Sunday, April 19, 2009

BILLION DOLLAR BUMBLEBEES-The price of love, silence and my adult sanity (after mail-in rebate)

Although I am Nostrodomatron of the Roboplastic Apocalypse I was unprepared for the hilarity of Chicken Pop Pod episode #37. Even I could not have prognosticated the impending LOLpocalypse I had while listening to a bunch of normal guys talking about the old days of Transformers and the Great Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Hot damn I think I've listened to that podcast at least four times. I know the question on everyone's mind is, "But as this dimension's Nostrodomatron how is it that you did not see this podcast coming, as clearly it is a sign of the Roboplastic Apocalypse?" And well the answer is that despite its name, a Nostrodomatron is only good for looking into the past-specifically 1985.


It is because of Chicken Pop Pod 37 that I've been working on an overhaul of the Transfomers sections of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. The Chicken Pop Podpeople ignited within me untold passions when they kicked off their old school Transfromer discussion with the age old question that has plagued philosophers and toy robots archaeologists since time immemorial-"So how much did Optimus Prime cost back in 1984?" Man, if I were to count all the times I've heard that question pop up in podcasts it would be twice. Still, it bothers me because I of all people should be able to answer it by now. I of all people should be able to come up with a simple comment on their site like, "Dear Chicken Pop Podpeople, HAY GUYS I GO TO LIBRARIES PLUS MICROFILMS. $19.99!" But I couldn't. Why is it that after collecting the retail price data for over 700 Transformers items I couldn't contribute the answer to even the simplest price-related Transfromrer question? Why after spending a little over 10 years at this ad collecting hobby couldn't I definitively say that the answer is Optimus Prime cost X amount of 1984 dollars? You know why I couldn't simply do that? Because for all the data I've collected, the Vintage Space Toaster Palace Transformer sections WERE ALL FUCKY AND HORRIBLE.


K-Mart 10/10/84

When I first got the idea to take a bunch of 25 year old toy robots newspaper ads and put them on the internet it wasn't because I wanted the only website comprised entirely of advertising that generates absolutely no revenue, it was something profoundly more idiotic. It was driven by an appreciation for the ads themselves and their little line art pictures with badly worded descriptions written by K-Mart employees and grocery store cashiers. But all these years later I've realized that this amassed canon of K-Mart Transformers continuity needed organization. I couldn't keep throwing ad upon ad in there in a pile and expect anyone to get anything out of it. In their previous state, the disheveled garbage dumps of randomly arranged hyperlinks that comprised the VSTP's Transformers sections meant nothing to anyone and they could not be easily used in a way that was meaningful without spending hours trying to sift through all the unorganized lists. There was great knowledge buried in those lists, and by extension, great power. But someone had to go in there and make that great knowledge and power meaningful. The task of arranging the information had to become my great responsibility. This was my Uncle Ben moment. Not the Spider-Man Uncle Ben guy who said that with great power comes great responsibility, I mean the rice. It was time to eat rice. Rice with raisins. Looking at all those unorganized toy robots ads made me hungry.


I sat down in the dark of my son's room last Thursday night after I put him to bed. I sat there and I knew what I had to do but just thinking about the enormity of the task of rewriting and rearranging hundreds upon hundreds of ads and links and lines of HTML was overwhelming. Sure, Transformers 1987 through 1990 would be easy enough to reformat and write tables for because there were only a couple dozen ads each in those sections. But '86 and '84? They had over a hundred ads each that would have to be sorted and rearranged. And 1985? I remember being in the dark and thinking to myself, "I'm really not looking forward to 1985". (In this house such a thought is sacrilegious.) That's when I was inspired by a voice from beyond, or at least from the radio next to me. It was Alice Cooper. My 2 year old son and I had been listening to the "Nights with Alice Cooper" radio show as we are known to do at bedtime. While I was sitting there going through my latest roboplastico apocalypse because I couldn't leave a simple comment on someone's podcast, Alice was talking about the dedication it takes being in a band. His words were something like, "You just gotta love what you're doing so much that you don't care how much of a hellish wreck it makes your life". That would be my inspiration as I powered through the hellish wreck my life became over the next week spending all my free time working on the site. Actually my real inspiration was his words and the knowledge that my wife had ordered me a robot tyrannosaurus and it was coming in the mail any day.

Was this one ad with three robots or three robots with one ad? I would have to decide.


So there I was pounding away at the keyboard for at least 3 hours a night for a week, really pushing my sanity and Microsoft Notepad (the program I use to write my HTMLs) to the limits. At my lowest point I hated it so much I couldn't keep going, but I would remember the wisdom imparted upon me by Alice Cooper and I wanted to keep going exactly because I hated it so much. When I went to bed I didn't just have carpal tunnels, I had carpal space bridges. But how could I ever speak with any authority on the revered subject of what Optimus Prime cost at K-Mart 25 years ago if nobody could see the research and make sense of it? More importantly, how could I open and enjoy Masterpiece Grimlock with the guilty conscience that comes from having bad HTMLs and a belly full of Uncle Ben rice? I had to keep going. I felt like if I got through all this I would absolutely deserve my robot tyrannosaurus, but I started to wonder if after all these trials I would even want a robot tyrannosaurus (again, quite a sacrilegious thought here in the Kingdom of Macrocrania).


After seven nights of Notepad busting, carpal tunneling, mind melting, toy robot ad rearranging insanity I made it through. I friggin' reorganized the Transformers 1984, Transformers 1985, Transformers 1986, Transformers 1987, Transformers 1988, Transformers 1989 and Transformers 1990 pages of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace to be more readable and user friendly. And as I looked upon the information finally in its most understandable form I realized that this whole entire quest for the Unified Field Theory of Optimus Prime prices is the biggest, most pointless waste of time I have ever partaken. The truth is that stores back then charged whatever the hell they felt like with no rhyme or reason. Although I have amassed quite a bit of data, unless you live in the towns these ads came from they can't really tell you how much your mom or grandma or whoever bankrolled your toy robots addiction paid for these things. There are fluctuations in price differences from chain to chain and even within the same chain in different cities! Optimus Prime at K-Mart in Denver most likely was cheaper than Optimus Prime at K-Mart in Hockawattamie or wherever you lived. Nothing less than a complete set of all newspaper ads from every city for every day of the year could even begin to hope to answer the question of what Optimus Prime cost in 1984. In the end the only real answer is that it depended. It depended on how much your mom was desperate enough to pay to get you to shut up that day.


I live now with a new burning question that will plague toy robots archaeologists and philosophers-what good is collecting all those ads if I can't give anyone even a ballpark answer to any old Transformers price question? THE ANSWER IS WHO CARES? What deeply rooted truth about humanity or insight into the human soul are we expecting to get from knowing the regular K-Mart price of 25 year old toy robot Volkswagens and their transforming dinosaur cohorts? The only real value is in the "How sick is he, nurse? Well there's this list of 700 toy robots ads prices from libraries across the United States he made complete with descriptions and notes and links to blog posts and all cross referenced against each other but that ultimately mean nothing, doctor" kind of way. Of course I don't think it's totally pointless or I wouldn't be paying 80 bucks a year for webhosting this crap. For me these ads will always be cherished souvenirs for no other reason than they are Transformer mementos from ages ago dug up like fossils in strata from the microfilm archives of the libraries in the cities I've visited. I also come away with a slightly better webpage, plus I made a VSTP t-shirt for my son and after all the work I did rearranging the Transfromer sections I'm proud to make him wear it. NOW NOBODY ASK ME ABOUT VOLTRONS!

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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.