It would seem that the full force of the marketing hacks at Hasbro have been unleashed upon the twenty-something populace like a horde of fat kids at an all-you-can-eat baker’s convention. Case-in-point: the proliferation of Transformers merchandise. It’s a rather odd feeling to realize that certain chunks of my childhood have been re-commoditized and are being sold back to me in a two-pronged attack.
On one hand, there’s the nostalgic / ironic approach, and these are embodied by Decepticon decals, Optimus Prime T-Shirts, and related Hot Topic-esque paraphernalia. This is, of course, fuelled by 80′s cartoon otaku craphounds who scour eBay for the long-lost toys of their youth and tend to go wild at flea markets over a “mildly distressed” Grimlock action figure.
On the other hand, there’s the new iterations of the old product, aimed both at us nostalgic weenies and at the as-yet-unexposed youth market. Unfortunately, pandering to the latter group usually results in the immediate and appalling sense of datedness in these products; witness Transformers: Armada (in all it’s incarnations – toy, cartoon, and comic). Here they’ve taken possibly one of the worst aspects of late-80′s Transformer’s canon — the Powermasters series — and combined it with the modern Pokemon / Digimon / Yu-Gi-Oh / Beyblades collectibles craze. One can almost hear Unicron’s Orson Wellian basso profundo voice gravelly utter the phrase “Gotta catch ‘em all!”. Alas, I weep. Though I must admit, the upcoming toy sure is cool (and only seventeen years late).
Unicron is planet-smashingly fun!
Of course, in the grand tradition of the rants on this site, I’m probably making Everests out of dirtclods. A recent re-watching of Transformers: The Movie with the girls has forced me to come to the conclusion that, yes, much of the movie, and yea, perhaps the entire ouvre may have been shallow crap dressed up in an thin veneer of Campbellian psychodrama and then tarred heavily with the toy-marketer’s brush. But. Still…
There’s the moment in The Movie when Optimus Prime rushes down Autobot City’s streets, plowing down any Decepticons foolish enough to be in his path, all to the strains of Stan Bush’s “The Touch” (which, for you young’uns, is hair-metal-esque music made back in a time when they weren’t afraid to use synth-modulated electric guitars as percussion instruments). And it was downright heroic, and inspiring; seeing a take-charge leader-type doing what needed to be done. Or, in Prime’s own words: “Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost.”
Optimus Prime: strong, noble, and a truck.
Maybe I haven’t been watching Digimon or Yu-Gi-Oh enough to notice, but I haven’t yet seen any modern cartoon aimed at young viewers which possesses anything near the same resounding sense of self-sacrifice and uncheapened heroism. I mean, Prime dies protecting Autobot City, ferchrissakes.
Now take that in your Pokeball and shove it.
Now, go and visit They Might Be Giant Robots. It’ll cure what ails ya. And while yer at it, go and grab me an Autobot decal for my car.
My local economy has defeated me. I vastly underestimated the available demand of the PSX to USB converter. I suppose that it was a specialized market to begin with; Playstation gamers who prefer their particular brand of controller who cross over into specific forms of PC gaming which requires a gamepad. None of the twelve stores visited (or called) today have it. Less than three of them have even heard of it. Well, it’s back to the old soldering iron for me, I guess.
Well, at least the announcement of the Volvo XC 90 serves to allay my crushing disappointment. The XC 90 stands as the natural progression of the Volvo productspace; after you hit the XC 70, which is basically a predatory, trumped up station wagon, where else is there to expand but the SUV market?
Behold the power of the XC 90
Yes, I’ve heard the “Gas consumption supports tyrants, destroys the earth, and leads to a poorer sex life” arguments. My response? From The Onion:
Nobody wants to see brave young Americans sent off to die. Nobody wants to see blood spilled for oil. But if it comes to that, wouldn’t we all feel better knowing that their blood was spilled for a great deal of oil? I know I sure would.
Well, the last several days have seen my (and Jenn’s) attempts to locate a PSX to USB adaptor come up with absolutely bupkiss, after having been led on a merry circular chase from Electronics Boutique to Radio Shack to Future Shop and back again.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, though Gravis tries hard, and while other companies have their own offerings, no company but Mad Catz comes close to creating a gamepad that matches the Playstation’s Dual Shock (and sadly, they don’t make a PC version of my beloved Lynx Wireless). It’s a matter of heft and feel, I suppose; everything else feels plastic by comparison.
Really, I have no idea how I managed to play my way through the PC version of Rogue Squadron using a flimsy controller that squeaked when I squeezed the buttons too hard.
So I’m heading out for another foray with the Fabulous (and Indominitable) Jenn tomorrow into my old stomping grounds on the East Side. And if I can’t find it locally, then dammit, it’s back to the inter-web and the delayed gratification (and somehow less thrilling experience, in the hunter-gatherer sense) of online shopping. So wish me luck.
In blog-news, I’ve updated the Links section on the left (now more automated), and added a list of previously-available archived updates. I swear, it’s the virtual equivalent of redecorating my apartment because I’ve gotten sick of the couch’s location. Now if I could only find me my very own web-based Sarah Richardson…
I really do bemoan the state of the comics industry in North America these days. So much of it is fluffwork, and understandably so, as comics are no more immune to the normalizing effects of the bell-curve of excellence (and crapulousness) than any other medium. But the price, man, the price! At five bucks Canadian a pop, something’s gone seriously sour if you can rip through an issue of Hunter: The Age of Magic in less than five minutes. Hell, at least I didn’t end up wasting too much time. But that’s a bad deal any way you look at it, especially if you consider the serial nature of the medium. Does that mean that all I have to look forward to next month in Hunter is another five minute read? Hah. That dull thud you hear is the sound of the title being dropped from my to read list.
Thankfully a few skilled writers and artists are still out there polishing their craft and metamorphosing the dull wait between issues into breathless anticipation. Girl Genius, with it’s engaging story and quarterly distribution schedule comes to mind. The Red Star seems to ship whenever Archangel Studios damn well feels like shipping it, and yessir we likes it. Of course, you could always take it the hiatus between issues a wee bit too far (Warren Ellis, where’s my next installment of Planetary, dammit? You’ve got me on tenterhooks here).
I think the Japanese have the right of it, by publishing fast and cheap, and collecting the serials into bound tankouban volumes. At the very least, a phone-book sized collection of even the crappiest manga gives you the impression that you got something substantive for the money you spent.
The weekend was filled with a surfeit of gaming, which was largely due to the sudden acquisition of a large number of old-school games (or old-school games ported to new systems like the Game Boy Advance). Playing through Megaman X5, Strider and Strider 2 with the girls has shown me that I am an old, sad man whose prime button-tapping days may have long since passed when simple jumping puzzles have me ready to crush my controller from sheer frustration. Either that, or the Mad Catz Lynx wireless PSX controller which Jenn bought for me has an unforgivably slow detection rate. Hah. When in doubt, blame the hardware.
Naetheless, it’s good enough for my true console-based interests, which are, of course, old-skool RPG’s. Matt brought me his copy of Suikoden, and it’s now waiting patiently in line for me to finish Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI. Of course, that’s if any of these games can pull me off of Megaman Legends 2, whose endearing charm and excellent voice acting have somehow caused said controller to spontaneously fuse to my hands, forcing me to tap out this entry with my nose. It’s mind-bogglingly captivating to have the blue bomber in a Zelda64-esque 3rd-person RPG mode, and seeing him duck and shoot his way around Reaver infested dungeons makes the 13-year-old in me glad (this, of course, being the same inner child who curses my age every time I fail to make a simple platform-spike jump in Megaman X5. Ungrateful brat).
The Blue Bomber and Roll
Behold the power of emulation! While I do own a GBA (and will soon trade up for the much, much sexier GBA SP), I must say that the Visual Boy Advance does a great job in keeping my eyes from turning all googly by displaying high frame-rate, decently sized images on my computer monitor. The same goes for ePSXe, which I use for two reasons: high-quality game screencaps and cleaner images. Now, I love my new (well, new new to me) Playstation, but the only thing keeping me from switching to the ePSXe full time is the lack of support for my controllers-of-choice. That, and the massive installation-annoyance factor involved with getting the ePSXe to work in the first place — you have to get the bios files, then the various graphic plugins, and then there’s the video/audio/control setup. All in all, it’s hassle-riffic (especially when you compare it to the pop-it-in-and-play methodology of your standard console), but it does mean you get a clearer image on a VGA monitor.
portable (emulated) 16-Bit goodness!
Man, if this is what less than a hundred dollars (CAN, which translates to about thirty shillings and sixpence, or ten Pre-Iraqui-invasion Part Deux Amercan dollars) can do to my free time, imagine what a modern console system with games like Ratchet and Clank or FF X would do to me? Odds are that the girls would probably find me with an IV tap in my veins zen’ing my way across these games as I slump in front of my console / computer bay.
Hmm. Not an appealing long-term proposition. I’d probably be better off reading about hyper-brand-sensitive film freaks in Gibson’s newest novel. If I don’t post again by tomorrow, send help. Preferrably with a PS2 and copies of Lunar 2: Eternal Blue.