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The Neatoshop

14 Awesome Ice Cube Trays

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The Neatoshop

1. Star Wars

Fun fact: By adding just a touch of grape juice or purple food coloring to your Darth Vader ice cubes, you can ensure that your beverage comes to the Dark Side as the ice starts to melt. Papa Vader would be proud.

Of course, if you refuse to let your beverage join the Dark Side, there are still plenty of Star Wars ice cube trays for you to choose from. Be a rebel with Millennium Falcon cubes, see if your X-Wing ice can take out the tiny defect in the center of the massive Death Star cube, chill out with everyone’s favorite beeping Droid, or see if you can help Han escape his icy carbonite prison before you need a refill. Who knew ice cubes would be the key to reliving the best moments of one of the greatest film franchises in history? Best of all, there don’t seem to be any Jar Jar ice cubes in this galaxy or the next.

2. Chess Pieces

Are you such a chess master that even speed chess has started to seem dull? Then raise the stakes with this ice version—take too long to move and your king will literally start to melt away. Just remember to use a waterproof board or your playing area will be as short lived as your pieces.

3. Alphabet

This alphabet ice tray is perfect for all the Boggle and Scrabble fiends out there. Just pop out a few letters and figure out all the words you can spell in your drink before your letters melt away into illegible shapes.

4. Crystal Ice

These cubes might not come in an unusual shape, but the design ensures that ice from these trays will form the same way it does in the great outdoors: The impurities get pushed to the bottom of the cube so you can have perfectly clean and clear cubes every time.

5. Pi & Science

Want an appropriate way to cool down after making a dozen pies on Pi Day? Then grab some Pi ice trays and turn your post-Pi Day cocktail into a mathematical celebration. If you really want to crank your scientifically geeky cocktail to 11, you might want to grab this Cool Science tray as well that comes with such classics as the infinity, square root, and sigma signs.

6. Ice Ice Baby

If you love terrible early 90’s one-hit wonders and goofy puns then you’re bound to love the Ice Ice Baby Ice tray that references one of the stupidest songs ever made while describing exactly what it is making.

7. Abominable Ice Men

Was your favorite part of Disneyland always the Abominable Snowman in the Matterhorn? Well then, relive those memories without leaving home by letting an Abominable Ice Man move into your freezer to help you cool off your favorite beverages.

8. Shark Fins

If the first thing you think of when you hear the word shark is the unforgettable theme from Jaws, then bring some of the classic film home to your freezer. Just remember, if someone starts screaming that there’s a shark in their glass at your next cocktail party, you don’t need a bigger boat—you just need to cut that person off for the night.

9. Skull and Crossbones

Avast, ye pirate-loving geeks. Sure you can’t get much ice on board your favorite vessel, but when you’re on shore, you might as well get as much Vitamin C as you can to help you fight off that scurvy. And there’s no better way to cool off a pineapple, orange juice and rum concoction than with a few ice cubes that resemble the most famous Jolly Roger flag.

10. iPhone Apps

If you’re such a die-hard Apple fan that you have a hard time using anything that doesn’t reflect the genius of Jobs, then you can finally start enjoying your iced water again. Just add in a few of these iCubes that are based on apps on an iPhone and enjoy your tech-tastic beverage.

11. Superheroes

Whether you’re a DC or Marvel fan, you can make your drinks infinitely much more super with nothing more than the logo of your favorite superhero. Choose from Batman wings, Superman’s S or the Marvel tray that features Captain America's shield, Iron Man's mask, The Thing's head, and Hulk's fist. Just try not to add gamma radiation to your ice cubes—the process of making a superhero in real life is drastically different than what you see in the pages of your favorite comic.

12. Dinosaur Bones

You don’t have to be an archeologist to dig these cool dino bones. While this triceratops and T Rex skeleton won’t end up in a museum, they probably will be a lot more refreshing than those actually discovered underground.

13. Ice Attacks

If you own Agent Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster and consider your vacation to Roswell a “pilgrimage,” then there’s no better way to cool down after an invigorating period of sky watching than with a nice cool drink filled with UFO and meteor ice cubes.

14. Aliens

Of course, if you expect our first encounter to result in violence and death, then you might prefer your alien ice cubes to reflect the classic Aliens franchise. If so, enjoy these ice trays bearing the likeness of the famed aliens and their eggs

Do you guys have some cool ice trays you’re particularly proud of, or do you tend to stick with cubes like the rest of us?

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Wireless Recording Device Captures Studio-Quality Songs on the Go
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iStock

When they aren’t near a studio, some musicians settle for recording snippets of songs on their smart phones during the writing process. Spire Studio offers a better way: Small enough to fit inside a purse, the recording device allows artists to record and mix professional-grade tracks without stepping foot inside a recording booth.

According to Fast Company, Spire Studio is a new product from iZotope, a Massachusetts-based company that’s been in the recording business for more than 15 years. The sleek, cylindrical gadget is designed to be a modern tool for making music. Using it is simple, with a button for one-touch recording and a studio-quality microphone built in. It automatically adjusts levels for a smoother sound and gives musicians the choice to layer tracks on top of one another.

Once the actual music has been captured, users can move to the Spire Studio app to edit it. The device wirelessly connects to a smartphone where mixing and polishing tracks is easy even for a beginner to do. And if a friend wants to improve upon the song further, the file can easily be shared for them to play with it.

Spire Studio is designed to be accessible to musicians of all experience levels, but that’s no reason for serious recording artists look down upon it. Some professional bands, including The Ultramods and Gorillaz, have composed entire albums using nothing but iPad apps. Songwriters looking to graduate past the Voice Memos app on their phone can purchase Spire Studio for $350 when it hits the market this fall.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Fart Gallery: A Novel History of Spencer Gifts
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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When U.S. Army Corps bombardier Max Spencer Adler was shot down over Europe and imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, it’s not likely he dreamed of one day becoming the czar of penis-shaped lollipops and lava lamps. But when Adler became a free man, he decided to capitalize on a booming post-war economy by doing exactly that—pursuing a career as the head of a gag gift mail-order empire that would eventually stretch across 600 retail locations and become a rite of passage for mall-trekking teens in the 1980s and 1990s.

To sneak into a Spencer Gifts store against your parents' wishes and revel in its array of tacky novelties and adult toys felt a little like getting away with something. Glowing with lasers and stuffed with Halloween masks, the layout always had something interesting within arm’s reach. But stocking the stores with such provocations sometimes carried consequences.

A row of lava lamps on display at Spencer Gifts
Dean Hochman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Returning from the war, Adler sensed a wave of relief running through the general population. Goods no longer had to be rationed, and toy factories could return to making nonessential items. The guilt of spending time or money on frivolous items was disappearing.

With his brother Harry, Adler started Spencer Gifts as a mail-order business in 1947. Their catalog, which became an immediate success, was populated with items like do-it-yourself backyard skating rinks and cotton candy makers [PDF]—items no one really needed but were inexpensive enough to indulge in. In some ways, the Spencer catalogs resembled the mail-order comic ads promising X-ray glasses and undersea fish kingdoms. Instead of kids, Adler was targeting the deeper pockets of adults.

Bolstered by that early success, Adler moved into a curious category: live animals. He had small donkeys transported from Mexico and marketed them as the new trend in domestic pets. LIFE magazine took note of the fad in 1954, observing the $85 burros, being sold at a clip of 40 a day, “except for stubbornness, are very placid.”

Burro fever foreshadowed the direction of Spencer’s in the years to come. The Adlers opened their first physical location—minus livestock—in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1963, expanding on their notion to peddle unique gift items like the Reduce-Eze girdle, which promised to shave inches off the wearer’s stomach. That claim caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which chastised the company for advertising the device could reduce body weight without exercise [PDF]. The FTC also took them to task for implying their jewelry contained precious metals [PDF] when the items did not.

Offending the FTC aside, Spencer’s did a brisk enough business to garner the attention of California-based entertainment company Music Corporation of America, Inc. (MCA), which purchased the brand and proceeded to expand it in the rapidly growing number of malls across the country in the 1970s and 1980s. (The mail order business closed in 1990.)

Brick and mortar retail was ideal for their inventory, which encouraged perusal, store demonstrations, and roving bands of giggling teenagers. The company wanted its stores to capture foot traffic by stuffing its aisles with items that had a look-at-this factor—a novelty that invited someone to pick it up and show it to a friend. When executives saw specific categories taking off, they “Spencerized,” or amalgamated them. When there was a resurgence of interest in Rubik’s Cubes and merchandise from the 1983 Al Pacino film Scarface, visitors were soon greeted in stores by stacks of Scarface-themed Rubik’s Cubes.

Mike Mozart via Flickr

Apart from its busy aesthetic—“like the stage from an old Poison video,” as one journalist put it—Spencer's was also known for its inventory of risqué adult novelty items. Pole-dancing kits and sex-themed card games occupied a portion of the store’s layout. The toys captured a demographic that might have been too embarrassed to visit a dedicated adult store but felt that browsing in a mall was harmless.

Sometimes, the store’s blasé attitude toward stocking such items drew critical attention. In 2010, police in Rapid City, South Dakota seized hundreds of items because Spencer's had failed to register as an “adult-oriented business,” something the city ordinance required. As far back as the 1980s, parents in various locales had complained that suggestive material was viewable by minors. In 2008, ABC news affiliate WTVD in Durham, North Carolina dispatched two teenage girls with hidden cameras to see what they would be allowed to buy. While they were shooed away from a back-of-store display, they were able to purchase “two toy rabbits that vibrate, moan, and simulate sex” as well as a penis-shaped necklace.

As a possible consequence of the internet, there are fewer incidences of parental outrage directed at Spencer’s these days. And despite the general downturn of both malls and retail shopping, the company bolsters its bottom line with the seasonal arrival of Spirit Halloween, a pop-up store specializing in costumes. Despite only being open two months out of the year, their Spirit locations contribute to roughly half of Spencer's $250 million in annual revenue.

Today, the chain’s 650 stores remain a source for impulse shopping. They still occasionally court controversy over items that appear to stereotype the Irish as drunken oafs or other inflammatory merchandise. With traditional mall locations expected to shrink by as much as 25 percent over the next five years, it’s not quite clear whether their assortment of novelties will continue to have a large retail footprint. But so long as demand exists for fake poop, fart sprays, and penis ring toss kits, Spencer’s will probably have a home.

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