Nothing convinces me to write quite like scorn. I have two incomplete articles on my hard drive. They’re separated by months. The second was the product of Aaron Forsythe mentioning my corporate pen. Alongi’s nostalgia came mid-article. Well, whatever it is that makes me write has welled up to the surface again – this time with enough catalyst to make sure that I finish the deal. I’ll cannibalize the other two for their best material, if need be. I apologize in advance if my forcing the puzzle pieces together leaves marks you can see. Next time I’ll use a phonebook or something.
Things have been a little narrow for me recently. I don’t know what it is that’s gotten into me, but my interests are suffering from tunnel vision. I’ve been devouring trades of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, though I bought them for someone else. I have newer books I could be reading, but it’s always,”Well, just one more spin through ‘Entropy in the UK’.”
It’s worse with music. I’ve always liked to have it alongside my every activity, but now I’m spinning VNV Nation endlessly. Even using unobtrusive laserlight in place of a scraping needle, I’m digging deeper grooves in those three albums. The last time I relied on REPEAT this much was when I first discovered Pure Phase by Spiritualized, and left it on for three days, not leaving my room. On the last night I dreamt the whole album, and only then was it enough. It was enough because I realized that the sound running across the whole thing, that high, glassy noise, was one of the most beautiful things in all creation. I haven’t heard it in over a year, and it’s still my favorite album of all time.
This isn’t that though. This smacks of escapism and it worries me. Oh good, Standing is on again.
And fighting time
So hard I pray
That this moment last forever
Aw, geez. Skip.
Set me aflame and cast me free
Away you wretched world of tethers
Through the endless night and day
I have never wanted more
Skip. Something lighter.
I don’t know what happens now
I am too scared to close my eyes
Skip. Lighter, you know, upbeat?
Over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people
This wasn’t the way I planned to start things. I’m going to turn the truck around before things get out of hand.
It’s clear I’m going to have to reach beyond this spectrum. What don’t I have in this playlist? I need a song that’s not about being helpless, frightened or abject. Preferably the opposites of those things. Something energizing and fun. Hey, here we go.
Cold (Rated R Mix by Mig-29).
Just your body
Just your body
Just your body
Just your body
Just your body
On my body
Want your thoughts of me inside
I’d lay it all down, but what with the rest of the lyrics being ripped straight out those films that make more money than the rest of the movie industry taken together, it hardly seems prudent. It’s interesting to note that this one is just as full of singlemindedness and evasion than those before it. All that matters now is that it makes me smile, and I want to hear it louder than my speakers can play. I guess it’s all in how you spin it.
I’ll tell you this, though: I’m starting to think I understand why divination can be performed with any materials. It’s the same way there’s no connection between author and text.
With the bread of my mood leavened by rhythmic moans and more bass than ravers think exists, I’m ready to bound gracelessly into something more interesting than the very small world I’ve been inhabiting recently.
One thing before I get to that other thing, the whole reason this article is manifest. It’s just that now that my mind’s eye is trained on something other than itself, I’ve realised that I’ve recently had my mind blown and I’ve told all of no-one.
You see, it comes down to the fact that I attended a Q&A with none other than Bill”James Tiberius Kirk” Shatner.
And so I guess it’s story time. Once upon a time, The Champ wanted me to come to a convention to see William Shatner. I wasn’t going to go, but being the fraction of a man I am, this is all it took to convince me:”You should go.”
So we all pile in the back of Notman’s rented U-Haul, he being a dealer at said Shatner-having convention. Six of us, which means four of us are in the part of the van covered with stickers saying”All passengers should ride in cab. Failure to do so could result in serious or fatal injury” — which was hilarious until a sudden left turn had me buried under boxes and Mike St. Louis threatening to fall out the side door.
Surviving that, I was faced with the challenge of meeting the man himself without paying the entrance fee. My funds were, unfortunately, dancing in other people’s wallets. The Champ was skeptical of my chances.
“Do you remember a TV show called ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose’?”, I asked.
“It’s about this guy, this teenage guy, and he has all these wacky, reality-defying schemes to make stuff happen. Somehow, even though it blows up like you expect it to, it all still manages to work out in his favour. He never loses.”
“Like Zak Morris?”
“Kind of, but you don’t hate him. He did the whole talking-to-the-camera thing too, so he’s kind of like Zak Morris. But not in a way that made you want to cut him. He was just a genuinely likeable guy. The important thing is that Parker Lewis can’t lose.”
“So today, neither can we.”
I breached the Dealers Room by carrying a box and saying”I’m with him.” That got me a stamp to get me in and out with a quickness… The stamp I used in conjunction with the phrase”I’m an exhibitor,” to attend a smaller Q&A for which I’d need a twenty-dollar Day Pass, this one with Gowron and not his makeup.
Unfortunately for me, all the charm in the world wouldn’t work on the two cute girls minding the Shatner entrance. It turns out that people had been more than willing to shell out seventy bucks to hear The Captain speak, and that meant that if I wanted in, I would need to do likewise.
The Champ was all for swearing and calling it quits.
“Wait, come this way.”
“One last scam, or possibly scamola. Excuse me, miss – which way is the Media room?”
And so, after some fine talk and fumbling in my pockets I convinced the ladies handling the press that I was a freelance writer and that The Champ was my”Assistant”. Two press passes later, we were cooling our heels in a very long line that stretched to an opportunity to hear The Shatner speak.
“What was that guy’s name? R.J. Lewis?”
“R.J.? Oh, Parker Lewis.”
“Parker Goddamn Lewis! That’s who you are!”
Eventually we took our places in the back row. The opening video montage had four scenes from Arena, which was awesome. Then The Man came out. Taking a seat on the table at the front rather than the chairs behind it and putting on his best lounge-singer voice, Shatner started to speak.
I can’t do justice to the stories he told. At one point, a baby started crying, and he turned to the child’s mother and said”Do you think you could do something about that? Smother it, maybe?” That’s how off-the-cuff he was. But still totally genuine, like he was into it. It was spectacular. He chose one questioner with the line”You, in the familiar red shirt.” I even got to see him two-cents some guy.
“Um, yes, you in the front row.”
“I was wondering if you could tell me about your book on pet allergies?”
“My book on what?”
“Did you say pet allergies?”
“Yeah, I heard you wrote a book about pet allergies.”
Shatner paused, like he was trying to find the pet allergies book in amongst all the others he’s written.”Where’d you hear that?”
“Well, I read on the internet that you wrote a book about pet allergies.”
“Oh. The internet.”
And just like that he was on the next question. It was amazing. Of course, nothing could have prepared me for him picking me out of the crowd. I even looked behind me, despite the fact that I was in the very last row of the room.
If hearing Shatner disrespect someone else was good, hearing him make fun of me was the living end.
“I must admit,” I started, but Shatner cut me off.
“I don’t want you to admit anything, son; I want it to come voluntarily, from your HEART.” He even said HEART in capital letters like that. In all the stories he told he came alive in full Shakespearean passion.
“Well,” I said, nervous now but too blissed-out to care,”This is the first time I’ve heard you speak live, and frankly, you’re blowing my mind.” Applause showed that the room shared that sentiment.”I was wondering if you’d ever been so starstruck, and if so, who by?”
“Now that – that is an interesting question. You know, there’s a man who lives next door to me that I’ve never met, and I’ve wanted to for a long time. I’ve got a lot of questions I want to ask him before he dies, and now that you bring it up I think I’m going to do it.” He turned quiet before moving on.”Like, why, why does he hide away like he does? And what was it that made him hate himself so, that he’d take such bad care of his body? He was so good in that, not Streetcar, he was good in that too, the one after, The, The, The Wild One.” Realizing he wasn’t addressing his audience directly, he looked up.”Um, Marlon Brando. I grew up with his movies, and if I idolised one person it was Marlon Brando.”
I sat down. It didn’t matter what I did at that point.
The only downside to the whole experience was that The Champ didn’t get to ask his question:”In a real-life, knock-down-drag-out streetfight, who would win: you, or Ricardo Montalban?”
Except that I promised that I’d get to that thing besides the Shatner thing that made me sit down to write. The Auction of the People.
Above all, I think it’s a little weird. When I heard about the Auction of Champions last year, I thought it was genius and couldn’t wait to see it unfold. This, I’m not so sure about. It’s partly because it’s”Theme Decks,” and partly because Wizards has discretion over what decks compete, but mostly because I don’t trust people in general. Between those three things, I expect to see a lot more Mud Gum than Coca-Cola. Praying for rain over here.
Still, can’t let something like this go without buying a hat and throwing it in the ring. Or at the ring. I’m not really interested in making a competitive deck, you see. The theme of my deck (and I doubt it even counts, since it’s not technically a”race,” and those guys at Wizards are real sticklers, let me tell you, so I might have to come up with a more conventional entry) is those things that my parents insisted on calling”Go-Bots”:
(Moog Cookbook remix)
1 x Karn, Silver Golem
It’s trite, I know – but come on, it’s Optimus Prime. He’s got a big caboose when he so desires, and Karn’s animation ability does a fair impersonation of Prime’s vaunted leadership skills. Strikes against are clearly the fact that Karn doesn’t kick ass the way Prime did, and that Karn has lips, which are apparently optional on robots. I suppose I can understand not wanting to go to the trouble of giving them full functionality, but then why does Prime’s face plate wiggle like that when he talks? My guess is that he actually has a giant clown smile, and he welded on a metal plate so people would take him seriously.
Bumblebee, Jazz, Beachcomber, the Ambulance, and the Bus
1x Chimeric Shpere
1x Chimeric Idol
1x Chimeric Staff
1x Jade Statue
1x Xanthic Statue
These guys are at the heart of more episodes than it seems they warrant, and so they get to be the cards that actually transform… Although I never really liked any of them, so it’s a fitting tribute that they turn into a ball, a stick, and statues. Statues? That’s not transforming, that’s standing deceptively still.
Phony Gigantor! Phony Gigantor!
1x Copy Artifact
A plot twist that takes dramatic irony to its unbearable logical extreme. Hey, I appreciate a cunning plan as much as the next man, especially ones that work. That, plus the classic”man on the inside” feel should put it above derision. However, inevitably the writers want the viewer to be able to spot the duplicate, and so employ such devices as a monotone voice, or nefarious moustache. The Autobots never noticed; they just thought they had a cold or something.
Which is Not to Be Confused With
An exciting variant of the above, where the mutineer invariably gets used by the enemy and only realises the error of his ways after causing mayhem the likes of which you’ve never seen.
Those 3-in-1 Dudes That Always Got Stuck Halfway Between”Base” And”Monster”
1 x Primal Clay
1 x Shapeshifter
Although I’m pretty sure I had a half-transformed Megatron in the cutlery drawer for over a year, so I might be the only one this happened to.
I … AM … IRON … MAN
1x Colossus of Sardia
I don’t care that it has nothing to do with Transformers. Wizards should hire someone to be onhand with Sabbath’s Iron Man on a boombox just in case he comes down. It ain’t just the heavy boots of lead that fill his enemies full of dread. Did you know that he was turned to steel in the Great Magnetic Field?
Surprisingly useful Tape-deck Transformers
1x Thopter Squadron
A plane. A tank. A gun. A ghettoblaster. Which of these doesn’t belong? All I know is that it seemed like Shockwave was just a container for some seriously feral robots, as well as to make Energon Cubes. Oh, and to hold onto Megatron when he was in gun form. I don’t know. He looked like he could brawl. Remember: RAVAGE. OPERATION: ELIMINATE.
Speaking of Which: Hey Shockwave, Bust Out Some of Those De-Licious Energon Cubes, Would Ya?
1x Blue Mana Battery
Just like in the actual episodes, this is merely something for the Transformers to do. Except for that one where Starscream got all nutty. That rocked.
Just Because We’re Robots Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Have One-Dimensional Personalities:
I’m not asking for literature here. Okay, maybe I am. A little”En Attendant Devastator”?
1 x Triskellion
In casting Triskellion as Megatron, I tried to capture the incongruity of Megatron’s becoming one one-hundredth his original size, losing that monster of a cannon on his arm, and becoming – excuse me? More powerful? Similarly, if Triscuit wants to bomb a town, he’s got to get down.
1x The Jive
and its companion piece:
What the Transformers realized all too late was that if they could outman their opponents, they could probably take the war. This naturally led to such long-term debacles as The Constructicons and The Dinobots. If only they could have put Henry Ford’s brain into an old Model T and have him show them how an assembly line works. Hopefully this will make up for their oversight. Plus, who doesn’t want to play with The Jive?
What We Need Now Are Giant Robo-Suits
1x Hollow Warrior
There must have been an episode where a human got a powerful exo-skeleton to brawl with. This is that episode.
Holy Crap, It’s Galvatron!
If the Autobots wore underwear, it would definitely need changing after their first run-in with Doctor Death over here. It made every other fight look like tea with the Queen of England. You’ll notice that instead of turning into a pistol, Galvatron turned into a giant cannon. I leave it to the reader to decide if there’s any connection between that fact and his general bad-assity.
1x Brass Secretary
“C3PO, what are you doing here?”
“There must have been some mistake, a terrible mistake. I’m a protocol droid, you see.”
I never really understood why they bothered to save Hot Rod. It seemed like in most of the battles they fought, he wasn’t exactly the lynchpin of the whole operation. Combine that with the fact that most of those battles were the direct result of hastily-conceived missons to save his ass, and it becomes clear that the Autobots hadn’t yet learned to do Cost/Benefit analysis.
1x Mindless Automaton
Speaking of worthless, come on! Why exactly did he get to be Prime’s successor? He has all the positive character traits of that serial killer none of the other serial killers want to hang out with.
If I Were Prime, I Would Have Crammed the Matrix Down His Throat, Dying or Not
1x Power Matrix
It’s a silly looking majigger anyways.
A Pope Hat
1x Urza’s Miter
I have a feeling that the one thing that kept Transformers from transcending Saturday Morning Cartoons was that they refused to give a cameo to His Holiness The Pope, nor did they bring in a Transformer-equivalent of The Pope. How great would that be? The Pope’s plane could be hijacked by the Decepticons, and Popitron would come to the rescue, turning into The Popemobile and spiriting God’s earthly messenger to (relative) safety. I’m sure The Vatican stepped in at the last minute. I mean, The Pope was all for it, but they’re more PR-minded than he is.
1x Phyrexian Dreadnaught
It’s the least I can do for Orson Wells, who was reduced to doing the movie as well as commercials for Green Giant Peas. Do I need to mention Citizen Kane? On one hand, we have one of the finest films ever made… And on the other,”Hang on, I have some peas in my beard.”
1x Steel Golem
Forgetting for a moment that it doesn’t fly (as the Autobots must have done so often, insisting as they did on driving everywhere), he’s a perfect match for the little prima donna. Cruel, tough, and above all, hogs the spotlight.
Nothing Makes a Good Thing Great Like Monkeys!
1x Monkey Cage
I honestly don’t know which is funnier – monkeys being unleashed on an unsuspecting populace, or the fact that some genius invented a spring-loaded monkey-bomb.
I may be thinking of his father or guardian or something, but he’s representative of the humans who spent far too much time cruising with the Autobots. It’s clear from the way he mooned over Prime that he’s got a bit of a fetish going on, so having Metalworker portray him is the sort of wish-fullfilment I like to hand out when I can.
1x Rusting Golem
Unlike me, the Autobots didn’t have the luxury of going for more Sugar Crisps when Kup would launch into one of his rambling stories about how old he is and how his joints don’t work so good no more.
“And you were there. And you were there. And you, too, Bumblebee.”
4x Mishra’s Factory
“Hey, Metroplex, you’re as big as a city, right? Why don’t you go step on Megatron and his buddies, and we’ll sit here and laugh as they all get crushed to death.”
“Uh, I’d love to, but it turns out I’m a giant pansy. Plus, for some reason, when I transform I’m significantly less huge, and in city-form I’m unable to move.”
“Could we maybe drop you on their camp or something?”
“I’m also afraid of heights.”
“No wonder we don’t hang out with you.”
Surprisingly Intact, Considering the Crash Landing and All
4x Mishra’s Workshop
I don’t care what the ship’s made of, if you slam into a mountain, your computers aren’t going to work.
The Rest of It
1x Sol Ring
1x Mana Crypt
1x Mind Stone
1x Thran Dynamo
1x Thran Turbine
1x Worn Powerstone
1x Mox Sapphire
Which makes sixty cards and one idea that’s run its course.
Blake”Tilt-a-Whirl” Manders is still in Texas. Beyond that, it’s even odds between Billionaire Tycoon and Strung-Up City Slicker.