27 Apr
2017

Guys. The Gods are coming.

This is Mr. Wednesday. He's my hero.

Ok.  So here's the thing about Kards Unlimited.  We. Love. Neil Gaiman.  Like a lot.  I know I've said this before, and I know you know it, so I won't wax too verbose about how much we love Neil Gaiman. Suffice it to say that his books have had a great influence on most of the employees of the store and that when people need help picking a book we recommend his books 9 out of 10 times (or more.)

Shadow and Mad Sweeney's fight. OMG you guys, read this book.

Coming in the wake of the many successful TV adaptations of awesome fantastical novels in recent years, American Gods the series premieres on Starz on April 30th at 9 p.m. and we could not possibly be more excited.  Here's a link to the trailer.  It's amazing.

Just to give you a little bit of spoiler-free background information, American Gods is the story of how all the various gods that people brought to America from their home countries need to band together to stop themselves from being eradicated by the new gods of America like the internet and TV and stuff.  Neil Gaiman tells it a lot better than I do.  And I have high hopes for how the series will handle his source material.  This show seems especially relevant given the current climate of intolerance and xenophobia going around.  The book doesn't necessarily deal with those themes, but it does feature an America that celebrates its diversity.  The America Gaiman portrays is a country unashamedly built of millions of different people and their stories.  It's a place we should try to remember and to inhabit.

Anyway, we at KU are intensely excited for this show, so if you are too, don't hesitate to come in and share your excitement with us!  The more screaming the better!  And check out our awesome countdown timer on the sidebar to find out exactly how long you have to wait for the first episode!

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22 Apr
2017

It’s April 23rd, which means it’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day again!

Talk Like Shakespeare Day cards! Yes! Get them!

Forsooth! Today is Talk Like Shakespeare Day!
The best of all the days throughout the year!
When all of us who love the Bard will say
"To be, or not to be?" in voices clear!
The works of William Shakespeare we shall read
and gaily plays and poems shall recite;
until the words ring loudly in our heads
and people speak in iambs day and night.
Of other days may other poets sing,
I'll keep my words for April twenty-third.
For truly, William Shakespeare is the king
of all the English language, says this nerd.
If you be not a faithful fan of his,
Then kindly up a rope please take a whiz!

In all seriousness, though, April 23rd is Talk Like Shakespeare Day.  It's because he was born (probably) and died on April 23rd. Same day, different years, obviously.  I don't feel the need to tell you any more facts about Shakespeare, as he is probably the most well-known writer the English language has yet produced and if you're that interested in learning more about him, you can read his Wikipedia page.  Fascinating stuff, actually.

What I am going to do is post a picture and a video which are both amazing and Shakespeare related, and leave it at that.

 

Possible best post on Tumblr

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18 Apr
2017

World Juggler’s Day! No… Wait… International Juggler’s Day!

  1. Baqet III is buried in the Ancient Egyptian cemetery site, Beni Hassan. Painted in memorials of life’s loves and life’s joys hieroglyphics donned upon his tomb reflect weavers, acrobats and, pictured below, the earliest known record of juggling.
  2. April 18th isn’t World Juggler’s Day. World Juggler’s Day is the Saturday closest to June 17th. April 18th is International Juggler’s Day which is another way to say World Juggler’s Day which, as you learned earlier, isn’t today. I asked over at r/Juggling why this was and user thomthomthomthom provided a reliable answer:

  3. In 1998 my mother and I come across a juggler at Monroeville Mall who was demonstrating and selling a VHS instructional video and 3 ball set from a company called More Balls Than Most which mom bought on the spot for me. From their pristine, succinct and humorous instruction I grew skilled in technical juggling tricks such as; the cascade, showers, the reverse cascade, columns, the yo-yo, the oy-oy, the claw (what it would look like if cats could juggle), Mill’s Mess, Rubenstein’s Revenge and, my mother’s personal favorite, juggler’s tennis.
  4. Clouds of dancers and fog pall over the whole stage; lights crash, a creaking and wooing-ahhs and yelps of the choir spill over as a half-lizard/half-man appears from his smoggy chrysalis emerging into a heap of human-ish form. The clouds part, a cosmic witch of the stars peers through the darkness and drops a ball into his hand. I am enraptured by the poetic menagerie of Viktor Kee’s use of his body, the conquering of the space around him, all for the juggle.

  5. In 2000 my high school gym teacher Mr. Verico had to put up with not only me but also Shannon Norman in his class. Sometimes he’d teach the whole class yelling from his best Henry Rollins impression (whom he looked like) while wearing Shannon’s studded and punk patch bedecked leather jacket just to make a point; we were people to him, we weren’t just high school kids. For 2 years Verico let me juggle as my gym credit. I showed him progress, he charted it, I aced it.
  6. Contact juggling is when the ball, usually a large, heavy, clear acrylic ball, glides smoothly across the surface of the juggler’s body. David Bowie in the movie Labyrinth, for example, is contact juggling. BUT! IT’S NOT BOWIE! It is Michael Moschen who is crouched, blinded, behind David Bowie and with his right arm under Bowie’s arm he is the juggler behind the Goblin King’s crystal balls.

  7. In 2010 I made 6 videos for a friend on the basics of juggling and how to get started. Heavily influenced by More Balls Than Most I imitated their teaching style and made a sarcastically awkward set of instructional videos ridden with snarky quips about my balls. Here's step 1!

  8. I spent much of 2016's summer in the park filming myself and sharing the videos on Instagram and on YouTube when, through various video editing apps and after an incident of accidental artistry, I found I was able to convert my videos from what juggling looks like into what juggling looks like to me. The video series shows the transcendentally emotional, psychological and psychedelic connection that I have to juggling. I have never felt as if I were singular but rather, something plural and as I have always referred to myself as “we” and or “us” then that makes me a “they.” In the video series I show my selves in cooperation; I show you them, working as one.

  9. In 2016 Shipwreck Asunder is in the middle of barber school dreaming of straight razors and carnival tents when Mike Willis and T.J. Harris at Modern Era Weddings call him up and hire him to wrangle Pittsburgh’s finest circus artists. Modern Era Weddings (winners of 9 “The Knot” awards), a full service wedding entertainment, planning, DJ, and documentation company decides, “you know what? Pittsburgh needs a full service, comprehensive circus arts collaborative and we’re going to give them one!” Shipwreck calls me, tells me to get my balls and meet him in the South Side for practice. Now after 18 years of juggling I accept my first job as a juggler. I choose the stage name Zero, a character from my children's-book-for-adults "The Adventures of Zero and The Girl" which, with all the world's fingers crossed, will be published and on sale at Kards Unlimited in the nearing future. 
  10. Speaking of the nearing future... I will be working with Kards Unlimited staff to develop a juggling props and magic tricks section for the store. How will you know Kards Unlimited will be selling juggling props and magic tricks? Why you’ll see me and my friends from Pittsburgh’s Circus Arts Collaborative (website coming soon!) giving demonstrations and inspiring the youth of today to follow in our playful footsteps. Perhaps one day some child's mother will turn him or her into a juggler because of me. Which I think would be pretty slick.
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15 Apr
2017

This Post Sucks

There are a lot of things that suck: Taxes, vacuums, and paying cover fees, just to name a few. Or, if you have the mentality of a thirteen-year-old boy, pretty much everything sucks.

Well, April 15th is National That Sucks Day. It's the day to let the world know just what you think really sucks. Sucky exes, sucky group projects, sucky knockoff brand products. But to put your own sucky experiences into perspective, it might be good to know some of the things that have actually happened on That Sucks Day. Historically, Friday the 13th really has nothing on That Sucks Day.

  1. Tax Day. Yes, this year's tax day is actually April 18 since April 15 is a Saturday, but while tax returns can be fun, and some taxes go to really great stuff, in general, tax day just causes a lot of headaches and frustration.
  2. President Abraham Lincoln's Death. Honest Abe was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, the morning after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater. He was the first president to ever be assassinated. Co-conspirators failed to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward, so I guess that sucks a little less.
  3. HMS Titanic sinks. The legendary "unsinkable" ship hit an iceberg a little before midnight on April 14 (perhaps also one of the suckier days in history). The ocean liner, carrying about 2,200 people, took two and a half hours to sink, making its official sink day April 15, 1912. It was on its very first journey.
  4. Most people reading this will also remember the Boston Bombing, on this day in 2013.

The thing is, even sucky days can't suck all the time, right? Plenty of good stuff has happened on April 15, too. Now that I've gotten you a bit down, let me prop you back up with some not-so-sucky things about April 15 history:

  1. Jackie Robinson, 28, takes the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on this day in 1947. 42 forever.
  2. The first bottle opener is invented in 1738 (to help us get through those That Sucks Days).
  3. In 1923, insulin becomes generally available to the public, which is definitely a good thing.
  4. Rand McNally publishes its first road atlas in 1924, launching the dreams of road trippers everywhere.
  5. William Shatner, Leondard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley are inducted into National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1992, for their work on the groundbreaking series, Star Trek.

So there you go. That Sucks Day is a day to commiserate about all the sucky things in the world, but also a day to remember that maybe everything doesn't suck quite as bad as it seems.

Here's hoping your That Sucks Day doesn't suck.

11 Apr
2017

Boost your basket: Easter done right

This one Easter, I got a note from Mr. Easter Bunny himself inside my Easter basket. Hand-drawn in pictures (because I guess he doesn't know how to write? It makes sense, he is a rabbit.), the picture-note signaled that I would be receiving a half dozen baby chicks for Easter. I did, in fact, receive chickens a few days later. They lived long, healthy lives, and provided eggs for the entire neighborhood. But this is not their story.

My point is, Easter baskets are wonderful. Nothing beat racing my brother to see who found their basket first, and then rummaging through the goods and trading candy. Other than that one year, our baskets were always pretty standard, but it never took away from the excitement of Easter morning.

So, if you don't feel like going the baby chicken route, there are still plenty of ways to boost your baskets for Easter morning. May we suggest some of the following?

Kards has just about any cuddly stuffed animal you could want. Daughter's favorite animal a skunk? Got it. Son love unicorns? So many unicorns here. And, yes, we have bunnies galore, plus chicks and their mamas.

We have light up, color-changing eggs. I may be tempted to buy them all and zen out to the slow parade of colors. But I won't. I'll leave some for you, our loyal customers. Kids will wonder at these small marvels--they're a nice way to brighten a dark bedroom--but parents will get a kick out of them, too.

Do I really need to say anything about this one? Everyone loves stickers. Just trust me, get some stickers.

A time-honored tradition, an Easter basket just isn't an Easter basket without candy. Instead of, or in addition to, standard jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, add a little excitement with themed candy from a favorite movie, video game, or wherever Hello Kitty is from. Add a game of chance with Bean Boozled. Will the jelly bean you've chosen be delicious or one of the box's trick flavors?

Toys and games for the car ride to church, outdoor picnic, or rainy day inside, we have something fun no matter what Easter day has in store.

Here's a peek at some of the basket stuffers we have to offer, but stop in 9-9 Monday through Friday or 12-5 Sundays for even more options. We'll be open Easter day for that last-minute shopping, as well. Hoppy Easter!

6 Apr
2017

The Joy of Burritos

Who doesn't love a deliciously packed burrito? Just look at that. The types of ingredients can vary so much, it's almost mind-boggling. Choose beef, poultry, fish, veggie; add avocado, beans (pinto, black, kidney or even refried), lettuce, tomato, corn, onion, and rice (white or brown). Don't forget cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and pico de gallo. Do you like your cheese saucy or crumbly? Do you like your salsa chunky or smooth? Not to mention spice level. How spicy would you like it? What sort of spicy? Hot jalapeno? Smokey chipotle? Chile? Perhaps a hint of sweetness? How about your tortilla ... would you like white or wheat? It's all up to you.

Ever had a breakfast burrito? Yeah, I said it. Breakfast. Burrito. Eggs, bacon, and cheese wrapped up? Uhh, yes, please. But again, your options are endless. Switch out the bacon for sausage. Throw in some veggies. Make it spicy. Try a crepe instead of a tortilla. I know it sounds amazing, but try not to cry.

    Behold, the dessert burrito

Or how about some of your favorite berries topped with fresh whipped creme, all wrapped up? Delicious, of course! Dessert burrito.  You're welcome.

A go-to of my own is the PB&J burrito. It may sound unusual, but it's just as satisfying and easy to make as any sandwich that utilizes bread. Already "been there?" Try switching out the jam for a banana. Add some honey if you like!

Are you hungry yet? Mouth watering? Head out to your favorite burrito stand or restaurant. Better yet, hit the market for some quality ingredients and have yourself a Burrito Buffet with all of your friends.

Sangria anyone?

1 Apr
2017

April 2017 Calendar of Events

Welcome April! April showers bring all sorts of fun holidays! While swinter finishes up and we get those quintessential grey 'burgh days, we've also got a bunch of things to smile about. Grilled cheese, National Unicorn Day, Drop Everything And Read Day, and International Juggler's Day, to name a few. Read on to see what else we're celebrating this month! Read more >>

27 Mar
2017

If you give a mouse a cookie, that’s cool, but giving him a sword is better.

"While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia." - Reepicheep, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Ok, so here's the thing about giving swords to mice.  It's the freaking best.  While the symbolism of the swordsmouse probably goes without saying, let me at least say that one of the reasons swordsmice are awesome is that they remind us never to be daunted by long odds and to always persist in the face of adversity (two lessons that are becoming increasingly important).

In the case of Reepicheep, a well-known character from C.S. Lewis's Narnia and my very favorite swordsmouse, the lessons about being fierce despite small size are still there, but they're slightly overshadowed by the main thrust (no pun intended) of the character, which is that you should be a total and complete badass in every and all situations, no exceptions. Full stop.

Reepicheep's whole thing is that he might be the tiniest bit insecure about being, you know, a mouse, so he way, super overcompensates by being really into fighting everyone who even slightly annoys him in any capacity.  Now. On the surface, does this seem like really not an admirable quality?  Yes.  But!  Reepicheep completely makes up for this egregious old-timey bellicosity by being extremely noble, chivalrous, and basically just a big, damn hero.

This is a fanmade piece of art depicting Reepicheep and Matthias in a sword fight. Visit the artist's DeviantArt page, here!

Another great swordsmouse is Matthias, the main character of Brian Jacques's Redwall.  Matthias is a classic unlikely hero and really, who doesn't love that?  Matthias is opposite of Reepicheep in most ways. He's a peace-loving mouse who pretty much just loves working at Redwall Abbey and is portrayed as a bit of a bungler at first.  But he rises in defense of his home and his loved ones when the Abbey is threatened.  Without spoiling the book for you, I'll tell you that Matthias's transformation from hapless pastoral duffer to mighty swordsmouse is exactly what you need to read if you feel helpless.

Narnia and Redwall are very, very different from one another, but aside from swordsmice and being written by Brits, what they have in common is the deep-rooted theme that good will defeat evil as long as heroes have the will to persevere.

 

This should probably be the KU motto. It's definitely one of mine and is a perfect depiction of the best of what swordsmice represent.

Basically what I'm trying to say, you guys, is this: Swordsmice are one of the greatest things ever given to us by literature.  They remind us that valor, bravery, and physical prowess are not the domain only of the large and strong. They teach us not to be afraid to pick a fight, if we feel threatened.  They show us that you can be peaceful and still protect those you love.  These are important things for every child to learn, which is why swordsmice are mostly found in books for children and young adults, but I have found myself needing reminders lately. If you do, too, these books, and others like them, are the places to find them.

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