When I was six, all I wanted was a Transformer. My family had moved from the small coastal town of Port Macquarie to the big smoke, Sydney. I’d been dropped into a new school which had concrete basketball courts instead of grassy fields and tall black buildings crowding the sky around it. I had no friends. The cool kids at school belonged to an exclusive group and to gain access to this group all you needed was one thing.

A Transformer toy.

I wasn’t that familiar with Transformers – in Port Macquarie, He-Man was the action figure of choice – but if I was to stand any chance of making new friends I needed to get my hands on one.

So I began to petition my parents. It didn’t matter which toy they bought – Optimus, Megatron, Soundwave, Decepticon or Autobot – as long as it was a transformer I was as good as accepted. I’d be a cool kid, privy to all the things cool kids are privy to. I’d have friends.

Unfortunately, money was tight and those Transformer toys weren’t cheap so my parents got me the next best thing.

A GoBot.
Not a Transformer. A GoBot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the GoBots they were essentially cheap Transformer knock-offs. They were smaller, had fewer moving parts – in fact, no moving parts – and starred in a shoddier animated cartoon. I knew my GoBot wouldn’t cut it with the other kids. Not in its current version at least…

I formed a plan.

The next morning I manage to get my hands on one of the other kid’s transformer toys. When they weren’t looking I scraped off the Decepticon sticker and placed it on my GoBot. There. I now had my very own Transformer.

At lunchtime I sidled up to the cool kids club proudly brandishing my re-branded GoBot. Surely, they’d accept me now. I was one of them. I had the Transformer to prove it. Sure my Transformer was a little smaller than theirs and didn’t have as many moving parts but it was a robot that transformed into a car. It transformed dammit! That was the important thing.

The questions began almost immediately.

Who is this? What’s his name? How come we’ve never seen him on the cartoon? Why doesn’t he appear in the figure library at the back?

I had not expected this interrogation and my answers were stuttering and feeble. Before long I was cast out of the group, ridiculed for trying to pass myself off as one of them when clearly I was inferior, or, at least my toy was. I was alone.
Time passed, I grew older and my Transformer-related wounds healed, though if anyone ever mentioned the GoBots (which mercifully rarely happened) I would develop a tic in my eye.

This past Saturday my boy, Bailey, had his fourth birthday party. He received a total of three transformer toys to play with – Soundwave, Megatron and Bumblebee. We spent the afternoon playing with them. It might have taken thirty-years or so but I’d finally made it into the cool kids club.

MOVIES

The Disaster Artist
Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is a singular work of madness. Often celebrated as the worst movie ever made, the film isn’t so bad as much as it feels essayed from an alien dimension. You could saddle a million filmmakers with the same plot and budget and I’d wager not one would be able to replicate the beautiful wrongness of Wiseau’s creative decisions. James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is a loving tribute to Wiseau’s folly that errs a little too closely to an extended comedy skit for my liking, but ultimately contains enough heart and insight to earn a recommendation.

TV

Stranger Things
My wife and I inhaled the first season of Stranger Things over the course of a week. We both loved it. The mixture of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg worked like gangbusters and there was no reason the second season wouldn’t soar as well.

Except it didn’t.

The first episode though was a little slow out of the gate. As was the second. My wife, quick to judge, decided she wasn’t interested in watching any more episodes. I understood why. All the right elements were there – great cast, assured direction – but the story engine wasn’t as compelling this time around. What was fresh before felt stale, now.

Over the next few months, I watched the odd episode here and there and finally finished it this past weekend. The last two episodes managed to kick up some sparks of excitement and the climax was suitably rousing. Ultimately, I was left satisfied – satisfied, but not wanting more. I understand a Season Three is planned and only hope the Duffer Brothers, creative masterminds behind Stranger Things, try something new. I’ve seen enough of the Upside Down’s Demogorgon and Demodogs for now.

Black Mirror
After the thrilling premiere episode, USS Callister, I thought maybe the fourth season of Black Mirror might give us a slightly different Charlie Brooker. While there was no shortage of darkness in the episode’s study of toxic fandom and masculinity, the end note seemed – at least when compared to the rest of the series – uncharacteristically optimistic.

And then I watched episode two which was grim and upsetting followed by episode three which was relentlessly bleak and left me sickened by the violence on display. Yep, I thought, this is the Black Mirror I know and love (fear).

It was with no small amount of trepidation, I queued up episode four, convinced Brooker was going to sucker punch me at any moment. He didn’t and the episode is a romantic delight. Episode five was a solid Terminator riff.

With one episode to go, I have recalibrated my expectations somewhere between hoping for something thought-provoking and imaginative, allowing for the possibility of being cast into a spiraling depression. Either way, Black Mirror remains one of the most consistently challenging and creatively daring shows on offer. We should be grateful for Charlie Brooker as much as we should be terrified of him.

G.L.O.W
Netflix’s take on the birth of female wrestling is a breezy watch. Allison Brie plays a refreshingly unsympathetic character and Marc Maron is solid. It’s perfectly fine but by no means essential.

GAMES

DOOM
I had a literal and figurative blast playing and finishing DOOM. It’s the perfect game for a sleepy dad who wants to indulge in a bit of ultra-demon-killing-violence before he goes to bed.

InFamous: Second Son
A free game, compliments of my PlayStation Plus membership, and a pleasant surprise. Having never played any of the previous games in the series I was intrigued by the mythology and dug the mechanics. This game could form the basis for a cool tv series. Extra points for closing out the Seattle-based game with a sweet cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box.

MUSIC

V, The Horrors
Darkly lush synthetic rock. Kind of like Disintegration-era The Cure. Good music to write to.

That’s all for this week. If anyone needs me I’ll be playing with Soundwave.

Take care,

M.J.

Sign up to my newsletter

Never miss a post by entering your email address below. I promise you won't be spammed because, to be honest, I don't have a whole lot of content to spam you with. Maybe you'll hear from me once a week. More likely, once a month.