Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy your holiday as much as possible. I'm taking a few days off, no long articles the next week. Hopefully the new year will hold some pleasant surprises for us all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lego + Back to the Future will happen!

Again with the news? Well, I actually have something to say about these news, and you can't really call it news when Lego themselves broke the story.

Here's my opinion: Lego just can't do anything wrong at this point.

And they're beating all other toy makers in the process. The modular buildings and massive Star Wars sets are doing it for the adult collector. The mini-figures and Ninjago are taking everything away from more conventional action figures. Lego is also beating the others in price, playability, creative designs. Honestly, name one collector who'd rather have the Hobbit action figures than the new Lego Hobbit sets!

The Cuusoo project have been something refreshing, different. Something new. It's basically sets that are designed by fans, and voted on by fans. At 10000 votes, Lego decides if they can more along with the project, realizing it. 

The Minecraft set (to the left) is such a set, and if I had been just a tiny bit interested in Minecraft, I'd be all over it. Multiples. The reason Cuusoo is such a good idea, isn't just that we're getting fan-designed sets, but that fans are allowed to think beyond the regular boundaries of Lego - basically anything goes, anything can be submitted to Lego, and it's up to other fans to promote the set and get the ten thousand votes.
Fearless Photog

In a way, Cuusoo reminds me of a more serious version of Mattel's one-time deal, "design a figure", which led to Fearless Photog. Mattel, acting their usual self, didn't come through with their promise to make Nathan Bitners "Heroic warrior of cameras" back in the 80s. But they eventually made him, earlier this year. A cool figure, but way too late. Picture borrowed from Poe Ghostal, who has a blog worth checking out

Obviously, not all projects that reach 10000 votes can be done, since Lego has to work out rights to make the sets. For instance, we'd have a hard time getting a Cuusoo Transformers set, since the rights to Transformers construction sets are at.. Hasbro I believe. 

But Lego and the Cuusoo group are obviously optimistic about the Back to the Future set. And that's a good thing! It's about time we got good BTTF toys!
Remember Mattel's massive fiasco last month, when they revealed the steaming pile of excrement that was their "screen-accurate prop replica" of the Hoverboard from Back to the Future movies? Well, luckily Mattel isn't the only toy maker allowed to touch the amazing BTTF franchise. 

This has me seriously excited at least! Will you be in time for this set? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Marizpan Confection Makes Christmas (for me anyway)

Again, like last year (and the previous couple of years), I have been making marzipan for Christmas. It's not really difficult, and it makes for great, small gifts. Wrap them up in cellophane, or just in a napkin. Place them in a tiny box, and you'll have a perfect little gift that people will love (unless they're allergic to nuts, that is).

Marzipan is made from almonds, usually. You can use other nuts as well. I have had success using a mix between almonds and hazel nuts. 
I mix ground nuts and powdered sugar with a 60/40 ratio. Use less powdered sugar if you want it more bitter in taste, and obviously more if you want it sweeter. 
Mix this together with a tiny amount of liquid. You can use water if you want, or orange juice. I prefer to use egg white. The egg white makes the marzipan easier to work with, to mold. 
If you want white marzipan, you'll have to remove the shell of the almonds or nuts. There's no quick way to do that. Dip them in boiling water until the shell starts peeling. Simply remove the shell. Easy enough, but now you'll have to let the almonds dry up again. I never find patience to do this, so I simply make the marzipan using the entire almond. 

It looks far less exciting when it's presented like this, but the marzipan balls are essentially ready to be eaten. We're going to cover them in chocolate too. You could also bake them in the oven if you want. 

Now comes the time to be creative. If you want to have a core of chocolate, roasted nuts, jam or fudge, then just wrap the marzipan around. These particular ones are just pure marzipan through and through. 
I continue to dip them in melted chocolate, before I roll them in chopped almonds and hazel nuts.

I also did a batch where I rolled them in sprinkles. This was a disaster - obviously I shouldn't have rolled balls in the sprinkles, I should have sprinkled the sprinkles over the balls. It's all in the word. The sprinkles were assimilated by the melted chocolate and well.. Tasted pretty good though. 

Again, great gifts. Or just a snack that will bring forth that Christmas spirit. 

Enjoy, people!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sgt. Savage and His Screaming Eagles

Today we're all treated to a guest article from my good friend, Aaron.

An enthusiast like my self, Aaron has unique knowledge on several vintage toy lines. What's cool is that Aaron has very specific passions. He's an avid collector of anything Indiana Jones, for instance. He's also getting increasingly better at writing about his hobbies, which has led to him starting his own blog. It's absolutely worth checking out. Leave him comments, and encourage him to continue writing.

But like all good people, Aaron isn't a one-trick pony. It's not just the Indy toys. He knows a thing or two about more obscure toy lines as well.

Like Sgt. Savage. This is where I'm at an absolute blank. I believe I have a Sgt. Savage figure, I know the toys are slightly bigger than G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero figures. I know they were released sometime in the mid-90s. I know the story is set to World War 2. And that's it.
Luckily Aaron steps up to share his knowledge on Sgt. Savage!

Read on!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Selling out? Expanding and changing the blog, advertisement

Toys and Bacon is simply something I do for fun, and to keep myself and my writing sort of disciplined.
I think it's fantastic to get feedback and positive comments, because that means someone else are enjoying the blog too. That feedback, along with the pats on the back I give myself is the only thing I get out of the blog. I make exactly no money out of my writing, and the articles I have published will not get me a better job than the one I already have.

 You may notice a couple of ads in the right column. They have been there for 8 months, and haven't generated anything. I believe people have to click them for me to make money, and naturally no one does that. I wouldn't either. But I am tempted to have more/different ads, or maybe even a donation option. I put a lot of time in to the blog, and it would be cool to get something of substance back. I mean, even just a couple of $, to support the occasional minifigure would be nice.

Now comes the question of generating more visitors, because - believe it or not - this isn't the most popular site on the web. I have a couple of loyal readers, and honestly, I love you all. I also have a couple of visitors coming in through google searches. But really, Toys and Bacon can barely even be considered a niche site. While I feel that some of my articles are fairly universal, it should also be obvious that the content is tailor made for the absolutely selected (and awesome) few.

I will not sell out, of course. I will not start writing about sports, cars or fashion. I will not publish youtube unboxings or funny cat videos. I will not do breaking news or thorough review of new toys. I would like to simply continue writing articles about the stuff I like.  And there actually is one thing I like, that also happens to be a favorite among the average internet user: top lists. I notice that many of my lists have been a lot more popular than my other articles. So with that in mind, I will try to publish more top lists.

Another change will happen with the schedule. People just aren't reading the blog in the weekend, and the usual Figure Friday article have easily been the one I've worked on the most. This discrepancy can't continue. I think I will continue with articles three times per week, but I'm moving the heavy toy article to another day. Friday could maybe either be a shorter, meta-article, a few quick thoughts on a specific subject, or maybe even just a weekend-dinner suggestion?

So, this is where you readers come in. What day would be best suited for the Figure Friday-style article? What would it be called? What kind of lists would you like to see? What other changes could be done? Any suggestions are appreciated.

Anyway, no Figure Friday today, obviously.

Enjoy your weekend, people, and remember to share your passions!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Decepticon Headmasters w/heads

Friday, I showed off a nice little lot of Decepticon Headmasters I picked up on ebay. I wouldn't say I scored a fantastic deal, seeing as none of them had any accessories. But they are still extremely popular - and valuable toys to the point where they were totally worth the $25 for the lot- price, even if I plan to use them just for parts.

I'm not a completist by any means, not when it comes to the robots anyway. So I don't necessarily care if a robot is missing a gun or something. They still display nicely.

But the Headmasters are different. Their accessories are body parts - in both/all modes! Their weapons have a tendency to be an integrated part of the disguise mode. Like a tail, or a wing. And their drivers - the actual Headmasters - are just that. The heads of the robots. All of them are completely headless in robot mode, and one of them lacks his head in the alternate mode too!

Take Snapdragon, for instance. I'll have a hard time displaying him as a dinosaur at all, without his actual headmaster head.

But I realized something cool: Regardless of their lack of accessories, suddenly, I actually had all the Decepticon Headmasters: Scorponok, Mindwipe, Skullcruncher, Weirdwolf and Snapdragon.

Almost all of them, that is. I'm missing quite possibly the coolest one: Apeface.

But I couldn't let them stand there without their heads. I found my KO Japanese Headmaster Head set, and found the ones that fit best in terms of colors and style.

Weirdwolf got the head from Grand Maxiums. The teal color was a dead match, but obviously the style doesn't quite work. Grand Maximus is quite the hero, while Weirdwolf is the exact opposite: A vicious villain.

Skullcruncher got the purple head with the spikes. I have no idea who this is, but with the wicked grin, I'd assume it's a Decepticon. The style works out, but the colors aren't quite there.

The KO headmaster I used for Snapdragon actually transforms into a tiny elephant. It doesn't make sense, but that could be said about a lot of Transformers. Never the less, it works ok as Snapdragon's head, at least in robot mode. The style is sort of animalistic, and the colors are good enough.
And finally, I actually have the driver/head for my Mindwipe, and strangely enough, it was the best match too.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finding the Christmas Spirit

These days it's difficult, for many reasons. The biggest reason is that Christmas starts way earlier than it used to. You don't even have to go that far back. 15-20 years ago, Christmas decorations in late November was unheard of, let along early November. This has watered out, weakened the esoteric emotion of a potential Christmas spirit. Then there's the fact that Christmas no longer is about emotions. Well, that's not entirely correct, but the emotions connected to Christmas today are different, in some way stronger.
Ideally, the holiday should be about getting together with family and friends, having nice meals and showing you care about them. For many, it's still like that. But there's the added pressure. The extremely high expectations. The rabid consumerism.

Make no mistake about it: I like to buy stuff, and I like stuff in general. I have closets filled with stuff.
I also love to give stuff to others. I take pride in finding tailor-fit gifts for the people I care about. But I'm not sure I like the pressure of having to buy and receive gifts just because the stores, the market forces tells me to. I don't shy away from the responsibility, I take it as a challenge. But that's just it, it shouldn't be a responsibility - and I know many people, especially parents, look at it that way. Where have we gone wrong?

I will  get back  to this topic, with even more rant. And hopefully some good words as well, because there are tons of elements of Christmas, and gift giving I love. Home made gifts, for instance. Love it! Whether it's custom made piggy banks from my sister, cakes from my mother, or a scarf from Roxi.

The point today was finding the Christmas spirit the right way. No Coca Cola commercials, no 24 hour open malls, not by spending thousands of moneys on gifts, not by being forced to live up to expectations.
But by getting together with good people, eating and drinking, having a good time.

We got told to bring seasonal cakes and cookies. We got presented with Christmas brewery - and after a while some really nice single malt whisky. A great evening, Christmas spirit the right way.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Figure Friday: Ebay Deals

A couple of years ago, I was camping ebay every day, searching for good deals. I had at all times at least 50 watched auctions, ranging from single G.I. Joe figures to enormous lots of various 80s toys. Sure enough, I managed to score quite a few great deals - and I'll tell about them in a bit - but more often than not, other collectors picked up the scent, and the auction ended in a bidding war.

And with bidding war, I mean that the auction ended for a fair price. Because buying toys off of ebay was significantly cheaper than any alternative for me. Here, in the far reaches of the world, we had no toy swaps, no conventions, and a more or less dead personal ad market.

But yeah, I did pick up a few good deals.
The reason a good deal presents itself may be because the auction is listed in the wrong category. A toy hunter quickly learns his or her specific searches, also within less relevant categories. It may be to do a simple "Unopened Transformer" search in the "Toys and Hobbies > Other" category.
It could also be auctions that simply have vague titles. Like an auction I picked up listed as "toy jet", that turned out to be a complete G.I. Joe Skystriker in great condition.
And then you have great deals that for some reason simply slip under the radar. I scored an unopened Cobra FANG for $9.90. Why so cheap? Well, it was a Japanese box, and no one else placed bids. Good for me.

Most of the great deals can be found in the auctions where it's obvious the seller has no clue what's for sale. It could be people cleaning up their lofts, attics and storage units, and just dumping them in lots on ebay, without knowing what they really had. If they listed them as auctions, be sure it would turn into a bidding war. But just as often, they list them as "buy now", and if you're the first to see a cool auction, don't let it pass you by.

This lot wasn't super cheap, at $25. But it was still, in my opinion, a good deal. Neither of these are complete, and all of them are missing vital pieces (like their heads), but it was something I couldn't pass up.

Three Decepticon Headmasters: Weirdwolf, Skullcruncher and Snapdragon. And one Autobot mini-Headmaster, Nightbeat.
Nightbeat had some broken parts, Skullcruncher has a scratched canopy, but the other two look in decent condition, apart from being dusty and dirty.

I mainly wanted the lot for Snapdragon, a fantastic toy. But this particular example has some discoloration. That is not really a big issue for me, as I know the cure for discoloration. The missing heads, tails and weapons? It doesn't sound expensive, but it is. The heads command high prices, unless you're patient. I can be patient. I don't mind the hunt for missing accessories. It's extremely fun to finally complete toys like that.

And if I fail finding that final wing for Snapdragon, I could always just buy a complete one, and use this for spare parts, or let my nephew play with it.

It's easy to be tempted to do the whole ebay thing again, searching for random old toys at great prices, but I think I'll stick with picking up those selected pieces I actually want.

That said, in the near future I'll share a few ebay tricks I've taught myself over the years, and of course, should you have any question or comments, just click below.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Box Art of MOTU Vehicles

It's really the weirdest thing. Masters of the Universe - the deliciously silly, yet totally awesome 80s toy line, with all its ridiculous characters and brightly colored insanity had quite possibly the coolest box art of any toy line... ever.

And I say this, as a hardcore G.I. Joe collector, who also has a strong passion for the transforming robots, two toy lines with seriously wicked artwork on both figure cards and boxes.

I guess it's the discrepancy that amazes me the most, because even back in the late 80s, I found Masters of the Universe to be a bit silly. Yes, this was a toy line that even to some kids was silly, yet the boxes of the vehicles and play sets had - for the genre - ultra-realistic paintings done by serious artists.

Fright Fighter and Blaster Hawk
The concepts were just hilarious, when you isolate them from the toy line and the over all idea behind MOTU: sorcery, sci-fi and and wonky playfeatures in a happy mix. But with a very limited amount of vehicles and playsets, they all pretty much ended up becoming 80s toy icons. Some more than others, of course.
And the art from the boxes and MOTU magazines? By God, did they help to elevate these toys to a higher level.

I'm going to show the art of a good handful of the vehicles. I guess it would make sense to also show their toy versions, but truth be told, there's not really any differences. The vehicles are depicted surprisingly similar to how the toys looked, which makes this even weirder. Somehow, Mattel had found artists - Rudy Obrero, William George, Earl Norem - that could take utter and total sillyness, paint it the way it actually looked - and still make it cool.

We'll start with two of the later vehicles: Fright Fighter and Blaster Hawk. Obviously two flying planes, one for the heroic warriors, one for the evil gang of Skeletor. What's particularly cool here is that you can see the playset Eternia in the background. The perspective makes it looks huge.

We move on to a favorite of mine, and I've mentioned it a couple of times before: Battle Bones. This great skeletal dragon also served as a carrying case for the figures, and it worked just as well for the heroes as for the villains. Notice how stoic the figures are, as they were painted as close as possible to the posture of the toys. Artist William George painted this monumental image, and he is the pen behind several of these pieces.

The impressive carrying case, Battle Bones. He-Man just has to pump his fist in the air. 
Can Battle Cat really be considered a vehicle? Or is it more of a character along sides the other heroic warriors? I think the latter one. But it does hold a figure, and it was sold in a box, instead of on a card. The original Battle Cat had no movable parts, if you exclude the removable armor. Yet it is one of the best toys ever made. The color scheme, the characteristics from cartoon and comics, the cool details on the armor, the sturdiness of the toy itself.
Probably the art that differs the most from how the toy looked, as the toy had significantly less details. But his pose is fairly accurate. Point of interest: The sky. Look at that toxic sky. You know Skeletor has been out on his business and poisoned the clouds, and now He-Man and his loyal friend, Battle Cat has to save Eternia again.

The mighty Battle Cat.
Land Shark was Skeletor's ride, and it doesn't get a lot sillier, unless you turn to more "funny" toy lines, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, the Land Shark would fit in with TMNT, which should say a lot. Yet, they took the effort to make a realistic and wicked piece of art to go along with the colorful metal jaws. Twice. First we see it alone, then in battle with He-Man's "Laser Bolt".

That piece is just too cool. Look at those teeth. And look at that creepy, tiny dragon in the front!
The Laser Bolt doesn't look practical, but He-Man doesn't seem to mind.
The vehicles often came in pairs - with that I mean they had a complementing vehicle in the other faction. Battle Cat had Panthor - Skeletor's purple cat. The above shows clearly that Laser Bolt and Land Shark complimented each other. The same can even be said about some figures, like Stinkor and Moss Man, or Jitsu and Fisto.

Fisto can be seen here, in an art piece featuring Stridor - the mechanical steed. Stridor too, had a mirror image in the opposite faction, in Night Rider.
It's interesting to see how full of action this image is, and Stridor does indeed look to be painted mid-jump. The toy was more mid-trot...

Notice how colorful the characters are, without really looking too silly. Well.. A bit silly maybe.

All these figures have so far been made in the contemporary toy line, Masters of the Universe Classics, but I fear we'll never see a Classics Stridor. So far, we've been treated to Classics Battle Cat, Panthor and Swift Wing, the horse of She-Ra. We have also seen the release of the impressive Wind Raider. It would surprise me if we see more vehicles in the line, all though Stridor would be a popular choice for the next vehicle slot. In addition, it would be an easy repaint to make Night Rider.
But I just think Mattycollector will take a different route, and try their best to make all the figures first. Lets face it, Classics is on the verge of being cancelled, and I doubt it will survive beyond Castle Grayskull. We can still hope.

I'll end this with two of my favorite pieces of MOTU art. They are favorites for different reasons. The first is just an impressive painting, with tons of action, and a very creepy depiction of an evil vehicle. The second is just a prime example of what I talked about in the introduction. A hilariously silly vehicle being painted as cool as humanly possible, making sure it retains a tiny bit of dignity.

The first is Monstroid. I'll let the image speak for itself, but I'll say that I love the idea of ancient monsters living in the cold, dark deep of the sea, emerging only when absolutely forced, then causing a complete chaos. A favorite figure of mine back in the day, Extendar, is making an appearance. I like that.

Earl Norem has been featured in a previous article. He's the artist behind this magnificent piece. 
Finally, to show the discrepancy between silly, borderline lame vehicles, and great fantasy artwork: It's the Dragon Walker. In my opinion, the Dragon Walker is by far the lamest among the MOTU vehicles, both for its useless play feature (it could move awkwardly along a plane surface), and for its looks. And that's saying a lot. Yet, I love this art work. There's something about the colors on the walker, and on the sky, the stern look on He-Man, the terrified evil warriors in the background, the tiny monster in the foreground. You see a vehicle where ancient magic and masonry has been blended with technology and science. And the whole piece just has that old time painting feel to it.

I'll get back to more MOTU artwork in the near future, but I'll let you in on something that isn't a secret any longer. I had Masters of the Universe toys as a kid, and I'm enjoying the current Classics toy line. But really, more so than the toys themselves, what I like most about this universe is the idea behind the toys, and the way they were presented to us.

Enjoy your day, people!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Girlfriend Cooks: Curry Chicken Soup

As the title says, it's nice to share the joy of cooking, and she's definitely not lost in the kitchen. Awesome chicken soup, spicy, healthy, and relatively easy to make.

Read on for the Curry Chicken Soup!