Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Long-Awaited Day Has Finally Arrived

For nearly two years now, Transformers fans have complained about the lack of any club exclusive toys (not counting the "freebie" exclusive you get just for joining, nor the BotCon convention exclusive toys, which are generally made available to club members if any remain after the convention). As of yesterday, this has finally changed. Club exclusives Astrotrain (with 4 Mini-Cons) and Airazor are finally available for pre-order. Each is being limited to 2000 figures, making these toys quite rare.

Here is the pertinent information from the e-mail sent to club members:
Astrotrain is $87 +shipping, Airazor is $42 +shipping. Shipping is $7 domestic for the first item and $1 for each additional item. Foreign shipping will vary by country. If you are placing a foreign order, we will calculate the airmail cost and add it to your order.

Example order: if you are domestic and order one Astrotrain and one Airazor the total cost will be $137.
Orders may be made via e-mail (if your credit card is already on file with the club) or by telephone (special arrangements are being made for non-US members to have Fun Publications call them if needed, so as to avoid prohibitive telephone costs).

Fun Publications is very clear that these will only be available to members of the official Transformers Club. Membership costs $40 (for people living in the US who don't choose the more expensive shipping option). That's expensive enough to be worth thinking over seriously, but that membership does include an additional "freebie" toy (probably will ship in the spring) and a 6-issue subscription to the bi-monthly Transformers club magazine (yeah, there's also 12 issues of Master Collector included, but that's just a bunch of classified ads which are pretty much worthless).

The Transformers club is finally getting up to speed. If you've been on the fence about joining up to now, this should at least give you something to add to that decision-making process.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Number 300

Keeping track of blog posts is admittedly a somewhat arbitrary practice. What makes the number "300" special? Why is the round number "300" any more special than say, "299"? These are fair questions, and I offer no particular answer than to say, "because I say so!" ;)

Looking for an appropriate way to celebrate my 300th Transforming Seminarian post, I'll post a few pictures I've got lying around that are worth sharing, but for which I really don't have enough to say about to dedicate full posts to.

This picture by no means represents my entire Transformer collection. It is, however, the single most prominent cluster of them in my home work space. Many of my Transformers sit on a shelf inside of a closet. Others are scattered on the tops of bookshelves and desk spaces around the room. Still others are stored in boxes. But this group, which changes fairly regularly as I gather new toys, or want to give old ones new prominence, sits on top of a filing cabinet in the middle of the wall area. Anyone who walks into the room can't help but see that huge Brave Maximus surrounded by various minions.

About a half a year ago, I did an article on repaints that featured two of these three figures. About a month ago, I was able to locate and purchase the bright yellow and orange one (Sunstorm). Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a good way to mention it on the blog, so I'll take the opportunity to use the picture now. Here it is!

And, finally, a quick picture from my recent vacation in Placerville for Thankgiving. Placerville is where my parents grew up, and most of my rather large extended family still lives there. One of my family's defining characteristics is that we like to play board games. "Family Feud" is always a favorite.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Change is Possible

A few days ago, Scot McKnight posted about an article written by respected theological Stan Gundry about Gundry's move from traditional (often called "complementarian") beliefs regarding gender roles (including, but not limited to, not allowing women to serve in ordained roles in the church) toward a more egalitarian theology (allowing women to hold any church position allowed to men). The article makes clear that this process did not occur in a vacuum, but as the result of years of questioning and prodding by Gundry's wife, herself a Christian to whom Biblical authority was of utmost importance.

The article is quite long, and worth checking out on its own, but one thing I found particularly interesting was the list of questions Gundry's wife had accumulated on this issue. Here's an edited sample:
• If women are not to be the leaders and teachers of men, how does one account for Deborah, Huldah, Phillip’s daughters, and Priscilla’s role in the instruction of Apollos?
• Why is it that Paul instructs women to be silent in one place and acknowledges with apparent approval that women publicly pray and prophesy in another?
• Doesn’t the prominence of women among the followers of Jesus and in the Pauline Epistles suggest something significantly more than women leading and teaching children and other women?
• How is it that in the church the benefits of Galatians 3:26-28 apply equally and in very tangible ways to men, Jews, Gentiles, slaves, and those who are free, but not to women?
• If a woman is to obey her husband, is she not responsible directly to God for her actions? Is he in effect a priest, an intermediary between her and God? Is she to submit and obey even when his instructions are morally wrong or contrary to her understanding of God’s desire for her?
• Aren’t husbands and wives to mutually submit to one another as all believers are to submit to one another, and how does this qualify the presumptive one-sided submission and obedience of wives to husbands?
• Are all women to submit to all men?
• Is the husband to be the leader of the home even if the wife has better leadership skills, or the husband is disabled, or the wife has greater spiritual insight and sensitivity?
• Just when does a boy become too old for a woman to legitimately continue to teach him, and if women really are not to teach men, isn’t it odd that women are allowed to teach them in their most formative years?
I'm not ignorant enough to assume that complementarians have no answers for these questions. In many cases, in fact, I've seen them. But I do think that this kind of questioning reveals the desire of a person who isn't just trying to "rebel" against traditional teaching. These questions come from someone honestly seeking to understand the whole of the Bible as it stands.

There was a recent debate hosted by Newsweek, featuring many Christian leaders on the topic of whether discussions between people who hold radically differing views (such as on the nature of truth, in the Newsweek thread) do any good. While some argue that discussion is indeed worthwhile, I have to admit that a lot of people seem so entrenched in their positions that dialogue often seems useless. I find it encouraging to see this kind of article posted once in a while. Perhaps Gundry's story is the exception, rather than the rule. Still, even these isolated stories have repurcussions, and I'm encouraged to see that change is possible.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Cheap Laptop

A week or two ago, my wife's laptop stopped working. When she took it to the "Geek Squad" to have a look at it, they determined that the hard drive had gone bad. Rather than spend the $600 or so they quoted her to replace the hard drive and have as much of her data transferred as possible, she decided to purchase a newer laptop. We found something that should serve her well for under $800, including the operating system (which itself includes a free upgrade when the newest version comes out in a few months). She'll still have to manually replace the backed-up files, but it still seems to be the better choice.

That doesn't mean that her old laptop is now being thrown in the garbage. For years, I've made it a hobby to keep old computer parts around, getting use out of them for as long as possible. I purchased a new hard drive for less than $80, and popped it in the otherwise-dead laptop. Since I use Linspire, I'm allowed to put that operating system on multiple computers (most operating systems insist that you buy the software for each computer you plan on using the software on, at least if you're going to do it legally), so I just installed Linspire, and the computer is up and running with the new hard drive. Now, I have a laptop of my own, which I hope will prove itself useful in the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend as we travel to see family.

Having gotten the hard drive working, there was still one major hitch: Linspire isn't that great when it comes to hardware compatibility. Although they intend for the system to work "right out of the box" (so to speak), if you're not buying a computer with Linspire already on it, but instead trying to install it on an older system, you're likely to be using hardware that Linspire is not yet (or will ever be) compatible with. In my case, the biggest problem seemed to be Internet access. Neither of the wireless adapters we already had at home seemed to be compatible. If I can't get the computer to work on the web, it's largely useless to me, since practically all software and driver updates for Linspire are done via Internet download (although it's conceivable that this laptop might still have proven useful for taking meeting minutes at work, a task I've been performing with a 5-year-old Palm VIIx).

I spent a fair bit of time at the Linspire forums, but couldn't figure out how to make my existing wireless adapters work. There were a few folks who tried to offer some technical assistance, but as is often the case on the Linspire forums, most of those were so technical that I couldn't follow them. This is a problem I've found with Linux operating systems in general (not just Linspire). They're not for novices. They're for the really computer-savvy. I consider myself pretty adept at computers, and this impression is often echoed by my co-workers who often ask for my assistance with various minor computer problems (there's a proper tech support staff here at the seminary, so they handle the major stuff!). But I'm not up to the level of many Linux enthusiasts. In fact, I found the Linux for Dummies book rather intimidating (and I usually sing the praises of that series!). When these gurus try to provide help on the forums, they often speak in a technical jargon that no doubt makes sense to fellow gurus. Unfortunately, I don't understand half of it, and so the long and short of it is that I was left no closer to getting my hardware to work than I was before.

A lot of people on the forums always suggest consulting the hardware compatibility list, but I've generally found this advice less than useful, and more like a cop-out. I have a suspicion that the list hasn't been updated in quite some time, so the absence of a piece of hardware on that list is hardly conclusive. In any event, the technical nuttiness on the forums at least makes perfectly clear that lots of hardware that's not on the list has been made to work perfectly well. Still, it's a good place to start, and I do have a tendency to be a bit impatient when it comes to these kinds of projects. I printed out a list, and took it with me to the local computer store. I found a PCMCIA card that looked to be on the compatible list for about $40, and bought that. True to the promises made by being on the compatibility list, the card worked fine.

I'm still working out a few other kinks (my USB flash drive doesn't seem to work on this computer now, despite that it did work when this computer used Windows XP, and it does work on my other Linspire computer. Also, my wife's USB drive works just fine), but basically, I now have a functional laptop to take with me on vacation. Expect to see Friday's regularly scheduled blog post, while I'm on vacation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

More Custom Boxes

Over a year and a half ago, I put up some pictures of custom boxes I had created for Happy Meal Transformers. Since that time, I have made a few more boxes. None of these are of the quality or "G1-accuracy" as Mirage's Boxes, but I think they're pretty nice, and worth showing off once in a while.

One limitation I've always been under is that my printer can only handle regular 8-and-a-half-inch width paper, so I'll never be able to do these boxes for figures larger than the World's Smallest Thrust you see at the top. I also don't have access to facilities that would allow me to custom-mold clear plastic inserts (of course, neither does any other custom box maker that I'm aware of), which is why I've taken to using styrofoam. If you'll look at those Happy Meal boxes I made in 2005, you'll see that I tried to twisty-tie them to a colored paper backing. This is fine for display purposes, but does have the unfortunate effect of allowing the toys to slide around inside the box, which can be problematic for transport. Styrofoam has the advantage of being more stable, and is reasonably easy to shape, but it is rather messy. (You might even be able to see some lose bits of styrofoam trapped in that Thrust box.) Also it doesn't work as well for certain TFs (I have a couple more Happy Meal TFs I needed to stick with the twisty ties for).

Still, displaying some of these smaller TFs in this way does give the toys some visual character that they might not have if they were displayed loose. By placing small versions of the original Tech Specs on the back (or a custom, as in the case of toys like Tap-Out, which weren't originally created when Tech Specs were done this way. I've done a few custom Tech Specs myself, but the Tap-Out Tech Spec was done by James Byun), the feeling that these smaller toys could have been originally sold in boxes like this is reinforced.

I created the template for these boxes using Adobe Photoshop. The files are fairly large, but I'm willing to share them if anyone's interested, and can work with Photoshop files. Just send me an e-mail, and I'll send you an example. Feel free to ask for a specific character, although the odds are I won't have it. I can definitely give you something from the right faction, though. Just remember that this kind of template will only work for fairly small figures.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Created to Scale

To the best of my knowledge, there are only two classes of Transformers, in the entire history of the franchise, that have been explicitly created to be a specific scale when compared to the "real" vehicles the toys represent.

The first of these, the Alternators, are still fairly widely available in stores. These transform into 1:24 replicas of actual automobiles you might see on the street today (1:24 being a fairly common scale for model cars). In fact, Hasbro licenses the rights to these vehicle designs from the automobile manufacturers, so in the case of Alternators Wheeljack (center), who turns into a Ford Mustang, you'll see the Ford logo proudly displayed on the packaging.

For many fans, the Alternators represent the pinnacle of Transformers design. Not only are they realistic vehicles (truly "Robots in Disguise"), but their transformations are often intricate and complex. For me, this is the line's major downfall: they're too complex. And the instructions, simple line art drawings with few or no words, are often no help at all. I was reminded of this fact when trying to transform these toys for this photo. I actually tried to do Smokescreen (on the left) first, but couldn't get all the vehicle parts to line up properly when I was all done. I finally gave up on that one, put the toy back in robot mode, and tried my hands at Wheeljack. Wheeljack is also ridiculously complicated, and I actually had to pop several parts off of the toy to finish the transformation, although when all the parts were replaced, I at least had a vehicle that looked right. Although the roughly $20 price tag you'll find on these toys isn't too unrealistic for what you get, it's high enough that when coupled with the frustration factor I have on these things, I tend not to buy Alternators on my own. In fact, I think all but one of the four I have (including one that isn't pictured here) were gifts. This isn't to say that I'm upset to have been given these toys. It's just that the frustration gives me pause when it comes to buying them on my own. If you have the patience to deal with the transformations, though, these are still very worthwhile toys.

The other class of Transformers designed to a specific scale were originally released as the G2 Go-Bots. These toys have been repainted and reissued quite a few times over the years, and are more commonly referred to these days as "Spychangers" (a name they picked up in the "Robots in Disguise" line of 2001-2002). These toys are 1:64 scale, specifically designed to be compatible with "Hot Wheels"-style racing sets. (One of these days, I'm going to splurge for one of those loop-the-loop tracks and put these guys on it!)

In contrast with the Alternators, transformation for these toys is simplicity itself. Nearly every one transforms in the same way: pull the back of the car out, flip the hood down, and pull the arms out to the sides. A few other toys were released in the class as part of the "Robots in Disguise" line that have slightly different transformations, but these also weren't specifically designed to be in the 1:64 scale of the original vehicles on which they're based (although they still have the free-wheeling axles, so they'll still work on the race tracks).

It may be worth noting that both of these lines used scales that were chosen specifically because of some competitor's product. It may also be worth noting that there are one or two actual Transformers toys (in isolation, and not really as part of a classification of TFs) that transform into a play version of some actual item (1-to-1 scale, if you will), but that's really not the same thing. Even still, for all of the clamor out there in the Transformers fandom for toys that are "to scale," such toys really the exception, and not the rule.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

An Act of Faith

My seminary has been releasing public warnings of a con artist on campus. This is a guy who's been around before. Basically, what the guy does is engage students in conversation about matters of faith. He then suggests that they prove their faith through acts of trust, such as getting the person to go to a bank and withdraw money. If the student resists, the guy gets "very manipulative and can become intimidating."

I've had a run-in with someone like this a few years ago (probably not the same guy, since the report says that he tends to target international students), and although I'm cynical enough to stand my ground, and not give in to this kind of manipulation, I always walk away from such an encounter feeling very conflicted. Like I've somehow failed to trust God, despite the fact that the con artist's own manipulative nature is evidence against the situation being worthy of such trust.

I don't have an easy answer to that problem. On one hand, I think that Christians need to be more sacrificial in their giving to those in need. On the other hand, we need to be wise about how we use the resources God has given us, and I'm convinced that this doesn't mean we have to give our money to every potential thief that asks for it. I'd like to encourage my friends who may find themselves in this situation to be strong, and not give in to unwarranted guilt, while continuing to pray that God will encourage us to be more giving to those who actually need the help.

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Unexpected Find

Last week, I commented on the difficulty of locating the Micromaster Superion set, having traveled all over Southern California to CVS Pharmacies in the area.

So, imagine my suprise when I found this at Big Lots yesterday!
This is the only Aerialbot I found, and a trip to another Big Lots yielded nothing, so this may be just a fluke. I left this one on the shelf, although I definitely left wishing I'd found this a week ago. Silverbolt was the last Aerialbot I needed, and this is less than half the price I ended up paying per Aerialbot at CVS!

A side note: I've just switched over to the new version of Blogger. There may be a few glitches while I get used to the new system.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Full Circle

Back when I was a student at Montreat College, shortly after I had become student body president, we had a congressional candidate speak in one of our convocations. This person was asked to come because she was an alumni of the college, but she was asked not to do any "campaigning." This is not, I expect, because the candidate was a Democrat, although it's tempting to suggest such, given the somewhat-conservative leanings of the college. Instead, I expect that the college did not want someone to require them to bring the other candidate to speak in accordance with "equal time" laws. I expect that if this kind of thing had happened more recently, the "equal time" laws would have kicked in no matter what the candidate was intended to say, simply because she was making an appearance.

I have to confess that I did not actually hear this candidate speak. I don't actually recall why not, and given that students were required to attend a certain number of these events each quarter, and given the fact that I was student body president at the time, I assume that I must have had some reason. In any event, I heard later in the day that the event did, in point of fact, turn out to be far more of a "campaign appearance" than was intended, much to the chagrin of pretty much everybody involved. Even worse, the candidate apparently became rather hostile toward her captive (and admittedly probably hostile themselves) audience, telling them that she had better things to do than to talk to a bunch of unappreciative college students.

This happened to be the year of the last major political switchover from one party to another: 1994. Not surprisingly, the Democratic candidate that spoke to my fellow students did not win. As I recall, she wasn't especially gracious in defeat, either.

Fast forward to this year, when it seems that Democratic victories in both houses of Congress will somewhat reverse the trend of 12 years ago. The candidate that won that 1994 election (who was actually the incumbent in 1994, and who has continued to serve ever since) has now himself been ousted by a new congressman. We seem to have come full circle.

One thing I've been pleased to see so far is that pretty much everybody has been gracious in both victory and defeat. President Bush's lunch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has been all over the news. Defeated California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides gave a very classy concession speech that congratulated his victorious opponent (if you don't know who the governor of California is, you're not paying attention) while remaining true to his own values. Although there were several very close races, we've not yet heard the tales of losing candidates raising vitriolic legal battles to contest the results, such as we had in 2000. I can only hope that this spirit lasts into the actual work that our politicians must perform in the coming year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Democracy at Work?

Well, it's all over but the counting (at least in some areas). After sitting through weeks (if not months) of campaign ads and petitions, the 2006 election cycle is finally over. Most of us can now take a rest from the relentless phone calls, junk mail, and door-to-door canvassers that mark each new election.... At least until the next election comes along.

I voted shortly after the polls opened yesterday. This is important to me, not because I want to be first in line, but because it works best with my work schedule. Voting at 7:00 am allows me to get to work on time (actually, a bit earlier than usual, also granting me the rare privilege of a stop at McDonald's for a McGriddle for breakfast!), whereas voting after work means that I'm more likely to have to stand in a long line when I'm feeling my most tired.

I do have to confess, though, that I grow increasingly discouraged at the whole process. I'm pleased enough that yesterday's results indicate that there will likely be some measure of change in Washington, but there are a lot of propositions that I supported here in California that failed to pass. Of course, the positions and candidates I support are generally not the "popular" ones, and even though the Democrats won a number of elections in this particular campaign, it doesn't really address the real problem, which I consider the Democrats as much a part of as I do the Republicans. Here's the issue: if I wanted to support a "third-party" candidate, I have virtually no chance of ever seeing such a candidate win under the current system, which allows a candidate to win with a mere plurality of the vote, rather than a majority.

If that sounds confusing, perhaps I can explain with an illustration. Suppose that there are only 10 voters in a small rural jurisdiction, but 3 candidates. We'll call these candidates "Liberal 1, Liberal 2, and Conservative 1" Now let's further suppose that 6 of the 10 voters consider themselves "liberal," who would never ever vote for a conservative. The other 4 voters consider themselves "conservative," and would never ever vote for a liberal. It is likely in this scenario that the 6 "liberal voters" split their votes so that "Liberal 1" got 3 votes, and "Liberal 2" got 3 votes. But since the 4 "conservative voters" only had one viable candidate, "Conservative 1" gets 4 votes. Under the electoral system in place in most of the country, "Conservative 1" wins the election, since "Conservative 1" had more votes than any other candidate, even though, if most of the 10 voters had a choice, "Conservative 1" would have been the least favorite candidate for the 60% that voted for someone else. The majority of people now have a leader that they don't want.

One might respond that this is why we have primaries: to ensure that we don't have this kind of situation. But the way we do primaries doesn't help either, because only voters registered for a given party can vote in most primaries. In a Democratic primary, only registered Democrats can vote. Likewise for Republicans. So, in the Democratic party, there may be two candidates: one who is "liberal" and appeals well to the Democratic core, and one who is "moderate" (or maybe even conservative) who would appeal well to "swing voters" and to Republicans, but since only registered Democrats are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, the "liberal" candidate, who appeals well to registered Democrats but not to "swing voters" (much less to Republicans) wins the primary. And since the Republicans have exactly the same situation in their primary, the two candidates that make it to the "general" election represent the opposite poles of the electorate, rather than any more moderate position. This virtually guarantees that the result, whatever it is, will alienate a large number of the voters, rather than getting someone in office who can unite people with divergent views.

The results of yesterday's election may have thrilled you, or they may have angered you, depending on where you stand on the political spectrum. Unfortunately, unless you simply don't care about who our politicians are, it's likely to be one extreme or the other. Until we can re-design our election system to allow more moderate candidates, who more accurately represent the will of the majority of the American people, to have a viable chance of winning elections, I fear that we will continue this kind of bi-polar disorder as the electoral pendulum swings back and forth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tracking Down Micromaster Superion

For the past few years, Hasbro has been reissuing collections of "Micromaster combiners" that were originally released in Japan way back in the early '90s. The basic pattern for these sets is that there are six Transformers who follow a common theme (trains, construction vehicles, airplanes, etc.) who can be configured together into a larger robot with the help of some accessory parts (unlike most other combiners from over the years, none of the Micromaster combiner members actually connect directly with any other members. They only connect via the extra parts).

All four of the teams Hasbro has reissued have been released as exclusives through KB toys, which has made some of these teams increasingly difficult to find, as KB is, at best, a struggling sales chain. Rumors had surfaced about the latest set, the Micromaster Aerialbots, as far back as a year ago, but they were not actually released until rather recently. In fact, European Transformers fans actually were able to find these toys before fans in the US, an occurrence which is very rare indeed!

And when word finally started coming out that the Aerialbots had finally reached American stores, I still was unable to find any in KB which, it must be said, is terrible about restocking their shelves. Presumably, they want to clear out product they already have, but given that their prices average out to about 25% higher than most other chains, KB doesn't tend to sell things very quickly.

I finally heard that the Aerialbots were showing up in CVS pharmacies, which I thought was odd. I had already known that the Railbots (the previous Micromaster exclusives) were showing up in CVS, but since those toys had already been at KB for several months by that time, I just assumed that KB had given up on selling the Railbots, and were getting rid of their overstock, and that CVS has opted to give the toys a try.

I later learned that CVS and KB were owned by the same company, although it appears that this is no longer the case (although KB was once owned by the company that currently goes by the name CVS, KB is currently privately owned). I do not know to what extent this former relationship plays into CVS's acquisition of what was originally understood to be KB exclusive merchandise, however.

To this day, I have still not found any of these toys at KB, although I have been assured that some KBs out there are carrying them. I did manage to track the toys down at CVS after an extensive search. I must have traveled to just under a dozen different CVS stores in Southern California over the past week, picking up the 6 toys at 5 different stores. (Drug stores are notorious for only having one or two of a particular type of toy on hand!)

Anyway, I was finally able to track down the complete set. Here is the combined Micromaster "Superion" for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Writing with Clarity

Scot McKnight has written about the difference between writing at the level of "rhetoric" and writing to "lay people." Although I have often complained about similar brands of "elitist speech" (for example, the "Christianese" that many Christians use when communicating with each other that utterly fails to communicate to those outside their niche. See this post for just one example), I must confess that, spending so many of my waking hours in the halls of a seminary, it is hard to get out of the mindset of academic rhetoric, and to use terms that would be more commonly understood were an outsider to walk by.

Why is it so hard to communicate in simple terms? I suspect that one reason is that we wish to be understood. Lawyers are infamous for the long legal briefs that they write, using terms so apparently complex that only other lawyers can dicipher them. Yet it is my understanding that, more often than not, these are written in such complex terms to more clearly communicate the intentions of the writer, so that someone else can't come along and make the document mean something else other than what was intended. They use terms and concepts which were never intended to be understood by "common" people, but which are intended to communicate clearly to other lawyers. Yet, at least it seems to me, the very complex language itself is what often makes an undesired "re-interpretation" possible. Do we similarly shoot ourselves in the foot, despite our best intentions?

And besides the issue of using terms and concepts that fail to address most people's needs, there's the simple question of length. If you go to the comments section of Scot's blog entry, you'll notice at least one or two regular bloggers who write lengthy comments. At least one of them is aware of instructions that Scot has given repeatedly to keep comments to only one or two paragraphs (See here for a recent example). The problem is, this particular blogger seems unable to keep his comments brief. In this thread, he actually breaks his comments up over several postings in an attempt to follow the letter of this rule, while completely missing the spirit of it. On one hand, I'm sympathetic to this problem (although I have to confess that I disagree with this particular person's theology on almost every meaningful level). He, more often than not, represents a minority position on Scot's blog, and he wishes to counteract the misinformation that is often out there in opposition to his own positions. He wants to be understood. Yet, because of the sheer size of his posts, I must confess to just skipping over his comments entirely on more than one occasion. His purpose is therefore defeated.

I'm not guiltless in this either. Looking through my posts (perhaps even this one), I can be pretty long-winded at times. It seems to be a common problem. But what's the alternative? Just don't write so much, and risk leaving out what seem (at the time) to be important bits of information? How would one go about chosing what to include and what to leave out? And how much of the problem is less about length, and more about the concepts that are being discussed in the first place, some which are arguably on levels that many people simply don't care about?

I guess we'll see on Monday if I get any better at writing with more clarity. ;)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It Couldn't Last Forever

If you follow game shows at all, then you've probably already heard by now that Bob Barker has announced that he will retire as the host of The Price is Right at the end of the current season.

This doesn't come as too much of a surprise. There's been speculation each year for several years now that each season would be Barker's last. Yesterday's announcement merely happened to be when he finally said, "now's the time."

I've had the honor of being in the audience for several Price is Right tapings in the years following my arrival in Southern California almost a decade ago, and I actually did get to speak with Bob during one of the taping breaks (not that he'd remember it at all; he's had literally thousands of such encounters in his 50-year career on television). As I recall, I congratulated him on the Lifetime Achievement Award he had received during the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1999 (this must have been within a few months of that honor). Nothing hugely original or profound, I know, but it was my chance to interact with one of the last remaining "greats" of the game show world in person.

All indications are that The Price is Right will continue after Barker's retirement, although for how long depends entirely on how well the host chosen to be Barker's successor can fill the enormous shoes Barker will leave behind. But don't count the as-yet-unnamed new host out too quickly. Barker himself had to fill some rather large shoes when he first became host of what was then called The New Price is Right back in 1972: Bill Cullen had hosted the original version of the show from 1956-65 to great acclaim and popularity. At the time, few could see anyone replacing Bill Cullen. The fact that few people today are even aware that an earlier version of The Price is Right ever existed is a testimony to Barker's hosting ability.


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