Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Case of the Missing Case - A GI Joe Dio Story by Me

I did one of these a long time ago with my Dr. Who Character Building Figures.  This was way easier.

The background is my monitor.  Derp.  


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Ed Ruscha's Los Angeles Photography GIFTED to us all by The Getty Trust


The Getty Trust has just given the world a gift, as it's been reported elsewhere.  Truly though it is. It's a treasure trove of photography by one of the greatest Los Angeles area artists who ever lived.  Ed Ruscha's archive has recently been released digitally.  It's stunning and lovely.  Find it here:

This is, after all, the Budget Collector Blog.  What better way to enjoy some amazing art than for free in your own home.  

I'm fascinated with the past, and I love to see how things used to look.  Sometimes I can remember them.  If I had been alive.  I was alive for this set of pictures, these were taken August of 1974, I would have been 3.  They come from this session of photos

DISCLAIMER - I POST THESE FOR STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.  Don't sue me Getty.  I was temping there when my kid was born.

$50 for a 21" Color TV!

I remember stamps.

This one fascinates me, because it doesn't look like this at all today.

Same Building!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Superman: Red Son - Animated Film Review

Later reprint of the original 3 issue series.
One of the ways to stretch your budget and still indulge in your inner-geek is to attend special screenings of genre films.  Now I do understand that living in Los Angeles does give me somewhat more access to said screenings, such as the one I attended last night, so this tactic may not work for a lot of you.  OK most of you.  OK both of you reading.

Apparently Warner Brothers Animation likes to have "premier" screenings of their direct-to-video films, and they let the fans in for free.  All you really have to do is to send them an email when the announcements go out.  This time I found out about it early enough and the screening fit into my schedule, so it was a go.

The film was an adaptation of the 2003 Elseworlds mini-series "Red Son" in which instead of landing in Smallville Kansas, Kal-El's rocket lands in the Ukraine and he becomes the Soviet Superman.  I remember buying the original issues at the time and I'm pretty sure I still have them, but it had been an awful long time since I read the comics.  I decided I wasn't going to reread them entirely before I saw the film, just familiarize myself with the major beats of the story.  I figured I wouldn't be nit-picky on what they decided to excise until afterwards.

That was smart to be honest, because I probably WOULD have nit-picked their excising of an entire character and plotline and the re-execution of two major plot-points wasn't quite as graceful as it should be.  If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read the next paragraph.

So the character completely removed was Joseph Stalin's illegitimate son Roslov who is the head of the Soviet Union's secret service.  In the book it's his existential crisis that leads Superman to be absent and allows an assassin to take out Stalin.  Superman then reluctantly takes power.  Also Roslov is the killer of Batman's parents.  In the film version, Roslov is not there and Superman takes out Stalin himself and there's no reluctance about his ascendancy to the Premiership.  Batman's parents seemingly die in a gulag that Superman liberates just after their death.  I think.  It wasn't that clear to be honest.

[End Massive Spoilers]

Overall the story holds up and I think for the most part the filmmakers did a good job of adapting the material.  I did re-read it last night after the screening and most of the beats are still intact.  The editing seemed judicious and the adaptation is superb.

The voice-acting is top-notch.  Jason Isaacs as Superman is really refreshing.  He's not the corn-fed Kansas 'boy-shucks' everyman that Clark appears to be so often in these types of things.  This Superman is a weapon in the beginning who slowly realizes that his ideals and the reality of the world are not compatible.  That even though he only really wants to be a benevolent overlord, even his best intentions are not purely noble.   I also really enjoyed Diedrich Bader as Lex Luthor, who ultimately and unsurprisingly gets the rare win over Superman here. 
Pretty much the entire cast plus Bruce Timm and Sam Liu, writer and director.

It's available for download now, Blu-Ray/DVD
March 17, 2020

Clearly this is a tale of Nature vs. Nurture.  The Superman that we all are familiar with has certain innate values that have evolved over time but are still fairly grounded in his initial incarnations.  This Superman is the same character, only he didn't grow up in the American Heartland loved by two of the greatest parental figures in all of literature.  This Superman came of age being told not to hide his gifts, but rather to use them for the good of his people, however these words came from an mass-murdering insane dictator.  So naturally even if at his core he's the same, this Superman is all together different.

And that's not a bad thing. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Geeks Who Drink - Or I'm Finally Into Bar Trivia/Pub Quiz

This journey began a few months ago when I discovered the New Zealand Rom-Com show "Nothing Trivial...About a Broken Heart" on Amazon Prime.  The show started in 2011 and ended in 2014, 3 seasons, 39 episodes and a tv movie wrapping it up.  The basic jist of the show is five strangers meet at a Tuesday night trivia at their local and form a friendship bond that lasts throughout the show.  Auckland seems like a beautiful city, and it's now on my bucket list to visit.  I'd also like to see one of the lead actors sing 'cause you know he has his own band and everything.

After blowing through the entire series in like a week or so, I decided it was HIGH TIME that I ventured out into the world and found a pub quiz of my own.  Little did I know there was a company out there doing pub quiz across the country in various bars five nights a week!  Didn't take long to google them and finally on June 25 I ventured to The Empire Tavern out in Burbank which is a fairly new beer and wine bar kind of off the beaten path.

That first night I played all by myself, and I came in third place with 74 points.  The winning team had 89.  After doing fairly well by myself I was offered a spot on a team next time and I said I'd do my best.  I liked the format and loved the bar, so I knew I'd be back.  BTW, my team name for the first two times was "Space Cowboys" since I was wearing my Father's Day Cowboy Bebop t-shirt.

I really wanted to try again though, so two days later I went over to The Lincoln Beer Company which is also in Burbank close to my apartment.  Again pretty much by myself I came in third place with 74 points.  The top two teams that night were all sitting at one table though, so I sense some collusion.  That said, besides those two full teams of six each, I beat everyone else in the bar, and there were at least 20 other people playing.  So that felt good.

July 2 back at the Empire and my team does much better, we come in second with 83 points, which is still a personal best.  There's usually a total of 96 points available but this one had more points for some reason.  Also the regular quizmaster was out on vacation and we had a sub, though the sub was the same guy as at Lincoln the week before.  Our team name was "So You're Saying There's a Chance" because their previous team name was "Forever Fourth" and I vowed they would never be lower than 3rd ever again.

One week later on July 9 at Empire, same sub QM and by this point I'm kind of getting tired of him.  He's not good.  In fact he's bad.  And I spoke about it with other players not on my team and they concurred, they'd had him before and he sucked.  So I emailed Geeks who Drink and they actually responded in a professional manner and thanked me for my input.  He didn't come back the next week when our regular QM was still gone on her honeymoon.  We were back to third place on the 9th, with 80 points.  For some reason we were back to Space Cowboys that night.

July 16 seemed like a game-changing night.  Our team name, "I Contain Multitudes" - paraphrasing the great Walt Whitman poem "Song of Myself".  We came in 2nd, with 73 points, but only lost by 2, to the Goats, who were on a 3 game winning streak (maybe more, I didn't check the scores from before I started playing.)  Still I'll take that sweet $10 reward off our bill.  Oh and it was finally this night when I figured out the people on my team, the ones who invited me to be on their team, yeah they own the bar.

So at this point I've been playing for 3 weeks, and I've done 5 quizzes.  Come in third 2x, and second 2x now.  I'm itching for a victory.  For some reason last Thursday I was on a quest to not be in the doldrums that I wasn't at Comic-Con in San Diego (despite the fact I was offered tickets, I did not follow up because my kiddo is off in Utah this month visiting her Mother and I don't want to go without her).

  So I ventured Downtown, into enemy territory and found a bar very close to USC called "The Dragon and Meeple".  It's a gaming bar, as in board games and other types of nerdiness.  Much like "The Guild Hall" over near me.  The employees couldn't really figure out why attendance was so low, they'd only done trivia a couple times previously, until I reminded them about SDCC, and they got it.  I was joined by a work colleague halfway through the game who really could have helped me on the music round, but it was no worries, I won handily with 70 points, beating the team in 2nd by 11.  I won a $25 gift certificate to the bar/store I can use next time and I also got a free drink for winning one of the four bonus rounds.  It was a good time.  Oh and my team name: "I Wish I Was At Comic-Con".

Brings us to last night, back at Empire, and our normal team is down to just four people.  Not a problem, because we carried the night.  We led virtually the entire game, and our regular host was back for the festivities.  Our team name was "I Promised My Mother I'd Make Better Choices" which was actually somewhat true, and also the 2nd name I chose, given the first one was kind of poking fun at the host.  But I'm going to use it next week.  Anyway, we won by a whopping 3 points, 80 to 77 over the Goats.  And there was much rejoicing.

Check out the scheduled for Geeks Who Drink and come join me would ya?  I've got at least 3 more weeks at Empire for sure.  I'm also itching to go to Scum and Villainy Cantina where I hear the prize is over $100!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Secrets of the Empire: A VR Experience Review

Yesterday was my birthday and as a treat I decided that my daughter and I were going to try out the latest VR Game, "Star Wars Secrets of the Empire" which is located at The Void in the Glendale Galleria.  A couple of months ago I got my first real taste of what's going on in VR when I took Kaylee to a VR Art Exhibit in Pasadena, and while there were some of the same technologies featured at that event, this new VR Game is so cutting edge that we're entering "Ready Player One" territory.  We're not there QUITE yet, but it's getting very very close.

The experience starts when you go in and buy tickets.  You have to sign a waiver, and be sure to accept the part about video and achievement tracking, that way you'll get a score emailed to you later on.  

After being checked in by the staff you get suited up.  First you step into a haptic vest that's hanging on the wall, there's a reason for that.  After getting all strapped in and snug (and they have adapters for bigger folks) you put on your headset. Now this is no mere retail level headset, it's fully immersive and much more powerful than the previous headsets I've tried. 

Next you're ushered into the briefing room where Cassian Andor from Rogue One gives you a mission to break into the Imperial Facility on Mustafar (you know where Vader lives) disguised as Stormtroopers and steal back a precious Jedi artifact.  You're accompanied by the droid K2S0 and a pilot.  You get into a shuttle and you're whisked away to your destination.  I'll be damned if I didn't feel like I was really flying in space INSIDE of Star Wars, it's that immersive.

Upon landing you exit the vehicle and you're freaking on Mustafar.  There's heat, there's smells, there's wind, and as you cross a platform that's over a huge bed of lava, you actually feel everything.  I got a touch of vertigo at one point, and my legs weren't steady because it all felt real.  There's several moments like that in the game and well, you just kind of have to experience it to fully understand.  

You infiltrate the facility, grabs some guns and as soon as you do alarms go off and you're immediately attacked by legions of Imperial Stormtroopers who you have to fight off.  You can get hit by lasers and you feel it, but you can't really die and there's no real adverse affects other than it throws you off for a second or two, so let yourself get hit, it's fun!  Now I don't know about you, but growing up all I ever really wanted to do was run around the Death Star blasting Stormtroopers ala Han Solo.  Well, here you really get that opportunity.  Also they can take a few hits before they're down, so aim for the head.  Just like modern FPS games, headshots rule.  

I won't spoil the rest of the game, suffice to say you shoot a bunch of troopers and some lava creatures, have to solve a simple puzzle (or not, the game continues even if you're a doofus like us and can't solve the puzzle) and are confronted by the Dark Lord of the Sith himself.  I'd say the only negative is that you don't ever get to wield a Lightsaber, but hey I guess that they have to save something for the sequel game.

Apparently this game is canon too, or at least the story is.  The relic that you are searching for should show up again in some ancillary media or other.  

After successfully completing your mission you take a picture and doff your gear.  The picture was overpriced as these things tend to be, but given they don't let you take any photos in the facility itself, it's a nice keepsake.  The next day you're sent your score.  I had a higher percentage accuracy than my kiddo, but she killed more Stormtroopers than I did.

Here's some things to know: 

1) On very busy weekends I'd buy tickets ahead of time.  They also don't necessarily run the Star Wars game every day, so check ahead.  The other game is an original property, and while it looks fun, it ain't Star Wars. 

2) While they don't want you running or jumping around, the game is quite active.  You do walk from one room to another, and the complex feels very large.  We both worked up quite a sweat killing bucketheads. 

3) It's totally immersive, in that there are lighting, wind, atmosphere and aroma effects.  When you look down at lava you feel like you could fall right in, it's pretty darn cool.

4) There's some glitchiness which I suppose is to be expected.  It's not 100% smooth, there's some parts where you can't see your hands, etc.  But it's real enough.  There are also real world props that are interactive.  If you take off your visor you can see them.  For example, K2S0 when he appears close to you is a maquette and you can touch him. 

5) The haptic suit and helmet are quite heavy, so just be prepared.  They're not uncomfortable, but if you're not ready for them it can take some getting used to.

6) It will seem a lot shorter than you want it to be.  You're going to want to do it again almost immediately.  I don't see it as having a LOT of replay value, but twice or three times should still be fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Adventures in Bootleg Lego Mini Figures - Part 2

As I promised in my last post I would be taking a look at my next order from AliExpress, comprising another dozen or so new bootleg mini-figures and even one small set.  This batch was ordered on October 13, and the last set just arrived TODAY!  Most of the products started coming in about two weeks after the order, so that's not bad.  I can also make this promise, I'll have a THIRD article coming in a month or two after I receive the products I just ordered earlier this week.

Let's take a look at what I got in batch #2 shall we?

First up is "Blondie", "Angel-Eyes" and "Tuco" from the greatest Spaghetti Western ever made, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  While I appreciate the old Lego Western line, I never really owned any, the theme being released during a time when I didn't buy any Lego sets. These figures however are more than enough to keep me happy.  "Blondie" or "The Man With No Name" considering he's never actually named in any of the Leone "Dollars' trilogy movies is clearly my favorite, coming with his pistol, a wanted poster featuring Tuco, and his signature Poncho, which he wouldn't actually acquire until the end of the movie. 

Angel Eyes is well done also and comes with a piece of silver.  Poor Tuco doesn't get much besides his gun.  There's back prints on all the figures, but only one-sided heads. These were a whopping 65 cents each.  Maybe I should order a few more.

This next batch was an eclectic mix of random pieces.  First up, a red chrome "Classic Space" Astronaut.  Now, he's clearly not "Vintage" because the helmet is all wrong.  Also the printing on the face is similar, but nowhere close to an original space figure.  Something told me to pick this guy up in Red so that he'd match the original Red figure that came with my long-time grail set - 6929 Star Fleet Voyager, as I'd been looking to replace my original set for years.  Shortly after ordering this lot, I managed to find a good copy on eBay for a reasonable price and I pulled the trigger.  Even though that set came with the figure, I wanted to see if the display would look good with a chrome guy.  It does and it's fodder for another blog.

This little guy was my most expensive single figure purchase at $2.37.

From the same seller I also chose a set of Saint Seiya figures from the eponymous Anime.  This show was always a weird one for me, as I always enjoyed the designs of the characters, but I never really paid that much attention to the story or even watched a whole lot of episodes.  Yup, I like the armors that much.  In fact I still own a couple of the Bandai Gold Saint figures from the mid-90's complete with their boxes.  Sadly there's no real improvement on the secondary market for them, I saw similar copies at the most recent comic cons for the same price I bought them new.  

I can only really identify four of the six figures, Seiya, Cygnus, Phoenix and Andromeda.  The other two I have no clue.  This is actually the second set of boots I've gotten from this show, the other set which I found at the swap meet, is much much worse.  These actually look like the characters.  These were a little pricey at $1.28 each.

 I actually bought TWO sets of anime figures, this one is the Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon, and they went straight to my daughter.  I have virtually no knowledge of this show other than it's the progenitor of the "magical girl" genre of Anime and predates Pretty Cure, and is super-popular.  I'm pretty sure there's two versions of the main character Sailor Moon, but I'm not sure who the other three scouts are.  There's also Sailor Moon's boyfriend Tuxedo Mask here.  Nice figures though and cheap, they were 86 cents each.

I bought two of the same figure because GROOT!  We are Groot!  He was 82 cents.  I love the longer legs, that's really the reason I got him, and of course one for me and one for the kiddo. 

One of the things I really love about this type of shopping is that I can find figures that would never ever get made by Lego proper.  Here we have Alex from A Clockwork Orange and the legendary Bruce Lee.  I really wish Alex had pink flesh rather than yellow, but oh well.  The figure is quite nice with awesome back prints.  The Bruce Lee figure is pretty standard, the printing is nice, and he comes with some nunchuks, which are hilariously oversized.  For 65 cents each what more could you want?

This next batch was strictly for the kiddo also, these are Minecraft figures, and I have no idea who or what they are.  The dragons were $1.30 and the figure (Alex?) and cat were $1.20.  The daughter loves them.

Here's the one actual "set" that I purchased, it's a Gundam Cafe!  This is one of six sets that Lepin released around the same time with somewhat "anime" themes.  The pieces here are nowhere near the quality of Lego, and the construction is a bit confusing.  The final product is less than stellar, but it's basically OK.  If there were other buildings in the line that I liked I'd buy others.  This was $4.36.


Last to appear in my mail were these two Godzillas in translucent plastic.  There's a number of colors to choose from, but they're all the same mold, so I went with Red and Green.  These are cute and will go nicely with my Gundams and other giant robots.  I could use more Kaiju mini-figs.  I'd love a line of Pacific Rim mini-figs.   The trans colors command a premium, these were $1.33.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Adventures in Bootleg Lego Mini-Figures

There's something inside of me that makes me very interested in knock-off and bootleg merchandise.  All ethical issues aside, I think it's fascinating that people will even take the time to knock-off other people's IP and items, and to that end, I'm endlessly intrigued with the results.

Many many years ago there was a knock-off action figure column in one of the toy magazines I'd peruse at the newsstands on a monthly basis (remember those?)  Some blogs and toy sites also used to write about them as well.

 I happen to love going on shopping trips, especially to swap meets and well, let's just say gray market goods marketplaces.  There are several of them here in the city of Angels, Santee Alley comes to mind.  It's those types of places where you find these bootleg Lego mini figures.  The quality is usually all over the place, sometimes great but most of the time not.

Enter the internet.

Through Aliexpress, every day shoppers like myself can order all sorts of goods from China, quite a good portion of them are bootleg items.  I recently made a foray into bootleg Lego mini-figs, and here's the first results.

I ordered all of these on September 14.  They started to arrive about three weeks later, and finished arriving about 10 days after that.  See you might place one order but you're aggregating a number of individual vendors into that order.  This one order of how-ever many figures it is came from 6 different vendors.

I'm not sure exactly which brands these actually are, as they don't come with packaging.  I believe they're at least KOPF or another major knock off brand.

Char's Zaku-II and a grunt Zaku-II.  These both come with a
bazooka and a rifle, which will come in handy later.

Thanos was the most expensive single piece at $2.40.  Came with the
Infinity Gauntlet and all the stones.  LEGO doesn't even make a chromed version of the glove.

I really like this Voltron mini-fig, though I wish it had the earlier version's lion hands.

I would like Mazinger Z more if they had included both sides of the chest piece

These are just fun.  80 cents for both.

That's a Minecraft Wolf for my daughter

I was fairly excited about He-Man and Skeletor, and they could be better, but they're not bad to begin with. 
The faces are a little off.

Jack Skellington, The 4th Doctor and Hulk Hogan. 
None of these have ever been made by Lego

RX-178 Gundam Mk II and RX-78-2 Mobile Suit Gundam.
Love these.  Didn't come with guns though, thankfully the Zaku guns worked.

All told I spent about $17 on these pieces.  I enjoyed the experience so much I made a larger order just a couple of weeks ago, most of which just came in, so look for Part 2 of this entry shortly.