Saturday, June 28, 2008

Robot Day: "I'm A Robot Programmed Not To Know That I'm A Robot"



Going on a Wall-E binge last night reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of robot related media; Pete Misner's video for Scent of a Robot. The song is a rap ballad in which an average guy realizes he and everyone else he knows are robots. It's a hilariously deadpan piece of absurdity that easily slides between humor and philosophy, and features some pretty fun CG robot models as well.

You can check out the YouTube video above for instant gratification, though a nice high quality Quicktime is available on Pete's official site.

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Robot Day: Tracing the Lineage of Wall-E's Robot Pals

Geekanerd loves Wall-E! Even me, the resident Pixar cynic. The first third of the movie is a masterpiece, a MASTER. PIECE. Between that and the credit sequence, let's give them the Oscar, why not. I spent most of yesterday evening geeking out about my favorite moments, watching clips on YouTube, pouring over the amazing BuyNLarge viral site, and crying over the mere memory of several scenes.

As a product design nerd, I love that they didn't over-anthropomorphize the "modern" robots, ie all the robots except Wall-E himself. The art designers gave them tons of personality while still making them realistically look they were built for only one service. They're not androids, but true blue mass manufactured robots.

While the Johnny 5/Short Circuit comparisons have already well chewed over, here's our attempt to trace the robo-influences of some of Wall-E's friends...

Until Auto started talking, I thought it actually might be GLaDOS. Still alive indeed, seven hundred years in the future! Red eye against white circle with a black line down the middle...it's all there, people. But as Sarah pointed out, GLaDOS' look is in turn a rif on HAL 9000, and Auto's eye is clearly a DIRECT reference to his iconic red light. Portal only came out a year ago, so there's probably no way Auto could have been influenced by GLaDOS...how about that short before the movie, though, with the magic hat? That was Portal. It just was.

More after the jump....


I wouldn't be at all surprised if the PR-T cosmetic bot was designed with a nod towards the IT-O Interrogator droid from Star Wars. Both are floating orbs with multiple arms, and given that the PR-T droid we meet in the movie is malfunctioning, their functions may not be all that different either.

Eve is harder to pin down, but the resemblance to Apple products in general is pretty clear. I think more than anything she/it reminded me of the Mac Mouse, in it's smooth, seamless white ovaltude. But the face and gun reminded me of something as well; the Robosapein toy robot from Wowee, which me and Albo saw at Digital Life last year.

Anyone else see anything in Wall-E that reminded them of another famous robot?

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Snap Judgments: Reviews for 1985 #2, Final Crisis #2, The Initiative #14 and More!

Short comic reviews based on initial, lizard-brain opinions. Arranged from BEST to WORST.

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite TPB gets an A+ from AHR

This is a must have. First of all, Gerard Way's six issue story is so good it makes me a little anxious; how can comic that's so smart, so refreshing, be the freshman effort of a pop star? It makes me question everything I know about the world. Aside form the main story, the extras in this book are superb: a highly credible introduction by Grant Morrison, in which he mentions listening to The Black Parade on loop while writing the brilliant Batman #663, genuinely impressive original character designs by Way himself, a wonderful piece of promo art by artist Gabriel Ba, and the Free Comic Book Day one shot in which the world got it's first taste of the Academy. Get this book. Cherish it.

Reviews for Avengers: The Initiative #14, Final Crisis #2, Mighty Avengers #15, Walking Dead Vol 8, Thunderbolts #121, 1985 #2, New Avengers #42.

Avengers: The Initiative #14 gets an A from Albo

This has been a "pick up and scan in the store" book for me for months now, along with Amazing Spider-Man and anything that looks a little sexy. But I swear, once I started seeing what was going on within these pages I had no choice but to buy it. Dan Slott takes what could have been a pretty ordinary *COUGH*mightyavengers15*COUGH* Hank Pym-is-a-Skrull story and turns it into a hilarious situation comedy. The issue starts with some flashbacks that show Pym Skrull having to using his hidden extra powers to escape particularly tough scrapes, and then attributing his miraculous survival to "shrinking a lot." Needless to say, Pym Skrull thinks the gullibility of Earthlings is hilarious. There are many more standout moments, such as an Initiative cadet's "discovery" of Pym as a Skrull based on his choice of lunchables and a very Twilight Zoney ending that will make your heart sink. Highly recommended read!

Final Crisis #2 gets a B+ from AHR

For the first half of this book, I was sure it was going to get an A. I LOVE the Japanese superhero team. I wish DC would let Grant Morrison write a guide to the DC Universe, where he just makes everything up. His inventions and reinventions are almost always way more fun and interesting than anything that existed before. I even love what he's doing with the Monitor in this book; it reminded me of parts of Jonathan Lethem's Omega series, oddly enough. But parts of this book are so hard to understand, and so full of made-up space jargon, it feels like a slog in order to get to the next fun bit. Also, if I was a fan of Martian Manhunter, I think I'd be pissed by the one-page funeral scene. Didn't Bart Allen get like, an entire book to himself? He's not even a JLA-er!


Mighty Avengers #15 gets a B from Albo

If you like naked people, this is certainly the Avengers book for you. There are only seven pages in the book that DON'T contain a nude or only partly clothed individual. Anyway, Bendis seems intent in telling the bulk of Secret Invasion through flashback stories, no doubt to illustrate how fiendishly clever he's been these past few years. This one's all about Pym being replaced by a Skrull, and while I certainly can't claim the read isn't enjoyable (Bendis crafts some great little scenes here) I can't help but ask "Why?" when I'm all done with it. I didn't feel like I came out with any important information I didn't have going in. And surely I'm not the only one sick of these frickin' "warehouse talks" the undercover Skrulls seem to have every other night (See New Avengers review below).

The Walking Dead Vol 8: Made to Suffer TPB gets a B- from AHR

I got a little frustrated with this arc of this story, because I felt kind of dicked around with. There are a few too many "gotcha" cliffhangers, which at least won't be as irritating in trade paperback seeing as you don't have to wait a month to realize what seemed to be a horrifying twist was actually just a misunderstanding with no consequences. Thought to be fair, there are a hell of a lot of game-changing events in this book, and some very gut churning moments for long-time readers. But the supervillain-style antagonist of this story arc really gets on my nerves, and his dystopian post-apocalyptic society reminded me too much of Mad Max meets A.I. I never could reconcile it with the intimate, relatable world the story had inhabited beforehand. Also the zombies kind of fade into the background, and that's never a good sign.


Thunderbolts #121 gets a C+ from AHR

Not as fun as the Green Goblin rampage of last week. Not enough angry Moonstone. Too many panels where characters are simply running from one place to the other. And where's Venom? Did he die in the last issue? I can't remember. But; Bullseye comes back, and he's making up for lost time. Lost MURDER time. I liked Ellis' work on this title a lot, and am sad to see him go; I wish this mean, somewhat silly book could have gone out with more of an absurdly violent bang.

1985 #2 gets a C from Albo

Is it a second issue thing? Is Mark Millar just incapable of following up a strong first issue with anything but a dull slog of a story? Much like his Kick-Ass, the first issue was a fun, fresh, exciting setup and the second is just plain dull. Aside for the introduction of some new mystery, this book squanders the momentum it had coming in. Nothing happens. It's that simple. I'll still pick up the next one, though, because if Kick-Ass #3 was any indication, Millar really knows how to pick up the pace after a dull sophomore issue.

New Avengers #42 gets a D from Albo

As mentioned above, I am so sick of reading these scenes of standing around in a warehouse talking about their strategy to destroy the humans. There are invariably a few Skrullettes who look exactly the same and I'm not sure who's who and I'm so bored I can't even muster the energy to figure it out. Yes, we know Jessica Drew is a Skrull. Yes, we know she's working for Hydra and Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Why don't you tell me something new, BMB?

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Weekanerd NYC: Japanese Art, Hippie Art and Cheap Art

Friday, June 27

Is Satoshia Kon the second greatest Japanese animator working today? Zip over to the West Side to watch the visual orgasm that is Paprika and then hear the filmmaker (accompanied by onscreen clips from his works) describe his own genius.

Burning Man East and CHEEP COMIX after the jump!

Saturday, June 28
There's so much crazy stuff going down at this festival I can't even begin to figure it all out. Singing, dancing, limbo, fake governers, silkscreening stations (BYOT), circus sideshows and a whole bunch more. People liken it to an East Coast Burning Man, without the nudity and probably less drugs. But don't let that dissuade you.

Sunday, June 29
Jim Hanley's crazy back issue sale has come around again! Each day it goes on another 10% gets knocked off the top. Monday it's up to 80% of course, but it'll be a madhouse and the selection will be quite picked over. I went last year and got a HUGE box of comics for $20 that I still haven't finished reading. If you read comics you can't miss this!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

First Look At Joss Whedon's New Web Series


I haven't even watched this thing yet, because the computer I'm currently working on is from like 1993 and doesn't want to run Vimeo. But here it is, courtesy of the official fan site, the teaser trailer for Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon's new musical web series that he wrote with his close friends and relations during the writers strike. Because Joss Whedon CAN'T NOT write. It's like breathing for him.

It's kind of killing me that I can't watch this right now. Anyone want to tell me if the trailer is any good?

Update: Oh wow. I just watched it. It's really good. This might be Neil Patrick Harris' finest work, although I could just be saying that because he's rocking my favorite outfit of labcoat and goggles. Odd that there's no singing, maybe they're concerned about scaring away geeks who think themselves too manly to associate themselves with anything all-singing, all-dancing. Or maybe the mixes just aren't in yet.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Panel Discussion: Scans from Wolverine #66, Teen Titans: Year One #5, RASL #2 and More

Every week we at Geekanerd rip panels from our comics and put them on display here, recognizing the best, worst, and weirdest moments of the week. Beware some major SPOILERS.

Click the pics for high res goodness!

Heart of Gold Award
- Logan, Wolverine #66

That's right, Logan's future son is named Scotty. Sounds like Wolvie found some common ground with Cyke before the one eyed bastard bit the big one. -Albo

Scans from Teen Titans: Year One #5, RASL #2, Genius #1, and Tales of Cthulhu #3 after the jump.

Best Save - Wonder Girl, Teen Titans: Year One #5
Stupid Speedy doesn't appreciate having his life saved by a guuurrrl, but we can all appreciate this fun, efficient rendering of superstrength physics. I'm a sucker for any time a hero stops a car short like this, as in this previous Panel Discussion. -AHR

Artist's Trademark - Rasl #2
Oh man, when Jeff Smith pulls out that pointy chin, you know shit is going to go down. -AHR

Signs of the Post Apocalypse - Wolverine #66
Times are tough in the post apocalypse. So tough, in fact, that Logan's daughter has to play an old GBA instead of upgrading to a sweet new DS. -Albo

Achievement in Character Re-Design- Teen Titans: Year One #5
One thing that always bothered me about Green Arrow is that he's suppose to be this rakish ladies man, but his costume is nerdiest in all of DC (and that is SAYING something) and his usual mustashe/tight goatee/conservative hair cut combo always make him look like a total square. But leave it to Karl to make me believe this dude could actually get a hot number like Black Canary. And on the other side of the spectrum, I love that Speed looks a little awkward and half-baked; he's a teenager for godsake, and not all kids have to be cute to be appealing. -AHR

Most In-Your-Face Foreshadowing - Wolverine #66
Were you wondering where this "Old Man Logan" storyline is going? Well you aren't anymore, cause the issue ends with this double page spread laying out every step Wolvie and Blind Hawkeye are gonna take this year. On another note, though... Are Kingpin and Doom really still alive? This is 50 years after all the heroes on earth die, Bruce Banner's grandchildren are Logan's landlords... Surely there isn't a 100 year old Kingpin stomping around? I guess we'll see... Also, I love that Paste Pot Pete claimed a little land for himself. -Albo

Beatdown of the Week - Genius #1
Tiny girl, but boy can she whup some ass. -Albo

Art Hall of Shame - Tales of Cthulhu #3
Aach! Are you kidding me? I paid for this asshole's scribbles? Those aren't faces! -Albo

Definitely Not Safe Sex - Tales of Cthulhu #3
Oh, can't draw a freaking face, but "sea monster engaging in some hot canoodle action with a nice young lady"? Guy's all over it. I think I probably saw a picture like this in sex ed. "Having unprotected sex? You might as well be sleeping with a giant AID!" -Albo

Nitpick Award and Cameo Alert - Teen Titans: Year One #5
I mentioned this in my review of this issue; I wish that last panel was silent. Whether or not we could infer that she's crying without text, the art makes it clear she's devestated. That (SOBS) really takes me out of the momment, because it makes me think of a stage direction and not an actual sound. I would have loved this ending if it was just that lonley panel combined with that ironic title.

There is one thing I love about this last panel; the stuffed animal on WG's desk is the main character from Karl Kershel's weekly online comic, The Abominable Charles Christopher. The strip is hilarious and the art is to die for. It's nice that Wondy is a fan of both boy bands and indie web comics. -AHR

Banana Randomizer Award for Achievement in WTF? - Tales of Cthulhu #3
The end of this short story devolves into some really in(s)ane nonsense. And why? Well, I guess WhyTF not? To be honest, the more I look at these panels the more I like them in some backward way. -Albo

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Name That Tune, Music Geeks


Q: How is Girl Talk's new album like the Guggenheim after 6pm on Friday?

A: It's pay what you wish!

I could get used to this. As was the case with Radiohead's In Rainbows, the only time I pay for music anymore is when I can name my own price. O, what a spoiled generation to inherit this dying world. Download the Feed The Animals LP in it's entirety at Illegal-Art.

For those wondering who or what Girl Talk is, he's a mash-up artist and everyone just loves him. The gimmick is he samples equally from current commercial hip hop (o_O) and the history of rock, which for him runs from cheeseball 7os anthems to alternative radio one hit wonders. As one who came of age on alternative rock, I have to say GT has pretty impeccable taste in this arena. Only two songs into the new album I was recognizing personal all-time faves like Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog and Boy/Girl by Aphex Twin, so my theoretical issues with him aside, I'm hooked.

The aforementioned issues and the racial politics of meaningless dance music, after the jump....


Alright, so this is what happens when you grow up in Berkeley. You can't not see racial politics in literally anything that you spend more than 30 seconds thinking about. GT's previous album, Night Ripper, is on frequent rotation on my iPod, and from my first listen I've been distracted by the implications of pulling sexually crude/aggressive lyrics from songs uniformly by black artists (and those creating music in one of the most derided genres today, commercial hip-hop) and presenting them in a sort of sideshow, laughably-flamboyant context by grouping these clips together in such high concentration. They're even further decontextualized when positioned against comparatively quaint musical and lyrical excerpts from uniformly white artists, which are taken from a much broader spectrum of decades and genres.

But to bring this critique into reality a little, I don't doubt that Girl Talk loves the rap samples he mixes in. Quote from a Nerve.com interview from the Night Ripper era:

"I've always been into juxtapositions of really different elements. Things like really overtly sexual rap mixed with clean-cut '70s pop music, stuff like that. You hear a guy rapping about having sex, and it's set over James Taylor. I think it's what makes the music fun."

So subjectively, I'm not trying to accuse Girl Talk of anything. Am I saying it's somehow not right to juxtapose sexy stuff from modern rap and precious stuff from the history of rock? That's a no. But any time you have a piece of work that pulls from the cultural ether of two distinct racial groups, I think it's fair to reflect on the significance of what's being extracted.

BUT: this new album actually bucks that critique by drawing from a much broader scope of black artists, and without the same pointed scope of subject matter. The music taken from white artists is also generally less precious, with some metal and trashy modern pop making appearances. In closing, let me remind the reader it is not the job of artists to impose meaning on their work, it's the job of critics. I don't know how I went from being an artist to a critic, but I think I have to go kill myself now.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Snap Judgments: Reviews for My Inner Bimbo #5, Wolverine #66, RASL #2 and More

Short comic reviews based on initial, lizard-brain opinions. Arranged from BEST to WORST.

My Inner Bimbo #5 gets an A from Albo
This book is Sam Keith at his absolute rawest. The pages feature some of his best looking art in years and are densely packed with an incredibly personal story the likes of which I've never read before. Make no mistake, the book is slow going, but it is supremely rewarding. The story follows a sixty-something man who has spent his whole life looking for female approval and whose "femmy" side manifests herself as a "Bimbo," who starts as a sex slave but is always transforming into more mature forms, many of which are decidedly antagonistic. This is the last issue of the series, and I'm not sure if it was popular enough to collect in a trade, so I can't recommend strongly enough that you get out there and try to find some back issues. If you like Sam Keith at all, or are just looking for something completely different from every other book on the shelf, you really shouldn't miss this.

Review for Wolverine #66, Teen Titans: Year One #5, Genius #1, RASL #2, and Cthulhu Tales #3 after the jump!

Wolverine #66 gets an A from Albo
Awesome! The first issue in the "Old Man Logan" story, this book takes place fifty years after the villains finally won. Almost all of the heroes are dead, and the United States have been split into regions controlled by supervillain factions. Logan lives the quiet life of a farmer with a wife and kids (one of which is named Scotty... Awwww), getting by and paying rent to a gang of the Hulk's descendants who ride around in the old Fantasticar. It's a cool post-apocalyptic world, and while it certainly shares the Mad Max aesthetic touchstones that no post-apocalypse can get away from, there are a few cool little touches that separate it from what you've seen before. Anyway, the problems arise when pacifist Logan can't make rent and gets his ass kicked by the gang. His healing factor isn't what it used to be, which introduces some tension that most Wolverine stories don't have--finally the man isn't unbeatable. He has to accept a proposition from Hawkeye to go on a delivery mission for some cash, leaving his family behind. As long as they don't all get slaughtered, thus slinging this story down a cliched path we've all seen before, it should be a fun ride. Oh, did I mention Steve McNiven is a goddamn stunning artist?

Teen Titans: Year One #5 gets an A- from AHR
God the art in this book is fantastic. I can't get over it. Speedy's oval-shaped face and Little Rascals grin. Wonder Girl's continual wonder. The most convincingly handsome version of Green Arrow I've ever seen; let's all welcome Oliver's facial hair to modern times. This could be a picture book, and the story would be as engaging and clear as ever. But what of those word bubbles? I want to like Amy Wolfram's script, because the early-teen exuberance of the characters really does shine through, and it keeps the pace so quick there's little time to dwell on how clunky some of the dialogue feels. There's also some serious editorial problems in this book, from typos to lines that really needed another pass for clarity of action's sake. I also really wish that last panel was silent. Still the best looking book in comics today, anyone interested in cartooning or illustration must pick it up if only to steal from it.

Genius #1 gets a B from Albo
One of Top Cow's six "Pilot Season" comics, from which two will be voted "By You!" to become ongoing series. This is the first I've read, and it's pretty damn good. The pleasing art consists of nice clean cartoony line work (think a less pretty Karl Kerschl) with mostly subtle colors and just a few too many Photoshop tricks thrown in. The story is pretty original, about a physically diminutive but mentally colossal woman organizing street gangs into an all out war with the police. There's some connection between her and a cop that is trying to convince his superior officers that this is coming, but it's left unclear what that connection is in this ish. Definitely a fresh story, hopefully we'll be seeing more of it!

RASL #2 gets a B- from AHR
This is one moody book. I like the wordless and paranoia-inspiring walks around town, but Smith spends more than half the book having character engage in conversation about the very basics of parallel universes. Why? I don't think it's a difficult concept for most comic fans to grasp. The text of these conversations offer little in the way or new ideas or character development, but from an art standpoint it is nice to watch Smith do some fairly detailed work with his characters facial expression. It's a whole lot of close-ups, and the level of detail Smith puts into communicating their thoughts in their expressions is impressive to observe, but without an interesting plot to sink my teeth into it still feels like an illustration exercise.

Cthulhu Tales #3 gets a D from Albo
So I think my three month love affair with Cthulhu is over. The first story in this book is honestly some of the worst crap I've paid for in a long time. Actually, you know what? All three of these stories are some of the worst crap I've paid for in a long time. Pointless tales + sub-par art - $3.99 = one unhappy Albo.

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Comics So Good They Should Not Be Free: Panda Panda


Do you find it difficult to relate on an emotional level to global tragedy? Another question; do you find pandas adorable?

Cartoonist Coco Wang has been posting short comics that illustrate accounts of the May 12th China earthquakes. Her drawings are instantly appealing, and I'd like to point you towards one story in particular: Panda Panda, in which some brave panda researchers (!) risk life and limb to save baby pandas. Repeat: baby pandas.

The other comics on the site are less Panda-centric, but excellent nonetheless. Wang focuses on stories of heroism and bravery but doesn't skim over the horror of the disaster, and many of the comics are seriously heart-wrenching. They each give a pointed, intimate look into the lives of individuals caught in the quake, and it's a wonderful example of illustrated journalism that reminded me of one of my favorite webcomics of all time, After the Deluge.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spore Creatures That Look Like Stuff


So I was all excited to download the free Spore Creature Creator, until I was coldly informed by the installer that my Powerbook isn't up to scratch. I'm humiliated. All I can do is longingly cruise the Sporepedia, looking for Spores That Look Like Stuff. Geeky stuff, mostly, like the Trogspore above. That looks really good.

Spore Trek, Spore Wars, and of course Pokespore, after the jump...

STAR WARS

This Mon Calamari is right on, but the nudity upsets me. I don't want to see Admiral Ackbar naked. As a 18th Century Dandy, yes. Naked, that's too far.

This X-Wing is from Fark's Spore thread, though I couldn't find it on the Sporepedia. There were lots of imitators, if you search "x-wing", nothing quite as good as this.

Great looking TIE fighter, elegant in it's simplicity.

Shockingly accurate Watto.

Painful looking AT-ST, giving new meaning to the term "Chicken Walker".

And now, my two favorite characters from the Prequels...

General Grievous, with particularly good attention to coloring.

This could be Selbulba's ILM character model.

POKEMON

All of the original three starter Pokemon are really popular. There are tons of them, here are the most accurate ones.
Charmeleon.
My main man Bulbasaur Ivysaur Venusaur. Never mind, he's nobody's main man. In retrospect, I got this wrong because every other entry for Bulbasaur is just painful to look at.


A sickly Blastoise.Some sort of horrible bird Pikachu...I'll be seeing that in my nightmares, thank you internet.


I'm a Team Rocket fan 4 life, so I had to look for Koffing. What I found was...wow. Just wow. So close, and yet so far.

VIDEO GAMES

Most of these are via Kotaku and MTV Multiplayer...

An XBox 360 controller! Pretty terrifying. What are those joysticks supposed to be? Suckers? Nipples? Crazy.

Our old friend Purple Tentacle back from the LucasArts adventure gaming dead.
Mario Mario of the Mario Brothers. This looks like some crazy junkie muppet.Boo! Literally. Not really as cute as the real character, but good nonetheless.


A bomb, possibly a bob-omb.

Wierd old Mr. Saturn, quite well captured.

Goomba! This is deeply upsetting to me. They went way too far in making him look like a real mushroom, with that gross fungal texturing on the underside of his head.
Pretty great Yoshi.
Wobbly legged Mega Man.

An amazingly accurate Master Chief.

Pretty good Sonic, albeit with webbed hands.

OTHER NERDY STUFF

Now ZOIDBERG is the spore! In full mating season glory. There are lots of other Futurama creatures on the Sporepedia, including many many Nibblers. I couldn't find one that actually looked like him though, if someone wants to make one.

There were quite a few hulks, but this was my fave.

This is the best Batman so far. Humanoids are apparently hard to get right. Why the bare pecks, I wonder? Even better than this design is creator insertinear's species description: "THE BATMAN SPECIES HE IS THE DARKEST OF KNIGHTS WHO SOLVE DETECTIVE MYSTERIES."

The earth with a little mouth and eyes and one foot. Thaaats good.
Now we're talkin! The USS Enterprise. I don't even want to try to figure out how this is a organism. The Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is the best one I saw, but there are some really shockingly bad ones in the Sporepedia.

Here's a car. Little over complicated, but pretty neat nonetheless.
WHERE MY PEEPS AT. This is great. Even the texture is right.

A scary candy cane.

A plane - found this one on the Fark thread too.
Cool motorcycle.

Albert Einstein's head. This is like something you'd see on the ground in Dante's inferno. I think we've had enough.

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