THIS is the one that turned me into that kid from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away again.

“The Force Awakens” has most certainly scratched my Star Wars itch BUT it’s got nothing on THIS, dear reader… Join me on this journey full of Christmas magic and Brother-in-Law love…

When I was a kid in elementary school there was nothing cooler to me than pop up books. I mean nothing. Action figures? Awesome! Model kits? Fantastic! Pop Up books? Unbridled JOY!

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The first pop up book I recall holding in my hands was one for “The Empire Strikes Back”. Sweet lord I loved that book. Never owned it though. The copy I saw was in the school library. So while  I could check it out, marvel at it for a little while I would begrudgingly have to return it so I wouldn’t be cursed with a late fee and an evil look from the librarian. The circle of life at Landmark Elementary, circa 1980. Now, thanks to my awesome brother in law, that last part can finally be flushed from my memory and replaced by Christmas magic.


This year as I sat down with my family, sharing in the fun and fellowship that comes from exchanging gifts with those that you love (that you hope won’t suck) I was handed one last wrapped wonder that was fixing to transport me to a time and place from long, long ago. I said “Thank you,” as Derek passed it too me. Little did I know how truly thankful I was about to be.


I opened the rectangular package with adult like composure but as the cover was revealed the engines of my internal time machine roared to life! My eyes locked onto the cover of this beauty: Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy by Matthew Reinhart. Then, I opened it and I was GONE!


Page after page, flap after flap, the most memorable moments from my childhood not only came back but surrounded me, just like the Force itself. The 7 year old me was there. Amazed! Enthralled! And I must admit, a bit rude as everyone else in the room disappeared. Sorta sorry about that, gang. Blame Derek while I continue to thank him. Now back to the book…


Each and every page is amazing in art, story and engineering. If you are a Star Wars fan and don’t have one you are totally cheating yourself out of some seriously awesome goodness. And while I truly loved and enjoyed “The Force Awakens” none of its practical or computer generated special effects can touch the ones that are popping out from these pages. A jagged and ragged looking Kylo Ren lightsaber thrashing through bulkheads and people is lackluster compare to the battery operated, LED ones wielded by Luke and Vader in the back of the book. Not even close.


Below, you can see some more of my more favorite scenes that come to life but I implore you to shop around and get one for yourself or for someone that you love. Do me a solid though and point them back here to the Toy Box. I would love to hear the stories and thoughts that you or they have after experiencing this awesome book. And again to my awesome, fantastic and beautiful brother in law, Thank You, Derek! You gave me more than a gift, you sent me on a journey through time fueled by Christmas magic and love.

Now, Go Play!

Jim 12/29/15

Wretched hive of scum, villainy and AWESOME!
Wretched hive of scum, villainy and AWESOME!
Yeah, yeah. These ARE the droids I was looking for :)
Yeah, yeah. These ARE the droids I was looking for 🙂
Can't love these scoundrels enough!
Can’t love these scoundrels enough!

Dancing with THE Lando

IMG_20140318_160712_276On last night’s Dancing with the stars (Monday March 17) Billy Dee Williams arrived on the scene in full Lando regalia, R2-D2 and a couple of Stormtroopers and a gold toned Princess Leia inspired partner cha cha cha-ing to Meco’s disco infused Star Wars theme (the Ewoks could have stayed home). Electric is a good word. Amazing is an even better one. The best word of course has to be FUN! Thank you Billy Dee for making ABC’s Prime Time enjoyable again, at least for 1 minute and 52 seconds.

Thelonious Monk Institute Honors B.B. King - Portraits

So, how’d he do? His steps were there, his timing was spot on, his eyes and smile lit up the floor. Honestly though it was a little low energy but cut the man some slack, he’s 77 years old, had two hip replacements and is still cooler than you and I and pretty much everyone else all together. Plus he is THE Billy Dee Williams!

It was an incredibly fun piece of prime time to watch. In fact it’s the first time I’ve ever watched the show in all of its 18 seasons and will most likely be the last time as well. Come to think of it, there’s nothing in ABC’s current line up that I’ve watched… in years. The only exception to the not watching again note being next Monday to see if he gets the boot. I’m pretty sure he will but then again the Star Wars fans of the world may have tipped him over. In that case I’ll keep flipping over to catch his next bit.

Imagine how much fun we could have with more dances themed around Billy Dee’s career:

620x350.20111122.brianssong-460x260The emotion that could come from a “Brian’s Song” tribute already has me tearing up. Seriously this movie is a classic for so many reasons.


downloadA comedic romp could be found from inspiration from his one episode stint on “The Jeffersons”. He was so good in that episode he was nominated for a TV Land award in 2003 as Most Memorable Male Guest Star in a comedy. Show some respect.

2766698_origThe hopeful exposition could be derived from his role as Bingo Long in “The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings” motion picture. Picked up an Image Award for that one in ’76, thank you very much AND worked with pre Darth Vader’s voice, James Earl Jones. And of course  Richard &$W%#^@ Pryor!

Batman-1989-batman-2686743-1024-576Shoot, we might even see a heroic overture in the Gothic style if he decided to reprise his role from the ’89 Tim Burton classic “Batman”. Harvey Dent crossed the racial stereotyping long before everyone got all pissed off about Samuel L. Jackson becoming Nick Fury. Oh, you forgot about that. Seriously, the man was a trend setter. In fact I don’t recall any fanboy rage at that casting choice. Why?

Because he’s Billy Dee Williams!


IMG_20140318_160733_559I’m sure you can see that I am speaking in jest but then again not too much. I truly appreciate the fact that Billy Dee is getting the respect and love he deserves for such a wonderful career and legacy.

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Even more importantly today’s producers and decision makers are also seeing his worth once again as a big name draw. Be honest, who else on that show comes within a mile of this man’s resume let alone his charm and charisma? Cody Simpson? (Who the hell is he?) I think not. But then again even Lando couldn’t help ABC beat NBC’s “The Voice” in the Nielsen Ratings.

IMG_20140318_160843_461So what say you? Should Billy Dee get a pass even though he and his partner were the lowest scorers of the night or should America just drop the bomb on the guy who blew up the second Death Star when Han Solo refused to take on the gig even though he was experienced with such a mission? I for one say let him ride this cloud and enjoy the love that folks still have for him. Besides do we really need more from Cody Simpson (again, who the hell is he?). I think not.

Now, Go Play!
Jim 03/18/14


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