Bad Brains, Ministry and Vic Mensa. Check out the full First Wave lineup below, along with my personal "Rock Father Picks" for who I'm most looking forward to seeing, highlighted in bold.

Tuesday, April 18 2017 23:18

Mini Hess Toy Trucks are Making a Comeback!

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I've written a lot about the Hess Toy Truck over the years, and while that remains a Christmas tradition, I don't think I've ever said much about their summer tradition - the Hess Mini Truck. For 17 years, Hess released a mini version of their iconic holiday toy truck - most recently offered for sale in 2014. Funny enough, that's the only Mini we have in our collection here at Rock Father HQ, as we picked one up at a Hess Express in Pennsylvania while in the midst of an epic road trip.  In the three years since, fans have been demanding a relaunch of the Mini Hess Toy Truck, and today the Hess Corporation answered the call. Not only is Hess bringing back the Mini Hess Toy Truck, but they’re doing it as a special release on an exclusive basis in a way they never have before.

The late 80s and early 90s were a fun time for Disney television animation, and as the forthcoming Disney XD reboot of DuckTales should indicate, audiences are ready for a throwback. At the same time those classic cartoons were delighting kids after school, the age of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming was hitting hard, and titles based on the television series were being released on a regular basis. Now, those looking for a new burst of retro gaming goodness can delve into Capcom's The Disney Afternoon Collection - a value-priced bundle of six classic games, perfect for parents like me to introduce a new generation to some NES classics via PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.  Check out a preview below...

I've been gardening nearly my entire life, but vegetables are still a tricky thing here. As we prepare for another growing season here at Rock Father HQ, we'll be planting more veggies, and part of the challenge is always the harvest. What's properly ripe? Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables (out May 8, 2017 via Cool Springs Press) aims to help home gardeners take some of the mystery out of things.

Netflix Stream TeamOn May 5, the latest Netflix Original Series from DreamWorks Animation Television begins streaming with the debut of Spirit Riding Free. Inspired by the Oscar-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron the trailer for the series has just arrived and looks to enchant a whole new generation. Check it out below...

Monday, April 17 2017 10:50

The Maine - "House of Blue Déjà Vu"

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I know I tend to always overthink

But tonight it’s as simple as this

All I need is a lovely little lonely kiss

I have a friend who’s always playing bands I’ve never heard of, Catfish and the Bottlemen, The 1975, Acceptance, Jimmy Eat World, Saves The Day, Bad Suns, and State Champs, to name a few. Ok, so I've heard of The 1975 and Jimmy Eat World but never listened to any of their music until she mentioned how much she loved them. I respect her opinion and want to understand the world through her lens.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, I used to ramble thoughts into a cassette recorder - something that by 1992 would lead to me (at age 15) conducting interviews with bands on cable access, all captured by low-res VHS. After seeing my daughters do similar rambling on video, I realized that this is the 2017 version of what I used to do circa 1983 with that tape deck. The raw video embedded below inspired our latest YouTube series, "Finley's Thoughts on Things." She'll be telling you about all kinds of stuff that interests an almost five-year-old, starting with why Daddy (me - "The Rock Father") hates Snapchat, Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories and any other use of vertical video. Seriously, Vertical Video Syndrome (VVS) is a terrible plague that needs to be completely eradicated. Finn is much cuter in how she explains it, though. Take a look...

After some early details leaked a few days ago, those attending EA has officially dropped the curtain on Star Wars Battlefront II, making the reveal at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Personally, I just started playing the first Battlefront last month (late to the Xbox One party), but after seeing what's coming down the road, I can't wait to get my hands on Battlefront II. Not only does the game pack a ton of action from "all eras of Star Wars," but there's a new story to be told, with a new type of trooper at the center of it - the Inferno Squadron Pilot. Hasbro will release a Star Wars The Black Series Inferno Squadron Pilot as a Gamestop Exclusive along with the release of the game for Xbox One and Playstation 4. See details on everything below!

Earlier today at Star Wars Celebration Orlando, fans were treated to the brand-new trailer for season four of Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels. As some had already been anticipating, the fourth season has been confirmed to be the final season - something that certainly saddens me, but hopefully means that the door will open for something else. As Star Wars Rebels keeps moving toward the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we see the return of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and the appearance of Rebel U-Wing Fighters, Imperial Death Troopers (recently glimpsed at the end of season 3) and more, as executive producer Dave Filoni delivered news of the show's must-see conclusion alongside the voice cast of the entire Ghost crew including Freddie Prinze Jr., Tiya Sircar, Taylor Gray, Vanessa Marshall and Steve Blum. Check out the trailer...

Being a massive fan of Star Wars, it's been a real privilege to have deepened my personal connection to it over the years, something that has been an unexpected benefit of running this website. I've been able to work on some projects spun from various licenses; had my own home movies used in Target's promotional commercials leading up to the release of The Force Awakens; and I was able to take part in the Global Media Event for that very film - the first-ever Star Wars film to be released under Disney's ownership of Lucasfilm. That said, there is one big connection that I do not have, and one that I've been asked about more times than I can remember - and it's gone back to the early 1990s. No, I am not related to Star Wars author Timothy Zahn, creator of Grand Admiral Thrawn. In fact, we'd never actually met until he made an appearance at Count-I-Con in Lake County, Illinois last year. To make it completely official, he signed a copy of his Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition hardcover to our entire family with "no relation" tacked on the end. So why bring this up now? At Star Wars Celebration Orlando, there was a whole lot of Grand Admiral Thrawn action happening, and you're going to be seeing a lot more of the blue-faced Imperial in the months ahead. 

Since the official announcement earlier this week, interest has been building in what I believe is a truly monumental event for Star Wars fandom - the launch of Star Wars Forces of Destiny. In fact, with so much information rolling out, I've added to my popular Star Wars Checklists, with the complete Star Wars Forces of Destiny Toy Checklist, which will be updated as new information arrives. This afternoon, fans at Star Wars Celebration Orlando were treated to a HEROINES OF STAR WARS + FORCES OF DESTINY Panel, moderated by Amy Ratcliffe (host of “Lattes with Leia” podcast). What followed was a conversation about strong female characters central to the Star Wars universe and how they have inspired generations of fans; panelists included: Dave Filioni (executive producer Star Wars Rebels), Ashley Eckstein (“Ahsoka Tano”), Tiya Sircar (“Sabine Wren”) and surprise guest Daisy Ridley (“Rey”). The three actresses were surprised on stage with the reveal of their new Adventure Figures by Hasbro from the just-announced Star Wars Forces of Destiny. As part of the reveal, fans were treated to a sneak peek at the first animated Forces of Destiny short, which will launch on Disney YouTube in July 2017. If you missed the panel, you can catch it on the archived live stream at the 53:35 mark, or in the player below.

Friday, April 14 2017 11:07

First Teaser Trailer - STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI!

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It's finally here. After ending JJ Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS with a cliffhanger (literally, they were on a cliff), Rian Johnson's STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI finally has a trailer, and it's incredible. If THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the gold standard in trilogies with a dark second chapter, THE LAST JEDI just might be it's thematic companion. Luke Skywalker just may have finally...

Thursday, April 13 2017 13:33

Gearing-up for Spring Allergy Season...

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THE ROCK FATHER™ has created this post as part of a #sponsored series with Socialstars and Zicam®; all opinions are that of James Zahn. #ZicamCrowd

Now that we've pretty much finished fighting that pesky groundhog, sending him to retreat back to his hidden underground bunker (more on that here), spring is legitimately here, and that brings with it some new issues. Spending time outside when the seasons change is a favorite thing for me, especially since Spring means getting back into working on my yard and getting the gardening started. It can also mean more travel for me (I was just out in California again a few weeks ago), and on top of always attempting to keep the common cold at bay, now we have allergies in the mix. Spring allergies. In fact, I think of all the allergies, spring ones just might be the worst.

For Christmas last year, Santa delivered to my wife The Princess Diarist, the latest novel from Carrie Fisher. Coincidentally, our girls also received the Hasbro action figure of young Princess Leia from Star Wars Rebels. Without knowing that Fisher had suffered a heart attack, our youngest had placed her Leia figure into a bed within the Playmobil Hospital. It was an odd mirror of real life at the time, and sadly, Fisher would not pull through. As thousands of Star Wars fans are currently gathered at Star Wars Celebration Orlando to honor the 40th Anniversary of the franchise, audiences got a look at a touching tribute to a true "Rebel," one which is now available for all to enjoy. Check it out below...

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