Friday, April 27, 2007

Together Again: The BotCon 2007 Jets

Well, as it turns out, the folks behind BotCon decided to release pictures of Thrust yesterday, so I wasn't too far off in my predictions.

But anyway, this marks the first time since 1985 that Hasbro has released all six characters using the same basic "Starscream" mold (or a variation thereof). Most of these characters have seen other forms over the years, some more than others, but never before have updated versions of the original forms of all six characters been available at the same time. Although some fans are angry at Fun Publications--believing that, had FP left well enough alone, the characters which are now BotCon exclusives would have been eventually released by Hasbro at mass retail--the fact that no mold has ever been used to recreate all six characters since 1985 argues rather strongly against this. FP should be commended, rather than criticized, for their efforts.

So, in honor of this nostalgic achievement, here is a quickly hashed-together image of all six characters, together again for the first time in over two decades!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Exclusive News?

I'd actually made a conscious decision to delay my post for today, because I suspected that the folks behind BotCon would reveal pictures of the upcoming Thrust exclusives, having shown Dirge last Thursday and Thundercracker on Monday. However, it appears that other news is taking precedence.

In July, the folks behind BotCon and the official Transformers club will be releasing a comic book, sold via regular comic outlets, set in the same "Classics" storyline that's currently featured in the club comic and BotCon exclusives set. If the image they've given us is any indication, look to find exclusives announced soon based on the Elita-1, Huffer, and Springer characters, either at BotCon or via the club.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"You Should Be On a Game Show"?

When I first arrived in Southern California, I kept a promise to myself that I made a long time ago: I went to see a taping of a game show.

The show in question was The Price is Right. And, yes, the cliché held true: the set looks bigger on TV. Including that time, I've been to about a half dozen tapings, and have enjoyed those experiences immensely.

I've been trying, off-and-on, to fulfill another dream while I've lived here: to actually be a contestant on a game show. That one's still eluding me.

Besides the Price is Right tapings, during which everybody in the audience is a potential contestant, I've tried out for quite a few shows, most of which are no longer on the air: Whammy! (The All New Press Your Luck), Winning Lines, Match Game, Pyramid, Card Sharks. For each one I called the appropriate phone number, made an appointment to go down to the studio, waited with a group of other potential contestants, and auditioned (they actually use that word!) to be on the show. So far, not one has accepted me as a potential contestant. (I almost auditioned for Family Feud as well, but that audition fell through when one of my cousins broke his arm the week before my extended family would have come down to LA to join me in trying out. Ahhhh, well....)

On Wednesday, the Associated Press did an article on Deal or No Deal, giving some insight into the contestant selection process.

"Originality is everything," said casting producer Neal Konstantini, whose staff of 13 chooses the contestants. "They've got to be fun. They've got to be zany and wild and energetic. I'm not putting on anybody who's going to bore you."

But a good player is hard to find. More than 150,000 audition tapes have been submitted and thousands turned out for casting calls around the country. Just a fraction of the candidates had what it takes, he said: "Somewhere in the neighborhood of one or two percent actually make it on the show."

Konstantini and his team recently began a nationwide contestant search. Traveling to nine cities in the "Deal on Wheels" bus, they'll see as many as 75,000 potential players - and choose maybe 75.

It's hard to get on a game show. And especially on a show like Deal or No Deal, it's really not a matter of how well you play the game. One person can pick suitcases from a random assortment just as well as the next person. A contestant coordinator is looking for a particular type of personality to be a contestant. Remember, this is entertainment. If an audience doesn't like a particular player, it won't matter how much that contestant wins, viewers will change the channel, and the show will fail.

If you look at that list of shows I tried out for, they kind of run the gamut in regard to skill or knowledge required to play. Whammy! is fairly random, although like Deal, guts and courage to take risks and press forward certainly matter. Match Game depends a bit on your ability to make appropriate word connections, especially funny ones. Pyramid requires more intelligence: you have to have a good vocabulary and knowledge of definitions. Card Sharks is mostly a game of luck, but also has an element requiring you to know about human nature. The Price is Right requires the contestant to know what items sell for. In some cases more than others, the would-be contestant needs to be able to play a mock-up game well in order to advance. For the Pyramid trials, you really couldn't expect to advance if you didn't nail the practice game (I personally think I did pretty well, but my "partner," another would-be contestant, deep-sixed me by playing poorly. I need to have good definitions given to me in order to guess the words!). But in all cases, contestant coordinators need to find contestants that will attract viewers. Apparently, I haven't been the kind of person that they've been looking for....

I'm pretty sure I'll never be on Deal or No Deal. Besides those odds from the AP article, have you seen the contestants? Those guys are crazy! While I think most people who know me would call me "unique," I don't have that level of just-plain-insanity that most Deal contestants have. Perhaps I'll eventually make it on some other show, although it's harder to try out now that I work full-time than it was when I was still a student (I have taken time off of work, with my supervisor's permission, to try out for a couple of the shows mentioned above, though). Time will tell if I've got what a particular contestant coordinator is looking for....

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Exclusivity Revisited

In one of my earliest posts, I commented on the high price of the BotCon 2005 exclusives. Now that the 2007 convention set has been revealed (fewer toys at an even higher price, I note, but to be fair, all five of these will be "deluxe" toys or larger), the usual arguments have cropped up again. Many fans are offended at the very fact that some highly desirable toys are exclusives (lots of folks simply can't understand why some of these toys weren't made available at retail), and therefore cannot be purchased without paying large sums of money.

But it's not just that the toys are expensive that people argue about. I'd rather not get into name-calling or finger-pointing here, but in at least one fan's case, the argument is this: his problem isn't that the toys are too expensive (although I believe that he thinks that they are), his problem is that, if he is unable or unwilling to actually go to the convention, he can't get the toys, even if he's willing to shell out the cash for it.

Of course, this isn't technically true, and never has been. Exclusive toys have always been available on eBay after the convention, and they often sell for very high prices. But the argument goes that the fan would like to give the money to Fun Publications, the people that have actually gone to the trouble to create the toys, but that they have made a decision not to take his money by selling these toys to him, simply because he won't be at the convention. (I should at this point make clear that I'm aware that the 5-figure box set is available to non-attendees through FP, and I myself will be getting these toys this way. Non-attendees do have to pay the same price that attendees do, though, which seems high to some considering that they don't get the benefits of the convention itself. Still, there are other toys that will only be given to those who are there.)

Battles have been waged on the message boards between people with this attitude and those who argue that such people don't understand what the meaning of the word "exclusive" is. And there is something to this: an "exclusive" is something that's available only through a particular source. If a convention offers an exclusive, it stands to reason that attending the convention is the only way to get it.

However, I find myself wondering if the apparent misconception of the word "exclusive:" being taken to mean "something that is special or rare" as opposed to "something only available through a particular source," is a wider problem. Take, for example, one of Slacktivist's criticisms of the Left Behind series of Christian novels (for those wondering about the acronyms, "L&J" are "LaHaye and Jenkins," the authors of Left Behind, and "GIRAT" means "Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time," which is intended to refer to Buck Williams, one of the lead characters, who in a previous scene survived an car bomb intended for him, and who has supposedly been operating under an alias since then, although no one, including the authors, seems to have noticed):

Rosenzweig doesn't ask what happened. He doesn't ask how Buck survived the car bombing, or if he was its intended target, or why it seems someone is trying to kill him. Instead, he says: "[Carpathia] had so wanted to meet you and had agreed to an exclusive interview."

"Can we still do that?" Buck whispered, to the boos and catcalls of the competition.

"You'll do anything to get a scoop," someone groused. "Even have yourself blown up."

L&J's image of the press corps seems to be based on the City Hall boys from His Girl Friday, which I guess means Buck is Rosalind Russell. Rosenzweig assures him that he can still get his exclusive interview and in doing so demonstrates that neither he nor Buck (nor L&J) knows what "exclusive" means:

"It will probably not be possible until late tonight," Rosenzweig said. His hand swept the room, crowded with TV cameras, lights, microphones and the press. "His schedule is full all day, and he has a photo shoot at People magazine early this evening. Perhaps following that. I'll speak to him."

So, yes, after Carpathia speaks to the entire gathered press corps, and after a jam-packed day of interviews and press events, then Buck can have his "exclusive." This is like those "exclusive" interviews that local reporters claim when they take their last-in-line seat opposite an exhausted and distracted film star at the tail end of a three-day press junket. Even People gets to talk to Carpathia before the GIRAT does....

If the wider culture (of course, one wonders how much conservative Christian writers can be said to represent the wider culture, but the kind of mistake they make here seems to indicate something wider), let alone Transformers fans, has started to think of the word "exclusive" as synonymous with "special," rather than meaning "only one way you can get it," perhaps we can understand why people are miffed that FP won't take their money.

But even if we grant that people are undereducated or misinformed, the sheer intensity of the arguments on the fan boards seems to indicate a greater problem. It seems to me that it's not just that people get really touchy when you put them behind a wall of anonymity. It looks a lot to me like people are actively trying to get into fights. That's just not healthy.

Life's not fair. Either deal with it, or leave us alone. We've got better things to talk about.

Monday, April 2, 2007

BotCon 2007 Registration Forms Are Up!

If you're reading this, and are a Transformers fan, then you probably already know that the BotCon 2007 registration forms went up on Saturday. You can find them at

Since there was a lot of information released on the brochure that came out at the same time, I've made a fairly extensive update to the Unofficial BotCon 2007 FAQ. If that link's helpful, I'm glad, but I should note that the best information can almost always be found directly at

Registration is a little more expensive this year (at $279 for club members), but indications are that this will be the most heavily attended BotCon ever, so you may not want to wait before sending in your registration form if you want to attend and/or get the box set of exclusive toys!

Transformers Wiki