Tools of the Imagination — Starscream (Classics)

Transformers Classics toyline, by Hasbro, released 2006

Hasbro Knocks It Out Of The Park

In the mid-2000s, Hasbro returned to their roots with the Generation One toyline. However, they reimagined them by using modern toy construction techniques, modern modeling, and modern sensibilities and fusing them with classic characters and designs from the original series. The result was the Transformers Classics toyline, what might be argued to be one of the Hasbro’s most popular lines, marrying fan-favorite elements with approachable new sensibilities.


At this point, there isn’t much to say about Starscream that hasn’t already been said. He’s a perfect villain, capable of decimating foes and friends alike. Treachery is more than merely his calling card but a way of life. He’s so villainous that he isn’t even trusted by the other bad guys. Now THAT is a villain.

The Classics toyline was a very ambitious and well-meaning way for Hasbro to please it’s long-time fans but also invite in new fans that had either come to the franchise thanks to the live-action films (love ’em or hate ’em, they were successful) or hadn’t really even been into the franchise. It was a winner all-around; the Gen-1 fans would like the classic takes on the characters while those less rooted in the past could enjoy vibrant and colorful characters that were excellently made.

Appearance – 5 out of 5
These toys look beautiful. They are nicely reminiscent of their Gen-1 origins which is critical, but they also transform very much like the characters from that show. For Starscream (and like his Seeker brethren), his wings flip, his arms fold in, his legs combine, and his nose extends from within his chest. Just like in the show, so to does this toy deliver.

Construction – 5 out of 5
Hasbro is known for rugged toys and this one delivers. From the missiles to the wings and everything in between, the plastic is tough and durable, but also with the necessary give. The joints are solid and study, but can also pop back into place should the unthinkable happen. This is a rugged toy that can go anywhere and endure just about anything.

Movement – 4 out of 5
While this toy does a few small issues with movement, they pale in comparison to the dynamic poses that eleven joints allow this toy to take. There is a slight issue with the balance being a little awkward, with the center of gravity in robot mode being very high (almost in the shoulders), leading to a slight tendency to tip over, but the movement and flexibility more than make up for it.

Extras – 2 out of 5
The toy comes with detachable wing/arm missiles, as well as instructions for the transformation process, but that’s it. There’s no stand and no platform. While appropriate for the character and the toyline, it is unambitious for an otherwise excellent toy.

Packaging – 5 out of 5
In a word: perfect. The packaging is vividly colored, study and yet not too hard to open, and it gives a wealth of information on the character and the world he inhabits. It is replete with artwork of both robot and jet mode and is engaging to the touch. Almost everything a child (or fan) could ever want in a toy’s packaging is found perfectly executed right here.

Overall – 4 out of 5

The Classics toyline really is one of the finest toylines Hasbro has ever done, and anyone has ever done. From the construction to the colors to the packaging, everything is just perfect. There is little more you could reasonably ask from a toyline that these don’t deliver and this toy especially is a shining example of that.

The Magic of MAGFest

MAGFest was this past weekend.  I’m assuming you went because why wouldn’t you?  As the preeminent place for gaming music (and gaming in general), it stands as one of Meccas of gaming culture.  Pretty much anybody who is a gamer or is part of the gaming community either has gone to MAGFest or is planning to go to MAGFest.  That it’s an awesome party to boot is just icing on the cake.

This year was an amazing experience.  I got to see friends, I got to reconnect with these guys and that guy, and was able to shake the hands of the movers and shakers of the convention industry, yadda yadda yadda.  That isn’t want I want to talk about today.

Today, what I want to talk about is inspiration.

MAGFest, in addition to having great concerts and amazing talent all around, also has several brands of intellectuals’ tracks and professionals’ tracks.  These are panels where experts – seasoned and aspiring alike – get the chance to talk about and share their craft.  And it is from these that, in many ways, the community moves forward.

The sharing of ideas has been and always remains one of the cornerstones of progress.  By bringing together people with common purpose but differing view points, the community and industry (and perhaps the world?) evolves.  Perhaps a bit grandiose description of sticking a bunch of nerds in a room and having them talking about the video game art form as a means for narrative expansion, but the truth remains that these panels help to refresh our love of this medium.

And it helps to refresh our drive and initiative.

People come to conventions for a lot of reasons: to see friends (or to make them), to see celebrities, the dealers’ room, so on.  But some people – like myself – come largely for the panels.  We come to discuss and witness discussions of the art form for which we love.  And we come away from it inspired.  Inspired to do work, inspired towards betterment and improvement, inspired to up our game, inspired to contribute to the medium and our world.  We come away from it inspired a thousand different ways, but inspired at its core.

It’s for this reason that I recommend people attend conventions, sometimes conventions of any variety.  Celebrities have never done that much for me and in this age of eBay, Etsy, and other online dealers, there isn’t too much that can be found in the dealers’ room that you can’t find elsewhere in the internet.  But the panels are where you concur with and diverge from your fellow fans.  It is where your love and ambition begin to fuse and become something more, become something inspired.

MAGFest 12 is the start of my 2014 convention schedule, and already I can’t wait until the next one and the next one after that, and all the others that will follow.  If you’re a fan of comics or video games or anime or toys, or astrophysics, or knitting, or anything at all, I hope you’ll make a convention or three a part of your life this year.  Because going to a convention is inspiring, no two ways about it.

See you there!

New Year’s Resolutions

People generally make three types of New Years Resolutions:
– Social (“I’m not going to spend Friday nights marathoning Supernatural again this year”)
– Moral (“I’m going to be a better person”)
– Health (“I’m going to start going to the gym”)

The health resolutions pretty much always fall into one of two categories
– Begin a new habit (going to the gym, eating healthier, etc)
– Ceasing a bad habit (stop smoking, stop eating junk food, etc)

The dangers, however, with setting New Years Resolutions is that most people set incredibly vague goals.  When people talk about getting healthier, they’ll decide “I’m going to start eating better” or “I’m going to start going to the gym”.  Okay, cool.  That’s great.

Define ‘eating better’.

If I switch from eating pizza every night to hamburgers, is that eating better?  What if I trade that pizza for salads exclusively?  Does that mean cutting a meal, or eating six small meals instead of three big ones?  Does that mean less red meat or no meat at all?  Technically, just eating a plain doughnut instead of a chocolate-filled one is already eating better.

And define ‘going to the gym’.  Are you going to start doing cardio or lifting weights?  Are you going to take dance classes or attending power lifting seminars?  Are you going to train like a bodybuilder or a strongman?  Are you going to go to the gym three times a week or six times a week?

The trick to setting achievable goals is that they need to be specific.  Set too vague of a goal and you’ll never achieve it, no matter how much progress you make.  There is no diet upon this earth that cannot be made more healthy somehow.  And it doesn’t matter how many times you go to the gym, there will be a training protocol that will necessitate going even more.

To quote the incomparable Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”.

If you want to set New Years Resolutions, that’s great.  Go for it.  But set something specific and manageable.
Instead of ‘I’m going to eat healthy’, go with ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet (whatever diet it might be)’.
Instead of ‘I’m going to start going to the gym’, go with ‘I’m going to go to the gym three times a week’ or ‘I’m going to follow this specific program’.  I can even make a few suggestions.

If you want to be ambitious and totally overhaul your life, or make powerful changes, that’s fine too.   But make sure you break it down into small steps that you can manage.  Instead of ‘I’m going to quit smoking’, go with ‘I’m going to cut back on my smoking one cigarette at a time until I stop entirely’ (if you smoke 12 cigarettes a day, cut back to 11 cigarettes for January, 10 cigarettes in February, 9 in March, etc etc).  Instead of ‘I’m going to eat health’ or even ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet’, go with ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet for breakfast only in January, then add lunch in March, dinner in May, etc).

A definitive goal and manageable steps make absolutely any ambition achievable with time.  Don’t try to change your life in one go, on one day.  Even if you take only one step a week towards your goals, that’s over fifty steps by the end of one year.

So Happy New Year! 🙂