Monday, July 16, 2012

Box of Spiders

For the last two weeks I've been installing security cameras, microphones and DVRs at some of my Enforcement offices and truck scales.  It's been fun since the project involves 10 different sites, is going to require hardcoded IP addresses for the DVRs, running hundreds of feet of coax cable, soldering power tails, compressing BNC ends onto the cable, mounting the hardware and then getting it all working in conjunction.

Two additional aspects of this project make it even more fun ...

1)  I entered this project not knowing a single thing about AV equipment (and the project was delivered in a lump sum of several boxes with no diagrams and no instructions) so the learning curve hasn't been so much a steep one as it has been a vertical face that had to be ascended in quick order.

2)  I'm having to mount equipment and run cables through suspended ceilings that look like long unused sets from that old movie "Kingdom of the Spiders."

I hate spiders ... and octopuses or octopi.  Anything that outnumbers me in arms 4 to 1 has an unfair advantage in the biological pecking order and must be purged with fire, high velocity dual purpose explosive rounds or a tactical nuke dropped from orbit  ... and the sooner the better.

How I feel when I climb on a step ladder ... 


...and how I look when I push the suspended
ceiling tile up and out of the way.

 ... and what I fully expect to see when I do push the
suspended ceiling tile out of the way

... either that or Shelob.

The good news is that  where I'm working there aren't any Xenomorphs or a backdoors to Shelob's lair but there are a large amount of Black Widow and Brown Widow spiders ... two things I don't want to sink their fangs into me or inject me with their toxic venom.  You probably won't die from a Widow bite ... but you'll wish that you had ... and it can be hospital time.

Nope.  No Combat Incinerator units in stock.

Ditto on the 10mm Pulse Rifle with pump action grenade launcher.

I swear, the next time that I have to run cable, I'm going to invite a few friends along ...

Since the warehouse didn't have a 10mm Pulse Rifle, a Combat Incinerator unit or any spider proof combat armor, I settled for the next best thing and got me a can of RAID from supplies.  Armed with a potent poison of my own, in spray form, I began to count the dead and after they stopped twitching, I took some long forceps and placed the dead predators in a plastic box to show my coworkers.

As of this morning, the body count is 17 Black Widows and 1 Brown Widow.  All of these fatalities were taken from one site that I had to install equipment at.  I have four more sites (eight subsites) to put equipment in.  I wonder how many more of these I'll have to wade through ...?

Later that afternoon, the body count had increased by 3 additional Black Widows and 4 additional Brown Widows.  One Black Widow and one Brown Widow had built webs directly behind the exterior door handles of the office doors, meaning that if I hadn't looked first when I went to open the door to the office I would have wrapped my fingers around a great big world of hurt.

I'll keep you updated as the body count grows ... and looking at my box of spiders, I'm reminded of that old Drive By Trucker song ... "Box of Spiders."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Processed Plastic Company "Star Patrol" figures remembered!

Back in the late 1970's when STAR WARS first came out, a lot of toymakers were caught by surprise ... George Lucas had not only created a supernova in the science fiction film genre but he created a bottomless pit (full of money) in the space toy genre.  

Like I've said before, my early years were spent playing with Hasbro's Action Team 12" G.I. Joe and "green army men" mostly from companies like Processed Plastics and Marx.  When STAR WARS appeared on the scene, I quickly transitioned from G.I. Joe and army men to Kenner's STAR WARS action figures.  Oh, I remember the "Early Bird" set (mail order for Luke, Leia, R2D2 and Chewbacca) and waiting for the figures to hit the stores locally.  Then I remember spending the next year and a half trying to find the three hardest figures of the first twelve to ever get; Sand People, Death Squad Commander (why would you name a child's toy that?!) and the Jawa.


Well, George Lucas showed everyone that science fiction could not only sell at the box office but it could sell at the toy department as well.  Lo and behold, Processed Plastics, one of my old friends and childhood toy provider, noticed this fact and produced a line of "space" themed army men under the "Laser Team" and "Star Patrol" name lines.  The figures were pretty cool, for space army men, and you had your stereotypes as set by STAR WARS a year or so before.

STAR PATROL (with X-Wing Rocket) - a bag of fun and good times
from Processed Plastic Company, Montgomery Illinois. 
At $1.47, it was a bargain to any child.

So, the Star Patrol figures included a Han Solo type character (complete with space helmet and poised ray gun), a Chewbacca type character (big hairy alien with a big laser rifle), a Darth Vader type character (ominous death knight type with raised energy sword / lightsaber), Princess Leia type (skirted space chick in high boots standing next to a computer console), R2D2 type (a square, thin robot on two legs), a space monster (a cross between a turtle and a lobster and I swear I'd seen it before in some kind of '50's campy movie), and finally two Apollo era astronauts looking way out of place with the rest of the figures. 

The Apollo astronauts were simply blown up examples of the two astronauts that came with one of Processed Plastic Company's other space toys - the three stage Apollo rocket with blast off capsule (I had probably 3 of those growing up).

One of the more interesting rip-offs of this offering was the "X-Wing Rocket" - a blatant rip-off of the X-Wing fighter from STAR WARS.  But what is an "X-WING ROCKET"?  Well, to put it bluntly, it's an F-16 with an extra pair of wings and all four wings are raised / lowered into an "X" pattern.  Processed Plastic had previously issued a large scale (1:48?) plastic toy of a F-16 jet fighter, complete with opening cockpit (the whole top of the front of the jet actually opened) and detailed pilot (I was and still am a big fan of cockpits, pilots and control systems in toys and models ... I hated toy planes and models of planes that didn't come with detailed cockpits or pilots so even at a young age I was kind of a toy snob / connoisseur with high standards for what I would play with or what I would spend my childhood time letting entertain me).

Processed Plastic Company F16 ... you'll note the two, count them, two Vulcan cannon gun ports, one to each side whereas the real F16 only has one ...

Well, not really wanting to tool up another toy design when they had a perfectly good futuristic looking shape to begin with (and the F16 is called the "Viper" by its pilots, a homage to the three engined Colonial space fighter seen in Battlestar Galactica (the old series, the good series) so the guys at Processed Plastic Company took their F16 Fighting Falcon  toy, added a pair of wings (four total), shifted those wings to an X-configuration, renamed it to be an "X-WING ROCKET" and ta-dah!  Instant shelf filler geared towards the kid who just couldn't get enough space toys in their life.

 Here's a prime example of this toy, still in the (slightly shelf worn)  box, still with the K-Mart "gold key" sticker on it.  I recently picked it up on Ebay for $7.99 (and about double that for shipping and fondling).  Now it rests in my study as another reminder of one of the greatest childhoods that any kid ever had.

I remember these toys, as a child, being brand new on the toy shelves of stores like Woolco (RIP), K-MART (almost RIP) and others.  This was a large size, say 1:48 scale toy of the much smaller toy included in the LASER TEAM and STAR PATROL figure bags.  A lot of people didn't know about this toy but if you're a fan of the LT or SP toys and you thought that the little rocket plane that came with it was unique, I'm here to tell you that Processed Plastic made a much, much larger toy of it ... complete with opening cockpit and detailed pilot (so it passed my standards of entertainment for a toy plane).

But I never owned one of these ... by the time that Processed Plastic was filling the shelves with these toys I had moved on to other interests ... like fast cars, girls and heavy metal music.  Still, it's an interesting artifact from the supernova that STAR WARS ignited ... the X-WING ROCKET, also sold in a larger scale as the "Rocket Fighter" - the short range space fighter.  It mounted two Vulcan cannon ports and four big, fat Sidewinder missiles (which were removable for play).  I have two of these now, this boxed one and a loose one that is red and white with play scuffs, missing decals and faded chrome on the missiles.  When people visit my study, it's one of the first things that they see and they invariably have to hear the story behind this toy that they've never heard of.

If you're a fan of the old Processed Plastic "STAR PATROL" or "LASER TEAM" figures, there's great news!  A company has acquired the molds for these toys and is both reproducing them and selling them again! has the goods and here is the link as well as a picture.  Go get a bag of them and decorate your desk at work ... it's sure to invite comment and discussion from others who knew these toys and remembered them well.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

 Way back then.  1993, chasing sunsets and sitting on a brand new '93 Honda VFR750F.
Part of her wild years ... cherished memories.

 1995.  Right before our wedding ...
Now.  I got off work and came home at 3:15am the other morning, crawled into bed for my hour and a half of sleep before I had to go to my full-time job at MDOT and I was surprised when Cindy moved over in the bed and snuggled up next to me. A lot of things have happened lately in my life, in the lives of others that I know ... things that bothered me, things that undermined my faith in the institutions of love, devotion and marriage.  
I put my arms around Cindy and held her tight, kissed her on top of her head and told her that what we had together, as a couple, wasn't perfect by any means but compared to what others had then what we had actually was damn near perfect mainly because it works and it has worked for 17 years of marriage and 20 years of knowing each other and just being together. It works because we both work hard at what we have, it isn't easy sometimes, in fact sometimes it seems almost impossible to go on but we always make it, somehow and things always get better ... slowly but surely, things always get better. They always have and I have faith that they always will because we are two people who love each other and who consider our marriage to be a long term labor of love, not something that is temporary and disposable when we don't like it anymore. 

Cynthia Llyn, I love you and I wouldn't trade you for anyone else in the world. You are my strength when I falter and my hope when I despair. Thank you for sharing your life with me, for giving me two very beautiful and very wonderful little girls, for being my soulmate since 1995, my best friend since 1993, and my friend since 1992. 
 Happy 17th wedding anniversary, doll. I love you with all my heart and soul.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Demonic possession and happiness ...

Apparently my '98 Lincoln became possessed today at work.  A few days ago I had a problem with the power door locks and trunk release, figured it was a fuse, found the fuse (it was blown), put a new fuse in and promptly blew that fuse as well so it's a short somewhere that I've got to track down.  Lately the car has been missing some, not enough to trigger a SES light on the dash just enough to buck and shake at low speeds ... almost like it's grumbling. 

All in moderation ... until today when I left work early this morning for Lucedale (at the state line) to install some security cameras and DVRs.  I hadn't gotten very far when I started to receive phone calls and emails and text messages that my Lincoln's horn was blowing ... not intermittently like when the car alarm goes off but just blowing all the time.  The car was locked, parked, not running and no one was around it.  Of course the only set of keys to the car were with me, east bound and down for the state line so all anyone at the office could do was stand around and stare at my demon inflicted Lincoln and wring their hands.  After causing much aggravation and annoying just about everyone at the office Jason Bolstad's brand new Kia Soul, parked next to my Lincoln, decided to join my car with his car alarm forming an even more annoying duet.  I'm told that my Lincoln's serenade of the other cars and trucks got a few other sympathetic horns to blowing as well. 

And then it just stopped.

And it never did it again the rest of the day.

The heat might have had something to do with it but I think it's a sign of the end times.

Worm sign!

On a much more happy note, I got in my pair of Taban Miniatures "Mutant Critters" in the mail today.  Mutant Critters : each pack contains one necrovorous and one burrowing worm. ... two 32mm pewter miniatures (22mm tall for the larva and 25 long for the centipede) ... I've been eyeing them for about two months now on Ebay, the retailer only had two left in stock and I kept putting off buying them but something told me to go ahead and get them so $20 bux later I've got the last two in his inventory.

 Ah, the joys of Microgaming.  Take a dollar or two,
add in pen and paper and dice ... and imagination.

One of my dioramas that I've put on the back burner is the scene from Metagaming's Microgame "Artifact" ... here is the scene in all of its two color ink and paper glory.

"This means war, ET."

Doug Potter's grisly depiction of American astronauts chancing upon the remains of an American Lunar Survey Team killed by Aliens trying to reclaim the mysterious "dingus" ... an artifact of XT origin which puts out more energy than goes into it.  I've wanted to make a diorama of this scene for many years now but just never had any suitable creatures to model the aliens on ... and now I do.  

Thanks, Taban!  

Pair these necrovorous worms with some detailing, some cobbled together backpacks, maybe some classic bubble helmets, an alien killing sphere or two and some kitbashing courtesy of some old Airfix 1:72 scale NASA Astronauts and this diorama is back to the forefront of the work bench.

Of course the scale is going to be off somewhat  ... the aliens in the diorama will probably be the same size or slightly larger than the astronauts but no where near as big as they seem to be in the illustration above.

On the other hand ... I do have some Ground Zero Games 15mm miniatures ... heavy EVA suited astronauts (loosely based on the Moebius design of EVA suit first seen in 1979's "ALIEN") and some of them are armed as well.  Some are even in zero grav floating poses (no base) so I may use those instead since the size difference between a 25mm necrovorous worm and a 15mm heavy EVA suited astronaut might just be what I'm looking for while still keeping the diorama small (under a square foot).

"You can have my dingus when you pry it from my cold, dead alien hands."

No problem, ET.  Happy to oblige.  We'll take it from here for God, Mom and Apple Pie!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Ready for the dip!

Got off my lazy butt, dug out my old Heritage Galacta 25mm figures which haven't seen the light of day in nearly three decades and decided to strip them and repaint them.  I've got a metal tub and some heavy duty paint stripper standing by so before they get dipped and scrubbed I thought I'd post my "loose" collection.  I've got a few unopened blister packs that I'm going to add when I can but for now this should be enough to get a game or two going with my family and friends.

Some sci-fi cops on their future Segway.  Yes, even in the future law enforcement will have to put up with having to deal with the stupidity generated by well meaning people who have good intentions but haven't served a single day behind a badge and therefore don't know jack crap about what it takes to either be a police officer or get the job done.  There's a third officer that I found after I took this picture and speaking of the picture, I think the one on the left is saying "YOU ride the Segway!" and the other one is saying "Negative.  I've got some parking tickets to write over by that doughnut shop."

Next we have the evil Empire ... three Sorcerer Knights (with energy sabers) in the back, four Stormtrooper Officers with lazer pistols and energy sabers and finally eight Stormtroopers with lazer rifles.  All are wearing body armor.

The Octopoids, some of my favorite pieces in the game, appear next to slither into the chemical soup.  From rear to front we have four Octopoid Squad Leaders, six Octopoid Grenadiers (with grenades, grenade bandoliers, and big ass blast cannon), and up front a single Octopoid Trooper (with lazer repeater).  How did I get so many Grenadiers and just one single Trooper?  Weird.

Three Imperial Heavy Power Armor Troops.  There's so much metal in these three pieces that I swear if you dropped these on your foot you'd be looking at X-rays and a cast in your future.

Three Imperial Stormtroopers in power armor ... I think.

The Rebels are represented with a Nausican Swordsman ("alien Jedi"), two Rebel Leader Swordsmen ("Jedi in body armor"), two huge Saurians, three Rebel Adventurers, six Female Assault Leaders (two girls for every Adventurer ... would make a great recruitment slogan) and the lonely Lesser Sauroid Adventurer.

The Robot faction weighs in with two Warbots, two smaller Security Bots and a Jammer Bot which is probably one of the worst casts and most useless figure in the game (short of the android which I didn't even bother to break out of storage).  Just for fun I put the Jammer Bot on top of the Warbot and it looked a lot scarier ... kind of like a cross between The Terminator and Mayor MacCheese.

The Planetary Strikers round out the bath  schedule with three Striker Officers and three Planetary Strikers.  I need at least three more Planetary Strikers to have three teams ... future purchase but since I tend to play with the more mainstream classic characters I'd rather just buy some more Imperial Stormtroopers instead.  Nothing like a game where a handful of Rebels are facing almost endless waves of Imperials. 

Update - I just pulled out my five (5!!!) unopened blister packs of figures, collected over the last twenty-five years from rare hobby shop finds in my travels across this once great nation.  I almost hate to open these up, it's like vandalizing a part of history ...

Heritage USA "ALIEN ADVENTURERS" 25mm scale Product # 2004 -  Original price stamped at $3.95 - includes (clockwise from top) Nausican Swordsman (with bent energy saber due to years of being slammed against the other figures in the pack), Greater Saurian, Squogg ("Squirrel Dog" - figure not used in MY games) and Lesser Saurian (with his back turned to us ... in fact, they've all got their backs turned to us ... stuck up figures).

Heritage USA "ROBOTS AND ANDROIDS" 25mm scale Product # 2007 -  Original price stamped at $3.95 - this pack contains from top to bottom Security Robot, Warbot, Android and Jammerbot.  The title is kind of misleading since there is only one android and it looks like a cross between C3PO and Maria from "Metropolis".  I don't use the Androids in my games ... if I do, I'm going to paint it up in space cop colors and stick it with the police as a supervisor or maybe some kind of traffic bot.

 Heritage USA "PLANETARY POLICE WITH GRAV SCOOTER" 25mm scale Product # 2008 -  Original price stamped at $3.95 - this pack contains three Planetary Police Officers and one Grav Scooter.  I'm still wondering how to fit these guys into my games ... they just seem out of place so maybe I'll just cobble up a 25mm diorama with them in it instead.  In fact, I don't think that I'm the only one who thinks this way as evidenced by the fact that this particular blister pack was taken off the rack and put back so many times that the store owners had to reinforce the punch hole with four staples just to keep it on the rack.

Heritage USA "ALIEN OCTOPOIDS" 25mm scale Product # 2011 -  No original price stamp but originally sold at $4.49 and marked down to $2.25 - this pack contains a Squad Leader, three Grenadiers and a Trooper so the ratio of Grenadiers to Troopers seems to be about 3 to 1.  No wonder I have so many Grenadiers and so few troopers.  I need more Octopoid Troopers!

Heritage USA "PLANETARY STRIKERS IN LIGHT ARMOR" 25mm scale Product # 2007 -  Original price stamped at $3.95 - this pack contains one Planetary Striker Officer and three Planetary Strikers ... all in Light Armor which translates into "Badass blister helmet EVA suits".

I remember when my local hobby shop had racks of these blister packs of figures hanging up but that was easily 30 years ago.  Good memories of good times.  Looks like I've got a lot of painting ahead of me ...

Big damn heroes

Patience is one of the most important tools you can ever have at your disposal in life but especially when you're after something on Ebay and after several months my Ebay search netted me a reasonably priced copy of Bandai's "Heroes of Space" (featuring authentic former NASA astronauts).  The price tags on the box are for KB Toys ($17.99 scratched out and $9.99 written in), below that is a Toy Works price of $4.99 and on the left side of the box is yet another price sticker from Savers, showing a date of 2/23/11 and a price of $3.99.

I paid $19.99 for it on Ebay.  Seems a bit much since this toy has evidently bounced around a  few resellers in the last two decades and hit almost rock bottom for its price but consider that $19.99 is probably a little less than what this toy cost brand new, it is still in the box complete, and I have it in my studio now so ... the price is right.

The copyright on this toy is apparently 1990 so it's over two decades old (and part of the renewed interest in the 20th anniversary of the Moon Landing back then).  I vaguely remember seeing this toy when it was new (I think it was offered in the local Books A Million store) but I had no interest in it then.  My interest now is purely art, I have a thing for astronauts and the space program, part of my interest in macabre art.  Anyway, I've seen this set going for nearly $100 on Ebay so getting it for a fifth of that price is a bargain.  I'd already picked up the Alan Bean figure a few weeks back, sans helmet, and turned him into "Palinurus" (aka "Skully") which was supposed to be the dead astronaut mascot for my art studio "Spontaneous Necessities" ...

Here's a quicky of "Skully" ... the oversized skull gives him a SuperDeformed kind of caricature look that I'm not sure I'm happy with or not.  In a few months when the Halloween super stores start to reopen and the local craft stores stock skeletons and skulls and other good stuff I'll take Alan Bean with me and fit him for something more his size.  As it is, the pack of skulls that I have seem to be about 1:6 scale or the size of a 12" action figure.

In hindsight, maybe he shouldn't have taken his helmet off on the Moon ... that tends to ruin your complexion.

The goal of this project was to produce a "dead" astronaut toy that was somewhat realistic.  It became more of a superdeformed mascot but I think I'm going to steer the project back to the original goal.  The three astronauts are going to get skulled and detailed while the loose figure will probably get more of the mascot treatment.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Knicker Bocker guns

Recently while looking on Ebay I came across an auction for three old Knicker Bocker brand toy guns.  The price was right, at just ten bux plus shipping and fondling and so I picked them up as the only bidder.  The problem is that all three are broken in some form or the other ... the six shooter at top is missing its trigger guard, the big "auto-mag" on the bottom is missing part of the back side of the barrel (other side not shown, exposing the rusty spring that used to propel what looks like a sizable suction cup tipped dart) and the middle pistol is missing its trigger ... among other things.

I purchased this lot for the middle pistol because something about it stirred a childhood memory ... these guns are all from the late '60's so they were probably well played with by the time I was old enough to enjoy them in the early '70's and I swear that when I lived in Jackson, MS from late '74 till the late part of '76 that one of my friends had the middle pistol and that I played with it at some time or the other during one of our many neighborhood games of "guns".  

What makes the middle pistol so unique is that it is a combination toy ... it is both a spring loaded dart pistol and a water gun (hence the dual trigger array).  The water stream is pumped out from the front top sight of the pistol while the dart would have loaded into the open barrel (even now I can still remember the sound of that dart spring being compressed ...).

The middle pistol is damaged in many ways ... it came with no dart, it has two holes straight through it (near the medallion) which makes me think that it once was shot with a BB gun at close range and some of the filigree etching on the barrel is partially melted and smeared meaning this toy got near a source of heat at one point in its long career.

And just how long has this toy gun been around?  Well, looking at the various stamps on the pistol I find the following information:

PAT.NOS. 2,678,753, 2,724,528

On the left hand side of the pistol is a long gold "plaque" which reads "THE UNTOUCHABLES".

On both sides of the handgrips are a pair of medallions with some kind of Colonial or Quaker type town crier holding a banner in front of him with chains dangling on each end.

On the lower part of the left front of the pistol is perhaps the real mystery ... there is stamped script here which reads:


Now, if you are not familiar with DESILU Productions then let me just say that it was a company owned by the husband and wife team of ... Desi Arnaz and Lucile Ball (of the "I Love Lucy" show fame).  If anyone ever had one of these or has any information on this toy, let me know as I'm curious about its origins, "The Untouchables" name plate and this toy's relation to the DESILU Productions studio.


This pistol could be nine years older than I am!  It's when I hold an old toy like this in my hands and think about it that I wonder ... was this a birthday present or a Christmas present for some little boy?  Was it cherished?  Was it desired?  Did it give hours of play to some child in a town or neighborhood far, far away?  Each toy has its own set of stories and that's what makes toys, especially old toys, used toys, special.  This toy gun could very well be 52 years old ... and it's still neat as hell to look at and hold and think about.

As for why I purchased this lot of broken guns, it was the middle gun, the mystery gun, which really caught my eye.  The waspish shape to it was pleasing to the eye and since I was on my Leif Ericson cerebral safari (see previous post), and since I had decided to mock up some 1:1 scale examples of sidearms for that postulated universe, seeing this pistol made it a natural for a sidearm in the LE fiction that I had cobbled up.

So ... please welcome the latest addition to the kitbashing section of the work bench: the Federation WASP sidearm where WASP stands for Wide Application Service Phaser.  The name matches the design and with a little sanding, a little filing, a little filling, some greebles and some paint the WASP is going to be the standard issue service sidearm for the Federation crews in the Leif Ericson universe.

Stay tuned, this project will be coming to "Grey Stuff" soon.