My experience exploring the WWE Network during the one month free trial

This is probably the first article where I will say up front there is a video in the works. Okay maybe not but there is a video in the works. That shouldn’t stop you from reading this anyways. I will keep this focused on a brief overview of my impression of the WWE Network app and the content library thus far as I explored the 1 month free trial.

I will offer a brief background on how I got here. As a kid I had cousins and uncles that were very into professional wrestling. My dad was not. He made fun of it and its fans. I was torn. During the 90s I witness the rise of the WCW NWO and the Raw is War Attitude Era during the Monday Night Wars. My friends were all caught up on the drama. I was a spectator on the sidelines scratching my head. A friend said, it’s like a soap opera for guys. Another friend said, it’s like a comic book show without the special effects. That resonated more with me so I gave it a try. I was lost and walked away for several years, dismissive of the entire phenomenon.

A couple of years ago I was working at a small town newspaper in Texas. A man walked in by the name of Michael Smith. His professional wrestling name was Sam Houston. He introduced himself and told me the highlights of his career, having been in the first ever Royal Rumble. At the time I heard the name Royal Rumble, knew nothing else of it. Needless to say upon hearing his story, both professional and personal, I was intrigued. His dad, Grizzly Smith, was a bona fide legend, his brother, Jake the Snake Roberts a true superstar. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. We became friends. I did a video for him, he took me on a road trip to see the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was great. He’s gone back into his world and my career took me down a different path so we ultimately parted ways. Still, it was an experience I will never forget.

During the time I was listening to the Completely Unnecessary Podcast with Pat The NES Punk and co host Ian Ferguson. They talked about WWE stuff a lot so I became more curious. I decided to give it all a shot and started watching some Pay Per Views and things with friends. I was still lost and gave up after a few weeks.

Last year I bought a home. As a result I installed an antenna to get OTA reception on my TV set. I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon Friday Night SmackDown. I became enamored with the action and the beef between some guy named Corbin and a clown getting dog food dumped all over himself. I decided okay I will give this an honest try. I read up. Did my homework and learned the ins and outs of the sport/show. I came at it from the perspective of a former TV producer. I decided to treat it like a TV show, with seasons, story lines, characters etc., Thus I decided I was going to follow SmackDown live each Friday night as time permitted. Then I would catch up on the WWE Network. I downloaded the app, signed up for the free trial and  began exploring the content.

Library.

Vast. That is the one word that described the amount of content available in their library. Even though it is a single topic it has Netflix and Hulu beat by shear amount of videos available to watch. I am not saying everything is worth viewing but it’s all there, for the most part. I was disappointed to learn SmackDown was a month behind the broadcast so keeping up was going to be a challenge.

Exploring.

I started with some random matches of people I remembered. Andre the Giant, Macho Man, Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigalo, a few others who’s names stuck in my brain. Then I shifted. I went through the first few years of Nitro, all the way through the NWO take over. I watched the first season of Monday Night Raw. I watched the corresponding Pay Per Views as they arose during the season. So if they were promoting a specific pay per view that episode of Raw, upon completion I immediately dove into said PPV and kept going, not skipping a beat. After a few weeks of this, seeing some of the documentaries and continuing to explore some of the catalog stuff, I decided to settle into my groove.

The discovery.

I kind of like it. I mean kind of as in more than I thought I would. I finally, at least marginally understand it more than I did before. I kind of get kayfabe now, I kind of understand how the story lines work and what is going on. Before I never knew anything just it was a mess and never made sense. I also get the rules of the matches and the moves now. It makes for a far more entertaining experience. Plus my heart beats for Nikki Cross I will thoroughly enjoy watching her career unfold.

Going forward.

Right now my viewing habit is centered around going through last year of SmackDown and dabbling in Raw to get caught up. I will continue to revisit the old Raw episodes as go though the seasons as I find time watching documentaries that pique my interest along the way. Then I will keep my eye out on certain PPV events that I will consider watching as they happen. Right now I have made plans to make a day out of watching the Royal Rumble this year. I will also look forward to seeing Wrestlemania when it happens. I have recently watched TLC and Survivor Series as a starting point.

Each week I intend to watch SmackDown on Friday nights live, as life allows. Then I will go through the backlog on weekends and as I find the time. My goal is not to consume every piece of content in that library, I’d decay into a rotten corpse before time would allow. However I have mapped out the path I wish to follow.

Hulkamania.

First path I want to follow is the rise of Hulkamania through the turn to heel. I will watch every match, TV show and PPV that featured Hulk Hogan and watch his career unfold. I will take detours to follow Macho Man and Rick Flair along the way to see how things go there. I expect this to be a process that will take time. My intention is to do so sporadically, maybe get through a few matches and one PPV a week. Once I complete this story line or saga I will shift to the next super star I intend to follow.

Stone Cold Era

I want to start with his debut and follow his career in the same fashion as Hogan. There’s not half as much content to get through so it shouldn’t take nearly as long. All along the way I will be skipping the filler stuff I don’t care about, except with the PPV’s I have a separate plan for those. The only side quests I will follow here is the team up with The Rock and maybe see where that goes.

Mankind

After watching the Monday Night War episode on this guy I fully want to go back and watch the entire career of Mick Foley from Mankind to his other incarnations. This is the only one aside from Hogan I intend to watch the interviews as well as the matches.

Pay Per Views

During this exploration my hope is to get through the entire Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble saga. I watched the first seven Royal Rumbles in a row and did the first three Wrestlemania’s already. I will watch them in their place, or at least the respective matches that pertain to the sagas as I follow so these I will watch out of order first viewing as they arise and then a full run as I go back and watch them one after another. Due to the run times this will be a long term commitment.

In the meantime I am only watching these older sagas in small doses. I won’t binge a Hogan series but I will watch a few matches, a PPV and the aftermath maybe each week or so.

Overall I am enjoying exploring all the content available. Right now I am making Jan 1 2019 the starting point and working forward from there. I will view all the Smackdown episodes, in order, in conjunction with the corresponding Raw on the app with PPV’s as they arise. I don’t have cable so the only chance I have of viewing Raw timely is on YouTube apparently so I will try to take advantage of that, once I am caught up.

NTX is on my radar but right now I want to focus on the main stuff. Once I am caught up, hopefully before this year’s Wrestlemania, I will go back to the start of King Corbin and follow his career to today. I might do the same with Roman Reigns, Danial Bryan and The Fiend but I am not sure yet. Overall I am really enjoying the content as I am exploring this wide world of sports entertainment I missed out on over the years. Stay Cool.

 

THE RAT’s top 50 Transformers toys to get updated 1-10-2020

UPDATE 1: G1 Doublecross and G2 Rapido.

UPDATE 2: RID Spychangers (assorted) Crosswise and W.A.R.S and Micromaster Storm Cloud.

I will update this as I add toys from this list to my collection.

I have been an avid Transformers collector my entire life. It began as a youngling when my parents got me a mix of Go Bots and Hasbro Transformers one Christmas. The obsession only grew from there. When I was a young adult I took a trip down memory lane and started buying all the toys from my childhood. Due to some life events beyond my control, I had to sell everything off.

Now that I am in a position to begin collecting again, which I have been doing ever so slightly these past few months, I have started to define the direction I want to take my collection.  This is the top 50 Transformers action figures I would like to add to my collection in the near future.

Note this is not a comprehensive list nor is it ranked in any way. These are just the ones that are top priority for me so they are the ones I wanted to identify first. I already have begun buying some G1 toys so I will be leaving those I already own off this list for obvious reasons. Here you are.

 

1. G1 Power Master Optimus Prime

This was not only the very first Optimus Prime I ever owned as a kid, it was one of the earliest toys my parents bought me. I received this guy on the Christmas of my sixth year on this earth. The toy is amazing and there are a couple different variants. I am not looking for Japanese reissues or Apex Armor stuff just the original 1980’s release.

2. RID Optimus Prime

This fire truck version is by far my favorite post-G1 Optimus Prime even to this day. While I respect the decision to stay true to his roots in subsequent incarnations, I really love the bold statement this version made when it appeared on toy shelves across the world. Robots in Disguise, also known as Car Robots in Japan, is my second favorite toy line next to the originals.

3. G1 Pretender Skullgrin

This was one of those Christmas presents I received that went from joy to scratching my head rather quickly. I always loved the Pretenders and this was probably the best one I owned as a kid, but they always felt a little over simplified in many ways. True story, when I was in 5th grade I had long forgotten his name and when I saw an episode of the G2 cartoon with purple Galvatron I mistakenly convinced myself that was who this guy was. It was many years later I learned my mistake but hey what did I know?

4. Armada Unicron

I know there is supposedly a reissue or retool or something coming in the near future. I want the original Armada Unicron and nothing else will do for me. I love everything about that release from the colors to integration with minicons.

5. Beast Wars Rattrap

I must admit I am not really a fan of the Beast Wars product line. I somewhat enjoyed the cartoon for the most part but I wasn’t as enamored about it as others. However as someone who goes by the name THE RAT, this guy was always one I was rather fond of. I would be open to various incarnations but I mostly want the very original one that was the basis of the model used in the animated show.

6. Studio Series Bumble Bee VW

Truth be told I want both Cameros and the VW bug but the one that is begging me to put it on my toy shelf is the Slug Bug from the most recent live action movie. I was a tremendous fan of that film and I would love to get my hands on any version of that toy.

7. G1 Metroplex

I don’t have a ton of money in my toy budget but I fully intend to make room for this guy at some point in the future. I always remembered him just as Autobot City as a kid. I was fortunate enough my parents got me a Power Master Prime so I could at least pretend I had a Metroplex even though I was far off. I recently rekindled my desire to have this guy back in my private collection upon discovering the Six Gun in the new War for Cybertron Siege series.

8. War for Cybertron Siege Jetfire/Skyfire

I don’t want anything to do with the Robotech crap from the 80s. But I would like to get a Siege Jetfire figure as it replicates the look of the Skyfire character as represented in the G1 cartoon which I am a fan. I had previously had an Armada Starscream stand in for Jetfire once as his mold was similar enough. I also do have a Cyberverse Jetfire but it’s not that great.

9. G2 Hero Megatron

This was the first version of Megatron I ever owned. While I have had other ones over the years this one still holds a special place in my heart. I always loved this toy and I even had the RID Bludgeon that reused the mold. It’s not the best Megatron ever but it’s one I can’t live without.

10. G1 Goldbug

This was the earliest Transform I have memories of. Technically I got it the same Christmas as Power Master Prime but I opened this one up first and fell instantly in love. I was young enough I didn’t realize it wasn’t named Bumble Bee, to me this was Bumble Bee and it was the one I played with as a kid the most.

11. RID Skybite

I never had this Trans metal inspired Shark but I was quite fond of his character in the animated program. Okay I mostly want it because it looks cool but whatever sharks are cool.

12. G2 Rapido

This was the first original Generation 2 Transformer I got after a few recolored reissues from the first wave. While some might consider it a fairly basic toy I was happy enough with it as it was similar enough to the designs of some of the later G1 toys it felt retro enough while being modern, for the time.

13. G1 Doublecross

Truth be told this is probably top priority for me. Not only was it one of my favorite toys as a kid but it was one of the first ones I bought as an adult collector the first time around. Therefore it will have a double dose of nostalgia for me in that regards. This was another one I got when I was too young to really pay attention to names so I always thought it was one of the Dinobots that wasn’t shown on the cartoon.

I never realized actual dinosaurs probably didn’t have two heads. But I always held it in high regards and used it as a stand in for whichever Dinobot I needed at the time. The cool thing about his design is it could be used as pretty much any of the Dinobots if you used your imagination a little. It was also that hard plastic, thick design of the later years I always enjoyed that some fans despise.

14. RID Ultra Magnus

Much like his Optimus Prime counterpart I love this toy. I was much better, in my opinion, than the G1 original and it was really neat how it combined with the other toy to make a super Optimus Prime. Pretty cool stuff.

15. G1 Scourge

One of the few movie based toys I actually owned and really liked. I never had this one as a kid but when I picked it up all those years later I fell in love. I kind of get the criticism as it is called a “Shellformer” but that seems like a lazy way to dismiss what is still a decent toy. I thought it worked well and again it’s that late era plastic I love so much compared to that flimsier stuff from the Takara Diaclone days.

16. Beast Wars Waspinator

This was one of the few Beast era toys I had that I actually thought was pretty cool. I wasn’t a big fan of these toys when they were new and I the cartoon didn’t impress me as much as others but I gotta admit this is one of the better figures in the line and I miss owning one.

17. Armada Minicons

I won’t list them by name or team. I will just try to buy as many random minicons as I can come across that are reasonably priced. I won’t have a clear cut map of this yet but in my mind I have an idea what I want.

18. G1 Ultra Pretender Skyhammer

This was another one of those amazing Christmas morning discoveries that really made my day. It was a very basic toy at its core but with all the accessories and gun ships it came with this thing worked as a Transformer but it was also a good Star Wars, Star Trek or even Terminator toy as needed. Then when Exosquad came along guess which toy I dusted out to keep my parents from having to buy me more toys. You guessed it. This was just an amazing Transformer vehicle set even if the robot itself was not that great.

19. RID Construction Team

I don’t know their exact names but I do remember the green one was Grimlock. This was one of the best combiner teams as it was one of the first to break away from the “Scramble City” gestalt mold of the original series. Oh sure I love me some interchangeable Aerialbots, Combaticons, etc., but this was a really cool diversion from the formula and one of the things I loved so much about that short lived filler series.

20. G2 Optimus Prime

I will keep my G1 reissue cab only for now but I absolutely must get my hands on the G2 reissue Optimus Prime complete with trailer and sound box. This was the toy I received for one of the best Christmas’s I ever experienced. It was one of the last years I got exactly what I asked for and nothing else. It was a fantastic toy and a pretty solid improvement upon the original. I am kind of disappointed Hasbro doesn’t dig more into the G2 era with their reissues but whatever.

21. G1 Six Shot

Part Ninja, part Transformer, all awesome. While some of his “alt modes” require stretching the imagination, this massive Decepticon was one of the greatest toys of its time. I didn’t care much for his Autobot counterpart but this thing was slick and cool.

22. G1 StarScream

One of the few Diaclone era toys I actually like and a high priority for me in my collecting. I was always a fan of this character and I devised my own fanfictions where he was successful in overthrowing Megatron and leading the Decepticons on a reign of terror he always deserved. I wouldn’t mind getting the G2 recolor but I would really love to get my hands on an actual G1 original at some point in time. This is one a reissue won’t suffice as far as I am concerned. Only because it won’t scale properly with all the other jets that haven’t been reissued so for conformity sake I will stick to the originals for the seeker jets.

23. Beast Wars Dinobot

This is the other Beast era toy I actually think is kind of cool. All the others my interest is purely based on their cartoon characters or my insane need to collection everything. Fortunately this is one I can see myself buying and actually being proud to own.

24. G1 Pretender Grimlock

Don’t give me that lip. This was a toy I had as a kid and it gets top priority as far as collecting goes. In terms of the figure itself it’s not bad. The shell clearly makes up for any area it might be lacking as I love the Pretender concept so much. Sure it’s tiny compared to the earlier G1 Dinobot king but hey it’s still gets the job done and is seeping with nostalgia, which is what I am going for here.

25. G1 Superion

Of all the original combiner teams this is the one I feel the need to get the most. Partially because Silverbolt actually was my very first Transformers memory, got him for my 5th birthday, but also because this complete set is so much more interesting to me than the other sets including that over-rated (year I said it) construction set everyone fawns over.

26. G1 Abominus

While we are on the subject of combiners I had three toys growing up that if this category. The above mentioned and fairly awesome Silverbolt, the less awesome but still interesting Bonecrusher from the Constructicon set and Blot, a weird, um thing, from the Terrorcon set. No, I quickly renamed it “Robocop 2” and it was a fairly decent stand in for that toy from a movie I am sure I enjoyed more than most kids my age. I don’t want to just get Blot by himself so I figure I might as well get the whole family to make it worth it.

27. G1 Fangry

One of the few Headmasters I had as a kid this toy again wasn’t the greatest but it is one from my past that served double duty as needed. I always loved this guy when I thought of him as a robotic werewolf.

28. RID Predacon three pack

I won’t even pretend to remember their names. I had this three pack back in the day and I am certain I will enjoy picking it up again as much as I did then. I am not likely to buy one complete in box for financial reasons so I will have to rely on finding a complete set somewhere on most likely eBay it would seem.

29. G2 Gobots/RID Spychangers

Much like Minicons, there are too many to list individually. The main goal is to basically get one of each “mold” and supplement those with random variants depending on personal preference.The most important one to obtain is the “cow” aesthetic of the Iron Hide pickup truck mold.

30. G1 Reflector

This was one of those figures I had some of the pieces as a kid which I obtained through trading with other kids at school. I don’t remember what I traded for them but I was very glad to have them despite it being incomplete. It was one of the first ones I did complete when I got back into collecting as an adult. I also recently added Refraktor from War for Cybertron Siege so this item is of moderate priority.

31. RID Autobot Prowl

I’ve often told the story how walking into GameStop and finding RID Prowl on the shelf was what got me back into collecting in 2001. Obviously this one is a top priority for similar reasons. Of course there are variations of this figure like his brothers. Ideally I would like to obtain the original Car Robots molds not the later recolors.

32.RID Megatron

I don’t want to have too many duplicates, nor do I want an entire collection of Megatron Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee figures as those are some of the most common figures appearing. However this is easily one of my favorite versions of the character for very similar reasons to the Optimus Prime from this same toy line. Despite it being a Predacon that later creates new Decepticons, it still serves the purpose as Decepticon leader as well as of the Predacon faction. It’s also a pretty cool looking, heavy duty action figure.

33. G1 Blaster

I’ve often heard a story my mom tells about how the first Transformer she ever got me was that boom box that I left in California when we moved to Kansas. I don’t have early childhood memories of owning this toy but I did get one in a trade in middle school so I certainly had one in my youth. Beyond that he was one of those in the middle between the earlier Diaclone based die cast metal molds of the first year and the hard plastic toys from later years.

34. RID X-Brawn

Like Prowl above this was one of the first toys I grabbed once I got back into collecting the first time. I was just getting back into the toys at the time and somehow I thought these were the actual original toys reissued with new colors similar to how G2 had been a few years prior so I convinced myself this was “Iron Hide” at the time. It quickly became a favorite of mine from the toy line however.

35. G1 Pretender Starscream

What can I saw, I love the Pretenders line. This was one I got in place of a G1 Diaclone original but I still enjoyed it. Much like the little Grimlock it was the complete set shell and all that made it worth collecting for me.

36. G1 Pretender Jazz

I am pretty sure you saw this coming by now. If not well, you should have. This was my first version of Jazz I ever owned and while not nearly as cool as the original, it fit my expectation as a pretender toy just fine.

37. G1 Blitzwing

My first, but not favorite, of the Decepticon Triple Changers. This was another one my dad got me used from a yard sale so it was missing pieces but I was just happy to have one more Transformer figure in my army of alien robots. It was a fairly decent toy in my opinion and well worth tracking down again.

38. G1 Trypticon

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty. While I am certainly interested in branching out beyond G1, the vast majority of the toys I desire to purchase will inevitably be from the original line that started it all. How can I talk myself into getting a Metroplex without his Decepticon counterpart? Also, he scales quite nicely with my original Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers DinoZord Megazord set so I kind of need something for him to fight anyways.

39. RID Scourge

Okay confession time. I never owned Scourge in his RID mold or the G2 Laser Rod Optimus Prime. Of course I could go for the G2 Autobot version, in this case I would rather get the RID Decepticon and work towards completing that set. It’s more fun that way.

40. RID Sideburn

While he is not the most desirable of the Car Robots Autobot brothers, he is still a figure I would like to get into my collection sooner rather than later. I mostly want the original colors of the first two but this one I am torn between getting the red one with the flames or both. I don’t like having multiple versions of the exact same figure so this will be tough to decide.

41. G2 Color Changer Drench

I love the G2 toy line almost as much as the original line. It’s in my top three favorite toy lines bearing the Transformers branding. The color changers were absolutely one of the neatest gimmick based toys ever. Of course there are a lot of fans that despise the gimmicky figures but I actually happen to like many of them. This was another one that I had previously that I am sure to get back at some point in the near future.

42. G1 Astrotrain

I couldn’t get Blitzwing without getting his partner in crime. Astrotrain served another purpose as I had an affinity for model trains and he fit nicely into that scale too. Or I could just say I like trains and my favorite color is purple so it’s a win-win.

43. G1 Ransack

Ransack was the first figure I bought from the original G1 toy line when I first got back into collecting. It was also the very first Insecticon I ever owned, Deluxe or otherwise. I don’t exactly want to follow the same path I did before, however, I do suspect it will be very similar in many ways.

44. G1 Megatron

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to add this to my collection. It won’t likely be my first purchase but it is high on my priority list. Keep in mind this list is not ranked so it doesn’t mean I will buy this after any of the above others it just means this was the list I went down.

45. G2 Bumblebee

Despite not being a fan of reissues, recolors or owning duplicates of action figures I already own, I will in fact try to purchase a G2 version of the original Bumble Bee toy even though I do currently already own an original G1 version. The main reason is in fact because I had him as a kid and while I did have Goldbug, this was my first true Bumble Bee figure and it has special meaning to me.

46. G1 Grimlock

Not the pretender, the original. I had the G2 and G1 toy previously but this time around I just want an original and that should do it. King Grimlock absolutely deserves a top spot in my action figure collection.

47. RID Bludgeon

Yes I know it’s technically just a recolor of G2 Hero Megatron but I had it before and I loved it then, I will have to get it again. Nuff said.

48. G1 Micromaster Countdown

This the only Micromaster I know by name. It is also the only one I played with as a kid. I didn’t own it, but my cousin did so I spent many hours playing with this toy. I know it’s fairly expensive online but I still have a strong desire to get it.

49. G1 Roadbuster

It’s another one of those obscure, later release Headmasters that most don’t care for but I actually like. It’s a giant figure in robot mode and a pretty menacing looking vehicle in its alt mode.

50. Heroes of Cybertron

Like the Nintendo Amiibo I don’t want to have a list of those I want nor do I want a complete or even large collection. I had a ton of these guys back in the day and I imagine I will grab a few just for nostalgia sake much like so much else on this list.

There you have it THE RAT’s top 50 Transformers figures to look for. Hopefully as I begin shopping I can come across some good deals. I am not expecting to get all of these right away nor am I going to use this list as a ranking system of priority. Instead consider it my wish list more than anything.

I limited this to mostly ones I have owned in the past but I think I let a few slip in that I discovered over the years. I also cheated a little with a few like Minicons and Gobots/Spychangers. Still, this is a pretty good place to get started on getting my Transformers collection back to what it once was. Stay Cool.

 

Contemplating the Catholic Ministry

It is no secret I felt God’s calling when I was young. I converted from pagan (witch) to Baptist when I was 12 and basically never looked back. I became very enthusiastic about getting into the ministry at the age of 16. I became a counselor at bible camp and taught vacation bible school two different years. Then I shifted into music trying to break into the “Christian rap” scene. I quickly dropped the Christian part and tried to become more “street.” When that failed I gave up the ministry and walked away.

A little over a year ago I began my journey to becoming a full Catholic. That journey itself was quite an amazing experience for me. It helped me get closer to God than I had been in years, helped me find a loving church family I enjoy worshiping with and it helped me realize my desire to serve the Lord is as alive as ever.

I recently felt the calling to do more. As a result I am looking to clean up my act a little and start over fresh But that is only a small part of the big changes coming in my life. I have already reached out to and been invited to meet with a priest to discuss going into the vocation. There are a number of things to consider when contemplating that path as a Catholic that a protestant (or Evangelical) doesn’t necessarily have to consider. Beyond that there is this feeling I can’t escape that has me wanting to do more to serve. I won’t know what options are available until after I have my meeting with the priest. I am really hoping he will find something I can do to help out.

I am also seriously considering writing a book covering my conversion experience and the journey I took. I believe it would be a fascinating tale for those who have curiosity how a Baptist can turn Catholic. It’s obviously an experience a lot of people have had but I think I can write mine in a way it would speak to people.

None of this means I will completely remove my website, channel or podcast from the internet. I do believe I might try some re-branding or even just putting certain things in the past while I move towards a fuller life.

I don’t have much else to report at this time other than I have spent a great deal of time the last month reading articles on the Faith and watching hours of YouTube videos on the teachings of the Church, church history and the like. I’ve really fallen in love with the Church Jesus left behind to protect his people all over again. The closer I get to the Lord the more my faith grows in him. Stay Cool.

The long journey of how I went from hating Sony Playstation to becoming a brand loyalist

I make it no secret that I love the Sony Playstation family of consumer video game products. I currently have, in some form or another, every single home console they have ever released. I have already decided I wish to pre-order a PS5 and pick it up on launch day as the excitement of doing so has boiled up to epic proportions.

I hadn’t always been this way. There was a time when I actively hated Playstation. To the point I swore even if I ever did buy one of their machines I would make sure I only bought it used, second hand not from a re-seller like GameStop to guarantee that Sony didn’t get a single penny of my hard earned money. Settle in this is a long road.

But where did that level of animosity come from? How bad did it get? And more importantly, when did it subside being replaced with a new-found passion for the same product line?

I was so anti-Playstation I went out of my way to get an HD-DVD player for everyone I could because I desperately wanted that format to beat Blu Ray Disc. Only reason was because BRD benefited Playstation. Let me be clear. I lost friends, actual friends, over my utter hatred for Playstation. It was a mess. Of course, so was I but that’s a story for another day.

To understand my transformation you have to go back to the very beginning.

The Early Years- Atari clones to Nintendo

My first game console was nothing special. It was just a Coleco Gemini. Basically a knock off Atari 2600 VCS that was made by Coleco. No it was NOT a Coleco Vision with the Atari adapter it could ONLY play Atari 2600 games but it looked nothing like an Atari.

Here is a picture from Google of what the monstrosity looked like.

Coleco

What this did was introduced me to the world of gaming right away without a notion of brand loyalty. I knew I had an Atari. I knew it played Atari games. I was too young to understand what it actually was or how it came into existence. I didn’t learn that until years later.

Around this time my cousins got a home computer, it was one of those Apple II computers. I have no idea which specific model it was, I didn’t know enough about computers then and my faded memories are not useful.

All I do know is they played really lousy edutainment games because that was all they could get for free basically.

In an effort to condense the rest let me hit some of the highlights. In 1988 we picked up a Nintendo Entertainment System as a family.

I had to share this with my sisters. Of course I had a fondness for Nintendo games but I grew to despise the hardware as mine was like most, never worked as intended. That fueled my disdain for that product line.

The Sega Years

Then in 1994 at age 12 my parents gave me a brand new Sega Genesis Model 2 bundled with Sonic 2 for my birthday. It was the best day ever. I was so happy to have a console that just, worked. I also noticed, quickly, how it had more in common with those old Atari consoles than Nintendo.

At least in terms of aesthetic design, placement of the cartridges even the design of the carts them selves. Not to mention the revelation that the controller ports were the same making them interchangeable.

Yes I tried playing MK2 on my Sega using an actual Atari 2600 joystick. In case you are calling BS because of the above mentioned Gemini.

We got rid of that thing early on shortly after getting the Nintendo and I had picked up a used Atari from a Goodwill store around 1992 or 1993. Anyways I quickly connected Atari and Sega in my mind which facilitated this bond of emotions tying them to my early childhood development.

This is only compounded by my fascination with X-Men which had a strong presence on Sega consoles on top of my absolute love of video arcades. Sega, like Atari before it, had this big arcade following on it so I equated them with the video arcade experience.

Now this is where things get dicey. I was enamored by the luster of the Nintendo 64 so I bought one on launch day. However, I ended up taking it back and using the cash refund to buy a broken drum set and an SNES with a shoe box of games from a pawn shop.

What this did was it reintroduced me to the world of Nintendo while keeping me firmly locked in the 16-bit era slightly longer than most others.

This put me in a weird position where I truly wanted to think the Genesis was better than the SNES but I started falling into the trap of believing the lies the SNES was superior. Later I came to the conclusion they are absolute equals with each having strengths and weaknesses.

Where does Sony fit in all this? As a brand I was loyal to Sony. I had a Walk Man, a Disc Man, a Sony surround sound system, XPlode amplifier and speakers in my car, the works. Even a Trinitron TV. I was all in. Except for one area. Playstation. Now that I have set the stage let me dig into how it turned into a deep hatred.

The hatred begins

Once I realized my passion was for arcade games I started to notice a shift in focus in the gaming magazines. While I was longing for a 32X add on for my Genesis to bring me even more arcade ports to my home and begging my parents to sell my baby sister to buy me a Neo Geo to have arcade perfect ports in the home, the magazines were bragging about this new fangled Playstation.

My first reaction to the name was revulsion. It sounded like a jungle gym or attraction at the county fair. Not a serious game console. This revulsion was exacerbated by my discovery that Nintendo’s success was partially credited to its mascot, Mario, and Sega’s likewise to its mascot, Sonic.

I didn’t see a break out mascot on Playstation and seeing how Atari, Colecovision, Intellivision, Neo Geo, and others had all failed I decided in my teenage mind it had to be the lack of a mascot on those platforms. Never mind the strong mascot of Bonk on TG16 having no impact one way or another, I just figured it was a fact and accepted it.

Then there were the games. Sega and Nintendo had games I knew. Mortal Kombat. Mega Man. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, etc. Playstation had, weird games like PO’d, Wipe out and Ridge Racer. Yawn. And that’s just the ones I knew about or can remember off the top of my head.

Then there was the Saturn. Despite my longing for a 32X I still accepted the Saturn was out there and fully expected it to put that Sony machine in its place. After all it would have the strong arcade ports, the mascot games and the recognizable characters like Sonic how could it fail?

Well it didn’t take me long after I bought a Sega Saturn to learn had been duped. Sure it had arcade ports but of lackluster games for the most part. The mascot games sucked, Sonic 3D Blast was a damn Genesis game with CD audio added. No thanks.

And as for the recognizable characters, Shinobi, Vectorman and Ecco the Dolphin were replaced with Bug, Clockwork Knight and Panzer Dragoon. Some quality games slipped in there and Shinobi did get, a game, on the console.

It just wasn’t the same. But I didn’t see all that as a kid. I saw Sony actively bullying Sega into going out of business basically. The day I saw a Sega title sitting on the store shelf in a PS2 package, I cringed. I lost my love for Sega and this compounded my hatred of Sony’s Playstation brand. In my mind Sony killed Sega, and Atari too, and were making it impossible for other companies to step in. I had no choice but to declare my loyalty to Nintendo and dig in.

The shift to Nintendo fanboy

But wait, let’s back it up a second. You see the Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001 basically. I bought my N64 and PS1 on the exact same day, Sept. 7, 2000. Why? Because it was my 18th birthday and I had a paycheck I earned from my very real job at the time. No more saving up allowance or mowing grass for old people.

I was in control of my gaming destiny. So I did buy myself a Playstation 1. But I did it begrudgingly and ensured I had a Nintendo the same day to stave off any chance I would convert. After all PS1 was mostly still 90s X games crap like Tony Hawks and lame Indiana Jones knock off Tomb Raider.

I wasn’t happy to lose Sega in favor of Nintendo but I made the most if it with the absolutely amazing Super Mario 64. There was one more hitch. I bought my stupid N64 late 2000. Roughly 1 year later the Big N had replaced it with the GameCube, or as it was known in the gaming community the Purple Lunchbox.

I fell for it. I sold my PS1 and N64 and took home a Nintendo GameCube. This was, of course, following a couple of years just doubling down on my 16 bit Sega and Nintendo machines I never let go of.

Thus my love of retro stuff was born and it was growing all the time. I kept feeding it. At first it was slow. I grabbed a few retro games for my newly acquired Game Boy Advance. I started with the Super Mario Advance series, a very retro Super Nintendo homage series of games.

Then I picked up Sonic Advance, Altered Beast, Gun Star Super Heroes, Mario Kart Super Circuit and then Metroid Fusion. By this time I was also getting deeper into the world of emulation. This was the time I discovered a passion for retro games that quickly turned into an obsession.

It was this time when my hatred for Playstation was at it’s peak. I despised them because they represented new ideas. New game play concepts and new ways of gaming. I wanted things to be the way they were before.

I doubled down on my Nintendo collecting. I concentrated on amassing a sizable GameCube library, over 60 games at it’s peak. This was a way for me to really cement my connection to retro games.

Even if I bought a new Nintendo game I made sure it had ties to the old stuff. I bought Mario Party, Smash Bros., Zelda, Metroid and Mario Sunshine. I even picked upo Star Fox Adventures and then I loaded up on all the compilations I could from Mega Man to Sonic and Midway down to Namco Museum.

All this time I was telling myself Nintendo represented the good in the world and Sony represented all the evil in the world. I literally convinced myself Sony was evil. Playstation was for sinners and if you were a good Christian you had to play Nintendo games. Between this, blaming Sony for the death of Sega and Atari and my continuing to embrace the 8-bit and 16-bit retro period I saw no merit to the Playstation.

What really fueled my hatred above all else was the anti-Nintendo attitude Playstation gamers held. This was compounded by the anti-Sega attitude die hard Nintendo loyalists harbored. I was an outside.

I grew up with Atari first then Sega so to Nintendo fans I was a poser. I was a Johnny come lately. Which was false. I always had an NES and then an SNES before getting my N64 and Game Cube. I just devoted more time and energy to Sega because, to me at least, they had better games.

How Blu Ray blinded me to the truth

Then things took a turn for the worse. Nintendo released the Wii at the same time Sony was pushing Blu Ray. I had been an audio file and a video file my whole life. I knew quality when I saw it.

I knew the glorious high bit rate 1080p picture quality stored on those 25GB Blu Ray discs produced a vastly superior, not slightly but truly noticeably improved product than the HD-DVD.

Somehow my twisted hatred for Sony was so thorough by this point I adopted HD-DVD and ranted constantly how stupid Blu Ray was and how anyone who bought into it was a sheep being blinded by the Sony marketing machine.

I succeeded in converting one friend to an Xbox gamer as a result, a mistake I now regret as he has become a fanboy of that brand at the expense of Nintendo loyalty.

My other friends continued to hound me to abandon the sinking Nintendo ship and join the Playstation party wagon. I found myself really hearing the hypocrisy and idiocy in my arguments for why the Wii was not just a good system but actually better than PS3 in every way.

Of course I had no problem tearing down the Windows in a Box the PC faithful were buying especially to Nintendo and Playstation gamers, at least we could rally behind that cause.

Something changed.

Remember when I told you I bought a PS1 in 2000. I did so for one game. Final Fantasy 7. That game was enough for me to put aside all the negativity I had towards Playstation and just admit that one game was great.

I eventually conceded sure the Playstation has some good games but it wasn’t the point. The evil was in everything else so I carried on the fight.

In 2009 I woke up one day and noticed my Wii was sitting there in the midst of a stack of games I was determined to use to prove it was just as good, if not better than the PS3.

Reality hit me.

Every. Single. Game. was a PS2 port! All my friends laughed at me for constantly getting excited for this “NEW” game I got on Wii they were quick to say yeah dude we played that already, years ago on Playstation. Around the time I was desperately trying to enjoy Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance on Wii, even convincing myself the game was fun because of not despite the motion controls I had a real revelation.

The tide begins to turn

I was at a friends how and I casually picked up his Xbox 360 controller and started playing Crackdown. My god I was actually having fun playing a video game again! I realized I spent so much energy crusading for Nintendo, which was weird considering I stared out disliking them, instead of just enjoying the games.

The realization was the Wii didn’t have games I enjoyed. I hated the games it had. I hated the motion controls. I hated the Virtual Console charging me money for games I already owned. I was beginning to turn on Nintendo. So I did the unthinkable. Disillusioned I sold my Wii.

This was the time I briefly, from 2010 to 2013, became a die hard PC only gamer. I dug into the world of emulation, combined it with the ever increasing piracy trap of torrents and eventually found myself throwing perfectly good money away at upgrading computers to play a game I could just stick into a console and play without all that hassle.

In 2013 I decided to give Playstation a second chance. I had finally gotten over my hatred. I was convinced I missed out on two full console generations of great games out of a stubborn belief that Nintendo would die if I didn’t convert people from the cult of Playstation to the benevolent society of Nintendo. I was a dupe. No, I was a dope.

I grabbed a PS2 in a trade deal. I took it home picked up a few games I was told were supposed to be good and, my eyes were opened. All those wonderful worlds I missed out on. But the real revelation was this, Playstation WAS Nintendo.

The best of Sega and the best of Nintendo, minus Mario and Zelda, was on Playstation. All those great retro games I grew up with and fell in love with, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Contra, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Castlevania and the list goes on and on.

Those franchises didn’t die like I had assumed since they were not on the Nintendo console. They were alive and well on Playstation. IN fact many were getting their best entries on the Sony platforms.

Once I discovered the depth of the origins of Playstation being tied to Nintendo I realized the original PS1 was the true successor to the Super Nintendo.

Nostalgia kicks in, discovery begins

I just missed it. Looking back nostalgia began to swell up but this time for Playstation. Not the games I grew up with but the games I missed in the franchises I grew up with. Oh sure I also discovered Mass Effect, God of War Jak and Dexter and even Elder Scrolls along the way the real treasure was discovering the hidden gems that actually felt like Nintendo games. All the Sega, Konami and Capcom games I missed out on.

All those Final Fantasy sequels I ignored in exchange for Crystal Chronicles. Then, things kept improving with Kingdom Hearts and Katamari Damacy.

By this time I shed my hatred for Sony and replaced it with a new found appreciation for how they actually saved not destroyed the traditional gaming I was fond of. I realized all those retro games I loved, those classic fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter were STILL fun on Playstation while non existent on Nintendo.

I learned that Sony consistently released the same Super NES inspired controller with minor improvements year after year whereas Nintendo were the ones trying to get me to fall for the odd shaped trident on the N64 that mostly hurt my hands.

Nintendo were the ones trying to convince me gaming wasn’t fun anymore because it was too complicated and I needed to “get back to basics” with overly simplified motion controls based on an obvious throw back to their NES days as a covert way to trick gamers into thinking the glory days of the NES had returned.

It was Sony all a long

What I realized was Sony had preserved the retro gaming I grew up with and allowed it to grow into the modern gaming we have today by naturally evolving with the industry and society. It was Nintendo trying to reinvent the wheel every couple of years in the hopes that people would remember how fun they were and come back.

Instead of seeing how much Nintendo failed to embrace its root they were the ones facilitating unwanted changes on the very people who clung to their brand because it was supposed to be familiar. But it wasn’t.

You had some retro stuff like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. hanging around but even Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, DK and Mario get entirely reinvented every single generation. Sure they throw a familiar New Super Mario game or a Donkey Kong Country Returns to keep you coming back with an NES Remix or Super Mario Maker as a way to trick you into thinking their library has more depth than it really does.

None of this is to say Nintendo doesn’t try new things or they deserve the hate to be shifted to them. What I realized was while Nintendo always had merits I took for granted and over inflated, Playstation likewise had its own merits I was too blind to see.

Once I bought that PS2 it was mere weeks before I bought me a PS3. Less than a year later I had a PS4 and I never looked back. To this day I have logged more hours and had more fun rediscovering games I missed on Playstation than I ever did with Nintendo.

In the end I now see Nintendo and Sony are more alike than they are different. While I can see the good, and not so good, in both, I have come to appreciate that each one brings something special to the table.

They both deserve the praise and admiration they receive from the gaming community as a whole as well as their respective devotees.

Count me as a Playstation, Nintendo, Sega and PC gamer or just call me a gamer in general and I will put those silly fanboy school yard fights in the past, where they belong, while I anxiously wait for the Playstation 5 to whisk me off to new heights of fantastic gaming experiences. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy both the PS4 and Nintendo Switch for what each one offers me. Stay Cool.

Is Britney Spears still relevant?

The first time I heard Baby…One More Time I knew I had to have that crazy popular new Britney Spears CD. From that very first moment I put my newly purchased copy into my, now dated, CD player I was mesmerized. I fell instantly in love with Britney and her style. I have always been kind of a fan of pop music to some extent but she really solidified my interest in dancing in my bedroom to her music.

Over the years Spears’s popularity has wavered some but my adoration for her has not tapered off in the slightest. When I first learned of her mental breakdown a few years ago I was genuinely distraught. Not because a celebrity I never knew was hurting but as a person who grew up with her on my TV and radio I wanted her to continue to be there to provide me familiarity and comfort. As an empathetic individual who does try to care about people I realized her pain was real for her and she was in need of help. Fortunately she received the help she needed and continued to produce music.

Last summer I learned about the #FreeBritney movement and although I am a fan of her works, I don’t pry into her personal life. For that reason I wasn’t too thrilled to have people saying if you are a true fan you have to spread the word. I will define my level of fandom thank you very much. I never cared for that word “true fan” of anything, it’s disgusting and often arrogant and always dismissive of alternative points of view. As an outside in so many ways I can assure you I hold to many alternative perspectives.

It got me to thinking recently though with the rise of new acts like Lady Gaga or even Katy Perry rise to prominence it makes me wonder if Britney Spears still holds any weight in the music industry? I have no doubts if Madonna dropped a new album tomorrow it would make some noise and garner attention. Maybe not in the way she once did but I believe Madonna still impacts the music industry and continues to influence artists to this day. I am not so sure if this is the case any more with Britney Spears. It seems like of course I am fairly out of touch with the young people. Yet I know my 14-year-old niece is at least aware of Madonna and can sing some of her songs, at least the chorus, but she said Britney Who when I asked her if Britney Spears was still popular. This kind of worried me ever so slightly. Especially considering my sister, the child’s mother, had also been a fan growing up. It told me either Britney has lost some of her star power with the younger generation, or her the same with her mother who failed to pass on that admiration to her child. I can’t begin to identify the artists my niece listens to, she never talks to me about anything personal to her not even music.

Obviously I can’t use a single anecdotal account as any sort of evidence. Thus I continue to ponder. I know internet searches would be skewed. If I type in how popular is Britney Spears website results will obviously contain references to her name. As such I doubt that would provide an organic reflection of her continued influence. A simple Google search asking top 20 pop artists of all time does bring the name Britney Spears up so I suppose there is that.

One thing I wonder is in such a fragmented world of internet memes, social media, YouTube, Spotify, etc., who does a pop mega star today cut through the noise and find their way into the lives of the youth? I mean in the 90s and before we had radio feeding us our top music hits. Beginning in the 80s and into the early 2000s we had MTV pushing music videos and music related content into our lives. It was easy for a single act to be in front of our eyes and ears constantly. I do wonder how an artist today can achieve that same uniformity? I wonder because I see big names like Jay Z and Beyonce remaining popular and they both found their success before the internet. Do children today even listen to pop stations on the radio or do they go to pop radio stations on Spotify? I suppose it would be easier to find new acts this way but I imagine it would be harder for a single act to saturate our culture yet somehow they manage to do so.

This makes me wonder if Britney Spears herself would even be popular if she came out today. Based on the prominence of Lada Gaga I could imagine a young Madonna finding success in the current pop culture. I am not so sure of a Britney. Part of her appeal was she balanced conservative ideals with modernism and a hip, sexy attitude. She flaunted her sexuality but she also held onto her mostly kid-friendly image. Of course this led to controversies over the years but that is not new in the entertainment industry.

I will never forget the first time I danced with my classmates like fools to Oops…I did it again. The music she has provided for my own enjoyment over the years has been most appreciated. I only wonder if her popularity will be like Cher was to me growing up, this old woman holding onto relevance when the young kids weren’t having it. To that I am most curious which song from her catalog will be the one kids growing up now or in the near future will recognize from Britney Spears or will attach to her identity? For me, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves is the only Cher song I know by name without looking it up. Will Baby One More Time, Toxic, If U Seek Amy or some other song will be the one future generations remember most? I don’t have a single song that I think of instantly when I think Britney Spears, she has so many I enjoy. This makes it harder. When I asked my niece if she knew Madonna she said yes. When I asked her what songs she liked she said I don’t any just her name. I wonder if Britney Spears will live on even as just a name in the cultural lexicon? Only time will tell. If Doctor Who is to  be believed she should be alright.

Disney+ has arrived, here is a quick overview and first impressions

I was skeptical at first when I heard Disney was getting into the streaming business. My first instinct was the company’s existing catalog would not contain enough content to keep me interested. Even with the prospect of all the LucasFilm and Marvel Studio’s stuff I felt it would have a hard time filling all the gaps. Things turned around slightly when I discovered Disney had finalized its purchase of 20th Century Fox and its vast back catalog of quality content. This had me optimistic the service would truly offer something for everyone. As of right now, sadly, that is not exactly the case.

First up is the interface. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. It works quite well. Polished and new yet very familiar it sports the features you would expect, a watch list, search function and category browsing. They even do the courtesy of lumping certain things together by topic, such as Disney Princesses or By the Decade. This was fine yet it made the library seem thin as each highlighted topic only focused on the most popular stuff.

Next up is the library.

This is what people care about. In terms of catalog content, there’s a little bit of everything surely to provide a good starting ground for those looking to sink their teethe into the Disney Vault. Yet, there is notably a few genres entirely lacking from the service. Horror, Science Fiction and Anime are notably scares, if non existent. I have yet to locate a single r-rated film, even from the Fox library. I searched a few I was familiar with and nothing came up. I did some digging and discovered there aren’t many, if any at all, currently scheduled to arrive either. I didn’t look too deeply but as of right now there aren’t any horror movies to speak of. Not even something as relatively tame and Disney produced as Something Wicked This Way Comes. In fact I couldn’t even find any articles online saying if the film was potentially coming or not. It could be the plan to keep the “adult” stuff like horror, anime and hard science fiction over at Hulu for the time being, which could explain the absence of those products on Disney Plus.

Being bundled with Hulu not a great way to satisfy a customer base constantly being asked to choose from streaming services. Sure, a bundle will offer a truly robust offering of quality content ranging from old animated shorts from the 1920’s up to current stuff airing on network TV today. Yet on it’s own the target market is most likely families with children and die hard Disney fans. I am neither. I am satisfied with all the Marvel animated content. As for Star Wars there is one obvious omission I felt should be there in the future, no not that terrible Holiday Special, that needs to be forgotten. I am talking about Ewoks.

Originals

Not great, not bad. I don’t care for remaking old Disney movies especially if the original is not available. Luckily in most cases if there is a remake the original is available for comparison’s sake or just posterity, which I support. Yet there were a couple of originals I did browse that caught my eye. The first is The world According to Jeff Goldblum. I gave this all of five minutes, if that, before I realized there was nothing there but an offhanded joke in some board room that was taken way to literally. Oops. Mistakes are made.

Then there is the big one everyone is sure to be talking about. The Mandalorian. This is one of those things I will devote an entire review to so all I will say now is this is the real hook of the service at this time. If you have no interest in this show but love Star Wars, I would highly recommend giving the 7-day free trial a shot just to check this out. It might be worth it to wait a week or two for a couple more episodes to be out if this is the only thing you might be interested in. However, I believe it was a highly entertaining series with fantastic movie-quality production values and the kind of Star Wars story-telling a huge fan of the Legends Expanded Universe is fond of.

Overall I give the service a B+ for its current offerings, but only if you bundle it with Hulu. Otherwise on its own merit I drop it down to a still solid but not excellent B-. I hate giving things letter grades, I prefer the star grading system for movies and video games but this felt like the best way to really convey how I felt about it currently. It has great potential. If they open the library up to R-rated movies, even PG-13 horror movies would help, they need more horror movies either way you slice it. That being said if you don’t care for horror movies at all or if you can get your horror fix from Hulu it’s worth the price of entry. It has a nice interface, decent family-friendly catalog and is priced fair for what you get, especially if you bundle with Hulu. That bundle is the catch though, without it the service has less inherent value and this could be a sticking point for some in the future, especially those who despise commercials or things expiring all the time. I did have some fun revisiting old Simpson’s and DuckTales episodes so the product has a place, at least for now, in my world. Stay Cool.

New column on the way!

Stephanie Bri is here to stay. As a result I fully intend to write a column entirely from her perspective in the near future. Obviously I’ve been letting her voice take over more lately which has been very helpful in getting me aligned properly.

It won’t mean much but what I will do is create a column just for Stephanie. It will be a combination of gaming and nerdy topic gossip, rumors and such with a mix of editorial and some fashion/cosplay advice. Basically the bitch is out of the closet and she’s going to be taking over this site. Stay Cool.

Retropalooza is next weekend: Thoughts, hopes and expectations!

Alright friends I am excited to say that next weekend I will be heading to Arlington Event Center to attend my first ever convention. I am looking forward to attending Retropalooza. I am not sure what to expect because this is my first convention but I wanted to outline my hopes ahead of time to compare this to how the actual experience turns out. This way I can see if I had realistic expectations or not.

1. Food

I am expecting this to be like any other flea market or festival I have attended which means there should be food vendors selling home made stuff right out of the food truck. I am not sure if this is a realistic expectation as I have never been to one but I am hopeful this is the case. I would love to get some street tacos made fresh on the spot.

2. Toys and games

Specifically I am thinking the vendors or sellers. I am fairly certain there will be some video game sellers. I am hopeful there will also be retro toy sellers. Specifically I am looking to dig through a big bucket or tote of random Transformers, TMNT, and GI Joe action figures, all reasonably priced I would imagine.

I am not sure what to expect but I would think there would be a sufficient variety of sellers to choose from. As for video games I have my hope list narrow down to what I will buy from a convention. Since it is a retro gaming expo I am not going to buy anything new. The newest device I would consider is a PSP because I have an overwhelming desire to get one eventually and now is as good of a time as any.

I would contemplate a Dreamcast, 3DO. 32X or Virtual Boy as those are harder to find in the wild. I thought about a Sega Saturn but that’s a pipe dream so I will lower my expectations.

3. Autographs?

I am not sure I want to buy an autograph of anyone who is attending but I might try to grab a selfie with Boogie or Wood if I can. But the real reason I am going is to have fun, meet people and maybe do some networking. I am also planning on filming some footage for a video and naturally a podcast.

4. Cosplay!

I am not sure if this is the type of convention that people normally cosplay to but if so I already have a costume purchased and ready to go. It will be my first public outing in drag as Stephanie so I am really looking forward to that. If I arrive and nobody is cosplaying then I will either feel like a fool or suck it up and stand out. Either way I am looking forward to dressing up even if nobody gets to see the costume live on scene.

5. Road trip

No matter how the day turns out it will at the very least be a nice little road trip and those are always fun. I can always use a good excuse to eat some jerky. I am not looking forward to fighting the city traffic but it’s a small price to pay for a day of fun.

That’s about all I have for now. I am hoping this experience is memorable and I can’t wait to share how it turns out. Stay Cool.

OMG I made my first public debut!

It was scary and thrilling at the same time. I put on my make up, dress and cute witches hat, sat down and recorded an entire episode of my podcast not as him but as me. It was hard. It was exciting. It was fun!

I knew someday Stephanie was going to be out. I don’t know if she will ever get to take over our life but I want to ensure she gets to be herself more than ever before. It hasn’t been easy for me getting to this point. In fact it’s been extremely tumultuous. No agonizing. No, oh there probably isn’t a word for it. Is there a word for this feeling you have doing the absolutely most terrifying soul-crushing thing that is at the same time the most liberating and soul-freeing? I don’t know whatever that word is, that’s how I felt.

I made my first full public appearance in drag on The Dark Web Podcast. I told my audience Stephanie was coming a few weeks ago. I said she is real, she is me, but she is shy. I finally began making strides towards this about a year and a half ago when I came out officially to a female friend of mine. I decided I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Ever since that day I have been slowing giving in to being more and more Stephanie each day.

I finally got to wear I am comfortable enough painting my toe nails and wearing my flip flops sans socks in public. I’ve done that two weeks in a row now and pushed past the gut-wrenching fear. I’ve slowly begun getting used to clothes shopping, although when it comes to under things well I am still overly discrete. Dresses, blouses and even skirts I can grab without too much agony but panties and bras, well I still have a ways to go.

Things are improving. But last night I sat in front of the camera and was doing so, for the first time, comfortable in my skin, comfortable with who I am and who I’ve always wanted to be.

I will be defining more what the limits of Stephanie are in the coming days and weeks. I suspect I will set some boundaries but there is a very real chance, well now that she is out she isn’t going back in so there is a chance I let her live a little and take a back seat for a while.

If this sounds confusing trust me it is for me too. It’s not like she is a voice inside my head or a separate person or anything like that. She is me, I am her. But, well I’ve had to live a certain lie, build a life around a mask. Therefore Stephanie has a right to live, and she will! But The Rat also has to manage thing for her out of necessity for the time being.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffVemmSPh2Q

Anyways, hey check out my video where I am totally rocking that cute dress I spent all friggin day shopping for. Stay Cool.

Is Star Wars toy collecting really in trouble?

The other day I was watching a YouTube video depicting the scarcity of Star Wars action figures. But the video didn’t focus on how hard items are to find, but how many where sitting in clearance bins. I was at a loss for words at first thinking this must be wrong. Then I decided to check out a few of my local toy shops. needless to say I didn’t find much at all in the way of Star Wars product on shelves, clearance or otherwise.

I have always attributed Star Wars action figure scarcity to the massive number of collectors in the world seeking a limited supply of product. At first, my explanation was simple, most other people are like me not interested in the spin off or animated stuff so naturally those toys aren’t selling. But then it occurred to me, when I was shopping for Phantom Menace stuff it was everywhere and retro stuff was hard to find. The collectors were very vocal about how they just wanted OT toys nothing from the new movie. I have felt this way myself about the Clone Wars, Rebels and other animated programs. Frankly I refuse to buy any product branded with the name Star Wars that features those designs and characters. For me, it’s obvious that is not my Star Wars.

But the animated shows remained popular as do the new Disney movies. Since the individual making the toy video I saw made really negative comments about the Disney Star Wars as a whole, indicating to me there was some bias, I decided to dismiss it as such and move on. My instinct was kids today will see this as their Star Wars and buy the toys accordingly. But I did notice something unusual. If the trend is for collectors to snatch up retro stuff and young kids to snatch up the new stuff, it would stand to reason the retro stuff would also be scarce. If, on the other hand, nobody was buying Star Wars stuff, or if the retro collectors were as they say burned out, then it would stand to reason the new stuff would be hard to get and the retro stuff would be in the clearance bins.

That was it. I decided to investigate. I didn’t come to the same conclusion as the person making the obviously biased, entirely negative video, but I did notice a trend. The stores I went to had an equal number of PT, OT, and Disney Trilogy toys for sale. The characters from the animated shows were nowhere to be found with only a few side characters from the new films available. My initial conclusion, based on this being the first day the toyline was refreshed and there was new stock in store made me question a few things.

I was shopping early in the morning. I headed to Walmart around 7:30 a.m. If the new toys were put out around say Midnight then the collectors must have camped out and picked them bone dry. All that was left were a few of the side characters I am sure nobody cared about. The one thing that stood out was the Return of the Jedi Skiff vehicle retailing for just under $40. That seemed excessive for me considering what it was. Especially since I recently picked up a decked out Rise of the TMNT Turtle Tank for about that and even a Scooby Doo 50th Birthday Mystery Van with Fred for half that price. This told me that the OT stuff still fetches a premium price tag and that the collectors were on the ball.

If there was a shortage of toys the first day it came out that doesn’t indicate to me a lack of interest, on the contrary it tells me the collectors, or at the very least scalpers, are out in full force. I will be keeping an eye on this trend now that it’s been brought to my attention. Of course, keep in mind I am only now getting back into toy collecting so my knowledge of the current landscape is fairly limited. Stay Cool.