Criminally Underrated Geek-Inspired Bands Part 1: Urusei Yatsura

New feature alert! Introducing….


No it isn’t a Pokémon – although I’ll admit it sounds like it could be one one. It isn’t some Q*bert knock off homage either. It actually stands for:  Criminally Underrated Geek-Inspired Bands which is going to be one of our new occasional features here on AddAltMode. Don’t knock the acronym, I could have gone with Criminally Underrated Nerd Tunesmiths you know. Ahem.

There are loads of geek bands out there, from NEStalgic chiptunes acts through to full-blown Star Wars metal. As Geek Culture has gradually become more mainstream some of these bands have enjoyed a great deal of success, and that’s a good thing. But what about those bands who never really made it, not because they weren’t great but because they just weren’t quite in the right place at the right time? The force just wasn’t quite strong enough, and the loss is all ours. CUGIBs will celebrate some gone-but-not-forgotten bands from this category. It might be too late now to catch ’em all live but you can still enjoy their music, and I hope that you will. First into the CUGIB spotlight, it’s Scotland’s underrated low-fi sci-fi indie crew:

Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura band photo: source

Urusei Yatsura band photo: source

  Continue reading

Let’s talk about… Female Transformers!

If you’ve more than a passing interest in a certain transforming robot franchise, you may have heard the news – and very welcome news it is too. Hasbro are finally bringing more female Transformers into the spotlight. Specifically, an article on USA Today reported that Windblade will be appearing in future episodes of the new Robots In Disguise cartoon, and that there are also plans to introduce a female ‘bot to the cast of the Rescue Bots, the iteration of the franchise aimed at youngest viewers, which is just entering its fourth season. This on top of the results of the fan built combiner poll, which also voted to create a new team of 6 female Autobots who – the USA Today article also reveals – will form a new combiner “Victorion.”

If we're being pedantic, she doesn't really roll does she?

RiD poster advertising the new arrival: source

Now female Transformers are a subject close to my heart, so this seems like a good time to discuss the topic in a bit more depth….

Continue reading

Billy The Botcase

And we’re back! Thanks for sticking around during our brief hiatus. We’ve now got loads of posts ready to roll out and will be publishing thrice weekly again from today onward. We also now have our own Facebook Page so please stop by and connect with us there too if you use the site.

So, let’s kick things off once more. One of things that kept me busy during the past week has been this little DIY project…

It has been a known issue at chez AddAltMode for some time that we have needed alternate storage for our Transformers collection: the shelves above my desk were getting crowded, and Transformers are difficult to dust.

Old open shelving: dusty & crowded

Old open shelving: dusty and crowded. Autobots up top, Decepticons below.

And the rest

And the rest; Predacons, Maximals, Minicons and non-Transformers.

Well, we’ve had to do something about this issue. The solution to our problems came from a famous Swedish furniture company… Continue reading

Upcoming posts here on AddAltMode

UM borders

We like to update 3 times a week on AddAltMode, but unfortunately real life has got in the way of robot life a bit too much in the past week or so. How do all you amazing A-Z Challenge bloggers manage it?

Still we’re absolutely buzzing with ideas and are working on a number of posts, so don’t worry Ultra Magnus, we’ll be on schedule again very soon.

Posts coming soon include:

  • Robo Reads: a review of the genre’s greatest classic I Robot
  • Toy Reviews: (Combiner Wars Megatron should be arriving soon as well as some more funny little Arms Microns)
  • Some musings relating Transformers to the world of Numenera 
  • Top Tens: Vehicon deaths in Transformers Prime
  • New feature: CUGIBs (Criminally Underrated Geek Inspired Bands)
  • Custom Transformers: TFP Slipstream, TFP Skullcruncher, and the completion of the Mismatch project.
  • “Billy the Botcase”: a little DIY project
  • Plus, the big reveal of the finished TFA Slipstream cosplay. Not long now!

As a famous robot once almost said…..

We’ll Be Back!

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015: His and Hers Further Thoughts

So, we’ve now seen the first 10 episodes of the new Transformers Cartoon, Robots in Disguise. Our shared thoughts after viewing the pilot can be found here. Time for a follow up discussion on how things are shaping up for Bumblebee and the new crew.

Screenshot from the trailer. The new gang: Sideswipe, Bumblee, Grimlock, Strongarm, Fixit

Screenshot from the trailer. The new gang: Sideswipe, Bumblee, Grimlock, Strongarm, Fixit


Continue reading

Book Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

Robo ReadsI thought I’d make a new feature – Robo Reads – and start sharing a few book reviews here on AddAltMode. I’m the sort of reader who likes to pick a theme and run with it as far as I can, and since I’m doing the ‘robot thing’ at the moment it seems a good time visit and revisit some robot and/or AI fiction in the months ahead. But Robo Reads is going to be a fairly loose heading. Indeed, there are no robots or AI at all in this first entry in our book reviews category, but Lock In does explore a lot of the same kinds of issues and tensions around the relationship between humans and technology that are often present in robot-focused fiction. Plus, it’s important to start a book reviews feature with a recommendation for a cracking read and this is certainly that…

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Published: 2014 by Gollancz

No matter how futuristic (or otherwise) its setting, good sci-fi always shines a searching beam on our present. The first of Scalzi’s books I’ve read, Lock In is a fairly brisk read with lots of punchy dialogue. Plotwise, it takes the form of a police procedural / whodunnit and very consciously evokes many of typical tropes of this particularly trope-heavy genre. The protagonist, Chris Shane, is a rookie FBI agent newly paired with Vann, who may be a more experienced investigator but who is also a hard drinking loose cannon type who comes dragging the excess baggage of her own haunted past. As Chris summarises: “she’s a ticking time bomb ready to explode and I don’t want to be anywhere near her when she goes off… Straight from the cliché checklist. Got it.” This wry tone neatly encapsulates the crime fiction element of the book. Chris and Vann are investigating a murder and their journey to discovery certainly provides enough interest and danger to be enjoyable but there are no particular surprises or great reversals when it comes to figuring out the identity or motivations of the perpetrator. No, what brings real novelty and depth, and makes Lock In such a fascinating read, is the wider social context of its setting and world building which shines a near future sci-fi spotlight onto a number of important present day issues: disability and ableism; class; socialised healthcare and – most fascinatingly, I felt – our relationship with technology, particularly how technology could impact on perceptions of race, gender and selfhood.

Continue reading

TFA Slipstream Cosplay work in progress 4: Gloves and Gauntlets

Time for another work in progress post about my Transformers Animated Slipstream costume. The first thing to say is that she’s really starting to come together!  In this post I’m going to talk about the fabric components of the costume and about how I made the pieces I’ll be wearing on my hands and arms, which currently look a little like this:


Continue reading

When Physics Grads Overthink Video Games

Time for some maths! Who likes maths? That, or “Who likes math?” anyway was a question that Jonathan Coulton asked the crowd when R and I saw him in Bristol a couple of years back. It was, of course, a prelude to his song ‘‘Mandelbrot Set” but it was a surprise – to me, and I think to JC – to find that I was almost the only person in the crowd to call out an enthusiastic ”yeah” in response. But I like maths a lot, which occasionally leads to trains of thought like this…

Game Spoilers ahead: when the players beat Skullmageddon in Double Dragon Neon, they knock him off a ledge where he falls for a long time (3 minutes, 32 seconds), singing the end credits song. The question occurred to me: how far does Skullmageddon fall?

Continue reading

Toy Review: Takara-Tomy AM-20 Ironhide (with アイロ/Ai-ro)

Ironhide is a name known to Transformers fans since G1. A solid, dependable, but surly and brusque old Autobot, he appears in most continuities as a long-time friend and lieutenant to Optimus Prime. He skipped out on Transformers: Prime cartoon, but it seems that in Japan, at least, he didn’t miss out on being part of the toyline.

 アイアンハイド (Aianhaido)/Ironhide comes in a box with no clear parts, so the picture is all you have to go on whilst he's MISB.

アイアンハイド (Aianhaido)/Ironhide comes in a box with no clear parts, so the picture is all you have to go on whilst he’s MISB.

Continue reading

Geeky Pet Names: or a history of my gaming career via the medium of rat names

So today I’d like to talk geeky pet names. I don’t mean those kind of between lovers pet-names, like when secretly call your other half “Lord Snugatron” or something (I just made that one up by the way; B and I do have our fair share of cutesy names for each other but we’ve never gone quite that far, honestly). No, I’m talking about geek-inspired names for any furry, feathered or scaly friends you may have in your life – your pets. For example, I don’t know what percentage of cats owned by Transformers fans are called Ravage, but I’m guessing it’s pretty high.

The Pet-Lover Generations Soundwave with Laserbeak and Ravage

The Pet-Lover. Sort of.
Generations Soundwave with Laserbeak and Ravage

B and I have never owned  been owned by a cat before although it’s something we are looking in to, and that we’d like to do in the future. There is probably a non-zero chance of any future Chez AddAltMode moggy being called Ravage. Currently, however, we’re fancy rat owners as we have been for the last ten years or so.  Rats have a bad reputation but they’re actually wonderful pets: clean (they use a litter tray); intelligent (they can work out little puzzles and know their names – some even come when called); genuinely interested in interacting with us; and every one is an individual. We’ve had a lot of wonderful little rat friends and ratty moments over the years. The downside of rat keeping is the fact that although these plucky little creatures have great personalities big enough to rival those of any dog, they don’t have similarly large life spans. Two to three years is a decent innings for a rat; it’s not a long time. As they are social animals that should not be kept in less than pairs and thrive in larger groups, that adds up to a lot of goodbyes over the years – especially since B and I have taken in quite a few rescue/shelter rats who often have health problems to begin with. I’ll always love rats but part of me is quite looking forward to owning a pet who may be part of our family for more than a couple of years.

Still, this isn’t meant to be a maudlin post. Naming pets is always fun, and a nice thing about having owned a lot of rats over the years is that we’ve had the chance to choose quite a lot of names. Being geeks (you might have noticed) this has meant that quite a few of our past and current rat buddies have ended up with names of quite a geeky persuasion. Reflecting back on them now has made me realise that our past rat name choices also provide quite an accurate record of what games etc we were into at the time…. Continue reading