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Five Things – 09.26.16 – Find The Future And Touch Tomorrow

1984 EPCOT Video Brochure

It’s been a minute since I scratched the EPCOT itch here, but this video brochure from 1984 certainly makes up for lost time.

epcot universe-of-energyhorizons

The focus of this extended commercial, as usual, skews more toward the World Showcase than it does on Future World, a strategy that always baffled me.  Were/are people really that interested in the World Showcase? As a kid it felt like a waste of half of the park and while I don’t feel that strongly as an adult I still wonder about it.  I think this shot from the Mexico pavilion has been in every piece of EPCOT promotional material from the ’80s that I’ve ever seen:

mexico

They don’t miss the chance to tell you that you can drink booze at EPCOT, either.  There’s also a strange interlude with a stuffy elderly woman and a mime who go on a date?

world-showcase-uk mime

The back (less-than) half of the video focuses on Future World, with some great glimpses of the attractions that aren’t there anymore.  The entire layout of the park just makes more sense with Horizons poking up.  Lousy sinkholes.

smrt-1 communicore

fountain

Also a little love for the oft-neglected World of Motion attraction.

world-of-motion

This video probably captures “old” EPCOT better than any other I’ve seen. It doesn’t go into a ton of detail and it doesn’t need to – it’s just a big promo, after all. The wide shots of the park, the carefully staged in-attraction shots, and the elements of the World Showcase they included really paint the picture of a day that’s gone by. For better or worse.

For worse.

Here’s the video. So good.

 

Mighty Marvel Cookbook

Last week we looked at the DC Superhero Cookbook. Marvel beat them to the punch in 1977 with their cookbook, but it wasn’t really aimed at being healthy or anything. It was still a cute idea, and the art is great.

marvel-superheroes-cookbook desserts clobbered-omelet

I’m usually more of a Marvel guy, but I gotta give the win to DC on the cookbook front.

 

Star Trek: TNG Makeup Test

Watch the core cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation hold poses for an awkward amount of time.  Did anyone other than Geordi wear a visor in the show? It’s strange to see other characters here wearing one.

Of course Riker can’t hold his pose.

 

Super Bomberman 2 Commercials

This collection of Japanese commercials for 1994’s Super Bomberman 2 is an assault on the senses; there’s no shame if you can’t make it all the way through.  The live action Bomberman costumes are pretty great.

 

What Kind Of Man Owns His Own Computer?

Kind of crazy to imagine a time in which this question needed to be asked and answered.

apple-1979-ad

 

 

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vegetables

Five Things – 09.19.16 – We’re Jiggling Too Much

The Bloodhound Gang

The Bloodhound Gang is to the 1980s PBS show 3-2-1 Contact what Mathnet was to Square One. That reads like a standardized test question, but it holds up.

bloodhound-gang

The Bloodhound Gang was the breakout segment of the larger educational program, featuring Vikki, Ricardo (Rembrandt from The Warriors!), and a rotating cast of junior detectives who solved a mystery (roughly) every week.  The mysteries were somewhat age-appropriate, and solving them usually involved some sort of science or math trick.  The bits were short, around 5 minutes, and serialized; mysteries would take a few days to solve.

science

The segment was very popular on 3-2-1 Contact, to the point where there would be an announcement at the beginning if an episode didn’t include a Bloodhound Gang segment. The Bloodhound Gang was cancelled after the unfortunate and untimely death of Ricardo, actor Marcelino Sanchez, in 1986.

The fond memories of the segment/show and its catchy theme song live on, though.  Here’s an episode.

 

DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook

This bizarre(-o?) (get it?) set of recipes featuring the Justice League and aimed at kids first appeared in a 1981 issue of Woman’s Day, but eventually was published as its own thing.

DC Cookbook Cover

This cookbook pretty much nails everything it tries to do.  The recipes are fun and more or less in-ine with the character they’re associated with. The writing is cute and cheesy and comic-book-y, the illustrations are absolutely fantastic, and the food itself is (relatively) healthy.

mild-mannered-burger

superman-burger

natural-soda-pop

vegetables

ugy-face-sandwiches

It’s out of print so you could maybe find a copy for a whole ton of money, or you could visit this Tumblr set up in tribute to it!

 

Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans

Before World of Warcraft took over the MMORPG world, Blizzard merely had a hit PC game franchise on their hands and apparently a very ’90s mentality of how best to manifest that franchise.  Why did Warcraft need to stay a strategy game? Why not, say, a point-and-click interactive narrative game? If not for thinking like this, World of Warcraft may never have come about; thankfully, though, someone put the kibosh on this adventure game adaptation of the Lord of the Clans novel before it saw the light of retail. That didn’t stop fans from discovering it decades later, though.  This is some Legend of Zelda: Wand of Gamelon level-stuff, right here.

 

Dinosaurs and Other Strange Creatures

The stop-motion in this now-largely-false educational video about dinosaurs is out of this world. Everything else is not.

 

Two Bytes Are Better Than One

This 1977 ad for Texas Instruments 16-bit microprocessor is great. You can’t fool me with those glasses – that guy’s not a nerd!

two-bytes-better

 

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fraggle

Five Things – 9.12.16 – To Cogitate And To Solve

Mathnet

Mathnet appeared as a serial segment on the public television show Square One in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  For me, it was Square One – everything else about the show was either a prelude to or epilogue from Mathnet.

mathnet

Mathnet parodied the 1950s police procedural show Dragnet.  Kate Monday and George Frankly solved “crimes” (more like mysteries) by using logic and math.  It works better than you’d think.  Segments ran each day in sequential order, with the case usually being solved by the end of the week.  All together the storylines run from 30 to 60 minutes.

friday-and-frankly

Mathnet was a core component of Square One up through its final season in 1992.  It continued in replays through 1994, then showed up on Nickelodeon’s Noggin network after that. I also remember it being shown in the classroom on rainy or otherwise lazy days.  Here’s an episode.

 

The Box (Network)

How do you go up against MTV  in the mid-80s, the undisputed kings? You create a video jukebox, allowing viewers to call in and use special phone numbers and codes to put in your order for current or classic music videos, thus programming the air.

the-box

The Box ,originally the Video Jukebox Network, hung its hat on this idea of empowering the viewer. it even featured videos that couldn’t/wouldn’t be seen on MTV or were banned. Each of the over 100 affiliates had its own playlist, so there was a pretty good chance your order would get played quickly.

eazy-e

MTV eventually bought The Box, and a couple of years after the purchase the network was shut down in 2001 – a pretty good run.  It was never a true competitor to the music video giant, but what a way to swing for the fences technology-wise.  Here’s some of The Box.

 

Canadian Library PSA

A grainy, poor quality, but nonetheless charming animated 1992 PSA for the library.

 

1989 Fraggle Rock VHS Club Commercial

Mail-order book clubs are a pretty poor investment, as are mail-order music clubs, but I think mail-order VHS clubs took the cake as the worst way to spend your money of the 1980s.  Here’s one for Fraggle Rock.

 

The Box (Orbital)

Got 30 minutes? Of course you do.  Here’s Orbital.

 

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The Internet

Five Things – 09.05.16 – I Shall Become A Man Named Gene Watkins

Half Hour To Kill

Vincent Price, aka The Man Who Had Time To Do Everything, was the host and star of this fantastically named 1958 mystery anthology pilot.

Half Hour To Kill

The intent appears to be that he’d always host but only sometimes star.  The nature of the pilot combined with the presence of Price seems to suggest that the series would be of of a pretty dark fare.

Vincent

Even though the majority of the episode is a conversation between two people It’s a surprisingly tight story, almost effortlessly creepy and has a satisfying ending. It’s difficult to see why this wasn’t picked up as a series based on this episode.

doll

Check it out.

“Caviar is a luxury item – and so is murder.” Classic Price.

 

 

Texas Instruments Transistor Ad

I love this 1950s ad from Texas Instruments for their transistor technology. The layout, the fonts, and the snapshot of the moment in time when a transistor was a really big deal combine to make this ad something special.

Transistor

 

 

What Is The Internet?

This 1994 segment explains the internet in an almost-insulting fashion and suggests ways to get Dad on the in-ter-net for Father’s Day.

The info-bahn.

Nintendo Power Set

Now you’re playing with body power!

 

Chewels Ads

I remember Chewels in the ’80s, but I never thought of them as competitors to “real” gum.  I thought they were for cleaning dentures or something along those lines.  Here are a few commercials that prove that a) it’s gum and b) it tastes better than other gum.

 

 

 

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Space Age

Five Things – 08.29.16 – The Universe Is Wide

Prisoners of Gravity

A guy in space, all by himself, broadcasting his thoughts on society to the people below.  This thoughtful 1989 public television show celebrated nerd-dom long before it became cool to do so.

PoG Intro

Prisoners of Gravity was hosted by comedian Rick Green. As the title sequence tells you, his character was sick of all of the bad news on Earth and launches himself into space. From his satellite he sends out a weekly transmission exploring all sorts of subjects in the science/technology/comic/fantasy realm.

Rick 2

Most episodes featured several interviews; they occupy the bulk of the show.  Novelists, actors, comic book writers and illustrators were all given lengthy interviews conducted via satellite link from space.  Thoughtful questions were raised and, particularly in Harlan Ellison’s case below, both sides of the coin were presented.  Topics like first contact with aliens, the good and bad side of fandom, and questions like “Do you have to like science to like science fiction” are treated as actual discussion topics, not fluff, and Prisoners of Gravity deserves credit for creating a forum to discuss them pre-internet.

PoG Interview Harlan

I can’t help but get an MST3k vibe from the ‘guy alone in space on TV’ premise, but the similarities end there.  It’s its own thing and it’s clear in every aspect of the show that it was a labor of love.  The show ran from 1989 to 1994, for five seasons, extending out into the US from season two onward.  Then, for some reason, it was cancelled.

Here’s an episode. Harlan Ellison’s so salty in his segment! The sting of The Starlost probably never went away.

 

Virtual Boy Commercials

There’s one common thread in all of  these commercials for Nintendo’s Virtual Boy: the fact that this console came from and transports people to an alien wasteland devoid of life or enjoyment, fraught with conflict. Why would we bring this thing to Earth?

 

1980s General Foods International Coffee Magazine Ad

I love the horizontal placement of the different flavors along the bottom. See? Earth’s doing just fine without the Virtual Boy.

General Foods Ad

Star Phone 10,000

This plays like a parody commercial from Saturday Night Live.  The guy even looks a little like Phil Hartman. The “features” that this phone has!

Now I miss Phil Hartman.

 

Phil Harman Bloopers

Now I miss him even more. The one with Phil and Jan in the bar. Oof.

Friend of mine?

 

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Dress Casual

Five Things – 08.22.16 – Hasta Luigi, Baby

Nintendo 1993 Holiday Demonstration Tutorial

This is the Poochie of corporate training videos.

Nintendo Training Video

Sent to game retailers before the 1993 holiday season, this demo employs a Bill S. Preston/Jeff Spicoli/Zack Morris hybrid being to take employees through the steps of acting properly as a Nintendo representative.  It tries so hard (and fails) to be cool that it doesn’t really accomplish anything else.

Nintendo Dancing

This guy hangs out on the couch for the majority of the tape, in varying levels of splay.

Using a blend of sharp graphics, blaring rock music, grating ‘attitude’ and roleplayed scenarios, employees learn about the differences between the NES, the Super NES, the Game Boy, the advantages Nintendo has over the competition, and how to set up and maintain the various display systems.  There are also some heavily stylized interludes of kids playing video games that make no sense.

Nintendo Rock Out

I really can’t overstate how hard this video tries to be cool.  Its attempts at being playfully subversive results in it not being clear who this is actually targeted at. I can’t imagine a retail employee getting anything out of this video and a consumer would see right through it.  It’s a pretty good example of how corporations viewed kids in the early ’90s, though, so at least it’s worth that. Check it out.

 

Captain Lou Albano Anti Drug PSA

A good message in this 1980s anti-drug PSA, but a strange one once the religious blanket gets draped over it.

 

Manhunt Board Game

A group of players travel around a board gathering clues to eliminate suspects of a crime. Sounds like Clue, right? No – it’s much more complicated.

Manhunt Box

In Manhunt the players are all detectives.  A crime is agreed upon by all players at the beginning of the game and entered into the Clue Scanner.  As players move through the game they are given the chance to insert probes into the Clue Scanner which gives more information to the nature of the crime. This information can be used by the players to whittle down their list of suspects and ultimately determine who done it, winning the game.

Manhunt Board

So, Clue.  But with a Crime Computer, a Clue Scanner, a Probe, a Detective Handbook, and some other stuff to complicate it up.  Still, it’s got a great look and if I had seen this game as a kid I’d have been all over it with all of the devices. Now, a game based on the PS2 game Manhunt? Take my money, please.

First Color Videotaping

In 1958, NBC recorded and rebroadcast the first color videotaping, a speech by President Eisenhower. This video starts in black and white and NBC president Robert Sarnoff flips the switch to color a few minutes in. A pretty great capture of a pretty amazing moment, and the movement in the video looks so snappy for 1958.

 

Rowntree’s Ad

There’s something in 1940s ad for Rowntree’s Fruit Gums that really grabs me.

Rowntree's Ad

 

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Escapes

Five Things – 08.15.16 – We Fly On, Untouched

Escapes

On one sunny afternoon in 1986 Vincent Price, dressed as a mailman, delivers a VHS tape to a kid named Matthew.  The tape, Escapes, is a horror anthology hosted by Vincent Price.  He starts watching it, and so do we. I’m not sure which level of inception we’re at at this point.

Escapes

It’s really just five short horror stories wrapped by Vincent Price and given a strange intro and outro to make it make sense.

Vincent

There are five stories here: Something’s Fishy, Coffee Break, Who’s There, Jonah’s Dream, and Think Twice.  None of them are particularly scary in the execution, and some are downright stupid, but they’re all good snapshots of ’80s cable video production.  Coffee Break is probably my favorite of the batch; it feels like an early Stephen King short story minus the actual scary ending he probably would have written.

Coffee Break

What strikes me about the ending (spoilers) is that characters from each of the stories come together in a “shocking” final scene, proving that this isn’t just some acquisition effort at getting a bunch of unrelated stories and running them side-by-side. As an MST3k fan this video conjures up memories of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is actually slightly more involved in stitching the standalone stories together than this piece is but actually has a bunch of acquired, unrelated pieces in it – from different decades even. Still, same idea.  It’s worth a watch, there’s something warm and familiar about it all.

 

World War III, Part Two

The thrilling followup to last week’s 1950s scare comic about World War III. This installment features battles in the air, on land, and under the sea… and doesn’t really resolve much. It actually  makes the story much more confusing as to what the makers of the comic’s real agenda was. I’ve also never seen it spelled “Commy” before reading this comic.

WWIII Part Two

 

Nintendo Interactive Retail Store Displays

This 1992 training video about maintaining Nintendo console in-store play units goes further than it needs to in the effort to entertain.  Probably as far as it can. It’s hard to believe that this is this guy’s real voice – it sounds like the voice someone would use to make fun of this guy’s real voice. That’s a compliment, though, I think!

 

19th Century Obesity Ad

There’s very little to appreciate about this fat-shaming newspaper ad from the 19th century, but the aesthetic appeal of the images and the wall of text do catch my eye.

Fat People

 

Bluegrass 45

Current obsession: This 1970s Japanese Bluegrass band.

 

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Nuts for Nintendo

Five Things – 08.08.16 – Luther Destroys The Gond

Total Recall 2070

My love for science fiction can probably be traced back to the time I saw Total Recall when I was eleven years old.  I somehow convinced my parents to buy me a VHS copy from Sam’s Club and  I think I spent the next two or three days watching it over and over.  I liked space stuff before then – I was a huge Star Wars fan – but Total Recall was the first time I remember falling in love with a science fiction idea.  I even bought (convinced my parents to buy) the Piers Anthony novelization, a Piers Anthony novelization of a  film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, and read it to tatters.  It actually holds up, if you’re the forgiving type of person.

Total Recall

Anyway, Total Recall is probably my favorite movie of all time.  It’s not the best movie of all time, of course, not by a long shot, but there’s so much there that works. So why nine years later someone thought it would be a good idea to use the franchise to make an episodic series that’s more Blade Runner than Total Recall is completely beyond me.

Total Recall 2070

Total Recall 2070 aired in 1999 on Canadian channel CHCH-TV and on Showtime in the US.  It’s a sequel of sorts to the film, at least in the timeline.  The fact that I had to look that up should tell you how thin the connection is between the film and the series; beyond the presence of the Rekall company (who I couldn’t imagine would still be in business after the Quaid debacle), the concept of memory-implant excursions, and the existence of the planet Mars with people on it, there are really no similarities between the two. Oh, it re-uses some spacecraft shots from the movie. But that’s it.

Mars

It really has more in line with Blade Runner – instead of the mutants in Total Recall there are androids, and some of those androids are up to things that shouldn’t be possible given their programming. Programming supplied by Rekall, because they do apparently do that sort of thing. Detective David Hume’s partner is gunned down by a gang of these rogue androids, and his investigation into the case partners him up with a rookie (who, spoiler alert, is secretly an android created by an unknown-to-the-rest-of-the-world manufacturer) and takes him to Mars. What time the series doesn’t spend exploring the nature of android psychology  and paying marginal lip service to the world that Total Recall built is spent on flashy gun battles, awkwardly placed cursing and similarly awkardly-placed gratuitous sex scenes.

So not so unlike Total Recall on that last part.

It baffles me that they had a series that really fit so well in the Blade Runner universe but chose instead to shoehorn the idea into Total Recall.  The series has a few things going for it – the sets are pretty good, the action’s fine, the effects are decent and the ideas are interesting – but the acting and writing are terrible and the episodes themselves are overlong and dull.  It’s not hard to see why it was cancelled after one season, leaving several plot points unresolved.

Recall Screen 2

Here’s an episode.  It’s hard to recommend spending the time on it.  You’d be better off reading the novelization of the movie. Also, NSFW warning: there’s nudity in this link.

 

World War III Comic, Part One

This 1950s nuclear-scare comic book really dials up the enthusiasm for atomic weapons of all shapes and sizes (atomic bazooka?), frequently at the expense of common sense or complete sentences!

World War III

With such memorable lines as “I’m on fire! Being burned alive! Eeeeeahhh!”, it’s hard to believe this comic didn’t make it into our public school curriculum.  Did the US’ Super Atomic Guided Rocket make it to Moscow? Find out next time!

Nuts for Nintendo

This 1988 segment of “20/20” is pretty charming, not because it characterizes the Nintendo craze as a phenomenon – it was – but in the way it illustrates it as something adults just can’t understand, like the children are possessed and speaking a different language.

Freemans Egg Powder

This poor girl’s left arm needs a little help.

Egg Powder

TRY IT

Vanguard Atari Commercial

This spot for the Atari game “Vanguard” illustrates the camaraderie of a group of high school boys generated from the game. And their inclusion of poor Luther.

 

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Cos

Five Things – 08.01.16 – To Un-Bore You

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

It’s a pretty generic title, but the show itself is actually somewhat ambitious.

Captain Power

This 1987 Canadian Sci-Fi show centers around the conveniently named Jonathan Power.  His team, the Soldiers of the Future, are some of the last humans left alive after the Metal War, your basic man vs. cyborg conflict.  Powers’ late dad, Doctor Powers (seriously), developed a system called Overmind to put a stop to the cyborg uprising but Doctor Powers’ friend took control of the system and integrated himself with the system and turned evil and called himself Lord Dread and… yeah.  So now, fifteen years later, the world is a mess and Lord Dread and his mechs are seeking out the last remnants of humanity in order to wipe it out.  The Soldiers of the Future aim to stop that, with a variety of power suits and weapons that are as distinct as the SKUs that make up their shelf space.

Attack

It’s a toy show, to be sure, but the toys were ambitious as well.  Several of them interacted with the episodes, encouraging kids to play while watching the show and sometimes even shoot the bad guys on the screen themselves.  As you can imagine, this combined with the fact that it was live action didn’t go over too well with parents.  Even without that component, it’s a pretty violent show for Saturday Morning.

The show tried to strike a balance between kiddy action sequences and adult-themed storylines.  The choice to go with live action and the ambitious effects for a late-’80s television show demonstrate that they’re trying to deliver on something more than just another toy show, but ultimately it comes across as a pretty bad toy show.  In a lot of ways it feels reverse-engineered from the toy line that Mattel probably already had in mind, but there is a somewhat original story there.  It’s a shame that the rest of the show doesn’t hold it up.

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was cancelled after one season.  It’s tough to make a solid call one way or the other on this show – there’s a nugget of a good idea in there, but so much gets in the way of it actually being a good show.  Given a choice between this and, say, Power Rangers, though, I’d probably go with Captain Power.  Check out an episode.

 

 

Texas Instruments Sales Video

It’s Cos, back when you would still take his advice on purchases! Here’s Bill Cosby convincing Texas Instruments salesmen to buy more products from Texas Instruments in order to have more stock to sell their customers.  These appear to be the wraparounds to a longer video. We’re probably lucky that we were spared the rest.

He kind of does an impersonation of himself there toward the end.

 

Bar Guide

The cover to this 1950s Bar Guide is pretty fantastic.

Bar Guide

 

Canadian Anti-Drug PSA

The last Canadian Anti Drug PSA was over-the-top ’90s but this one is just..strange.  Did they drug test the people who made these things?

 

The Prologue and the Promise

This mural by Robert T. McCall never fails to inspire.  It was part of the EPCOT ride Horizons, one of the more influential rides/experiences of my childhood.

Prologue and the Promise

 

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Filmation

Five Things – 07.25.16 – World’s Tiniest Engineers

Ghostbusters

No, not that one.

In 1975 Filmation had a live-action series about a couple of guys and a gorilla who hunted ghosts.  It was about as different from the 1984 movie that would come as you could imagine; it was aimed directly at children and focused on slapstick rather than actual paranormal enthusiasm for its comedic value.  It was pretty hokey, and it died on the vine after only fifteen episodes.

Obviously, after the mega-success of the 1984 film, there was interest in making a television series.  After an unsuccessful attempt to work with Columbia Pictures to produce a cartoon that tied in with the movie, Filmation chose instead to resurrect the original series in animated form.  Because Filmation owned the rights to the title, they were able to come to the table with a cartoon simply titled Ghostbusters – tricking second graders all over the country into watching their show.  Myself included.  Columbia Pictures, whose cartoon actually did relate to the film, had the ante-upped title The Real Ghostbusters.  Columbia Pictures had the superior series, but Filmation’s effort wasn’t without its charm.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters featured the sons of the 1975 series’ protagonists, Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr.  Tracy the gorilla was the bridge between the two generations, working with both teams.  Rounding out the team are Belfrey, a pink talking bat, and Skellevision, a skeleton television.  While there were gadgets involved in detecting and catching ghosts, the show on the whole was consciously low-tech but also high concept; the characters rode around in an old haunted jalopy named Ghost Buggy that could also fly.  This was a pretty big point of distinction between this series and The Real Ghostbusters.

Skull Phone Ghost Buggy

Sixty-five episodes were produced for daytime syndication, and a toy line followed.  It fared better than you’d think it would but it was really no match for our Ghostbusters – either on screen or in the marketplace.  Still, there’s something fun about it – it celebrates the supernatural in a sweet, goofy way that you saw less and less of in the ’80s, and still less today.  Plus, it’s gorgeous. Check it out.

 

How You Can Help Win The War

Here’s an interesting wartime pamphlet about things civilians and laborers can do to help win the war.  It’s interesting to see things like “drive carefully” and “don’t get hurt” included with the more obvious “don’t blab what you know”.

How You Can Help Win The War

 

1991 Canadian Anti-Drug PSA

This 1991 Canadian anti-drug PSA plays like a Tim and Eric sketch.  To say it didn’t age well is an understatement – would this have resonated with kids even back in 1991 when it was made?

That “COOL” gets me every time.

 

Frustration 1973 Box Art

I love the painting of the family on this 1973 Frustration (known as “Trouble” here in the U.S.) box art.  Particularly because it looks like that kid is in some serious pain.

Frustration

 

Exciting Ant Farm

From the “Always Wanted, Never Had” files…

Exciting Ant Farm

 

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