Friday, September 25, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, Sept 21, 2009

When critics asked why the characters in Futurama looked identical to those from the Simpsons.  Matt Groening stated "it's the only way I know how to draw."  Futurama first aired in 1999 and chronicled the adventures of a 20th century pizza delivery boy who accidentally got cryogenically frozen and then revived in the 31st century.

As you would expect from Groening, Futurama portrays a sardonic and sarcastic view of the future.  One of the main characters is an alcoholic robot with the apt name Bender.

Today I bring you a limited release bender tin toy.  Sold in comic shops in 2000 This wind up walking robot came in retro packaging and has some interesting features-- it even came in a Gender Bender variant based on an episode where Bender took up a career as a cross dressing pro wrestler.

To see both versions of this unusual modern tin toy, zap into the robots gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and scan the Futurama Bender tin toys.

Full steam ahead...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bushido and Fabrication, Japanese sword making, epilogue.

A tool for a modern urban samurai-- that was my idea for a continuation of my Japanese sword projects.  Fabricating the tanto fittings was rewarding and I guess I just didn't quite get it out of my system.  I chose a subject of my next project based on the fact that I like the design of modern tanto point blades.  One company has done more to popularize Japanese style tanto knives than any other: Cold Steel.

Designed by a martial arts expert in California and manufactured in Japan, Cold Steel tantos are almost legendary in the cutlery world.  They resemble a miniature katana, having a simple, graceful curve and a sword-like point.  They come in a variety of sizes and styles.  The larger models being available in laminated steel, inspired by the folded steel used in traditional Japanese sword making.  The smallest model-- simply called the Mini Tanto, was discontinued some years ago.  I managed to score a few of these on eBay.  The earlier models had brass fittings.  The later models had stainless fittings and a tsuba style guard.

Here are some pics of the two styles of Mini Tantos in stock form:
As I mentioned before, I had an idea to blend some more traditional Japanese design elements with a modern tanto design.  I modified the stock fittings by forging and soldering copper collars onto the brass parts of a Cold Steel mini tanto.  I also added silk tsuka ito in a gold brown color.  This is similar to the color of ito on Japanese WWII swords.

Here are some pictures of the custom knife, and a stock one for comparison:
Like any of my projects I may return to Japanese sword making but, for now, I am feeling like this demon has been exorcised and it is time to move back to other projects-- hmm, I think some live steam engines are calling me...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, Sept 14, 2009

With astonishing imagery and special effects, the 1927 movie Metropolis showed us an Art Deco World where machines reach through urban society like veins.  The movies workers, who operate the gargantuan machines that keep the city alive, struggle against the elite caste of city leaders.

Metropolis portrayed stunning images of Art Deco style blended with mechanical and industrial design.  Indeed this movie was a forerunner to a stylistic offshoot of Art Deco known as Streamline Moderne.  The style would not reach it's peak until ten years after the films release.  Streamlining was partially a byproduct of mass production and mechanization.  The style's horizontal lines and rounded shapes facilitated easy mass production.  Streamlining continued into the fifties in the United States and influenced everything from radios to restaurants.

Today I am deviating from robots, vehicles, and action figures and presenting one of my prized industrial artifacts.  This industrial counter, known as a Productimeter, was salvaged from an abandoned gear factory in the Midwest.  It was mounted atop a gigantic lathe that was the size of a small bus.  The Productimeter is a hefty device.  As you advance it's count, by pulling the bullet shaped lever, it's internal ratchet mechanism returns a satisfying clunk.  It is a fine example of Streamline Moderne style and it wears an authentic patina of hard use in an industrial setting.

To get a closer look, head on over to the Artifacts gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and check out the Productimeter.

Full steam ahead...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, Sept 7, 2009

Twenty years ago no one could imagine that there would be a world where wealthy urban hipsters would wander in to galleries that display action figures like fine pieces of art.  They would scrutinize them carefully and select the toy that best suited their aesthetic sensibilities.  Welcome to the world of Designer Toys.  Designer Toys first appeared in the late 1990's.  Professional artists and designers began creating the pieces, which are then put into production.  Typically, production is limited to as few as 2, or as many as 2000 pieces.    The toys are made from a variety of materials such as resin, wood and metal-- but vinyl is the most common.  This spawned the term Urban Vinyl, which many use interchangeably with the term Designer Toys.

There are many Designer Toys that will ultimately make their way into the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities.  Today I bring you Hazmapo Tri-Yella, an example created by a pair of Oregon based artists in 2004.  Tri-Yella is inspired by Cold War era radiation suits.  There were three basic sculptures in the first series and two repaints of each, for a total of six styles.  You can visit the artists website and veiw the styles that are currently available.  

To take a closer look, suit up and stroll into the Figures gallery and peruse the pics of Hazmapo Tri-Yella.

Full steam ahead...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, August 31, 2009

They call them "Real Robots". "They" being the Japanese, and "them" being a movement in Japanese robot design started by the legendary series Mobile Suit Gundam that spawned a new genre. The name Real Robot referred to the fact that these giant robot, or mecha designs, were more grounded in reality than previous examples. As I mentioned in a previous post, early Japanese mecha, like Great Mazinger and Tetsujin 28, were gargantuan in scale and preformed supernatural feats. The so called Real Robots were smaller, more mechanical, and had characteristics and features that resembled military vehicles. The stories also placed an emphasis on military tactics.

Fang of the Sun Dougram was a Japanese anime series that told the story of a group of rebels rising up and fighting for independence against a dictatorship. Their primary weapon was a powerful military prototype called Combat Armor Dougram. The history of Dougram toys is of particular interest to me and they represent some of my favorite mecha designs. Dougram toys were manufactured in popular military model scales. The intent was to give hobbyists the opportunity to combine Dougram models with existing model tanks, trucks and other vehicles to create scenes and dioramas. The toys often came with painting suggestions, showing how modelers could customize their mecha to be more realistic. This planted the Dougram toys squarely in an older target market. The toys were intended to appeal to those who built plastic models-- generally mid teens to early twenties.

Today I present a rare example of a Boxed set of three robots. Like most of the Dougram toys these are constructed of plastic and heavy die cast metal. this assorted collection of robots comes complete with a vacuum formed plastic diorama base. This is a rare piece, so step into the Robots Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and take a look at Combat Armor Dougram, Three Types Assorted Collection.

Full steam ahead...

Related toy of the week: Combat Armor Soltic, 1/72 scale.