Are You Desperately Seeking These Boots, Susan?

Five years ago I wrote about the fashions in 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan — and ever since, the popularity of that post seems to have grown. Nearly as fast as the cult classic itself, I daresay. Halloween costume time especially drives interest, I suppose. However, my main interest in posting this today is because — hold onto your hats! — I’ve a pair of the very rare black sequined Desperately Seeking Susan boots up for sale in our Etsy shop! (It includes some ephemera too!)

black sequin covered desperately seeking susan boots 1985

80s desperately seeking susan movie boots booties

The Political Shades Of A Colorpillar

When I grabbed this Romper Room Colorpillar toy, I had vague memories of the Romper Room TV show…

But not enough, apparently. A quick look at the Wiki entry and it turns out this toy is most fitting for this political season.

First, there’s the whole problem with children’s television shows and hosts pitching product during shows. Romper Room was the first target of the newly formed watchdog group Action for Children’s Television who leveraged the power of an threat FCC threat into ceasing “host-selling”.

Then there’s the whole Romper Room abortion scandal.

In 1962, the hostess of the Phoenix franchise of Romper Room linked her own name with that of the ongoing controversies over abortion. Sherri Finkbine, known to television viewers as “Miss Sherri”, sought hospital approval for abortion on the ground that she had been taking thalidomide and believed her child would be born deformed. Finkbine made a public announcement about the dangers of thalidomide, and the hospital refused to allow an abortion, apparently because of her announcement and its own fear of publicity. Finkbine traveled to Sweden for the abortion. Upon completion, it was confirmed that the fetus had no legs and only one arm. The incident became a made-for-TV movie in 1992, A Private Matter, with Sissy Spacek as Finkbine.

I guess this really is an educational toy — if you research it, rather than play with it.

In terms of memories of the show, as I said, they are fuzzy. Not all warm and fuzzy; just not clear. Also according to Wiki:

The hostess would also serve milk and cookies to the children, with prayer offered before eating. The famous Romper Room prayer went “God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”

Now that’s the prayer I remember saying. But that’s really odd, because our home was not a praying home. Perhaps this praying business is why I don’t recall much of the show… Perhaps when my folks found out prayer and indoctrination was part of the program, they switched the set off. That is something I will have to ask them.

Happy Birthday Me

Birthdays are a time of reflection — but don’t worry, this isn’t one of those sentimental personal pieces full of beauty and gratitude, a wistful and wise piece about aging, or even one of those sad yet triumphant stories of survival. While I have moments of deep gratitude, brief bits of wisdom, and small moments in which I feel triumph sits on the horizon like a ship I can see and might one day board, I’m still working on all those things.

Instead, this birthday is like most birthdays since I was to turn 16. That year I told my parents that I didn’t need or deserve a party; I had achieved nothing and they deserved the credit for having kept me alive. Today I feel rather the same — only with a much heavier sense of futility. For in 48 years, neither the world, my status in it, nor my feelings about it has changed much.

I was born on June 21, 1964; I joined this world, as Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney left it. My mother’s screams may have been dulled by the twilight sleep of that time’s hospital deliveries, but I passed through the same veil, entered the ether echoing with the agony, pain, and fear of those men, their families and friends, and all who possess any shred of humanity… And I have lived in a country filled with those sounds and the stink of racism ever since.

I was born white; but such privilege doesn’t preclude the ability to know how wrong racism is, to hate what separates and enslaves.  …To feel the futility of such efforts even to educate that we the privileged have an obligation to do what is right is a heavy rope around my own neck.

I was born a girl; I joined this world with my rights up for debate and my womb under the control of others men. Any progress towards equality and the right to my own person has been met with struggle, abated with state allowed terrorism, and, indeed, is being wrestled away as I sit here today. Such abuse, rape, and control by the state fills me with the same pain, indignity, helplessness, and shame as the abuse, rape, and control experienced at the hands of individuals. …And then there are the more subtle, less violent, means of control — disrespect, dismissing, muzzling, belittling, economic inequality, shaming — used to assert government control, which perpetuates the abuses by individuals.

I was born “straight”; but, like being white, I know that my privilege of heterosexuality obligates me behave as a human being towards my fellow human beings. Ostracization and inequality based on orientation &/or gender identity is still in practice, in vogue in some places. It sickens, saddens, and wearies me as if it were my own personal struggle. …Then again, since this is very much tied to male power, beliefs about sexuality, it really mirrors — nay, is, my personal struggle.

I was born without silver spoon in mouth, or nearby. My parents worked tirelessly to provide a better future for their children. It was achieved; but brief. Those born with silver services and gold flatware have worked just as tirelessly to ensure that the poor and middle class would assume their place at the feet of their economic masters. I now work tirelessly to ensure my children survive; “thrive” is a question which lies under the boot heels of social and economic masters — i.e. wealthy white men and their corrupt corporations which are allowed human status.

Survival isn’t as easy as it sounds.

So you’d think I could hang my proverbial birthday hat on that, give myself some credit for just having made it to 48.

But I am just too tired.

Too tired to even go, as is my birthday custom, and visit graveyards and cemeteries. For when I see how the nuns who gave their lives in service and faith are buried like paupers, adoringly facing the monuments of their male leaders — presumably to serve even in death, I cannot bear the energy such emotion evokes. Not even when I see that the little cement slabs which mark where the nuns lay are less lavish, less cared for, than the markers for the never-born, the aborted. Really? Are female lives given in such service worth so little that they must still be treated as less-than virtual beings, ideas of beings?! It’s all just too-too much.

A lifetime of so little progress is just too much.

Jessica Savitch (Part One?)

I watched Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story, starring Sela Ward, tonight. During commercial breaks, I Googled Jessica Savitch. To my surprise — and major disappointment — there’s not really any website devoted to this groundbreaking woman who earned four Emmys, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, and election to the board of trustees at Ithaca College.

If you start at Wikipedia (and I never trust Wiki completely, so please only let it be a starting place), the entry on the anchorwoman pretty much follows the made for TV movie. The Accuracy Project has basic bio info, but leaves a lot to be desired as it really only presents corrections, and a handful of them at that. And there’s this bio by Abigail Griffith (Spring 2008).

Reading all of those, there are odd discrepancies which mainly center on Donald Rollie Payne, a gynecologist in Washington, DC, who was Savitch’s last husband who committed suicide on August 1, 1981 by hanging himself in the basement of their home. Abigail Griffith says that Payne “committed suicide after becoming aware of a diagnosis of incurable cancer,” while Wiki says he was a “closet homosexual.” I don’t suppose that matters much to most of us, but I’m certain these things mattered to Savitch and possibly say a lot about her (continued) relationship choices.

For something that fills in more gaps, you can try this archived article from People magazine on Savitch’s death.

And in 1988, five years after her death, a Current Affair episode in which Savitch’s family calls Gwenda Blair’s book lies:

(Worth watching for so many reasons — we can discuss in the comments!)

But for my money, the most insightful piece about Jessica I found online was this article written by Maury Z. Levy when Savitch was still a broadcaster in Philadelphia.

Since her death, Jessica Savitch’s been inducted into The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame, and the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College hosts a Journalism Lecture Series in her honor as well as named an on-campus television studio in her honor. There should be some sort of official website in her honor.

I bet Jessica would have loved the Internet, even if it/we would have had a field day of speculation and fun at her expense with the gaffes (largely exaggerated in the movie and historical footnotes) made on her last broadcast — just 20 days before her death. So someone, give her her due.

Spotting Memories In Retro Radio Ads

Still nostalgic thinking about the old days in Milwaukee radio, I’ve been hanging out consuming The Halcyon Daze (I prefer using the “classic” interface for navigation, in case you visit here, Scott Beddome — aka rock’s Scott “The Kid”). I’m particularly smitten with this post of 1984 TV commercials for radio — especially this classic WKTI spot:

Not only does it feature Reitman & Mueller, and the Booze Brothers — but that’s Warren Wiegratz on the keyboards!

Having stalked Oceans for years, I’d know. My Oceans following began in 1984 or so, when my biological sister’s foreign exchange “French sister,” Christine (Oh, so tempted to talk trash about Christine and her visit; but I will behave.), came to stay with us and she wanted to hear a jazz band. So my parents took her to Sardino’s. After an early crush on Duane Stuermer (somewhere around here I have signed ticket stubs from Duane, and, possibly, his brother Daryl), I eventually forged a friendship with drummer Ernie Adams — who’s dad, it turned out, worked with my mom. Small world. It became even cozier when Ernie and and dated; but I don’t like to kiss and tell. *wink*

Of Tailgators, Radio & Retail

This is a vintage WKTI Tailgator pinback from 1983, featuring Old Style beer. It’s mere 1.75 inches, but oh the size of the memories it unleashes…

If you’re of a certain age — and from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area — you remember this era of WKTI, Reitman & Mueller — and the uncomfortably named Jim “Lips” LaBelle.

Thinking of WKTI reminds me of the days our family ventured into the retail business. We bought into the Just Pants franchise, running the Just Pants store at Southridge Mall, then a Taubman Mall (Taubman married and divorced from Christie Brinkley, a rather too present icon of my life, helping me date nearly anything).

Our biggest Just Pants competitor was the County Seat — and Kohl’s department store (which bled we specialty jean stores to death by using Levi’s and Lee denim loss leader sales). Anyone else remember the days of denim walls so high, sales staff used ladders to reach the goods? That’s the pun behind this sexy Just Pants ad — it predates when we had our store (and I doubt we would have ran the ad ourselves, even if it had been in the creative pool of franchisee options.)

Anyway, in that era we not only often played WKTI in the store but we special ordered and custom hemmed Bob Reitman‘s black boot-cut Levi’s. Yeah, we were that cool.

Back then, we not only played whatever radio we wanted in the store, on July 13, 1985, we played the Live Aid broadcast in the store. I called in from the store to donate, getting myself an official Live Aid t-shirt. (They were out of my size, so I received a size small which wouldn’t have covered The Girls and so it has remained safely packed away all these years.)

Now, WKTI is WLWK, “Lake FM.” (Reitman’s still kicking it on air with his weekly show, It’s Alright, Ma, It’s Only Music.) And, ironically, Lake FM sounds almost like an auditory time capsule of the Reitman & Mueller days. I know, I’ve listened to the station when I’ve traveled home. Old habits die hard and my fingers still “dial” to the stations I recalled. Not that any of them are there anymore.  Lazer 103, QFM, LPX… All long gone. Apparently, after I moved from Wisconsin, the radio station marketplace went to hell. I’m not the only one who’s more than nostalgic; check out 93QFM: The Halcyon Daze for Milwaukee Rock Radio DJ Stories.

This got me thinking about the other radio stations & DJs… And the connections to retail.

Marilynn Mee, aka Jackpot Girl, part of Bob And Brian’s morning show on Lazer 103 (Mee may still be on WKLH?), was someone I met quite often when I was working at the Estee Lauder counter at Gimbels. Mee was pals with Pam, who worked Lancome. I envied Mee her wardrobe of all things.  But then, if you’ve ever had to wear the cosmetic girl garb, well, you’d understand it. Hard to feel 80-‘s glam when you’re wearing a turquoise smock-tent, no matter how fab your face and hair look. (Despite the fact that Marilynn and Pam partied with rock stars, I was the good girl who found herself knocked up; an entirely different subject, and I’ve digressed too much already.)

Because I’m all nostalgic about radio…

My first radio love was WOKY — and AM station that then played top 40 pop stuff. It came in loud and clear on my red ball Panasonic R-70 transistor radio.

I would turn the volume up and dance madly in the back yard. My most vivid memory is of cranking up Billy Preston’s Go Round in Circles and dancing on top of the old wooden picnic table. So not safe, I’m sure, even if you weren’t dancing yourself dizzy goin’ round in circles. Ahh, those were the days, though.

Image Credits: Vintage 1970 Just Pants ad via Ads-Things4Less. Panasonic photo via ebyauctions.

The “Cherry Bomb” Bomb: An Ignorant Hetero Midwest Girl Reviews The Runaways Film

Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, back in the days when they were Runaways.

I don’t ever claim to be first with the reviews (I deal in old stuff, so why even rush to hop on the bandwagon with films about retro bands?), so you’ve likely already heard about, read reviews of, or even seen 2010’s The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Anyway…

The Runaways is an incredible film. You should see it. My only real comments are really about my impressions of myself…

I wasn’t actually going to write any sort of a review, but then I stumbled onto Susie Bright’s commentary:

“What is this Little Debbie BULLSHIT?” I said. “This is a disgrace.”

Director Floria Sigismondi’s “pretty-in-glam” Runaways promo wasn’t the underground punk scene I remember from Los Angeles in the 1970’s.

And then I thought, “Hey, someone needs to speak for the rest of the un-cool kids here in the Midwest.”

You see, I didn’t know of The Runaways until after there was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ I Love Rock and Roll.  That made it on the radar — and radio waves — in Midwest suburbia.  Heck, my mom was a HUGE fan of that song!  (Rock on, Mom!)

Before Bright’s commentary, I’d viewed the relationship between Jett and Currie as a more complicated version of the college lesbianism experience, mixed with drugs, celebrity-too-soon, and, sure, what looked in the film like a bit of opportunistic, if not predatory, moves on Jett’s part — which seemed more natural and less creepy than it sounds, really. And I don’t suppose Bright’s commentary really changes any of that. ( Or that my interpretation of the film is accurate; or even that the film was entirely explicit about many intimate aspects of their personal lives. It was, after all, a film; not a documentary.) But I feel it’s worth noting that Los Angeles is, and was, a million miles away from my Milwaukee suburban experience. Or even my imagining.

I was in gay bars in the 80’s. However, I’m sure they weren’t anything like the punk scenes you big coastal cities had. I’m sure even the leather and dungeon rooms would have seemed comical (at least by comparison at the time). But my point is that even though I wasn’t phobic, wasn’t ignorant, and therefore wasn’t shocked or put-off by anything in The Runaways that would have freaked my version of the world at that time, the sort of cultural context Bright feels was a necessary part of the story has me thinking… Maybe too much.

Yes, it may be accurate to say, as Bright does, that, “The Runaways band would not have happened, could not have been conceived, without the Underground Dyke Punk Groupie Slut culture that stretched from the San Fernando Valley to the bowels of Orange County,” but is it necessary to understand or appreciate the film, the story of (at least two of) the girls in the all-girls band?

Maybe it’s some sort of “ism” for a heterosexual chick to say it doesn’t matter; or at the very least, I’m being insensitive and dismissive to a movement. I certainly don’t mean to be.  Yet, I thought the film was about forging ahead against the odds, the isolating experience of individuals — of female individuals — and maybe all that cultural context wasn’t integral?  Then again, I’m always harping on the context of things, and certainly the counter-culture is as important in the story of where this band, these women, sat as the cultural norms I was carrying in my own head.

I just can’t decide.

Because fundamentally, I felt the tidal waves of emotion of abuse (self, drug, management, the industry, etc.), dreams gained and lost, friendships, trust, creativity, and being a woman with little respect through it all… And I’m not sure that being more precise in the documentation or depiction of what Bright described as the scene at the time is would have enhanced that ride. Though I guess I’ll never know because that film hasn’t been made.

At the end of The Runaways, I was left wanting to discover what others already had; the music of the band itself. (And the music each made with other bands and in solo careers — save, perhaps, for Lita Ford.  Hubby had a crush on her, so her discs are around… Plus, at the end of The Runways, I didn’t like her. Sure, I understood what motivated her snits; but ick.)   Though, what Susie Bright said now not only colors my thoughts about the film, but thoughts about the music as well.

Such is the plight of one who thinks too much, I suppose.

Can I continue to rock to Crimson & Clover without having any such thoughts of celebrating a “dyke rock’n’roll legacy” — and not have that be dismissive or exclusionary, not have it be a political or social statement at all? Yes, I think I can. So I think I can enjoy The Runaways as a film without any of that too.

I think that’s the question, and the answer.  For me.

I’ll tell you how that works as I listen to more of the music.  …Maybe watch the film again.

PS The end of the movie left you rather feeling like Cherie had relegated herself to, or was even happy with, some sort of boring mainstream life after the band split. Clearly the film focused on Jett. (Odd because the movie was based largely on Currie’s autobiography, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runawayoriginally published in 1989; reprinted to coincide with the film.) But Currie’s life indeed went on.  Cherie also went on to play more music; to marry and divorce from Robert Hays (of Airplane! — what an odd pairing in my mind) — they even had a son, Jake Hays, who accompanied his mom and dad at The Runaways premier, and to rock the art as a chainsaw chick.

MTV Cared About Your Breasts

Over a decade before Rethink Breast Cancer & MTV News Canada launched (to public outcry; video), and the Women Rock! Girls & Guitars breast cancer benefit too, MTV had the High Priority campaign against breast cancer.  (You can be cynical, and view MTV’s interest as self-interest — be it sexist preservation of the sweater-puppets which jiggled in videos, or a way to combat judgement that rock videos and music television would be the end of civilization, but whatever MTV’s motives, they’re active in PSAs.) The campaign began in 1984, but my thrift store find is the 1987 High Priority album.

(I say “find” because up until spotting for $1 at a thrift shop I was ignorant of this MTV effort. In my defense, we didn’t have cable; our family only managed to get a color TV in the late 70s or early 80s — but we were the first to have a microwave oven. My parents only got a video player after I moved out; and they just got cable two or three years ago. So that tells you something about our family values. And why, even if we had cable, I would have likely opted to read anyway instead.)

The profits from this album went to the AMC Cancer Research Center. The album cover featured unfinished, yet signed, art by Andy Warhol on the front; monthly self breast exam info and other cancer prevention tips on the back; and ten songs from leading female performing artists of the time:

Side One

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves; Aretha Franklin with The Eurythmics
Manic Monday; Bangles
I Can’t Wait; Stevie Nicks
You Give Good Love; Whitney Houston
Time After Time; Cyndi Lauper

Side Two

Oh People; Patti Labelle
Le Bel Age; Pat Benatar
Nothing At All; Heart
I Feel The Magic; Belinda Carlisle
Slave To The Rhythm; Grace Jones
More Than Physical; Bananarama

While the High Priority Campaign holds no “remember when” significance, the songs and artists do.  So I’m lovin’ listening to it. Grrl power!!

Want it? Infrequently posted on eBay; less expensive at Amazon.

The Sexual Segregation Of She-Ra; Or, Why I Love Thundarr

I’m too old to claim to have logged hours of watching She-Ra or He-Man — or any childhood memories from that MOTU period. But that won’t stop me from having an opinion.

In The Problem With She-Ra as a Feminist Text, Renee Martin considers the retro ass-kicking cartoon vixen in terms of various female identities:

As adult, I can look at She-ra and still appreciate the positive role that she filled for some young girls. I say some, because as a WOC, She-ra is not a show that I would particular encourage my children to watch, and even more so if I had a daughter. You, see when feminists start talking about women’s advancement, my first question is which women are we talking about? If we’re honest, no matter how many times the great unified sisterhood is pitched by feminism, there are always going to be some women, who somehow don’t fit the mold, because they are poor, of colour, trans, lesbian, older, disabled etc.

…I love her even though she is flawed and continues the erasure I feel as a marginalized woman in many spheres, but I will not dismiss her, because I don’t have the right to take away heroes from little White girls, who need their heroes too. Even though their challenges will be much different than mine, I will not deny that these challenges exist, and by so doing erase the threat that they pose to me. There are very few positive role models for young girls of colour to look up to but erasing the few White images will not change that.

When I read Martin’s post, I found myself nodding my head in understanding and agreement; however…

I’m still struck by something Hillary DePiano, author of The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory: An Unofficial Illustrated Guide to All Princess of Power Toys and Accessories, said in my interview with her:

Interestingly enough, I started somewhat backwards. He-Man predated She-Ra by quite a few years and as a kid I just LOVED He-Man. I had quite a few of the toys. But when the spin-off show, She-Ra came out, my parents decided that since there was now a “girl version” that I had to give all my He-Man figures to my brother and that he would play with them and I would get the She-Ra. God, was I bitter about that. I think there is some feminism lesson in there.

I can’t help but wonder, then, if She-Ra was a means of sexual or gender segregation.

She-Ra was part of the Master Of The Universe world but she was relegated to her own corners of it, kept out of the “Males Only” areas just because they had lady parts. (The usual over-emphasized comic book figure lady parts, of course. He-Man had his own exaggerated maleness too; it’s the earmarks of such works.)  I can’t say that watching the complete She-Ra series and all the He-Man episodes, we could count how many bubblers water fountains She-Ra and crew couldn’t drink from, how many buses these sheroes rode in the back of; it’s far worse than that.

The simplicity of making an “all female version” of the popular Saturday morning cartoon series completely removes coexistence. Women on one side; men on the other — the original side.  Almost like parallel universes, really. What does that say about gender equality?  Not much. Especially if parents, the kids’ overlords, were interpreting these two shows and their accompanying toy sets as “one for boys, one for girls.”

(If there were any super-cross-over MOTU episodes, those might be more interesting; but I doubt I’d be surprised.)

That’s maybe (partly) why I liked Thundarr The Barbarian. There may not have been complete equality, but at least Princess Ariel and Ookla the Mok existed along side leading man Thundarr.

Sadly, there were no Thundarr The Barbarian toys. *heavy sigh* Which means I cannot discuss the parental interaction. Nor can I collect the toys.

PS For the record, I was — and forever remain — an Ookla fan. Ookla was a formerly enslaved a leonine humanoid with fangs and yellow eyes. Whatever a Mok may be in this cultural equation, I guess that’s how I’m identifying.

While Ookla’s guttural, growling language may seem unintelligible, and therefore not appear well suited for blogging writing, “he” is also, according to those who know, “the most likely of the heroes to charge right into an enemy attack or to be enraged by unusual nuisances or threats.” And that, my friends, is how I see myself. (Plus, I will also go quite out of the way to avoid water on my face as well.)

Image credits: Photo from Hillary DePiano’s book and used with permission.

The Irony Of Jimmy The Greek (He’s Rolling Over In His Grave)

In January of 1988, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired by CBS for racism after he made the following infamous comment to an NBC affiliate, station WRC-TV:

The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way — because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner — the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.

[I remember, as a kid at the time, thinking it was odd no one was offended by the nickname, “The Greek” — especially as it, and even “Jimmy,” likely came from the general (lazy) inability to pronounce the man’s real name, Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos.]

I won’t deny there were more tactful ways to communicate realities of racism (it was, in fact, a breeding program; let’s not deny the horrors), but it seems “Jimmy” was also onto something… Something biological. Something which sounds even less, well, probable.

In a study published last year in the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics, Professor Andre Bejan of Duke University, Professor Edward Jones of Howard University in Washington, and Duke graduate Jordan Charles, found that there’s a biological physical trait at the center of athletic performance:

The navel is the centre of gravity of the body, and given two runners or swimmers of the same height, one African origin and one European origin, “what matters is not total height but the position of the belly-button, or centre of gravity,” says study lead author Professor Andre Bejan of Duke University.

“It so happens that in the architecture of the human body of West African-origin runners, the centre of gravity is significantly higher than in runners of European origin,” which puts them at an advantage in sprints on the track, he says.

The researchers charted and analysed nearly 100 years of records in men’s and women’s sprinting and 100-metres freestyle swimming for the study.

Individuals of West African-origin have longer legs than European-origin athletes, which means their belly-buttons are three centimetres higher, says Bejan.

That means the West-African athletes have a ‘hidden height’ that is 3% greater than Europeans, which gives them a significant speed advantage on the track.

“Locomotion is essentially a continual process of falling forward, and mass that falls from a higher altitude, falls faster,” says Bejan.

The science, physics, of belly-buttons gets weirder…

In the pool, meanwhile, Europeans have the advantage because they have longer torsos, making their belly-buttons lower in the general scheme of body architecture.

“Swimming is the art of surfing the wave created by the swimmer,” says Bejan.

“The swimmer who makes the bigger wave is the faster swimmer, and a longer torso makes a bigger wave. Europeans have a 3% longer torso than West Africans, which gives them a 1.5% speed advantage in the pool,” he says.

Asians have the same long torsos as Europeans, giving them the same potential to be record-breakers in the pool.

But they often lose out to Europeans because Asians are typically shorter, says Bejan.

Many scientists have avoided studying why Africans make better sprinters and Europeans better swimmers because of what the study calls the “obvious” race angle.

While the study “focused on the athletes’ geographic origins and biology, not race, which the authors of the study call a ‘social construct,'” it seems Mr. Georgios wasn’t too far off the mark…

Jimmy The Greek

I should stop this now before I step into even deeper stereotypical waters.

But I can’t help but think that our hyper-sensitivity, our unwillingness to deal directly with racism in this country, leads not only to problems with firing the admittedly-tactless messenger (be it Jimmy The Greek or some angry comments to this blogger), but in any sort of rational discussion…

In even hearing this sort of news…

I mean this study was out a year ago, and if it weren’t for my visit to Chris Cruz’s blog, I never would have heard of this research.

Once Upon A Time… There Was The Storyteller

I don’t spend my time listening to TV show announcements, and I admit I know even less about comics — but I do read a lot of blogs. So that’s how I found out that ABC has just announced that they have picked up a new series entitled Once Upon a Time, which is similar to Marvel’s Fables comic book series in that the fairytale characters will be set in “today’s world.” (Poor things.)

For some reason, this reminds me of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, even if ABC’s show will have actors and (apparently) no puppets. And isn’t set in the past.

I’m looking forward to the new ABC television show… But I would welcome the return of Muppets, or any puppets, really.

Soul Train Lessons

Hubby and I enjoy the hell out of reruns of Soul Train.

Rediscovering lost musical loves and finding new-to-us artists to hunt for, like Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, is too awesome. The clothing and dances are feasts for the eyes. Don Cornelius holding the mic a hundred yards away because his deep booming voice doesn’t need a mic, but the show totally believes in the props, is a hoot. Spotting regular dancers and keeping up with yesterday’s lingo… It’s heaven.

But we also play this game when we watch reruns of Soul Train. The Soul Train Game is to guess the year of the episode before the credits roll and reveal the answer.

Amazingly, hubby always wins — even though he was an underage kid when most of these shows aired.

You’d think I’d have the advantage; not only was I buying plenty of records and tapes, but soon I was out dancing in (and dressing to kill for) the club scene too. But no, hubby, the stay-at-home-young-pup wins.

I’d like to think it’s a matter of me over-thinking my answer (I lived in the Midwest, so how far behind were we in the fashions?). But the simple fact is, he is smarter about this stuff. I’m greatly disadvantaged because I don’t think in terms of years; I view life and history as “chapters” and “episodes,” and am hard-pressed to name dates. His knowledge of technology and historical time lines beats out my real life experience — at least in this case.

(In fact, I always turn to him to help me date any antique or vintage collectible — even clothing — because he’s so damn good at this stuff.)

But I have another point to make, another story to tell, so I’ll move along…

The other day, hubby and I were joking about the Soul Train Game, and Destiny, the 13 year old, asked us what we were talking about. Have you ever tried to explain Soul Train and American Bandstand to a teenager of today?

She couldn’t fathom the idea of kids wanting to watch a bunch of kids dance on TV, let alone that those dancing kids had groupies and fan clubs of their own.

So how could we move on to the issues of race and lip-syncing — often with a microphone from the future, with a fake short cord that wobbled about. But we did. Because that’s the kind of context geeks hubby and I are.

Honestly, I think Des understood the race issues and the faux Microphone Of The Future better than the concept of turning on the television to watch a bunch of kids dance.

I’m sure getting over this speedbump of understanding is thwarted by her preference for Goth-kid-attire; she’s not interested in finding out the latest trends in fashion.

I’m sure the fact that learning dance steps is only relatable in terms of the uncoolness of line-dancing in phy-ed — or today’s shows which emphasis professional dancers, oft paired with celebrities. Destiny’s clearly not thinking she should bust a new move on the dance floor — or that watching teens dance on TV would be the way to learn. You’d Google it, right?

I guess the basic problem here is that these shows didn’t spoon-feed you the dance steps, or break down fashion into sponsored “must haves.”  You watched, like a voyeur, identified what you wanted, and figured it out. So to kids today, the concept of watching teens dance on television is like watching a party through a window — only you’re allowed to go, so where’s the thrill?

And so I didn’t even try to get into Solid Gold or the Solid Gold dancers.

Even after she watched Soul Train with us (right after a Ru Paul’s Drag Race episode) it didn’t seem to make sense; she made it through the hour of Ru Paul, but only 20 minutes of Soul Train.

Explaining teenage dance shows to kids today is like explaining the joys of watching fuzzy YouTube clips of a kid & his light saber dancing to Star Wars to the kids of yesteryear.

She-Ra: Princess of Power, Feminist Icon

I’m old. I have no knowledge of 80’s toys which has not occurred as an adult — He-Man included. But I’m fascinated that younger kids – girls — had some rockin’ Saturday AM cartoons & toys that gave girls & women more powerful female images (no disrespect to Wonder Woman!).

she-ra-collectors-inventory-coverWhen I discovered that Hillary DePiano, the woman I recently interviewed about her My Little Pony collection, not only collected She-Ra but wrote the book on the retro “grrl power” toys, I had to speak with her about them.

Hillary, tell me what it was about She-Ra that captured you as a kid — and how did that fit with your more girlie My Little Pony love?

I think the idea of My Little Pony as girlie is sort of a misconception brought on by the fact that the MLP toys of today are all about nothing but tea parties. I was introduced to them through the cartoons of the 80s and those were dark and very action oriented. In an average day, My Little Pony fought off soul stealing demons, witches, and did battle against ghosts, possessed furniture and all sorts of weird things. In the cartoon a few of them were presented with defensive magic powers to help them fight these enemies so to me they were always a part of the same girl power movement as She-Ra. They were a butt kicking female oriented society with few men and those men were total wimps. If someone had told my younger self that She-Ra’s flying horse Swift Wind was a displaced My Little Pony, I would have totally believed it.

I always pictured them going into battle side by side.

As a collector, dealer, and author, do you see an differences among the My Little Pony collectors and the She-Ra collectors?

Well it is important to designate that, while My Little Pony is a somewhat standalone toy line, She-Ra is a subsection of the Masters of the Universe toyline that includes He-Man. It’s an important thing to note because you have collectors who collect only the She-Ra toys and nothing else and then collectors that are collectors of the entire Masters of the Universe (usually called MOTU) toy line who collect She-Ra as a part of that. Many of those collectors are guys who are somewhat begrudging She-Ra collectors, I have noticed.

she-ra-princess-of-power-squares-off-with-her-nemesis-catra-of-the-evil-hordeThere are also significantly less She-Ra items. They are a very different toy to collect because, unlike My Little Pony, it is actually possible to complete your collection which is a kind of thrill collecting MLP will never give.

Interestingly enough, I started somewhat backwards. He-Man predated She-Ra by quite a few years and as a kid I just LOVED He-Man. I had quite a few of the toys. But when the spin-off show, She-Ra came out, my parents decided that since there was now a “girl version” that I had to give all my He-Man figures to my brother and that he would play with them and I would get the She-Ra. God, was I bitter about that. I think there is some feminism lesson in there.

So, in the beginning, I was playing with one eye on my brother saying to myself, Is he taking care of my He-Men figures?

But as the cartoon developed I really started to love the She-Ra universe. There was a lot more magic than in He-Man and She-Ra had all these extra super powers that made her ripe for more interesting adventures.

As an adult, do you see anything else in She-Ra, or her cultural place? Or do you collect primarily based on a sense of nostalgia?

I actually have been talking about She-Ra a good deal lately in the cultural context as I watch my younger cousins grow up. I find it really interesting that my generation grew up with this super powered female hero with She-Ra and then got Xena and Buffy when we moved into middle and high school. To me it isn’t surprising that now that we are all in our 30s there are a record number of females in high business positions, starting small businesses and breaking down barriers. We were raised on all this butt kicking, girl power entertainment our whole lives so it makes perfect sense to me that we are out there kicking butt in our own way.

The reason this came up recently in conversation is because the pattern I see with today’s teens scares me. My cousin’s generation was raised on the Disney Princess mania, and while I love Disney myself, it does sort of reinforce a very different message about waiting to be rescued by a man and being helpless. I think I would be willing to poopoo the influence of the Princess mania had it not lead directly into this whole twisted Twilight obsession. Their generation went from, “I need to be rescued, I’m a helpless Princess” to their romantic ideal being this abusive, dangerous, controlling figure that is the lead in books like Twilight, House of Night, etc where women are victimized. Now, I read and enjoyed the Twilight books (well, most of them, the 4th book is pretty terrible) but when you step back and look at the pattern, it’s scary.

catra-and-clawdeen-ride-off-to-some-nefarious-purposeIf my generation grew up on powerful, butt kicking women and we took that and became professionally butt kicking, I worry about a generation raised on being helpless and victimized. Of course, we won’t know the real effect of this for many years but it is still interesting to consider.

That said, I am sure some of this influenced me on a subliminal level but I only really started to think about it recently. I mainly collected them because I had fond memories of the toys and cartoon show from my childhood.

How large is your She-Ra collection?

At the time I wrote the book, it was complete but for a few international variations and Spinerella. Unfortunately, I have since had to sell a few pieces and playsets for space. That was a part of why I wrote the guide. I knew I was going to have to sell off some of the pieces and I wanted a photographic record of my collection. As I started to set it up, I realized that what I was creating would be of use to any She-Ra fan and I started to look into publishing it.

The best thing about being a She-Ra collector, though, is that you can have every single figure and pretty much keep in all in one medium sized box. It is a much more compact hobby than My Little Pony which can easily take over your entire house. The biggest playset is the Crystal Castle and even that is still only a fraction of the size of My Little Pony’s Paradise Estate!

Do you have a favorite piece?

crystal-sun-dancer-she-ra-toyMy answer will not surprise you at all. I love the winged horses, obviously. There are quite a few of them (Arrow, Swift Wind, Storm, etc) but my favorites are Crystal Sun Dancer and Crystal Moonbeam. They are supposed to be the daytime and nighttime protectors of the castle and they were made of clear color plastic which means you can see how they are made which is at once weird and cool. As a kid I was fascinated with looking inside of them discovering details like how they added the tails.

From a play standpoint, I just liked the idea of them, that they were these castle sentries that would fend off enemies before anyone else knew the castle was under attack.

The only downside with them, as a collector is that their wings are really sticky. I always have to segregate them from the other figures or wrap them in plastic or they make everything all nasty.

Is there a ‘holy grail’ in She-Ra collecting? Do you have it?

The biggest grail is Spinerella and I do not have her. A fellow collector donated the photo for the guide book. She can sell for $800 or more mint in box. I never really wanted her when I was a kid because I thought she was silly so I am not really looking to get her now as an adult. But she is definitely the highest ticket item of all the Princess of Power toys.

Is there a piece you are still searching for?

Not really. Every piece I really wanted I aggressively pursued already. I have a tendency to go against the grain with collecting. I don’t always go after the pieces everyone wants. Instead I tend to go after only what I want which is usually tied to what I wanted as a kid. So it means I may not always have the best pieces or the most valuable ones but I like what I have.

As a fan of He-Man, do you collect he & his cohorts, or only/primarily She-Ra?

We are in somewhat of a family debate about the He-Man figures. As I mentioned before, they were originally mine and I was forced to give them to my little brother largely against my will. Now my brother wants to sell them for some extra cash and I want to keep the ones that were mine. He thinks he should be able to sell mine as well because my parents gave them to him to play with. I’ll let you know how it turns out. But since I am the family eBay seller, I’m sure as heck not selling them for him so he may be out of luck. ;-)

But I like most of the He-Man figures very much. The later ones got a bit silly for my taste but some of them are still cool.

Do you think She-Ra will be revived as Transformers has & He-Man is supposed to be? Why or why not?

She-Ra never gets as much love as He-Man. That said, I know they are already planning a new He-Man movie so if they do make a new MOTU movie and that is a successful, I think any sequel will definitely include She-Ra. If they need someone to play in the movie her, let them know I’ll be here waiting. ;-)

I’d like to thank Hillary for the guided tour of She-Ra’s universe; I certainly do feel that I may have missed something special by being too old for Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s.

All images courtesy of Hillary DePiano; image of Crystal Sun Dancer from her book, The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory: An Unofficial Illustrated Guide to All Princess of Power Toys and Accessories.

Hillary DePiano is a fiction and non-fiction author best known for her play, The Love of Three Oranges, and her e-commerce blog, The Whine Seller. Hillary is a collector of both My Little Pony and She-Ra: Princess of Power toys and has authored collectible guides to both. She can be found buying and selling toys from the 80s through today at Priced Nostalgia.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Can He-Man Still Thrill The Uninitiated?

For the past several years, hubby has tried to sell his Castle of Greyskull at our rummage sales — and every time I have whined.


It’s not that I’m so very protective of his childhood memories that I would second-guess what he ought to part with (and, frankly, he’s sold plenty of his original He-Man collectibles); but I wanted that castle.

It’s not that I have any childhood memories connected to He-Man or that castle either. In the 80’s I was out wearing skanky Madonna fashions — and, yes, that was far more appropriate for a young woman in her 20’s than playing with Mattel’s He-Man toys &/or watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; I won’t apologize for it.

But something about that plastic castle intrigued me…

Maybe it’s because I was a huge Thundarr The Barbarian fan — and we never got no stinkin’ toys. Or maybe it’s because He-Man’s castle was so much cooler than any playsets Babs had. (Other than that 1970’s Barbie Country Camper — which my BFF Heidi and I used with her cat’s kittens, filling the sink with kitten food, and driving tiny sleeping kittens up and down the block — Barbie’s toys sucked.)

Anyway, every year that hubby dragged the 1980’s Castle of Greyskull up from the basement I whined that I wanted it; but hubby wanted the money more.

I think it was his way of punishing me for my perpetual yanking his chain by calling action figures “dolls.” And once, when he asked me what I’d do with the castle, I responded that I’d put tea light candles in it and set it in the window for Halloween; that idea received a sneer.

So every year that the castle went up for sale & didn’t sell (even at $10?!), hubby returned it to the basement for the next sale. That is until this year, when my 9 year old son saw it — really saw it.


The boy had walked right past it sitting there on the lawn, and even shrugged it off when I pointed it out at previous sales. But this year, when Hunter spotted the castle, his eyes grew into the proverbial saucers, and he whispered that boy-ish “whoa” of being deeply impressed. His little boy wonder plucked my husband’s heartstrings in a way my wonder had not, and the boy ended up with the toy. Even more than that, hubby went prowling through other boxes (those set out at the rummage and others in the basement) for more of the He-Man (and other 80’s toy) stuff.


I don’t know who was more excited — Hunter or me. (And hubby certainly enjoyed giving Hunter, who’d never seen the He-Man cartoons, the scoop on just who was who in He-Man’s world.)

The next day, when hubby went to work, Hunter and I played with the Castle of Greyskull and the He-Man toys.

At first, my son was thrilled with the idea that I would play “boy stuff” with him. (Let’s be honest, moms, there’s a limit to how long we can push cars around — let alone make car noises that satisfy our sons; so boys too-quickly learn to play without us; and we are a bit relieved.) But…

I sat with Hunter, surrounded by He-Man folk and assorted paraphernalia. I asked which guys I could play with — and was given two of the bad guys. There was a three second pause… An awkward pause. I suddenly realized I was going to have to do battle — I, the non-violent-preaching-mom, was going to have to make my bad dudes fight his good guys. Could I do it? I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my son was thinking the same thing… And I knew I had better start playing before both of us freaked-out from the pressure.

So I started with what I thought was a logical place: I had my two guys talk to each other.

Hunter just stared at me, his He-Man action figures limp in his hands.

Nervous, I just kept going on — thinking, like I always do, that I can talk my way out of anything. Realizing I needed to put some action into my action figures, I began to make my bad guys argue about who’s idea for getting into He-Man’s lair was better — and then fight. I looked up and saw Hunter just staring at my hands making my guys wrestle and call each other stupid.

Like a television narrator I said, “Now, while they’re busy fighting, it might be a good time to capture them.” Hunter jumped in with his guy to snag one of my guys (while my second guy got away). Hunter’s capture of my guy was my personal rescue; it was no longer some lame girlie theatre performance of one. I don’t know what it really became, this playing He-Man with mom thing — at least not in Hunter’s eyes… He hasn’t invited me to play again.


But I have hope.

Maybe we’ll even bond over Masters of the Universe DVDs and a new He-Man movie, perhaps?

Anyway, the Castle of Greyskull is indeed way cooler than any Barbie house. Instead of blow-up and other plastic furniture, sticker home decor (which has to go in the place the instruction sheet says, or else it won’t be perfect!), and vinyl window scenes, He-Man’s castle has real windows, look-outs, and functional pieces, which, while admittedly for violent purposes, make the castle fun to play with.


In fact, just the sticker-carpet-covered trapdoor would have improved any of Bab’s residences; triple the fun factor if Barbie’s Dream House had had a dungeon. (I’m not saying what I would have done to Ken there… I’m just saying it would have been more fun.)

And I guess that’s the point about these old He-Man toys — they just looked inherently cool. I had no knowledge of He-Man, nether had my son; we didn’t even have the original toy packaging to sell us on it or the mythology. But we both just knew He-Man’s world was cool and fun to play with. Even if we need more practice at figuring out how to play it together.



For the first time in my life I wished I’d have been a kid in the 80’s… Well, at least they could have given us Thundarr action figures and playsets. Then I might have been better prepared to play with my son.

Then again, I think Thundarr would kick He-Man’s ass.


Desperately Seeking 80’s Madonna Fashions?

UPDATE 10/18/2014: I’ve a pair of the black Desperately Seeking Susan boots for sale in my Etsy shop!

Speaking of 1980’s-Desperately-Seeking-Susan Madonna & boots


Fans of the film Desperately Seeking Susan will remember that the whole hullabaloo started when Susan (Madonna), trades in her fabulous jacket for a pair of boots spotted in the window at Love Saves The Day (the old, original location, not the new one in New Hope, PA) — and then Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) buys the jacket, gets hit on the head and, trying to discover who she is, uses the key in the jacket’s pocket to open the Pandora’s-box-of-a-port-authority locker, setting off a romantic comedy of mistaken identity. An entirely awesome film. Seriously. Just try not to enjoy Desperately Seeking Susan.

With the 80s fashion comeback, blah-blah-blah, how would you like to be so hip & retro it hurts and have these boots? (Frankly, back in the day, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in them — too copy-cat, even though I was dressed as scandalously; but now those boots are kitsch-a-licious — now with added irony!)


Bakers – Leeds owned the license to copy the boots designed by the film’s Costume Design Assistant, Alison Lances, but Town & Country knocked-off a netting with sequins over vinyl version. Frankly, it would be hard to tell the difference, right?


But good luck finding either of them — if & when you do, be prepared to pay several times the original $49. Yup, even for pleather.

However, crafty girls could likely figure out how to adopt this vintage hairpin lace crochet pattern to make the netted boot overlay and add sequins, right? (Click this larger image from to guide you.)


If rhinestones & shiny bling aren’t exactly your thing, you can opt for more punk studs — no, not men with attitude; boots with stud decorations, dears. Alyssa Zukas AKA Two Sting Jane does — and she even shares how! (If that link doesn’t always work — and it is wonky, giving 404s, try the DIY link and scroll; it’s worth it!)

And, because what are shoes without the right handbag, why not make a purse version of the iconic skull suitcase.


However, if you never ever would have traded costume designer Santo Loquasto’s jacket for those boots…


Well, copies of those jackets were licensed and made “retail available,” just like the boots, and advertised on MTV.


Made by Identity, Inc. &/or Creative Embroidery Corp. (I say “and/or” because both were marketed by Targeted Communications, Inc., so they could have been the same company.), the jackets have a hefty priceif & when you can find them.


If you can sew or at least embroider, you can add the pyramid & eye, like that on a dollar bill, and the phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum” to a jacket — just like Awsumgal did — sure, it’s a doll’s jacket; but it’s the same steps, just a different scale.

So get crafty and create your own fashion homage to the 1980’s that you so desperately seek. Aidan Quinn sold separately.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Lessons In Literacy With Strawberry Shortcake

Let’s see… When this Kid Stuff Records book (copyright 1980) & record (copyright 1981) set of Strawberry Shortcake’s Day in the Country came out, I would have been 16 or so, which naturally explains why I never owned any Strawberry Shortcake stuff back in her heyday. Why the stuff seems to gravitate towards me in some sort of kitschy retro-grade, is a complete other issue — like Smurfs, for which I have no sense of nostalgia either, I do not yet know why.


Anywho, I grabbed this SEE the pictures HEAR the story READ the book set for about a buck, as I recall, making it another cheap thrill.

But, like most things I touch, it provokes a few questions…

Why were the pages merely black & white pictures? Were you also supposed to COLOR the illustrations?


More profoundly, I wonder what’s become of the progression of these kids’ books… When my eldest was little, the book & record sets had morphed to book & tape cassette sets, then to those (incredibly annoying) books with the computer chips that made noises (whenever you saw the icons in the text, you pressed the corresponding button for an audio clip). And now, the closest things I’ve seen are the video games which mainly use “pens” to read the words or stories (or, sometimes, have buttons much like those electronic books).

If the concept was based on the philosophy that being read to encourages children to become readers (and these book & audio sets were to assist parents who, for whatever reason, had no time to read to their children), then I think that’s been lost along the way. Lost with the interactivity — broken down into amusing “fun” and sold as “learning” yet.

As Gabriel Zaid (and translater Natasha Wimmer) so eloquently & concisely described in So Many Books, reading is a very complicated learned process involving the interpretation & integration of units of complex meaning into a cohesive whole. This is why listening to stories is so powerful — it is more natural, more easily intellectually and even emotionally digested. But once hooked on stories, a person wants to have the independence to select & enjoy on their own; they develop the love of reading.

So why add further fragmentation to the process? Why break reading down into even more chunks, such as distracting gimmicks of auditory bells & whistles? Why add other activities to it, such as pushing buttons, touching screens, using wands — removing one’s focus not only from the story as a whole but the page itself?


Fashion Friends With Fringe Benefits, 80’s Style

Via Shop It To Me, I found this Jersey Tassel Necklace on sale at Urban Outfitters. Totally 80’s, right?


Holy 80’s! I remember these suede mini skirt sets with short jackets long on fringe from Wilson’s from my days working in the mall. I somehow managed not to spend my paychecks on them; but I do remember wanting to… Must have spent all my surplus at the stores I was working in *wink*


Ah, the fashion Molotove cocktail that is fringe meets acid wash denim — explosive!


I think all my friends had jean jackets like this. Not me; I had — and still do — a very large bustline and short jackets with fringe not only fit funny (once large enough to cover The Girls, they were too long to be a short jackets), but the fringe actually hid my rack. I just looked sort of lumpy & top-heavy in a bad way.


And this last one may indeed be least… We called shirts like these “stripper shirts” — not because of the little strips of fabric with beads on them, but because of the little bit of fabric that was nearly enough to cover you breasts. That and, obviously, you looked more than a bit like a stripper teasing “the goods” — if you bought her a drink would it have the same results as if you stuck a buck in the waistband of her jeans? Oh wait; most men think that anyway. I guess this fringed beaded tee was just the sort of fashion statement that had we ladies thinking like men.


But Maybe I Should Leave My Fantasies Of Isaac Out Of It

To celebrate National Romance Week, Princess Cruises has joined with Cruise Critic to conduct a search for real-life love stories that have taken place on the decks of Princess ships. Jan Swartz, Princess’ executive vice president, says:

Over the years, we’ve heard many romantic stories from our passengers – everything from meeting their future spouse onboard a Princess ship to unexpectedly reconnecting with someone with whom they develop a new relationship – and so we’re launching a search to find as many of these heartwarming stories as possible.

So why would you confess such things as bumping into an old flame & rekindling a romance aboard a cruise ship, or, a la The Love Boat, hooking up with the ship’s doctor — let alone have them published on the Princess website?

Well, Princess Cruises says it’s for the love of romance — and the prize. (The winner will receive a seven-day Princess cruise to the Caribbean, including airfare.) But I think it’s the opportunity to have Captain Stubing judge your love exploits at sea.

stubing_mcleodThat’s right, one of the judges of this contest is “Princess’ well-known ambassador and member of the line’s ‘Department of Romance’,” Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod and Cruise Critic editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer Brown will pick their five favorite stories from among those submitted, and then the Cruise Critic community will then vote on the top five to determine the most romantic story. Entries will be taken until August 28, 2009; the most romantic story will be announced on September 28, 2009.

I’d like to win a free cruise — who wouldn’t? But I’d really like to impress Captain Stubing. (Maybe enough, along with all the other stories, to reignite a campaign to bring back Love Boat; oh, the many happy nights of watching, giggling, dreaming about Isaac, “My Bartender.”) At least that’s why I would enter — if I’d ever been on a cruise, let alone a Princess Cruise. Donations accepted.


Cheap Thrills Thursday: It’s Q*bert, Baby!

When I spotted this authentic retro Q*Bert “a board game based on the exciting arcade game” (Parker Brothers #0142, © 1983, Gottlieb & Co.) at a rummage sale, I was excited. The box felt so light, I had no idea if there even was a game & pieces inside — but I didn’t dare to even open the box there; I just wanted to buy it and get out of there before the $5 price went up.

No, I’d never played Parker Brothers Q*bert; I was a freshman in college when this hit the market in 1983, and boardgames, especially for ages 7-14, were so not cool. In fact, boardgames weren’t especially cool then. Arcade video games were where it was at and any college bar worth visiting had them.

My college roommate, Sue, and one of our dorm-mates, Nora, were especially obsessed with Q*bert. I myself never mastered it; artist Jeff Lee’s pyramid of cubes inspired by M. C. Escher made me dizzy and I too often jumped myself (or Q*bert) off the pyramid. But when I spotted the retro board game box, I was so flooded with memories…

I told myself that if I did indeed now possess a complete game, I would probably be better at it than the old video game. And if I didn’t, it was a cool retro nostalgic piece. How could I lose?

Surprise, surprise! When I opened the box, I found every last piece was there (save for a standard 6-sided die, of which my drawers are plentiful). So I made hubby come over and play.

The game is a two-player game, with each player playing two rounds: one as Q*bert and one as the “nasty” characters, Coily, Red Ball, Ugg, Wrong Way, Green Ball, and Slick. (Don’t worry, you’ll only play one at a time, determined by the roll of the dice.)

The player being Q*bert goes first. He or she drops the 8-sided die into the “Q*bert secret die-rolling tube” and then moves, like video Q*bert, up &/or down the pyramid on the yellow spaces, taking white pegs from every space Q*bert travels. The Q*bert player does not have to move the entire number rolled (more on that in a minute).

Then player two, as the “nasty” characters, goes. He or she rolls the character die and the 6-sided die together, revealing just which “nasty” character will move how many spaces — the chart on the back of the gam’s instruction booklet tells you A) where each character starts, B) the direction of their movement, and C) how or if Q*bert can be captured by said “nasty” character.

If a “nasty” character captures Q*bert, Q*bert may be saved if the player moving/being Q*bert did not move the total number on the dropped 8-sided die — those unused moves on the pyramid may be “escape moves.” If Q*bert cannot be saved by an escape move (just moving away or by using a Flying Disc), then that round is over and the total number of pegs collected are that player’s score for the game.

The players reset the board & switch roles (and drops and rolls of the dice) and play again. Whoever collects the most pegs as Q*bert wins.

Considering the game is for ages 7 through 14, the instructions are rather complicated… (This makes me wonder what lays beneath the round blue “for Only 2 Players, Ages 7-14” stickers — do they cover up other recommended ages?)

Yeah, if you remember Q*bert at all, each character’s movement sounds familiar… But it was a hell of a lot easier when the 1’s and 0’s of the program did it. Even if the pyramid on the screen made you dizzy & end your turn/game early while your friends played for hours.

Overall, the game is fun for the sake of nostalgia; but not so much fun to play. And, as a board game lover (even of kiddie games), it pains me to say it.

Ah, The Sights & Sounds Of 80’s Flicks

The Monday Movie Meme is I love The 80’s; here are some of my quick thoughts on my favorite 80’s films…

Desperately Seeking Susan — I was dressing like slutty Madonna; but like Rosanna Arquette’s Roberta Glass, I wanted more of Madonna’s life (as Susan, anyway). I recently watched the movie again, and felt the same stirrings now. Still a cheap, fun thrill!

The Lost Boys — Still an excellent film. A great blend of adventure comedy with enough chills & thrills to make you grip your boyfriend’s arm. Of course, Jami Gertz & Jason Patric gave you chills & thrills of a different sort (and maybe that lead to different sort of grips between you & your boyfriend… I’m not judging you if it did.)

I wore out my cassette version of the soundtrack; had to get it on CD.

Pretty In Pink — Molly totally chose the wrong guy. How can anyone turn down The Duckman?! His performance of Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness, & the rich kid was forgotten. Yes, I know that song was lip-synced; but I melted. (Jon Cryer, as Duckie, did sing Love in the film though.)

James Spader was in the film too — as the rich jerk you loved to hate. Too pretty for me to like him then, it was too easy to lump Spader into the group of vain guys who thought they were better than me.



Along came Secretary & then Boston Legal, and I completely, utterly fell in love with Spader. He’s on my list of “people I’m allowed to ‘do’ if I ever have the opportunity.”

I may have to write more about my love affair with James Spader later.

The Breakfast Club — This time Molly Ringwald got the guy right; but somehow, I knew that once she drove off with her (movie) dad, she’d forget all about Judd Nelson…

I wouldn’t.

Judd was never hotter. (I know because I kept waiting for him to appear so hot again. :sigh: I still wait.)

But to me, the ultimate 80’s flick is Valley Girl. If I couldn’t be brave enough to live life as Madonna’s Susan, well, I’d get me Nicolas Cage, the dangerous yet misunderstood “bad boy” who’d love me, even if I would have uttered “gag me with a spoon” — which, trust me, we only said to mock those we felt were lame enough to say that… I don’t think anyone ever said that outside of a movie or a cliché.

Actually most of the movie is cliché. But it’s the height of cliché! It’s full of romantic cheese done with an incomparable stylistic edge set to Modern English’s I Melt With You, yet (and loads of other greats on a kick-ass soundtrack).

Retro Radio Shack Flashback

Hubby brought home a few old copies of retro Radio Shack catalogs from the 1980’s. I’ve naturally managed to ignore them quite well for the past few weeks because I’ve never been much of an electronics or gadget girl — but I do have a few fond (embarrassing) Radio Shack memories…

So I finally had to pick up the old catalogs and flip through them.

Here are 13 things you can remember &/or learn about me from retro Radio Shack catalogs.

1 I have virtually no understanding of most of the stuff listed (nor it’s tech descriptions) in the catalogs. Then, as now, I only manage to memorize what I need to for a purchase and then dismiss it.


2 I think I’m supposed to recognize the album cover shown on the catalog cover — so I keep turning back to look at it. But I’m continually distracted by the hip guy in the jogging suit and the sunshine babe in yellow. Twenty Kitsch-Slap Points to anyone who can identify the LP cover.

3 I miss big boomin’ speakers. Everything is so small today, but back then they were massive building blocks in your stereo system. And it didn’t necessarily mean men were over-compensating if they had them. That would take a few more years.


4 I think the chick being protected by her speaker-fort looks like Megan Mullally.  I wonder what she was doing in the 80’s…

5 Ah, scientific calculators… I remember in high school we were specifically told to get Texas Instruments (TI) calculators and any kids who showed up with the Radio Shack equivalents were looked funny — mainly because they were so geeky in their defense of their calculators which were supposedly better and were therefore the choice of brainiacs everywhere.


6 Which reminds me, what’s the first thing we all learned to do with our expensive scientific calculators — TI or Radio Shack brands? Spell “hell” and “Shell Oil”. Proof that brand really didn’t matter.

7 I don’t recall ever having seen one of these red Radio Shack AM radios — but I’m guessing this hot little number adored the desk in many a brainiac’s bedroom.


8 Hey, it’s 1986 and electronic books hit the market. As a parent & a reader, I rue the day.


But the best thing about these catalogs — the 1980 issue especially — was that I discovered the name of a retro computer game I used to play… Consider this 9-13 because it’s full of TMI.

Back in the summer of 1980 I was 16 and my BFF was Mary. We used to walk up to the K-Mart and buy lip gloss Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers (watermelon, please!), wide hair combs to stick in our back pockets, & Tiger Beat magazines — and if we didn’t have money, we’d just flip through issues.

Then we’d head to the strip mall which shared the K-Mart parking lot and cruise albums in a little vinyl shop — until we were chased out for having no money & loitering. Then, still having nothing better to do, we’d giggle over the “real man” who worked at the Radio Shack.

He was a real man, with a thick head of 80’s hair and a full mustache, not the few stray hairs boys at school had above their lips. He was hot.

One day, when they moved the new-fangled computer to the front by the door, the man called us in to test it out. Convinced he was flirting, we giggled our red-faced way into the store and let him teach us about these boxes that I’d one day spend hours of my life on.


The game they had set up for consumer demos was this game where you thought of a question you wanted answered & the “girl” would ask you questions until she guessed your question. I couldn’t recall the name of the game, but there, in blue & white I discovered the name of it: “Eliza” Artificial Intelligence.


Eliza was no oracle; she wouldn’t give you the answer to your question, she’d just figure out your question. Are you as smart as Eliza was purported to be — can you guess my question?

My 16 year old boy man crazy self wanted to know if the man, Mark, liked me and would ask me out.

If it sounds stupid, it was. But in my immature infatuated brain, I thought it would be so romantic to have Eliza “say” to me via the TRS-80 screen, “Is your question, ‘Does Mark like you?'” — with Mark right there to give me the dreamy, “Yes, he does.”

I’m sure he would have uncomfortably said, “No.” (His fiancé called him at the store everyday while I blushed and talked to Eliza.)  And had he liked me “that way,” I’m sure my mom & dad would have been thrilled to have their 16 year daughter bring home a 23 year old man in polyester Sans-a-Belt pants, a short-sleeved white dress shirt & a tie who worked at Radio Shack & flirted with underage girls.

Anyway, I don’t really remember when or why I stopped going to flush & blush my way through conversations with Mark & Eliza… My guess is that summer ended & both of them were put out of their misery by my return to school. But in any case, I can now seriously consider getting an old TRS-80 and an Eliza game. That’s safer than figuring out what happened to Mark.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here

Has Fonzie’s Real Cool Happy Days Game Jumped The Shark?

For a decade, from 1974 through 1984, Happy Days was one of the most popular sitcoms on television. While the show was supposed to be centered on Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family, quickly the star of the show became Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). So much so, that in 1980, the Smithsonian honored the Fonz and the series for it’s role in American pop culture history by putting one of the Fonz’s leather jackets on display — and there’s even a Bronz Fonz in Wisconsin memoralizing the TV series. But when I brought home the Happy Days game from the thrift store (a paltry $1.75), neither of our girls (age 19 and 12) even knew what or who the heck we were talking about.

I guess our rigid TV limits prevented them from mindless hours of channel surfing & the discovery of reruns.

But I never let stuff like that, be it the ignorance or the distaste of others, stop me from enjoying a new-to-me find.

I cleared the table and invited them all to play Happy Days, “Fonzie’s Real Cool Game By Parker Brothers”, © 1976 Paramount Pictures Corporation.


The instructions sheet states the goal of this retro board game as follows: “Heeeeey… the Fonz is hangin’ out at your house. Show him how cool you really are by being the first player to collect 16 cool points and light up Arnold’s juke box.” Which doesn’t tell you much — other than you’ve somehow appropriated Arnold’s juke box and are keeping it at your house. Or maybe the Fonz did the liberating? I don’t know.

In reality the game is based on collecting cool points; but you don’t spend time at your house or anyone elses (with or without the Fonz). In fact, landing on your home space or another home space can cost you in cool points. But I guess I’m expecting too much story from a story-based board game.


The game is pretty simple. In theory. I’m not saying the ages 7 – 13 thing is off; I’m just saying that it’s more complicated to explain without typing the entire instruction sheet.

But I’ll try.

OK, picture playing Monopoly. You start with some money (in this case, a $3 allowance) and your playing piece starts at your own color-coordinated home rather than “Go”. Unlike Monopoly, you also get a Somethin’ To To card, have a peg in the juke box “cool meter” (with one cool point granted to you), and you only have one die to roll.


You roll the die, move that number of spaces, and where ever you land on the board, take the action directed — should you be able to. Because you might not have enough allowance to go on the date or activity listed on your Somethin’ To Do card — or you might have used-up your Somethin’ To Do card supply.

Round & round the board you go, going on dates, hanging out with pals, earning allowance & money for odd jobs (so you can hang out and go on dates) — plus earning and losing cool points.


The game is not monotonous. Along the way, you or another player may draw a Crusin’ card, which will direct you all to “stuff a telephone booth” or “play the pinball machine” — the winner of which, selected by being the high roller, gets two cool points. Of course, you can loose cool points whimsically too. Like when another player draws a Crusin’ card which says “knocked over Fonzie’s bike” or “the Fonz catches you wearing colored socks”. The penalty point loss isn’t given to the player who drew the card; they get to play it against an opponent.

But by far, the most fun are the Drag spaces on the board.

When you land on one of these two spaces, you get to challenge any other player to a drag race. Should anyone chicken out, the chicken loses a cool point and the other gains a cool point. Ah, but if you race, the action moves to the center of the game board, where you roll the die to see who reaches the finish line first — be careful, because you could spin-out or have an engine stall! The winner of the race gets two cool points and the loser is moved to the “Hey, Nerd!” space of the winner’s choosing, where he or she loses a point. Plus the winner of the drag race gets to place themselves anywhere they’d like on the board.

So while the game play is pretty simple, the game action is rather varied — and we all had a blast.

I know what you’re thinking — I’m a silly board game geek and a lover of retro chic, so of course I liked it, and therefore I’m probably imagining that everyone else did too. Plus, I won the first game. But honestly, the kids insisted on playing three more games (Des, the 12 year old, won twice) — and both girls whined when hubby & I had to call it quits for dinner.

And the rest of the night, “Hey, Nerd!” was shouted and giggled at one another for any old thing. Not just by the kids either.

It almost became annoying. Almost.

So I totes recommend the retro Happy Days board game; it has not jumped the shark. It’s even fun if you don’t know the show.


The Black & White Of Seeing In Color

When I was young, my family was one of the last to get a color television. We were among the first to get a microwave though; because both my parents worked, a microwave was considered practical. Original microwave ovens were about the size of TVs at that time, but probably even more expensive. I remember my sister and I sitting ’round the microwave making more s’mores than we could stomach because we loved to watch the marshmallows expand — something that drove my mom nuts because, like the early television myths (and masturbation), watching the happenings inside a microwave would make you go blind.

But hey, we didn’t have a colored TV to watch, so sis & I entertained ourselves with the microwave until the novelty wore off.

We entertained the neighborhood kids with the microwave too. Something quite handy when it came time to force friends to reciprocate when their families got those new-fangled video cassette machines. Our cousins, who lived out of state, were the first we knew to get VCRs — I think they even had one before we had color TV even. Being technology geeks, they were into Beta not VHS. I remember them bringing the machine and the tapes along with them when they visited for holidays like Thanksgiving. My sister & I thought our parents would hop on video players asap — we thought the convenience of watching movies when it suited them was like the convenience of microwave ovens. But no. TV was a very low priority in our house.

But I digress.

We had black & white television for ages — until the early 80’s, I think. But my sister and I saw the programs in color.

Through the magic or our minds, we took in black & white and deciphered it into color. Something which both made our parents marvel — and further delay purchase of a color TV set.

We knew what we saw (deciphered) was correct because, say, we’d be watching the Miss America pageant, and I’d say that Miss Oklahoma’s hair was the same color as Rita Hayworth’s and my sister would say she loved the fabulous blue bikini’s in the swimsuit competition — and then, the next morning in the paper there would be color photos of the contestants posing in bright blue swimsuits — and proof of Miss Oklahoma’s red locks too.

Whatever this ability to view black & white yet “see” color was, I lost it somehow during all the years of viewing color television. Occasionally, watching classic films, I get it right (verifiable via color promotional photos etc.); but for the most part I am guessing, not seeing as I once did.

I wonder if my sister has lost her ability too… I’ll have to call her and see.

Dancing With The Stars, My Age Is Showing

Watching Dancing tonight, the results show, I saw Hall & Oates perform one of the songs from my glory days, Maneater.

Now the interesting thing, the thing is not just that I feel old because I watch the show with my kids, but because I’ve seen Hall & Oats perform live, in concerts. And I thought I’d already seen the duo’s life cycle.

But I was wrong.

The first time I’d seen the band I was 19 or 20. It was at the great party on the lake, Summerfest — back in the day when the old stage had true general seating. Not some general seating (like today on ‘the hill’, with partially obstructed views, vs. the ticket seats closer to the stage), but all the seats were general seats.

The only price you paid was your general admission to the fest (and the food and drink bill — which was no small thing, but still cheaper than it is today). The true fans, those dedicated to the principal of the fest and music, would arrive in a group at the festival park before the gates opened, and at 10 A.M., when the gates opened, rush the main stage.

There you’d scrounge for and stake-out the best seats you could get. You had to be a group because in order to keep you seats, at least a pair of you would need to sit, lounge and/or lay upon the old wooden plank seating from 10 in the morning until 7 P.M. or so when the opening act would begin their performance.

You’d guard in shifts, with other members checking back in either to take their shift at seat saving or to bring you wine coolers, beers & real brats (not the grey hotdogs many try to pass-off as bratwurst). I personally loved my seat saving duties. Despite the great number of other seat savers (and the scavengers who tried to poach seats) and music occasionally billowing by from one of the other stages, it was one of the more quiet places on the lake to actually have a conversation. Conversation, sunlight, wine coolers, music, lake breezes… What’s not to like? Oh yeah, and the inevitable run-in with old friends who spotted you on your concert seating stake-out. (Remaining in place, letting others come to you, has always been one of the best ways to be found.)

Anyway, the first time I saw Hall & Oats was at Milwaukee’s Summerfest — they were just approaching their biggest days and as a college student on the cutting edge of music at the time, it was freakin’ fantastic. Being slightly drunk on beverages, the feeling of cool night lake air caressing hot sunburned skin, the intoxicating mix of old and new friends (and lovers), and youth was topped-off by awesome music & dancing on the wooden plank benches as we scream-sung the lyrics. Hall & Oats was on fire and so was I.

But just a few short years later, or so it seemed to me, Hall & Oats was once again back at Summerfest — but this time, at one of the smaller music stages. I still went to see them & had a fantastic time. But it was a stage demotion, symbolic of their loss of cool status — and my own. No longer were any of us on fire… Smoldering, maybe; but not on fire.

I noted it, this temporary ‘hot’ status in pop culture, and how it mirrored my own fleeting popularity in our youth obsessed culture. I didn’t like it; but I accepted that this was how others would see us. They were wrong; but let them move along with their fads & fancies.

Flash forward to now. A few weeks ago, Hall & Oates appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (yes, I am old; but I’m also cool enough to have intelligence and good taste, thankyouverymuch). Their appearance may have seemed a slice of retro kitschy goodness to many — a big “Howdy” to gods from the 80’s, a decade now so “vintage” that it’s back “in” again — but to me, it was a fond remembrance. Not just of my glory days, but of my “they’re wrong, they don’t know what they’re doing” thoughts. Seeing them with Stewart wasn’t a nod from a current pop culture collegiate deity to gods that once were; it was, at least, mutual recognition of one another’s cool factor — with neither’s being over with.

Seeing the duo’s performance on Dancing tonight, with that hot Karina Smirnoff in a flaming red jumpsuit and black leg warmers, I realized that I may no longer look as hot as she did — but I once wore those leg warmers, those heels, and mesmerized audiences grooving to Maneater. My audience was smaller, my moves less professional; but by boobs were bigger and I was entertaining and cool to those who watched. Like Hall & Oates, I may not be the looker I once was, but I’m not dead. Or irrelevant.

I hope to keep seeing more of them; because, boys, every time you go away you take a piece of me with you.

Messy Marvin Meets The Messy Witch

What follows are scans of all the pages in a retro Hershey’s promotional comic story book featuring Messy Marvin. This is apparently the top story portion, separated by perforations, from a larger activity book. (This explains the perforation-bumps running along the bottoms of all pages — and some color bleed.)

(I’m tossing this into the 80’s pile because while the book may have been copyrighted in 1979, we all remember Messy Marvin from Hershey’s 1980’s advertising campaign.)

I love how much the Messy Marvin on the front cover looks like Peter Billingsley (did). I don’t know who or what this Suzy was.

While this was the story book above the activity book, you’ll see there are plenty of directions in this part too. This page instructs you to color it; but the previous owner only did the first panel.

Note that this page directs readers to use the Messy Marvin Magic Decoder to find out what the evil “dragoon” says. In true lame don’t-make-the-kids-work-too-hard style, the answer is provided for those kids who didn’t have one. (Sorry, but I grew up in the days where they didn’t give you the answers, where the blanks remained blank until you got your hands on the magic decoder… Those blanks haunted you, the text taunted you… And true friends made deals: “I’ll get the activity book, you get the decoder, and we’ll meet back here on Saturday.”)

Anyway, the dragoon’s message is as special as Ovaltine’s was in A Christmas Story; but then, the whole book is an ad. I guess by this time, even the kids were so jaded that they expected such shameless promotions.


“Mirror, mirror please tell us what to do.” The magic mirror’s answer is revealed when you hold it up to “another” mirror. Since the book didn’t cheat and give you the answer, I hope kids knew that “another mirror” was a real mirror.

“Marvin, since you’re so messy you better let me carry that potion!”

(I love seeing the eraser marks as the former owner tried to deny his mistakes in doing this puzzle.)

This page includes a dot-to-dot. Apparently dot-to-dots were so difficult for kids in the 80’s to do that Hershey’s was compelled to give the answer. The former owner sure found counting from 1-59 was such hard work that he gave up at 7 and read the answer, I guess.

They fall… All the way down Craggy Peak…

Into and through the waiting arms of the Ghosties!

“Don’t worry about the evil dragoon! Just as we can’t go there, he can’t come here.”

(I bet this writer went on to write for the SciFi Channel.)


Trees you are and trees you will be… Until my Hershey’s syrup is returned to me!

Pages to color and decode? Didn’t they learn anything from the failed dot-to-dot attempt?

Not bad, found them together and in only three days.

That’s nearly as easy as flipping the book to read the answers!

Marvin was even messy as a tree, but they know he’s not messy when he makes chocolate milk with Hershey’s syrup — however, he must find the mean and messy witch’s glass first!

He found the witch’s glass, did you?

One last puzzle before your advertising activity book is done — and if you solve it, maybe you can have one. *wink*

Memories Of Messy Marvin

Among the Messy Marvin ads, I found this cup:

Perhaps the Messy Marvin cup brings back memories for you. Heaven knows I was too mature to drink from a Messy Marvin cup (but wapatui from a dorm garbage can was fine). I do remember the print ads and commercials; they were everywhere.

Hi, my name’s Messy Marvin.

I got that name because no matter how hard I tried, my room and my clothes were always messy. But then one day, Mom brought home thick, rich, yummy Hershey’s Syrup in the no mess squeeze bottle. And before I knew it, I was making the best chocolate milk I’d ever had. But I wasn’t making a mess. It’s fun, too. I just pull the cap and squeeze. Nothing drips, nothing spills.

Now Mom’s happy and so am I.

My room and my clothes are still a mess, but at least there’s hope.

Look for a quick shot of a very young Tracey Gold in the second commercial in this video collection:

This ad campaign pretty much rendered any kid — even a ‘college kid’ — a Messy Marvin to anyone older; thanks, Hershey’s.

And yes, the child actor who played Messy Marvin was the same kid who played Ralphie in A Christmas StoryPeter Billingsley. Which makes the Ovaltine decoder ring storyline ironic.

Apparently Billingsley too felt some disappointment with the ring; it’s not one of the film’s props that he saved. According to SFGate’s The Poop interview, Billingsley kept the BB gun, the bunny suit and the slate board.

I wonder if he kept any Messy Marvin mementos?