Thursday, January 25, 2007


There's a lot of great things to hunt for in thrift stores. Wonderfully impractical furniture, infernal machines, headless figurines, psychotic record album covers, suggestive kids books... Some of my favorite finds are not-so-fun toys and games.

Of course, I seek the bizarre, and the tangled, jumbled, jungle-like thrift store toy aisles do not disappoint. What I love about some of these toys and games is that rather than being fun, they instead provoke fear, unease, stress, boredom, or out right anger. I guess that's why they're relegated to the thrift store and not still in the game closet back home.

Okay, I suppose somebody out there has this as their favoritest game ever, but c'mon, the "World's Liveliest Trading Game"? It's called "Pit" fer Christ's sake! It has pictures of wheat on it! WHEAT! And it was apparently owned by some dude named "Burmesiter." They might as well have called it "Let's Watch Grass Grow, America's Favorite Horticulture Game."

Then again, a round of Pit sounds somewhat more entertaining than a round of "Finance," which apparently is a bit lower on the list of World's liveliest trading games. As the unwanted child of Monopoly and Life, two games that start out fun but start to suck after about the 3rd hour, Finance has to go down as the #1 least likely purchase at Toys-R-Us.

It's a moot point that dolls are scary. But the scariest dolls live in the thrift store. Take Talky Tina here. She obviously tried to kill her previous owner (or better yet her previous owner's older brother). That's why she's on top of the junk heap here, naked (except for her Keds) with her guts ripped out, in rigormortis. But notice the unfazed plasticized devil's grin? You know it and I know that she's silently plotting her revenge. It's only a matter of time.

There's of whole genre of family games from the 60s and 70s that seemed designed to give one of the players a heart attack. Usually they came with a ticking timer, assaulting colors, and the probability of exploding game pieces, as represented by this game of "Tension." Some friendly competition is fine, but is this kind of nerve-wracking humiliation really healthy? Especially if Mom's on Valium, Dad's a two-pack a day smoker, Junior's flunking out, and Sis is a social misfit? I wonder which player on this box top will have an embolism first?

Now, Lego blocks are pretty cool, a plaything that encourages real creativity, something sadly lacking in much of today's 100% computerized, interactive, talking, walking, tickle-me-whatevers. This Lego pen, on the other hand, seems more likely to disturb the peace than to stimulate brain cells. Take a closer look to see what I mean:

Oh, yeah? Well you're fat and ugly and nobody likes you. Stupid pen.

So, is the object of this game to determine how obtuse and thick you are? Or is it another Parker Brothers/Milton Bradley avoiding embarrassment challenge? Maybe it's just taunting us to wipe the sh-t-eating grin off this cube boy's face. This box makes me want to scream "No, you're the damn blockhead!" Okay, I have some issues. Stupid blockhead.

A 42-inch modern walking doll, with fashion outfit, huh? What a totally non-creepy idea. By the looks of that box, she might just be able to get around on her own, in the dead of the night, with those creepy mannequin arms outstretched, the stubby fingers scraping against the wall, the faint whiff of curly polyester hair in the darkness, and those lifeless doll's eyes, watching from the foot of my bed... Oh, just see the previous post about Talky Tina the robot terror, they're probably close friends.

Here's a great party idea. Get all your closest friends together. Ply them with food, party balloons, and alcohol. Then interrogate them! Hilarity/ animosity/ ruined dignity ensues. Why does this remind me of the Watergate break-in? I bet this toy was later repackaged as the "Marathon Man Home Game"

Nothing spells Father and Son quality time more than cooking up batches of Anthrax in the garage with a Gilbert Experiment Lab. Judging by the condition of this box, things didn't end too swimmingly for Timmy and his Pop, one of them has horrible scalp burns, the other is missing an eye. That or Timmy immediately got a job with Monsanto or Dow Chemical cooking up food additives and industrial herbicides. I will say that Gilbert's prediction of "Today's adventures in science" creating "tomorrow's America" seems just about right.

Finally, every thrift store on the planet has two things: 1) an LP copy of Herb Albert's "Whipped Cream and Other Delights." Guaranteed. And 2) a Barbie doll orgy. It's one of America's darkest little secrets.

Monday, January 01, 2007


And Happy New Year, too. Time to get back on track with this blog with a shiny new look (easier on the eyes, I hope) and more of the latest and greatest of the old and once important. I’ll try to update this page on a more regular basis. But that sounds like a New Year’s resolution, and one thing I know is that the thrift stores are full of other people’s New Year’s resolutions Lots of exercise bikes (I resolve to get in shape), diet cookbooks (I resolve to lose some weight), college textbooks (I resolve to get that diploma), family photos (I resolve to spend more time with my family)… and so on. That’s probably why a lot of people hate setting foot in a thrift store. They can be kind of sad places. Then again, the mountains of crap that I sift through photographically are probably the end product of someone’s successful resolution (I resolve to get more organized, to quit smoking, to leave this crappy town). So maybe there is hope in new years.

What the heck is my problem? I’ve got a camera, I’ve got the time, and I’ve got a compulsion. If I was in to New Year’s resolutions mine should probably be spend less time “where people’s stuff goes to die.” Well, maybe next year.

Until then, let’s check out some books that haven't been checked out in a long time...

So is that a "Charlie Chaplin" tramp or a "Frank Sinatra That's-why-the-lady's-a-tramp" tramp? And exactly why would God require her to be either? And damn, isn't she a happy looking tramp? Do you get the feeling she didn't know her picture was going to be used in this way? Guess I'll have to read it and find out.

Here's one of those New Year's resolutions (I resolve to learn something new) that ended up on the "hardcovers $1.00/ paperbacks $ .50" shelf. Maybe it's that title, "Living With Art" which kind of sounds like "Living With A Tumor." Introduction: There's no reason why a person can't live a healthy, productive life even with a terminal case of Peter Paul Rubens, Picasso, or even Roy Lichtenstein.

"Now a Major Motion Picture!" Yeah, right. I looked it up on IMDB. The plot, you ask? Anytime He Found Himself In A Tight Spot, He Left. Until Now. Apparently (and according to the title) now, he doesn't leave, he runs. That makes sense. Interestingly, however, one of the actors is Billy Zoom from the LA punk band X. He plays "guitarist in band." Then again, his only one other credit is for the 1976 version of King Kong as "Man running from monkey." Must have been typecast.

Another New Year's goal? Cash for bunnies. And if that doesn't work they make great sandwiches. Mmmmm, bunnies. I can't help but think of that infamous, disturbing scene from Roger & Me where a woman caresses a bunny and kills, skins and guts it all for your viewing pleasure. Happy new Year!

Now here's a good idea. And an author like John Lust ought to be an authority on empowerment-through-vice. This is probably just a come on. Drink Your Troubles Away... With Great-Tasting, Calorie-Burning, Hair-Regrowing, Breath-Freshening, Opposite-Sex-Attracting Nutra-Fizz! Either that or Jesus is inside.

Hal Linden has a gray itch. Yuck. Oh great, now I have to worry about "male metapause syndrome" or MMS as the hip-kids call it. Which probably has something to do with lusting after young women, or "being a guy" as the hip-kids call it. That or some type of gray fungus that makes one stare fondly at smaller people in colorful bubbles.

Here's a page turner. Rejection for Dummies! Chapter 1: How to not get a job; Chapter 2: How to not get a date. Chapter 3: How to not win at American Idol. Oh, I forgot, this is a book about Jesus. There's a lot of that dude in the thrift store.

This book's depressing on several levels. Firstly, apparently half your face disappears when you have a stroke, or whatever. Secondly, the title Self-Care for the Hemiplegic, which implies that no one really cares about you except you. Comb your own damn hair. Thirdly, there are 703 previous volumes of rehabilitation publications out there. Lastly, this guys either staring in a mirror, implying crippling narcissism, or into the window of someone's house, implying some kind of bizarre voyeurism, involving combs, undershirts, and hemiplegia.

Have your ever seen a more depressing book cover? Is human psychology really so dark? I mean these are kids here. I know puberty is tough, but they look live they've just been through the fire-bombing of Dresden. Human Suffering For You. Of course, as I write this my @#$%^*! ex-con neighbors are stomping on my ceiling, blasting their reggae music, yelling like zoo animals, and generally reinforcing the idea that most humans suck. So, maybe "Gordon" wasn't so far off.

You know, if the plot of your novel is about encouraging your sibling to weep... Maybe she's upset because she's missing half of her face. Fret not, sister! There's a nice, lonely hemiplegic man I know that I'll bet you'd hit it off with. That is if you don't mind his comb-fetish.

You know what's wrong with this book? 200+ pages and no psychos and no pictures. Talk about false advertising.

Okay, this is making my brain hurt. If they're "real phony" does that mean they're not phony? And what would a "phony phony" be? Someone real? And how come all those kids in the question mark look like they want to beat me up?

You know, if one of your eyes has popped out of its socket and is laying on the ground in front of stained glass window (in church?) and starts beaming messages into outer space, that's not right. That's all I'm saying.

Oh, write your own caption.