Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Giant robots

I’m back at work today, I’m not sure if I should be, but I am.

Yesterday, in my ramblings down childhood nostalgia way, I took a byway into discarded hobby obsessions. Transformers, how cool were they? I use the past tense, coz I stopped in at the K-Mart heaters sale to pick up a new oil heater since the electrics in the one owned by my landlord melted down. I cannot heat my uninsulated box of a room through winter with only a bar-heater.

Anyway, I dropped by the toys aisle, as is my wont. Transformers these days are like the weird result of my childhood memories dropped in a blender, a strong dash of anime and all-plastic components added. Dammit, they still used to have die-cast metal when I was a lad. And they didn’t turn into quite such blatantly ridiculous animals (other than the dinobots … and the predacons … and Scorponok … but anyway.) And they’re recycling names – Grimlock is now a construction vehicle, not a metal tyrannosaurus. The indignity.

What I loved about Transformers, other than the whole cool transformation thing, was their little “Tech Specs” card with name, vital stats and a little paragraph about their background. These included some fabulous sci-fi inanities such as the Decepticon spy Ravage’s “electromagnetic emission shield”. As a nine year-old I asked my Dad, an engineer, what this would mean. Basically, he said things like heat, light and radio were forms of electromagnetic radiation, so such a shield could make the robot invisible to radar, infra-red cameras and even, perhaps, ordinary sight. I often wondered how many kids didn’t get these details.

Also, certain words entered my vocab as Transformer names: dirge, prowl, ravage, frenzy, sea-spray and ratchet. I also thought “Starscream” always had a certain violent poetry too.

The coolest thing about resurgent interest in Transfromers by 20-something geeks is the availability of giant de-cals for the rear window of your car – so your vehicle looks just like a real Autobot or Decepticon – stand back, it’s transforming!

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