Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Dub Thee, "Podwave"

About a week ago, my "Music Label" Soundwave arrived. Basically, it's a new item from Japan that's an update of the original G1 Soundwave that actually plays MP3s. It's not quite the first Soundwave that actually plays music—if you count a non-transforming (but still in robot mode!) Soundwave cassette player released by Hasbro in 1985—but it's still made quite the impression on the Transformers fandom.

That's not to say that it's much of an MP3 player. You can't fast-forward or rewind within tracks, and tracks always play in the same order (the order in which you put the MP3 files on the miniSD card). You can, thankfully, pause, skip forwards or backwards to other tracks, and raise or lower the volume as desired. And, of course, you can transform the player into a robot!

Although there is a "Music Label" Soundwave available in Soundwave's traditional blue color scheme, you'll notice that mine is mostly white. This is intended to homage the original white color scheme of the iPod (although this is not a licensed iPod product, and iPod itself is now available in a rainbow of colors). My brother got a special deal by ordering both variations of "Music Label" Soundwave at the same time. He got the blue one, and I got the white one. Sadly, he tells me that his Soundwave no longer plays! It worked a couple of times, and then just stopped for no known reason. Has anyone else had this problem? I'm wondering if he's blown the small fuse inside, but can't imagine what he's done to blow it so quickly.

Anyway, if you're really into MP3 players, then I expect that this one wouldn't be for you. It's just too limited in its functionality, and you can get something else to do the same job for much cheaper. But since I haven't had an MP3 player of my own (my wife does have an iPod nano, but she uses it all the time, so that doesn't do much for me), I'm pretty glad to have it. It's given me a chance to listen to some speeches on youth work and a few TF Movie parodies (Yeah, yeah, these don't sound much like music, do they? What can I say? I'm just weird.) while driving to and from work, rather than settling for whatever NPR is playing. Also, I've ordered an MP3 CD of the TNIV, which I hope to use with this player to help in my devotional time. All in all, a pretty cool item for Transformers fans, but consider yourself warned. It's not for everyone.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Remember, If Knowing is Half the Battle, the Other Half is Usually Violence

Most people who grew up in the 1980's (especially boys, I expect) probably know the phrase "knowing is half the battle," not as a saying in its own right, but as the tag line for the Public Service Announcements that would finish off the end of every episode of the old GI Joe cartoon.

For those unfamiliar with the cartoon, each episode would end with a short piece (usually unrelated to the main story itself), in which a kid (or group of kids) is about to do something unsafe or unwise. Just then, a member of the GI Joe team shows up out of nowhere to tell the kid(s) what he/she/they should do. Invariably, the piece would end with a kid saying "Now I (we) know," after which the Joe member would say "And knowing is half the battle" which would immediately cut to the "GI Joe" name being sung in a title wipe.

These PSAs are so iconic that they have been parodied many times over the years. Just check out what comes up when you do a YouTube search for "GI Joe PSA." Good luck finding one that's not a parody! But I was still surprised to find these two advertisements in a recent edition of Master Collector, advertising the new 25th anniversary figures. They're real advertisements, yet obviously parodies all at the same time. Check out the background pictures in the final frames!

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Friday, August 3, 2007

Now You See It, Now You... Still See It, Actually

Well, my BotCon 2007 collection is now as complete as I intend to make it. Mirage arrived yesterday (of course, Mirage is supposed to be an attendee exclusive, but eBay transcends barriers like that!). This toy is intended to represent Mirage while using his ability to turn invisible.... But he's not exactly invisible, is he?

Even months before Mirage was officially revealed, there was a fair amount of discussion about the possibility that one of the exclusives would be some kind of "invisible Mirage," and when word more-or-less slipped a few weeks before the convention itself, much of that discussion turned surprisingly negative. Many Transformers fans felt (and, no doubt, still feel) that an "invisible Mirage" would be a boring choice. At least one reason (although I expect that there are others) that many of the fans on the message boards gave was that they didn't care for transparent plastic.

Well, this is an area in which I proudly must differ from many of my colleagues. In fact, besides the box set, there were really only two other BotCon exclusives (out of five others available) that I had any interest in getting: Alpha Trion and this one. An "invisible" Mirage has always seemed (at least to me) like an obvious choice for an exclusive. Mirage's signature ability (admittedly, more in the cartoon than in the comic universe the BotCon fiction is supposed to take place in) has been to turn himself invisible, and it's a fairly simple thing to do to illustrate this by means of a toy made of transparent plastic.

That's not to say that the toy doesn't have its faults. For one thing, they chose not to do the toy in colorless transparent plastic, but instead chose blue. And the pictures don't really do the intensity of the blue justice. This toy is actually a fairly dark blue! Not at all "invisible!" In fact, it's debatable how much it's even transparent! I definitely consider this a wasted opportunity.

However, the blue plastic is quite an attractive color, and it does allow for some fun. Courtesy of my Sonic Screwdriver toy, which emits UV light, I can take some pretty cool pictures of this toy in the dark. Perhaps instead of considering it "invisible" Mirage, we should think of this toy as representing "night attack" Mirage?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Alternators Rodimus

It's actually not as rare as any of the BotCon exclusives that have come out over the past decade, but to hear the current complaining from folks unable to get one, you might not realize it.

The toy I'm talking about, Alternators Rodimus (or, to go by an apparent misprint in the instructions, "Alternators Rodimus Prime"), was an exclusive at last weekend's San Diego Comic-Con. By all accounts, this convention was huge, with thousands upon thousands of people attending to catch the latest comic and toy-related news, meet up with celebrities, and yes, to pick up exclusive merchandise.

With the success of the theatrical Transformers movie this past month, it could probably be predicted that a Transformers exclusive would be popular. And Alternators have tended to be especially popular with adult fans for their realism and complexity. So, it was no surprise to read news reports of long lines waiting outside the Hasbro booth trying to get the Alternators Rodimus toy. Nor was it a surprise to hear cries of frustration and shouts of Hasbro's supposed incompetence when the lines moved too slowly, or people found themselves unable to get their desired toys for whatever reason.

A friend of mine, who as I type this is beginning a move to North Carolina to start work on her PhD at Duke this fall, was at Comic-Con this past weekend, and offered to pick up for me any exclusives I might want, whereby I would pay her for her expenses later. Having heard the reports of difficulties and frustration as early as Thursday, I gave her the list of exclusives I was interested in, but made it clear that I did not expect her to fight too hard to get these items on my behalf.

I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to find that she was successful in picking up Rodimus during her trip. Knowing that the toy would soon be in high demand, I confess that I was tempted to leave the toy in its (very attractive) box and re-sell it on eBay. I could certainly use the money. But such would be small gratitude to my friend, who got this toy for me as one of her last acts while living in Southern California! No, this item is going on display!

But first, a comment or two about the toy itself. Rodimus is a repaint/remold of Alternators Mirage (It definitely has a new head, but there may well be other remolded details I haven't noticed. I don't have a Mirage of my own, having traded the one I won at BotCon 2006 with my brother, who didn't care for the prize he won, an Energon Downshift, so much. Having been frustrated with Alternators in the past, I felt generous). The flame patterns on the hood/chest are clearly meant to evoke Hot Rod, a classic Generation 1 character, for whom the name "Rodimus" has been applied in more recent homages to the character, since the name "Hot Rod" is trademarked by another company, meaning that Hasbro can't use it anymore.

Now Rodimus occupies a position of prominence among the Alternators I have on display at work. I was surprised to discover that my other Alternators are so predominately blue (I also have the almost-entirely-black Alternators Ravage from a couple of years back, but that one's displayed elsewhere), so the bright red Rodimus simply had to go in the center to create a sense of balance!

Incidentally, Rodimus wasn't the only exclusive offered by Hasbro at the San Diego Comic-Con, or even the only Transformer exclusive. In addition to My Little Pony, Star Wars, GI Joe, and (I expect) other exclusives, there was also a Menasor figure from the Titanium line, which is (ironically) a Rodimus Prime repaint intended to homage yet another Generation One character. All of these "exclusives" were actually made available at online on Monday, although Alternators Rodimus sold out within a couple of hours. At the time of this writing, there were over 1000 Menasor figures still available, so hurry and head over to the site if you want one!

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