Category Archives: Toys

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.

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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!

WiiPort!

Well, after standing around a rural Wal-Mart for two hours last night, I dragged myself back home with a WiiFit. I’m super pumped. My evaluation of it to come later on today to this post. Also, Wal-Mart had the latest wave of Joes – snagged Major Bludd and Cartoon Cobra Commander. $14, damn these are getting pricey.

OK, on to the WiiPort. Wii  Fit is an interesting little beast. I do little to stay fit, but am an average size (5′ 9″) and 143 lbs. BMI is about 22 (Body Mass Index – Wii figures it out for you). Aka – a normal person.

I’ve been reading reports Wii Fit isn’t serious enough, won’t do much, is just silly, etc. but my wife wanted it, so dragged myself out to snag it. My verdict?

I’ve played for 32 minutes, and completed all the exercises for today that are unlocked, and in the process completed 3 unlocked new things. Is Wii Fit hard or easy? My answer is squarely in the middle. Lest you think you’ll sail through it, balance is a big issue. I don’t know why this would be good for health, aside from posture which they yammer on about, but it’s a big deal to the Japanese I suppose. The balance stuff is tough for me, but builds muscle.

How hard a work out is it? Not bad! It’s pretty light and won’t make you overly tired. My arms are feeling it a little as I write, but I think its the Yoga and Strength Training. Which brings me to my next point:

Yoga is harder than it looks, builds strength and is low impact – not NO impact. Some of it is a little difficult to do while being balanced. Strength training is where it gets tough. The push up thing may work you hard – it’s a good one though. I got 4 stars on it, probably because on the first day its standards are low.

The exercises and difficulty you can read anywhere, and there’s a blog of a dude in England who measures his progress which I recommend. I’m too lazy to look but google holds what you seek.

So, aside from “Ha ha, I have a new shiny thing and you don’t” why do I write this? For people like me, who have a problem doing exercise in front of others and have a psychological hang up with gym teachers and fitness instructors. It’s probably a childhood thing, but I never felt good enough or coordinated enough for these people, and got used to feeling like a failure of a boy (now man) in their eyes. Due to this, I have a fanatical inward loathing for anyone who enjoys or is good at exercise.

Which, barring my craziness, is why Wii Fit is PERFECT. The instructor is a video game – it’s not harsh, or mean. It can’t make value judgments on you. What it can do, and WELL, is judge your progress or what you are doing wrong because of the balance board. This is worth its weight in gold alone! If you are even thinking of hiring a personal trainer (don’t its stupid expensive), take the $700 I’d have back if I never joined the hoity-toity gym back home (sorry, Health Club) and spend a little on Wii Fit, and some turkey for sandwiches.

Try Wii Fit – I’ll keep up telling you each day what I’ve done, so I have accountability. We can do it together! Lastly, little tip: keep some soft workout clothes for this. You’ll sweat lightly, but Yoga poses SUCK when your clothes have seams. I did Yoga in Khakis, and my leg is irritated from my foot pressing into it along the seam from doing the tree pose.

In the comments, talk about Wii Fit if you like, but especially about experience with personal fitness, be it good or bad. I’m curious what shaped you guys’ perceptions of “working out”.