Thursday, August 11, 2016

FSS 5.0 Reveals: Charbroil

The GI Joe Collectors Club has begun the reveals of the designs for the FSS 5.0 figures. I'm late as always, so I'll just give my quick thoughts.

I've never been a huge fan of the flamethrower troops and I really didn't like the original Charbroil that much, but I like what the Club has done with him. I've heard he's much like the Convention exclusive Night Force version from a couple years ago. Whatever. 

I like the design and construction of the figure. 
Reason 1 to get on board FSS 5.0!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

FSS 4.0 - Sneak Peek, Outback, and...

Sometimes it's all about the timing.

Everyone who signed up for the FSS 4.0 figures has been patiently waiting and wondering when the last three figures would drop. Once thew shipping schedule got really rolling, they should have come out during the annual convention. Realistically? No, I didn't expect them, but it would have been cool for the folks at home to get them while the convention was rolling. <evil laugh>

It seemed like it took forever! There was finally an email that stated that they would be shipping around July 22nd. Then there was another email that stated that they would ship during the last week of July.

Well, damn... That worked out pretty well for me! With my little side diversion of my quadruple bypass surgery, the arrival of the figures late in July was just what the doctor ordered. Well, maybe not the doctor, but it was a nice bit of fun during the early stages of my recovery. Shoot, I even walked up to the mail box all by myself to grab them.

Okay, you may ask... "Tom, how long are you going to milk this open heart surgery thing?" I've got a seven inch scar along the center of my chest; I'm running with this for a long time! I've frikkin' earned it!

Anyway, let's get to the figures. Fred and Justin will probably do much longer and more in depth reviews, I'm just going to touch on quick highlights and thoughts. As of this date, I'm beating both of them to online reviews! I'll take my victories where I can get them!

First up is Tiger Force Sneak Peek. Interesting build by the Club and very effective as well. Like most of the Cub figures, there's a great deal of reuse of parts. There's really nothing new from the figure itself. Airborne head and helmet, Snake Eyes torso, Shock Trooper arms and legs, Scrap Iron vest. But it all works well together. Sneak Peek is a good, solid build. I like the color pallet of the Tiger Force theme. Right now, this is the only modern update of Sneak Peek out there. He's slated for another release during FSS 5.0, supposedly in his more traditional colors and maybe with a different vest.
The only new piece with Sneak Peek is his periscope. Brand new item from the Club and it works well. Nicely sculpted, Sneak Peek gets his iconic piece of equipment. The other stuff is okay, nothing too impressive. The M-16 is a bit dated and the radio and binoculars are nice pieces.

Overall, Sneak Peek is a strong figure and one of the better figures from FSS 4.0.
Next up we have Tiger Force Outback. The color palette is actually based on the European version of Tiger Force Outback, complete with a head full of white hair and beard. The head sculpt is brand new, at least since the Zombie Initiative convention set. An excellent head sculpt by the way. Pretty standard body reuse, I think it's made up of 25th anniversary bits with the newer swivel/pivot wrists. The tiger face on his shirt is nicely done, very crisp and clean.
The gear is decent enough. Nice backpack, but the machine gun and the knife are a bit lacking. The knife is a bit too big to me. I'm sure it's fine for hacking through the jungles, but it just seems too large. The machine gun looks great, but the handle is a bit too big for his hands. Accessories are the least issue to me. If the figure is well done, I can forgive the less than stellar gear.

Another strong figure from the Club to wrap up FSS 4.0!
Next up, we have Tiger Force Jinx! Oh wait a minute... Nope. I was really expecting a Tiger Force Jinx as the 13th "mystery" figure. The early clue from the Club was that the figure would be a female character with a new head sculpt.
I really didn't care too much about spoilers, so I saw who #13 was online before I got the shipment. Much to everyone's surprise, we got a modern update of a Club original figure, Carla "Doc" Greer. The Club released her as part of a convention set several years ago, way back when they were still using the o-ring bodies.
I think she's a mix of a Lady Jaye torso with maybe RoC Cover Girl arms and legs? Whatever. The parts work well together along with a brand new head sculpt. Not having the original Carla Greer figure, I'm quite pleased that the Club has included some more diversity into the GI Joe team. Some may think that Hasbro has been less ethnically diverse than they should have been back in the 80's-90's series. Tough call, but I don't buy it. Based on the file cards, the GI Joe team was quite ethnically diverse. Whatever. Race/gender/ethnicity just needs to stop being such a big damn deal in the 1/1 world. We are who we are.

Overall, Doc is another strong figure from the Club.
The Club wrapped up FSS 4.0 on a very strong note with three very well done figures. Stay tuned for a quick look back at all of the figures from FSS 4.0!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Random New Figures

Several weeks before all this open heart surgery nonsense, I managed to pick up a few new figures that caught my eye and sparked some interest.
First up is Volstagg from the Thor movies. Volstagg is one of Thor's companions from Asgard known as the Warrior's Three. The Warrior's Three also includes Fandral and Hogun. While I'm sure that there were plenty of butthurt Thor fanboys out there pissed that Volstagg wasn't enormous like his comic version, his MCU version was just fine. The figure actually turned out quite nice as well. Nicely sculpted details, decent articulation, great paint apps, and a very nice head sculpt. There's also a goofy over-sized weapon that went straight into the trash, but the smaller double bladed axe is a keeper.
As always, I tend to buy figures more for their head sculpt than for who they actually are. So I'm trying out the Volstagg head on my Gator custom. Previously using the PoC Snowjob head, I thought the Volstagg head still works pretty well as Gator. The bearded head works quite well as my swamp dwelling Gator character.
Next up is Fandral, of course from the Thor line. Decent figure, another big goofy weapon that went straight into the trash. The head sculpt is well done, but I think there's a bit too much paint on the figure.The sword scabbard is clumsily attached and tends to get in the way of the figure. Fandral is destined for a head swap to a GI Joe body, but I just haven't had the time to mess around with the figure.
Lastly, I found one of the Hammer Drones from the Iron Man 2 figure line. I'm very impressed by this figure. Excellent sculpting, crisp paint job, and the articulation works well enough.
The "Weapon Assault" drone comes with an alternate head as well as some odd whip-like weapons. I'm guessing that's a connection to Iron Man 2's villain, Whiplash. Easily detachable and easily tossed into the spare parts bin. My thoughts for integration of this drone into my Joe World is that is a GI Joe "BAT." It's not a cheap, mass-produced unit like the Cobra BATs; it's quite bit more expensive and quite a bit tougher than a Cobra BAT. I'll have to consider some sort of code name for it. I'm always open to suggestions!

Not a bad little haul. All three of these figures are well made and are welcome additions to my collection. 
Any  new non-GI Joe figures make it home with you recently?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Life's Course Correction

I usually don't have a good excuse for neglecting this goofy blog, but I've an excuse for at least the past week. It's a good one! So stay tuned.

I'm pretty sure I've written in the past reflecting on our own mortality and all this stuff that we collect. My collection is quite modest when compared to others out there in the world, but it's enough that often gives me pause to consider what would happen to it all if I wasn't around anymore.

Well, that mortality almost came true for me last week. Maybe not, but the events of the past couple of weeks brought my mortality right square in front of my face. 

Gather up close, kids, it's story time!

I'm a 53 average white male in decent health with moderate to little exercise. I've generally been overweight most of my life, not hugely so, but I could always stand to lose 20-25 lbs. My cholesterol has been out of whack for several years, with the bad numbers up and the good numbers down.

This past February, I went to my yearly physical and my doctor asks about any changes in my family medical history. "Yeah, my sister had a heart attack last summer." Pause... Hold up, wait a minute... What? My 55 year old sister had a mild heart attack last summer that resulted in no damage to her heart tissue, but it caused her to have a stent placed in one of the arteries of her heart. She's in much better health and may eventually need additional stents in the years ahead. 

So my doctor quickly recommended that I have a Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring test done. And like the fanatical health nut that I am, I did the most obvious thing and put it off for several months.

Flash forward into late spring/early summer, I get a little sick and email my doctor for some advice. "Well, if you took that test that I recommended, maybe we could rule some things out." #smartass Okay, fine, I'll have it done! It's a real easy non-invasive test. It's generally not covered by insurance and only costs $95. If you want to pay by cash, bring correct change because the frikkin' hospital might not have change! 

June 2nd, I get my results. My doctor calls me with the results. When the doctor calls you with test results, they probably aren't that great. "Brace for Impact!"

An average too-high score is generally at around 500. My number shoots past 1300! What this means is that I have significant indicators of coronary arterial blockage and the artery with the highest number has a cute little nickname - the Widow-Maker. Fun, right? Time to go see a cardiologist.

I get this news on June 2nd and the earliest that I can get into a cardiologist's office is July 5th. Swell. So now the story starts to gain some speed.

July 5th - Cardiologist's office. Mainly a consult while we review options. My wife, an RN, is also present. The cardiologist recommends two options. A nuclear stress test or a cardiac cath. After some discussion, the cardiac cath is chosen for the better results. By the time I'm leaving the hospital for the day, I'm scheduled for a cardiac cath on Monday, July 11th. 

July 11th - Cardiac Cath lab. Procedure gets done with a very skilled doctor and the result are in! Significant coronary blockage with the best course of action being OPEN HEART SURGERY! A double bypass is recommended. 

Okay, yeah, but when? I'm starting a new teaching position in a few weeks... "I would not put this off until next summer." All indications are that my heart muscle is healthy; I've just got some clogging arteries. I could have easily been one of those guys that just suddenly drops dead of a heart attack while out doing yard work. So when?

How about tomorrow?

What? Seriously? Yes, quite seriously. Okay... Let's do it. "Tomorrow" isn't really possible, but two days from now is! Holy shit! I'm getting my chest cracked open in two days. The rest of Monday is spent on pre-admission testing with respiratory testing planned for Tuesday. Fortunately, I'm going to be in the hands of one of the best cardio-thoracic surgeons at the hospital.

Testing complete. Wednesday morning rolls in and we're off to surgery. Once I'm into surgery and the initial ICU. I'm pretty much out of it. Wednesday rolls into Thursday with no real grasp of the passage of time.

Oh yeah, the doctor didn't do a double bypass on my heart. How about a QUADRUPLE bypass? I know, right? Go big! The rest of the week is spent in a haze of pain medication and just starting to heal. My body is one giant bruise. I've got holes in my left leg where the vein was harvested for my heart. Three chest drain lines. A huge IV into my neck for possible emergency use during surgery.

Finally, late Sunday night, I can pee on my own and I'm cleared to go home and start home recovery. I'm discharged on Monday afternoon for home recovery.

So what's the point of this long drawn out narrative of Tom's quadruple bypass? Get your shit checked out. Your life may depend on it.

I never knew noted GI Joe enthusiast Gary "Goggles" Head, but I heard of his sudden death by heart attack back in February 2015 at the young age of 35. Did he have a family history? Did he get his shit checked out? I don't have any answers for that.

My heart was basically a ticking time bomb and if one person reads this and gets the needed testing and their life is saved? It's all been worth it. My family history, my sister's heart attack, saved my life. I'll walk my daughter down the aisle October of 2017 and for that alone, I am grateful.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016