Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frustrating Toy Hall of Fame, Part I

When you were a kid, was there ever a toy that seemed like the coolest thing ever in the commercial, yet turned out to be a dud when you actually got one?  Here's some I remember...
1.  The Yo-yo.
The commercial always had kids doing something like this:
"Anyone can play!" the commercial promised,  "Rock the baby!  Walk the Dog!  Even Loop the Loop!"
I couldn't wait to get a yo-yo and do some tricks.
Then I got one.
 It did this:
I believe that trick is called "Drop and Stay There."  
With some practice I mastered other tricks, including "Tangle the String," "Get Thrown Outside for Swinging That Around Indoors," "Get the String Grubby Looking," and best of all, "Loop-the-Thwack!"
2. Rubik's Cube
This one was sneaky.  It was fun to play with.  Then I discovered something awful:
I couldn't  solve it.
I could solve one or two sides, but that was about it.    And everyone seemed to know a kid or two who could solve the freaking thing.   The rest of us "solved" it by taking at apart and putting it together.
3. Slinky
In commercials it walked downhill or (down the steps) like it was alive!
In real life it either just sat there, or, if given a push, plunked down a step and, well,  sat there.
Of course, you could always do this!
Wheee!  We're talking  minutes of fun here! 
This (PG-13) cartoon sums up the slinky experience nicely
4.  Super Elastic Bubble Plastic

I've blogged about this before.  It was a tube of glop.  In the commercial, kids put a dollop of glop on a straw and inflate  it into jumbo bubbles.   According to the commercial, these bubbles "last and last!"
Every time I tried it, I ended up with sorry, lopsided blobs that lasted (and lasted) for a three minutes before they broke.
5. Mousetrap

The commercial showed a cartoony Rube Goldberg device.  Crazy music played.   A kid turned the crank, which triggered a kicking boot, that released a ball that sprung a lever and so on.  The end result  was a cage dropping on a  plastic mouse as  delighted kids yelled "Mouse Trap!"
The real life game had two problems:

1.  It was dificult to assemble.
2.  When assembled, it didn't really work.

I imagine this conversation occurred at the toy factory before the game hit the stores.

Toy Designer A:  We gotta scrap that Rube Goldberg mouse catcher toy.  It's just too hard to put together.

Toy Designer B: Hmmm.... about we make assembling the toy part of a game?   Make it a challenge.   Like hitting a bull's eye in darts or bowling a strike.

Toy Designer A:  Yeah, that's good, but even when the thing's built it doesn't work that often.  Who wants to build something that doesn't work?

Toy Designer B:  Good point...  ...wait!  I got it.    The fact that it only works sometimes is part of the game too.  Like a roll of the dice.   We'll make it a board game...!
The rest is history. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Blogging Taught Me...

I started blogging to amuse myself and  friends. I had no delusions of pending fame or fortune, but I was proud of  my work.   I'd been posting regularly for years. Sometimes it was funny. I liked the pictures and thought I was getting better at drawing them.  I was proud to show it off.
Then something occurred to me.
I'd read about something called The IKEA Effect.  It works like this:  If you  make or build something, you'll probably overvalue it. Even if it is, in fact, a piece of junk.
Was I  overvaluing my blog?
Hmmmm... I thought. The blog gets visitors from all over the world. Thirty to one hundred visits per day...
...and after four years I've earned six followers.
It was an ugly realization. Most blogs I visit, even obscure ones, have scores of followers some have hundreds.   This could mean only one thing.  My wonderful blog wasn't that wonderful.

Back in the 1990s I'd dabbled in cartooning and submitted my favorites to magazines. Those  rejections didn't bother me much because I figured it was a numbers game, with lots of cartoonists competing for a limited number of places to publish their work.
Rejection slips didn't necessarily mean  the work was bad.  Maybe the editor didn't like the style. Maybe they had all the cartoons they needed for now. Maybe they'd already published something similar. I knew from the start that rejection slips were the norm for aspiring cartoonists. No big deal.
This was different. People from all over the world had looked at my blog. Yet after 10000+ page views, only six people liked it enough to follow it? This wasn't an editor rejecting it. This was the the world rejecting it.

I hope you're proud of yourself,  I thought, You've been trotting out your blog like a show horse, totally oblivious to the fact that 99.99% of the world dislikes it.  Way to go.  And in light of all this, let's make some things clear:

The one thing worse at being bad at something the discovery that you're bad at something.
How embarrassing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

They Hate Us BecauseThey Fear Us

Guest Blogger: Tinkles the Teacup Chihuahua
Few dogs receive the open hostility  Chihuahuas face.
"Obnoxious"  say detractors.  "Spoiled."  "Yappy."  "Rat Dog."   "Stupid."
Why the hostility?  Why so much effort to demonize us?
The truth is, they hate us because they fear us! 
They fear a dog who isn't afraid to speak its mind.  When I bark in high pitch yelps for twelve hours straight, it's me exercising my free  speech.  Nobody is going to silence me!
Yes, they fear us.
They fear a dog who isn't afraid to defend itself.
When I growl and snap at anything I see, it's me demonstrating that I WILL NOT BACK DOWN.  Any meter reader, neighbor, child, squirrel, shadow or reflection that gets in my line of vision will pay!
Others wish they had my spunk.  They don't, so they resort to verbal attacks.
They fear us because we're smart.  Ever notice  Chihuahuas don't pull sleds or guide blind people?  No Milk Bone or "good doggie" will trick us into serving humans.   We're above that.
They fear us because they're jealous.   Few creatures are worthy of being carried around like a precious bauble.  We represent what our critics lack.  We're strong and outspoken, yet worthy of being dressed in a fairy costume and given nicknames like "Little Poopy Doopy" and "Princess Patooters"
They fear us because we're beautiful.  Lets face it, most other breeds are catbutt ugly.  Bulldogs look like they got their heads stuck in a trash compacter.   Dachshunds look like they were squeezed from a tube.  Shar Peis  look like ragpiles.  And most long haired dogs look like they should be the business end of a mop.
So the next time you hear anti-Chihuahua talk, remember where it's coming from- and be proud to be a Chihuahua.  It's the dog to be!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tosca, "Death to All Humans!" Psychobird.

My cockatiel, Tosca, had been my only pet  for years.  He seemed happy when I was around, but what about when I was at work?  Was he lonely?  Sad?  Cockatiels are social birds.
Certainly he'd appreciate a buddy.
I picked out a friendly yellow bird, took him home, and set him up in a nearby cage.
I figured they'd soon be best buddies:
Tosca seemed interested in his new neighbor....
Then it happened.
Tosca's flocking instinct went berserk.   In his mind, he was the leader.  The new bird was an underling.   I was a non-bird: The Enemy!
Overnight, he went from being Tosca, Mild Mannered (if shrill) Bird:
To Tosca, "Death to all humans!" Psychobird.
He hissed, squawked and lunged when I got near his cage.  I thought he was bluffing. 
Certainly he wouldn't bite me when I fed him, right?
This was no play bite or warning nip.  This was a hatchet chop with beak grinding.  My fingers were bleeding.  I'd expected him to like the new bird more than he liked me.  I wasn't expecting attempted murder.  How was I supposed to give him food and water?  Or clean his cage?
And what kind of example was he setting for the new bird?
Hey kiddo, here's how to treat human beings!
I asked for advice on a cockatiel message board. "He's probably jealous," they observed. "Give him some extra cuddles..."
Do YOU want to give this guy some cuddles?
Tosca has never been a cuddler.  He's strictly a "I'll stand on your finger if you don't try to touch me" bird.
Except now it's more like "Get near me and I'll rip your damned hand open"

I draped a towel on the side of his cage.   I figured maybe if he couldn't see the new bird he'd calm down.  Will it work?  He seems a bit less aggressive...

... but he also seems to remember who put the towel up. The current vibe I'm getting from him is "I still hate you, but since you bring me stuff to eat I'll let you live.  For now."
You're welcome, Tosca.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mechanically Separated Goodness

Lots of blogs (and way to many emails) are flinging around a picture of what's known as mechanically separated chicken.  It's made from bits of meat that's been stripped from chicken bones.
Looks like ice cream.  Tastes like chicken.
Other meats are processed this way.  There's mechanically separated beef, pork, and turkey.
Lesser know varieties include:
  •  Mechanically separate Smurfs:

  • Mechanically Separated Martians

  • Mechanically Separated Alien "Grays":
  •  Mechanically Separated Unicorns

Oddly, they all taste like baloney.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Great Cut

Last week my friend Reid fell  through glass and ripped his forearm open.  Wide open.
To make sure nobody missed out,  he took pictures and posted them on Facebook.
Here's a censored version I made for this blog:

(For  uncensored versions, click here,  or here, but be forewarned: they're nasty.)

Friends were quick to comment.   I'd say the remarks broke down as follows:

 " I just talked to my dad," Reid added.   "I told him it was a pretty bad cut. I tried to explain but ended up emailing him one of the meatier photos..."

The conversation continued like this:

DAD:  Holy shit Buddy, that is the worst cut I've ever seen! I mean really, shit! How the fuck.....?! ...hold one one second ... ... i gotta find something.

REID:  What, Dad?

DAD: Printer paper, stupid! This can only be done proper justice with glossy photo paper.

REID: What, you want to show it off?

DAD:  Hell yes!  I'm showing everyone! I mean, that's a great cut. I'm proud of you! You did it just like a [someone from our family] should..... with GUSTO!!!! Well let me know if you need anything. I am gonna print this and head out of here. Love you Buddy!

Now that's a Hallmark moment.

p.s. Thanks to Reid for giving permission to blog about this.