The latest online shopping trend is a curation of theme-specific items, sent to your home on a monthly basis. Not knowing what is in these packages is the appeal and mystery.  While there are various types of these programs, ranging from boxes full of cat toys to art supplies, the ones creating the most noise are those geared towards us geeks and nerds of the world. Enter Nerd Block. January’s mystery package theme is “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” which the “Here’s What’s Inside” card describes as featuring “items from your favorite universes full of epic adventures.”  For a $19.99 monthly subscription, let’s see how much trouble I can get into.
I am a ritualistic un-packer of packages, so as I get home with my box of wonders I immediately dump all contents onto my bed and grab the most colorful of its contents: Scatter Brainz. My gut reaction is to scoff at this new take on wall darts. They’re designed to resemble a small character with sticky, exposed brain matter. They seem a little young for my taste, until I pop off their little brain helmets and chuck them at the wall, the ceiling, the mirror, the window and my dogs. Included to accompany these goofy darts is also a “Decision Board,” which give me not only “Yes” or  “No” options for my decision making, but also alternatives such as “Pretend To Work,” “Google Something,” and “Take Tomorrow Off.” Not only are these little bastards wildly entertaining, but there is the option to “collect them all!” However, there is no guarantee of rare or even ultra-rare drops in each package, and I just wound up with Scary Oche (the sumo wrestler), Nuts N’ Volts (dumb robot) and Pigasus (an orc-pig warrior thing) all of which are common. On the market, this little grouping retails for $11.99. Having entertained me for longer than 10 minutes, and now proudly displayed on my windowsill, I deem them a worthy contribution to the block.
The next item at arm’s length is a Sting pen and lenticular 3D bookmark featuring Bilbo Baggins himself. Retailing for $8.99, there’s nothing terribly exceptional about this little combo pack. I will say I’ve never been more impressed by a bookmark before, somebody somewhere definitely deserves a promotion based off the ultra- life like presentation of Bilbo Baggins and the depth within the bookmark itself. The pen is more comfortable to play around and write with than I had anticipated, typically prop replication and functionality don’t pair well together, but this seems to handle just fine. The greatest dilemma caused by the Sting pen is that I will never know which is mightier now, because my pen is my sword. Regardless, the pen and bookmark make safe passage to my “selfishly keep” pile and I—wait for it—trek on.
I would have been disappointed if a “geek tested, nerd approved,” package neglected a comic book or two in the mix, but Nerd Block didn’t let me down. Star Trek Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive is co-published by BOOM! Studios and IDW Publishing. IDW is notorious for their crossover stories. With universes G.I Joe, Ghost Busters, and Star Trek converging together in IDW’s Infestation; and later turning Danger Girl, Dungeons and Dragons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a sequel, I can’t be surprised with this latest creation. In Star Trek Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive (this name is way too long) it’s discovered that the Klingons have plans for expansion that are well underway, yet remain undetected because their desired territory is in an entirely different universe. It appears that the Klingons are funding a pissed-off ape general. This little mini-series comic fully encompasses the January theme, “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” and is completely unfaultable in ways of belonging in this box.  As most comics do, this first issue runs for $3.99, I’m not sure if the comic itself is anything I would ever seek out to complete as a series, but it provided an interesting and new take on two of my favorite universes.
Next up is a film cell from Star Wars Episode V, framed and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. My piece of scope film was from the scene where Luke Skywalker is training with Yoda on his back in Dagobah. While this is a fun piece of memorabilia for the avid collector, I hold issue with Trend Setters Ltd. and what they deem a “collectable” item. The product is only “official” because Trend Setters Ltd paid to use Lucasfilms’ licensing to reproduce their own products and sell them with the Lucasfilm name. Ultimately my gripe has very little to do with the product itself, but rather the company’s somewhat misleading tactics. Yes, this is an actual segment of 35mm scope film and yes, that is a scene from Star Wars Episode V. But, did this segment of film ever pass through a projector onto a screen, in a movie theater for a screening of the film? No, it did not. My whining about Trend Setters aside, the framed cell does retail for $18.00, making it the most valuable contribution to the box so far, and for all the goodies that accompany it, it makes its way safely into a pile for re-gifting to my Star Wars obsessives.
Designed by Classified Novelties, the Elf Ears, although only retailing for $4.99, are some of the better quality ones I’ve encountered. The rubber is soft enough to be put on without breaking ear cartilage, but firm enough I can produce a soft head bang with out them flying across the room. I wouldn’t declare myself to be an expert on Elven anatomy, but they seem to be appropriate length and shape for anyone wanting to transform into a passable elf. Appropriate in theme, as well as having potential for usefulness in role-playing practices, I’ll be keeping these next to my RPG tabletops.
A Grumpy Cat plush is now, and will forever be, one of the most useless items I own.  My own views on the phenomenon that is Grumpy Cat aside, give me a chance to explain why she has no business in my box. Firstly, the magic of this month’s Nerd Block is supposed to be centered on a theme, which embodies adventure, exploration, daring and transformation in new worlds. None of these motifs have ever been used to describe Grumpy Cat, or used in the same sentence as Grumpy Cat, making this contribution a very lazy additive. The secondary flaw with this item is its apparent incompleteness. The plush is specifically designed to accompany a meme lanyard; such says the little tag on its ear, which would have ultimately made it passable in my critiques. But having already fallen short in theme relevance and no practical application, this otherwise $6.25 plush is now the softest chew toy my pups will ever destroy.
The last item to come under my command is the Doctor Who-themed Sonic Screwdriver T-Shirt.  The design mimics a newspaper ad and states that the Sonic Screwdriver is “doctor recommended,” and has “countless uses in time and space.” The material of the shirt is 100 percent cotton by Gildan Soft Style, and it’s the second item in Nerd Block  to retail for $18.00. While the fabric is light and soft enough, I can’t say much for the fit itself. I wear a medium but received a large (by no fault of Nerd Block) and so I can only predict what a proper fitting size would feel like. I can say that I admire the printing method, typically “free” shirts are produced at the lowest quality, creating a thick, plastic image that cracks and rubs off over a short period of time. This seems to actually be worth the $18.00, if you can find an individual printing of the shirt. From what I can tell, this design was made specifically for Nerd Block, and so it’s only available through them. If the sizing was correct, I would happily wear this shirt into the world, but since it’s not, it has become my new pajama shirt.
In my first experience with Nerd Block, I received $72.21 worth of geeky goodies for what would only be $19.99 a month, and can easily be reduced depending on how far out in advance I would be willing to pay for the monthly service. The only “bomb” on my list was the Grumpy Cat plush, where as everything else super exciting to tear into and get playing with. My favorite of the offerings was easily the Scatter Brainz, a definite novelty that will get continued use.  As far as monthly themed packages go, Nerd Blocks is at the top of my list. I would like to get a chance to see what their horror themed box entails, so it looks like I’ll be signing up!