february 2008

Here's the latest addition to my Kozik collection:

On my monitor (1680x1050), this is just about life-size, around 3 inches high.

A lot of Kozik's recent pieces have been taking a model from a manufacturer's signature pieces (in this case a buka, which is some sort of oversized duck head—I don't really know what the hell it is, actually, but it has a bill like a duck—from the firm adFunture) and putting his own design on it, either as part of a series where several other artists do the same thing or just as a release of that model with one of his signature styles. In this case, that style is Redrum, specifically the Jack variant, which has a different style of eyes meant to recall Jack Nicholson's crazy eyes in The Shining (which is also where the Redrum phrase comes from). In addition to the blood, pieces in this styles alway have the word REDRUM written on the back. Most of the time there is a normal and a Jack variant for Redrum pieces, but in this case the Jack version was the only one released.

Kozik's other best known signature style is called Anarchy, which is typically a black model with the anarchy symbol and a word or phrase like "Destroy" or "The Future Is Stupid" written somewhere. There is a buka in this style too, but so far I haven't been able to find one in stock online, and I'm not willing to take my chance on a blind box because there are more than 10 versions in this series of buka besides Kozik's, and none of the others really appeal to me.

After a couple of people criticized Kozik on the message boards for using these designs too frequently, he posted that it was his goal to make a Redrum and Anarchy variant of every toy possible, and at the time most people thought he was just being snarky. But as each new toy series appears with at least one of these designs, and as the Redrum in particular gets applied to more and more subtle variations of the same toy (white body versus glow in the dark; 8 inch versus 2.5 inch, etc.), I'm starting to think he may have been dead serious.

Dodd came over for the Super Bowl last night, where we once again had wings from the local wings place and my custom monter sandwich. This year's model used a loaf of artisan bread sliced in half with a layer of yellow mustard on the bottom, stacked with roast beef, American cheese, vinegar cole slaw, roasted turkey, provolone cheese, bread and butter pickles, honey ham, swiss cheese, and shredded lettuce, all topped with Italian dressing and with a layer of mayo on the top half of the loaf.

Last year we had trouble holding the slices of the sandwich together while we ate them, so this year's innovation was to try a different slicing technique, which I think improved the experience. But it was still a little difficult to hold it all together and take a bite, because it was stacked so high, so I think for next year I'll focus on reducing the height of the beast by not folding the pieces of meat and maybe by hollowing out the lower half of the bun a little bit.

The game itself was pretty good this year—I wasn't rooting for anyone in particular, because even though it would have been cool to see a perfect season come to fruition, I think the Boston area has had more than its fair share of world championships this decade. I'm usually all for rooting for the underdog, but let's be reasonable: it's hard to really think of a New York team as an underdog.

And for all you football dads out there that push your kids to think of a career in the NFL from age 6 and imagine that one day you'll be in a luxury booth at the Super Bowl watching your son win it all: you can pretty much quit now, because Archie Manning is now officially King of the Football Dads. As rare as a perfect season would have been for New England, I can pretty much guarantee you that we'll never again see two brothers, both quarterbacks whose father was also an NFL quaterback, lead their teams to Super Bowl victories in back-to-back years. That is, unless the Manning boys do it again sometime soon.

As for the ads, which for once actually took a backseat to the game, there were only a couple of memorable ones—the giant pigeon ad for FedEx and the talking stain ad for the Tide pen—and the Tide pen is the only one I think I'll laugh at if I see it again. Other than that, it was a pretty lackluster year for ads, which is okay, because for once the game deserved all the attention.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the Celebrity Apprentice is scripted. Not the normal kind of reality show scripted, but actually scripted, with scenes and even certain lines mapped out ahead of time. I'm not sure that everyone on the show is aware of this, but I think at least half of them are. It became clear to me when Gene Simmons, one of the most outsized characters/stars on the show, got fired in week 3 for no particular reason (the real reason being that his contracted number of episodes was up), while Omarosa, a backbiting, insecure, overly aggressive suckup (and decidedly not a star), stuck around week after week, despite being directly responsible for most of the infighting and bad decisionmaking on her team.

That's become the real game on this show now: figuring out who's in on the con and who's not. At this point, I think the only people remaining who are aware that this is all fixed are supermodel, the British tabloid editor, and maybe the Baldwin. Everyone else in the know has been "fired" already, likely because the only reason they came on the show in the first place was as a favor to Trump, and there was no way they were going to go through a whole season of filming. I'd suspect that Omarosa was in on it, too, because there's really no reason for her to be on a celebrity edition of any show, but I don't think she's that good an actor. Besides, she will reliably generate problems with her teammates, and she's got her head too far up her own ass to ever catch on to the rigged nature of the competition, and that's ideally the type of person you'd want on the show as a contestant who's not in on the joke. Hell, they might even let her "win", because she's the only one that's really desperate to come out on top; everyone else has an actual career/life to go back to once the show is over.

And yeah, I know it's a crappy show. But I can't bloody well read a book while I'm eating dinner.

The cats went to the vet last night, where we had to wait an unusually long time to see the doctor, almost an hour. We hadn't seen this particular vet before (our vet has a rotating staff, so we've been going to the same clinic for years but we very rarely see the same person twice), and in addition to being way behind schedule, she was also a bit of a Debbie Downer. When she was examining our diabetic cat's eyes and saw that he had cataracts, she told us that the cataracts themselves weren't that big a deal (he's had poor vision for years, so it really wasn't much of a surprise), but that they could develop into glaucoma, in which case she would recommend removing his eyes entirely rather than fix them.

I mean, if we have to face that situation, we'll face it and make a decision then, but it was just so odd for her to go into a worst case scenario for a problem that hasn't even presented itself yet. That plus the fact that we spent well over an hour there and only saw her for about 10 minutes (and at least part of the delay is because she saw someone who had a later appointment than us before she saw us), and it wasn't a great visit.

On the plus side, she did not recommend teeth cleanings for either of our two cats, the first time that's happened since we started going to this clinic.

I flew up to Ithaca, NY, on Thursday for a meeting on Friday, and then flew back to Baltimore on Friday night, and I'm still a little tired from the whole experience. My mother's job requires her to travel all the time—she's usually out of town for at least 3-4 days a week—and she seems to enjoy it, but man, if my job required that of me, I think the first thing I'd do is start looking for another job.

Routines and downtime are a big part of the way I get through the week, and when I'm on the road traveling for business, especially for little 1-2 day trips like this one and the one we took last month to NYC to visit Columbia, that all goes out the window. Conferences I can deal with a little better—usually you get to go somewhere for three or four days, and Julie is usually also able to join me on those trips and we can make a mini vacation out of them. But these little quick jaunts where all you see of the place your visiting is the airport, the offices of the people you're meeting, and possibly the inside of a hotel room, they don't do anything for me. So yeah, now I can say I've been to Ithaca. But not really.

I think one of the disconnects for me with my job these days is that while most of the people I work with (and for) increasingly want me in strategic meetings, I still want to do actual work. Don't get me wrong, I like having input on the larger issues facing the office and the university, but I also like to be able to feel like I've done something tangible at the end of the work day.

I don't think I've ever voted in a primary before, because usually by the time my state takes its turn, it's all over but the crying. However, with Clinton and Obama running such a close race this year, the winner of our primary mattered for once. The problem: I don't feel very strongly about either candidate, and I had reservations about voting for either one when I think they both have issues that will cause problems in the general election.

I'm sure you've heard these all before, because they're pretty standard criticisms of the candidates, but here goes: Obama doesn't have enough experience, I don't know his opinions about many issues, he doesn't have an extensive voting record that I can use to predict his future behavior, and his strong support now could wane if he becomes the nominee and the Republican attack dogs go after him full force. Clinton is a standard issue politician who seems to be just as much in the pocket of big business as anyone else on Capitol Hill, and she polarizes voters, meaning a lot of Dems won't vote for her and she could also bring out currently disillusioned Republican voters in droves who might otherwise apathetically stay home in a McCain-Obama showdown.

In the end, I don't think my state's delegates will really matter—I think once Hillary gets started with the backroom deals that she and her husband are so adept at (especially in regards to the superdelegates, most of whom likely still have strong ties to Clinton's campaigns in the 90s), she's going to end up as the nominee, unless Obama manages to decisively defeat her in every primary between now and the convention.

I voted anyway after thinking about the two candidates all day, but again, I think the current opinion that Clinton's ship is sinking is just an illusion. Remember a month or so ago when McCain was considered dead in the water, his senior staff members were leaving the campaign, he couldn't raise any money, etc.? Yeah. It's like that, only I think Obama will manage to drag out the drama until the convention. But at the end of the day, it's going to be the people who run the party machine who are going to choose the nominee, and I think we all know that they are going to heavily favor Clinton.

I'm supposed to be reading at home today and tomorrow, but before I packed up my files to head home last night, I could already tell that I wasn't going to be able to get through my normal quota of 40 files per day, so I only took home 65 instead of the 80 I usually would have. In previous years, I haven't had any trouble blocking out a day or two a week to ignore my normal work and focus exclusively on reading files, but this year, there hasn't been a single day when I haven't spent at least a couple of hours handling IT stuff or dialing into conference calls, and I've ended up having to finish my reading on the weekends just to keep up. So I'm going to be a little more proactive from now on about how many files I'm taking home, so that my workload is reflective of the actual time I have available to read, instead of what I wish my time was.

This is what I got for Valentine's Day from Julie:

This is a chupacabra figure hand-painted by David Horvath, who is better known for his Uglydolls and, more recently, his children's book Bossy Bear (which has several accompanying vinyl figures). Figures like chupacabra are very popular in Japan, but western artists (including Horvath and Kozik) are increasingly ordering small stocks of blanks and hand painting them, usually with airbrush guns. This figure comes from a run of 200; another figure I got from Kozik last week was limited to about 45 pieces.

Julie, for her part, got a hand-drawn and colored card with a labbit holding a flower in its mouth (instead of the traditional cigarette), a nice bunch of flowers, and a take-out thai dinner that took about an hour and a half longer to make than they told us on the phone when we ordered it. I'd say we both made out pretty good.

This came over the weekend:

This is the other Kozik piece from the buka series 1 figures; the first was in his trademark Redrum style (see my entry from February 1), while this is in his equally well-known Anarchy style. These pieces were relatively hard to find (they're even hard to find on eBay, because most people who go through the trouble of acquiring them are Kozik collectors, not flippers who are buying stuff just to resell it at a higher price), but I was lucky enough to find two online resellers who were selling open-box figures from the buka series (meaning they open the blind boxes to identify the figure inside rather than just selling the blind boxes and letting you take your chances) and get in an order for each figure before they sold out (which didn't take long).

You pay a small premium ($4-$5) for knowing what you're getting ahead of time, but since the two Kozik figures were the only ones from the series that I was even remotely interested in, that was a much cheaper option than buying blind box after blind box until I found what I was looking for or waiting until someone listed them at a superpremium price on eBay.

Today I have four meetings on my calendar that are scheduled to take up five hours of my time. So another productive workday for me...

I know it's not going to be a snow day today. I know we're probably not going to get one at all this year. But man, I sure could use one.

If I haven't said it before, Benn at Atomic POP is amazingly cool. I preordered a couple of items from him earlier this week, and one of the pieces I ordered was an 8 inch glow in the dark Redrum Qee bear by Frank Kozik. I mentioned in the comment section of the web order form that if he happened to get the Jack Eyes variant of this piece, I'd be interested in picking that up in addition to the regular edition (with this particular series, a retailer doesn't know ahead of time whether they're going to get any of the variant pieces, but the pieces are window boxes, so they can tell immediately whether they have one when the order arrives because the figure is fully viewable while still inside the packaging).

The white, non-glow in the dark version of this same piece was released recently, and that has a Jack Eyes version too, but I checked through all of the boxes they had on the shelf at Atomic POP when I was there a couple of weeks ago and didn't see any. So I figured I was out of luck with finding one, because it's very hard to find online, and even if you do find one, the sellers add a hefty premium because it's such a rare piece.

But then we went back to the store on Tuesday night to kill time before meeting my brother and an out of town friend for dinner at Golden West, and as I was chatting with Benn while checking out, he remembered my email and asked if I'd be interested in a Jack Eyes version of the white Qee bear, which of course I was. He actually had received one with his allotment, but he'd held it back because he was thinking about buying it himself. Seeing how psyched I was about the piece, though, he decided to sell it to me, and without the ridiculous premium that some resellers put on the piece.

Tuesday turned out to be a pretty good toy day—in addition to the Redrum Jack Eyes white Qee that we got from Atomic POP, we had two packages waiting for us when we got home from dinner: the clear green chupacabra sculpt from David Horvath the Julie ordered for me for Valentine's day, and the Redrum mini Gobi (another Kozik design on a sculpt from Muttpop) that I had ordered from Rotofugi. But the Jack Eyes piece was a real find, and I have Benn to thank for making it available.

I'll be gone next week for our annual ski vacation with my brother and our parents. This year there's so much going on at work that it's hard to think about being out of touch for that long, but for the same reason, it's going to be nice to have a break to clear my head and come back refreshed for the final push to our decision mailing date.

Our original plan was to leave for our ski vacation yesterday and come back on Thursday, but as I started to look at the forecast for the mountain over the weekend, it became increasingly clear that today and tomorrow were going to be completely unfit for good skiing, whereas Wednesday and Thursday should be just about perfect. So we changed our plans, and now we'll head up to the resort tomorrow, ski on Wednesday and Thursday, and come back on Friday.

Since I took the whole week off anyway, it didn't really matter to me, and honestly, I didn't mind having an extra day to tie things up at work and get packed for our trip.
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