Thursday, March 29, 2007

tHIS isn'T THE MAILBOX You're looking for

It's been an R2-D2 kind of month. The postal service whipped out some R2-D2 mailboxes all over the country earlier in March and I've been putting off finding the one here. Then I read on internet that they were going to take them down soon. Smarter people than I have posted pictures of themselves with the R2 mailbox in their cities. As always I'm about two thousand years behind the bandwagon but I did rush out and find Rapid City's R2-D2 mailbox this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This STILL isn't the droid I'm looking for, but whatever. (OR: R2-D2 collecting the Tyler Durden way)

Ever since 1980 I've been aware that the R2-D2 they sell at the store isn't the best one they can make. It is a truth that has defined me as a collector of vintage space toasters and to a greater extent, as a man.

I thought I was happy in '79 when my mom bought my sister an R2-D2. I was sure that we could cross that 'get an R2-D2' block off our list of things that needed to be done in order to be respectable members of Star Wars society. I thought that no matter what happens, we had that R2-D2 problem licked. But in 1980 when they released R2-D2 with Sensorscope I felt like the world had passed me by. Same thing with that C-3P0 with removable limbs. Suddenly the advance of toy robot technology made the toys I had old and outdated. I felt deficient as a six year old for not having the hot new toys (that were really the same old toys with minor mold changes).

There's a scene in Fight Club where the main character (we'll call him Jack) and Tyler are at the diner and Jack is trying to relate to Tyler why he feels bad about losing all of his possessions when his apartment exploded. He says that he viewed his possessions as solutions to needs-that his sofa was more than just a sofa, it represented the solution to a problem. Once he had that sofa he didn't have to worry about that sofa problem. Boy did I know how he felt. Sofas, R2-D2s, it's all the same. Tyler responded with the idea that being incomplete is more empowering than chasing after solutions. It was part of the famous 'the things you own end up owning you' conversation. I found it profound and all but it's hard to come to those conclusions when you're six years old and you're watching Empire Stirkes Back and that damn sensorscope keeps popping out of R2's head in every scene.

I think the problem was that to my six year old mind, the only Star Wars collection that mattered was the one with all the newest toys, usually pictured on the cardbacks of the latest figures. Was it so wrong to feel that way as a kid? The new sensorscope R2 was definitely better than what I had. Was I justified in wanting the latest in toy droid technology or was I just a greedy little kid getting sucked into an obvious marketing ploy? Ultimately none of this mattered because my mom never got me sensorscope R2 anyways. By 1983 I resigned myself to accepting that I'd never have the 'real' (aka latest) R2-D2 and that the one I had was the only one I'd get.

It never dawned on me that older toys could fit into the overall picture of a personal collection. The concept of a complete collection encompassing stuff that came out before was unfathomable. I felt that once a new version of R2-D2 came out that the previous one may as well not exist. As long as they kept making new versions of the same character that I'd never own my inadequacy intensified. It was all about the new hotness for me. Even if I got the new R2 with Sensorscope I'd still have problems. What was I supposed to do with multiple R2s? The most horrible contemplation of all was what would I do if they made a better one than sensorscope R2? I couldn't consider that possibility. It was too horrible.

At that age I was willing to believe that Kenner's second R2 was an honest attempt at rectifying the defective first release R2s that didn't come with sensorscopes. Of course they meant for all R2s to have sensorscopes. I figured they just didn't realize that the first 100,000 ones didn't. Maybe they'd send me an apology in the mail along with a new R2. I thought the Kenner toy company were my friends and they were just trying to make the best R2 possible and once they got it right they'd stop making them. In 1983 when a friend brought an even newer version of R2 to school, this time with a pop up lightsaber feature, I realized that Kenner not only wasn't my friend, but they outright hated me.

Over the last 30 years they've made an assload of R2-D2 action figures with all sorts of toasteriffic features and lifesaving applications. There have been ones that beep and light up and ones with three legs and rotating domes and ones with sensorscopes and popping lightsabers and rockets and ribbed for her pleasure. But they never just combine it all and make the ultimate two inch tall R2-D2 and that pisses me off. Why don't they just make the best R2 they can?

Aggravating the problem is how figures nowadays have a short shelf life so you never know how long the current flavor of R2 will be there and whether or not the one that replaces it will be a step forward or backward. Over the last ten years I've watched R2s as they progressed and regressed in terms of features and in 2004 I considered the three legged model that also beeped and lit up the ultimate. It doesn't have a rotating dome which I considered a necessary feature, but damnit, I needed to stop being jerked around. I bought that one and called it a day and swore I'd never buy another R2 again. I just let go.

Of course the torment did not end there. On my birthday this year the damndest thing happened and I found a 24 year old sensorscope R2 on Return of the Jedi card at an antique store here in Rapid City and I bought it. It was funny how all these years later I found that particular figure on a day with such personal significance to me. What a great birthday present it was to close the R2-D2 chapter of my life forever. I thought it fitting that I stopped buying R2-D2 with the very one that made me feel inadequate and obsolete in the first place, which is all heartwarming in a sort of defeatist, giving-in-to-the-man kind of way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

His Name was Jeffrey Warren

Robert Jeffrey Warren was born November 11, 1974, which made him eight months younger than me. He had an older brother and they lived with both their parents in Lilburn, Georgia. In late December of 1978 when he was four years old he was playing with the Colonial Viper from Mattel's Battlestar Galactica toyline. I never had the Viper myself but I've written before about how I had the Cylon Raider. The Viper, the Raider and two other ships in the BSG line hit the shelves in February of 1978 around the same time that Star Wars toys were arriving in stores.

It was this initial wave of BSG ships that were designed with the now infamous spring loaded firing missiles. The toys' packages described them as being intended "For ages over 3". I've read speculation that Robert's parents bought the Battlestar Galactica ships for his older brother. Whatever the case, with his brother nearby Robert put the shaft of the Viper in his mouth (which happened to be the missile firing end) and he pulled the trigger. The missile lodged in his throat and after about four minutes of choking and convulsing he went unconsious. His brother called his mom and she called the ambulance. At the hospital they removed the missile but Robert died of complications two days later on December 31st, 1978.

The ensuing 'voluntary' product recall and lawsuit are now legendary in toy collecting circles, most commonly noted as the reason for the cancellation of the rocket firing feature in the 1979 Boba Fett figure from the Star Wars 3 3/4 inch figure line. The other day I found this ad from November 28, 1978 and I thought about the lawsuit. I wanted to find out more about the person I previously only knew as 'the kid who choked to death on the Battlestar Galactica missiles'. It's kind of eerie now looking at the ad and knowing that when it was published, Robert was just another 4 year old probably looking forward to Christmas like anybody else. While I found the story awfully tragic, I wanted to know more about him because his legacy is the stuff of legends and his death probably saved the lives of countless children of future generations.

There are some interesting minor details in Robert's story, including how the coroner mistook the toy as being from Star Wars and that's what's listed on Robert's death certificate. Later on during the lawsuit the judge made the same mistake, which reportedly upset George Lucas. One of the lawsuits filed against Universal Studios by 20th Century Fox hoped to stop the manufacture and distribution of BSG toys. But if you think about it, without Battlestar Galactica the same thing would probably have happened to Star Wars (which Fox distributed) if Boba Fett got made as intended.

It's popular nowadays for adults who collect children's toys to bitch about how today's toymakers don't make firing missile rockets like back in the good ol' days. It's ironic to me when thirtysomething toy collectors complain that 'today's kids are stupid and that's why toymakers can't make cool stuff' because actually it was someone of their generation whose death instigated the change towards manufacture of less hazardous playthings. Robert would have been 32 if he'd have lived to see today. You can read more about his story at the Star Wars Collector's Archive.

UPDATE-He was not the only child who choked on Mattel's Battlestar Galacitica missiles, and I was amazed at the true magnitude of the casualties when I further researched the resulting Mattel missile controversy for episode 48 of the Podcastalypse.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I find Chuck Palahniuk's writing personally irrelevant but I'd still like to fight Shigeru Miyamoto

I wasn't yet 30 when Fight Club entered the mainstream consiousness so I couldn't really identify with the main character's 'men without a mission', uberconsumerism angst. I never got caught up in hating myself or my hobbies, which I think is a necessary prerequisite for men hoping to connect with Tyler Durden on a deep personal level. The mid to late nineties were a pretty stable time without much going on in the United States so I could see how men would probably get bored and start beating up each other.

When Fight Club the movie hit theaters in 1999, I was 24, in the military and stationed in South Korea for a year. While Tyler Durden went on about how we had no great war to fight or enemy to worry about, I was living scared day to day worried that North Koreans were going to do chemical weapons to me and run me over with Chinese tanks. Much of the initial premise of the movie didn't apply to me personally but I could still appreciate the viewpoint. Heck, I think even in this post September 11th world much of the book is still probably very relevant to countless men locked in self-loathing induced existential crisises.

I was in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania all last week, tagging along on my wife's business trip. During my vacation there I had a few what I call 'Fight Club moments'. I consider a Fight Club moment a point in time where I do a personaly reality check and ask myself-okay now, are you really truly REALLY REALLY happy? Is this point where you are in life-what you are doing now-what you actually want? These moments of introspection usually happen when a) what I am doing is not exactly what I think other people would consider cool or fun and b) at 30,000 feet when my plane is experiencing moderate turbulence causing it to nosedive like lawn darts.

We checked into a nice hotel downtown and my wife had a conference to attend from 8-5 everyday. Consequently I found myself alone in downtown Pittsburgh with a totally blank schedule for about nine hours every day for a week. I was a little torn between doing fantastically touristy things or things I wanted to really do, which most everybody would consider a waste of a vacation. When I was alone in the hotel each morning I had my Tyler Durden moments. I asked myself, "Okay now are you going to spend the day at the Andy Warhol museum or are you going to blow the day at that comic book store down the street? Would I be checking out the National Aviary or would I go to the library and look for old toy robot ads from the late seventies and early eighties? Those touristy things were undeniably fantastic opportunities. It was a gut wrenching choice. Or maybe it wasn't and I'm still hanging on to the pretense that some part of me thinks art and birds are supposed to be more interesting than robot comics and newspaper ads from 1979.

We got back Friday night and thanks to Pittsburgh I was pretty caught up with my comics and best of all I found over a hundred great newspaper ads. It was a fun time even if I didn't do the traditionally touristy things that would make a visit to Pittsburgh worthwhile in the eyes of the neuro-typicals. As we settled back into our weekend routines I found myself playing five hours of Gamecube Twilight Princess, which I now realize I find very boring. Is it just me or is turning into a video game dog not as exciting as everybody thinks? I need the internet to remind me if I'm supposed to like this dog simulator game because I'm thinking it sucks. If there was any famous guy I'd want to fight right now, it'd definitely be Miyamoto. I wonder if I'd see a little hearts meter above his head depleting ever so slightly as I punch him.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

To Wii or not to Wii (but mostly not to Wii)

After spending more money than I was comfortable with getting a television that I can't figure out how to use, I wanted to get a Wii (aka Super Gamecube) but it turns out the best signal I can get out of a Wii is 480p over component cables, which is like Luigi giving me a hand job. I've been getting bent over by Mario for years now I was hoping I could get some Princess Peach action but it looks like the Wii moves laterally in terms of picture resolution and now it's time for the other plumber to have his way with me. I know the Wii is supposed to be the video game system for people who hate video games (and the people who play them), but hot damn give me video out options that I didn't already have on my five year old Gamecube. S-video was available on the Super Nintendo and 480p is something I could do with component cables on the Cube so I was hoping we'd see a step up as part of the overall trend of improved video signal quality with each succesive console. Even if the graphics weren't going to be all that big a leap it would have been nice to have a better resolution signal. Hell I'm not even asking for HDMI ports. You don't even need a high end high def TV to appreciate 720p. I should have known that once Nintendo stopped making Gamecubes with component out ports then picture quality wouldn't be a priority anymore. Oh but what do I know. My left eye is blurry.

I guess I'm still pissed that Twilight Princess got delayed over a year. I should have been playing that on the Cube in December of '05. There are only three reasons I buy a Nintendo console and that's for the next gen versions of Zelda, and Nintendo flavored Star Wars and Transformers. I'm not biting on Wii versions of the upcoming Star Wars Unleashed and Transformers movie games because I don't think the Wii can deliver as enjoyable an experience as the XBox or PS3. The Wii is so underpowered graphically compared to the other systems that those cross platform games will embarrass Wii owners who think they're in the same league as the other systems. I say don't even pretend, Nintendo. Stick to retrofitting Wiimote support to old Gamecube games and leave the titles that are relevant to current pop culture to the other consoles. I'm sure Conker's Bad Fur Day with Wiimote support would sell like hotcakes. Stop molesting me Marios!

Playing Turbografx-16 and watching VHS tapes of M.A.S.K. may not be the intended use of a high def TV but I don't know what 1080p is anyways

So I bought a television that's not the greatest. It's a 42 inch plasma that came in dead last in Consumer Reports and it can't display 1080p. But this doesn't bother me because a) my left eye is blurry and I don't need 1080p because porn is better when the signal is crappy because it leaves more to the imagination and b)Consumer Reports is written by a bunch of elitist assholes who make me pay for access to their website separately from their magazine subscription although their crappy website is just their crappy magazine in electronic form. Thanks a lot Consumer Reports. Your product ratings were extra special stupid useless to me in making my decision to waste money on a thousand dollar television that I have no clue how to use now.

But I think I make these sort of underpowered, behind the times consumer electronics decisions because I couldn't cope with owning the best. I just know that if I bought the 50 inch TV that was 500 dollars more and could do 1080p then I would be asking myself-Is this all that there is? Is this the height of digital home entertainment technology? I would ask probably because no matter how good the TV is, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones is still a pretty crappy game. So I saved some money by considering what I would be doing with this high definition stuff and I lowered my standards accordingly. Because my dad will probably get something better soon anyways but I'll have my son totally beat for at least 20 years.


My absolutely favorite toyline now that I have a baby on the way is Car Nivores. They are slightly superdeformed kiddie vehicles that have spring loaded transforms triggered by the touch of a button. The first four in the series are out now. They turn into animals, or at least cute car monsters with animal like features. Fisher-Price has done a fantastic job on these. The packaging is great and the pop up transform gimmick is fantastic.

From my experience tracking them down, it seems the T-Rex is the toughest to find but it does pop up (get it? pop up?). The whole line is relatively new to my area and I estimate they were released sometime around the beginning of the year. The Car Nivores website mentions a "King Car-Nivore" to be released this July but they don't mention what exactly it is. I googled it and figured it out. I won't say what exactly it is (or maybe I already did), but I will say that it sounds impressive.

I am just so glad that I have an acceptable-in-the-eyes-of-the-cashier-girls reason to be in TRU in the first place. I've been spreading out my purchases only buying Car Nivores one at a time because it is so worth it every time I buy one and the cashier girl can't give me shit for buying toys. Those condescending sluts feel so high and mighty when I buy toy robots but since these Car Nivores are for my soon to be born kid they've got nothing on me anymore. I can't wait for him to get here so I can shove him in their faces and say LOOK HERE BITCHES I'M SHOPPING FOR TWO ROBOT NERDS NOW BITCHES.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Obi-Wan never told you the truth about your TV sucks

I've had the same 27 inch television for 9 years. I am so far behind in consumer electronics that my dad has had a better TV than me for a couple of years now. I don't feel too out of touch with what's cool because he's been holding out on watching the special editions of the first trilogy for like forever. He just saw Star Wars last week and he told me how much he hated the changes. I was like, oh hey welcome to the club dad, you're only about 12 years behind everybody else in hating those. I saw them when they first...oh wait..him not even seeing them until now still makes him cooler than me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

About a day ago 15 miles west of my house...

First Star Wars movie ad ran in Rapid City June 30, 1977

It was my birthday the other day and that combined with this year being the 30th anniversary of Star Wars made me feel really nostalgic. I'm still somewhat behind on my podcast listening since I returned from the ice so I listened to the last four episodes of Star Wars Action News all in a row and that contributed to the Star Warsy vibe I was high on. I decided I would spend my birthday in downtown Rapid City doing what I love most-looking at old newspaper ads.

Family Thrift Center Nov 12, 1978I decided I'd keep my newspaper browsing Star Wars specific and targeted the time frame from May 25th, 1977 through about Christmastime of 1978. I looked at lots of newspapers in those months trying to get a feel for how big of an impact the movie had on Rapid City in the early days of its showing. I came to find that Rapid was not one of the initial release locations of the first film. Star Wars didn't open here until July 1st, a full month after its launch in other larger cities. I didn't know that and it was mind numbingly boring as I scrolled through each page of June movie ads wondering when the heck Star Wars debuted here. I wondered if the buzz about Star Wars was spreading across the country before it got here or if the movie arrived without much fanfare.

Family Thrift Center Nov 22, 1978

After the first few movie ads announcing the arrival of Star Wars in July of '77 there wasn't much Star Wars buzz detectable in the Rapid City Journal. The months that followed from August through November weren't heavy with toy ads from local retailers. Not that it mattered anyways because Star Wars toys wouldn't hit the shelves until '78. I was only three in '77 so I wasn't aware that toys were to be expected from any movie. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAs I paged through the ads I was holding out hope that maybe I'd find a local store advertising the early bird kit Kenner sold in '77, but I didn't find that. In fact I found no Star Wars realted advertising at all during the Christmas '77 holiday period. My parents never bought the early bird kit, either. I don't know anybody that did where I grew up in El Paso.

There's an absolutely fantastic series of articles titled "The Kenner Legacy" running in the last few months of Tomart's Action Figure Digest magazine that detail the early days of the Kenner Star Wars toyline. Each installment is a great read and I highly recommend tracking them down because they tell the story of the vintage toys through interviews with sculptors and other Kenner employees who were there when it happend.

Midland Mercantile Nov 29 1978I understood from the magazine that Star Wars figures and vehicles didn't start hitting stores in wide release until April of 1978. So as I was browsing the papers I knew not to expect too much from the papers of 1977. I wasn't dissapointed. I was kind of hoping that 1978 would be a lot better in terms of Star Wars toy ads, especially around April. I expected stores like KMart or JCPenny to flaunt their action figures in their 1978 ads boldy once they had them, and especially during the holiday season. If Star Wars toy demand was as big as I remember it then surely there would be at least one smart advertiser showing off with newspaper ads that had the Luke and Leia toys making out on the front page of their Sunday circular with "LOOK WHAT WE GOT BITCHES IT'S STAR WARS ACTION FIGURE TIME" in bold print with a lot of exclamation marks. But it never happened.

JC Penny 10 December 1978Instead all I found in the Rapid City Journal's newsprint advertising sections were stores cautiously offering up pictures of non-action figure Star Wars merchendise. I found ads for ancillary tie in product like puzzles, games, PlayDoh sets, role play rifles and those posters you 'painted' with felt tip markers. This was along the lines of what I was expecting during 1977. It's as if Rapid City stores were a year behind with their ads. I know that eventually they caught up because by '79 there were lots of Star Wars toy ads. But within the first year and a half of the movie's release it looks like there wasn't much Star Wars action figure action in Rapid City. It could be that figures did pop up but they would sell so fast that it wasn't worth advertising them for fear of pissing off customers.

JC Penny 22 Nov 1978

I found a grand total of one ad for Star Wars action figures from Rapid City Journal advertisers in 1978 and that was from JC Penny. It ran November 22nd, a bit before the holiday shopping season and strangely it described the figures as 'die cast'. It had some weird line art of C-3PO and R2-D2 that looked to be hand drawn. They could have been using the figures as reference but there's too much detail in the drawings that the vintage figures don't have. JCP also ran an ad for 'cast vehicles' on December 3rd of '78. Mills Drugs 05 Dec 1978I assume from the odd wording and the pricing that they meant they were selling the little die cast vehicles. Strangely they used line art that indicated lights coming from the same places where LEDs were placed in the larger vehicles that were scaled to fit the 3 3/4 inch figures.

December 5th saw the first use of an actual packaging photo in a Star Wars toy ad when Mills Drug Store advertised the X-Wing fighter for $10.88. So at least they had some cool stuff. Meanwhile on December 17th JC Penny had the R2-D2 cookie jar advertised with the line "as a gift it would be a hit with any youngster." I wouldn't give any kid a cookie jar to play with seeing how ceramic breaks into shards like it does. Man I guess some stores were hurting for figures.

JC Penny 17 December 1978

JC Penny 03 December 1978On my next trip to the library I'll be taking a look at newspapers from the Christmases from 1979-1982 when Star Wars was at its strongest. All in all I was pretty dissapointed with the realization that Star Wars in 1978 wasn't the marketing behemoth that it is today. In an age where it's the right of every American to be able to buy a Darth Vader figure at any hour day or night, it sure is tough to imagine what true scarcity was like during a time when toy distribution was even more crappy than it was in the 80's. The 70's were a nice place to be born but I wouldn't want to collect there. Collectors always talk about how it would be great to have a time machine and go back to buy all those old figures, but from what I see in the papers those time travellers would do best if they avoided 1977-1978 (and Rapid City altogether).

Midland Mercantile 13 December 1978While documenting the lack of Star Wars toy ads from 30 years ago makes for hours of fun, I still decided to hit up some of Rapid City's antique stores. Before I hit the library I got lucky at one of them and I found a carded R2-D2 from the Return of the Jedi line. While the card is pretty bent up, the bubble is fantastic with just about no yellowing and Artoo looks great. He's really really white. I don't know anything about secondary market values for vintage Star Wars figures but they wanted 30 bucks for it so I got it because it was my birthday. There's one right now on ebay with a really yellow bubble with a BIN of $60. I figure I made out good. It made for the most Star Warsy birthday I've had since my sister got me Bespin Han 26 years ago in 1981.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How to make any new DVD player region free (or: I should've bought that vehicle Voltron DVD set from New Zealand)

Long story short:

1) My computer's DVD player (a Philips DVD8631) broke while under warranty last week, so Dell sent me a new one this week (a Philips DVD8801).

2) I read on the internet that DVD players don't come region encoded from the factory-they adopt the region of the first DVD you put into them.

3) After installing the DVD player I put a region 0 disc into it. That is, I put in an all regions disc that plays on any player. (Helloween's High Live DVD-you can find other region free titles on ebay)

4) My computer's DVD player is now all regions. Since monitors don't have NTSC or PAL limitations, I can play DVDs from Japan, the US, the UK and everywhere else. (I've tested it with the region 4 release of Transformers the Movie from Australia and Helloween's "Pumpkin Video" Japanese DVD which is region 2.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Whatever happened to 'It's not cool if your dad does it'?-Part 2 of 37

faceOkay so I am obsessed with the Hot Topic robot hoodie model guy because I think he's a reflection of who Hot Topic thinks their market is. But when it comes to old Transformers t-shirts I think the target demographic skews a bit older than this person, who looks to be early to mid twenties. I know a ton of Transformer fans in their twenties and from experience I can tell you that generation of fan mocks and ridicules the '84-'86 characters to no end. I question the nostalgic bond that Hot Topic thinks exists between Generation Y and robot characters who stopped appearing in cartoons well before they were even born. Yet Hot Topic is selling more and more of these G1 themed shirts as evidenced by the waves of new product coming out. So who is buying them if not the twentysomething Transformer fans (who actually like Beast Wars instead of first gen TFs)?

I'll tell you who-it's emo kids who were born well after the point when Optimus Prime died the first time or when Megatron as a grey robot with a Walther P-38 alt mode ceased to exist. But why? At first it seems there's no logical explanation for why teens who grew up playing with Pokemons are wearing their dad's robot nostalgia. So why would emo Hot Topic guy with his crooked eyeball and his black eyeliner (or others of his generation) wear this stuff? There is a reason for this insanity and it's a theory I call "age depression".

Have you heard of age compression? It's a trend where children stop playing with toys at younger ages than the generations of children before them. Essentially it's little kids growing up quicker. I have a theory that there's a flip side to the age compression phenomena where these kids who missed out on playing with toys regress in their twenties to a childlike state where they wear shirts with toys on them. They're depressed that they missed out on Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles but since fuckin' Hot Topic doesn't have shirts of those toys in adult small the emotionals with age depression just buy up the next best thing. A sign of age COMpression is an eight year old who would rather play video games. A sign of age DEpression is a twenty eight year old wearing a shirt that makes his chest look like Soundwave. Age depression is Gen Y kids hijacking the nostalgia of their grandfathers and wearing it on their hoodies. To which I say, 'Screw you, Gen Y! Get your own childhoods!'

dumbbabyWhile age depression has me rolling my eyes and cursing my younger cousins, age compression is also a source of angst and agony for me. What really pisses me off is how Hot Topic also sells Transformer clothes to babies. These kids are not 'true fans' of Transformers and shouldn't be allowed to wear G1 designs either! Nothing pisses me off more than nostalgic babies who don't even know how to SAY Optimus Prime because they can't talk! To which I say 'Screw you, babies! I'm tired of you jerks pissing all over my childhood!'

End of Part 2

Next time: Where are teh Orbots underwears.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back in the land of 220 volt wall outlets

How I spent 11 hours

There are no insects on Ross Island, the location of the United States' premier space station on Antartika. So when I left the ice last month and got to my hotel in New Zealand I totally freaked out when I saw a mosquito fly across the check-in counter. This loss of familiarity with all things alive happens to me when I come back from the ice. Last year I was tripped out when I saw people walking their dogs in the park after spending six months at McMurdo. I cannot explain how odd a tree or grass or a monkey looks after those things have been removed from the context of one's daily life. So when I saw the mosquito fly over the counter I stopped talking to the check-in girl and I shouted, "WHOA! It's a winged insectoid creature!" It was so long since I'd seen one that I forgot what the word was for "mosquito". Luckily the staff at New Zealand hotels are used to Antarctica people acting weird after they get back from the ice. Or at least that's what I tell myself as I am "representing America", which is really what I'm doing when I'm acting stupid all over the world. This is why the rest of the earth laughs at (and hates) us.

My Antarctica friends have one local bar they like congregating at while in Christchurch. It's called Bailey's and they love the local flavor of it. I have a place in Christchurch I like going to, too. It's called McDonald's. I love the local flavor of the McFish sandwiches there.

I spent my day and a half in Christchurch eating McDonald's, hanging out at my favorite New Zealand music store and visiting the International Antarctic Center. Antarctica people who are more cultured and adventurous than I would consider this a waste of time because a) visiting the Antarctic center after living on the ice is like Mickey Mouse buying a shirt of himself at Disneyland and b) you can buy CDs and eat McDonald's anywhere. But a) the selection of clothes at the Antarctic center is wider than that of any store in Antarctica and b) New Zealand already has DVDs of the vehicle team Voltron series. They're so far ahead of us on Voltron DVDs that the vehicle team DVD box I saw was used. It's been out so long that some New Zealand guy bought it, watched it, got tired of it and sold it back to the store. Here in the backwards United States we barely have the second volume of lion team. Plus where the hell else would you shop if you were Mickey Mouse.

real groovy

Although I was in Air Force for seven years once I still don't know how to tell military time. That's partly why I am not in Air Force anymore I guess. While I was in the New Zealand airports, my inability to decode the miliraty time on my tickets almost made me late. There's this one CD store at the Auckland airport that I love because they sell CD singles really cheap and I can load up on stuff to listen to for the plane ride back to the states. They were playing the new Fall Out Boy over the store speakers and I thought it was pretty good. So I was there listening to that arms race song and I thought everything was cool because my plane was scheduled to leave at 19:30 and according to my iPod it was barely 7 pm. I thought there was at least 12 between when I was checking the time (7) and when my plane left (19) but apparently 7 equals 19 in New Zealand. Also, Air Force.

But it's not all flowers and sausages in New Zealand. One big reason why I never buy DVDs or most other electronic media there is because every CD and DVD package is opened and the contents removed before I, the consumer, purchase it. Even if the stuff is brand new you still have to take the empty package to the check out register and the employee gets the actual discs from behind the counter. It's that way in every New Zealand retail store and record shop. From KMart to Farmer's to Real Groovy, they all devirginize your music and movies before you get to watch it. Since the stores open everything before selling it, the disctinction between new and used is blurry to me. They should call it Used Zealand. I like to be the first to open my stuff, especially since in New Zealand it costs so much. Speaking of which, there's a tremendous markup on CDs there. It's not uncommon for me to have to pay $25 US for a single cd, which is why I don't. So although I saw vehicle team Voltron box there I didn't get it. If I wanted used and overpriced I would get your mom.

Although I purposely missed out on the once in a lifetime chance to do New Zealand specific things like petting lambs, I am not a totally uncultured bourgwa dweeb. I did make sure to check out the foreign movies on the plane ride back to the states. Although the flight was long enough to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies in a row (which they had available on the little monitors) I instead watched three movies from other countries. Whenever I fly the international carriers my first priority is to look for asian movies on the programming. One of the best movies I've ever seen I saw on a Singapore Airlines flight in 2005. It was called "About Love". This time I didn't watch anything that really connected with me like that. I saw a really stupid chinese movie called "Men Suddenly in Black II" and a decent spanish movie called "Volver". I also watched the Jet Li movie "Fearless", which was really good.

Next time on PSMR: Various Wastes of Time and Friendship

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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.