The Mix Tape

Give 100 people a blank cassette tape and task them with making a mix tape for someone. You'll get 100 very different tapes back. You'll also get a glimpse into the life of that person and how they feel about the individual they've made it for.

Before the digital age, the mix tape was a crucial format for many across the globe. Through them, people expressed thankfulness, love, friendship and happiness. They were personalized each step of the way, coming from the heart of the giver. Each song was meticulously chosen to send the specific message to the intended person.

People would spend hours on one single cassette to ensure each song was just right. Playing it back frequently each step of the way to confirm each segue into the next song didn't cut off the fade out of the last, but yet at the same time there wasn't too much dead air in between. Each track had to be carefully timed to make sure there was enough tape on each side to fill it up just to the end without cutting the song off or having more than a few seconds of tape remaining.

What makes a mix tape so special is the feeling of knowing that person who gave it to you put something into it they won't get back. Time. Unlike a digital file which can be dragged and dropped into a queue for burning within seconds, mix tapes had to be hand crafted in real time. In most cases, that person would also write out each track across the back of the blank card back within the case, adding all the more personal touch to it.

A mix tape should be cherished because in essence it is the person who gave it to you, even if it's not their own music. It's something tangible to capture that moment in time of how you felt when you were first handed the cassette, and each thought as you listed to the individual songs. It's also a way to hold onto them if that person is no longer with us, for whatever reason.

The concept of having physical media may be somewhat stagnant in this day and age, and I'm not sure people even make mix tapes anymore. Mainly because most people wouldn't have a way to play one anyway. However, should you yourself have a shoe box tucked away in your closet with a few cassettes inside, do yourself a favor and dust it off. Go through the tapes and remind yourself of the moment in time when you received them, or even made them yourself. I promise you that you'll find some cherished memory in doing so.

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Retro Spins: Milli Vanilli - Girl You Know It's True

Milli Vanilli
Girl You Know It's True

It's funny to see lip syncing is so common these days in music. Especially considering the events which unfolded on November 19, 1990. It was on this day, duo Milli Vanilli, were stripped of their Grammy for having been discovered they were nothing more than models lip syncing to another duo's vocals.

It all began in early 1988 when German producer and songwriter, Frank Farian, recorded a group album. During this phase, Farian found the artists to be unmarketable. It was because of this he turned his sights to Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, a pair of models who he hired to be the face of Milli Vanilli.

The end result was the debut album, "All or Nothing". While the album featured a shorter / alternate (or better stated, original) version of Baby Don't Forget My Number, it wouldn't be until the 1989 follow up album, Girl You Know It's True that the "band" would see its most lucrative year.

Milli Vanilli would go on to have five top ten hits in 1989, three of which went to number one; Girl You Know It's True (number 2), Baby Don't Forget My Number (number 1), Girl I'm Gonna Miss You (number 1), Blame It On the Rain (number 1) and All or Nothing (number 4). Of course with this came a lot of fame, fortune and attention on Pilatus and Morvan. Interviews, concerts and special appearances were a constant. 

This all came to a head at a Club MTV live performance in Bristol, Connecticut where midway through "their" hit, Girl You Know It's True, the backing track began to skip repeatedly on the chorus. As the incident became a mass publicized event, the duo eventually fessed up to not being the true singers on any of the songs.

In the wake of the backlash, the original singers for the albums under the name The Real Milli Vanilli would step out of the shadows for their own attempt at success with the 1990 released The Moment of Truth. Unfortunately, due to the debacle that was the lip syncing scandal, the album wasn't released in the USA. Perhaps there was a genuine fear Americans wouldn't be forgiving for being scammed. I don't honestly know. Despite this, the album is notable for having three singles.

It's always fascinating how fate has a way of stepping in to bring lies to light. Just think. If it weren't for that backing track having one little hiccup we may have never known the truth about Milli Vanilli. Or maybe we would have. Maybe the duo would have eventually grown tired of the lie and come forward. Still, how many albums do you think they would have pulled off in the interim?

While it was a hot topic back in 1989 / 1990, these days I can honestly say I don't worry about it. I take the album for what it is. A group of great songs which have withstood the test of time. They're still as good today as they were in 1989. So with that perspective I kind of have to ask, who cares who the true singers were? Michael J. Fox isn't really Marty McFly, but I'd like to think he is. Mark Hamil isn't really Luke Skywalker, but I'd like to think he is. See where I'm going? Even though Pilatus and Fabrice weren't providing the vocals, they still became the characters of Milli Vanilli and with it we got a great album which otherwise would have been shelved as unmarketable.

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G.I. Joe Board Games (Hasbro / Milton Bradley)

G.I. Joe Board Games
Hasbo / Milton Bradley
1965 - 2009

Much like the action figures, G.I. Joe board games have decades of toy history behind them. They began their start in the 1960's and to this day continue to trickle out here and there.

Of course, the 60's games are those based upon the man twelve inch doll style action figures. Much like those figures, they have some pretty generic names such as Marine Paratrooper, Navy Frogman and more.

The premise was essentially the same spin and move mechanic for each game. In essence, the only real difference each one featured was a different board and characters to play as. However, this was really all a young child needed in the guts of a board game. I mean, let's be honest. How many of us bought those cheap 1980's board games because they had G.I. Joe, Transformers, Star Wars or a hundred other various properties we loved? We didn't care how the game played. We bought it for the box and figured it out from there.

 Marine Paratroop! Game (1965)*Navy Frogman! Game (1965)

 Let's Go Joe (1966)*Capture Hill 79 (1966)

 Combat Infantry! Game (1967)*Dangerous Assignment Game (1976)

Speaking of 80's games. These are the ones I personally saw on toy shelves back in the day. Though I never owned any, I wish I had. Look at all of the fantastic box artwork! How fun would it be to play these today with the actual 3 3/4 inch figures? Um, hello...Lots!

 Adventure Board Game (1982)*Cobra Battle Game (1982)

 Commando Attack Game (1985)*Live the Adventure (1986)

As most of us know, G.I. Joe took a hiatus from the 3 3/4 inch line in the mid to late 90's and returned in the early new millennium. With it came a new board game as well as a repackaged Commando Attack.

 Mission: Cobra H.Q. (2002)*Commando Attack Game (2002)

I also want to give an honorable mention to Combat Fighter - A Rock em' Sock em' Robots type clone which was released in 2002.

 Combat Fighters (2002)

As is the case with most properties, Hasbro doesn't spend a lot of time being inventive with their board games these days. While they do release them here and there, these are typically just repainted classics such as the below Monopoly and Battleship.

It's sad in a way. One of the great things about the 80's (and 60's and 70's I suppose) was walking down a toy isle and seeing all those stacks of generic board games based on cartoons, TV shows or toys from the era. Those days are unfortunately behind us and don't show any signs of returning.

Monopoly (2009)*Battleship (2009)

On secondary markets, board games are big business. They can be a challenge to collect due to pieces being misses and expensive to obtain in mint boxes with all of those said pieces. G.I. Joe is no exception to this rule. While you can find a "cheap" one here and there, the average is going to cost you around $40.00 to $50.00.

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Retro Spins: DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince - Rock The House

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Rock the House

I don't personally know when Will Smith became a household name and a top contender for his own television show. However, I know it wasn't in 1987 when he and his pal Jeff released their debut album, Rock the House. Though the album found a small following thanks mostly to its lead track, Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble, nothing found any love in the charts.

For me, what I found most appealing about DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was that they were obviously there to have fun. Their songs weren't about drugs, sex or violence. Rather, they focused on being almost comedically entertaining. It's as if they were blatantly telling other rappers, "We're not here to be serious." I think it was because of this that the duo were able to break barriers of color so easily.

Sadly, if you're looking to grab the original version of this album you're going to have to track it down on the 1987 vinyl or cassette. The reason being that when the album was released on CD for the first time in 1988 (thanks to the success of the duo's follow up album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper) the song Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble was re-recorded and released only in an extended remix format.

It was this version which would finally enter the charts in October of 1988, again, because of the success of the duo's follow up album. However, the success was short lived as the song would debut at the number ninety-three spot, but be back off the charts by the following week.

I enjoyed the album as a whole. Mainly because (as I said above) it was fun. It was lighthearted, comical at times, groovy at others and overall good. Every song, either as a whole or in part, had something enjoyable for me. Granted while I won't be grabbing all of them for my iPod or iTunes 80's mix, I will be adding a few tracks; Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble, Just One of Those Days, Rock the House, The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff and A Tough of Jazz.

Definitely looking forward to hearing more albums in the near future.

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Planters Cheez Balls And Cheez Curls

Planters has given the general public a taste of nostalgia with the limited run of their Cheez Balls and Curls returning to markets in all their original canned goodness. Though they're being touted as Walmart and Amazon exclusives, I actually found these canisters at my local CVS while picking up some prescriptions.

While I remember popping my fair share of cans back in the day, I can't honestly say I remember their specific taste. However, I was still eager to take a trip down memory lane to see if something would spark my memory as I dove in.

Giving a sniff of each open can, there's definitely a strong smell of cheddar cheese within. The Balls seem to have the stronger scent out of the two.

Both are a nice bright orange color, definitely providing a delicious looking cheese based snack. Immediately after picking them up to place on the lid, I noticed a nice layer of cheese residue on my fingers.

With this much excess powder I was definitely anticipating a strong cheese flavor. While I got this at first, it dissipated fast, leaving nothing but a corn flavoring. It wasn't terrible, but it was disappointing that there was no longevity to the cheddar. To me, these were also a tad bit saltier than I prefer my "chip" based snacks to be. As I type this, I'm also noticing a pretty bad aftertaste in the back of my throat. I don't know if this is a result of the snacks themselves, or me being a bit under the weather.

Price wise, there's minimal value here. The canister of Curls is 4 ounces, while the Balls are only 2.75. Both were $2.99 a piece at CVS. Meanwhile, an 8 ounce bag of UTZ Cheese Curls and Balls was only $2.39 a piece. You're definitely paying for the nostalgia and Planters name on this one. While I don't mind doing it once, this isn't something I would continue to buy at this price point.

It was fun to try these again after a twelve year hiatus, but these aren't something I'm going to be stocking up on.

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Superman: New Krypton (DC Direct)

Superman: New Krypton
DC Direct

New Krypton? What was wrong with the old one? Oh...Right...KABOOM!

The story arc of New Krypton revolves around Clark Kent coming to terms with the death of his adoptive Earth father as well as the presence of 100,000 Kryptonians now living on Earth as a result of the Braniac story arc.

Now, let me just stop here a moment. See, this is my biggest problem with comic books these days. How many different books and story arcs do I have to read to keep up? Ridiculous.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

Anyhow...Much as they often do, DC Direct threw out a handful of figures based on the series. Four to be exact. Superman, Braniac, Superwoman and one of the Kryptonians, Mon-El. The world is still waiting for the remaining  99,999 Kryptonian figures to be released. Expect them as an exclusive pack at an upcoming San Diego Comic Con.



As is the usual case with DC Direct figures, now that the line is over, they are not only difficult to find, but also expensive. Plan on spending anywhere from $60.00 to $75.00 for each one. Mind you, that's if you can find them. They are rather scarce these days.

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The Dirty Dozen - My Top Twelve Most Expensive G.I. Joe Figures

Back in July of 2017, I began collecting the first of what would eventually become many G.I. Joe figures. When I started, the goal was to collect strictly within the realm of 1983 to 1987, with the exception of a handful of figures I had as a kid from '88 and '89. As of yesterday, I've completed my 1983 run, with 1984, 1985 and 1987 having been completed on prior dates. As for 1986, I'm missing only five figures. The Special Missions Brazil set which featured Dial-Tone, Wet Suit, Leatherneck, Mainframe and Claymore. My plan is to finish those up in June.

In the interim, I thought I would share with everyone a new Dirty Dozen's post featuring the top twelve most expensive figures I've accumulated. Mind you, this isn't "bragging rights". More so, it's being presented for those of you out there who are actively looking at collecting vintage G.I. Joe 3 3/4 figures to be aware of the ones which will not only be difficult for you to obtain, but also quite costly. 

As we get into this list, keep in mind the key fundamental aspect of collecting, which is prices fluctuate often. What I paid for these figures isn't necessarily going to be what you will. Some could be more, some could be less. Instead, use this list as a benchmark.

At $81.00, Grunt (V2) beat out Storm Shadow for the number twelve space by one lone dollar. He was also the last 1983 figure I obtained, just yesterday in fact. A common theme you'll see as we go through this list, is that vehicle drivers tend to be some of the most expensive ones to obtain. They're only getting harder and harder to obtain as people who only want the figures and not the vehicles continue to collect.

Secto-Viper is one of the few 1988 figures I have in my collection as of now. I wasn't expecting this one to be so expensive and scarce. At the time I found him, there were maybe two to three for sale with the helmet and gun. While he's still rather scarce, prices seem to have dropped quite a bit since I bought one. Looks like you can get one for around $55.00 as of this writing.

1985 Snake Eyes (V2) is probably the most popular G.I. Joe figure out there. Collectors know it. Dealers know it. And prices show it. For a figure that is by no means uncommon, the asking price of $100.00 seems a bit ridiculous.

W.O.R.M.S. was one of the last two Cobra figures (Techno-Viper being the other) that I needed to complete my 1987 "bad guys". However, I was having a great deal of difficulty finding one complete. Being removable, the little antenna on the top of his helmet tends to be missing. As a result, this figure has skyrocketed in price. Without the antenna, this figure sells for $20.00 all day long.

I didn't actually buy this Steel Brigade figure. Instead, it was bought for me as a Christmas gift. However, having sent the link to the person who paid for it, I know it set them back $175.00. With five different versions available, not including the infamous blue version released later, this would be one expensive set to complete if you were going for all the variations. I am not.

When I first came across Rumbler, I actually ended up passing on him. Between the price and his very bland look, I didn't feel this was a figure I was really going to need in my collection. I ended up taking the plunge at the same time I bought Fast Draw, who finished up my entire 1987 run.

Cobra Viper Pilot was the second figure I received as a gift along side the aforementioned Steel Brigade. Again, because I sent the link to the person who bought it, I know what they paid for it.

What makes this figure so difficult to find is that the majority of them are missing the chest logo. This is because the figure came with the 1983 Cobra Attack Glider, and the majority of the toys got launched through the air to meet hard scraping landings on the ground. This resulted in a lot of the figures being damaged over time. Mint ones are not only getting harder to find, but more expensive.

Listen 'N Fun Tripwire, much like Rumbler, was a figure I didn't necessarily want in my collection. However, something about it started to intrigue me more and more, and it only got worse as I continued to tick off figures on my 1985 list. He was the very last one I purchased to complete the year.

The Defiant Space Shuttle is a rare vehicle in and of itself, and the figures which accompanied it are no exception. Hardtop suffers from missing accessory syndrome all the time. His little microphone on the side of his hat and gun are some of the toughest accessories to come by. However, even without them, the figure can sell for upwards of eighty to one hundred dollars.

Payload, Hardtop's counterpart, seems to be all the more difficult to find complete. The figure itself is incredibly scarce, and finding one with the arms / controls of the backpack can be challenging. There was only one listed as complete at the time I bought mine.

I knew that Starduster was a mail away figure, but I was ill prepared to find out just how highly sought after, and as a result, expensive he was. I learned all of this during a trip to Timonium for a Dave Hart Show, and after looking him up online as I held one in my hands, I decided I couldn't leave it there. Much like Steel Brigade, there are multiple versions, so collecting a complete set can easily cost you over a thousand dollars. I'll stick with one.

Something I typically don't do for my Dirty Dozen posts is give an honorable mention. However, since the 1993 Create A Cobra figure is one I hope to obtain soon, I thought I would throw him in. Technically, if prices stay the same, he'll end up in the number two spot on this list.

Number one on the list may surprise you as much as it surprised me when I bought it. When I first went to purchase 1985's Heavy Metal, I thought, "It's just another random and cheap vehicle driver that nobody wants. Shouldn't be difficult." Boy was I wrong. Turns out Heavy Metal is the holy grail of G.I. Joe figure collecting, and it all comes down to that little detachable microphone on the side of his head. Not only did this piece go missing on the majority of them out there, but the figure was re-released in 1989 under the name Rampage without the microphone and a different gun.

At the time I purchased it, there was only one available. When I saw a second one pop up a few weeks later, I figured I would buy it too as an investment to get more Joe's later. However, that one went for over $400.00 to someone else! One sold in the past week went for even more, and there are currently none available (complete) on ebay.

This figure should be taken into strict consideration when deciding whether or not you really want to start collecting G.I. Joe figures. Especially if you're a completest. He falls right in that sweet spot of Joe figures, 1985. This is an era which many fans find highly desirable and are collecting rampidly. As such, he's only going to get harder and harder to obtain.

Again, prices are subject to change daily, so take this list with a grain of salt. If you're utilizing it, then do so with the understanding it's a benchmark for when I bought these figures, which was between 2017 and yesterday.

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Star Wars Retro Collection: Escape From Death Star Board Game With Grand Moff Tarkin

Fresh on the heels of my post about brick and mortar stores was the mailman with my Star Wars Retro Collection Escape From Death Star Game. The draw to this otherwise overpriced hunk of nostalgia was Hasbro's inclusion of the long awaited Grand Moff Tarkin in vintage style. Tarkin has long been at the top of vintage collector's lists when discussions are had about the blatant omissions from the original Kenner line. It took forty+ years, but here we are finally able to add the character to our collections.

At $19.99, this Target exclusive board game / figure combination isn't too ridiculously priced. Personally, I was expecting a $30.00 to $40.00 retail price. However, it is worth noting that scalpers are currently getting this higher price range just for the figure alone. I guess people aren't bothering to check before buying because it's readily available as I type this.

Like most people buying this item, I have zero interest in the actual board game itself. I just wanted the figure to add to my vintage collection. Hasbro knew this was the stance of the majority of buyers, and quite frankly, I feel like they packaged it with the board game simply so they could get a higher price for it.

The figure is individually carded, which will thrill mint in package collectors who don't necessarily want a bulky board game. Packaging wise, it captures the nostalgia of the original Kenner figures.

I'm admittedly not a fan of the forced wear and tear that Hasbro went for on the card. I also don't particularly like the giant red sticker which takes up twenty-five+ percent of the photo on the card. These two production choices really detract from what would otherwise would have been a rather beautifully carded figure. From what I've heard from other collectors, I don't appear to be alone in this line of thinking.

With that said, these gripes are easy for me to put aside because I'm not a mint in package toy collector. My intentions were always to get this figure for the purposes of displaying it along with my vintage figures. A somewhat continuation of the series if you. So with that said, I cracked this bad boy open.

Right off the bat I noticed a flaw with it. While the right hand is sculpted with the intentions of holding the gun, it doesn't. The grip of the hand is sculpted too wide, and the blaster keeps falling out of his hand when his arm is down. Oddly enough, the work around for this was to put it in his left hand, which didn't look like it was able to hold anything. 

Overall though, the figure doesn't look all that bad. It certainly captures the look and feel of a vintage figure. The five points of articulation are spot on with that of the '78 - '85 releases, and it has just enough detail for you to be able to say, "That's Tarkin," without it being a one to one accurate rendering.

To mention a little more about the blaster, it too looks straight out of the vintage era. Albeit a lot darker in color than the translucent blue ones from the past. I may have to break down and do a float test just for giggles. Vintage collectors will know exactly what I'm talking about.

At first, I thought the figure had too much detail with its wrinkles in the fabric, but as I looked closer at my vintage figures, I found that those too had much more detail in their sculpts than I apparently remembered. Still, side by side, I can't say I'm 100% convinced this figure fits with the line.

I didn't know if it was my mind that just wasn't willing to accept that this figure belongs alongside my original figures, or if it truly didn't fit in.

My goal was always to tuck this figure at the back end of the original Power of the Force line on my shelf as a continuation of the original lines, so that's exactly what I did. That's when it hit me. I realized what was wrong. Look at the face of all the other "human" characters, and then look at Tarkin's. His face is too thin and long. All the other vintage figures have rounded faces. Regardless of which character they were.

At the end of the day, I'm glad to finally have a "true" vintage style Tarkin figure to add to my collection. I also hope that Hasbo plans to continue this line with more figures that were missing from the original line. I'd start listing them, but depending on who you ask, that list could be infinite. I just hope if Hasbro does continue on that they avoid packaging exclusive figures with vehicles, playsets and further board games. I also hope they never release one as a convention exclusive. That would kill this line for me.

As for the board game...That's either going in the trash or to the neighbor with the four children. I haven't decided which one is more convenient.

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Why I'm Over Brick And Mortar


A few years back I used to be a major advocate for brick and mortar shops. There was something about the thrill of going to a store, finding all the latest Nick TMNT figures and gleefully walking out with a massive bag full of them.

However, since the end of that line, I've actually taken a stout dislike of going to a physical store to buy collectibles. This point was drilled home today, and I'm to the point now where I don't think I'll ever set foot into another Target, Walmart, etc.


In today's day and age, the majority of people I've come across working in retail stores aren't helpful. They have no knowledge of the products they're selling, don't want to be bothered by customers, sometimes don't even speak English, and in general, don't want to work. They will give you the queue card answer to most questions, which typically involves saying, "If it's not on the shelf we don't have it," and some will even roll their eyes at you and sigh.

The worst part about it is that most stores have come to realize that customers simply don't want to deal with their useless employees. Yet rather than train people to be better, they've added kiosks all over the store so that shoppers can check on items themselves, and even done away with human cashiers. Now you're driving to the store just to have an online experience anyway.


9 out of 10 times, if you're going to a retail store for a toy, they won't have it. In today's case, as I'll go into further below, that's even if the computer tells you they do. It's frustrating and disappointing to walk away empty handed. It's even more so frustrating when the only reason you went there is because their own website said the item was in stock.


Due to the fact that most stores don't have what you're looking for in stock, it's simply a waste of time and gas to go to a brick and mortar store. Especially if you live in a highly populated area. Driving to a local store can take as much as thirty to forty minutes just to get there. It's just not worth the time and hassle.


After stopping by G.I. Jigsaw today, I saw that George had obtained the new Retro Collection Death Star Escape. As a fan and collector of the original Star Wars figure line, I was excited for this particular board game because it included a retro style Grand Moff Tarkin - A figure the original series ominously omitted. I was excited to see the figure had finally hit shelves, and went straight to to see if it was available. Not only was it, but the website stated the item was in stock literally down the street from my office. I decided I'd take a half hour and go get it vs. ordering and waiting for it to arrive.

Upon my arrival at the store, I went straight back to the toy section. I figured it would be in one of two places; 1) Board Games or 2) Action Figures. I searched both, but came up empty handed. I was, however, able to flag down a store clerk, and asked him where I could find it. A quick search on his store issued device, and we were back over at board games. Despite his search, he too couldn't find it. Additionally, he couldn't even find the tag for where on the shelf it should have been. I asked if the item was still in the back stock room, but was told no as the employee walked away.

As the clerk walked away, I shook my head. I was disappointed and annoyed. I found myself saying out loud, "Brick and mortar stores are so useless and a waste of time." True words as far as I'm concerned.

Rather than leave empty handed, I went up to customer service and asked if I could place the order there to have it delivered to my home. Not only was this possible, but I found out that doing it via this route also provides free shipping. Had I ordered it via logging into a computer, I would have paid six dollars for shipping.


Hearing of a brick and mortar store closing down used to sadden me. I would think of the people losing their jobs or the loss of yet another great place to have an experience for the thrill of the hunt. However, for me, I'm long over it. Online shopping is dominating the retail market because it's quick, easy and convenient. You can do it from anywhere, have it delivered right to your doorstep, and with the exception of an occasionally incorrect item, you never have to deal with one single person. Most importantly, what you're looking for is no more than a simple click away. It's sixty seconds of shopping vs. sixty minutes of empty searching. Kind of a no brainer if you ask me.

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Retro Spins: Fat Boys - Crushin'

Fat Boys

Since hearing Run DMC's Raising Hell, I've been a little more open to embracing 80's rap albums. I've grabbed up a few albums I'm going to be working my way through and the first one I selected to actually listen to was Fat Boys Crushin' from 1987.
I've honestly never heard a Fat Boy's album until doing so for this Retro Spin post. My only exposure to the trio is the 1987 film Disorderlies and quite honestly I couldn't tell you a thing about the movie other than they were always eating. What can I say, I was really young at the time.

The album was not for me. The beat boxing was fun, but as a whole the songs just didn't hook me. Sure, I could say Wipeout was a decent cover of the Beach Boys hit, but in all truth, I won't be going out of my way to hear this song again. I found the short (ten to twelve second) tracks to be more entertaining than the actual music.

Just to be sure it wasn't just me, I went ahead and cross referenced the album to the charts and found that only one song actually managed to make a mark - Coincidentally, it was Wipeout. The song charted and made its way to number twelve between July and September.

I wish I could sit here and write more about this album, but I'd honestly just be wasting my time writing for the sake of writing and your time reading. I tried it, I didn't like it. Do I at least get credit for being open to trying something new?

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Paranorman (Huckleberry Toys)

Huckleberry Toys

I've never actually seen the film ParaNorman. In fact, I don't think I had even heard of it until I came across this series of figures. From what I can gather based on the Wiki page, it's really nothing short of yet another random 3D animation film thrown out there in the midst of 2012 when pretty much every company was jockeying for some form of blockbuster children's movie. The film appeared to be successful in that vein having received relatively positive reviews from critics, so with that said, maybe one day I'll actually check out the movie.

For now, I want to explore the line of toys released by Huckleberry the same year the film was released.

 Zombie Lemuel Spalding*Norman in Pajamas

The kids in the line don't necessarily thrill me, but again, I haven't seen the movie, so I don't really know who they are. It's the zombie characters which stand out for me.

 Zombie Amelia Wilcott*Zombie Will London

It's impressive that Huckleberry created eight different figures for the line, but disappointing at the same time that there was nothing for the figures to interact with. Again, I haven't seen the movie, but can I at least get a playset or vehicle here?


 Alvin*Zombie Judge Hopkins

In addition to the base set figures, Huckleberry released a set of four figures at San Diego Comic Con which featured either different outfits or glow in the dark abilities.

 SDCC Exclusive
Zombie Lemuel Spalding*Norman in Pajamas

SDCC Exclusive
Zombie Judge Hopkins*Norman

It's a neat line, but overall pretty forgettable for me.

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Raising The FLAGG

Toy Exchange has had a U.S.S. FLAGG at their store ever since I've been going there, which admittedly has only been since August of 2018. Each time I saw it, I marveled at its massive size, and even more so that it was being touted as 100% complete with no broken parts. However, at (almost) eight feet long, I was by no means interested in taking it home. That's a lot of real estate for one toy, and space, as most collectors know, gets limited fast. While it was always fun to look at, I by no means ever had any intentions of bringing one home.

Then I made a trip to Toy Exchange today, and suddenly, all of that had changed...

With my brother in tow, I found myself asking the guy behind the counter, "What's the price of the FLAGG if I don't take the figure with it?" He came back after a few minutes of talking to the owner of the place, and informed me that the drop bottom price would be "X", and that would be regardless of whether I took the figure or not. After about fifteen minutes of rummaging through other items, all while thinking very hard on the matter, I said, "I think I'm going to take the FLAGG."

Everything just felt right about the decision. The price was good. The playset was in fantastic condition, and I just so happened to have a vehicle at my disposal which could transport it.

Unfortunately, while I had said vehicle, the massive ship had to be taken apart if we were going to get it out the front door of the shop and into the car without it breaking. Several minutes, a few boxes and a swiped plastic card later, and we started lugging parts out.

Getting it home was a bit of a scare each and every time I touched the brakes and heard bits of plastic shift. Then, low and behold, the unavoidable happened. Staying true to Virginia drivers, someone finally reached a point where they were screwing around behind the wheel, and brake lights flared as people slammed their feet down to avoid hitting each other. The FLAGG went crashing everywhere in the back. So badly that I had to pull over and readjust things before continuing on.

After an hour or so of driving, I finally made it home. With the help of my brother, we lugged it all upstairs, and the rearranging began in the toy room. With space made available and instructions in hand, it was time to reassemble this massive beast. There was just one downside...I can't stand putting toys together. I have no patience for it.

Fortunately, I have a big brother who doesn't seem to mind it. After perusing over the instructions, he sat down to tackle the project. I happily watched, photographing all the way...

It not only took the instruction booklet for this task, but also the aid of a picture of the fully built FLAGG from Google and an online video on Youtube.

 The lower frame was the only pieces which stayed somewhat intact from the shop dismantling it.

 Still, there were some bits and pieces to put together...

 Such as the bow...

 and stern.

 Then there were the cannons and radar dishes and their trays to put in place.

 Then it was on to the deck assembly.

 All the tabs were accounted for, and because of their known brittleness, it was key to be incredibly careful when taking them out of the deck to snap each one in place.

 Each piece had to be lined up just right to install it.

 There was also a lot of consulting of the instruction booklet to ensure everything was on the right track.

 Each piece seemed to be larger than the last.

 And with it, more and more difficult to put in place.

 It was around this point that I said, "I bet a lot of dad's were cursing their children's existence on Christmas Eve night of 1985.

 Though I didn't hear any, my brother may have been doing the same about me.

Finally, the deck was in place. This not only provided the framework for the rest of the FLAGG, but also made it much easier to shift around the floor to continue working on it...Not that I did much of anything beyond spectating and taking pictures. 

The elevator looked to be the most troublesome piece. It was also at this point that we noticed two tabs were broken off of the playset. It fortunately didn't hinder it being put together.

The bridge and its multiple floors took a few attempts. Not because it was difficult to put together, but because it was so flimsy that the slightest incorrect movement of hands resulted in it being knocked out of place.

The middle section of the deck not only had to be placed just right, but was also where the majority of the inner pieces had to be attached - Computers, ship's wheel, chairs, ladders, etc.

Much like the middle deck, the top layer had to be installed precisely, and due to some miscalculations in placing it the first time, the middle section had to be set up again.

The rockets on the top turned out to have warped plastic on the connectors, and unfortunately this resulted in the launcher not being able to be touched or it would fall.

The radars and antenna had to be handled with care due to their known brittle and easily breakable nature. Fortunately nothing bad happened.

Then it was time to put the railings in place...

...and install the ladder.

The Admiral's launch is often mistaken as a lifeboat for the FLAGG. I myself did so when first writing this post.

 The FLAGG came with a mini rig gas vehicle. Even it had its challenges to get it put together.

As my brother went to work putting all of the interiors of the bridge together, I installed the other side of the tow cable. This one job took me four or five tries to get right, only backing up why I don't build vehicles and playsets.

I think he got half the items in place before I got done with one thing.

 I didn't get a shot of the interiors, which I regret, but here's I nice photo from the outside.

 That wrapped up the construction, and it was time to top it all off with the two Skystrikers I picked up from Toy Exchange while I was there. One came with Ace, a figure I already had, but neither had the parachutes.

It was unfortunate to find out, in addition to the two broken clips, that the railing of the stern was also missing. This is not only a really hard to find piece, but an expensive one. These have sold for as much as $140.00. I immediately reached out to Toy Exchange, and they assured me they would make it right by either finding me a replacement or giving me some figures on my next visit. I'd prefer the piece over the figures, so hopefully they find one soon.

***UPDATE*** I was able to find the railing on ebay on the 16th of May, and immediately grabbed it for the "ridiculous" buy it now price. My Flagg is now 100% complete!

I'm really glad my brother was there to help me get this thing home and also put it together for me. Otherwise...Well, now that I think about it, if I had my car, I probably wouldn't have bought it. Like I said, everything just seemed to fall into place, and the FLAGG came home with me.

If it's been a while since you've checked my original Order of Battle post for Joe figures, check it out. I've added a lot of figures to my collection. If you like G.I. Joe as a whole, then check out my Cobra post too. If you just like looking at other people's collection in general, then check out all my Order of Battle posts.

***Update*** Here it is. The last part has been installed. My FLAGG is officially 100% complete.

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