Thirty Years of the Transformers – And the Cars That Make Them Believable

Up until this point, Franksaurus has been a one-dinosaur show, but all that changes today as we welcome our friend Chris to the space. We like nostalgia around here. If you were a kid growing up in the 80s, you will appreciate the Transformers nostalgia in Chris’ post. If you are a car enthusiast, you’ll like that aspect of the discussion. And if you think Michael Bay ruins everything good about your childhood, then please, read on. 

To those of us possessing a passing understanding of the term “trilogy” it came as a bit of a surprise when Michael Bay confirmed that he was on board with and beginning development on a fourth installment of the Transformers movie franchise (though it appears someone has apprised him of that error). The result will defile movie screens later this summer and, no doubt, rake in obscene amounts of money (and it is entirely fair to note that some of that money will be mine).

Lost in this somewhat dubious future, however, is a little bit of history: 2014 also marks 30 years since the debut of the original Transformers animated series here in the U.S. We already know how Bay will commemorate the occasion: an orgy of violence and explosions, accompanied by a healthy dose of not-so-subtle implication that most of those watching don’t understand the true meaning of self-sacrifice and inner strength (traits which, by the way, we can apparently learn through close observation of John Voight), and topped off with a light sprinkling of gratuitous boob bouncing and casual sex references (the just reward to those young men who do know the aforementioned virtues).

To some of us, though, this is not the Transformers we grew up with. Through the relentless violent pounding of modern movie-making, the old sense of simple imagination has gotten lost since ’84. I could spend hours detailing each affront, but I would rather take a moment and talk a little, not about what is wrong now, but rather what makes those early cartoons so great to me, even as an adult. Continue reading

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Why Billy Joel is the Best Storyteller [With Book Recommendations!]

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A few months back, I had the rare occasion to be channel surfing (I hardly ever do this, as I usually only turn my TV on when there’s something specific that I want to watch). Showtime was airing a documentary called A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia and it was all about Billy Joel’s tour of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Far from being merely a “tour diary” though, the documentary examined the difficulties involved in taking the tour to the USSR and what it meant that Billy Joel was willing to take his then-wife, Christie Brinkley, and young daughter Alexa along with him amid all the tensions between the US and USSR. Brinkley was interviewed, as well as the band members who accompanied Billy Joel, and they talked about the tour and its place in history in the context of the Cold War. It was fascinating to a pop culture junkie with a music problem (like me).

Listening to Billy Joel tell the story of what inspired the song “Leningrad” got me thinking about why it is that basically everyone likes Billy Joel (especially people from New York, who rabidly adore him). There really aren’t a whole lot of singer-songwriters who have been able to bridge generations the way Billy Joel has, after all. The answer was one that seemed so simple, but was (at least for me) overlooked:

Billy Joel is an amazing storyteller.

And I don’t just mean in documentaries or during concerts. I mean that his music actually tells stories. He writes about subject matter that resonates with real people instead of just lots and lots of love songs (to be fair, he has a number of those as well, but I find his more tolerable than others).

The reader and writer in me is particularly drawn to some of those songs that tell stories that you just don’t hear on the radio. They’re working class stories. Regional stories. Life stories. Some writers can only write what they know. Billy Joel is one of those writers who is good at telling stories beyond his own experience, as well. This is very difficult to do (think about books you’ve read where the writer just couldn’t pull off the different perspective and it seemed contrived).

Of course, then I started thinking, “Well, if you like this Billy Joel song, you might like this book….” So I want to talk a little about some of the storytelling that makes Billy Joel’s music so appealing and relatable. Please note that there aren’t book recommendations for all of these, and of the recs given, I haven’t read all of them. Some of them are just based on my understanding of the book, which could certainly be incorrect. Feel free to leave kind rebuttals in the comments. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Bob Seger, Re: “Old Time Rock and Roll” (cc: Every Wedding DJ Everywhere)

Hey there, Bob,

How’ve you been? I hope well. As for me, I’ve been very busy — moving, working, settling into a new place, and it’s summer, so we’re well into Wedding Season now. While 2008 was my biggest year by far for attending weddings, several of my friends are getting married this year, and I can’t help but to remember why I really kind of hate wedding receptions.

I’m going to be frank with you, Bob. It’s because of “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

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11 Dysfunctional Toasts for Thanksgiving

It’s unclear to me why someone took this picture, but it’s kind of perfect for my purposes here! (Image via MorgueFile)

When I was in college, one of the school’s traditions was to hold a big Thanksgiving dinner the Thursday before Thanksgiving. You signed up for a table with your friends, and when you got to the dining hall, it was transformed into something magical and fancy (read: the tables had linens). Each table got its own turkey and all the dressings, and had a professor or two assigned to it. Those professors would serve you dinner. Such a great tradition.

It was over one of these dinners that a friend told me one of the Thanksgiving traditions in her house, and it’s one of the greatest I’ve ever heard. Every year they go around the table and toast to something dysfunctional (that year it happened to be Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson’s failed marriage). Every year I want to make this a tradition in my house. But we don’t have traditions here. We’re savages.

I was going to write a “things for which I’m profoundly thankful” post like everyone else because… well, there are a lot of things for which I am profoundly thankful (my family and friends, a job I love, and the fact that my parents still allow me to live in their house for free even though my dad hasn’t seen the inside of his garage since I had to move back almost five years ago… but I digress).

Instead of doing that, I want to offer you a more humorous alternative to the traditional toast of gratitude. So if you’re going around the table and you want to toast to something other than good health, here are a few toasts that I’m proposing.

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An Open Note to Mother Nature, RE: Snow in April

Dear Mother Nature,

I woke up today to discover that Facebook was flipping out over some snow that we in western and western-central Pennsylvania are supposed to get between tonight and tomorrow night. I figured it was just people being dramatic about some flurries, but no.

No, Mother Nature, it looks like you’re sending us some actual snow. More snow than we saw all winter long. In fact, in my particular neck of the woods, we could see anywhere from 5-10 inches.

Now I’m not going to lie to you. The prospect of losing power and being forced to lie on the couch or in my bed reading all day is really tempting. My blood pressure would certainly be grateful. Then I think about the anxiety that I will experience as a result of having to make up all of that work, and my chest starts to hurt.

You know how I feel about shoes, too. I hate them. I don’t like things covering my feet, which is why my flip-flop season begins in February and ends in the beginning of December. This also provides me with excuses to get pedicures. I was going to get one this week. I’m sure it will look great in my snow boots.

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No, It’s True. I’m Actually That Neurotic: Vol. 1

You know those things that make you incredibly anxious, although you aren’t totally sure why? Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me and my awesome trifecta of depression, anxiety, and OCD. Anyway, I sometimes find myself having weird thoughts or reactions to certain information or events. And a lot of times, when I can step outside myself for a minute, it’s funny.

Funny in that “Drop-your-shoulders-sigh-give-half-a-chuckle-and-shake-your-head” kind of way.

It’s like that thing Phil Collins said. S-s-sudio. I don’t care anymore.

I figure that I might as well just start embracing it, you know?

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Frank Thanks: 30 Days of Gratitude in One Blog Post

Bonjour, readers. I’ve been insanely busy lately, and I’ve been trying to find some time to post this.

There’s a meme going around Facebook this month where, every day, you list something for which you’re thankful in honor of Thanksgiving here in the US. Admittedly, I’ve been feeling kind of down lately, and I just know that thinking about all the good things I have and for which I am grateful will be very good for me. Numbers correspond to dates (so #1 is Nov. 1). Some days are represented by very specific things, while others are broad. Ready, pilgrim?

(Sorry, I was just imitating John Wayne.)

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Love Story: An English Major’s Nightmare

I’ve spent a lot of time reading in my life. In elementary school, I pretty much ignored peers and teachers alike because my nose was always stuck in a book that I kept just inside my desk for when I finished my work before everyone else. I started reading chapter books in first grade, and by third grade, I was already reading on an eighth or ninth grade level (according to those awesome CTBS tests). I love books. I love the look of them, the smell, the atmosphere they bring, the escape, and the knowledge. I just love them.

And that is why I hate when people screw up classic stories.

Okay, yes. I’m going to write my first real post on how the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift drives me absolutely insane. Now, I’ve recently grown fond of Taylor. I tried really hard not to, but then I finally just had to admit that I really like some of her stuff. She’s talented and funny and she’s so darn cute. And people who say they don’t like “You Belong With Me” or at least that it’s never been stuck in their heads are obviously liars. I’ll leave the song “Fifteen” for another time (it might be one of the corniest songs I’ve ever heard, but maybe that’s because I’m 27 and being 15 was nothing like that for me). Right now I just really want to focus on “Love Story.” Let’s break it down with some lyrics (all words belong to Taylor Swift) so that I can explain to you how irritated I get when I hear it. Continue reading