Category Archives: Washington

More Than Meets The Eye!

When I was much younger my little brother Abe and I would wake up very early on Saturday mornings, when the house was still and our parents were asleep, so we could watch cartoons. We would tiptoe downstairs from our rooms and we would help each other get some breakfast cereal. Ghostbusters or S’Mores Crunch where our favorites at the time. We would then carefully walk out into the living room so we would not spill a drop of milk. In the living room we would sit on the floor with our cereal bowls in our laps and turn on the TV.

My brother and I would watched all kinds of cartoons on those Saturday mornings. He-Man, Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Dinoriders, Thundercats, Scooby Doo, Go-Bots, Voltron, The Smurfs, etc. But The Transformers were all I really wanted to watch. At the time it felt like a cartoon for big kids with all the transforming they did and adult issues they had to deal with like oil rigs and dams being under attack from the evil Decepticons.

When the Saturday morning Cartoons where over my brother and I would often play with our Legos, He-Man and the few Transformers toys we had in the living room. I always felt inspired after watching The Transformers to make some pretty fantastic things with our Lego blocks.

In grade school, I don’t remember a time when The Transformers wasn’t on TV. That didn’t happen until I was older. When I was younger, I could count on my mother to pack my school lunch in my red metal Transformers lunch box. I could count on the fact that when I came home from school and turned on the TV, I could catch an episode of The Transformers before my dad got home from work.

The Constructions along with their combined form of Devastator.

Between my younger brother and myself we had a couple of the transformers toys. My brother was a fan of the bad guys because he thought they looked cooler. I recall him having Galvatron and some of the Insecticons. I remember at one Christmas in the 80s we got the Constructicons which combined to form the mighty Devastator! I recall getting Ultra Magnus, and Cliffjumper, but past that my memory has faded somewhat. I know we both had other Transformers toys, but those memories are lost to time.
As I grew older, I continued to be a huge fan of The Transformers. I just wasn’t old enough to be able to afford the couple of toys or VHS tapes I would see randomly at K-mart or used stores. By then the time to acquire Transformers toys and other memorabilia was fading away fast for me. And I knew it. And it was sad.

Hasbro had stop producing new Transformers cartoons and toys. The Marvel comics also stopped and a whole generation of kids that grew up on this we’re left asking themselves, “What The Fuck?”.

At some point in my very early teenage years of life, I started to get a weekly five dollar allowance from my mom. At first I would spend the money on stuff like candy, or if I saved up, a CD. You know, things that didn’t really matter a whole lot. That is, until I walked into my first ever comic book store.

Stamp and Coin Place in Mt. Vernon, Washington

The Stamp & Coin Place in Mt. Vernon, Washington was a treasure trove of comics books, coins, baseball cards, football cards and stamps. When you walk into the store for the first time you are overcome by the smell of old paper. It was the smell of old comic books and cards. It’s quite overwhelming.

As you enter the store and immediately on your left was a rack of the latest comics that had come in. On the left and right side of of the new comics rack where boxes and boxes of old back issue comic books. These boxes were stacked on the floor and on tables. For a kid the sight is breathtaking and I think the first time I entered The Stamp & Coin Place, I just stood there for a moment taking it all in.

Once I caught my breath, I went over to the first box labeled “A”. I could tell the boxes were sorted alphabetically. I took the lid off the first long white box and started to finger my way through the mylar wrapped and boarded comics. I knew then that five dollars a week was not going to be enough and I would have to see if I could talk my mom into giving me a raise in my weekly allowance.

Marvel’s Transformers Comic Book #1. 1984

As I went through the boxes of comics I pulled out ones that looked cool to me. Some random Batman books, G.I. Joe, and Star Trek. But then I hit the ‘T’s and I thought to myself, could there be? My fingers began to fly through the books in the ‘T’ box. I was just over halfway through, my hope fading, when I saw it and I paused. I just stood there holding my breath. Then, I slowly pulled it out from the box to get a better look at the whole thing. It was the very first issue of Marvel Comic’s Transformers!

I just stood there holding it in my hands in total awe like I had just discovered the holy grail itself.

I know, right?

I knew right away that the other comic books I had pulled out would be going right back where they came from. This comic book had to me mine!

If my memory serves me correctly the price they had labeled on the mylar bag for this book was two or three dollars. I was able to pick up this first issue along with two or three more Transformers comic books. I can’t really recall which ones they were. I was so overwhelmed at the time that I was holding issue number one of the Transformers that I just couldn’t believe my luck.

That night I read through Transformers number one, slowly. Taking it all in and feeling the joy I had when I used to watch the show on Saturday mornings with my brother. Until I got my own job my brother and I would go down to the Stamp & Coin Place every Friday and pick up more comics with our five dollar allowance. After a few years I eventually bought the place out of every Transformers comic book they had. I was maybe 30 books shy of a complete set.

In The 1980s My Hero Was A Truck! (Optimus Prime)

Now as an adult, I have been lucky enough to afford the toys and DVDs. I have also recently been able to complete the original Marvel Transformers and comic book run that I was not able to as a kid. I finally got the Optimus Prime and Blaster actions figures I always wanted. I have the entire cartoon series on DVD that I hope one day to share with my kids.

The Transformers mean a lot to me and I hope that you will stick around for my next series of posts as talk about Transformers Comic Book Continuity, how you can tell the difference between first, second and third printings of a comic book. The difference between comics bought at a comic book shop or on a news stand. What is a comic book worth. How to properly mail comic books. What a CGC graded comic book is. And how to acquire the original 80 issues of Marvel Comic’s Transformers off of ebay.

I will also be reread the original transformers comic books, rewatching the original cartoon series and just geeking out on the stories and the memories they bring back. If you want to follow along with me you can pick up newer printings of the original comics and cartoon by following the links below.

Transformers Comics

Transformers TV Cartoon

October

The Juneau summer this year was not the warmest or the sunniest I have ever experienced since moving to Alaska. They all can’t be winners when you live in the middle of a rain forest.

As fall hits us with a shock the weather has turned cold and the air has become very dry. At the start of October people have had to start waking up earlier than normal to make sure their cars are defrosted and warmed up for the morning drive into work. Before the month was out we got our first real snow fall that dusted the landscape like sugar.

With all the recent cold weather, and the daily continuing loss of sunlight that comes with living this far north, we have had some bright spots too. Most notably is that during the daylight hours we do have they have been bright and sunny. Hannah and I have managed to go for some walks after work all bundled up and trying to soak up some of that natural vitamin D from the sun. We are lucky enough to live really close to a park with a lake, so its easy for us to walk out our front door and down to the lake where we walk the length of it and back.

October is also the month I was born in and Hannah put together a nice little party with some good friends. Some of which flew all the way in from southern Washington State. It turned out to be a great weekend that I don’t think I am going to ever forget.

Halloween is also in October, so of course we carved out some pumpkins and turned them into some great looking Jack-o-lanterns. My brother Abe came over and the three of us took to work on four pumpkins. This is the second or third time since I have lived up here that I recall it snowing when we set our Jack-o-lanterns outside.

Dead Or Alive

In 2001, I found myself living in Oak Harbor, Washington with a good friend and roommate, Brannon. We were just two poor guys simply working for the weekend and enjoy the time we had with our friends and playing music. We were each involved in our own band and both had a decent following for the town we lived in.

When we weren’t working or practicing music the two of us would watch movies a lot of the time. I could tell you a funny story of when we both saw ‘The Ring’ for the first time,

As you could imagine after a while our lives turned into a routine and got very dull because we were both so broke most of the time.

  1. Get up
  2. Go to work
  3. Come home
  4. Make dinner
  5. Watch a Movie
  6. Go to bed
  7. Repeat.

So what were two poor guys to in order to break up the monotony of our everyday lives? At some point in 2001, I got to play a copy of Dead or Alive 3 at a friends house and I absolutely fell in love with that game. Not since the original Quake had a video game gripped me so completely and took over my every free thought.

The game’s graphics were amazingly sharp. The fighting was lighting fast. The fastest I have seen in any video game ever or since. But most importantly it was fun. One didn’t need to know what every single button on the controller did to be able to control your character and win a game. Of course knowing what the buttons did does help, but a novice at the time could pick up a controller, quickly figure things out and win their first game.

Video games were often a topic of discussion between Brannon and I. He read issues of gaming magazines and I would read about games online. We would often talk about new games that were coming out or talk about game reviews each other had read.

So, it is understandable that by October/November of 2001 we were both lusting after an Xbox and the newly released Dead Or Alive 3. This was compounded by the fact that Blockbuster Video at the time was running a special. Something like, buy a Microsoft Xbox and get a second controller free, or something like that.

At the time, and still to this day, I have not been a fan of Microsoft. I was not sure how I was going to justify to myself buying a Microsoft console. It was not like Dead Or Alive 3 was available for the PlayStation 2. I did some more reading and learned that Microsoft was losing money on every Xbox unit they sold. That’s right. Microsoft was charging less for the Xbox console then it cost them to make it. So by buying an Xbox, Microsoft was not making any money off of me. So how were they making money? On the games. They sold developers tools for building games that would run on the Xbox and Microsoft made some money on every copy of Xbox games sold because they had been built using their tools. I had read that the developers of Dead Or Alive did not use Microsoft’s proprietary development tools to build the Dead Or Alive game. Rather, they used their own tools to make the game. This cut Microsoft out of any revenue from this game. In doing this, in buying a console and game that Microsoft would not benefit from, I felt a little less like a hypocrite for buying an Xbox and Dead Or Alive.

Back to the main story.

Together one Friday, Brannon and I pulled our limited resources together, drove to Blockbuster to purchased an Xbox with the extra free controller and a copy of Dead Or Alive 3. We brought the console home, hooked everything up and proceed to spend the whole weekend taking turns playing through story mode and playing against each other in this virtual hand to hand combat fighter. Save for driving out to Jack In the Box for food, I don’t believe either of us left the apartment that entire weekend. Friends would come and go throughout the weekend and find the two of us sitting in the exact same spot. Time well spent if you ask me. Even if Brannon kicked my ass whole damn time. I can’t help but think that is a testament to how good a game is. That it does not matter how much you win or lose. You still enjoy playing it.

Now, eleven years later (My God, Really?!?) and new Dead or Alive has been released. Dead Or Alive 5. This time, I got it for the PlayStation 3. The graphics are better. The levels are more detailed. But everything I loved about the game so many years ago has remained the same. It has one of the best training tutorials I have ever used in a video game. I am really having a blast with this.

Getting Ready For PAX 2012

Another year and another Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) approaches quickly. My wife and I, along with our good friend Lyle, have been attending PAX in Seattle for the last two years and this year will be our 3rd. I am really looking forward to getting out of Juneau for a few days and enjoying all that this gaming expo has to offer.

This year, I am going to do my best to just enjoy the experience and have as much fun as possible. In part this means bringing as little as I can possibly stand to bring with me to Seattle. In years past I have brought laptops, cameras, and lots of clothing. This year, I want leave most of that garbage at home and just focus on enjoying the experience and the time with my friend and wife. So, I am leaving my laptop and camera. I plan to take as few clothing items as I can for the three day event and my iPhone to take photos and stay connected to the Internet and a couple of cigars for Lyle and myself.

With tens of thousands of people heading to seattle for PAX, the cell networks can get quite bogged down with that many mobile devices located in such a small space. In years past it has been almost impossible to post to updates to twitter. I am hoping things will have improved this year because I would really like to post updates and images to my Google+ account from the expo.

Ice Road Juneau

Snowy Juneau plowsThe snow has really been coming down on us this year. It is safe to say that the city and borough of Juneau, Alaska has forgone any responsibility toward keeping our roads safe to drive on.

I can understand a place like Seattle not keeping their roads clear of snow an ice. Weather conditions like the ones they have recently suffered, have been dubbed SnowPocalypse or SnowMageddon, are not a daily, monthly, or even yearly occurrence. They are just as random as achieving a critical hit in Dungeons & Dragons. So I can let places like Seattle slide on having bad to unsafe road conditions every few years. It’s hard for a city to justify having plow trucks for a meteorological even that happens randomly and lasts for such a short time.

A place like Juneau, Alaska on the other hand is much harder for me to forgive. The city and state know that each year it is going to snow. They know each year what the roads are going to be like. Yet, for some reason this year they do not seem to be taking the task seriously.

snowy JuneauIn years past I could rarely drive down any road in Juneau and not see a city plow truck scraping snow and ice off of the streets during the winter. This year it has been a rare occurrence that I have seen a city plow truck and when I do they are not scraping the streets as they plow the snow. This has resulted just about every road in Juneau is covered in ice. Everyday that I have driven to work or driven home in the last several weeks I have seen a car accident of one kind or another.

What is more astonishing to me is that it is currently January, almost February now, and the city has still done nothing to correct this behavior. Even after citizens have complained. Sadly, I think it is going to take a vehicle accident involving some kind of official for them to step up their responsibilities to normal levels.

Root For The Bad Guy

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a great band located in Oak Harbor, Washington that went by the name of Wearing Black. My own band at the time, Kira’s Modern Mourning, was occasionally lucky enough to play gigs with them in and around the Oak Harbor area.

Wearing Black originally consisted of two acoustic guitar players and an electric bass player. Their music was amazing and it was guaranteed that whatever venue they where playing at, they would fill it up.

‘Root For The Bad Guy’ was one of Wearing Black’s’ popular songs. People at the time loved to hear it and would sing along with the band when they played it. The song is an anthem to all evil doers and bad guy in fictional genres.

The band eventually disbanded leaving only a few recorded songs on-line for their fans. About a year after the band broke up it’s lead singer and guitar player, Saul Nathaniel McCartney, recorded a solo version of ‘Root For The Bad Guy’. Well, I really liked the song a lot. So, over the last 8 months I worked on a type of music video for it and uploaded it to YouTube. I hope you all enjoy it.

My Top 4 Favorite Movies To Watch In October

4. The Ring

I first saw this film in the early 2000s when I lived in Oak Harbor, Washington with my roommate Brannon. One night randomly he brought home ‘The Ring’ and we both gathered on the couch in the living room to watch it.

We knew it was a scary movie, but it had been so long since either of us had been scared by a movie that we didn’t expect this film to change that. With the lights on and sodas in hands we both sat watching this film.

Because this film is older I don’t feel bad talking about parts of the film. The story is  about this weird short film that is floating around. If you watch it you will get a phone call as soon as the movie is over. The voice on the line will tell you that you have seven days to live. So people that saw the film die after seven days.

At the end of the film during one of the climactic scene the phone rings. At that exact same moment my cell phone rang and Brannon and I both jump up from the couch screaming.

It took a second for us to realize what was going on. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and answered it like this, “You fucking scared the shit out of us! What the fuck is wrong with you! Fuck!”

On the other end of the line I heard my friend Chris say, “What? Are you watching the ‘Ring’?

“Ok, That is just eerie.” I said. “I am going to call you back.”

I hung up the phone. Brannon and I got new drinks and after several minutes of nervous laughter about the whole thing we went back to the couch and finished the ‘Ring’.

3. Trick ‘r Treat

This is just a great Halloween movie. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. It reminds me of ‘Pulp Fiction’ with the way the story time is out-of-order. I really think this is a sleeper hit that will end up as a classic.

2. Donnie Darko

The first time I saw this film was in the mid 2000s with a group of friends in an old run down theater in Bellingham Washington. It was the first showing of the extended directors cut. I was blown away by this movie.

1. The Crow

I don’t remember the first time I saw this movie sadly. I remember friends of mine who were obsessed with it in high school. I believe it was through their talking about it that I bought my first copy of ‘The Crow’ several years later.

It’s great! It’s a love story and I am a sucker for a good love story.