JETFIRE. Such a unique toy and character in Transformers history. The first Autobot jet. Scientist and air guardian. The only toy licensed from the Robotech line and — when initially released — the tallest Transformer thus far. The whole thing with the licensing issues that morphed the character's cartoon name into Skyfire and genericized his animation model... Jetfire!
But in truth, whenever I think of Jetfire my first thoughts are of my grandfather. I only had the toy a year or two when I somehow broke the ratcheting in his right arm. Gun in hand, you could raise his arm to fire on the enemy in the sky, but as soon as you let go it would fall, briefly swinging pendulum-like before resting limply at his side. At my grandfather's workbench, he and I dissected and reassembled the injured shoulder, and though we could not fix the ratcheting for lack of the right parts, we were able to give it enough traction so that the Autobot scientist could keep the limb aloft.
Live in a major city and you will be forced to confront homelessness and poverty. On a daily basis you will be asked for money, either directly or through plaintive cardboard signs, by some of the most pitiable people you will ever see. Depending on the type of person you are, your reaction will range from sympathy to annoyance, concern to anger, frustration to apathy. Your general attitude will likely vary over time and even from day-to-day.
When I was 18-years-old in Washington, D.C., I met a homeless man named Piotr Lekki who became, really, one of my only friends in that town. I would buy his drawings, take him for coffee, practice my German with him, and mostly lend an ear to his insane and delusional stories about being a doctor, a king, and the Pope himself. As lonely and broke as I was, I empathized with this man and with his desperation and isolation.
When I moved to New York City, I actually had friends and a life, though I was even more broke. The upturn in my social life and my inability to give away any money at all, combined with the sheer overwhelming size of an even more desperate homeless population, fostered an apologetic "sorry, man" response that persisted for a decade. What's the point in sparing my few precious coins when it won't even make the barest dent in an obviously unsolvable problem?
Then I moved to Portland, without question a kinder city, which attracts and fosters a general populace that is friendlier and more considerate. The amount of people on the street asking for money were far less than in New York City, and most of them were of the silent, cardboard sign variety. My income was also more substantial and I started being more willing to give out a dollar here and there. I frequently bought copies of Street Roots, the local paper advocating for (and usually sold by) the homeless population. I started donating to the local mission and asked others to do so as well.
But... with time, as the monotony of the homeless presence persisted and even increased, and after several incidents of being deceived and disappointed, my acceptance and empathy began to wither. If I saw someone sitting on a corner with a sign, I avoided that corner. I started saying "sorry, man" to the Street Roots vendors. I looked the other way, but all the while I kept wrestling with my guilt.
As an atheist, I have no fear of Hell or the Devil any more than I might fear the wrath of God. Neither threat is real. However, like many teenagers who rebelled against their mostly-Christian family and community, I took a certain delight in playing the advocate for Our Father Below. What started out as simple rascally fun grew more sophisticated as I got older. I enjoyed studying, discussing and defending the Devil. In William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, I saw wisdom in the "Proverbs of Hell" such as "The cut worm forgives the plow." In John Milton's Paradise Lost, when Lucifer says, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven," I related to his preference for freedom and independence over heavenly comforts. In The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey describes a philosophy of humanism and pragmatism that resonates strongly with me.
For instance, several of the "Seven Deadly Sins" are instrumental to my psychological make-up: greed, envy and lust keep me motivated to always achieve more; wrath can be a wonderfully motivating emotion; and pride, well... pride is my backbone, the pillar of resolve and driving force that makes everything else in my life happen. Calling these things "sins" is short-sighted. How can one have honor without a sense of pride? Where would romantic love be without lust? How can we celebrate life without a little gluttony? What others might call "sins" I call "living."
The Devil and I see eye-to-eye, you see. You might even call me an atheistic satanist.
There's no question I've been horribly delinquent in updating this blog. I've been really focused on my band, social obligations, house stuff, etc. Still, I'm averaging less than one posting per month for 2013, and I should really do better than that. I have things to talk about, both Transformers-related and personal! I just haven't been in the mindset to talk about them.
In the interim, to tide you over, let me present this video by Romain Revert that features box art from this site. It is short but sweet. Other people have created montages of the box art, but somehow for me those montages always served to reinforce the unavoidably static nature of the images: individually they seem dynamic, but grouped they inexplicably seem frozen in time. This video doesn't suffer from that. Enjoy:
Isn't it amazing how much personal technology has advanced in just the last 10 years?
For example, back in January 2005 when I hit my head on the sharp corner of a low-hanging aluminum awning while walking down the street on my way to work, this is the best picture we could get using our digital camera of the two staples the emergency room doctor put in my scalp:
I've spoken before about my great love for BLACK SABBATH, how I discovered them, and why their sixth album, Sabotage, is my favorite album of all time. They are my bedrock, my musical foundation, and directly or indirectly continue to inform all the music I make.
Imagine, if you will, finding a band that you quickly realize is your favorite band of all time... and that they had made their last album 12 years earlier. Their body of work was finite. Yes, I could listen to these albums over and over my entire life... but they would never change. No more surprises. Like an ancient holy tome, you could try finding some previously unnoticed nuance or detail, but The End had already been written and there would be no sequel. As a 16-year-old Sabbath neophyte, I remember gradually acquiring the 8 albums of the original line-up and eagerly popping each one into the cassette player for that irreproducible first listen. Those sirens of "War Pigs" that begin Paranoid; the coughing that abruptly starts "Sweet Leaf" and Master of Reality; the rain, thunder and tolling bells of "Black Sabbath", their signature song that opens their first album... That was 20 years ago. I would never have that "first listen" feeling again.
After our aborted attempt to buy a house back in 2009, Dollface and I settled very comfortably back into enjoying our fabulous apartment. Spacious, stylish, comfortable and centrally located in one of the coolest sections of Portland, there was very little not to love about the place. However, after several years of rent increases, I was becoming increasingly aware that renting builds no equity and is essentially throwing money away. Additionally we were fed up with having a landlord and upstairs/downstairs neighbors to consider. It was time to start searching again.
Turns out that on our first and only day of touring various available houses, after about ten unsuitable locations we happened to find a house that felt about as close to perfect as we were going to get. To make a long story short, in a whirlwind 2 months we negotiated, inspected, repaired, bought the place, painted and moved in. It's now six weeks later and, having finally resolved all the top home-making priorities and settled in, I feel I can now break my blogging and social media silence to reflect on the whole experience.
Elections in Oregon are done through the mail, so I've already voted and can tell you who my choice was for President of United States: Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, who is the Libertarian Party candidate.
I voted for him because I agree with him more closely on the political issues of the day than any other candidate:
I haven't been blogging as much, I know. I've been busy. With stuff. All of which I will tell you about right now. (If you care about my personal life, there's a lot about that to follow. If you only care about Transformers, skip down to the pictures below.)
Notably, Dollface and I flew to the east coast for my brother's wedding. Which I officiated. (I've done it before.) Except this time I was mercilessly hungover. Don't worry, the attendees couldn't tell. Everything went off without a hitch, no one could see my suffering. This time, instead of memorizing the service -- which included writing their vows and lots "they've already been together eleven years" humor -- I read it off my Android phone. Welcome to the future.
We threw a bachelor party yesterday for my good friend Ted. As the guitarist for my previous band and the bassist for my current one, Ted is the friend I've known the longest in Portland. He's a funny and generous guy and everyone likes him. In the absence of a best man for his imminent nuptials, I took it upon myself to organize his last hurrah of bachelorhood (if you can consider someone who lives with his girlfriend and their two daughters a bachelor). This was, I think, the third bachelor party I've organized. I'm well-suited to the task, which combines my keen organizational skills with my lifestyle of debauchery and youthful abandon.
First, we shot handguns at The Place To Shoot because shooting guns is manly and fucking awesome. I preferred the .38 revolver over the semi-automatics, but at the end everyone also got to take a shot with the biggest handgun in the place, a .454 revolver that we dubbed "The Hand-Cannon." Easily the loudest gun in the place with the most kick, this thing was so powerful that people standing behind the shooter could feel a breeze. Here's Shawn at the moment the hammer hits the bullet: