80’s Christmases: Fuzzier than now.

OK, this is really hard to pinpoint, unless you were there.

80’s Christmases were “fuzzier”. Primarily I mean the picture on the television set, but also that it was a low-definition decade. Aside from LaserDisc, watch those old YouTube commercials. Note how everything has a warm and friendly haze surrounding it? This effect is made greater by the fact that we were oft gathered around an ancient CRT that spewed a warm light blaring a soundtrack of 80’s bargains, toys and stores.

Seriously, look at any commercials pre 1989. No CGI, nothing special technically, but man did they feel warm and homey. Watch “Nobody Beats the Wiz” commercials, or especially Folgers “Peter’s home!” commercial. If you don’t know which one I mean by that last one, there’s no hope for you recognizing anything I’m talking about.

But it goes forward: catalog photos and newspapers: slightly fuzzy, dim views of what you hoped for. You couldn’t pick out too many details, making what you ACTUALLY got for Christmas always a bit of a surprise. Also, any pictures we took were invariably slightly warm and fuzzy looking also – witness Polaroid instamatics.

The point is, the past literally had a warm, fuzzy glow to it that is not just in photos. I remember when NOTHING was online, there was only the phonebook and what you could find via telephone. Nothing really says Christmas to me like the warm glow of windows and tree lights streaming out from my grandmothers house onto cold and bleak streets that my mothers car would slowly make its way to. We’d bundle up and head inside, to the stale smell of cigarettes and the muffled sound of old creaky Christmas specials coming over the ancient TV purchased in the 70’s from the now-closed Montgomery Wards downtown. Inside, it was warm and intimate – my mother and father, my grandmother and I together exchanging presents. They bought way too many for me, and I opened them with great joy as millions of polaroids were taken (which, my grandmother having passed, I am thrilled she took).

I remember when we didn’t have the right batteries for some robot, so my dad and I headed out to his truck and drove slowly through the abandoned streets to the corner drugstore, the only place open Christmas (Wal-Mart had not yet come to town). An eerie but beautiful silence fell across our little neighborhood, while old Christmas songs played on the scratchy radio in the truck. We crossed the parking lot, filled with exactly two cars as light snow fell to the ground. The young clerk, freezing outside the store, quickly extinguished his cigarette he was barely managing to hold in the freezing cold. $7 and “D” batteries later, we paid the extortion money required to get such things that only a child could need Christmas morning.

In silence, we drove away, after wishing the clerk a Merry Christmas. In the warmth of the cab, bundled up I snuggled down and smiled as my father silently took us back to Grandma’s house, carrying me asleep inside to lay down and awaken later in a winter wonderland which now lives only in fuzzy memories.

Merry Christmas to all – and Dad and Grandma, I’ll always love you both, and I miss you every day.

The Greatest 1980’s Christmas Movie (for Children) Ever.

That’s right: Santa Claus the Movie. Not the Santa Clause, you 90’s spawn! Why, in the annals of history, do I select this movie?

• It came out Christmas of 1985, the single greatest year for Xmas ever.

• I was seven years old, and my Mom agreed to take me. It was a rare treat for us to go see a movie together.

• That year I got Optimus Prime – best Christmas present ever.

Anyway, bullet points aside, there are a few points of awesomeness that bear discussion. One: SC:TM (as we fans call it) was, in essence, two movies in one. The first is the origin of Santa, about 45 minutes to an hour. This part is pure gold, absolutely wonderful and built with amazing sets never to be equaled again. The second half is the drama of Cornelia and Joe, two kids who fall in with Santa Claus, Patch the elf (played by Dudley Moore) and a few others who oppose BZ, the evil toymaker. This part borders on OK, but is wonderful in that it contains product placement typical of the 80s. Coca-Cola gets a huge mention (as Cornelia gives a can to Joe with some food) and McDonalds gets a moment in the sun also, as Joe the ragamuffin looks in with hunger.

To this day, every time I watch this movie, I have to have a can of Coke and a McDonalds meal while watchign it. Product placement works, folks.

Oddly enough, the juggernaut of licensees were relatively few: perhaps it was the low box office take, the failure of Alexander and Ilya Salkind’s movie production company, or the fact that an evil toymaker was the villain, but as far as I can tell, they made posters, several books (available at, you guessed it, McDonalds, natch), storybooks, pop-ups, and from LJN, a few PVC figures in a boxed set that didn’t look too much like the characters. Sadly, as stated above, it didn’t do blockbuster numbers, and it seems Hallmark was the major licensee for the film. While SC:TM killed the Salkinds in Hollywood, it created a magnum opus of Christmas-ness that really embodied the eighties: the odd obsession with almost Victorian times (you’d think Cornie and Joe were in London in the 1800’s till the Coke can shows up), product placement, a schizophrenic script that is two movies in one, and much more.

This movie reverberates for any who really have Christmas in their heart, and the 80’s in their childhood. I’m sure its one of those things that people outside the time think is horrible, but as a seven year old in a tiny hatchback with the heat turned up high and idling at the McDonalds window as I received my happy meal and book about this new movie, there is nothing that brings back Christmas like this movie.

Remember SC:TM? Drop a comment.

FRIENDSHIP IS UNIVERSAL! The Visitors are NOT our friends!

Oh man, I’ve been looking for these pics since I saw them as a young toy collector. Once upon a time, I saw a black and white pic of this in an ancient toy collector book (1992). I didn’t have the money to buy the book but I drooled over the Skyfighter toy I was robbed of! Take a look at those toys! I SO would be buying those on eBay right now if they came out in the 80s. Even now I’m tempted to try to build a sweet Skyfighter mockup to scratch that itch from when I was a kid. I don’t know about you guys, but V was FREAKIN’ MAJOR as a kid. I mean, V got played FOR YEARS. Throughout the 80s, both miniseries and TV show got major airplay, and WGN played the miniseries’ back to back quite often. Ahh the hours I would wile away watching V and making my own Skyfighters and Blasters out of cardboard. It was a blast! Even now I own all of V on DVD, and I can’t wait to watch them again, when I have my own place again.
Discuss V and your miniseries/rerun loves of the 80’s below!

September: School Days, or Earth, Wind and Fire Revisited.

OK, not the song — although it’s freakin’ awesome. No, today I have climate change on my mind.

Relax, Al Gore-ophobes. Think back, 30-somethings. Remember when school DIDN’T start in August? When June, July and August were sacrosanct? Then, in the last days of August you got ready for school again.

Off to the T.G. & Y. to get fresh crayons, and those crappy scissors that hurt your hands because the handles were bare metal. The smell of fresh No. 2 pencils, wax of those crayons, Big Chief tablets, and that overall fresh, clean smell you got off the brand newness of your bag-o-supplies. Everything was fresh and new – sure, they weren’t toys, but it was neat new stuff, and you had a lot of em. The best part? Representin’ with cool folders or lunchboxes which said “Hell yeah I rock the M.A.S.K. team on my plastic lunchbox” or, if you’re really old, your metal ’82 G.I. Joe lunchbox (me). Pretty much if you got toys or a show on your folder, it meant you are WAY into it. So a 99 cent folder was a way of proving your loyalty to Joe collecting analagous to owning the USS FLagg in your room.

What does this have to do with anything?

Climate change, I guess. Remember what clothes you used to get to go back to school? FALL CLOTHES. I remember the smell of the wall of denim in Anthony’s, getting new jeans I would wear the knees out of, and the eventual trip to Sears where I would get Izod (with the Lacoste alligator!) shirts, polos etc.

The point is, it wasn’t freakin’ hot when it was time to go back to school. I have pictures of me in a shirt and sweater vest for the first day (shut up, I was a kid and did not dress myself.) I mean, when you started school, it was beginning to cool off. Pretty much what we had was one month of warm to cooling weather that was crazy nice to walk to school in. And what came after the month of getting used to your new routine for third grade?

The countdown to Halloween. From your friends to everyone you knew, discussion quickly turned to who you would go as. Back in the day, when you went to a store, the main draw was the toy aisle, maybe the comic rack (long gone now!), and lastly the candy aisle. But NOW, for a whole MONTH, was a giant section of awesome stuff to eat, wear, and decorate with. Every trip to the dime store (as my Grandma called it) was special. You had to know who you were going to be! Being a HUGE vampire, fan, 90% of the time I was Dracula. Not sure about the other times, but if I wasn’t Dracula, it was a big deal.

What does all this rambling mean? I’m ready for the countdown to Halloween, but it’s too darn hot to feel like fall. Thanks to climate change or whatever it is, the season never feels like it should when it should like 25 years ago. I bet it will be hot as Hades in Oklahoma, and it will ruin my Halloween. All I need is 8 weeks of occasional cold fronts people.

Is that so hard?

(Last question for comments: do you guys wanna see more pictures in posts? Does it help? Is this blog to cerebral in asking you to see the word pictures instead of actual crap from eBay? Let me know.)

Skill Pornography

This one takes an explanation.

Once upon a time, I loved (and love still), books on interior decorating in a Japanese/Modernist fashion. They are awesome. Upon seeing my lavish collection of tomes, one of my friends remarked “Hey, nice house porn.”

I said “What?”

“You know, House porn. Houses you’ll never, ever live in cause they’re too extreme, or too expensive, but that you lust after anyways.”

Ah ha, I said. Well, I’m keeping those books. But I’ve found a terrible cousin: skill porn, ie, books or materials, that by buying them, arbitrarily made me think I could do the skill they talked about or equipped. Let’s count some of these objects, shall we?

1. Skiing Jacket with goggle wipe attachment, buckles and crap I don’t even know how to work. There are a number of toggles for holding the inevitable iPod, even little sleevelets inside the main sleeve that go over your thumb and tuck into your gloves. I can barely ski on Wii Fit, why do I own this? Another multiple hundred dollar bargain from Dillards.

2.Boxed Writing Set with Glass Blown Pens. A gift from my wonderful wife from a museum that I just HAD to have. Why? I wanted to write cool letters. So I bought Crane stationery, and a Bombay company writing desk. None of which enhanced the utter crap which is my penmanship. Wish I had all that cash back. Now what to do with it? eBay.

3. Giant Coke Bottle Bank. Oh, how this beckoned from the window of Spencer’s Gifts circa 1992. Oversize novelty items were the shiznit, and I had to have it. Years later, dusty and forlorn, I pull it out of storage to give to my best friend from middle school, who also admires it. Now it’s his problem. Oh yeah, I suck at saving money, especially coins easily spent in vending machines, thus why this one counts as skill porn also.

4. Books on damn near anything: poker, Japanese, etc. All skills I want, but not at the cost of doing something. How I loathe these the most. Most all of them are gone – except Japanese, cause I took a year of it once. I know I can do it again.

5. Exercise anything. I loathe exercise, and even now am struggling to return to Wii Fit. Maybe tonight. But now I’m hungry.

The vast majority of my junk falls into the skill porn level – oh, I’d love to have it, but I’ll never put the work in cause I just don’t care that much. What wastes of cash do you have rotting around your house doing nothing?

Everything I own, in a metal box.

I was a spoiled child. Name a playset, I had it.

Terrordrome? Check. Grayskull? Check. Flagg? Check. Fortress of Steele? Check. Hyve? Check. Name it. Go ahead. I had it. Needless to say, I had a BILLION toys. Add to the fact that I never outgrew toys, and kept collecting for 20+ years, I had a lot of toys put together. When my wife and I moved from our home in Tulsa to KC to go to seminary, half the trailer was my toy collection. A 24 foot trailer. Yes, I am telling the truth.

Times have changed. I’ve reduced down a great deal, sold many many items and made some green. However, for YEARS, I had stuff at multiple houses. My mom and I lived in a tiny condo, where the rest of my family lived in larger surroundings. At my mom’s, in the garage were toys. In the storage shed, toys. Closet, toys. At Grandmas, the Terrordrome, boxes of toys and vehicles, etc. Moved to college, boxes all over creation. Well, years pass, various relatives died. Slowly, surely, I got everything together in one house as I sold massive amounts off: eventually it all fit in one home. Shortly before my thirtieth birthday, I assembled absolutely everything I owned for the first time in one place.

And I promptly packed up and moved it all to Tulsa. I rented the largest storage locker in the climate controlled facility (a couple hundred a month). I then crammed everything inside, including all furniture, chairs, multiple couches, and boxes. It was a little hairy, but it all fit. Unfortunately, it was done quickly because my help was exhausted and annoyed by that point in the day, and wanted just to be done. Therefore the planning was for crap, and stuff was buried under furniture, piles of boxes were hidden, etc.

Thus leads me to Wednesday. I leave, armed only with a boombox to plug into the hallway bathroom next to the storage unit and some old Tom Petty CDs. I fight my way in at noon, and emerge at 6:30 pm, exhausted utterly, but with all furniture at the back and boxes of things up front. This was all a terrible mistake.

Now there is a freaking WALL OF BOXES meeting you when you open the door. No joke, I had to take stuff home because there wasn’t room for it. Now I tool around town in my new Suzuki with a Dyson in the back. I don’t know if I look like a clean freak, a snob, or what, but I have an expensive British vacuum in my Japanese car. I have no idea what that says about me as a person, but whatever it is, it can’t be good.

On to the debris. So, now as a weekly tradition o’ fun, I go and paw through old boxes of crap to A. Sell to finance my bills and B. reduce the load on the unit so when I move I can get a smaller van. I also now loathe massive amounts of things which are useless, but I’ve written on that before.

OK, by now I’ve bored even myself, but here’s the exciting part: the finds I make here you can buy, at least for the next 24 hours. Here’s the auction link:

http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZmacrossmaster

So now, if you read something fun, you can buy it direct from old TerrorClaws.

1. Cap’n Crunch:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Capn-Crunch-Captain-18-5-inch-Stuffed-Doll-Mail-Away_W0QQitemZ110278797902QQihZ001QQcategoryZ10790QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

A giant sized, stuffed Cap’n Crunch. I remember buying this via mail order from the Quaker Oats company when it was worth a damn for prizes. My real want had come years earlier: a cardboard Guppy playset complete with action figures of the crew. I missed it, so this seemed a good replacement. I had a seriously huge love for Capn Crunch as a kid, mostly because of the amazing prizes furnished me by the company that made it. No one matched Crunch for awesome prizes on a consistent basis, and I rewarded them with Mom’s hard earned dollars. To this day I can eat it in the morning and legitimately like it, but due to my mercenary nature, I don’t buy a box unless the prize is awesome. Therefore, I purchase my annual 2 boxes of Christmas Crunch and call it a year.

2. Old G.I. Joe magazines:

http://cgi.ebay.com/5-Issues-1980s-G-I-Joe-Magazines-1987-1988-Cobra_W0QQitemZ110278792013QQihZ001QQcategoryZ35762QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Boy these were awesome back in the day. I got a bundle of these from a buddy a year or two ago. These were the rare issues that still had their posters inside. I kept the one or two I wanted, and here’s the rest. Loaded with 80’s Hasbro house ads, they’re a fun trip back in time, but not one I need anymore.

3. Spirit, the G.I. Joe Indian

Wow, a mint and complete stereotype action figure. Like darn near anyone born in Oklahoma, I am part Indian (Choctaw, thanks). I never owned Spirit as a kid, but for some odd reason bought him in the great Joe buy up of 1995-2001. In the midst of the drought at retail, I snagged the old stuff at a resale shop near Toys R Us. But now what will I do with him? Have Freedom mounted to his hand while he cries a tiny tear at my storage bill? No. Out he goes into the cold uncaring night of eBay.

Well, this has been a hella long post, so I’m gonna cut it a break for now. More descriptions forthcoming of crazy crap I found, but I warn you the opportunity to purchase it will probably be gone.

More to come!

Why We Blog: A Film by Frank Capra

When I first started this thing, it struck me as moronic. Who the hell wants to read what rattles on in my head?

I’ve been thinking of that lately. It turns out, a few people. But why? Because, on some level, this might be one of the most direct forms of communication independent of meatspace barriers.

How so? Here there is no race, no short, no tall. Relatively few pictures. No shorthand can convey an idea that is misinterpreted – everything must be written out specifically to convey what we mean, with no shortcuts. I think in blogging more comes across about who we really are than in some everyday conversations. Here, no one interrupts you, you just go for it. I like that a lot. In reflection about my blog reading, it’s helped me learn more about people I like very much, based on who they are in print. I’m far more interested in real people, even if I just read their inner thoughts here on the web than in sports scores, or some other junk. Just a little disclaimer before I launch into my “Everything I own in a box” post.