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Monthly Archives: May 2006

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Soy Bomb

Continuing the theme from the previous post, Derrick Bostrom shares a new array of Japanese snacks and toys. I especially like the Pocky chocolate covered sticks clearly labeled “For Men” on the box. Do they have a musky scent or something?

Happy Amusement Park

Whew. I’ve finally finished preparing and uploading a flickr set of scans from an early ’60s issue of the long running Japanese childrens’ magazine Tanoshii Youchien (Happy Amusement Park Kindergarten). I came across this find last year in a Bisbee, AZ collectibles store and couldn’t put it down. The pages contain a bunch of wild and different illustration styles, but they all have that indefinably “Japanese” look. Stop by, and if by chance you know some Japanese, feel free to help translate! Arigato.

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Today I thought I’d utilize the wonders of YouTube to share a couple of groovy old doll commercials from the early ’70s. First we have a 1971 spot for Rock Flowers, a multiracial trio which were supposed to be an outta-sight musical group like Josie & The Pussycats. As Casey Kasem points out in his voice-over, each doll came with its own record. The little girl with a weird flip hairdo looks like a budding Rock Flowers groupie. Rock on, little girl.

Next we have a commercial for everybody’s favorite, Blythe, from 1972. Dig the music, in which a gritty sounding Joe Cocker-alike sings “Open your eyes to the world of Blythe.” Not something I’d usually associate with dolls, but I like! Not surprisingly, Kenner chose to emphasize the doll’s huge, penetrating eyes. As a YouTube commenter accurately noted, “I always feel like they’re staring deep into my soul.” Too true.

57 Channels and Something On

Here’s a something about the TV we’ve been watching lately. It didn’t dawn on me until now just how gay these shows are. We’re talking wrapped in a rainbow flag, tottering around in pink platform heels GAY. My viewing habits aren’t really that gay. I watch a lot of PBS, too — and not just In the Life. Anyway, here goes:

  • Kathy Griffin: Strong Black Woman (Bravo) Premiering last night, Griffin’s latest stand-up special premiered is being repeated often this week. Hilarious as usual, even though she tells a dog story that goes on too long and there’s not enough of her trademark no-holds-barred celebrity dish during this go ’round. C’mon, you just know she could fill a few hours alone on that bitch Star Jones.
  • Will & Grace (new episodes on NBC and repeats on Lifetime Television for Womenâ„¢) Full disclosure: I never got into W&G until the last year or so. It always seemed too unbelievably stupid to me, a bunch of gay people prancing around and talking about their own gayness. But then I impulsively TiVo-ed the episodes with hunky guest star Bobby Cannavale and started realizing how good the scripts are. Now we’re doing double duty, cramming on two repeats a night while viewing the new shows every Thursday. I have to admit that the show really did hit a serious slump in 2002-04 from which it never fully recovered. The new episodes remind me of the later years of Friends in that it’s morphed into more of a soap opera with laughs than a true sitcom. Will that keep me from catching the series finale on the 18th? No way.
  • How It’s Made (Discovery) and Back to the Blueprint (The History Channel) Two great programs that delve into how things are made and built. How It’s Made is a solid French Canadian import that demonstrates just what the title says on various common household items, with unobtrusive narration and a no-frills style. I love seeing the multitude of steps that go into the manufacturing process, and those automated robot arms are always fascinating to watch. Blueprint follows host Marty Dunham as he renovates and shares neat background info on various historic home and building styles. The combo of history and how-to might be more appropriate for the HGTV channel, which is probably why the History Channel slots the show into an unforgivably bad Saturday morning time slot. New episodes have popped up in the last few weeks — catch ’em while you can.
  • Bette Davis Month (Turner Classic Movies) Bette Davis is probably my favorite actress, and TCM is giving me plenty of opportunity to savor her more obscure films. Bette’s tasty Pre-Code era has already been broadcast, but there’s plenty left later this month. I highly recommend the enjoyable new documentary on her life and career — Stardust: The Bette Davis Story — which will be repeated on May 18th and 25th. The doc deals in familiar territory, but before this I never realized the full extent of hatred daughter B.D. Hyman had for her famous mom. What a sour-faced, unpleasant woman.

Spinning Wheel

Circa ’70s NASA illustrations of what a space colony of the future might look like. Thanks to Chris for sending this my way.

Gruesome Twosome: Crazy About The La La La Edition

Massiel: “La, La, La”
Spanish Eurovision Song Contest entry, 1968

Joëlle Ursull: “White and Black Blues”
French Eurovision Song Contest entry, 1990

Today I look at an entity at once comforting and strangely alien: the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m an American who finds this annual competition fascinating: the pageantry, the kitsch, the inter-country squabbling. Amidst all the hubbub, it’s easy to forget that Eurovision has produced some catchy, kick-ass songs over its fifty year history — all under three and a half minutes in length. 1968’s winner, Massiel’s rousing “La, La, La”, is typical in being grandly melodic without losing its essential Euro-ness (which is why Lesley Gore’s English language cover of the tune sank like a stone). Joëlle Ursull’s 1990 entry “White and Black Blues” finished third for its year, but comes through winningly with its unusual percussion and Ursull’s winsome vocal — and check out the fly backup dancers on the video. That’s Eurovision gold. Wikipedia offers an amazingly thorough history of the event with year-by-year breakdowns of all entries’ vote totals.