Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Set Phasers on Stunning!

It seems like in the mid-90s, a lot of different Barbies were suddenly on the market.  These weren't particularly designed to appeal to Barbie collectors, but rather, to get sci-fi comic fans to invest in one of the most popular "collectible" doll lines out there.  I don't really know which came first, but "X-Files Barbie and Ken" and "Star Trek Barbie and Ken" both showed up about the same time - and I snapped them both up.  This was something pretty rare, after all.

Or was it?

Because soon, Barbie was catering to every collector under the sun.  There was "Harley Davidson" Barbie and "Barbie loves Elvis" Barbie and "Addams Family" Barbie and "Barbie and Snoopy" Barbie and "Catwoman" Barbie... well, you get the idea.  I can't imagine many Barbie collectors were really, really excited to see Barbie dressed as Catwoman, but you know that many completists grumbled and bought it - and so did Batman completists, too.  That was the point, top sell to new non-Barbie collectors.

(This is one of the hard parts of being a completists: you are doomed to buy stuff you don't like because it fits the criteria of your collection.  The only real excuse for not buying something, if you're a completist, is because they're charging too much for it and you know (hope) you can get it cheaper later.  Or, because it's more than you can afford no matter what, like a life sized X-Wing Fighter).

It's something that happens often with things made specifically to be collectible.  They make one that's different, and it's interesting - then follow it up with two more, 8 more, 36 more.  Soon, the uniqueness of a different one doesn't feel so unique, if you follow me.  the same thing happened with Monopoly games.

Now I got the Star Trek and X-Files Barbies because I thought they were pretty funny.  Eventually, I sent the X-Files set to my Mom for her doll collection, but the Star Trek set is still on a shelf in my closet (actually, right below the box of James Bond books).  My favorite thing about this set, though, is the picture on the back of the box.  Is it just me, or is Lt. Commander Ken marching Yeoman Barbie off on a strange planet to shoot her in the back?  I hope not.  Of course, she is a red shirt, so any visit to a planet surface is likely to be deadly.

As far as I can recall, this is the only Barbie in my collection, but there are many, many more Star Trek items to share here in the future.  After all, Trekkies and Trekkies are surely the archtypes of modern fancollectorgeeks!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

To Eat or Preserve: The CollectorGeek's Dilemma

David wrote in to ask if the two "Dick Tracy" candy boxes in the last photo posted were empty or full. This is actually a problem that confronts collectors of things like cereal, fast food packaging, and other essentially perishable bits of Americana: Do you save the food?

While I've read of cereal collectors delighted to find 40 year old unopened boxes of Sugar Frosted Flakes, I also recall an account of one such collector waking up in a cold sweat from a dream of a dealer opening such a box and eating a bowl of the decomposing powder inside.   I have saved a few cereal boxes, but they're all empty.  As you've seen before, I save bottled liquids, but so far no real foodstuff.  Well, I take that back: at one time I had four boxes of PEZ flavored candy corn purchased at the 99 cent store for it's sheer bizarreness.  It stayed in a box in storage until the sticky sweet coating became rock hard solid and the boxes were as rigid as bricks.  At that point I threw them out.  

I remember getting a chocolate "Lois and Clark" trading card at the San Diego Comic Con - Laser etched with the show's title - and very wisely deciding it was better to eat the chocolate on the drive back to Los Angeles than to try and save it the freezer for years to come.  Better than what I did with the "Haunted Mansion" white chocolate card given out at an event for the movie that I attended.  (I am a big Haunted Mansion collector, this will be the subject of many future posts I'm sure!).  The card actually sat on a shelf in my bedroom directly below the Mystery Machine and, after a few hot summers, had a distinctly droopy appearance.  I decided then my collection would be complete with a mere phone camera picture of the card, and discarded the chocolate.  (No, I didn't eat it.  Blecch).

That's probably what inspired me to take a picture of the Cap'n Crunch milkshake currently offered at Carl's Jr.  Cap'n Crunch is one of the cereals I collect stuff from, but you sure can't save a milkshake.  This photo of the one I tried, though, does a pretty good job of suggesting
 the odd "slurp slurp crunch" experience of drinking one.  I also took a photo of the sign, which is good enough for me.  Even if I asked for and got one of these signs, it would just end up deep in storage.

Finally, in answer to your questions David, there are actually three Dick Tracy candy boxes.  (The backwards one here has Flattop on the front).  I ate two boxes of the nearly-pure-sugar-tasted-more-like-coloring-than-artificial-flavor candy, and as a dutiful fancollectorgeek, left one - "The Brow" -  in mint full of candy condition.

It's about 18 years old now, so...what say we give it a taste in another 22 years?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tales from Storage Part 2

Just a quick late Friday update. I like to keep lots of little plastic toys together in one big box. Here's one that's in my storage now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

DSL Update 2.0

I was waiting for my Internet Service Provider to call and tell me my DSL was up and running again, and trying the connection on my own to see if they fixed it without calling (they said they'd call). So, I called to check what was the delay, and was told that by their records it should be working by now. Hmm.

So I went home and looked it over, it still wasn't working. I thought about the IT Crowd. On the show, the I.T. department of Reynhold Industries has two questions they ask that fix every problem:

1) Have you tried turning it off and on?

2) Are you sure it's plugged in?

These solved evry problem, so much so that Roy at one point makes a tape that automatically answers the phone with him asking those two questions - and that's the last time we see anyone doing work on the show. Good for a laugh, but I remembered the final, third question that literally seems to give you everything you need to get your computer working right again:

3) Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?

It's sort of a combination of the two previous questions, but unplugging everything (computer, dsl box, AND airport & DSL hub, I'd tried without the last 2 before) and plugging them back in worked. It's up and running, without having to sit through another hour long tech call to get there. Seriously, whenever I called my tech friend in a panic that my computer was frozen/crashed/whatever, 85 percent of the time question 1 fixed it, 14 percent question 3, and a rare 2 percent of the time I had actually unplugged it without realizing it...

My whole point is, DSL is back! Normal schedule to follow!

(Collectible of the day is season 2 of "The It Crowd," labelled "2.0" and available from Amazon UK. I hope there's a US release soon!)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mmmm so good!

Just because Jon Stewart mentioned Carvel on the Daily Show last night - here's the back cover of Carvel comic #1. Remember, it's a health food!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cooper Emulation

Okay, it's official. I'm a "Big Bang Theory" collector.

That's kind of hard to do when there's nothing much available to collect - I have the poster, which I showed here earlier. (Sorry, I am STILL without DSL at home, so not able to link and use all the bells and whistles usually available!!!). My position as a collector of most anything I could get my hands on for this show became clear when I saw the episode "The Pancake Batter Anomaly" which aired on March 31st. Sheldon becomes ill and there's a big scene between Penny and him in his bedroom as she tries to take care of him. Sheldon's room has been seen before, and I looked over the art on his walls to get an idea what he had up, but couldn't make out anything except the comic books over his bed. In this show, though, you could clearly read something in green on a mostly black piece of art behind Penny's shoulder: House of Secrets.

That's funny, that's the name of my comic book shop. In Burbank. About a mile down the road from Warner Brothers Studio. And they sell lithographs by artist Ragnar that often feature the name of the store.

Here's an address:

I went there the next day and found out that Sheldon has hanging in his room the two lithos you see above. So with barely a hesitation, I bought them. Of course, I'll try to have them framed the same way they appear in the show. It's kind of fun to think that unofficially Sheldon and Leonard go to the same comic shop I do. It's a great shop, and fairly close to Pasadena where the show is set. Only about ten minutes down the road without traffic - but then, there's always traffic. So maybe they get their regular Wednesday night comic book fix at a shop in Pasadena, but go to House of Secrets for the good stuff.

But the mere fact that I wanted these lithos largely because they were on the show makes it clear I'm a Big Bang Theory collector, which means even this relatively simple parking pass will remain in my collection forever.

Tonight's episode, "The Bat Jar Conjecture," is the second episode I went and saw in person, and it's as good as any to check out the show if you're not familiar with it. I'll be saving the parking pass and the little program that I got there. Sheldon Cooper would be happy to see how obsessive I've become about collecting from his show... just another fan who made the transition to fullblown fancollectorgeek almost before I even knew it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Senor Microphono es Numero Uno!!

Just another "marking time until my DSL is back up" entry here. Boy, you won't believe how slick this place is going to look when I'm posting from home again. Here, I can barely get my thoughts on collecting straight at the end of the day...

Todays item is an authentic, never out of the box, Ronco Mr. Microphone. If you watched tv in 1979, at least on the East Coast, then the phrase "Hey Good Looking, we'll be back to pick you up later!" is probably permanently etched into your memory. According to Business Week that campaign sold over a million units, but the first one I ever saw on my last trip home to Syracuse. I went to a little collectibles store with my Dad and there it was, mint in package (well, the shrink wrap was torn as you see here, but the Microphone is mint) for the whopping price of ten dollars. That's right, this collectible was worth $4.88 less than it was new in 1979.

Here's a look at the back of the box, showing cool seventies people using Mr. Microphone, and a detail with some fun suggestions: play with it while you're driving, and set it right in front of the radio for a fun "feedback loop" sound effect. (Normally I'd provide a link here, but if you search youtube for Mr. Microphone, you can see several of the classic commercials).

Now, Mr. Microphone has a place of honor above the books on the right of my desk - right above the mini-figs in my very first post, actually. It's the kind of thing I usually try not to pick up - it's "off topic" for my collections, but I guess it fits in as "70s" or "childhood" or something like that, just the same, kind of like the Carvel comic books. The danger here is it can open the door to a whole new collection for me if I'm not careful - I might not be able to pass up a smokeless ashtray mint in box, then a Record Vacuum, then a Mr. Dentist... "Buy a Second Mr. Dentist for your dog!"

Now how much would you pay?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

He Was Legend

In memory of Charlton Heston, who passed away this weekend, I'm sharing this copy of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend that was (obviously) published contemporaneously with the release of Heston's The Omega Man in 1971. Despite bearing the imagery of the film, with Heston toting a nifty automatic rifle / flashlight combo he whipped up himself, this book has the full text of Matheson's original - not an adaptation of the movie.

I like every version of this story: the book, the film Last Man on Earth (Vincent Price 1964), Omega Man, and of course, Wil Smith's latest version which goes back to the original title. Omega Man and the latest are probably the best known incarnations of the story, and have some similarities in style. Both study the hero, Robert Neville, as he speeds around the city alone during the day (Los Angeles in Omega, New York in Legend). (This is one of the best things about each, if you ask me. It's fun to see Heston drive around streets I've come to know in Los Angeles, and also amazing to see Smith alone in a post-plague New York City. the first was achieved by shooting dowtown L.A. early on weekend mornings, and the latter by a combination of amazing CGI and some traditional filmmaking tricks as well).

I'm keeping this one short (still off the DSL here) but I will take a moment quickly to recommend the "special alternate" version of "I Am Legend" included on the DVD; it's somewhat more satisfying - and more like Matheson's original - than the theatrical cut.

If you're keeping score at home, this was in my closet in the Thin Mints box labelled "James Bond books." I reread it after I pulled it down. Also, this counts as the first item in my collection of "zombie" stuff. Although none of these versions are technically zombie stories, they do have that feel, and are said to have inspired George Romero when he filmed the first Night of the Living Dead.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Server problems!!!

A down DSL connection at home may interrupt / slow postings for about a week, but that makes this a very appropriate time to present "The IT Crowd." Perhaps truly my most active collection is DVDs, particularly television DVDs. About a year ago, I got a taste for Region 2 DVDs, having secured a multi-region player, and ordering shows I had seen on BBC America but weren't available here - most notably, "Life on Mars," especially its second season, which was available from Amazon UK a full 8 months before it was even advertised in the States.

The IT Crowd, however, showed up as a little "Amazon.UK recommends" one day, showing the odd little 80's style computer graphics you see on the box here. There's something about paying for shipping all the way across the Atlantic that makes me want to cram as much as possible into the box, so I thought I'd give it a look. I'm glad I did.

The title plays on the double meaning of "It Crowd" (cool popular people) and I.T. people (Internet Tech support). Jen is happy to find herself employeed at sleek and sexy "Renholm Industries," but ends up deep in the dark basement as "public liason" for the IT department - specifically, Moss and Roy, two geeky techs who keep the office littered with out of date hardware and comic books. These are definite fancolectorgeeks shown in their natural work environment. It's a case of terrific casting all around, but Richard Ayoade as uptight Maurice Moss does truly stand out - and in fact was the only cast member to make it over to an American pilot version (so far unaired) that placed Joel Hile of "The Soup" as his unkempt coworker Roy.

After viewing season one I immediately pre-ordered season two, and loved it. The first episode provides one of my favorite moments in television comedy - a synthesis of story, acting, and editing that had me laughing out loud even watching it alone. Both these DVDs are in my living room front and center of the shelves (to the left of the Rocketeer poster) for easy access. If you get a chance to watch The IT Crowd, I suggest you take it. You won't be disappointed.

So please be patient if I don't update as regularly for a few days. If Moss or Roy were here, I'm sure it'd be fixed faster.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nah, I already hit a Hi-C

Short post here today.  I had been toying with the idea of going as long as I could without repeating a collection - seeing how many different things I could turn up - but I'm already ending that idea today.  First, I was afraid I'd be wracking my brains finding more and more obscure things to list.  And second, it would be forever before I can list a second item from a favorite collection.

So here's my second animation cel: a great image from a Hawaiian Punch Pink Lemonade commercial:

This is a great one: truly the climactic moment of many classic Hawaiian Punch ads:  The Oaf has said that yes, he would enjoy a beverage of the brand that Punchy is the spokesman for, and Punchy is about to respond by going James Cagney on his face with a lemon.  Makes you thirsty, doesn't it?

I remember Hawaiian Punch being a big deal when I was a kid, which is funny, because even now I can clearly remember the sugar water and metal can flavor of all the Hawaiian Punches.  Maybe memory is magnifying the tinny quality, but there you go.  This was pretty much the only thing I ever used that triangle hole-puncher end of the can opener for.

As cels go, this is a nice one, both characters are full cels with only the ship, sky, and water being a color xerox.  Another Ebay find, of course.  I previously bought one from a "grape" Hawaiian Punch ad that I wasn't really happy with, so this is sort of a replacement.  (By my criteria any cel I buy should be very iconic, very odd, or both.  Grape wasn't really either, it was just cheap).  This was relatively inexpensive, about 30 bucks.  It currently is waiting in the great "to be framed" pile by the end of my couch.  I'll share some of the framed cels soon.

Oh, the beverages we drank as kids.  Anyone remember Wylers?
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