Sunday, January 29, 2023

PLASTIC GIFTS: Excalibur, Tony Schiavone


One more post after this and I'll be caught up on 2022's acquisitions and... can start in on 2023, which started slowly but is accelerating as some more preorders come home to roost and targets of opportunity present themselves.

GAME PASS: Hi-Fi Rush


Boy, this couldn't have come out at a better time.

Friday, January 27, 2023

PLASTIC GIFTS: Fancy Toys

 


So, over the holidays, I was gifted some higher-end action figures, and I've been curious - what do 6" figures in the $50-$100 range give you (Super7 Ultimates, SH Figures, MAFEX, etc.) that figures in the $20-$40 price range (Hasbro, McFarlane, NECA) don't? The answer is... tricky.

The SH Figures Avengers Loki, for example, gives you an OK cloth cape, some nice detail, and a great deal of fussiness. There are, for example, two heads. With three faces. And two hairpieces. So there are a total of eight bits of plastic that make up the two heads. Helmet front, helmet back, helmet hair, normal head, normal hair, serious face, grinning face, prisoner face. All of which cling to each other either through a peg and hole (hair) or plastic friction (everything else). Getting it together and keeping it together is fussy, and shit falling apart is not uncommon.

The scepter is four pieces - short handle, short handle top, long handle, long handle top. This is to facilitate getting the handles through the gripping hand, but from necessity, the peg/hole system that attaches these bits is small and delicate. Add in the extra hands and the tiny Tesseract and it's just a fussy party.

Now, the result is certainly a figure that outshines a run of the mill Hasbro in terms of sculpt and detail, but at 3-4x the list price depending on whether you factor in the six years between them? I'm not sure.


I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the difference in articulation, if not from the old original Hasbro, then from Hasbro's current standard. Single jointed elbows and knees, and no ankles to speak of, yet toe joints for some reason. At least Loki isn't a character given to action poses, especially the Avengers version.


Surprisingly limited articulation is also a hallmark of the Super7 Ultimates Lion-O (Version 2). My vague understanding of this line is the goal is making a near-perfect version of something that started (usually) as a toy or cartoon, so clearly a decision was made to prioritize the sculpt lines over more (and more visible joints).

What Super7 brings to the table at their price point is what I'd describe as "super-clean". There's nothing particularly fancy or wow-inducing about it, but also, no obvious flaws. Everything on the figure is on point from a sculpt and paint and design standpoint, so while you're not gonna get crazy dynamic poses out of him, which is a shame, you're gonna get a Lion-O that looks how Lion-O looks in your brain. On-model, almost to a fault.

The weirdest thing about Lion-O is the choice of accessories. There's a serious head and an angry head, which is fine. The usual assortment of hands. A fully extended Sword of Omens and a nicely-made Book of Omens. And then there are, somehow, FOUR weird claw glove things. Two that hang off the belt and hold the hilt of a non-removable short Sword of Omens, and two that fit on the hand. One pair is smoother and one pair is... furrier, I guess? I don't know if this is a "one's the old toy and one's the cartoon" thing or what but I certainly would have rather had some of the accessories that came with alternate or original Lion-O's in this one.

So, yeah. Right now, I'm entirely sold on fancy toys, although I wouldn't turn down an Ultimates Mumm-Ra to go with the Lion-O because like I said, they are super-clean. But even if the budget supported it, I don't see me dipping toes into the deep end of the pool very often. Hasbro figs are getting expensive enough.


MY HOUSE IS POWERED BY THE SUN (for sufficiently loose definitions of “powered” and “sun”


Among the various things that ate my soul in 2022 was a project to get a solar + battery system installed in our house. Started asking questions in March, and the system was turned on in early October, and now I have solar. Well, not NOW now. NOW now most of the panels are covered in snow and there’s no sun out at all. But I did for a while and I will again soonish.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

IMPULSE BUY: Fwoosh Martial Artist and Modern Ninja And Accessory Pack


As a Toy Guy, I spend a lot of time on YouTube looking at toys and toy news, and boy is there a wide variety in quality there. They range from channels so bad I’ve blocked them from ever appearing again (cough cough Shartimus Prime cough cough) to channels so good I guess they also make toys and I’m buying the toys they make?

Fwoosh Toys is an offshoot of The Fwoosh, the alpha and omega of kindly, reasonable, coming-across-at-least-as-decent-human-beings toy coverage on YouTube. I think. I mean the alpha and omega thing is definitely true, or as true as an opinion can be, I’m just not sure about the whole offshoot thing. There’s a  review website, a YouTube channel, and a toy line, and I could not tell you with any authority which came before which came before which.


The point is, they’re either good people, or very very good at acting like good people all the time, which in 2023 is about the best you can hope for from a par asocial relationship. So, over the fall, they announced a 1/12 scale skeleton figure that was so nifty I felt compelled to preorder it. 


And then, after Thanksgiving, they had a sale. A good sale. I don’t normally buy generic figures, but I also don’t generally stop myself from getting cool stuff at a decent price based on arbitrary self-imposed rules, so I grabbed two figures and a bunch of accessories for Unspecified Indeterminate Future Plans.



The Martial Artist is, well, a martial artist. Light blue outfit, excellent articulation, good sculpt, extra hands, two tonfa, a spear, and his hair comes off, which you wouldn’t think was relevant but will come into play a little later.




The Modern Ninja is a sort of pseudo-sane Eyes, with some swords and some guns and a teeny tiny silencer that I don’t think I’ve lost, yet but it’s only been a couple of months.


The only real problem with him is the overall low contrast - he’s all dark so the details don’t pop. But again there are options for switching him up a bit, thanks to…



The Ninja Accessory Pack. A bunch of weapons and masks and shit. Including a teeny tiny throwing star that I don’t think I’ve lost yet, but it’s only been a couple months.


Everything is painted well and engineered correctly to work with the figures, which is nice. The masks, for example, go on the Martial Artist easily when you remove his hair. See? Told you it'd pay off later.


I think the ultimate plan for both of them is Photo Goons, because they can be re-used with different accessories and poses and look like a bunch of different dudes without, you know, taking up the storage space of a bunch of different dudes. And collectively, they were a very good deal.

Monday, January 23, 2023

British Isles Food Adventures

So, yeah, in September, we spent two weeks on a whirlwind bus tour of the British Isles. A lot of it was very structured (which isn’t always ideal but definitely what we needed last year) but but we took every opportunity we could when we had meal autonomy to seek out something interesting. And frankly, with so much else out of our hands, it was easy and fun to spend the time and energy seeking out food. So these are the five (six) most memorable things I ate while on vacation so many months ago I had to look a bunch of the details up. 

Also pictured, a nice club sandwich.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo Wings, Suburban Dublin Hotel Restaurant


I can’t in good conscience put this on the list or remember the name of the restaurant or even the hotel in the deep outskirts of Dublin we ended up stuck at for two meals, but holy shit, they did Buffalo wings right. Even though correct wing sauce is Frank’s hot sauce and butter, two incredibly common ingredients that are easy to combine, for some reason, nobody fucking does this. 


Well, this Dublin restaurant fucking did it, and I had them both nights we were there because, while I wasn’t homesick for American food by any means, they were better than any Buffalo wings I’ve gotten in the Twin Cities in years.



#5: Haggis, The Haggis Box


Cathy’s mom wanted to try haggis in Scotland. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, around downtown Glasgow where we were staying, none of the restaurants had regular haggis. They had haggis on a burger, haggis on a pizza, and deep-fried haggis (which she also tried at one point) but not haggis haggis.


So, since we were going to be in Edinburgh hanging around the Royal Mile in a timeframe that roughly lined up with lunch, I found The Haggis Box, the local equivalent to what in Minneapolis would be a little Skyway restaurant that served two things - haggis and vegetarian haggis. With a choice of two sauces - whiskey cream and red wine gravy. As a general rule a menu that specialized is usually a good bet and this was no different. The three of us split two haggis, one with each type of sauce, and while I wouldn’t say I’ve been craving haggis ever since, there’s nothing wrong with ground meat and grains over mashed root vegetables with a tasty sauce on top.




#4: Various, Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food, Glasgow


Downtown Glasgow didn’t have a lot of haggis, but it did have really good Indian food. Our second choice for dinner during our first night in Glasgow, because our first choice was a bar and restaurant that we were pretty sure had reverted to Just A Bar by the time we got there, but that’s OK, because this was really good. Chicken 65, chili cheese naan, golgoppa, lamb curry, and a mango lassi. All super tasty.


Sadly, it looks like the Glasgow location closed down, but it wasn’t their only location.



#3: Hand pulled noodle soup, Lanzhoi Lamian Noodle Bar


So, here’s the thing. When I’m in a strange area, doing a Google Maps search on restaurants sorted by distance, there are certain phrases that leap out at me, and “hand-pulled noodles” is one of them. So on our free day in London, hanging around Charing Cross Road, I saw that phrase and we headed over. 


Tiny, with group bench seating, and I technically didn’t plan on ordering soup, but it’s the kind of place where you can screw up your order and still win. Only regret was that there was no way to take half of it along with us, because it was too much food for lunch and leaving it behind seemed like sacrilege.



#2: Seafood Chowder, Momo, Waterford


The entire run from Kilkenny down to Waterford was spent hunting for lunch on some spotty cell data coverage, but holy shit did it pay off. An unassuming Mediterranean restaurant with shockingly good food.


We also got an open-face mackerel sandwich, vegetable soup, and sweet potato wedges - most of which are not currently on the menu as it’s a seasonal/changing menu place. But without a doubt it was the best value meal we had the entire trip



#1: Grilled Lamb Ribs, Efes Turkish Restaurant, London


We almost didn’t eat this. 


The plan for our second dinner in London was to try a tacky London fast casual chain to try the kinds of things we don’t get at American chains, like diner kebab and peri peri chicken. The Turkish restaurant on the corner was the backup plan. 


But, when the tacky chain outlet in the neighborhood turned out to be a takeout-only hole in the wall, we went with our second choice and I realized my first idea, while sound, was also criminally insane. These lamb ribs may have been the best charred meat I’ve ever eaten. Certainly way up there on the list. Everything else was very good - bonus points to the salad which used the GOOD feta. The creamy, mild stuff, not the briny crumbles.  We left very happy.

Monday, January 16, 2023

PREORDERS ARRIVED: Marvel Legends Retro Scorpion, Cel-Shaded Spidey


These guys sat in the preorder list for the back half of 2022 and finally showed up right before the holidays.  Big, big fan of both. Really great figures.