Friday, December 25, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Chevy Aveo Swerve

For Christmas morning, it seems appropriate to feature a Transformer that is, in every way, a gift.  Sometime in 2007, rumors started to surface of a new-mold Transformer through the usual (unofficial) channels.  It appeared to be a part of the then-already-defunct Universe line, which led to a strong belief that it would be an exclusive of some kind or another, rather than a mainstream retail release.  However, as this toy did feature an all-new mold, this was already unusual (if not utterly unique) for an exclusive toy.  Even more unusual was that this toy turned into a clearly-marked Chevy Aveo, which meant that the toy was actually licensed through Chevrolet, even though the toy clearly wasn't an Alternator (which were the only licensed-vehicle Transformers of that time).  The story only got stranger....

The rumors said that the toy was to be available only in China, and only through Chevy dealers.  Indeed, the rumors first suggested that you actually had to buy a Chevy Aveo, which sounded even at the time rather implausible.  The rumors eventually shifted to getting the toy if you test drove an Aveo, which was a bit more reasonable.  None of these rumors have ever been verified.  All that is known for sure is that this toy apparently was created at Chevrolet's request and expense.  As such, neither Hasbro nor TakaraTomy could use it themselves.  The only way you could get this toy was through Chevrolet directly.

The first verified means of distribution for the toy which was now known to be named "Swerve" came through a Chevrolet website in 2008.  Supposedly, these were specimens that remained after Chevy distributed the toys through a European (as opposed to Chinese) test-drive promotion, but again, this part has never been verified.  The toys were only available through the website for about a day or two, and being still clearly directed at the European market, any American that wanted to purchase one not only had to pay the higher-than-retail asking price and shipping, but an extra international fee on top of it, making this toy quite expensive.  The toy's supposed scarcity led to high resale prices when it would inevitably show up on eBay shortly afterward.

Then, in the summer of 2009, Chevrolet announced that Swerve toys (apparently not yet depleted through previous channels) would be given away for free, but only to those who attended a promotional event at one of several shopping centers in Canada (some sources say only in the Toronto area!) if you filled out a survey.  The TFWiki says that each site only had 20 Swerves to distribute per day, and only one per customer, but I have to question that part, since I got mine through a person on one of the message boards I visit regularly, and it's clear enough that he himself got more than 20 of the toys to distribute to fellow fans.  In fact, he sent them to us for free, even refusing offers to pay him back for shipping costs!  Truly, this figure was a gift, and to that fan, I say "Thanks!"

This will be my last weekly Transformers feature, at least for a while.  In almost two years, I've already covered more than 100 different Transformers, and although my collection does include many more toys that I've not yet covered, I want to make sure that I don't reach the point where I run out of different and interesting things to say about them, and need to take a step back and rethink how I cover Transformers before I reach that point (if, indeed, I haven't already!).  I'm also going to take the next week off from active blog posting, as I prepare a few new things for the New Year.  I recently heard that average life-span for a blog is only 2-3 years, and having already beaten that average, I nonetheless want to make sure that I keep working on ways to make the blog interesting to would-be readers.  Thanks for your support these past few years.  I'll be back on January 1st.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pulpit Dedicated at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY

This past Sunday, a new pulpit was dedicated in the sanctuary of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY (my home church while I was growing up).  It incorporates the seal of our denomination, the PC(USA).  For those unfamiliar with the symbolism behind the seal, I refer you to the official website.  Since one of the things symbolized in the seal is a pulpit, it only seems natural that this expression should be represented in literal fashion, as well as figurative.

This pulpit was constructed by my parents out of oak and padauk wood over the course of three months. Padauk is a dense red wood from Africa, used to offset the seal from the rest of the pulpit.  Here is a picture of my dad with the pulpit before it was varnished and glued together, but with all of the pieces finally ready.

And here's one more shot before varnishing, viewed from another angle.

The pulpit was dedicated to two long-time members of our congregation who have passed away in recent years: Mary Burks and Richard Harden.  Both of whom I knew well while growing up, and Mr. Harden was especially involved with our youth group, accompanying us on trips to Montreat for youth conferences and so forth.

Here is the full text of the dedication plaque:

Dedicated to the memories of Mary Burks and Richard Harden December 20, 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Congratulations to Diane Sawyer

When I first enrolled as a student at Seneca High School in 1988, I was told of two particularly notable alumni from the school.  The first was Jerry Abramson, who was already serving as mayor of Louisville, and who I have taken to playfully calling "Mayor for Life," because he still holds that position today (I should note that he hasn't held the position continuously that entire time, and the city itself was restructured entirely between his two tenures).  The other was Diane Sawyer, who this evening becomes the anchor of ABC's World News.

Sawyer becomes only the second woman to become the solo anchor of a nightly network news broadcast (the first being Katie Couric.  For some reason, people seem never to count Elizabeth Vargas, who was de facto solo anchor for a time when Bob Woodruff was critically injured, taking him out of the co-anchorship they began to share earlier that same month).  This honor comes after an already significant career spanning just over four decades, most recognizably as host of Good Morning America for the past ten years.

I've never met Sawyer, but feel that I simply must take this opportunity to say "congratulations" to a fellow Seneca alum!  May her tenure as anchor be long and distinguished!

Unrelated to Sawyer's promotion, I discovered while researching this entry that another Seneca alumni, writer ZZ Packer, is listed in the Seneca High School entry on Wikipedia.  ZZ graduated just a couple of years before I did, and we often played together on Seneca's "Quick Recall" team.  I confess that we fell out of touch after graduation, but I'm always glad to see that friends are doing well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Perceptor

Recent Generation One reissues of the Insecticons and Perceptor have brought these characters back to the forefront of consciousness for the Christmas season.  My brother heard that I was considering getting the reissues and, in an act of mercy, offered to send me the one he had in storage back at our family home in Kentucky, which he says was mine, anyway.  That saved me $35 plus tax, so I was more than happy to pay the shipping on a package I was sending on his request at about that same time.

As I mentioned back when reviewing Spy Shot 6, non-vehicular Transformers have become something of a rarity in recent years (although the recent movie toylines have indeed done a fair bit to bring the concept back, including a new microscope-mode Transformer in 2009), but back in the first couple of years of the Transformers franchise, they were actually fairly common.  The mold for Perceptor, like that of so many Transformers released in 1984-1985, was actually created for a previously-unrelated toy line in Japan (in this case, Micro Change), and repurposed as a Transformer a year or so later.  Perceptor actually boasts a real magnifying lens in the eyepiece, capable of viewing objects at 14 times their normal size.  Not enough to win any science fair awards, perhaps, but a nice level of attention to detail that the toy designers might not have bothered with if they didn't want to.  When I recently re-claimed this specimen a few months ago, I had a look.  Yes, the lens still works.  The image is even fairly clear, if the object is held at just the right place away from the lens (the tray isn't quite that "right" location, I'm sad to say, although it's pretty close).  I haven't actually heard a confirmed report as to whether or not the Perceptor reissue currently at Toys R Us retains this feature, although it's certainly possible (quite bluntly, I don't trust the copy-writers who wrote "Not a working microscope" on the reissue's packaging to necessarily know what they're talking about. That could easily just be a knee-jerk kind of thing to write down).

The robot mode is one of those "amazingly well-articulated for 1985" toys, although that should perhaps be said with the usual disclaimer that such an achievement is entirely due to the fact that all those joints have to move in just that way to transform the toy into a microscope in the first place (well, I guess the elbows didn't have to be there to turn the toy into a microscope...).  Perceptor comes with both a rifle and a missile launcher (with the standard compliment of more missiles than can possibly be stored in the launcher at a single time.  Perceptor comes with three, and the launcher holds but one).  I'm told that the missile launcher does represent a change between this vintage Perceptor and the reissue.  Although all American Perceptors (including this one) had the launching feature neutered to comply with American safety standards, the current reissue seems to have achieved this in a way that makes the launcher unable to properly hold onto the missile at all!  If you want to display a reissue Perceptor with a loaded missile launcher in one hand, you'll have to have it done in a firing pose, lest gravity ruin the effect.

Perceptor, while not technically a triple-changer, does have a third mode, where basically the designers discovered that if you simply rearranged the limbs just a bit off of the microscope configuration, you get something that looks kinda-sorta like a tank, and so they added "treads" onto the sides of the legs and extra extensions to pull out of the feet to justify this "third mode's" existence.  The official instructions tell you to remove the knobs from the microscope to achieve this (as is seen in this picture), but I honestly almost never do so.  There's really very little incentive to take the knobs off, since they don't get in the way of the transformation at all, they don't really do anything that detracts from the "tank" effect any more than the rest of the microscope parts do, and I really just don't care to take off potentially easy-to-lose parts when I don't have to.  (For the especially eagle-eyed among you: yes, that Autobot symbol on the lens barrel is a sign that I took this picture later than the others, after I decided that I had a Reprolabel handy that fit just fine)

Have you been considering getting the reissue Perceptor from ToysRUs.com?  Perhaps as a Christmas present?  Some other toy, perhaps?  Sign up for an account with Big Crumbs before you do!  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, including ToysRUs.com, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!  

Sadly, Reprolabels doesn't work with Big Crumbs, but they do have an offer for a free "Energon Cube" sticker you can use to turn an old playing die into an Energon Cube if you spend more than $10 there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tolerating Intolerance

The other day, while driving on the freeway, I found myself behind a truck with a bumper sticker on its rear windshield that depicted the outline of the United States filled in with the colors of the American flag. The caption read "Speak English, or get the f*** out!"

I'll be blunt. Reading statements like this makes me extremely angry. In a world with no consequences, I can pretty easily imagine myself hitting the gas pedal to ram the truck from behind to express my displeasure. I'd like to think that I refrain from such actions at least as much "because I know it's wrong" as I do from the fact that my little car would no doubt sustain more damage than the truck would in such an altercation. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure I'd do "the right thing" if I knew I could get away with it.

Of course, I'm assuming that "the right thing" is to allow the person with the hateful statement on his rear windshield to continue his day unmolested. But as I think through the issues that such a bigoted sticker raises, I find that I'm actually not entirely clear on how I would answer the question "what would Jesus do?" After all, the same Jesus that said "turn the other cheek" also created quite a scene by turning over the tables of the moneylenders at the temple. Whatever else is true, it seems clear that motives of anger aren't what make actions wrong, but that context matters.

That's not to say that I think Jesus would have plowed his car into the back of a truck with a racist bumper sticker in the window. I can't help but think that he'd have done something more constructive. But what?

There's a bit of angry nonsense I sometimes hear some people say: "You ____s (fill in the label of your choice) can tolerate anything except intolerance."  I call it "nonsense" because it is.  By definition, anyone who advocates "tolerance" would have to be annoyed by "intolerant" attitudes.  How could a person "tolerate intolerance" and continue to advocate for tolerance?

Yet, do we even have a choice?  However much we might fight against intolerance when and where we can, there's always more intolerance out there.  The growing cultural divide is clear evidence of this.  Intolerance seems to be akin to the mythical hydra that regrows two new heads whenever one is chopped off.  At the very least, if one doesn't battle the monster wisely, it's obvious that a person choosing to fight intolerance can do at least as much harm as good.

But that doesn't mean I was glad to see that truck with the intolerant message continue down the road unchallenged.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Nemesis Prime

There's a running gag among Transformers fans that convention exclusive toys are heavily biased toward being black redecos.  This has been true of quite a few BotCon exclusives (especially since 2005), but it seems to be especially true of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) exclusives.  Back in 2005, the very first SDCC exclusive Transformer, Skywarp, certainly fit this bill.  In 2006, SDCC joined the Nemesis Prime bandwagon with Alternators Nemesis Prime.  In 2007, SDCC gave us a black repaint of the Titanium Rodimus Prime figure and tried to pass it off as Menasor.  Then in 2008, they went doubly dark, giving us a Titanium Skywarp and yet another Nemesis Prime, redecoed from the Classics Optimus Prime figure (Oddly enough, this past year's SDCC seems to have broken the pattern, with a new reissue of G1 Soundwave being the main Transformers exclusive).

The bio given to this version of Nemesis Prime describes a rather different origin than, say, Robots in Disguise Scourge, but both involve a Transformer given an Optimus Prime-like form without having Prime's ideals.  Nemesis Prime here is said to be a creation of Straxus, a character that appeared in the Marvel Comics series, who proved to be one of the more memorable comics-only characters.  Don't ask me how Nemesis Prime's creation fits into that continuity, though.  It's probably possible, but would take some shoehorning....

Having already talked about Classics Optimus Prime, there's not a lot of point in going over the different combinations Nemesis Prime's weapons can take, since everything's the same about this figure except for the coloring.  This is the kind of figure that won't appeal to everyone, but which I've always had a soft spot for, enjoying (and creating) "evil clone" characters even before Transformers got into the act officially with Scourge/Nemesis Prime types.  And although it's a bit more expensive than the average retail-released Transformer, as a SDCC exclusive, it was created in considerably higher numbers than BotCon exclusives, making it a bit easier to locate if you do want it.

This Christmas shopping season is still in full swing.  Are you looking for treasures like this on eBay--or elsewhere online--to give as Christmas presents?  Might I suggest signing up for an account with Big Crumbs?  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Responses from PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

Last week, I mentioned that I was taking up PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow on his offer to answer questions.  Here are his responses (the only editing that has been done has been for typos and such, at Bruce's own suggestion):

1. While you've made your own political convictions known, you have also made it clear that you truly do wish to be in conversation with Presbyterians (dare I say, "Christians of any denomination"?) of differing convictions. What have you done to build trust and relationship with believers who have such clearly opposing viewpoints? Do you think it's possible for believers with diametrically opposed interpretations on (what at least one side would consider) core issues to coexist? How can we worship God together?
Hey now, you somehow managed slip in three parts to that question. I'll try to take a stab. I feel like I have built trust by being consistent to how I have promised to approach conversations with people from all theological perspectives. I will, to the best of my ability, assume that the other is seeking to know God as much as I am and that he/she is discerning the word/s of God to the best of their ability. When I assume that God only speaks to me and in no way could be speaking to the other I have given up a connectionalism that I am not quite ready to do. I think the "diametrically opposed" question depends on the ramification of those opinions and to what extent any of can live in a culture of disagreement. If living within a situation where one feels like his/her values are compromised then I think one MUST think about the faithfulness of staying in the situation.
2. Having followed you on your various blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the God Complex Radio podcast, I feel safe in saying that your reputation for exploring the potential of current technologies for worship and theological reflection is well-deserved. Is there any single technological breakthrough that excites you more than others? Why that one? What would you say to others who just don't understand the big deal about such technologies (full disclosure: although I do have a Twitter account, that is certainly one technology that I've never really "gotten," in terms of understanding either the appeal or how it might be profitably used)?
*grin* I actually think that Twitter is the most intriguing for me right now. I do say "right now" because part of being adaptable to new technologies is acknowledging that none is the end-all and be-all. Some of the ways twitter has been used for pastoral care, project completion, community building, social justice, etc are fascinating. I have been heading up a twitter service each Sunday called #tworhip [http://twubs.com/tworship] that is trying to explore some of this. For those for whom all this just makes no sense, that is okay. Tech will not be for everyone just as hymns in church, pesto on my pasta or watching college football really do nothing for me. The key is to be able to appreciate that it does create some kind of movement for other people.
3. Although I don't think we've ever actually crossed paths in person, it is my understanding that we both have backgrounds with the Montreat Youth Conferences in multiple capacities. How would you describe the Youth Conferences to someone who has never been? Would you recommend this gathering for all youth, or under what circumstances might you argue that it isn't for them? What alternatives might you recommend for a church that is too far removed from the mountains of North Carolina to make attendance viable (I currently attend a church in Pasadena, CA, and I'm sure you know churches in San Francisco that have found attending difficult, if not impossible)?
Montreat is one of the many wonderful youth conference experiences that are offered in the PC(USA). While I have certainly enjoyed my Montreat experience, I am not sure it is worth the ongoing cost for long-distance travel. For a one-time big conference experience, it is a moving experience. I would see Montreat, Triennium and some of our other larger youth events as great compliments to local camps and conference experiences, mission trips, etc.
4. What would you consider the strengths of the PC(USA)'s current process for preparing would-be pastors for ordination? What would you consider the weaknesses of this process? If you were able, what changes might you suggest?
I still believe that some of the rigor of the process is valuable. To understand that we alone do not determine the nature of our calling but that a community of people can often help us see strengths and weaknesses that might not otherwise be noticed is important. We may not always agree with those who have these roles in our life, but that does not make the process as a whole invalid. Learning to "submit" in a way that allows us to see God in new ways through the discernment with/by others can be powerful. At the same time, this leaves open the possibility for cycles of like-thinking, like-culture and exclusiveness in what we expect from those in the call process. This tension represents both the best and worst of who we can be as Presbyterians.
5. Having tried my hand at podcasting for a brief spell (archives can still be found via the Internet Archive), I've been following God Complex Radio with interest, and I have a concept for the effort that goes into putting out a program on a weekly basis (of course, "The Reflectionary" was on a much smaller scale than God Complex Radio!). What gave you the idea to take on such a project? Given your multiple responsibilities, what made you think you could maintain the energy needed to keep it going? What steps did you take to ensure (or "increase the possibility of"?) the success of the effort? If you could change one aspect of that "start up" effort, what would it be? Would you be interested in the possibility of adding a new co-host who talks entirely too much about Transformers toys? (OK, that last one's not entirely serious, but I just had to ask!)
God Complex radio started with a tweet from me to Carol asking her if she was up for something crazy. The rest, as they say, is history. The technology is pretty easy, complete with glitches galore, and once Landon Whitsett agreed to produce it, all I had to do was read, show up and help get the word out. For the amount of play that we are getting, it was a very low amount of prep. One of the reasons I wanted to do this was because I felt and feel that there is a lack of Gen X voices out there talking thoughtfully about theology, culture and faith. Add our stunning wit to the mix and there you have it, GRC. And hey, if there is ever a Transformer epi, you're on ;-)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Knox Kids Lego Church

For the past several weeks, the Fourth and Fifth grade children at Knox Presbyterian have been encouraged to think through issues related to worship space.  After hearing the weekly "Godly Play" story, these older children separate out into a group we've been calling "Godly Trek."  Basically, we're hoping to transition them into age-appropriate activities more smoothly than just having them jump into middle school programs (which our church doesn't yet have, since we've had few children of that age, but that will change in just another year or two).  One of the activities these "Godly Trekkers" have undertaken is to build their own church out of Lego bricks.  The "finished product" was presented to the rest of the congregation this past Sunday.

This church has a number of notable features demonstrating the theological reflection of the children, and I apologize that I no doubt won't remember everything as I try to cover it here, but I'll give it my best shot.  Just outside the main church building (visible in the picture at the top) is a pyramid.  This is not some New Age reference (which most of our kids would have no understanding of to begin with!), but rather a reminder of the Exodus, and how the people of God were led out of Egypt and into a new life of worship as a community.  The picture here to the right is of a huge cross in the center of the worship space, which itself is said to be the pulpit (apparently, the preacher is to stand on top of the cross, which also gives him/her room to move around while preaching).

Another feature that was discussed was that this church building doesn't have any doors, but rather lots of open spaces from which to enter, symbolizing the fact that the church is open to all who wish to enter in.  I wasn't actually able to see it myself (much less get pictures!), but we were also told that, on the ceiling of the interior space, the Ten Commandments are printed, enabling all of the worshipers to readily see "The Ten Best Ways to Live" (as the Commandments are sometimes referred to in one of the "Godly Play" stories).  It's encouraging to see these examples of how the next generation of Christians is being led at our church!

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Book You Must Read: Common Worship in Theological Education

A couple of years ago, a group of scholars met to discuss worship in the Christian academy.  It was quickly recognized that, although many Christian academic institutions have some sort of common worship opportunity (sometimes even requiring mandatory attendance), these worship experiences were often not given very much respect in comparison to other academic endeavors.  Even more surprising, it was discovered that no work had ever been published dedicated to the phenomenon of such worship within academic settings.  Recently published by Pickwick Publications, Common Worship in Theological Education seeks to fill that gap.

As a person who works in a seminary setting who occasionally blogs about issues related to worship, it's probably no surprise that I would find such a book intriguing, but I do have a more personal reason.  My wife, who is in the process of completing her PhD in Christian Worship at Fuller Theological Seminary, has contributed one of the chapters to this volume!  Her work sits alongside that of established scholars from a number of theological institutions across America from a variety of worship traditions.  Needless to say, I'm very proud.  Her particular chapter deals with the necessity of recognizing how one's background and experience can often shape assumptions in what constitutes "proper" worship.  People often assume a kind of "neutrality" about their own style of worship that is unrecognized until something happens to change that style, at which point people often exclaim "you can't do that!" without even recognizing why they have such strong feelings.

Since this book has just come out, it's obviously too early to say how well it will be received by the wider market, but I really do think that this is not only worthwhile reading, but that this book (or portions of it.  My wife's chapter, perhaps?) will likely soon be required for many students, especially in seminary settings where would-be pastors are expecting to learn about worship leadership.  There is a sense in which this work recognizes issues that have existed for a long time, and I believe that many readers will find themselves asking, "why has no one pointed this out before?"  If you're able, I strongly recommend buying a copy.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Destructicon Scourge

When the Robots in Disguise line introduced the character of Scourge, they started something of a trend.  Prior to the creation of that character, the only mold created for Optimus Prime that was ever redecoed to be used for another character was for the original Ultra Magnus, and even that only reused the cab portion (a part which, indeed, was never used in any of the fiction until years later... after the advent of Robots in Disguise).  Once Scourge was created, making "evil Primes" became something of a cottage industry within the Transformers franchise.

This version of Scourge was the third created for this character.  The first, of course, was the repaint of Laser Optimus Prime featured in the link in the first paragraph.  The second was the spychanger version mentioned at the end of the article on Brave Maximus.  This Scourge was created toward the end of the Robots in Disguise line.  After the line had mostly died down, really.  It was one of two toys released as exclusives to Kay-Bee toy stores under the "Destructicon" heading.  Even since the days of Generation One, I've always thought "Destructicon" was a name that should be used for a Decepticon sub-team.  It just rolls nicely off the tongue.  So I was glad to see it used here.  Like the original Scourge, Destructicon Scourge is a redeco of an Optimus Prime figure, in this case, Generation Two "Hero" Optimus Prime.

One of the nifty play features of this mold is the bellows in back, which can be removed from the truck and placed on the table for deployment.  Just pound down on the bellows while one of the missiles is in place on the launcher, and you can send the missile flying into the air.  Don't expect to knock down larger Transformers toys with this feature, but it's still pretty fun.

Perhaps ironically, although Scourge started the "evil Prime" trend, none of the "evil Primes" that have been created in years since (and there have been several) have been called "Scourge" (at least, not in the US).  Rather, the name "Nemesis Prime" has become more common.  I'll feature one of these next week.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Questions for PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow recently sent out a call for people to ask him questions.  Having followed him for the past couple of years, I decided "why not?" and so am sending the following questions, to which he promises to respond within the week.  In keeping with the agreement, his responses will be posted unedited.
  1. While you've made your own political convictions known, you have also made it clear that you truly do wish to be in conversation with Presbyterians (dare I say, "Christians of any denomination"?) of differing convictions. What have you done to build trust and relationship with believers who have such clearly opposing viewpoints?  Do you think it's possible for believers with diametrically opposed interpretations on (what at least one side would consider) core issues to coexist?  How can we worship God together?
  2. Having followed you on your various blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the God Complex Radio podcast, I feel safe in saying that your reputation for exploring the potential of current technologies for worship and theological reflection is well-deserved. Is there any single technological breakthrough that excites you more than others? Why that one? What would you say to others who just don't understand the big deal about such technologies (full disclosure: although I do have a Twitter account, that is certainly one technology that I've never really "gotten," in terms of understanding either the appeal or how it might be profitably used)?
  3. Although I don't think we've ever actually crossed paths in person, it is my understanding that we both have backgrounds with the Montreat Youth Conferences in multiple capacities.  How would you describe the Youth Conferences to someone who has never been?  Would you recommend this gathering for all youth, or under what circumstances might you argue that it isn't for them?  What alternatives might you recommend for a church that is too far removed from the mountains of North Carolina to make attendance viable (I currently attend a church in Pasadena, CA, and I'm sure you know churches in San Francisco that have found attending difficult, if not impossible)?
  4. What would you consider the strengths of the PC(USA)'s current process for preparing would-be pastors for ordination?  What would you consider the weaknesses of this process?  If you were able, what changes might you suggest?
  5. Having tried my hand at podcasting for a brief spell (archives can still be found via the Internet Archive), I've been following God Complex Radio with interest, and I have a concept for the effort that goes into putting out a program on a weekly basis (of course, "The Reflectionary" was on a much smaller scale than God Complex Radio!).  What gave you the idea to take on such a project?  Given your multiple responsibilities, what made you think you could maintain the energy needed to keep it going?  What steps did you take to ensure (or "increase the possibility of"?) the success of the effort?  If you could change one aspect of that "start up" effort, what would it be?  Would you be interested in the possibility of adding a new co-host who talks entirely too much about Transformers toys?  (OK, that last one's not entirely serious, but I just had to ask!)
UPDATE: Bruce's responses may be found here.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Knight Rider GPS

    Last Christmas, I got a GPS with the voice of KITT from the 1980's version of Knight Rider — a perfect example of product placement if ever there was one.  I've found it to be one of the more useful presents I've ever been given, allowing me to explore a greater amount of Southern California (and, let's be honest, there's quite a lot of it to be explored) than I would probably have otherwise done.  Need to scout out all of the Targets in the area to find that elusive exclusive?  KITT will tell you how to find the nearest one.

    I can't really speak to how well KITT compares to other GPS devices, since this is really the first one with which I have any experience.  Most of my own use has been with the "search nearby" feature, where I can type in the name of the business I want to locate ("Toys R Us," for example), and KITT will then figure out where the nearest ones are, and I can then choose the one I want directions to.  I've used the "address" feature a few times, especially for longer trips, but I've had to curtail my long-distance travel quite a bit this past year just to keep expenses down.  Also noteworthy is a setting for "food" that will list all the restaurants nearby.  Perfect for when one needs a little help deciding what to eat!

    I have one minor gripe with the system.  Although I've found the directions to be generally accurate, KITT often seems unable to determine what side of the street the destination is really supposed to be on.  When I use it to get home from a place I've never been before, for example, I find that KITT always tells me that the apartment building is on the right, even though it's actually on the left as often as not.  This is a minor irritant, at worst, but I do wish the programmers would have cleared that kind of thing up.  Still, having a car (device) that talks to me is pretty cool.  Now if I can only get it to drive itself!


    This week, many people are doing a lot of shopping online.  Are you looking for treasures like this on eBay — or elsewhere online — to give as Christmas presents?  Might I suggest signing up for an account with Big Crumbs?  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Game Show Board Games: Blockbusters

    Transformers aren't the only thing I collect.  I'm also proud to have a collection of quite a few game show board games.  This is, in part, an outgrowth of my love for game shows in general, but I also started collecting these in part due to a series of Thanksgivings and other family gatherings where we played these games together.  A number of them came from my grandmother, herself a game show fan for obvious reasons.

    The Blockbusters game comes from Milton Bradley, and has a copyright date of 1982 on the box.  Although I was first familiar with the board game through a copy my grandmother owned, the one I have didn't come from her, but rather is something I located a number of years ago on eBay.  The show itself ran on NBC from 1980 to 1982 and starred game show legend Bill Cullen.  The show was revived in 1987 with Bill Rafferty, but to this day I've never seen an episode of that version.  Blockbusters sought (in some way) to answer the question "are two heads really better than one?" and featured a solo player competing against a team of two players in a game that combined trivia knowledge and strategy.

    The board game more or less faithfully duplicates the mechanics of the actual show.  Players compete on a game board of connected hexagons, each one containing a different letter.  Players capture hexagons by answering trivia questions with answers that begin with the letter for space.  For example, if the letter "R" was chosen, a question might be "What 'R' is the first name of Supreme Court Justice Bader Ginsburg?" (answer: Ruth)  A correct answer changes that hexagon to the player's color.  The "solo player" is assigned red, and seeks to create a path of connected red hexagons from top to bottom, a task that can be completed in as few as four moves.  The team of two players tries to complete a path of white hexagons from left to right on the board, which requires at least five moves (the extra space needed in an effort to balance out the existence of two players on the team).  The first player/team to win two games would win the match.  The 1987 version of Blockbusters eliminated the "two heads are better than one" bit, and alternated top-bottom and left-right so that no player (both players being "solo players") was disadvantaged by needing an extra hexagon to win (with a tiebreaker match played on a 4-by-4 board), but I never really felt that this worked especially well with hexagons.  (Of course, I've never seen that version, so what do I know?)

    One significant difference between the board game and actual show regards the bonus round, called the "Gold Run" (originally "Gold Rush."  Don't ask me why they changed it.  Anyway, the board game calls it "Gold Run.").  After winning a match, the player (or one member of the team, in the case of a team of two players) would try to connect a path from left to right (using gold hexagons for correct answers) within 60 seconds.  In the show, most of the hexagons in "Gold Run" would have multiple letters, denoting multiple-word responses (such as, for "WUD," "What Bugs Bunny often says."  Answer: "What's up, doc?").  However, the board game only gives you three reversible boards, all containing single letters, so you have to use the same questions as you would for the regular game (using the handy question book provided).

    It really must be emphasized that these "differences" are really very minor, and this is a very enjoyable game to bring out to play with friends.  I've also used this game with students when tutoring, since the trivia format lends itself well to whatever subject is at hand.  Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people I run into these days have ever heard of the game, which obviously diminishes the nostalgic fun felt by those of us who remember Blockbusters from the 1980's.  Still, I think that the game play itself is quite solid, and easy to learn and enjoy for anyone willing to give it a shot.

    This is "Cyber Monday."  Are you looking for treasures like this on eBay--or elsewhere online--to give as Christmas presents?  Might I suggest signing up for an account with Big Crumbs?  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Weekly Transformers Feature: Optimus Prime Target Gift Card

    It's Black Friday!  On this day where folks are either madly beating down the doors of their favorite stores... or steadfastly avoiding them because of the crowds, it seems appropriate to do something rather different for the weekly Transformers feature.  And so, I present to you the Optimus Prime gift card!

    In 2007, when the live-action Transformers movie was coming to theaters, Hasbro and Paramount were doing promotions pretty much everywhere.  Target joined in on the game by having a transformable gift card created.  Lovingly crafted by one of Hasbro's own designers to look (more or less) like the movie's version of Optimus Prime, this action-packed gift card actually stands on its own in robot mode!  Now Optimus Prime not only helps save the universe from evil, but he can help you purchase that Christmas present for Tommy!  (Well, maybe not that Tommy.)

    But this is a gift card, right?  You don't want to carry this robot around in your pocket, do you?  (OK, perhaps you do, but bear with me)  With just a few easy flips, this robot can turn into... a rectangle!  (Oooooh!   Aaaaah!  I can tell you are all in awe of the card's majesty.)

    Now, the truly astute among you must be thinking by now "Hey!  If this is a gift card, how is Target supposed to know how much money is on it?"  Naturally, the ingenious designers behind this unprecedented device have come up with a solution.  Merely turn the card over, and you can see where a bar code and a series of numbers have been located.  Using this information, any Target computer anywhere can instantly determine how much money has been made available for future purchases.  And if that's not enough, you can even add more, either by telling your friendly neighborhood Target cashier to do so, or by doing it yourself at Target.com (as the card itself helpfully informs you in the fine print on the right).  Armed with this information, you may now venture forth into the Christmas shopping season!  Good luck!

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    You Are Superman!

    I should note that, although this parody bears more than a passing resemblance to "Ode to a Superhero" by Weird Al Yankovic, I actually wrote this nearly a decade before that song was released (and I think that the 1995 edition of Logos, Montreat-Anderson College's literary magazine, would prove it, but even though I was the editor of that issue, I no longer have a copy of my own for that particular year, so I can't check to see whether this was one of my pieces that we printed, or if I just think we did....  Ah, well.)

    “You Are Superman”
    to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”
    by Mark Baker-Wright

    Well, it’s nine o’clock in Metropolis
    The newspaper crowd shuffles in
    There’s a bald man standing next to me
    With his eyes filled with hatred and sin.
    He says “I think that all of you know of me!”
    as he pushes a gun to my face.
    “For Lex Luthor’s the one who’s destiny
    is to put Superman in his place!”

    Oh, la lala lele lah
    Lala lele lah lalah

    Right us a wrong, you are Superman.
    Right us a wrong tonight.
    For we’re all in the mood for a victory
    And justice will make us feel right.

    I see a man wearing glasses run away from me
    As the crowd panics and turns to stone.
    And as Luthor prepares a calamity,
    I then realize that we’re not alone.
    For a hero has entered the vicinity,
    and so Luthor prepares for a fight.
    And as Superman begins to rescue me,
    Luthor pulls out some green kryptonite.

    Oh, la lala lele lah
    Lala lele lah lalah

    Right us a wrong, you are Superman.
    Right us a wrong tonight.
    For we’re all in the mood for a victory
    And justice will make us feel right.

    But before the rock can hurt Superman,
    I turn Luthor’s intentions to ash.
    For I kick Luthor’s hand with the kryptonite,
    And then throw it into the trash.
    So Superman’s powers come back to him.
    And the criminal knows that he's failed.
    For Superman then takes a hold of him,
    And flies Luthor screaming to jail.

    It’s a beautiful day in Metropolis.
    A newspaper boy passes by.
    I call him to purchase a copy.
    For the headline, it catches my eye.
    It says “Town throws a party for Superman,”
    And the boy takes my money in awe
    For he sees that it's me in the picture there
    Helping Superman uphold the law.

    Right us a wrong, you are Superman.
    Right us a wrong tonight.
    For we’re all in the mood for a victory
    And justice will make us feel right.
    Right us a wrong, you are Superman.
    Right us a wrong tonight.
    For we’re all in the mood for a victory
    And justice will make us feel right.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Kicks on 66: The Monrovia McDonald's

    Shortly after coming to live in Monrovia more than 5 years ago, my wife and I discovered that we lived less than a block off of the legendary Route 66, and close to a number of historic fixtures with interesting stories.  I can't make any promises, but I think it might be interesting to see about collecting a few of those stories from time to time.  Here's one, in any event....

    Depending on which source one listens to, the first McDonald's is cited as being either in Des Plaines, IL or in San Bernadino, CA.  Both claims have some validity: The IL location is the one officially claimed by McDonald's Corporation, but it opened in 1955, whereas the CA restaurant has been there since 1940.  Why the confusion, especially with such a large difference in both time and location?  Well, the Des Plaines, IL address is the first restaurant opened by the company as run by Ray Kroc, who McDonald's considers its founder.  For some reason, the company barely gives lip service to the fact that Kroc bought the franchise rights from Dick and Mac McDonald, from whom the chain gets its name.  The San Bernadino location is the one that the actual McDonald brothers set up!  Yet, despite the fact that the San Bernadino McDonald's was also on Route 66 (maybe I'll get around to visiting the site someday, but the restaurant itself was demolished in 1976), that's not the one I want to talk about, here.

    The McDonald's in Monrovia, CA (a mere block or two from where I live) doesn't really make any claims to being "the first," and yet in a real sense, has a claim to a legacy that predates both of the other two locations.  In 1937, the McDonald brothers opened up a restaurant they called "the Airdrome" at the corner of Huntington and Mayflower, which was--at the time--the northwest corner of the old Monrovia Airport (which closed in 1953.  A good thing for me, since my apartment sits on part of the grounds once occupied by that airport!).  They moved the restaurant to San Bernadino three years later, renamed it "McDonald's," and the rest is history.  This McDonald's sits on the location of the old Airdrome. 

    Like I said, the Monrovia McDonald's doesn't loudly proclaim these ties.  However, there is a plaque on the wall with a picture of the Airdrome.  It's not really a "restaurant" in the sense we'd think of one today.  Basically, it was an open-air stand that sold shakes, orange juice, and yes, hamburgers.

    Perhaps more important than that, the plaque also has this letter from Dick McDonald, dated in 1996 (Dick died in 1998), where he reminisces about how he and his brother got their start in Monrovia.  Honestly, even though the picture of the Airdrome says that the stand was located on Huntington Drive, it took some more digging to realize that the current McDonald's really is at the same location, rather than just being the closest McDonald's to the site (presumed by me to be somewhere down the road.  I mean, since this clearly isn't the same structure, I couldn't assume that the site was available when McDonald's Corporation finally got around to putting a restaurant there, right?  LATER NOTE: An e-mail received after this post went up suggests that this information is incorrect, and that this McDonald's isn't on the site of the Airdrome after all.  I can only say that this claim--for good or ill--is only as good as the sources which I used to write it up, and I'll fully admit that the evidence is spotty.  I invited that person to post a comment which could more positively source corrected information, but he has so far failed to do so.  I will say that I've since found indications that the airport was indeed a bit further to the east, which would indicate that the Airdrome most likely was, as well, but that information is still far from solid.).  McDonald's purists are quick to point out that the stand the McDonald brothers owned was never called "McDonald's" while in Monrovia, but even so, I think it's kind of neat that the legacy of this location has been claimed, even in this small way.

    One quick note about the unusual logo on this particular McDonald's.  The arches overlap, rather than meet in the middle, and there's a line running through it.  What's up with that?  Apparently, most of the older McDonald's restaurants were distinguished by two huge arches on each end and a sloping roof.  Here's an image of the Des Plaines McDonald's.  This logo essentially captures the image of such a restaurant, when viewed from the side.  A few other McDonald's, especially ones with historic roots, share this logo, but it's definitely unusual.  It was apparently later refined to become the "golden arches" we all know today.

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    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Weekly Transformers Feature: Mickey Mouse Trailer Monochrome

    Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?
    M-I-C!  K-E-Y!  R-O-B-O-T!

    OK, so I'm being more than a little silly.  But who could have imagined that there would someday be an official fully-Disney-licensed Transformer toy?  Sure, we might have expected that Disney might have gotten into the transformable robots craze, but an actual Transformer?  I'm still amazed that this thing exists!

    This toy, released earlier this year, is only available from Japan.  Apparently, Disney made a licensing agreement with TakaraTomy, but not Hasbro, which still insists that a release of this toy in the states isn't going to happen.  Too bad.  It would be a perfect companion to the Disney-character Star Wars figures and Mickey Mouse as Indiana Jones figures that you can currently get at Disneyland and other Disney theme parks.

    Like the Star Wars Transformers, this toy isn't actually supposed to be Mickey Mouse, but rather represents a mecha that resembles Mickey, which is piloted by the "real" character, who is depicted on top of the robot's head.  The transformation features a gimmick whereby this figure is hidden in vehicle mode, while completing the final step in changing the toy into vehicle mode causes a Mickey figure (hidden in mecha mode) to be revealed behind the steering wheel of the vehicle (drivers are on the opposite side of vehicles in Japan vs. the United States).

    I got the monochrome version.  I'm not sure that I can explain why.  The full color version is clearly more popular.  I just felt that the monochrome version was more of a conversation piece, somehow.  It's one of a small handful of toys I keep in my office at work, rather than at home where no one but me will ever see it.

    Apparently the Mickey Mouse Transformer sold pretty well.  At least, it did well enough that plans have already been announced for a Donald Duck Transformer to be released next year.  I'm looking forward to getting that one, too.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Rummage Sale at Fuller on Saturday!

    It's time to clean out stuff that I no longer need, and hopefully raise a little cash at the same time.  To that end, I will be at the Rummage Sale at Fuller Theological Seminary this Saturday (November 21st) from 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  Quite a few members of the Fuller community will be setting up tables, so this is an opportunity to come by, see what folks have, enjoy the company of friends, and hopefully get a good bargain at the same time.

    For my part, I'll be selling a number of paperback and hardcover books, comic books, old VHS tapes, a few Transformers (nothing too fancy.  Mostly McDonald's toys and other small items.  This is a rummage sale, after all!) and probably a few other odds and ends besides.  I'm hoping not to have a bunch of stuff to take back home, and so prices should be pretty reasonable.  So come on down Saturday morning, say "hi!" and see what you find!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Introversion and Leadership

    I've had a pretty busy weekend, attending the wedding of two long-time friends and teaching the "Godly Play" lesson to the elementary-aged children at my church for the second week in a row, so I'm just going to post the link to this Christian Century article that I read this past weekend.  I confess that I read the magazine version, which may have some variations from this version I'm linking to online, but I trust that the core message on leadership styles and introversion will be maintained.

    In particular, I want to highlight the following quotation, especially in light of some conversations that I alluded to in a previous post:
    True leaders don't lead by trying to be what others want them to be; introverts with character will lead as introverts. Those of us who are introverts should not try to be extroverts or contort ourselves in ways our personalities are not able to go. While we seek to grow as leaders and as people, we need to be committed to remaining true, because one of the greatest gifts we can offer others is leading as ourselves. People desperately want to know that it's possible to live, act and work as they are, and introverted leaders who model authenticity will give others freedom to be themselves.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Weekly Transformers Feature: Machine Wars Megaplex and Megatron

    When I first thought to do this entry, it was going to just be about Megaplex, a character that has only ever appeared (in America, at least) in the Machine Wars line.  But I quickly realized that I couldn't do a discussion of Megaplex properly without also talking about the Machine Wars version of Megatron.  So, even though each of these toys was available separately back in 1997, it's another "2-for-1" week here at Transforming Seminarian!

    Throughout this entry, Megaplex will be depicted on the left, and Megatron will be depicted on the right.  This bears emphasizing, because it would be easy enough to assume that I've made a mistake if one just goes by coloration.  Note how in the box art above, the gray robot is on the right, while the blue robot is on the left.  Yet, in this picture, the gray plane is on the left, while the blue plane is on the right.  Yet I continue to insist that Megaplex is the one on the left in both images.  Obviously, an explanation is in order.

    As I mentioned when I discussed Machine Wars Hoist, Kenner used each of the small Machine Wars molds for two toys each. Most of the time, it was enough to just slap a different name on each toy and be done with it, but since this toy was obviously intended to be the infamous Decepticon leader (as will be clear when we see the robot mode), the name-and-bio gurus decided that it would make sense to explicitly consider one of the Megatron-mold toys to be a clone of Megatron, apparently to be used as a decoy in battle.  The clone was called (in another fit of name creativity) "Megaplex."  Now, which one should be which?  This is where apparently even the folks at Kenner got confused.  The art for the blue robot was attached to the package that contained the gray toy, and vice versa.  This isn't just some packaging variation.  All Megaplexes and Megatrons were packaged in this way.  It seems reasonable to me that the designers intended for Megatron to the be gray toy (and Megaplex to therefore be the blue one), but the folks who put the toys in the packages apparently didn't get the memo. The toys pictured on the backs of the packages don't really help matters much, as the "Megaplex" toy pictured there is a black (or at least very dark) jet, and that deco wasn't ultimately used on these toys at all!

    Anyway, even though Megatron had never been made available as a jet before (certain intentions — and even the Tech Specs on Machine Wars Megatron's package — notwithstanding) the head clearly signals that this is the familiar Decepticon leader (or, in the case of Megaplex, it signals that you're supposed to think this is the familiar Decepticon leader.  Confused yet?).  And if you think that Megatron should be gray, and/or that designer intentions matter more than the name actually given on the package, go ahead and consider Megatron the one on the left, instead of the one on the right.

    Or is that what Megatron wants you to think?

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Are You Smarter Than a Devastator?

    I started work on this over two years ago, not too long after completing the Family Feud photocomic.  Unfortunately, I was never able to get very far in the picture-taking (and editing!) process.  Rather than let it continue to gather dust, and while the game show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? is still on the airwaves enough that people will get the joke, I'll post the script with such images as I've prepared.  Enjoy!

    Alpha Trion: Welcome to Are You Smarter Than a Devastator? I'm your host, Alpha Trion! Let's meet our class!

    (Introduce each Devastator in turn: Generation One, Classics, Micromaster, Action Master, and Universe Devastators are all shown.)

    (Frame shows Wheelie running into the studio)
    Alpha Trion:  And here's our first contestant. Wheelie!

    Wheelie: Wheelie say, it's time to play!

    (Categories and Grade Levels are displayed)  Alpha Trion:  All right, you're going to work your way up to our top prize of 1 million Energon cubes by answering questions from these categories.

    Alpha Trion:  And, of course, you get to chose one of our Devastators to help you out! Who will it be?

    Wheelie: Wheelie here to have some fun. So it's got to be G1!

    Alpha Trion: All right, now choose your first category.

    Wheelie: Because this is introduction, let's chose Level 1 Destruction

    Alpha Trion: OK. Here's the question: What is the best way to destroy an Autobot stronghold?

    (next frame) Alpha Trion: G1 Devastator has his answer locked in. What's your answer, Wheelie?

    Wheelie: Though it seems unwise to state, sneaking through the access gate!

    Alpha Trion: I'm sorry, but that answer is incorrect. The correct answer is “Smash it!” But G1 Devastator can still save you, if he wrote “Smash it.” Let's see Devastator's answer!

    (Badly scrawled word “SMASH!” appears on screen)

    Alpha Trion: Congratulations! G1 Devastator has saved you, and you now have 1,000 Energon cubes, what will you do ne--? (Alpha Trion is interrupted by Devastator smashing Wheelie, screaming “Smash! Smash!” Wheelie is flattened)

    (Alpha Trion looks down at Wheelie's clearly unconscious form.) Oh, dear! I guess we'll have to bring out a substitute contestant to pick up where Wheelie left off. Let's introduce... Waspinator!

    (Waspinator takes place at podium)

    Alpha Trion: Waspinator, which Devastator would you like to have help you on this question?

    Waspinator: Wazzzzzpinator choozzze Micromazzzter Devazzzzstator!

    Alpha Trion: OK, and what category would you like to choose?

    Waspinator: Wazzzzpinator choozzzzzzes Level 2 Pulverizzzation!

    Alpha Trion: Here's the question. How should you make sure that an enemy target is completely destroyed?

    (next frame) Alpha Trion: Devastator has locked in his answer. What do you think?

    Waspinator: Wazzzpinator not like this! Wazzzpinator want to copy Greenbot's answer!

    Alpha Trion: OK. You're using one of your cheats, and you'll be locked into whatever answer Devastator gives. Let's see it.

    (Another badly written “SMASH!” appears on the screen!)

    Alpha Trion: That's correct! “Smash it” is once again the answer! You now have 2000 Ener-- (interrupted by Devastator yelling “Smash! Smash!” and swinging at Waspinator, knocking off his head.)

    (picture of Waspinator's head lying on floor) Wazzzpinator hatez this game....

    (Alpha Trion looks down again) Oh, no! Not again! Well, we'll just have to bring in another substitute contestant. Let have a round of applause for Grimlock! (Grimlock appears at podium in T-Rex mode)

    Alpha Trion: Welcome to the game Grimlock. Which Devastator would you like to play with?

    Grimlock: Me, Grimlock, choose Universe Devastator!

    Alpha Trion: And what category will you be playing with?

    Grimlock: Me, Grimlock, like Level 4 Tactics

    Alpha Trion: OK. Here's the question: You are badly outnumbered, but your enemies are no match for your own personal strength. How do you survive this battle?

    Grimlock: Me, Grimlock, want to peek at Devastator's answer!

    Alpha Trion: OK. That's your last cheat. Let's see what Devastator wrote down.

    (Answer appears in calligraphy script: “I would chose a melee defense, taking hold of one of my enemies' fallen bodies, and swinging it around my own body in rapid fashion, thereby eliminating many other enemies all at once as his form connects with theirs.”)

    Grimlock: Me, Grimlock, think something wrong with Devastator. Me choose own answer. Me, Grimlock say, 'smash through them.'

    Alpha Trion: That's correct! You now have 5,000 Energon Cubes!

    Grimlock: Me, Grimlock, not as dumb as me look!

    Alpha Trion: That's all the time we have for today! We'll see you next time! (last frame shows Universe Devastator saying “Well, of course, you can smash through them if you want to be crude about it, but my way would be much more efficient at dispatching a greater number of opponents with a minimum of--” Grimlock interrupts--“Me, Grimlock, think you talk too much!”)

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