I just received the new KO of Fansproject’s DIA Commander set today.  This third party set was developed as an upgrade for Classics Optimus Prime and to homage the original Diaclone colors of Transformers Generation 1 toy Ultra Magnus.

Lately, the knock-offs coming from China have been getting increasingly more and more high quality.  This is no exception.  This one is copied right down to the box and every piece is high quality.  You won’t know you’re getting a knock-off.  There’s really no two ways about it.  Usually there are tell-tale signs that let you know you’re getting a KO, but as far as I can tell, there aren’t any readily recognizable tells here.

There were no shortcuts taken on the quality of this thing.  The stickers are not cheaply made; rather, they are exact and well-cut.  The comic/instruction book is fully reproduced on high quality paper.  The box is basically the same, and the plastic on the actual kit feels authentic.

For those of you who are considering getting this and putting it on a KO Optimus Prime, I would caution against it.  The pieces don’t fit nearly as well on a knock-off as they do on the real deal.  This set, like the original, is meant for legit product, as ironic as that may seem.  That being said, when the armor is put on a legit Classics Prime, it stays put with no problems.

In fact, there is only really one problem with this kit at all — the shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.  The peg is a loose fit and they tend to fall off the shoulders or slump a bit.  The shoulder stacks are a bit loose occasionally, but generally stay in place.  A couple parts in trailer mode are a little loose.  But I’m told that these problems exist on the original as well.

Paint apps on this KO look really good, and the chrome is really well done.  I only noticed one small chip on the chest-plate.  Otherwise, it looks really great.

I really recommend this to anyone who is looking to pick up this set.  

Photo gallery ahead!  Click the images to enlarge.

Here it is, still in package

The bottom of the packaging

Freed from the box

The comic/instruction booklet

Sticker sheet, launchers, and energon case

inside bottom of the box

Optimus and trailer in tractor/trailer mode

Optimus, before the armor

First, you put on the waist piece

then snap on the legs

Attach the chest armor. This can take a little fiddling, but it will snap securely.

Next are the shoulders. They can be a little loose and may fall off, but usually they sit securely. The OP gun pegs into the back of the right shoulder.

Now for the rest of the arms and the shoulder launchers (again, they're very loose, as you may be able to tell)

Add all the humongous guns and Optimus is BANGIN'!

Armor on a different Prime, a knock-off Ultra Magnus. Not recommended. The arms and chest piece do not snap on or stay as well as they should.

Optimus alongside the DIA Commander

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Yeah, we couldn't think of a better album cover design, and Frank needed the work...

The fourth album from My Chemical Romance broke onto the Billboard album charts this week, debuting at a rather respectable #8. The Sandbox was able to obtain a copy and give it a listen.

It almost feels like this album was a direct response to the common misconception that MCR is an “emo” band. There is nothing emo at all about this album. Rather, the album is aggressive rock from beginning to end. This is the kind of album that you keep in your car for those days when you feel the need for speed and ear-shattering music. All things considered, it’s unfortunate in a way that the album was released in winter, because this is a CD that needs to be listened to at full volume, windows down, flying down the interstate. The interludes that feature DJ Dr. Death Defying make listening to this album in your car all the more reasonable.

One thing I like about the album, and MCR’s work in general, is that it carries a concept all the way through the album. In this respect, My Chemical Romance reminds me of a modern day Queensryche, and this album in particular reminds me of Operation: Mindcrime. One of the unfortunate by-products of an mp3-driven music industry is that more and more albums are just a compilation of singles that have little if anything to do with each other. This particular album is set nine years into the future and features the band’s alter-egos “The Fabulous Killjoys” in combat with an evil corporation. (It’s interesting hearing an anti-corporate message from songs that are clearly corporate rock.) Because of the futuristic feel of the album, the music is supposed to emulate what the California music scene might sound like nearly a decade into the future. There’s sort of a post-post grunge feel to it, and a few of the songs almost veer into the realm of the ballad and the anthem.  Still, this is combat rock, and the music does a good job of making the listener feel a certain way.  Some moments you feel powerful; other moments you feel angry and righteously indignant.

Overall, it’s a good listen, though I have to say that there is very little that is truly groundbreaking in this album.

Current singles are “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” and “The Only Hope For Me Is You.” This author feels like “Sing” and “Bulletproof Heart” and “The Kids From Yesterday” are almost certain to become singles, and they are some of the more notable songs on this disc.

Alright…let’s get to the ratings, all of which are scores out of 10:

Bump in my ride? 10
Rock my face off? 8
Strong album concept? 8
Songs that will get stuck in my head? 9
Safe to play around the kids? 3
Overall 8.5 and rising with each play

Editor’s Note:  It is my pleasure to welcome Richard Holdridge as a writer here at Sizzle’s Sandbox.  He will regularly contribute his thoughts on sports here.  He is a walking, talking sports almanac, so I am sure you will enjoy his thoughts.  –Sizzle

Do they make hate-proof jerseys?

I have to say I am very excited about seeing LeBron James coming back to Cleveland. He is in for a real surprise. If I were him, I would fear for my life. There is a reason why the city of Cleveland has to beef up security when he comes to town.

In order to understand the city’s hatred for LeBron, you must understand the suffering this city has gone through. They have not won a championship since 1964 when the Browns won the Super Bowl. The Indians went to the World Series in 1995 and 1997, but guys like Tom Glavine and Edgar Renteria broke the city’s heart. The Cavs got their hearts broken by Michael Jordan in the late 1980′s.  This is a city that has known loss, and those losses hurt deeply.

In 2003, the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James in hopes of bringing that championship they have been desiring and chasing for over 40 years.  He boosted the team, and would eventually help them reach the NBA Finals in 2007, but in yet another heartbreak, Cleveland got swept by the San Antonio Spurs, and the city’s losing streak would remain intact.

LeBron played 7 seasons for the Cavs and won 2 MVP awards while there.  But as with all good and promising things, there came a time when a crucial choice had to be made.  When he became a free agent in July 2010, there was a lot of speculation about where he might play next, both on his part and on the part of basketball fans.  A lot of Cleveland fans hoped he would stay but instead he dropped the bombshell in a ESPN One-Hour Special, telling the world that he would “take his talents to south beach”. He signed with the Miami Heat along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to form what was supposed to be “a dynasty.”

So far they don’t look like a dynasty.  An NBA team can’t win with a no name coach, no big man and no point guard.

Personally, this author hopes Cleveland beats Miami badly.  Perhaps it is time that LeBron gets a taste of the loss that Cleveland has felt for so long.

–Richard Holdridge

For a while now, WWE story lines have been…well, let’s be honest, a little bit stale. As recently as SummerSlam, there had been very little to get truly excited about.

I'm smiling because my shirt is somewhere making more money than you

However, the last month or so has seen the WWE pick up tremendously. The on-going battle between John Cena and the Nexus is at a fever pitch now, as Cena, who is ostensibly fired from the WWE after the events of Survivor Series, has to work behind the scenes in order to take out each member of Nexus. A lot of wrestling fans have long criticized Cena’s character as being too much of a Superman–a sort of an uber-face that is always honest and forthright and yet at the same time nearly undefeatable. I think that the story development that’s occurring now will give those fans and Cena’s character a bit of what they really need: a John Cena who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. Monday night, Cena attacked three Nexus members: Mike McGillicuddy in a surprise backstage ambush, Heath Slater receiving an Attitude Adjustment through the announcers’ table, and Justin Gabriel being put through a car door, some trash cans and then a windshield out in the parking lot. Thus, Cena is now less of a Superman and more of a Batman or Punisher. I seriously doubt the constant rumors of Cena turning heel are true; Cena as a face puts the meat in the seats, and the WWE isn’t about to abandon that. But I do see the lines between face and heel being blurred a bit. My prediction is that the Cena/Nexus rivalry will continue to be hashed out for a few months until being ultimately resolved at Wrestlemania.

The only "straight edge" right now is on the surgeon's scalpel

And what about C.M. Punk at the announce table? I think he’s amazing in that capacity, even though I never really liked him as a heel on Raw or Smackdown. It’s unfortunate that he’s being forced to assume this role due to an upcoming non-kayfabe hip surgery, but to be honest, I hope he stays on as a commentator. His voice is surprisingly fresh in contrast to Lawler and Cole, and it’s actually very nice to have a counterpoint to the sniveling Cole, who gets more and more irritating each week. I know that heel commentators have been around for a long time, and I remember Jesse Ventura’s rants against Hulk Hogan, but Michael Cole is simply not as good as, well, anybody who has ever worn the headsets. Cole’s continuous bro-mance with the Miz has passed the point of nauseating, and it’s not even really convincing. And then of course, there’s his slobbering over Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Having C.M. Punk as a third commentator provides a counter-point to heel Cole and white-knight face Jerry “The King” Lawler, and as Punk will tell you himself, he’s very talented at doing just that.

I'm the King of whoopin' the tar out of Michael Cole!

Speaking of Jerry “The King” Lawler, who saw that championship tables, ladders and chairs match coming?? I have to admit, when Lawler challenged the Miz to a championship match and the anonymous General Manager approved it, I was sitting there with the biggest, most idiotic grin on my face. I have never been that giddy over a WWE match, and the closest I’ve come recently was when Sgt. Slaughter fought on WWE Raw Old School a few weeks ago. Lawler, of course, is from my hometown of Memphis, and it was great to see my city represented well. The match itself was amazing. I had no idea that Lawler still had so much left in him, though I noticed he didn’t get put through a table himself, despite having the strength to put both Alex Riley and the Miz through one. I sort of expected a powder-puff sort of fight with very few slams and some light fisticuffs, but Lawler and the Miz put it all out there. And though I knew there was no way the WWE was going to give Miz’s title away so quickly–least of all to a semi-retired superstar–I sat there hoping against hope. And let’s be honest, I think we were all winners when the King finally beat the living snot out of Michael Cole. I cheered with every single punch. I’m hoping this makes the dynamic at the announce table even more exciting in the days to come.

Why yes, mayonnaise and ginger do mix well together!

The actual battle, the King of the Ring tournament, sort of shuffled in behind all the Cena/Nexus story-line drama and the birthday celebration of Jerry Lawler. It’s not really surprising that it essentially led into yet another hum-drum chapter in the story of the John Morrison/Sheamus rivalry. I just hate that it used potentially interesting characters like Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston and even Alberto Del Rio as cannon fodder to get there. Most frustrating was the complete waste of Ezekiel Jackson and Drew McIntyre, as they were both counted out and therefore neither made it to the next bracket. Frankly, I could have done without the King of the Ring portion of the broadcast, and Raw could’ve accomplished everything I enjoyed in the normal 2 hours instead of 3.

So, as we move closer to the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view, what will the WWE do to keep things interesting? I don’t know, but I’m looking for the return of Mr. MacMahon soon, and I’m almost positive that Triple H is the anonymous G.M.

Who among us doesn’t enjoy a good zombie movie from time to time? This past Halloween, my wife and I came across a DVD set with all of George Romero’s “Dead” movies. (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc.) I couldn’t help but pick up the set, because there’s just something inherently cool about Romero’s movies, or flicks like 28 Days Later or even the Resident Evil series. I’m not quite sure what it is, actually, though I have a few theories.

Possibly, it’s the fantasy of being left alone, the last person truly alive in a world that has succumbed to disease or death. I know lots of guys who, when they see Will Smith walk into an empty NYC video store in I Am Legend, take all the DVDs he wants, and bring them back to his huge plasma HDTV that he undoubtedly didn’t pay for, geek out a little and comment on how cool that would be. After all, can you imagine a world where you don’t have to put up with traffic, long lines at the supermarket, or the annoyance of noisy neighbors, aside from a few moaning flesh-eating zombies? What guy doesn’t fantasize of a world where everything is free, where he doesn’t have to pay bills because the bill collectors are all gone, and where he can live in the frontier (only this frontier has abandoned shopping malls filled with toys.)

Possibly, it’s the fact that in every zombie movie, the hero is an ordinary guy who, given a shotgun, is now the last man standing and ready to whoop some tail to save the world. Just about every flick that has a zombie apocalypse has ordinary men and women as protagonists. There seems to be something just more…I don’t know…possible about that. Maybe you can’t see yourself being a superhero or a Ghostbuster or even a Marine fighting off terrorists, but anyone can see themselves as a random “last person left alive.” Maybe it’s that zombies, on the whole, seem like a more accessible and defeatable foe. We can watch a zombie movie and truly say to ourselves “hey, I could be that hero.”

Whatever the case may be, the fact is that zombie movies will always be popular, particularly among guys.

AMC has apparently realized this, and thus we have The Walking Dead, a weekly hour-long series that airs on AMC. (Yes, I know that AMC stands for “American Movie Classics,” and don’t get me started on how most TV channels have forgotten what they are supposed to be airing.) Currently, the show airs on Sundays at 10 Eastern and 9 Central. At this point, the show is five episodes into its first season, which will reach its finale next week. If you’ve missed the first five episodes, don’t worry. AMC will re-run the first five episodes again in a marathon this Sunday, December 5, 2010, beginning at 4:30e/3:30c, followed immediately by the 6th episode, which will serve as the season finale.

The story is basically this: A small-town South Carolina sheriff’s deputy who was wounded in the line of duty wakes up from a coma to find himself in a hospital that has not only been abandoned, but also has dead bodies littering the floor. (This is not dissimilar to the beginning of 28 Days Later.) As he emerges from the hospital and begins searching for his missing family, he finds the streets are fraught with “walkers”–zombies, of course, who have been infected by bites. The survivors are few. Basically, three things can happen: you get your guts eaten out by the zombies, you get bitten and become one of them, or you fight and escape. Deputy Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) must get to Atlanta, a reported “safe area,” and find his wife and son. But, is Atlanta truly as safe as they say?

The pedigree of the production staff has “guys” written all over it. Executive producer Frank Darabont helmed classics like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Fans will recognize co-executive producer Gale Anne Hurd as a writer/producer on all four Terminator movies (as well as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), as well as a producer on Dante’s Peak and all of Marvel’s Hulk and Punisher movies. Also on board is executive producer Chick Eglee, who was responsible for one of my favorite shows, Dark Angel, as well as The Shield and Dexter.

Acting-wise, Andrew Lincoln is very believable as a small-town sheriff’s deputy. Prison Break cutie Sarah Wayne Callies lights up the screen as Deputy Grime’s wife, Lori. Sci-Fi favorite Laurie Holden is endearing as a tough chick/survivor. And it’s especially pleasing to see Jericho‘s Lennie James show up for a couple of the early episodes. (I’m hoping he’ll be back for more later! The door is definitely open for it.)

The source material is Image Comics’ critically acclaimed The Walking Dead which began publication in 2003.

All in all, this is must-watch TV, not only for guys, but for audiences in general. If you need more motivation, check out the trailer below:

I’ve recently become interested in obtaining prototypes and factory test shots of Hasbro’s Transformers toys. For one thing, they make the toy more valuable/collectible, and for another thing it’s just one of those neat things about living in China and being close enough to obtain such toys.

My first acquisition was Night Ops Ratchet, a Voyager class figure from the 2010 “Hunt for the Decepticons” sub-line. This hulking brute is a repaint of the voyager Ratchet from the 2007 movie toyline, this time with a mostly black deco and neon green highlights.

Here you can see the “Not For Sale” markings:

Here’s how I rate Night Ops Ratchet:

Vehicle Mode:  9

I give mad props to any Transformer that turns into a Hummer H2.  Simply put, Ratchet’s alt mode is one of the best of the entire movie franchise.  It is represented well here in this figure with lots of attention to detail.  The roll cages and roof rack feel and look right, and the color scheme is far, far better than the original puke green.  It almost has sort of a glow-in-the-dark look to it, but I haven’t tried that function yet.  The only ding it gets is a couple of instances of sloppy paint apps, but part of that is due to the fact that this is a factory prototype and not the finished product.

Robot mode: 8

One thing I can say about Ratchet is that he looks very menacing.  He’s a bit of a contrast to the G1 character who was also a medic, but not very handy in a fight.  This version looks like he would beat the tar out of you and then kill your family.  The figure is very posable, but seems most at easy in the crouched, bring-it-on sort of stance.  Weapons-wise, Ratchet is a bit lame.  His roof-rack/claw thing is OK, but the so-called axe that forms from his right hand is downright silly looking.  I do like the fact that he sports a big Autobot symbol on each shoulder.  It adds a splash a color to what is otherwise a very dark figure.  His head is still butt-ugly, though, and a nasty looking color.

Overall, I’d recommend this mold, and if you haven’t already got a version of it, this paint job is one of the best.

Enjoy the gallery! (Click on the pics to enlarge them.)





I found this via NPR.

Dave Barry, author of The Complete Guide to Guys and the personal hero of this blogger, recently spoke with radio host Melissa Block about his experience with the TSA nude body scanners now employed in many American airports. Hilarity ensued:

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well, now to someone whose junk was recently touched: humorist Dave Barry.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Last week, he went through a TSA full-body scanner. What the screeners saw, they did not like.

And Dave Barry, you have discovered that you are suffering from a rare disorder. What exactly is that disorder?

Mr. DAVE BARRY (Humorist): They told me I have a blurred groin.

BLOCK: A blurred groin?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. I was in that machine – like a phone-booth thing, where they make you hold your arms up. And then it sends a scan of your naked body to -they claim – a TSA person in another room. But it could be to Bangladesh to hacker – you don’t know where.

BLOCK: But word came back you have a blurred groin. Did you know what –

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. They were letting everyone else go. Everyone else had a nice, sharp groin, I guess. But when I went through, they pulled me aside and put me in this – kind of like little pen. And after like – I don’t know – three or four minutes of standing there, I asked one of them: Why am I here? And he said, you have a blurred groin. And I went, what? Because you hate to find this out at the airport.

BLOCK: Yeah, you would want to know.

Mr. BARRY: And I had just had a physical – I mean, literally, two weeks earlier -which was pretty thorough, if you know what I’m saying. So I’m standing there, you know, after another few minutes. And then another man came over and said: You have to come with me – to this little room. And he gave my boarding pass to another guy. And as we’re going to the room he said, your groin was blurred. And so…

BLOCK: You said, I know. I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: So what happened?

Mr. BARRY: So right now, like – everybody in Miami knows I’ve got a blurred groin.

BLOCK: Well, what happened next?

Mr. BARRY: Well, they take you in this little room. And it’s an unpleasant little room. The man is putting on the blue gloves. He’s telling me how he’s going to touch me. And he makes a big point about when he’s going to be using the front of his hand, and when he’s going to be using the back of his hand.

And I’m thinking, I don’t really care. Like, it’s not like if I’m going to have a guy touching me, I’m going to look down and go, oh, it’s okay; it’s the back of his hand – you know what I mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: And then while I was in there, the other guy with the boarding pass came in. And he says, oh, I’m a – you’re Dave Barry. I’m a big fan. And so I had this kind of surreal conversation with one guy telling me what a big fan he is, how much, you know, he likes my – and the other guy is groping me.

BLOCK: We asked TSA for some response to what happened. And they sent us some general information about the pat-downs. One, they’re not punitive. They say it just makes good security sense.

Mr. BARRY: Well, I would say whoever wrote that it’s not punitive was not having his or her groin fondled at the time.

BLOCK: But they do point out, look, you know, we remember the would-be Christmas Day bomber last year with explosives in his underwear. They say if there’s an anomaly – and I guess you were an anomaly – if it’s detected during screening, you’re going to get a pat-down.

Mr. BARRY: I, you know, I’m not going to argue that it’s totally unnecessary. I’m not going to say that. I do think – and this is not an original observation – you see a lot of – I do – a lot of elderly ladies being pulled aside for one issue or another. And I suppose terrorists could use an elderly lady to attack a plane. I just don’t think they ever have. It just seems like it’d make more sense to focus your efforts on things that are more likely to actually happen.

BLOCK: Did you have a conversation with your wife after this, Dave – like, honey, you know, I have something I have to tell you?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, I got on the phone right away. And I called my wife, because they say you should share that with your partner.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And her reaction was?

Mr. BARRY: She thought it was pretty funny. How do I put this? My wife doesn’t have any complaints about my groin – that I know of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Well, Dave Barry, safe travels.

Mr. BARRY: All right. Thank you. I’m feeling much safer now, knowing that they’re not going to let me on there without checking me.

(courtesy of National Public Radio)