Notes : 11/06 - 12/06


December 31, 2006


These arrived in a special Christmas goodie box from Andre and Autumn. Not only are they incredibly awesome and an example of something I've blogged about before (because they are so neat!), but they are also eye-searingly bright! If you're looking at this blog then you've probably seen my work and thus you can guess I'm a fan of eye-searingly bright colors!

But wait, THERE'S MORE! They were made in Detroit! AND, they each have articulated wrists, elbows, shoulders and knees! ARTICULATION! I love it!

Their makers even have a MySpace page. And even though MySpace makes me feel out-of-Internet-touch* you should check 'em out!

* - Whenever I go to a MySpace page I always think "People use this?! It looks like 1997 all over again!" But apparently people do.

December 8, 2006

To follow a bit on the Apocalypse Now post, we watched Akira recently and again, even though I knew what would happen, I was completely floored re-watching this movie. I originally saw the movie on videotape in 1992, not long after it came out. I've also had the good fortune to see it in a theatre, watching it at The Kentucky Theater, sometime after my viewing in 1992. I don't know that I've seen it in about ten years, but I got it again recently to watch here in Dublin.

It holds up incredibly well. I think I forgot to breathe several times during the film. The bike is a great piece of industrial design; it slithers and gallops along in the movie like a snake-and-stallion fusion gone awry. Apparently a couple of people and organizations have had a go at recreating the bike in real-life. The climax of the movie contains a terrific (and oft-copied now in the digital age) scene of bodily transformation.

November 21, 2006

We watched Apocalypse Now last night. RTE often shows movies in a thematic grouping over the course of a few weekends. This was part of "War Season" which included Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan. I had never seen the former and have some misgivings about the latter, but I sat through all of them.

Apocalypse Now is easily my favorite of the three; it's one of my favorite movies, period. I am always drawn into watching it if it's on. The scene above is just amazing. I know it's coming and still it blows me away every time I watch the movie. I think it's the metaphorical power of bodily transformation, which this blog is largely about, combined with the magic trick of something from nothing (a form rising out of the "blank" water) that art is largely about. Perhaps it largely defies explanation. Either way, it's an amazing cinematic scene.

November 20, 2006

Pink Tentacle has a series of links to dekotora photo albums. Apparently, dekotora are decorated trucks found in Japan. They are also called "art trucks." I really like these truck photos. I think I'm going to live in one.

November 19, 2006

So, the Thundercats got me thinking about my true fantasy/sci-fi/non-human, but humanoid, nerd love from the 80s - the Sectaurs. I've never been a Pitchfork reader or really into proving that I was into that super-obscure band/book before anyone else, but if I was like that, I'd be the king for my love of Sectaurs.

I still remember the quizzical looks I got from my extended family the Christmas I had announced I got "Sectaurs." I believe, to their ears, it sounded like I had gotten something much too adult for a nine-year-old. Anyway, the toys were really imaginative, and, although not super-articulated, they were well-designed for the times. Four of the figures came with large hand-puppet insects that they could ride on. I still have the best one, the giant tarantula which gave me many opportunities to scare my cousins. My older sister, being a trooper, and just as much into sci-fi as I was, was not phased at all by a giant spider crawling up her arm. Here's an interesting mention in a puppet-building article that details the patented construction of the Sectaur insect-beasts.

The figures themselves ran the gamut from almost human, such as Dargon (pictured right) to mostly bug, such as Skulk (pictured left). They had a mix of sci-fi and fantasy accessories such as bug-like swords and shields plus computer stations and laser guns for the Hyve, the giant playset. The toys more or less flopped and I received every toy but one for Christmas of 1984, as they were drastically reduced in price.* The only one I didn't get was Mantis, the good guy mystic. I played with all of these intensely with Dargon, the hero, and Spidrax, the chief villain, showing the most wear. This past Summer, I sold quite a bit of my old toy collection to take up less space for packing and to fund my new interest in model-building. I listed all but two of the Sectaurs (Night-flyer Dargon and Skulk and Tarantulas, the best two) on eBay. They were immediately scooped up by a collector who praised their fine condition. He couldn't believe his luck in finding so many in good condition at once and wanted to know if I had more squirreled away. I had to tell him these were my actual childhood toys - they hadn't come from some magic deadstock box discovered in some out-of-the-way toy store.** I have an original Optimus Prime, an original Grimlock, an original v2 Snake Eyes, and some other special 80s toys, but honestly the Sectaurs are the most memorable to me.

Check out this great Sectaurs commercial from YouTube. That Hyve was way better than any Castle Greyskull.

* - We had some lean Christmases before and my parents could be softies. What can I say? It was awesome!

** - Sectaurs are one of the few childhood toys that I would look for in mint condition as they were just so weird and cool.

Sectaurs are copyright Coleco.

November 18, 2006

So, Thundercats are retro-big here in Ireland. I didn't know any other kids that watched it when I was younger. The show came on after school when I was ten (1985 for those keeping track at home). The mix of fantasy/sci-fi/non-human, but humanoid, characters was gold for me and it, for awhile, held the title of favorite show. I remember running through the woods and fields of my rural homestead rallying imaginary Thundercats sidekicks to fight imaginary evildoers.*

Interestingly, and unbeknownst to me until I looked it up for this blog post, Thundercats was drawn by a Japanese studio. Not only that but the studio that did Thundercats, TopCraft, was the forerunner to the famous Studio Ghibli of Mononoke and Spirited Away fame. I did recognize at the time that the look of the show was a cut above Sunbow's G.I. Joe. It's interesting looking back that I was seeing so many shows that were either Japanese or Japanese-influenced. I watched Battle of the Planets/Gatchaman**, Robotech/Macross/Southern Cross/Mospeada, Thundercats, Ultraman and Transformers/Diaclone*** and I had no idea where they came from. I had a vague feeling that they weren't from America, maybe, but I took them to be part of the regular fabric of fiction.

I've seen several Irish hipsters with the Thundercats logo emblazoned on their T-shirts (worn underneath a hip corduroy jacket, natch). I saw the logo on a poster in a teenager's bedroom on a Irish-language TV show ("Aifric", which is sort of like the Irish "Blossom", if you must know). Thundercats have a presence in the comics' shops as well. I thought it was just a blip in the US, so I was surprised to see that it ran for five seasons.

* - There weren't that many kids in my neighborhood, alright?

** - This was the show growing up, although again I didn't know anyone else who watched it beside my sister. I just found DVDs for all the episodes at a local rental place and I am psyched!

*** - Admittedly, Transformers was heavily Americanized.

November 17, 2006

Yeah, I know if you care about children you should give them steroids so they can grow real mus-kles, but this is undoubtedly the next best thing! I have intended to mention this on the blog many times, but am only now getting around to it.

I have seen a similar version of muscles-for-kids in a Superman costume commercial. In the Superman version, which came out to coincide with the movie, the child dons a loose-fitting Superman shirt which is then blown up constantly via a fan worn around the waist. So, you're turning the kid into a wacky inflatable man as seen on used car lots (well in the US, anyway). I think this image to the right comes from the Argos online catalog which is like an online Sears catalog for Ireland.

But anyway, in the whole "aspiring to transform your body" thing I talk about here, this image is hard to beat. I'm not sure if I would have liked this or not when I was a kid. I had some Spider-man "underoos" and my aunt made me a Spider-man mask out of a ski mask that was pretty cool. I'll bet the Red Ranger here gets pretty hot.

I also like stacking the pic over top of the tracksuit fella below.

November 16, 2006

I've been really grooving on Nu Gundam lately. The heart of the Gundam saga is the conflict between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. Char is considered the more complex character as he is bad with a good side (in original Gundam), good with a bad side (in Zeta Gundam) and principalled but bad in the finale, Char's Counterattack. The Nu Gundam is Amuro's suit for this final encounter. I think it's the asymmetric wing that really makes the form, with the rhythm of the charcoal-yellow-white forms contributing nicely.

Courtesy of the New York Times report on the SEMA show, I learned not only a new word but that that word applies to a phenomenon emerging in Detroit as I was leaving - "donk." The bulk of the article concerned the use of the "suede" hot rod look on other custom cars*, but "donk" earned a note from the Grey Lady. Donk refers to customizing late-70s/early-80s GM A-bodies with candy paint and giant wheels (I think the industry standard wheel now is 16 or 17 inches, with the donk wheels measuring 24 inches +). Cars have always struck me as being rather figurative, but the donk look really makes a car into a character. Maybe the large size of the wheels suggest separate limbs extending from the body of the vehicle?

I learned recently that the Dublin word for the "chav" phenomenon I discussed in a previous post is "scanger". I don't know yet if this is a derogatory (or perhaps I should say "inflammatory" word as it's clearly derogatory) word, so please excuse my usage. Scanger refers broadly to loutish young men who are self-identified with Britain and Ireland's quasi-hip-hop culture. There is a very derogatory term "knacker" which is sometimes interchanged with "scanger" but it is considered impolite bordering on racist as it refers to Ireland's Traveller community (although it should be noted I used the word racist for emphasis as Travellers are not considered a separate ethnic group from the Irish). Getting back to the scangers, they are generally blamed for all of middle-class societies ills (or inconveniences, as it were), and are depicted as drunk, loud, quarrelous youth generally gumming up the social works. To be sure, I've seen more than a few "hardos" prowling the Dublin streets who I got the distinct feeling were not afraid of a fight (or threatening one). But as is the case with lots of outsider youth groups, there's more show than go.

* - The suede look is definitely the best look for a car, period. Unfortunately the angular Tron-like cars I tend to favor, such as Ford's 80s Mustang, the SVO, would probably look terrible in matte black.

Nu Gundam is trademark Bandai.

November 16, 2006

I watched District 13 the other night, the French sci-fi parkour action movie. It was pretty fun and of course the parkour sequences were great. I was a bit disappointed though because I swear some friends and I invented parkour when I was in high school. We would jump on stuff and do made-up moves all the time when we were in the city. We called it "freestyle walking." We joked for awhile that we would make our schools sanction it as an official sport (because we weren't on any of the actual sports teams!).


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