Saturday, August 19, 2006


Not in the biblical sense. (Eeww. Why would you think that? Why would I think that?) And actually, all of these machines were just passing acquaintances, one night stands (yeah, sick mind) like all of my thrift hunts. But like anyone who grew up with the first generation of VCRs (my Dad brought our first one home in 1977, and in fact still has that 300 pound Magnavox) I have a certain fondness for their chunky clunkiness. I mean, how can you not love a machine with a stop-button the size of an brake pedal, fake wood-grain paneling (for class!), a top-loading video carriage that crashes into its "feed me" position upon the slightest tap of the eject button, and a set of TV dials that screams the future is now?

Here are some random pictures of VCRs (and Betamaxes!) I did not own, but very well could have. Today they languish in your friendly neighborhood thrift store.

Can we really ever appreciate how truly magnificent these buttons are? I'm just not that spiritual.

Can we all agree, though, that dirt is beautiful, especially on this machine?

And, how about these buttons, color-coded (and what colors) and everything!

Look at the girth of this big ol' Sony. Like my Dad's old machine, I used to joke that no burglar in his right mind would ever try to steal it because he'd get a hernia just trying to lift it. We certainly have facilitated more electronics crime with the iPod nano fits-in-your-pocket-and-thus-anyone-else's-revolution, no?

Here's another, behemoth. Love the wood-grain. And, it's programmable. For that episode of Joanie Loves Chachi you can't afford to miss. (If you look closely, you can see the movie that killed this dinosaur-- Damn You, Tim Allen!)

As promised, a Betamax. Smaller tapes. Smaller buttons. Big ass machine. Never had one, but I kind of wish I could brag that I did. I worked at video store with a guy that would always say, "Betas are still big in Japan." This was like 1994. He was a tech nerd.

While on the subject of Beta, this pic makes me feel like an explorer come upon the ruins of a ancient temple with a sunbeam splitting throughout the jungle just right, illuminating the dusty but still bright and vibrant design, speaking to the colorful moments of life once contained therein. The store where I took this shot was dark and gloomy, crowded with shelf after shelf of dingy TVs, turntables, and VCRs, covered in dirt and dust, and all of them way, way, way, way, way too over priced for a thrift store... way.

Dig the Tomorrowland font. This VCR doesn't just load the tape, it has an "Automatic Cassette Loading System," mutha-f**kers! Does anyone out there remember when "frontloading" meant "cutting edge"? No one? Well it did! Today, it probably just a kinky internet porn site. Or so I've heard.

Okay, not from a VCR/ Beta but from a TV. A color TV. And spy the awesome color array (just in case your forgot what color was. And look at that awesome dust bunny underneath the awesome color array, while your at it). Now I'm not old enough to remember when color TVs first came out, but I am old enough to remember when they still sold black & whites. In fact, my sister and I both got b&w TVs for Christmas (1987?) and we loved them! So there.

Finally, leaving a thrift store I spied this excellent sign. You just know that most of the equipment I shared with you was purchased there, from a guy named "Chad," and he wore a mullet, and he drove a Trans-Am (Datsun B-210?). And he sold you shitty speakers that blew out the first time you played Pink Floyd's The Wall real loud.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


One of the things I want to do on this this page is highlight the design beauty exhibited by even the most commonplace objects of the past. Whilst doing my paces in the thrift stores, I'm constantly snapping my head around to look at some funky toaster or ice bucket or similarly mundane object with incredible, alluring lines and downright artistic style. Somewhere around 1987 (February, I think) industrial design jumped out of a window. Yeah, iPods and Cooper Minis are swell, even though they're a pit too-plasticky IMHO (and most plastic begins to look like crap after a few years of wear) , but most of the best of today's design concepts borrow enormously from the age of art deco and mid-century modern. Who can blame the designers, really? Like me, they probably wonder what happened to the days when even a power drill looked like a piece of art.

If this Craftsman drill doesn't look like a Buck Rogers ray gun to you then you're reading the wrong blog.

How many of today's contraptions are we only reluctantly going to throw away in 60 years? It's going to take a lot less time for that iPod to start looking crappy, I guarantee.

Cheap and plastic yes. But even scuffed and scratched this Brownie Starflash camera looks 10 times better than any $200 cell phone.

Just an office chair. Pale green metal, shiny silvery wedged wheeled stand, tons of character. Belongs in a museum.

Here's another power tool, a beat-to-hell old sander, but with the face of an angry art deco tiki-idol robot. This is art, baby. Don't stick this in a basement workshop, put it up on your mantel, next to that fake Ming vase and great-grandma's ashes.

Another face. Like C-3PO sucking lemon. On a freaking vacuum cleaner. You can't buy a new vacuum cleaner that has half the character as this Electrolux. Someone had the great idea to make lamps out of these old machines

And by the way, why in hell would Electrolux change their name to "Aerus"? Sounds like another pretentious and flatulent new-age SUV name to me.

One last image of another vacuum. This Kirby looks like an atomic jet bomber or a spaceship out of the 1950s kids' show Space Patrol. I seem to remember it weighed like 50 pounds and probably had some hellacious belts, but a machine this commanding would just scare the dirt right out of your carpet.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I always look for vintage kid's books in thrift stores, especially old library volumes from the 1950s-1970s, with those great durable vinyl-like library covers, invariably stamped inside "DISCARD" like they went bad, or something. I drool for titles like Our Trip to the Police Station, Where Things Come From, You Will Go To The Moon, and my all time favorite Art Linkletter presents The Straight Dope on Drugs, which features the most bewildering (and even horrific) images of LSD trips and teenagers OD-ing. I'll post some of my best finds another time.

If you read my first post then you know I'm unforgivably short on space, so unless it's an essential kids' book I'll pass it up. But since I've been doing the photo-documentary thing lately, I've included snapping pics of kids' books with (unintentionally?) suggestive titles. Maybe it's just me, sicko that I am, but these titles seem to psycho-sexually hint at a brave new world just around the corner for the 9-12 demographic. Of course, these are from a bygone era, long before the internet replaced the well placed innuendo.

Doesn't this just scream, "I'll show your mine, if you show me yours"? Yes, I'm a prevert, but come on!

Same theme as The Hidden Cave, but seems to be a bit more suggestive of fun and adventure here. And while I'm being sick, it's really not that specific about what kind of tunnel is so magic, I mean that is a dude pirate on the cover, right?

This one's just too obvious. I wonder if this was discarded because some librarian was just to embarrassed to let it get checked out.

Finally, this book seems to suggest an inappropriate path for one's budding sensations. My advice is that if you see Eddie, keep him the hell away from your dog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

First Post

I told myself that I wanted to start blogging my thrift store adventures because it had something to do with urban archaeology, with the mysterious flotsam of modern life, that I was on the vanguard of preserving a valuable and under-researched subculture. I even wrote up a long, boring thesis on the topic...

But the real reason is so I can justify my obsessive need to comb the thrift stores of Southern California by showing you (whoever's out there) photos of the cool stuff I see. That way I buy less, the mess factor in my apartment does not reach critical mass, my fiance doesn't clobber me for bringing home the wretched refuse of our mass culture , and I actually feel like I'm contributing to society in some small, nearly anonymous way.

If you have demented sense of humor and an interest in other people's garbage then you just might have as much fun reading this as I have exploring the thrift stores. And look at it this way : You get to avoid all the icky smells, screaming babies, sticky merchandise, non-air conditioned spaces, creepy customers, equally creepy sellers, and the dual bad sensations of "I should have bought that/ I shouldn't have bought that" as you drive away.

So what will you see at this page? Basically:
1. Unusual or interesting thrift store ephemera in its natural habitat (a thrift store).
2. Weird stuff seen on the way to or from a thrift store.
3. Examples of mid-century modern architecture, usually in the vicinity of a thrift store.
4. Any other stupid-ol' thing that no one but me cares about.

I bid you welcome...