Friday, September 28, 2007

Three weeks, three cities, two and 1/4 people-VACATION!

I would have waited an eternity for this. Today we drive to Denver then we fly out tomorrow to pick up my mom-in-law in Houston then it's a week of timeshare fun in Hollywood, Florida. I think somewhere along the way we'll be visiting Bartow and Mulberry. Regardless, I'll be doing a lot of picture taking and writing as I chronicle my desperate escape from the craziness of South Dakota where I went so insane I was taping flies to the window. I hope I can totally leave the internet behind and make it a real vacation so I guess this is GOODBYE TO ALL MY ONLINE FRIENDS FOREVER.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Now I've seen (through) everything OR: I love how these fake boxes bring back all those memories I never had

Lately the best Transformers items I've bought aren't made by Hasbro. Case in point is this clear plastic Mirage toy. Mirage was an Autobot toy and character in the Transformers cartoon from 1984. He was a spy and in the show he'd occasionally use his power to become invisible to save the friggin' day. Of course the actual Mirage toy couldn't become invisible and the most transparent part of Transformers back then was their clear plastic windshields. This bootleg is an homage to the fictional character's invisibility powers and is an almost exact reproduction of the original toy except that it's cast in transparent plastic with a very slight tinge of ghostly blue. What trips me out is that it looks and feels like the tires are made of clear rubber!

While Takara and Hasbro have reissued many of the original 1984 toys and made many translucent figures in the years since, there has never been an official transparent plastic version of the original Mirage mold. Hasbro representatives have claimed that the original molds for Mirage were lost so I doubt that they will ever do anything like this. Actually, since clear plastic tends to yellow over time I don't think the official manufacturers would go as clear as this figure is even if they had the mold. This means I'll probably have a nice pee color Mirage in a few years. But as Chuck Palahniuk wrote, even the Mona Lisa's falling apart.

When this thing popped up on ebay a couple weeks ago I bought it for $74.95. That may seem a bit steep to a lot of people, but what made it worth it for me was the reproduction box the thing comes in. The fake boxes being manufactured nowadays are stunning, if not perfect, copies of the originals. What I'm going to do is put a spare Mirage I have in the fake box and keep the clear one out. So I reasoned I was paying half for the repro box and half for the ghosty figure, which seemed like a good deal. Then again I just blew $250 buying this and some other fake Transformer boxes so my grasp of the concept of "deals" or even "reality" is suspect.

On top of that box I've also bought fake boxes in the past for Bluestreak, Smokescreen and Prowl. The Mirage seller also sold me fake boxes for Wheeljack, Soundwave and the Devastator giftset. I never had Smokescreen or Soundwave as a kid and I got all my Constructicons one by one back in 1985 so I also never had the Devastator giftset. I guess you could say I'm doing this out of nostalgia for pieces of paper and styrofoam I never even owned in the first place.

I never had the means to spend thousands of dollars reacquiring the original toys I broke to hell when I was a kid. And even if I did have the money to blow like that, I'm not going to be opening a Transformer museum anyways so it's pointless to have pristine originals hiding away in my laundry room. These fake boxes are a great, relatively low cost alternative to the high secondary market prices nowadays. Yeah I guess that makes me Mister Fakey McFakeman of Transformer collecting but I never was a real serious collector and its not like the internet is going to inspect my house for Transformer box authenticity. I hope.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


In late February of 1996 after spending 2 and a half years overseas I was heading home to the states when I found myself in a record store in Auckland, New Zealand's international airport. It was there that I first exposed myself to James Blunt when I bought the You're Beuatuiful single and his Back to Bedlam CD. On the flight back and during the next week while vacationing in San Antonio I played those discs countless times. Consequently, listening to Back to Bedlam from then on brought back wonderful memories of returning home and the vacationing in San Antonio. Those memories are a big reason why I am into James Blunt's music. Also because I like that one song where he tells me I'm beautiful over and over like 26 times in the span of three minutes.

Then over the next year or so, Back to Bedlam got rereleased a couple more times. There was the Target exclusive version with an extra disc of demos and then there was an extended edition with a disc of live concert tracks that was previously only available overseas. That kind of pissed me off and while I did buy the Target version for the demos, I was not about to buy the same CD a third time no matter what else was included with it. Then my wife the Queen of Macrocrania went on a business trip and while she was away she bought the regular version of Back to Bedlam again because she doesn't pay attention. I hope James Blunt appreciates how my family is singlehandedly responsible for funding at least a couple pounds of the weed he's smoked since 1995.

Since then it has become the norm for a CD to come out with multiple different bonus materials depending on whaich store you buy it from. I don't care what band it is-there's going to be a Target version, a Wal-Mart version and probably a Best Buy version and they're all going to be different. To my horror last week a new James Blunt CD came out and I decided I'd just stick to buying the Target version no matter what other craptacular bonuses the other retailers packed in with thier 'exclusive' copies. However, I do admit that if Taco Bell sold CDs with bonus burritos I would never buy music anywhere else.

When I got to Target I stood stunned at the extent things had gotten out of hand since the last time I got butt raped by James Blunt's merchendising empire. Target not only had the regular version and their deluxe version, they also had a third super deluxe plus plus version with a DVD in it. Three versions of the exact same record! So I grabbed the super deluxe plus plus version thinking it was on sale for $12 because of the signs and when I got to the register it was the full $18! Target fuckers! I think they're revenging me for taking advantage of the time they had $15 Transformers mispriced at $5 and I bought two of 'em. Well screw you Target because you may have tricked me but I'm still ahead by like 15 robot dollars.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That's how the cookie crumbles (and then turns into a robot)

Why is it that if I lose an eBay auction by one dollar I get all pissed off but when I lose it by any other increment I let it slide? Why is the increment of one dollar so infuriating? Either way I lost. Losing by a lot doesn't make it any more or less okay. That's how I know winning an eBay auction isn't about buying what I want at all, it's about bragging rights so I can gloat over how much more retarded I am with money than the other guy who came in second.

Regardless, remember when I was all crazy about those two auctions for the Skywarp and Mixmaster lenticular stickers from the 1986 Cookie Crisp boxes? I was all bummed out because I lost and didn't get to pay $50 for two of these stickers. Well I just won a buttload of them recently for $40. The seller described the auction as the whole first series of 8 Canadian stickers from 1985. I remain skeptical because there are some discrepancies between that claim and what I know exists based on internet research. For example, Mixmaster and Omega Supreme both had "Canada 1985" copyrights, which would make them the ninth and tenth stickers that year. (For some background on what I've learned so far, check out Shawn's article over at Branded in the 80's.)

What makes up a complete set of these stickers hasn't been figured out yet but some collectors have made educated guesses. Now based on the contents of the auction I just won, my own collection and other information I've compiled, here's my guesses on what I think exists. This is my speculative list of Cookie Crisp Transformers lenticular stickers. Stickers that are not confirmed to exist and that are guesses on my part are in parenthesis. My guesses are based on the assumptions that a) each faction side had an equal number of characters represented b) Canada got the same characters as the US did (as evidenced by Omega Supreme and Soundwave existing in both sets) and c) Canada got more characters than the US did.

--US 1985
(character name in white letters)


--CANADA 1985
(character name in red letters)


--CANADA 1986
(character name in red letters)


There are probably a lot more out there-I still think Jazz should exist but that's just my own bias. I'm pretty happy about tracking down and confirming the existence of Optimus Prime. If I were to speculate further I'd guess that everything Canada got was also released in the US, but it's not looking like that as of now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Getting in some quality time with my family (of Decepticons) OR: The road to better mental health is paved with big explosions

lAST sATURDAY night my wife had a regional Toastmasters competition in Deadwood, SD which is about 50 miles northwest of here. So as a supportive husband I volunteered to stay home and take care of the baby, which really means play with the PS3. Besides eating stuffed animals, the Prince of Macrocrania loves to sleep. Just as I figured, he conked out early and that left me with my other baby-the Transformers The Game. Over the next five hours I thoroughly thrashed every Autobot level. I hunted down every last little yellow cube, I completed all the challenges, I got all the Autobot icons and I accomplished all the skills. What is left to do after beating the Autobot levels? Play the Decepticon campaign and beat the Autobots themselves.

Space alien helicopter robots vs stealth bombers is the new pirates vs ninjas

I never thought that the first level of the Decepticon campaign could be so therapeutic for me and help me work out some long standing resentment of fixed wing aircraft I had built up. When I joined the air force I dreamed that I would have a job working on the runway and getting to see awesome fighter jets launch off into the sky with their afterburners blazing. But all I ever got were crappy army assignments and those guys only fly helicopters. There I was in my little tower building for 12 hours watching helicopters go up and down. It sucked. Then I developed a sort of Stockholm syndrome where I began identifying and idolizing my helicopter captors. I was so crazy that at Fort Hood they when were rumored to have been testing the Apache I was always looking for it in the sky. I would look with bug eyes at the sky, searching for the elusive new helicopter. On rare occasions like when I actually got to see a stealth bomber land at Davis Monthan I resented the airplane because I never got to work at a stealth bomber base. But guess what you get to do as Blackout the alien helicopter in the final chapter of the first level? You get to hunt down and destroy a buttload of F-22 Raptors and B-2 stealth bombers. Oh sweet, sweet rotary winged aircraft revenge.

Also later on I got to blow up an air force base as Starscream. I was pretty impressed with the layout of that level. It's just like a real air force base with a front gate and base housing and a runway and recreational area and everything. I think this is partly due to the game designers creating this level by combining buldings from the Autobot suburbs level and Blackout's SOCCENT base level. Some people might say it's a cheap way to come up with a new level but the resulting mashup of civilian buildings and aircraft hangers is a quite accurate portrayal of an air force base. Sometimes living on Ellsworth I get pissed off at the occasional roar of the B-1s but instead of cursing the sky, now whenever that happens I can play Starscream level and go on an air force base rampage and get out some of that aggression.

After Blackout's stage you get to play as Barricade in the same suburbs area that Bumblebee starts out in. Having already cleared this level as the Autobots I was at least hoping I wouldn't have to search for all those yellow cubes again in this area I've already beat. So that sucks but having to essentially reaccomplish everything in the same level evens out because as Barricade I get to beat Bumblebee's ass. It is so gratifying when I bodyslam Bumblebee. I wish that fight would go on forever. Every problem I have with the movie from the ugly robots to the mischaracterization of Bumblebee gets worked out when I pick up Bumblebee and body slam him into the gas station or hit him upside the head with a giant hot dog.

Is this a) two giant robots locked in furious combat or b) a breakdancing car accident?

This game has me even more convinced that all of reality is a fabrication of my imagination and I am actually 10 years old in a coma in 1984. There is simply no other explanation for the existence of a game that lets me simultaneously work out my frustrations against the two biggest sources of angst my life: the air force assignments system and Michael Bay. This game is like having a team of Decepticon psychiatrists I look forward to going to. Why hasn't there been a Decepticon psychiatrist anyways? You could go to him and tell him all your frustrations and his advice would always be, "Have you tried blowing shit up?" Considering the state of chaos the world is in, maybe that's exactly what's going on.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In the future your epitaph will be whatever retarded search terms people googled to find your blog

In episode 99 of Foreskin radio, Professor Bestestes discusses the concept of microcelebrity and the notion that the new media makes us all "famous for fifteen people". Well looking at my site statistics I know I've got the fifteen people part down. It looks like there's about a dozen regulars coming here either on purpose or because they're like me and they use my page as an easy to remember way to get to "Too Much Coffee Man". The question for me then is, if this be my new media fame, what exactly am I famous for? When people think of my writing what are they expecting? I figure the answer is revealed in the search terms people use to find this blog. According to my keyword stats, apparently my fame has something to do with robots, anal toys and Nazi Thundercats.

One of my favorite sayings is that "People are not thinking about you 1/1000th as much as you think they are". There are also variations on this like "You are not 1/1000th as sexy as you think you are" and "Your weiner is not 1/1000th as long as you think it is". All of these sayings I first heard from my wife. I've come to realize that it is also true that people probably don't think my writing is 1/1000th as insightful or deep as I think it is. I thought that all this time people were tuning in to read my stories about how excessive toy robots consumption scars a man's soul but apparently I was wrong because instead of "cerebral musings on toy robots consumption", so far the most popular PSMR search term has been "megan fox naked".

The internet search engine is a sarcastic server of fame. Google likes to mess with me and direct people to my site based on the most retarded search strings. When that one guy searched for "anal robots" what was he expecting? Did he find it here? What is an "anal robot" anyways and where can I find one now that I know they exist? Other terms Google thinks describe my blog well are "anal toy collectors" and "nice ass toys". Hey thanks a lot, Google! I don't remember writing about ass toys and collecting anal toys but thanks for the traffic I guess. I have never known a search engine to be so fixated on ass. While I'm at it, I'm also not a fan of "Nazi Thundercats" either so you can stop sending people here when they're looking for that, too. Calling the Thundercats Nazis is pretty extreme. At worst they were Socialists.

Although my site has become Google's favorite place to direct perverts and people who have political problems with Thundercats, occasionally I will come across someone looking for something so bizarre it's inspiring. My absolute favorite search term that's ever led someone here is "ravage me porn". I don't know what this means or how anyone would ever think to string these three words together, but I do know it's what I want on my gravestone.

All of this becomes a concern for me because lately I've noticed at least two seperate IPs visiting PSMR coming from the city I'm living in. So it is theoretically possible that someone will recognize me at the bookstore one day and introduce me to their girlfriend by saying, "Hey honey, here's that guy I was telling you about with the gay robot ass toys blog". That's not exactly what I'd like to be known for, but hell, deep down inside I'd really rather talk about my blog than meet another fan of Too Much Coffee Man.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

You gave to Toys For Tots-you even gave to Toys for Teens. Now make a real difference and give to Toys for Thirtysomethings.

George Bernard Shaw said "Youth is wasted on the young". I say not only that, but all those toys people donate to Toys For Tots are wasted on the young, too. I know from first hand experience that all those shiny new toys lay in broken heaps by mid afternoon on Christmas Day. Underprivileged kids are the worst people to donate toys to! Those kids just break their toys anyways. Trust me, I was once a kid and all I did was break my shit.

Did you know there's even a Toys for Teens? You shouldn't give to Toys for Teens either because teenagers are punks. They'll just take the video games you donate and sell them for money to buy what they really want, which is hookers and drugs. Trust me, as a teen I may have been all into the roboplasticos but I was always looking for ways to transform Optimus Prime into blow jobs and crack.

Look people, I'm the one who's really hurting here. You want to talk about less fortunate? The little town I live in only has one Wal-Mart. This holiday season while you're driving to your mansions after going to the five Wal-Marts within one mile of your house, how about you try thinking of people who don't have the same opportunities you have in the big city. Think of the consumption deprived. Remember, having fewer Wal-Marts means having fewer chances to be happy. Consumption deprivation affects thousands of people all over the United States living in South Dakota. Please do what you can and help them (after you help me first).

With even a small donation of a new Lamborghini Reventón you can change the life of a thirtysomething that may never get to know the basic human necessity of having a nicer car than anyone else in a 5,000 mile radius. But if million dollar sports cars are something you're unwilling to help me out with, at least mortgage your house to help me get my BMW chromed. Every chrome BMW you help me get will go towards curing my my current condition. You see, I suffer adverse side effects from prolonged exposure to D.D.T. Yes, Driving Dodge Trucks has been a major hassle over the last eight years and a chromed BMW would go a long way to helping me forget the constant recalls and breaky parts of my Dakota.

If you're too cheap to help me out with something practical then at least get me one of the upcoming Macross 25th anniversary 1/48 scale VF-1S Valkyrie fighters by Yamato. They'll only set you back about $150 US and what's that compared to a 1.5 million dollar Lamborghini or a chrome BMW? It's nothing, I tell you. And I promise I'll take really good care of it, unlike those underprivileged punk kids running that scam toy drive.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I am the Chris Cocker of video game angst

Back in the Nintendo 64 days (aka 1997) I loved playing Killer Instinct Gold on the N64. I had always wanted to play it in the arcades but I would watch from afar as other people beat the crap out of each other with 250 hit combos and I got scared. I didn't want to be embarrassed in public by those Killer Instinct grand high wizards and I knew I would be no match for any of them, who were all mostly nine years old. Then the game hit the N64 and I played it for hours in my dorm room at Fort Hood. One day when I made a rare public appearance in the 3rd floor lounge, one of the other dormrats asked me to bring it out and he'd play me. I accepted the challenge, bolstered by the knowledge that he was a total Killer Instinct newbie and the confidence that can only come from knowing I defeated Gargos the lizard man on "extra hard".

I was so excited by the prospect of beating some guy's ass with my favorite Killer Instinct character, Spinal. Spinal was a skeleton who I have a lot in common with, the least of which being we're skinny and pissed off all the time. So I played this dormrat guy and he turtles the whole round, which meant he cowered in the corner and slowly drove me crazy by doing nothing but crouching into a little ball as I whacked away furiously. Then when my concentration lapsed after 30 minutes of whacking, he kills me. All the time he was saying, "It's not like playing the computer, huh?" And I said, "Yeah but with all this pointless whacking I never expected it to be like every shower I've ever taken, either".

After that I swore off ever playing two player anything because other gamers are total a-holes who don't fight honorably and let me win. In fact I try to avoid any social interaction with any other people when I play games. I am like hermit Obi-Wan on Tatooine and other players are Sand People. Thankfully game manufacturers tend to release their consoles with only one controller, as if they feel my pain. Unfortunately there is this thing called online gaming where they put other people inside my game machine to play with me. But I can at least opt to not turn them on when I play. Now that Playstation Home is about to be released next month I am feeling a nervous anxiety over this newly invented social aspect of gaming that is being forced upon me by Sony. Apparently they figured out how to put everybody else who ever bought a PS3 into my game machine to play with me. Thankfully that's only three other people but it's still annoying.

Home isn't really a game, it's just a place where you virtually hang out and meet other players, to which I respond, "Who thought that was a good idea? Why would I want to do that?" So now I am getting anxieties worrying about how I will pimp out my virtual apartment to impress the other virtual gamers that I'm afraid of. Is Home really a killer app or am I in the minority and pretty much everybody else with a Playstation wants to interact with each other and do virtual playdates? Sony bastards! I can't believe I am being forced to have social interaction with a bunch of horny twelve year olds and child molesters, both of whom will probably be drawing me penis graffitis on my apartment complex.

Which brings me to a voicemail I sent in to Fast Karate For the Gentleman podcast that got played in Episode 142. Fans of me being weird and talking about why I play one player games alone in the dark can go download that and skip to the very last voicemail which starts at the 14:23 mark. My wife heard it and asked, "Is that the blond guy from YouTube who likes Britney Spears?" Luckily I sent it to them with my other internet handle, "GargosTheLizardMan1997".

Monday, September 17, 2007

the gravitational pull of Kyle Hebert

I arrived home Saturday fresh from the disappointing Black Hills Space Tractor Model Show. I wished there was some super fantastic robot convention stuff going on around here but I'm screwed. Maybe thats the problem, though. I'm convention lazy. I really only attend conventions if they happen to be going on in whatever city I'm visiting at the time. That's how I went to AnimeExpo '02 and Otakon '03. I don't even like anime cons, I just happened to be in the neighborhood on my way to something else and I saw signs for those shows so I figured what the hell, it's "Conventionally Convenient".

"Conventional Convenience" is what I call this aligning of circumstances by which I unexpectedly find myself at various geeky gatherings all over the place. Unfortunately my current geographic situation has me placed in a conventionally inconvenient location a couple hundred miles from where any show is going on. If I wanted to find myself crashing the nearest anime convention I'd really have to do planning. Organizing my time and money just to be at large gathering of nerdy preteens who like japanimations seems like a dumb thing to plan for, but if I don't do something then I'm stuck with space tractors.

Ideally if I go to a show I'd like to know there's other fans of toy robots around my age there to avoid and run away from. However, anime conventions are typically attended by roving swarms of horny teenage kids that really have very little in common aside from that they watch Cartoon Network a lot. Half the time I can't tell if I'm at a convention or an elaborate sting operation set up by To Catch a Predator. So what I have to do is forget about making friends and pick a convention that has a guest that I would like to see, and I don't mean Stone Phillips.

The only guy I'd be interested in seeing that's showing up at a show anywhere near here is anime voice actor/podcaster Kyle Hebert. He has a podcast called The Big Bald Broadcast that I listen to. If there was ever a reason for me to go to a con, meeting him would be good as any. There's really no guarantee that we'd meet, I don't watch any of the animes he's in, he doesn't do robot voices and we really have nothing in common other than that we own Playstations, but for some reason just getting to see the guy and maybe get a picture would be cool. I guess I could ask him his Playstation ID so that when Home starts up we could maybe invite each other to our virtual apartments. But how to propose that to him without seeming a) gay b) desperate) and c) a voice actor stalker eludes me. Who am I kidding? Kyle Hebert is such a social networking whore that he'll probably drive ice cream trucks through neighborhoods everywhere so he can shout out invitations to his real apartment.

Luckily for me, this guy is such a hardcore self promoter that finding a place Kyle Hebert is appearing is just a matter of throwing a rock and seeing where it lands. He'll go anywhere, even South Dakota. There is one anime convention happening in October here where he'll be a guest. You know you're at a South Dakota convention when the motto on the convention website is "We like to think we don't completely suck". The problem is that in the next few weeks I'll be going on a vacation to Hollywood, Florida and I'll miss that South Dakota con. After Florida I'll spend a couple days in Houston, Texas where Kyle Hebert will also be at another convention, but I leave to come back home a couple days before that one. So I miss out on Kyle Hebert this year unless he decides to go on an ice cream truck tour of South Dakota in November. Heck, knowing him he just might.

Rapid City is a really shitty place if you like going to conventions that don't involve a) motorcycles b) farm tractors or c) buffalo poop

When I lived in El Paso or Tucson or even Fort Hood there were at least annual conventions of comics or toys or porn or something I was remotely interested in. El Paso and Tucson had dinky monthly toy shows where I could see a handful of roboplasticos for sale and Fort Hood even had something resembling a sci-fi convention at the sports bar every year. If there is a bright center of the robot nerd convention universe, western South Dakota is the planet it's furthest from.

So last week I got excited when I read about a Black Hills Model Engineering Show that was happening over the weekend. With a name like that I was sure it was a robot modeling convention. Would there be booths full of Macross model kits by Hasegawa? Would there be dealers selling Gundam and Evangelion model kits from Bandai? Would companies like Yamato and Kotobukiya show up with fantastic prototypes of upcoming toys and resin kits? Of course that would be best case scenario and I prepared myself for a more traditional American modeling event that would at least have awesome sports car models and stuff from Star Wars. What an idiot I was!

I showed up with my camera ready to take pictures of all the fantastic robot stuff that was bound to be at teh model engineering show. I should have run away when I noticed that the large room the show was being held in looked like a barn. I got in and sure enough it was tables and tables of guys showing off thier scratchbuilt scale models of John Deere tractors and tractor engines. Some guys made little prototype engines for imaginary tractors that exist only in their heads. Apparently farmer technology has not advanced to the point where these futuristic space tractors exist yet. I also saw model motorcycle engines and unbelievably there was even a can of poop on display in a box. Yup, this was one model show that could only be held in South Dakota. I remember when I was all depressed about missing out on Botcon. Somewhere there is a farm boy hating life because he missed this model space tractor show. Life is stupid.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

yOU CAN't tell me that a robot Camaro playing a giant guitar amongst exploding ambulances and crashing buses isn't the coolest fukcing thing ever

Honestly, I'll bet anyone who says Transformers: The Game sucks hasn't gotten to the level where you can blow up the Hard Rock Cafe and take the big guitar and beat other robots' asses with it. Even better is when I go to the fast food place and grab the giant hot dog and whack it upside some unsuspecting robot's head. Boy things sure have changed a lot since I played the Mystery of Convoy for the Famicom.

Here's how I'm doing so far in the game. I've only been playing the Autobot campaign seriously and haven't unlocked everything. I'm mostly trying to collect all the yellow cubes. It's maddening. I figure if I can find them all myself I'll save $16 by not having to buy the official guide. I hate how nowadays the cost of the game is actually the price of the game plus the price of the guide because the game has so many little intricacies that I'll never figure it all out with the supplied instructions. There were times that I came so close to buying that guide book because the marathon scavenger hunts and mini quests just kicked my butt. But ever since I got the invincibility code memorized I walk those hallowed streets a conqueror.

I've collected all the Autobot icons and shortly after I took these pictures I attained all the skills in each area. The killer is those friggin' yellow cubes. As of right now I still need one cube in the Hoover Dam level and five more in the Last Stand level. When it's down to one cube the game can drive you crazy because the levels are so big. I will not give in! However, I have considered taking my camera to Wal-Mart and taking pictures of the guide because I am not above cheating and stealing to help out the Autobots.

Spending all this time as Bumblebee and the other robots got me thinking about how video games have replaced action figures as the preferred plaything for generations of kids now. Growing up back when the Atari 2600 and the NES were the only consoles I knew of as a kid, it was easy to be into toy robots and comic books. But man, now that I see just how incredible these new video game graphics are I can't blame any little kid who would rather play as Bumblebee in a game than play with a Bumblebee figure in real life. It's the difference between holding an Optimus Prime figure in your hand while pretending the sofas are buildings he's jumping on and actually BEING Optimus Prime jumping on real buildings. Every fantastic setting from the movie and every robot you'd want to be are all rendered with fantastic computer models while the real movie score plays in the background and the other robots beat you up with giant hot dogs.

Video games kick total ass. It's like I have the entire Transformers movie figure collection and I get to play with them anytime. Not that I ever gave a crap about the stigma of being a scary old man buying toys, but video games are more socially acceptable for adults. Plus there's no more worrying about where I'm going to put them all or keeping them in good shape. The video game robots will never break no matter how many fights I get them into. Real toys get all messed up if you strap fireworks to them and blow them up but these video game robots come back again and again. No wonder kids prefer this electronics stuff. While all the nostalgic adult collectors have helped keep the action figure industry hobbling along on life support, children have been doing all their action figure playing with digital robots that never turn yellow or get lost in the dirt or chewed by dogs. The only trade off I see is that now generations of kids will not have any imagination since all the work is done there in the game for them, but hey, no sacrifice-no victory, right?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

hOW i BLEW MY life savings, episode twelve thousand

I was at Suncoast last week debating whether or not I should get the latest Iron Maiden and Helloween concert DVDs. I am really into both those bands but I HATE HATE HATE how the concert setlist is comprised of one or two songs from the latest albums and then fifty songs from their Jurassic Periods that I already have a buttload of versions of live. I wish these guys would just do a live concert video of songs from the latest albums, or even latest three albums. Catering to all those casual fans who only know the most popular songs these bands put out 20 years ago sucks for anyone who's actually keeping up and buying the latest records. It pisses me off! I don't mind bandwagon hopper fans who are just into the latest things-at least bandwagon hoppers appreciate the new material. I wish there was some way to get rid of the old timer casual fans who the record labels cater to with repetitive greatest hits packages and crappy concert DVDs.

I left Suncoast happy because I did find a used Teddy Ruxpin volume 1 DVD dirt cheap. At least I'll get my money's worth from classic Teddy Ruxpins that I can watch with my son. I used to watch Teddy Ruxpin hardcore when I was a teenager. It had an ongoing story arc that lasted the full 65 episodes. These DVDs are mastered from the worst sources available and in some frames there's huge hairs on the camera and other defects. I swear these were mastered from VHS copies. It also sucks that only two 5 episode DVDs were ever made but I'll take what I can get.

People who read Transformer comic books have gotten used to the idea that not all the characters in the comics would be made into roboplasticos. Back in the Marvel days it was understood that the book was meant to sell existing toys but that didn't stop the creators from making some new original robots and putting them in the stories. Since the robot comic fan market has always been tiny compared to the mainstream, we just accepted that these comic only characters would stay exactly that. But in the last five years or so Hasbro's started making robots based on comic characters from the current books. This is pretty cool and the other day at Target I got this guy called "The Fallen" who was the main antagonist robot from Dreamwave's War Within: The Dark Ages series. He turns into a Cybertronian BBQ grill. I never in a million years thought that this guy would be made especially since that book came and went years ago, but here it is. Actually the robot mode of the figure looks more like Megatron from the current Megatron Origin comic than it does the Fallen, but as with Teddy Ruxpin, I'll take what I can get.

Holy crap they still make Boo Berry and Frankenberry. I was looking for Count Chocula but I couldn't find any.

And speaking of ghosty thingys, my BT-18 Binaltech Spy Rijie in Electro Disrupter Mode came today. I will be calling it "clear Alternators Mirage". It looks great but I am rather worried that the clear plastic will yellow over time even if it's taken really good care of. I've seen clear Transformers yellow before and it's not pretty. Was it worth the $91.50 total I paid? Hell yeah it was.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Optimus Prime: metaphor for the deep rooted collective remorse of the English people, or just another fine robot badonkadonk?

I was listening to those Art Bell late night radio shows about UFOs a couple decades ago when the guest said something to the effect of, "You know Art, farmers still harvest the wheat and grain from crop circles and we eat it in our cereals and crap". I have read some speculation that UFOs are putting messages in the grains and when we eat them they rewrite our personalities. Previously the only way I knew of to transfer personalities between living beings was to get an organ transplant from somebody. It's a concept called cellular memory through which organ transplantees wake up one day with personality traits consistent with the donor from whom they got their organs. The idea that somehow aliens were transferring to us some sort of consciousness-altering messages in our Froot Loops was quite profound.

What I was worried about was an idea I had that cellular memory was not limited to organ transplants and crop circles. I really hope the hamburger I ate yesterday came from a cow who was well adjusted without too much emotional baggage. I know if you eat a crazy cow you get mad cow disease, but what if you eat an emo cow? They don't screen hamburger cows to find out if they listen to My Chemical Romance. I would prefer that McDonalds sell only hamburgers from cows that listen to Iron Maiden and lived a heavy metal cow lifestyle, rocking out all day playing cow air guitar as they ate the grass. But that's assuming that McDonald's hamburgers are made from meat, which is probably asking a bit much. A more reasonable request would be that McDonald's play Iron Maiden to the cardboard that they make their hamburgers from, or at least draw the Iron Maiden logo on it before they process it into Big Macs.

Besides eating McDonalds hamburgers made from cardboard there's a more traditional method of transferring other people's thoughts from paper to my brain and its called reading comic books. I finally got that Spotlight Optimus Prime I was writing about the other day and as I read it I felt like there were underlying themes in it akin to cellular level subliminal messages. Simon Furman who wrote the book is from the U.K. and as I read the story of Optimus Prime facing the atrocities commited by his ancestors, I wondered if this was Furman on some level writing about deep rooted regrets the English have as a people. There was so much conflict between Optimus and his robot brothers on both sides of the war that I wondered if Simon was using Prime's struggle to cope with the sins of his fathers as a metaphor for the English people and the actions of their leaders both past and present. Or maybe that last hamburger I ate was from a cow who took his comic books way too seriously.

Optimus has to deal with the fact that it was a previous Prime who dabbled in the Transformer equivalent of genetic manipulation and created some tortured robot Frankensteins called the Monster Pretenders. Could this be Furman warning us against the dangers of biotechnology and stem cell research? I'm just getting started here. At this point I am sure there was something in that last hamburger.

I've always hated the one dimensional cardboard cutout super doo-gooder guy Optimus Prime as he's portrayed in the cartoons (and now in the movie). Simon's take on Optimus throughout the years and various Transfomrer comic continuities has always been my favorite because Simon does a great job of capitalizing on Budiansky's original tech specs and exploiting Prime's compassion as his ultimate weakness. Consequently I find myself disliking Furman's Prime on the basis of his character and not the lack of it. I extremely dislike Furman's Prime because he's so crippled by compassion for lesser beings. I find this an annoying character flaw fleshed out perfectly. He's the guy I hate to love, which is a testament to Simon's ability to make me feel anything about this robot who in any other media is portrayed as the most wonderful super perfect robot Jesus that has ever lived.

Example number one of big flawed wussy Prime is the Spotlight book. Once again we see Prime dead set against the expansionist ideals of the other members of his race. Simon has written Prime like this before. Some of Simon's best writing was during the G2 era where the Transfomers who were left on Cybertron after the Ark crashed on earth eventually discarded the notions of war and factions, deciding instead to just call themselves Cybertronians and going out to conquer planets in the name of the Cybertronian empire. This left Optimus both an evolutionary and idealistic throwback who felt bad for the conquered worlds instead of proud of the accomplishments of his descendants. This is where I think Simon may be communicating a remorsefulness on the collective consciousness of the English people for all the colonizing they have done of the world and the resulting destructive conflicts with the native peoples of other lands, most notably the American Revolutionary War and the New Zealand Land Wars of the late 1800's. It seems every time the British colonize a country, their western culture overwhelms that of the natives and the diseases they bring kill scores of indigenous peoples. Is Simon writing Optimus Prime as a sort of British conscience, looking to atone for what miseries the English have brought unto countless races and cultures? I guess the real question is whether or not I shaked his hand too hard at Auto Assembly back in 2004 and the skin cells I absorbed from him are rewriting my brain.

I feel like I've just scratched the surface of what could be the true message behind Simon Furman's work on the Transformers comics. But since I'm just uneducated lazy brown trash I don't care to explore this any further. Writing thesis papers exploring Simon Furman's characterization of Optimus Prime as a metaphor for the deeply buried collective remorse the English have over the expansion of western civilization is extremely retarded. But I will be rabidly following the next chapters in IDW's ongoing Transformer books, one of which will be called "Expansion". If I'm right, "Expansion" will be about a conquering Cybertronian Empire that mirrors the first European colonization wave beginning in the 1500's. Or it could just be about Optimus Prime eating too many hamburgers, in which case I will really need to cut down on them Froot Loops.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Buying little plastic robot cars is only marginally less retarded than playing a video game where you pretend you are the little plastic robot cars

I intended to do a "deal of the week" post last week when I found OctaneToysUSA selling some used Alternators with their packages for $20 each, but I got so sidetracked watching Ninja Warrior and playing the Transformer video game that bloggering fell by the wayside. It sucks when the time I budget for minimally creative things like bloggering gets eaten up by the enormous wastes of time that are TV and video games, but what can you do. I have to admit that trying to jump over Shia LeBouff's house with Optimus Prime is a hell of a lot of fun.

Deal of the week this week is only open to people who can get on Army and Air Force bases. That means you either have to be in the military, be related to the military, be retired military, or be a pizza delivery driver. I have found out with the help of that this week's upcoming Toyland ad will have the movie deluxes and voyagers for a couple bucks cheaper than at normal retail outlets. What is cool about this AAFES sale is that the robots pictured in the ad are all from the first few waves. I never bought any movie toys so when they put out the sale stock this Friday it'd be a good chance to catch up if I wanted to. But I really don't want to because I still think the movie toys look like either car accidents or dog turds wrapped in multi colored aluminum foil.

The best things in life are $5.24 plus shipping

Babies sure do grow up fast. The Prince of Macrocrania has already tripled in size in his first five months and outgrown the Soundwave shirt I got for him at Hot Topic. It's as if I'm watching Bruce Banner turn into the Hulk right before my very eyes. The government must be exploding Gamma bombs in my backyard or something. Well even if he wears out shirts faster than the Hulk I can't exactly let him go without robots on his baby clothes. I would like to make him wear as much robot themed apparel before he realizes it's nerdy and learns to say "no". Unfortunately Hot Topic is doing a bad job of filling the void of robot themed baby clothes, although I do appreciate their Iron Maiden onesies that say "The Pooper".

Rewind back to 1986 when a few Transformers came packaged with reflective iron on patches. The free patch also doubled as a game piece in the Transformers "Prizes in Disguise" instant win contest. You can see the commercial for the contest over at Grand prize was two guys in Transformer costumes crash your birthday party (5 were available), second prize was an electronic voice changer (100 were available) and third prize was a pack of action cards, of which there were 10,000 to give away. Overall chances of winning the five grand prizes were 1 in 710,000. So if you do the math, I guess by "a few Transformers" with patches I meant 3 and a half million of them.

Those were great prizes but I didn't win any of them because I never opened the only Transformer I ever bought with the patch. Now that I think abut it, that was pretty dumb. What normal twelve year old in '86 didn't open their robots with the iron on patches? On second thought, what normal twelve year old even still bought toys in '86? If my son ever keeps his toys sealed at twelve years old I will have a good indication that he is either a) living a lie and pretending to like robots to make me happy or b) a nerdy robot collector. I would rather he be lying to me. I don't know what I'd do if we had one of those confrontations where I pick up the unopened toy robot and I ask him "Where did you get this unopened robot? Who taught you to do this?" and he goes, "You, alright! I learned it by watching you!"

I was really thinking a lot about the unopened Seaspray I've kept hanging on the pegs in the robot room. What if I had a winning game piece? What if I won one of the five robot parties? Could I ever forgive myself if I had a winning robot party game piece? Should I just keep it sealed and never know for sure? After all these years did I really want to find out? Screw all this! Baby needs a robot shirt! So I just barely seperated the bubble on the bottom enough to take out the patch and I got to ironing. It turns out I didn't have a winning game piece but I did get an Ultra Magnus patch. I was relieved that I lost the contest but I wished I had a cooler robot hero to put on my baby's shirt. Ultra Magnus is just soooo middle management.

Hoping that cooler patches were out there, that old collector mentality kicked in and I wanted to know how many robot patches were in the set and which ones they were. By a stroke of luck, Jon Hartman (one of the founders of Botcon) was ebaying off a bunch of patches. I figured they'd go for a lot of money but I guess that's because I fail to realize that in this world of Michael Bay movies where Bumblebee is an ass kicking, gun toting warrior, the old ways have been abandoned. So I scored twelve iron ons for approximately five bucks plus shipping. This was a relief since individually these can be found in eBay stores for up to $12 each. Oh, and none of them were winning game pieces.

I've since learned that there were ten patches in the set and after all was said and done I got seven of them. The remaining three I don't have are Snarl, Blitzwing and Inferno. I guess to some it is sacreligious to actually use these as iron ons after all these years but for someone who just wants to know what they look like it's almost impossible to find examples. I couldn't find pictures of the patches applied anywhere on the internet, probably since Transformer collectors are only interested in showcasing their mint unused samples. So I decided I'd take pictures of what I had for posterity's sake and for anyone who wanted to see the patches as Hasbro intended them to be seen. Some of mine have broken or damaged edges because I decided to use the beat up ones and save the good ones. Save them for what I do not know. Maybe to trade for the other three I don't have one day, but I seriously doubt that I'll ever find anyone else with extras even though over three million of them are out there.

In the end thanks to Jon and eBay I made my son a couple more Transformer shirts that I hope will last for at least a few more months. Thanks to the gamma rays by the time he's one all the shirts I made will be too small and he'll be eight feet tall and green. Then when he learns to talk he'll tell me how dorky he felt wearing Ultra Magnus on his shirt. I will have to agree.


I did eventually find the last three reflective patches I needed and I made a shirt you can see from space using all ten of them that I wear only once a year at Botcon.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I'm married now so I've long since stopped investing enormous amounts of time and money for two minutes of satisfaction

It's been announced that there'll be an additional two minutes of footage in the IMAX version of the Transformer movie coming out September 21st. I think I'm going to punk out and not go see it. I guess I'm just not as big a fan as everybody else is, or at least I'm not big enough to spend a couple hundred bucks on a road trip to Denver where the nearest IMAX is. I guess I will just wait for it on DVD like all the other slackers who don't want to drive a measly 400 miles one way to go to the IMAX. And honestly I'm still up in the air on whether or not I'll buy the DVD. I waited 29 years before buying Star Wars on any video format, so I'm not in much of a rush for Transformers. Maybe I'll get it when it's out on virtual reality wank-o-vision brain download in 2038.

Not entirely coincidentally, the Elks Theatre in downtown Rapid City will start showing Transformers tomorrow. Although its a second run theatre it claims to be South Dakota's largest screen. I've seen movies there before and the best way to describe it is it's IMAX for hillbillys. I think during one movie I saw a chicken running up and down the aisles. I don't know if I'll go. With the cancellation of the Alternators line I'm so apathetic towards Transformers robots right now that Megan Fox could drive up in Optimus Prime with IMAX tickets right now offering to drive me to Denver and give me blow jobs all the way and I wouldn't give a crap.

The Omega Supreme of water sprinklers and a hair drier named Star Wars

The time has come in my house to retire the phrase "the Cadillac of...". People use that phrase to describe something as the best in its class but lately I think it's been being worn out. The last time I heard "the Cadillac of" being used was in a podcast where they referred to the PS3 as "the Cadillac of game systems". About all Cadillacs and PS3s have in common is that they're big, expensive and there aren't many games I like for either of them. Since I make the rules in the perceived reality in my head that I like to call the Kingdom of Macrocrania, I started replacing "the Cadillac of" with the much more relevant "the Omega Supreme of". I began using it in my daily conversations, hoping that it would catch on and spread from the one guy I used it on (Charles the cashier) to all over the world and make me internet famous overnight.

I got to test the spread of "the Omega Supreme of" when my water sprinkler broke and I had to get a new one. At Wal Mart the friendly helper guy tried to help me find the right water sprinkler for me, so when he asked what I wanted I told him I was looking for "the Omega Supreme of" water sprinklers. Apparently the term has not caught on yet because the guy kind of looked at me funny as I stared at his eyeballs hoping for the faintest glimmer of acknowledgement. I don't know what his problem was because even if you didn't know who Omega Supreme was, just the words would bring to mind a water sprinkler that was rugged, dependable and yellow.

Omega Supreme water sprinkler now sits on my lawn, dominating the landscape with its bright yellow ruggedness. When I look at it, all else fades into the background. It is mesmerizing. All attention is drawn to it. I took the now 5 month old Prince of Macrocrania out to look at it, too, but he wasn't as impressed. Watching the water sprinkler sprinkle the grass wasn't nearly as life changing an experience for him as it was for me. But today when I was blow drying my hair he stared in stunned amazement at the hair drier as if it were baby Jesus telling him the story of Star Wars. (But not the new movies, the first ones that I grew up with. Baby Jesus doesn't strike me as a fan of the prequel trilogy.)

My son's reactions to consumer appliances like hair driers and water sprinklers mirrors my own feelings about the new Transformer movie versus the old one. With the old one I was impressed by not just the robots but the total package-the exotic environments, epic scale story and the sci-fi nature of it all. This new movie is like my water sprinklers. The robots command attention but they're set against such boring locations that it's hard for anything not to look fantastic in settings like the desert or in suburbia. Having them engaged in what amounts to little more than a series of scavenger hunts isn't what I would describe as epic storytelling. That's probably the best way to describe my disappointment with the new movie. I guess I wanted to be as blown away by Michael Bay's Transformers as my son was by the hair dryer but instead my expectations got dumped on by the Omega Supreme of peeing robot movies.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I usually don't give a crap about any British science fiction unless Iron Maiden references it in one of their songs

So the other day this one blog I read did an article about a Doctor Who movie called "Abducted by the Daleks". I don't know anything about Doctor Who other than that it's a show that started shortly after television was invented and it has 4,000 episodes and all the cool kids are into it nowadays. "Abducted" looked to be a sort of Doctor Who primer that I surmised would be right up my alley. I figured, what the hell-I'll check it out because I heard it's got everything I like, which is robots and lesbians.

In a nutshell the story is this-four hot lesbians get abducted by three horny robots who poke them a lot. The weird thing is that the lesbians keep lesbianing even after they're beamed into the spaceship like they don't even notice the Daleks! After a while I figured out that this probably isn't an official Doctor Who release but I wasn't going to be checking out the Whoverse seriously anyways. I'm just glad that the Doctor Who show was made so that in turn this masterpiece could be born.

When you look back on your life fifty years from now don't you want to say you had enough guts to go see Transformers on IMAX?

All of my life I have lived in the part of the nation that other US Americans with maps affectionately refer to as "flyover country". This was never more apparent to me than when they declared a town fifty miles north of me as the official middle of nowhere. You'd think I'd be used to living far away from all the big cities and doing without all the fun things that happen there, but it's hard. Missing out on exciting events like furry conventions and Iron Maiden concerts really gets to me. On the other hand, I appreciate those things a lot more than Joe Pokemon average big city liver guy who gets to experience the perks of city life enough to take them for granted. It's like how my european friends would kill for Taco Bell because they don't have that overseas. I may live in a pop culture entertainment vaccuum hellhole (aka South Dakota) but at least I could theoretically get a taco supreme if I had to.

Now they've announced that the Transformers movie is coming to IMAX screens starting September 21st. I would really like to see it on an IMAX screen because the last time I saw it was at the base theater here at Ellworth Space Station. I have always had horrible experiences watching movies on military bases and last last Sunday when I saw Transformers was no exception. The theater was plunged into darkness for ten minutes when the reel fell off halfway though the movie. I should be grateful that when the movie resumed the picture was not upside down, WHICH HAS HAPPENED BEFORE.

I've done the 800 mile round trip Denver drive enough to know that whatever reason I'm doing it for better be pretty good. I try to limit my exposure to Nebraska as much as I can but Transformers movie is worth it (barely). Going down to Denver for the weekend of September 21st would mean I leave my family alone and I'd feel a little bad because my wife's birthday is the following Monday. It looks like I'd rent a car, leave Friday night, check into some crappy hotel around 1 a.m., then see the movie Saturday and maybe leave immediately after that. If I were in my early twenties this would sound like something fun and exciting, but right now in my advanced stages of robomenopause I have difficulty justifying the toll it would take on my wallet and conscience.

Still, there's supposed to be magical deleted scenes and it's not everyday that mainstream pop culture gets tricked into thinking toy robots on the IMAX is a good idea. So I'm stuck between blowing a couple hundred bucks on a road trip to Denver to see it on IMAX and doing the smart thing, which is waiting for the DVD and watching those magical deleted scenes on my ICOUCH. I feel like Megan Fox in that part of the movie when Sam LeBouff gives her that "when you look back on your life.." line, wondering if getting in Bumblebee is a good idea or if Sam has just conceived the world's most elaborate date rape setup and my butt will be hurting later.

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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.