Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fixing it when it aint broke!

    I must confess something’s disturbing me a lot at 12:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning. India has just got to the final of an extreme humdinger of a tournament called the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. I’m bleary eyed but a colleague’s messages over the course of the tournament have kept me immensely engrossed. For starters, he’s predicted correctly, every result of every major match in the tournament even before the matches had got underway. He’s suggesting big money, sponsors, Asian influence and the inevitable dirty word - “Match-Fixing.”

    Today, when when Symonds & Hayden were cruising towards 188 in the semi-final , I got a message from him saying. “Too much Naatak, India is winning this… ”.

    Another message from another colleague, “Is this fixed?”

    The verdict on the final is that Pakistan is winning it.

    I don’t know. And I don’t want to know!

Post Title

Fixing it when it aint broke!


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/fixing-it-when-it-aint-broke.html


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Kid Hunter by Bounty Hunter



    Now we take it to where it all began. The whole designer toy craze that we all know and love now was started with this figure: Kid Hunter by Bounty Hunter!
    Bounty Hunter started in 1995 in the Harajuku district of Tokyo as a store with a punk sensibility selling various things from clothing to older toys that owner Hikaru Iwanaga would pick up on frequent trips to the United States (Spawn toys, Star Wars, old cereal mascots...). Iwanaga says that the name Bounty Hunter pays homage to the Star Wars character Boba Fett and also that the name comes from the actual hunting of these things (the bounty).

    In the upcoming Toypunks documentary (www.toypunks.com), Iwanaga talks about discovering toys and punk rock music when he was growing up, comparing the two as similar experiences. Be it a talking GI Joe or the Sex Pistols, it all blew him away. He was very interested in the punk rock music and lifestyle as well as the American commercial culture such as cereal mascots.

    As the shop expanded, they began to make their own shirts and toys. Friends would help the cause, and eventually in 1997 a character from a tshirt was made into what would be the first designer vinyl. Now famous A Bathing Ape designer Skatething developed the Kid Hunter character... sort of a punk rock kid version of Captain Crunch... and an excellent combination of Iwanaga's passions. He wanted to make a toy that was round like Snoopy as opposed to the harsh lines of McFarlane's Spawn toys that were so popular in the late 90s.

    "One only has to see how the character is the embodiment of the Bounty Hunter aesthetic; a combination of a nod to the vinyl figures of American cereal characters and the kitschiness that represents, with the unsettling evil imagery and air of dissent that the punk cultivates. When Kid Hunter was released in 1997 the designer vinyl scene had begun."

    Fuck Art. Let's Punk.

    Thanks also to:
    All Other Toys Suck
    This is the article that pushed me over the BxH ledge!

    Header //N/A//:
    As far as I know, Bounty Hunter toys do not come in designed packaging of any kind. Every one I have seen comes in a clear plastic bag with a big BXH logo and a sticker stapled to the top.


    Sculpt //4.5 out of 5//:
    I probably can't say much about this figure that has not been said before. Knowing the intent behind this design, I would have to say they nailed it. This toy is the punk rock of toys... when the popular toys of the time were highly detailed sculpts, this toy went against the grain completely and brought something more simple, stripped down and different to the table. Realism is forgone here for a nicely stylized, pissed off little pirate kid.

    The balance on the figure is slightly off because of his giant head, but as long as both arms stay in their original position this is not such an issue. The undersized legs that are unable to be moved adds to the instability.

    The seams are all well integrated in the design, with the seam underneath the striped shirt being very well placed. For such a simple figure, the poses that can be obtained are great.

    Paint //4 out of 5//:
    The paint on this figure is unlike many toys that I will talk about on this blog, but it is just what the figure needs. Clean lines and solid application... bold contrast just as the cartoony cereal mascots it is paying homage to would have been represented with. The mostly black and white approach would apparently guide the color scheme of many Bounty Hunter toys that would follow.

    There are some small issues with detail work, particularly on the stringy hair hanging from under the hat, but nothing major. Overall a clean, appropriate paint job.


    Coolness //5 out of 5//:
    It's the first designer vinyl toy. It's application is well thought out and executed. It's a punk rock pirate with a pot belly.

    If this figure were to come out today, I don't know that my feelings about this piece would be what they are, but the fact that it is a little piece of vinyl history really adds to it for me.

    It is just a cool toy with a really cool history.

    Value //3 out of 5//:
    I have no idea how many of these are around now, or how much it cost initially, but now it is pricey on the secondhand market. I would rate it lower on value except for the history and the fact that it is a decade old. I could see the prices of these increasing with the release of the toypunks film in November.

    Overall //5 out of 5//:
    Positives: An original, attitude, awesome belly

    Negatives: Expensive now and will only become moreso, top-heavy

    If you are a fan of the current wave of vinyl toys out there, this piece could be a part of your collection and make sense with all of it. Bounty Hunter helped to start the toy lives of Frank Kozik, James Jarvis, and KAWS, and Kid Hunter was the toy that paved the way. Highly recommended.





Post Title

Kid Hunter by Bounty Hunter


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/kid-hunter-by-bounty-hunter.html


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Friday, September 21, 2007

Bitten by the BxH bug

    Over the past couple months, I have built up what I feel is a well-rounded little Bounty Hunter collection. I sold off quite a bit of stuff (pretty much the rest of my Western collection save a few pieces) to fund it, and I am very glad I did now that I have everything in hand.
    When I first got into Japanese vinyl, I have to admit I didn't get into these. Granted, I didn't give them much of a look as I was into solely the monsters and blobs and horrors that are new and vintage kaiju, but at a time when my tastes had moved from Western to Eastern style toys, these Bounty Hunter toys that really seem like a fusion of both styles did not speak to me.
    After the initial dust settled and the kaiju buying spree slowed, I found my collection moving toward more cohesive little cells... aided by the separated shelved in the Detolf.
    I had the vinyl wrestlers anchored by some sweet vintage Tiger Mask figures.
    I had the strange beasts that I craved initially... now moving toward more smaller run, hands on style figures like Anaraku's Goga and the Bemon Pollution beast... as opposed to lots and lots of Hedorahs.
    And I had the humanoid figures: two legs, two arms, no tail... Ultraman style. Strange monsters in suits and the monochrome Dada felt like a pretty unique facet of my collection.
    As I tweaked these shelves and wrote about them in my blog here, I learned more of the history of these toys, the inspirations and the directions they had taken. That's when I came across the Kid Hunter. Here was a fusion of a campy cereal mascot and a pissed off punk rock kid.
    And here is where it started for me. I really looked into Bounty Hunter at this point and had a new appreciation for the cleaner looks, the attitude, and the background.
    So here is a photo of the new family. It is a great part of my collection now. It isn't everything that is out there by BxH, but it's a good sampling I feel and I am pretty proud of where it has gone.
    I plan to do some reviews/blogs about all these figures in time, but for now enjoy the madness!


Post Title

Bitten by the BxH bug


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/bitten-by-bxh-bug.html


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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vinyl Morality

    Last night I unexpectedly found myself questioning this incredible new hobby of mine. Never did I think that something like collecting toys could actually be very damaging.

    It started with a conversation on skullbrain.org about Kidrobot and their quality control issues lately. It was argued that quality checks can be difficult due to the factories that make them being in remote locations in China where no one speaks english and the workers are essentially unskilled laborers. I raised the question why there are no factories opened in North America to solve problems such as this. The answer was (besides the obvious cheaper foreign labor issue) that the materials used in production, including both the vinyl and the paints/dyes violate laws set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    So now my concern had moved completely from the quality conversation to "Is my hobby here promoting the destruction of some environment?"

    I was told that the softer grades of vinyl used in making these toys we all love contain high levels of PCB's.

    PCB's (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are classified as persistent organic pollutants and were banned in the 1970s in the United States.

    These pollutants are (from wikipedia) "organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment."

    PCB
    persistent organic pollutants

    These materials are highly toxic in their initial states, and the technology used to produce them is basically obsolete. Apparently Japan is much more polluted than I ever thought. Vinyl is vinyl and no very suitable alternative exists outside hard plastics which would totally change what these toys are. The vinyl has very long molecules which leads to instability, and the molecules constantly are gassed into the air essentially... which is toxic. There are also solvents used in the production to make the vinyl smooth which is also damaging to the environment.

    Even the completed vinyl toys let off a gas that could be toxic! That fantastic smell is poison!

    Learning all of this has left me at sort of a crossroads. I want to learn more. But can I continue with this hobby with the knowledge that I am adding to this pollution?

    Recently i have stopped watching pro wrestling for somewhat related reason.

    I have been a pro wrestling fan for over 20 years (through good and bad believe me) but this latest steroid business in the WWE has me turning it off completely. I even wrote a letter to WWE to explain this to them.

    I understand it is up to each individual performer in the industry what he does with his body, but I no longer want to support these large companies (WWE, TNA) that evidently do not have a proper wellness program in place to prevent all the drug use. They are perpetuating the horrible lifestyle that is leaving so many of these guys dead before they are 50. I feel guilty providing ratings/revenue for a company that doesnt care about its employees enough.

    Just as I now feel a levelof guilt for patronizing an industry that could be damaging.

    I am not a militant environmentalist or anything close to it, but I do feel responsibility for things like this, and try to do things to play what little part I can. I take my own reusable shopping bags at the grocery store, I recycle, I buy organic foods. But I drive a normal old gas car... I wear leather... all of that fun stuff.

    I have not come to a conclusion about all of this. I want to learn more obviously, and it is hard to dump something that I have really grown to love in a very short amount of time.


    I want to thank Frank Kozik for most of this information, as I have plundered many of his words to talk about my own issues with this. Thank you, Frank.

Post Title

Vinyl Morality


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/vinyl-morality.html


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Friday, September 7, 2007

Flickr

    Most of my photos here are linked to Photobucket, but the organization there leaves something to be desired. I have this Flickr account that was not really getting used all that much, so I am keeping an album on there of my dirty little habit you so faithfully read about.



Post Title

Flickr


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/flickr.html


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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chicken Fever Ultimo by Sinbad Toys

    ¡Viva la raza! El Pollo Fiebre (Chicken Fever) Ultimo is a collaboration between Sinbad Toys, Rong Zi and Kaiju-Taro. It was released along with another Chicken Fever (Uno Dos Tres Version) in late April this year.

    At first I didn't know what to think of Chicken Fever. I was very new to the Eastern vinyl collecting world (I still am in so many ways), and I had never seen this figure before. There were teaser banners on kaiju-taro for what appeared to be a lucha libre themed toy coming out. I was very excited to see what was happening, but when I saw that it was a mutant chicken, well, color me unimpressed.

    I was coming into this with little or no knowledge of Japanese fight figures or of the existing Chicken Fever sculpt. Here I was all excited that I may be able to get in on an exclusive monster toy from kaiju-taro and it would be a luchador!


    And it was a chicken all along.


    I was wanting Godzilla type beasts or melting skeletons or something like that.

    Well, fast forward a few months in my kaiju collecting life, and I now have an established little vinyl toy wrestling collection. I went a little nuts on vintage Tiger Mask figures... some Gargamel fight figures... Kozik's colorways of El Panda and Tequila... even a Kinnikuman themed Secret Base Skullbrain thrown in there for good measure. As I am trying to round out this wrestling shelf in the Detolf with a little variety, the Chicken Fever Ultimo comes up for sale on the skullbrain board. This time I had a different perspective on the genre and decided to pick it up!


    I'm going to try a new category here: Header. Not all figures I have came with headers... and some come with not only headers but included artwork as was seen with the Eriagun from last week. So I want to talk about if a header is BLAH or if it truly needs to be shown off. I may go back and add this to my previous reviews also... sort of like the packaging for my Kinnikuman Romandoh toys. I am a graphic designer after all!

    I will try to head all my new posts with the headers of the toys! FUN!!

    Header //3.5 out of 5//:
    The artwork you see at the top of this article is very clean and colorful. I think the type choices go well with the toy, and the graphical lucha masks are a cool touch.
    The cool little lucha mask icon is a nice as it combines elements of a traditional lucha mask with Chicken Fever's mutated beak.

    While I prefer header art that has a more personal touch, this is approaching a more polished, professional look and is not so bad. I think it works.



    Sculpt //3 out of 5//:
    The Chicken Fever sculpt is original and not so original at the same time. How many mutant chicken toys have you ever seen? Yea me either. But the general "fight stance" of this toy is something that has become pretty well established in the industry... particularly with Secret Base toys. The exaggerated arms ending in clinched fists (or boxing gloves as seen with many Secret Base figures) and the short stumpy legs are common in this genre.

    The head is what sets the Chicken Fever apart from his ghostly cousins at Secret Base. The large cranium, little beady eyes, textured face, little pointy teeth, little horns and the dramatic crest on top of the head... these are all nice touches in making this figure stand out.


    The fact that it is cast in bright yellow vinyl helps it to stand out as well, obviously.


    I wish the figure was a bit better balanced. Because of the tiny legs and giant head, Mr. Pollo is a bit top heavy. Add in his long arms and cape/mask and you have a figure that has to be positioned just right lest he fall face first before his big match even starts. The arms have to stay down with the knuckles close to the surface to get the best balance. With the arms up or out, it just becomes very easy to tip over.

    Paint //2.5 out of 5//:
    While technically the paint on the figure is done well, there just isn't much of it. The gold highlights are the best part of the paint application... adding emphasis on his torso and the bridge of the nose, and balancing the color out by putting the same fold on the fingernails and toenails on the extremities.


    The orange shorts, however, leave me wanting more. There is a singlet sculpted into this figure, but it just seems to be ignored. I think there could be some cool paint applications if this whole outfit was emphasized and not just the shorts. Also, I don't know if the orange color itself is the best, although I don't really have an idea of what a suitable alternative would be... maybe a red like the cape he is wearing would work a little better.


    I like the detail work on the little eyes and the tiny little teeth... very cool touches, but unfortunately these are covered up by the included mask.

    Other than the gold highlights and the shorts, the figure does not have much in the way of paint. I'm not saying it should be slapped on in layers, but to me this minimal paint application leaves this figure feeling just a little plain.

    Coolness //4.5 out of 5//:
    Despite our rocky beginnings, the Chicken Fever and I have formed a very stable relationship. He is already going to score bonus points with me because he is a wrestler, but when you add in a real cloth mask and a CAPE.... now you're talking!


    El Pollo Fiebre Ultimo comes with a spandex-like mask as well as a bright red cape. These are awesome additions that really make this little chicken one of a kind.

    There are some issues with these, however.

    The red rings around the eye area of the mask seem to just be ironed on when they should be attached much more firmly. It is not easy to get the mask on and off, and all the tugging makes the already peeling-off eye holes want to come off even more.
    The sides actually even came already unattached from the green fabric.

    The velcro on the neck strap of the cape looks like it wants to come off as well... it is simply glued on instead of sewn.


    The mask itself is very tight and with the horns and beak, very tough to get on and off the figure. I thought it was going to either tear the mask or break part of the figure both times. And after I had taken the mask off and put it back on, the elastic around the bottom had stretched a little out of shape like Larry David's sleeves in that one episode of Curb your Enthusiasm. This could have worked a little better I think if the mask opened in the back with velcro instead of being pulled off over the top of his big head and comb.


    My solution... I'm leaving the mask on! This figure is meant for the mask in my opinion. I only took it off really to see the little guy's face for the first time and to give all my thousands of blog fans a peek at the mystery!


    The fact that this guy is a luchador makes him great to me. I grew up with pro wrestling being a big part of my life, and in recent years I have become very interested in Mexican wrestling and the mystique and pageantry of masked wrestling in Mexico and other countries.

    Value //3 out of 5//:
    This figure was limited to 30 I believe, and was fairly inexpensive in comparison to other similar pieces. While still it is pricey for what essentially is a hollow vinyl toy, you can still find these on the after market for around retail price. Because of the theme I find it personally a better value.


    Overall //4 out of 5//:
    Positives: Unique; MASK!; CAPE!; cockfighting without the cruelty to animals!

    Negatives: Plain figure outside the mask and cape; iffy balance; mask tough to take on and off; cape velcro and eye holes not well glued


    Fans of lucha and Japanese fight figures looking for a quirky little monster to add to your collection, look no further. There are a few Chicken Fevers out there, but only Ultimo has a MASK and CAPE. I would recommend this figure to anyone in the market for such... but for someone just looking for a cool figure, this might not be for you. The fight figures are in a world by themselves from the larger Godzilla style kaiju toys!






Post Title

Chicken Fever Ultimo by Sinbad Toys


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/chicken-fever-ultimo-by-sinbad-toys.html


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Monday, September 3, 2007

I shall overcome or The Conspiracy!

    It always seems to me that the modern marvels of cell phones, computers, credit cards, online bookings, DTH or music system are always conspiring against me. It’s almost like each of them have been selected as snipers to be used in the second edition of Reservoir Dogs to harass me to the extent of beating the shit out of my mental faculties.

    Wiser people before me have suggested that examples prove theories better so here are a few:

    1. I’m currently expecting to get an amount of Rs. 1832 to be refunded to my Credit Card account. The transaction took place in February.
    2. I recently reversed a purchase of Rs. 13649 on my Debit Card because of some shoddy customer service at an Essar-Virgin Mobile Store. It’s supposed to take effect in the next 48 hours.
    3. My mobile charger conked off 2 weeks back and I’d to spoil 3 hours running from store to store on a Sunday morning hunting for the innocuous looking instrument
    4. At any point of time, my broadband modem might just hang. It has some stupid problem that 2 different service executives have failed to rectify.
    5. I’m yet to fill the form the cable operator wants me to fill to get Star Cricket permanently on my TV.


    Screw the 21st century comfort of ATMs and Credit Cards and Internet. I, for sure, led a more hassle free life in the last century!

    The funny thing is once you actually get all or any of this sorted , there is this definite sense of accomplishment but the whole process might just leave you too exhausted for you to even realize that it’s over…

Post Title

I shall overcome or The Conspiracy!


Post URL

http://ohjustinbiebier.blogspot.com/2007/09/i-shall-overcome-or-conspiracy.html


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