Borderlands Cosplay sneak peeks

Hi there! We’re a bit behind with our posts here this week: blame work and cosplay. I work in the Higher Education sector, so this current period – the start of a new academic year – is always the busiest in my working calendar. Cue plenty of long tiring days, after which I just want to veg out. Unfortunately the start of the new academic year also signals the busiest time in our local convention calendar with quite a few events lined up in the next month. So much as I’d like to veg out, there Aint No Rest For The Wicked if we want to get our Borderlands cosplays ready in time for DEVCON this coming weekend. B is going as Salvador the Gunzerker and I’m going to be Dr. Tannis. We’re pretty much there now, just a little more detailing to finish off. But the projects haven’t left much time for other things, including writing blog posts.

So rather than a full work in progress post for these cosplay projects, here are just some sneak peeks of details from the two costumes…

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Toy Review: Takara-Tomy AM-12 Breakdown (with Zamu)

Whether you collect plates, plants, plushies or, uh, plastic robots, if you’re a collector, the chances are you have a wishlist. Maybe it’s a mental list, something scrawled on the back of an envelope, or perhaps – like us here at AddAltMode – you have a spreadsheet on the go. But whatever the format, I’m willing to bet that most such lists contain a few  “dream on” items: the things you’d dearly love to own but doubt you ever will due to rarity, cost, age or a combination of all these factors.  Top of my Transformer wishlist for some time has been the Takara-Tomy Arms Micron Breakdown figure. But to be honest I never thought I’d really get him. The only times I’d ever seen him for sale at all here in the UK he’d been going for ridiculous prices as a double import (from Japan via the USA) and though I probably spend more than I should on Transformers overall, I couldn’t begin to justify (or afford) splurging so much on a single figure.

My Arms-Micron Knock Out had pretty much resigned himself to being partnerless too:

Breakdown really does cost that much :(

But sometimes love stories do have a happy ending:

Arms Micron Knock Out and Arms Micron Breakdown, united at last!

Arms Micron Knock Out and Arms Micron Breakdown, united at last!

Yes! Breakdown recently popped up on Ebay here in the UK, pre-owned but in superb condition and for a price that was not insane. My heart was thundering in my chest to an embarrassing extent as the final seconds of the auction ticked to a close, but I’m happy to say I got him and my wallet wasn’t crying afterwards.

Although he’s not a new toy I’m going to do a full review, because he’s not a figure that gets seen very often. It’s such a shame he’s not more readily available because Breakdown really is superb, both in terms of his design and his show accuracy.

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Movie Talk: Ponderings on Pacific Rim 2

Or, where is my goddamn shoe sequel?

“To be or not to be — that is the question…” As we all know, in this speech Hamlet, Prince of Denmark was pondering the fate of the proposed sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s 2013 movie Pacific Rim. The “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” clearly represent the uncertainty surrounding this project: initially it looked like Pacific Rim wouldn’t perform well enough in the box office to assure a sequel; it didn’t recoup its costs in America, but after a strong performance in other countries, especially in China, a follow-up film was finally greenlit and scheduled, only to face further delays and now – if last week’s reports are accurate –  a question mark over whether it’ll happen at all. In the next line of his soliloquy, Hamlet mentions “a sea of troubles” the Pac Rim influence here is not in doubt, but scholars are divided over the precise focus. Did Shakespeare intend the line as a reference to Breach – the ocean rift through which the film’s Kaiju antagonists ascend? Or if it is rather an allusion to “Maelstrom” which has been the working title of the troubled sequel? Either way, prescient Bard that Will. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

Alas poor, uh... PPDC badge?

Alas poor, uh… PPDC badge

Ok, so I made up a lot of the stuff in that opening paragraph, did you notice? Although someone totally should write a thesis on Del Toro and Shakespeare… hang on… *Googles* someone already has, day made! But some truths remain. I do genuinely have a PhD, and there is currently a hell of a lot of confusion and uncertainty over the future of Pacific Rim 2. Here’s my unasked for soliloquy on the situation…

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Chiptune Tuesday: Capture the Sun and Ovid’s Withering

Hi! Welcome to Chiptune Tuesday! Today I’m going to tell you about a couple of bands who’ve released chiptune versions of their own non-chiptune albums, and why you should care.

I was reading the rather awesome Bandcamp Buried Treasure feature on, which is all about good-but-cheap underground metal albums on Bandcamp (no surprises there), when I came across post-rock act Capture the Sun. I noticed whilst listening to their delightful debut album that there was a link in the corner to a free chiptune version of that album

Album artwork for Capture the Sun chiptune version.

I could’ve predicted the album artwork without too much work, but that doesn’t make it any less good.

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Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
First Published: 2015

So what do you once you’ve turned the final page of a book you really loved? If you’re anything like me the answer might be:

  1. Feel a little sad that such a wonderful reading experience has come to an end.
  2. Start recommending said book to everyone you know.
  3. Find out if the author has published anything else and if so, buy it.

So you can imagine my glee when I discovered that, conveniently, I had finished Ernest Clines’ superb first novel, Ready Player One, just 3 days before his second book, Armada, was due to be published. Talk about perfect timing! Ready Player One may have presented a dystopian vision of the not-too-distant future but as far as reading experiences go, it was geek nirvana, laden as it was with so many contextually-justified references to the games, technology and pop-culture of the 1980s and 90s. Just like that novel’s protagonist, Wade, I’d been reluctant to logout of the enjoyably escapist virtual world laid out before me. But with Armada touted as offering a similarly pop-culture savvy experience to its predecessor it sounded like I wouldn’t be logged out for long. While Cline’s debut imagined the possibilities and the Pitfalls (Pitfall! Get it?) of a MMORPG style online world, Armada looks to the skies, and beyond: it’s an alien invasion narrative that promised to draw on every space shoot-em-up you’ve ever played and to offer a different context for all the sci-fi classic movies with which I grew up.

That all sounded so promising, and so much fun. You should never judge a book by it cover, of course, but it looked oh so promising too: what a great jacket design!

Armada book cover

Armada book cover

But…. while I can’t deny it was fun, overall, I have to admit I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so disappointed by a novel. I really wanted to like Armada but, though it does have some good moments, compared to the genius of Ready Player One, it just felt flat, forced and predictable. Son, I am disappoint.

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

What follows is a bit more on the novels’s themes as well as what I liked and the somewhat longer list of what I didn’t like about Armada. This is the kind of book that it’s hard to discuss without mentioning some key plot points so Rodimus is here to warn you that there may be one or two spoilers ahead.

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Army-Building with STEVE, XPNDBL & CANTFLY (Star Wars Fans Have it Easy)

Army-building is a slang term among action figure collectors which means obtaining and displaying multiples of the same action figure — usually one which represents a generic “trooper” rather than a particular character.

These statues were made with mix-and-match molds, so each one is actually unique.

Qin Shi Huang was the first Army-builder. (Photo of his mausoleum, from Wikimedia foundation, original here.)

Army-building seems to be popular among the Star Wars fandom. A quick Google search turns up thousands of images of fan-made displays, some of which contain hundreds of neatly-lined-up Stormtroopers with a a single Darth Vader & Emperor Palpatine (and maybe a couple of those red bodyguard guys) stood at the head of the group.

Guess what kind of action figure we army-build with here at AddAltMode: that’s right it’s a Transformer. The Vehicons from Transformers Prime – who are the show’s Stormtrooper-equivalents.

The Steve who looks thoughtful is wondering where his pal is, completely fooled by his disguise.

Vehicons! We’ve discussed them once or twice before.

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Chiptune Tuesday: Starscream / Infinity Shred

Yes, it’s that time of the week again when things get bleepy and bloopy! But here’s a band that eschew the retro stylings of most chiptune artists. Rather than looking back to the 80s and early gaming technology that gave birth to their 8-bit instruments, Starscream/Infinity Shred have their sights set firmly on the future and on the infinite possibilities of space.

Starscream / Infinity Shred band logo

Starscream / Infinity Shred band logo

But first up, some disambiguation since this is a band who’ve had some identity issues. Starscream were founded in 2007, initially a two-piece chiptune outfit, comprising Damon Hardjowirogo and George Stroud, they were later joined by guitarist Nathan Ritholz. The band played and recorded under their Seeker-sational moniker until 2012 when they changed their name to Infinity Shred. The reason for the renaming wasn’t, as you might expect, a lawsuit from Hasbro, but actually legal pressures from another band, the Philadelphian rockers Starskream. The name change also signaled an evolution in the band’s sound, maintaining their signature downbeat science-fiction themes but beginning to move away from purely 8-bit/chip music to explore wider electronic soundscapes. They now describe themselves as Electronic / Rock / Post-Rock rather than  chiptune per se. Although I strongly encourage you to check out their whole back catalogue, I’m mostly going to talk about the band as Starscream not just because we find it hard to pass up a good Transformers reference here on AddAltMode (although we do), but primarily due to the fact that I’ll be focusing my attention on my favourite of their albums, which dates from the Starscream era, 2011’s Future, Towards the Edge of Forever.

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Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Robo Reads

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
First Published: 2011

I’m not sure this should really count as a fully fledged Robo Read but I’m going to include it under the heading anyway. Reasons? Well, the novel does include one scene-stealing giant robot moment, and although artificial intelligence isn’t really its focus, Ready Player One certainly explores our relationship with technology and the potential of on-line / virtual lives. Indeed, in that respect Cline’s book rather put me in mind of John Scalzi’s Lock In, a great novel that was the focus of my very first Robo Reads book review on this blog. Scalzi is actually name-checked in Cline’s work and has himself sung its praises, describing the book as a “nerdgasm.”

It’s a pretty accurate description. While its “Robo Reads” credentials may be debatable, there is no doubt that Ready Player One fully deserves the accolade of “Geek Lit Classic.” It’s not without it flaws but these are more than compensated by an overall ride that manages to combine some all-too-grimly-plausible near future dystopian world building with a gleefully referential nostalgic pop-cultural odyssey that had me grinning from ear. You probably need to be a bit of a gamer and to have some affection for the 80s to get the most out of this novel but if you fit those bills and haven’t read Cline’s debut novel already I highly recommend doing so now, or at least before Stephen Spielberg’s film version of it comes out. So, you’ve got just under a year and half, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge considering this is the kind of book I struggled to put down and devoured in just a couple of sittings.

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The Cortex Cleaver: A custom weapon for Transformers.

Hey Transformers Universe fans! The game may have died and faded to gunmetal grey but we’re keeping the good parts alive, and among those good parts were some of the weapons. Do you remember Shellshock’s Cortex Cleaver? Rampart’s Flak Axe? The un-named axe that Diabla wielded on the posters?

She lost the axe, but stayed Axe-crazy.

I don’t think this axe even made it to public beta before being replaced by her venomous arm-blades.

Well, they all use the same model, and I thought it’d be a cool thing to have, so I went about digitally-sculpting it and sent it to Shapeways to 3D-print.

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Toy Review: Fansproject’s Lost Exo Realm LER01-Columpio & Drepan

Hello Internet! Those of you who’ve read our report from Auto Assembly 2015 might remember that I said I’d bought a really nice third-party not-Dinobot-honest called Columpio, made by a company called Fansproject.

... honest.

Totally not a Dinobot.

Columpio isn’t a terribly new figure: indeed FigureFanZero reviewed him nearly a year ago. (Incidentally, I can highly recommend FFZ’s blog to anyone interested in collecting little plastic men/robots. He writes informative & witty reviews, and has diverse tastes. Also, there’s an index of his myriad reviews, which can provided useful info on a range of particular figures.)

Anyway, I thought I’d string together a little review of the figure; I paid much more for him than I would normally pay for a toy robot, but I think he was well worth it.

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