Monday, September 15, 2014

Game Show Board Games: Card Sharks

Card Sharks is one of those shows that's due for a proper revival. It's now been 13 years since the most recent version was on the air (which, itself, is about how long it had been between the most recent version and the one that came before it). This version of the board game is dubbed the 25th anniversary version, despite coming out just a touch early (in 2002. The show premiered in 1978). It's actually a bit unusual among game show board games in my collection, in that it was sold without any version of the show currently on the air.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Essence of the Character

One of the privileges of my current working situation is that I have an office all to myself, with shelves that I'm allowed to place personal items on. Thus, I have an array of Transformers (and other items, but lots of Transformers) sitting behind me as I work that often catches the eye of those who pass through.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Not-Transformers Feature: Bluster and Trench from Mech Ideas

Transformers: Animated, which ran from December 2007 to mid-2009, was undeniably a visual departure from all of the various iterations of the Transformers franchise that have come before it and since. "Stylized" is perhaps the best way to explain the aesthetic. If you know about Transformers at all, and have any familiarity with Animated, then you will no doubt be able to identify any piece of the Animated cartoon, or its attendant merchandise, at a glance. These two guys are particularly unusual, however, in that they are not, strictly speaking, Animated toys. They're not even made by Hasbro (or any of the companies that do official Transformers in other countries). They are however, not only intended to emulate the distinctive Animated design aesthetic, but in fact are expressly using designs created by Animated lead character designer Derrick J. Wyatt. While Mech Ideas, the company that made them, is skating the edge of legality on several levels, they do at least try to avoid an obvious trademarking violation by calling their toys "Bluster" and "Trench."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Transformers Feature - Duocon Flywheels

For all of the nostalgia inherent in discussing Transformers toys from the original line of the 1980s, there are certain criticisms that come up fairly frequently, especially when these old toys are compared to their modern counterparts. One of the most common of these criticisms is a lack of articulation. An inability to pose the robot mode into multiple stances is seen as a serious failing these days, and it is not uncommon to hear certain toys referred to as "bricks." Even in the 1980s, some toys were guilty of this flaw more than others. The Duocons, represented here by Flywheels, are perhaps the worst offenders.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Perseverance of Weird Al Yankovic

Meeting Weird Al at BotCon 2009
The odds are you've probably already heard that Weird Al Yankovic's most recent album, Mandatory Fun, has officially been named the top album on the Billboard chart this week. Although Weird Al has been doing albums for more than three decades, this has never happened before, so it's kind of a big deal. Suffice it to say, being an album of parodies and funny novelty songs, this is not the kind of thing that normally tops the charts (in fact, according to Buzzfeed, the last comedy album to debut at #1 was in 1960, by the still-living legend Bob Newhart - UPDATE 7/26/14 - I've since verified that the last comedy album to reach #1 at all was in 1963, so it's still been more than 50 years however you slice it!).

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Unofficial Transformers Club and Convention Data Pages Needs Help!

As many of you know, I have made it a bit of a hobby for the past few years to collect information regarding the various convention and club exclusives toys, dating back to the first BotCon in 1994, and collect them on what I have called "The Unofficial Transformers Club and Convention Data Pages" (at least, that's what I've called them since expanding from one to three pages sometime in late 2011/early 2012). When I started the project, I had some free web hosting space through my internet access provider, but when I changed providers several years ago, I lost that privilege, and had to find an alternative.

After a bit of research, I ended up with Zymic. Besides offering a free service, they gave me the ability to change from an unwieldy multiple-directory URL to a comparatively clean one: http://gbblackrock.zzl.org/

Over the years, Zymic has become increasingly difficult to work with. Site outages would crop up from time to time, with no real timeline for getting fixed. Usually, these would be fixed within a day or so, and so while this was annoying, it was never more than a nuisance. After all, the site doesn't generate a large amount of traffic, except perhaps during convention season.

Since about the time of BotCon 2014, however, the situation has gone from nuisance to unacceptable. While I was able to make an update on the Friday of the convention, I have been unable to access the site since, nor upload any of the further updates I've since been able to make to my master files. I did not actually discover this problem for a couple of days, as I was away in London for about a week, and thought that the problem might somehow (don't ask me how) be related to accessing the site from so far away. When a conversation with a fellow fan online assured me that no one could access the site, I realized the problem was more widespread, and upon my return to the States a few days ago, I started to look into the problem with Zymic.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to get any concrete information from Zymic directly. The Twitter account they set up for announcing server issues hasn't been updated since February, and their webmaster forums have been "offline for a spot of maintenance" for quite some time (I can't verify exactly how long, though). An e-mail to their administrator address has gone unanswered, as have tweets (from people other than myself) asking for more information. I am left to assume that the service has simply been abandoned.

There is, obviously, truth to the mantra, "you get what you pay for," but since there is little expectation that I will ever generate income from the site, I see no point in paying for a more stable server. This is a hobby. Not a job. It's supposed to be fun (both for myself and for those fans who use the site).

So this brings me to my reason for posting. What do you guys think? Is this a site worth saving? Do you find it useful? What effort should I undertake to move it elsewhere? If I choose to do so, what are my best options?

For those who may have been unaware of the site until now, you can still see an archived version (obviously not updated with the most recent information) via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

Thanks for any and all comments!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Countdown to BotCon 2014 - Pounce and Wingspan

Last week, I mentioned that there is a rumor running around about what toys will be at-convention exclusives at BotCon 2014. We'll find out for sure if these rumors are true by the end of the week, but in the meantime, these rumors give me a chance to feature a pair I've been looking for an excuse to do for over four years now: Pounce and Wingspan.

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