Tag Archives: nostalgia

Transformers and Michael Bay


Alongside the superhero / origin story fatigue I’m suffering from, I’ve kind of had it with Michael Bay. I *loved* the Transformers franchise as a kid, watching and revelling in the original G1 series (and especially the movie) as a child and enjoying the Beast Wars editions as a teenager.

Then Michael Bay came along, and subjected us to hour after hour of mind-numbing explosive nonsense. It was vaguely intriguing to begin with, and visually spectacular, but very quickly it became evident that Michael Bay’s brain – if I can call it that – works very differently to the rest of humanity. Most of us don’t speak Explosionese, apart from the other issues the films suffer from.

Which makes it harder for me to enthuse about the new movie, although I’ll probably eventually break and see it despite the inevitable mediocrity of it. It’s gratifying to see that its better than the second film, because – honestly – if it had been worse it might induce a physical reaction.

I discovered via @ArvD the Topless Robot FAQ about Transformers 2. I’m not someone that tends to overanalyze films after I watch them – it renders far too many films unwatchable – but Topless Robot’s post-event analysis of Transformers 2 is a thing of beauty. Case in point:

So that other mysterious reason that the Decepticons wanted Sam’s brain? It’s because it contains some very vague clues about the Matrix of Leacdership, which is the device that turns on the sun-exploding machine. The Fallen needs the Matrix to blow up the sun and get his Energon.
Hold on. That’s what the Matrix of Leadership does in the movie?
Yes. Works the sun-exploding machine.
I’m fuzzy on how “Leadership” covers that.
I didn’t name it. But it does sound a little nicer than “Matrix of Blowing Up the Goddamn Sun.”

I have now subscribed to Topless Robot. Awesome blog.

Which Captain Planet ring would you choose?

Mine’s wind or water, as fire and earth are too destructive and heart is too lame. Think of the practical applications!

This conversation was preferable to me than ‘would you rather’ as a way of passing the time on a delayed coach journey the other day.

Captain Planet, he drives a Prius, he’s going to reduce emissions down marginally through considered consumerism….

Things I did when I was young

chess pieceHaving a child, as I’ve noted, sparks memories of your own childhood. Two in particular rose to the surface recently, and whilst neither is quite appropriate for Emily’s current state of cognitive development, they’re definitely ones I’d like to consider when the time comes.

The first was mental arithmetic. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, and my father – a trained corporate lawyer with a self-professed inability to deal with maths to any significant degree – started me off with some mental arithmetic workbooks. I’m sure I cheated at the time – I had a good memory and memory trumps calculation every time – but in time I definitely took in enough tips and tricks that to this date Mathemagic is a skill I carry with me and use on a daily basis. Admittedly my numeracy is a cause for some gentle mocking derision from my wife (“waaaaaaaah!” I can hear her say), but its inestimably useful.

The second was chess. My parents took us early on to classes with the Malaysian master, one Peter Long (and Jimmy Liew, an International master). Peter and Jimmy are still around somewhere, living the corporate life with some chess on the side, but at the time they ran chess classes for kids out of a house in suburban KL. It consisted primarily of Peter and Jimmy playing multiple games of chess simultaneously, against the clock, against all of us, and whilst I’m sure I didn’t think I enjoyed it that much at the time, I look back on it fondly and maintain some basic faculty with the game. My dad used to make us read books of openings and the like – in the hope perhaps that we would become the next Garry Kasparovs (it was the 80s, a heady time in the world of chess), but my sister winning in the under 12s category at a National tournament was the extent of our triumph. I did later tournament a little in the UK under the watchful eye of my Stowe English and chess teacher, Steven Thompson, acquiring a middling ranking on the UK chess circuit. But it’s been a long time, and we don’t currently even have a chess set.

So I’ve got a few things to buy before Emily hits the stage of cognitive development where either of these things might prove interesting, and have an enduring stack of gratitude for my parents for exposing me to stuff like this.

Also, chess sets are apparently expensive.

NB post edited following some memory prompts and helpful searches from my Dad and cousin Michelle. Thanks!


Collapsed whilst relocating campsiteWatching the footage from Glastonbury took me back four years to my first trip to the festival. I was overweight and underfit, struggled with the camping, and knackered each day by the tramping about in wellies. I hated not feeling clean and I felt properly wiped out by the cost of everything.

But I had fun, after a fashion, and in most respects thanks to Amanda’s amazingness -  and its funny how – looking at the footage – the discomfort in itself acquired a sort of nostalgic charm.

I’d like to go again, or to another festival – better equipped this time – if we can work out a way of making it fun for Emily. I’ve had the Big Chill and Bestival recommended to me as family-friendly, will need to give it some thought….

Defense of the Ancients and RTS nostalgia

I have done a lot less gaming over the last few years and on the whole I’m glad of it – I’m happy being busy with friends and family.

But there is a category of games that inspires nostalgia – real time strategy games, of the school of Dune 2, Command and Conquer, Warcraft and Red Alert. Maybe because Dune 2 was one of the first PC-games I really got into, maybe because they provide a cerebral challenge as well as an entertainment hit, maybe because most of those games have a cheesey semi-interactive sci-fi or fantasy narrative running through them… but whatever the reason, it was with interest that I saw that one of the games my friend Noel introduced me to years ago – a Warcraft 3 map mod called ‘Defense of the Ancients’ – has a spiritual successor called (from the creators of DoTA) called League of Legends.


Unlike traditional RTS games, DoTA (and LoL) aggregate the RTS elements with more traditional RPG elements (uplevelling your characters, spellcasting) and with tower defense gameplay… AND make it social, so you get to (if you want and can persuade them to play) take out your friends.

Whilst I can’t quite see myself performing this degree of gaming orchestration again, I note with some amusement that there is a LoL tower defence game on the iPhone… so that might do it for me.

Geek nostalgia–newsgroups

When I was a naive 12 year old and massively into Transformers – the 80s animated series, not today’s Michael Bay monstrosities – I discovered newsgroups. These were a predecessor of modern web forums, and you’d use a desktop client (like Microsoft Outlook Express) to access a series of newsgroups relating to your interests where people discussed. I think they’re still around, but suspect remain principally the domain of the die-hard fanboys.

Now these newsgroups had various forms – moderated and unmoderated alike – and one of the most popular was alt.toys.transformers. People would put up requests to buy/sell toys, discuss the new TV series (Beast Wars came along in the mid 90s) and more. Hundreds of posts and replies came up each day.

And then, sometime shortly before I lost interest, the “Flame Wars” began. Some rather unpleasant chap decided to troll the forums with hundreds, thousands of spam messages, replying with offensive comments to anyone that actually tried to use the newsgroup for its intended purpose. The unmoderated forums took a battering and were nigh on unusable. These were the days predating pervasive broadband, so spam took a toll on your dial-up connection, and so cost you money as well as time.

Being home for a longer stretch this time I remember trying to combat these anti-socal spammers – finding an IRC room for hackers (IRC being Internet Relay Chat – another Internet antiquity that allowed people to chat on whatever topics they’d like), to try to find some sympathetic white-hat hackers willing to take on the digital ASBOs. Totally naive, but what’s amazing, in retrospect, was that whoever was in that chat room at least made sounds indicating that they were going to look into it.

Of course, they could have been an equally naive 12 year old pretending to be a hacker…The joys of the early interwebs!