Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stocking Stuffer Madness #3- Block Tech Race Car

I've had a decades long love for Lego. From the moment I snapped those first two blocks together, I was hooked. It didn't matter if it was a set small enough to fit in my stocking, or so big it took up most of the tree, I loved every little piece. Give me a  couple of Lego sets and put on a Christmas movie, and you wouldn't hear from me for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, even the cheapest Lego sets are pretty spendy. I think I paid $4 or $5 for one of those small bag sets from Target, and the cheapest boxed set I could find still cost around $10. That's where the knockoffs come in.

Lego has inspired numerous knockoffs since they've been around. Other than the Tyco and Mega Bloks lines, the one thing they all have in common is that they suck. There's really no way to sugar coat it. Most of the time, if you come across a set in the dollar store claiming to work with other brands, it won't. The few sets I messed with used poor quality plastic, and they didn't do the one things they're supposed to do, and that's stick together. Some companies will cheat you on the parts count, and they'll ship the minifigures disassembled. In other cases, elements that would have been considered a single piece in a Lego set, will need to be put together. I can't really blame the bootleggers though. It's hard to complain when you're getting a 250 piece set for $10, even if there is some fudging of the numbers. 

Thankfully, there's one company out there that seems to be doing things half way right. I present to you, the next item out of Stunt Zombie's stocking: The Block Tech Race Car Circuit Racer

Dollar General had a bunch of these sets, but I picked this one because it actually looked like a race car. The other available sets included Farm Tractor, Battalion Truck, and Off Roadster. Basically all of them were a different variation of "truck". I guess this one isn't much different, but it's got a spoiler. It must be a race car, right? According to the box, there are 32 block pieces contained within, and there is just one model to make.  I wonder if the parts count includes the pieces that make up the figure..hmmm.. Speaking of the box, it's a respectable attempt at copying Lego's style. That "Race Car" font looks suspiciously familiar, as do some of the other fonts used on the front. They took a page out of Lego's book, and added some smoke and motion blur to make it look like the car is racing around the track. It looks so much better than the sterile shots of dull models you see on all the other bootlegs. At least this one has a better chance of tricking someone into thinking it's a legitimate Lego set. 

Since there's no figure included in the set, then I guess we can assume he wasn't included in the parts count. Nothing but a bag of pieces and a sheet of instructions. How can I race a car without a driver? I was just about to get angry when I saw this on the box:

Well crap. I guess I'll have to provide my own driver then. Uh-oh, it looks like Block Tech claims these work with other leading brands too. That may be true, but I'm more concerned that they work with themselves.

Guess what? They did. Don't pay any attention to that light about to fall off the back of the car, that was my fault. I have to say, I'm very impressed. Sure, it's a simple set, but the pieces actually feel pretty sturdy, and they connect very well. There are some minor issues here and there, like the connection holding the spoiler assembly. It doesn't grip as tightly as the Lego version of that part would, so it wiggles a bit. Block Tech did cheat a little bit on their part count and shipped the steering wheel in two pieces. The wheels are all one piece and made out of plastic, so they slide more than they roll over hard surfaces. I am happy to report the wheels can be taken off the axles without breaking the tabs that hold them on, so you might be able to replace them with rubber Lego wheels.

What about Block Tech's claim that there is just one model inside the box? To that I say, "Challenge Accepted".

Boom! Five minutes later and I have model number two: Race Segway. It's perfect for those Stunt Zombies on the go. I felt like I was cheating with this one though. If I really wanted to prove Block Tech wrong, I would need to use every piece.

Ka-Boom! Model number three, and it used all 32 pieces. I think I'll call him Dude-bot. He's obviously evil, just look at those cruel red eyes, and that sinister grin. He's well armed too, with a yellow laser gun in his right pincer, and a flailing blade in the left. If either one of those weapons fails him, he also has a high speed saw sticking out of his chest. He's a formidable foe indeed, but sometimes even Dude-bot needs to retreat. That's not a problem because..

....Dude-bot can transport into a supersonic death machine. When he's in this mode, there's nothing he can't escape. "But Chris", I can hear you say, "all you did was lay him on his wheels and flip his head down". This is true, but I also contend this is more than it takes to transform some older Go-Bots and Transformers toys. So...yeah.

In the end, this set only cost me $1, which comes out to $.03125 per piece. You can't even buy candy that cheap anymore.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stocking Stuffer Madness #2: Wrestle Rampage Stretchy Fighters

Guess what! Today we're looking at another goodie from the Stunt Zombie Christmas stocking. Get that spandex on, because it's time to rasstle!

Looking like the spawn of a drunken night of debauchery between a bootleg M.U.S.C.L.E figure and a Wacky WallWalker, these were found hanging on the pegs of Dollar General. They are the very definition of a rack toy; they're cheaply made, cheap to buy, and not likely to work more than once out of the package. While I'm on the packaging, what exactly is a wrestle rampage? Going by the size of the font, these guys are more apt to go on a rampage than wrestle. I don't even know what that means. Blame it on the steroids I guess.  I think it would have been more effective to call them Rampaging Stretchy Fighters, or Wrestling Stretchy Fighters. At least they didn't call them Sticky Fighters. I'm not sure I would feel comfortable handling them without gloves if that were the case.

The back is pretty much the same as the front, except with more directions. According to the instructions, I just squeeze these guys in my hands a bit, then toss them on a clean surface. In hindsight, I could have worded that sentence differently. I probably should have done that, rather than typing these last two sentences. No matter, let's check these guys out...

It's pretty hard to see any details on these dudes' faces in real life, let alone in my sub-par photos. Just take my word for it, they be ugly. I don't know how many of you fish, or know people that fish, but these things smell just like the artificial worms. Now I'm tempted to thread a hook through one and try my luck in the pond. I bet green would work the best. Fish love some green.

The wrestlers are pretty sticky, yet they still manage to feel slippery at the same time. They're also pretty soft and squishy. That's a lot of "S" words in just two short sentences, but I swear that they were all necessary. Enough of this unnecessary exposition, it's time to wrestle!

I followed the directions, twisting them up and squeezing them in my fist. After squishing them around a bit, this is what they looked like:

Hrmm..They don't look like they're wrestling at all. It looks more like they're...Well, I won't say what it looks like they're doing. You'll have to use your imagination for that one. Kinda like the M.U.S.C.L.E figures, they spring back their resting states if leave them alone for a while. You can squish them and stretch them, but they'll just go back to normal. Almost sounds like a commercial doesn't it?According to the package, when I toss these two on the wall, they're going to "flip, turn, and wrestle on their way down". So, do the Wrestle Rampage Stretchy Fighters do what they're supposed to?

Man, that was pretty epic. I'll admit, I tried this a couple of hours earlier, and they just didn't want to cooperate. They would hit the wall, and immediately separate. Like so:

After they sat around on my desk for a while, they started getting a little stickier, especially toward each other. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but I'm going with it anyway. It took a few tries, but they finally started slowly rolling down the window together. So, mission accomplished!

Honestly, I don't recommend buying these things for anyone. The average child is going to toss these things everywhere, and they'll either stick where they land forever, or they'll stain a wall or carpet. Speaking of carpet, the second one of these guys falls on the carpet they'll be covered with pet fur, dirt, or lint, making them completely useless. Mine already look like a couple of little yetis from all the fur they picked up off the floor.

Tiny, sticky little yetis.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stocking Stuffer Madness- Marvel Universe Spiderman.

I love Christmas stockings. I used to love the plethora of candy and toys that my mom somehow managed to stuff inside. It's almost as if she was able to bend space and time, because just when I would think the stocking was empty, more stuff would fall out. Stockings have always been the best way to give Christmas candy, but they also work well for those small gifts that would otherwise get lost under the tree.  They also work well for giving gifts when you don't really know what to get someone. Just load a stocking full of candy, throw some Amazon or Itunes gift cards in there, add a couple of small toys, and I doubt you'll hear a complaint. This was a common practice whenever we went to one of my uncles' houses for Christmas dinner. A stocking full of random items was all it took to keep me quiet the duration of our stay.

As you can see, I was able to pack quite a bit in this stocking, and I still had a ton of room to spare. I could easily add another pound or two of candy to everything else that was in here. The best part is that everything in this picture cost me just over $10 bucks. You could make every child in your family happy with one trip to Dollar General and a 50 dollar bill.

Today I'm going to look at a stocking stuffer that is sure to please even the brattiest kid; Marvel Universe Spider-Man!

Hasbro produced a line of cheaper figures for sale in Dollar General and Family Dollar stores. These guys only have 5 points of articulation, but they also cost much less than the regular Marvel Universe figures.

The back of the card is pretty barebones, and shows off the other two figures in the series. I'm assuming it's just these three, because they're the only ones I've ever seen offered for sale. You'd think they would offer a villain or two, but most toy lines seem more focused on the heroes these days.

The sculpting on DG Spider-Man is very well done, and I was surprised they actually went through the trouble of painting the back of the figure as well. Not bad at all for $3.50. The only complaint I can lodge against the figure is that his limbs are molded in a rather odd pose. His feet are very close together, which makes it a bit tricky to get Spidey to stand up without falling. His arms are curved inward, and it makes Spidey look like he's driving an imaginary race car. I don't think those are issues for the target audience though. This Spider-Man is meant for playing, not being posed on a shelf. It's the type of toy that can be slipped in a pocket, without worrying it's going to disintegrate into a million pieces.

I'm kind of tempted to do just that myself.


I was asked by the Trash Man if I could give a sneak preview of the Wrestle Rampage toy. So, here ya go buddy.

Oh yeah, these are going to be fun.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christmas Mood Table

For some reason, I'm really having a rough time getting into the holiday spirit this year. Maybe it's because we're pretty much broke, or perhaps it's stress from worrying about family and work. Whatever the reasons, I was finding that I had to force the happy feelings the past couple of weeks. Today, I decided to take back my holiday cheer. I was determined to find a way to bring those feelings of joy back to the surface, but I couldn't figure out how. Then it hit me, I needed a mood table.

I wish I could make the claim that I invented the concept of a mood table, but I believe that honor goes to Matt from Dinosaur Dracula. Humble as he may be, his Halloween Mood tables are something to behold, and I'm sure they could put anybody in the Halloween spirit. I decided to take that concept and apply it to the Christmas season. I did a quick search, but I couldn't find any examples of  Christmas Mood Tables. Does that mean I'm the first?

It actually took several tries before I got everything arranged just so. It's still not quite perfect, since I'd love to add some more colorful objects, but I think it's looking pretty great right now. Let's have a closer look, shall we?

This little Santa toy was once filled with candy. Now he just appears to be filled with fear. That's what happens when you tell Bob the Zombie Viper he's on the naughty list. It's not his fault he did all those nasty things. He's really not such a bad guy, he just smells that way.

I have to admit, after reexamining the photo, it's quite possible he's just trying to get away from Timber. Santa needs to realize, just because the wolves at the North Pole are friendly, doesn't mean the ones down here will be as amicable.

This is what I like to call the "treat corner" of the table. Up front we have Gingerbread M&M's, Gingerbread Peeps, and Rudolph gummies. Obi Wan Kenobi looks like he really wants an M&M, but I'm sure he thinks this is some kind of test. Just eat one already Ben. I promise they won't make you go to the dark side.

My, aren't we a happy looking Santa Claus. I can't help it, every time I look at this guy, I can't keep myself from grinning. Unfortunately, I have to make sure he stays turned off. Otherwise, the slightest touch on his belly sends him into a hysterical fit, and he'll knock everything off the table. Oh Ticklish Santa, you bring so much joy and so much aggravation at the same time..I'm not sure if you can tell, but Ticklish Santa is also sitting on several of my favorite Christmas Movies. Now I'm realizing I probably should have stored the discs in a binder, because I'll have to take part of the display down to get to the movies. Crap.

At the top of the mountain, we have the lair of Stunt Claus. Or is it Santa Zombie? Zombie Claus? I guess I should have established that at his creation. Either way, he has plenty of friends, with Wampa, unfortunate skeleton, and a couple of snowmen to keep him company. What are his plans for the Christmas season? Nothing too evil I hope...

Here we see Iron man putting the finishing touches on the tree. He actually came up with a formula to determine which decorations should go where. The result is the most precisely decorated tree in history. Behind him you can see more of our Christmas movies, and next to those you can barely see a Christmas Sing-a-ma-jig. It's just watching, waiting for the perfect moment to jump from behind the tree and sing "Jingle Bells" at somebody.

High up in the tree, Snake Eyes is keeping watch, just in case any of Cobra's secret elves try to come in and sabotage the lights. He may not seem like the Christmas-y type, but oh boy..does he ever get pissed when someone tries to mess with the tree lights.

It seems the Storm Trooper got a little confused, and mistook Dodger from Oliver and Company for his Tauntaun. "No wonder they lost the war", muttered a bewildered Rebel Trooper under his breath.

It seems like wherever you go, there will always be somebody causing trouble. Knowing Mumm-Ra, this is all his doing. Or, I could be wrong, and it's all part of a snowball fight gone bad. Either way, this is probably going to end badly for Cobra Commander, unless he's smart enough to run away from this one.

I have to admit, after I finished the table, I was definitely feeling more of the ol' Christmas spirit. It's almost like those twinkling little lights burned through whatever fog that was keeping me from getting into the holiday. So, if you're feeling down in the dumps, or just can't get into the swing of things this year,just do what I did. Arrange a bunch of random Christmas items on a table top, and watch your aggravations just dissolve away. Oh, and if you do put together a Christmas Mood Table, I'd love to see it.

Have a happy rest of November!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's almost that time of the year again..

And it looks like we already have someone ready to step up and take Santa's place.

Oh..crap. I'm not sure how he pulled it off, but Stunt Zombie has taken over Christmas this year. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he just told Santa Claus to sit back an relax this year. But since I've known the Stunt Zombie a long, long time, I'm pretty sure Santa didn't have a choice in the matter. Speaking of Santa, I haven't seen him around lately.  Also, who's the half naked bearded man in the background there? Nobody? Oh, okay.

While I've got Lego on my mind, guess what I got for my birthday this year...

Aww man..Chelsea knows I'm not going to be able to resist doing the Advent Calendar on here this year. I must admit, the town version interested me more than the Star Wars version this year. We've got a crook making off with some presents, a drunk Santa about to fall off of the roof, and a snowman that looks like he's ready to beat somebody with a very large carrot. There's also an astronaut blasting off so he can put the star on top of the Christmas tree. It seems to be a bit of overkill, but hey, it's Christmas.

Under the flap, there's an amazing city scene. This is the main reason I loved the Lego catalogs. They didn't just have a picture of the set against a white background. No, they would create a scene that included all the sets within one theme. They weren't quite this big though. This scene is almost of the "Where's Waldo" scale. I'm ignorant of what sets are out there now, so I couldn't even begin to tell you which sets were included in this picture. I can tell you that Legoland is a happening place. Here's a list of just a few of the things I spotted in the scene above;

-No less than 3 police pursuits.
-One brave (stupid) wind surfer
-A lonely duck
-Shark infested waters
-Firemen trying to save an abandoned burning building
-4 British guys loading a cannon (?)

That's just what I picked out from a cursory examination. I'm sure there's stuff in there that I missed. The other side of the flap provides a place for you to place the models after you've opened their doors and put them together.

It looks like a tiny little house next to a pond and a...race track? I didn't notice the starting line until I started typing out the previous sentence. I also just picked out the four tires acting as a barrier on the turn. Maybe all the roads in Legoland are laid out this way. It would save on them on having to actually build a motorsports complex. It should be an interesting advent, I just wish I didn't have to wait another two weeks to start opening up these flaps.

I have one last Lego related thing, and then I promise no more until December. I've been searching for a mount for my IPod Touch, and I came across this one from Joby on Amazon. If you don't feel like clicking on the link, here's what it looks like:

It's nice and simple, and it looks like it would work. Well, since I'm flat broke and Christmas is coming, I felt like it was in bad form to buy it for myself. I figured I would try my hand at making something similar instead. Here's what I ended up with:

It's not quite as adjustable as the Joby, but it should work for my purposes. I guess we'll find out when I make another video, which should be within the next few days. You can look forward to alcoholic beverages, gingerbread flavored treats, and whatever random Christmas goodies I can scrape together over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My blocks say Tyco.

It would have been the Christmas of 1988. I'm sure I was tearing through presents like the Washington Redskins tear through another teams offense...Okay, maybe that analogy doesn't exactly work this year, but I'm sure you get the point. Anyway, as I'm no doubt pulling gifts from under the tree, I come across a round gift with hard sides, that sounds like it's full of broken toys when I shake it. I can see myself now, tearing off the wrapping paper, and starting in awe at a bucket full of...Tyco Super Blocks? What the hell are these things, and why do they look like Lego?

Shamelessly stolen from e-Bay.
Honestly, I can't remember if I had the Tyco or Lego blocks first, but I'm inclined to go with the Tyco Super Blocks. I had tons of Lego sets later on, but I have vivid memories  of building some of the models on this bucket, or at least trying to. My favorite things to build were race cars and monster trucks. As plain as the pieces were in these sets, I never seemed to let that hold me back. I could come up with some crazy creations with just a few rectangular blocks and a couple sets of wheels. I also loved building houses and forts, which led me to consider becoming an architect before I ever knew what that really meant. Even with access to video games and a huge VHS collection, I seemed to spend most of my time surrounded by a minefield of plastic building blocks.

Tyco, like Lego, realized that kids wanted people to live in the homes they built, and drive the cars they put together. So, they included a few minifigures in each of these buckets.

Compared to a modern Lego minifig, the Tyco one looks like something from the stone age. His body was cast in red plastic, while the hands and pants were painted on details. The face was rudimentary, and the only details were two little dots for eyes and a very faint smile molded on to his face. Even looking at it up close, the face is nearly smooth. Maybe that was the whole point, to give kids a blank surface on which to project their imaginations.

Oddly enough, my Tyco minifig actually found its way into my pockets rather often. I know I said it was a GIJoe figure that I used to carry around, but it wasn't until earlier this week that I realized I was wrong. I'm not sure why I would think that I carried a GIJoe with me, since I would be too tempted to carry all his accessories as well. Knowing how I was with my figures back then, I would have been too worried about losing a weapon. That was the great thing with the Tyco minifig. He was small, simple, and had no accessories to lose. They were also durable as a rock. By the time I stopped carrying mine, he had lost an arm, and most of the paint was missing from the top of his head and legs. Though all the adventures we'd been on had taken their toll, I'm sure he would have lasted another 10 years at least.

Of course, thanks to the lot I found on eBay, I have enough Tyco minifigs to last a few lifetimes. I hope my descendants like tiny plastic figurines...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween leftovers

It's November 5th, and I'm still finding it hard to believe that Halloween has already come and gone. My little hiatus during the middle of the month kinda threw things out of whack, and I never really recovered enough of the Halloween spirit to keep the countdown going. We didn't even carve jack-o-lanterns this year. That's the first time that's ever happened.

Since I was gone for close to two weeks, I had a few things I didn't get a chance to cover for the blog. That just means I have a few leftovers to share with everyone.

I really have an unhealthy appetite for Jell-O. I've yet to find a flavor that I didn't like. That's right, I even like Lime flavored Jell-O. I do draw the line at those weird fruit salads, that have chunks of unidentifiable fruit floating around in a round Jell-O mold. Why would anyone want to muck about with a fine gelatin desert by adding real fruit to it? Craziness..Anyway, it's this love for Jell-O that caused me to pick up this kit I saw at Wal-Mart. Apparently, I forgot to take a photo of the thing while it was still in the box, but if you go to Wal-Mart and look in the now clearanced Halloween section, I'm sure you'll find it. This particular kit comes with the mold seen here, as well as two different flavors of Jell-O, orange and grape. I know the molding tray has 6 spots in it, but for whatever reason, Jell-O decided to allow us to make two pumpkins at a time. That means we only get 5 spooky shapes.

The first one, and my favorite, is the grinning skull. Most would be content with just giving us a skull, but Jell-O added a little bit of spine there at the bottom. It's not a huge deal, but it's a nice little touch and it adds to the creepiness of the mold. Think about it, which would freak you out more, just finding a skull laying on the ground, or finding a skull with the spine still attached? It's the little things that shows Jell-O cares.

Up next we have your standard ghost. What's interesting though, are his arms. Rather than looking like arms hidden beneath a sheet, they look more like bony wings. I've never seen a ghost with bony wings before, so I'm instantly suspicious of that smile he has pasted on his mug. You may seem friendly, orange gelatin spirit, but I know you're not to be trusted.

Those are what I consider the "Creepy Crawlers" of the bunch. It's hard to see in the picture, but the bat actually has two little eyes molded in there. The spider has neither eyes, nor a mouth, but that's probably a good thing. A spider that can stare me straight in the face and give me a grin would cause me to lose my shit. These guys remind me of those huge gummy critters I used to buy from the convenience stores around here. They were multi-colored, and came in a foil back plastic bubble. You could get them one at a time, or buy a whole strip of fruity gummy creatures. I'd advise against that though, since eating more than two of them was usually enough to make me wish I could throw up.

Last up, we have the incredibly happy jack-o-lantern. Why is he so happy? You've got me. Maybe he has something awful planned for us. Or maybe it's because he knows that Chelsea spiked the Jell-O with chocolate whip cream vodka, effectively making all these things undercover Jell-O shots. I bet if I ate enough of them I'd be smiling like that too.

I'm S'mores eating fiend, so when I saw this earlier in the season, I had to pick it up. I've enjoyed S'mores cereal, Pop-Tarts, and candy bars, but I can't fool myself into thinking that they actually taste like the graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow treat I've grown to love.

Sadly, mine was already falling apart when I opened up the package. At least Russel Stover made it look similar to the real thing. The main difference is the marshmallow is contained within a thin chocolate shell. It's not quite a Hershey bar, but it should do.  Still, you can't just slap a cold piece of chocolate and marshmallow between a couple of graham crackers and call it a S'mores. This calls for some heat.

Well crap. It looks like 20 seconds in the microwave was a bit too much. The proper preparation of S'mores requires an open fire, preferably built using the remains of your enemy's empire. Barring that, a microwave will work in a pinch. I expected things to soften up a bit, but I didn't think it would turn into a soupy mess. I didn't really want to waste what was still a perfectly edible snack, so I dug in anyway. After a couple of bites, I realized that what I was putting in my mouth didn't actually taste like the real thing. It did taste exactly like the S'mores Pop Tarts though. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though it is a little puzzling since it looks nothing like a Pop-Tart.

Sadly, I didn't pick either one of these up for the candy. I picked them out, because they were two different takes on the same character. Sinister he may be, the Dracula on the left still has manners, and he'll ask your permission before he sucks your blood. He looks like the type of vampire that would have you over for a nice dinner, before having your for dinner. The Dracula on the right however..

He's a freakin' wild man. There's no suave, sophisticated manners with this guy. Look at those crazed, bloodshot eyes and the huge ears. This is a vampire that has forsaken his humanity, and is just searching for his next meal. You might get the chance to enjoy a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire place with Bubble Tape Dracula, but Lip Pop Dracula is going to make a meal out of you as soon as you ring the doorbell. The Bubble Tape's flavor is "Awesome Original", which sounds like another way of saying "Amazingly Plain". Still, it tastes better than the Lip Pop's Green.

It doesn't help that I look completely ridiculous while I'm trying to eat the Lip Pop.

Finally, here's a picture of Chelsea dressed as a cat for work last Friday. I know she works at an animal hospital, but I thought it was for animals, not run by them.....I think I've filled my quota for bad jokes this evening, so I'll be merciful and end this post.
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