Five Things – 08.25.14

1.  Vectrex – The Vectrex was a little late to the gaming party, but at least it showed up with style.

Vectrex box

Released in November 1982 by a company called Greater Consumer Electronics and then later by Milton Bradley when they acquired GCE, the Vectrex boasted its own monitor which displayed vector graphics in a fashion similar to what you’d see in an arcade. They also had two peripherals – a 3D headset (that actually worked, thanks to the vectors), and a light pen that let users draw on the screen.

Vectrex accessories

Light Pen

(Their marketing materials were fantastic, too.)

These things made the gameplay stand out a bit from its console competitors, but the project wasn’t without its hiccups.  It was a monochrome monitor, so the system used overlays to simulate color.  Strike one, although it worked better than you would think.  It retailed at $199 ($479 adjusted for inflation today), while the mega-hit Atari 2600 retailed at $125.  Strike two.  Although there was no way to tell this, the industry was poised for a huge crash in just a year that would sink even the most solid investments.  Strike three, and Milton Bradley ended up taking a bath on their Vectrex efforts.

The system is fondly remembered today, as it was a pretty powerful machine for the time and the games themselves were good.  Here’s some box art for a couple of Vectrex games:

Star Trek Narzod

And here are some commercials for the console:

And another print ad, for the goofier audience.

Vectrex Ad

Continue reading

Karate Kid Cover

Five Things – 08.18.14

1.  The Karate Kid Game - Developed by Atlus, published by LJN, enjoyed by few, 1987′s The Karate Kid NES game was a staple in most game collections. It was an obvious move, to create a game based on the mega-popular Karate Kid and moderately popular Karate Kid II movies, but the execution was a little lazy.

Karate Kid Cover

The game loosely follows the events of Karate Kid I and II, starting during the match at the end of the first film and taking you on Daniel-san’s journey to Japan, through a typhoon and on to a final showdown with Chozen.

Karate Kid gameplay

It’s mostly a side-scrolling beat-em-up,with the difficulty dialed wau up.  There are a few ‘karate master’ interludes where you do typical sideshow karate tricks like break ice blocks.

Karate Kid bonus state

Once you’ve defeated Chozen and save the day, you get what may be the lamest NES ending out there – and that’s saying alot.  Maybe it’s the lamest because we’ve all come to expect more out of Mr. Miyagi, but it really punctuates how little Atlus and LJN cared about soiling the Karate Kid‘s (then) good name.

Karate Kid ending

The mystical ending music and the Miyagi wink soften the blow a bit, but not much.


Continue reading

Debut Comic

Five Things – 08.11.14

1.  Godfrey Reggio PSAs - As if you needed further proof that Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi) was in a class of his own and a little more forward-thinking than most, here are some PSAs he made in 1974 for the New Mexico Civil Liberties Union. The campaign starts with some ‘teaser’ pieces focusing on different elements of his message, then (around 3:45 in the video) things become more clear.  All done in Reggio’s signature style, the concerns raised 40 years ago are pretty chilling.

I wonder what it would have been like to be a television viewer in New Mexico in 1974 and see this campaign play out.   Continue reading

WTYFGH Ad

Five Things – 08.04.14

1.  Can Animals Think – No question mark here! This 1950 educational film is bluntly titled “Can Animals Think” and spends about 10 minutes pondering this eternally obvious subject.  His running commentary is pretty great, though – it’s as if the narrator is seeing this film for the first time along with the rest of us.


Continue reading

Otter Pops

Five Things – 07.28.14

1.  The Mastery of Space  - Here’s a beautiful 1962 documentary produced by NASA about the Mercury program.  The fonts used and the static design elements are fantastic, and the actual space footage, test-footage on Earth and spaceflight animations are pretty great, too. It’s kind of hard to tell who the intended audience for this film is, though – it gives a pretty basic description of weightlessness and gravity, like it’s speaking to kids, but then takes a left turn and gets somewhat complicated.  I can’t imagine kids catching anything Gus Grissom’s putting out there.

Continue reading

Barrel Pong

Five Things – 07.21.14

1.  Zack Morris’ Cookie Crisp - Before he was chasing Kelly Kapowski, forming rock bands, inciting and then mending teacher’s strikes, or randomly freezing time, Zack Morris was a child who liked sugary cereal that was awful for you. Here’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar selling the heck out of some Cookie Crisp:

And just because we’re sort of talking SBTB and I love SBTB, here’s a lost scene from the School Song episode in which Ox throws his hat into the ring.  I had no idea this existed.  It looks like it barely does:

Never has the cutting room floor been more appropriate.  That was pretty bad. But amazing.

Continue reading

The Writing Process Blog Hop

The creative process isn’t something I really talk about, mostly out of a superstitious fear of ‘jinxing’ whatever good mojo happens to sometimes trickle my way and also a fear of inviting a boulder to block that stream by overthinking the whole thing.  However, Becky invited me to participate in this Blog Hop, and I thought it was a fun enough exercise and a chance to look that superstition in the face and politely spit in it. And then quickly apologize and run off to find a handkerchief.

Becky’s a whiz.  In addition to editing Crafting a Green World and creating/maintaining The Great Vegan Search Engine Project, she owns Glue & Glitter, her home for DIY craftiness, recipes, and her books.  She’s my wife, too! How about that!

So here’s a look at my process and what I’m working on, and below that I’m featuring a couple of writers that I’m a fan of, Christine and Robert.  Both of them are friends of mine and both have distinct writing talents and styles that I admire through clenched, jealous teeth.

What am I working on/writing?

Right now I’m involved in a rewrite/edit of two new books of children’s poetry: the first is book three (and most of book four) of a four book series, tentatively titled the mister or honey bee blues or here’s to the stars. The second is a followup to a book of post apocalyptic poems I wrote a few years back called distant friends.  I don’t know yet what the sequel is called.  That’s the first shelf, the one I tend to most frequently.  I’m also dusting off books one and two of the four book series and preparing second editions of those; those rest on the second shelf.  On the third shelf, I’m putting together a short story compilation and am in a slow first rewrite of a novel.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

Simply put, I think it differs in that everyone else in the genre seems to know what they’re doing and I really don’t.  I have an enthusiast’s interest in poetry but not an academic one, at all, and I never thought I would write poetry myself.  I never thought I was capable. The poems bubbled up while I was writing other things, in between things, like weeds, and I ignored them for a long time before I thought to maybe put a little effort toward cultivating them.  Once I did I came to love the way they breathed and put a specific image in my head, and started working toward that as my objective.  I’m not saying other poets don’t breathe or create imagery; of course they do.  Mine just comes from a surprised, found confidence, a love of singsongs, and perhaps a different measuring stick than other poets have and that all results in something that I can definitely look at and say that it’s my voice.

Why do I write what I do?

I guess I already kind of answered this from a form angle – I never thought poetry would be the form that my writing took. I’m still reluctant to attack an idea through a poem as opposed to a short story or essay, but time and time again it’s the direction my head and words seem to run.  As for subject matter, I’m insanely nostalgic about my own childhood in the ’80s and I’m a huge fan of entertainment/fashion/design of the back half of the twentieth century.  Spread a love of sci-fi and fantasy on top of that and you pretty much have the source material for most of my writing.

How does my process work?

Write, write, write.  Write all the time.  When I catch a hook, I grab it and let it drag me for awhile and if it takes me to the end of the line that’s awesome but it usually doesn’t and that’s not important.  What’s important is that I’m writing. All the time.

In a perfect world, this is true but the reality is that I can’t always get to writing or sometimes my head’s not there and when I can’t write it stings a little bit. At those points I get into organization mode and start looking at the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of the process, like edits and rewrites and page layouts and the whole publishing side of things.  There’s always something to do and there’s never enough time for all of it.  Especially when you’e got six projects in the oven.

That’s if I can’t write, though.  If I can write, I’m writing, and everything else can just wait and happen when it happens.

 

That’s it for me! Let’s meet Christine and Robert!

Christine Moore

I’ve known Christine for about ten years now and she planted her flag pretty early on as one of the funniest people I know.  Her blog, TV Kitchen, showcases her love of television and television history through the lens of her own life and her, you know, person history in a way that makes what she has to say unique and distinct. Here’s her bio:

Hey! I’m a freelance writer and digital content strategist based in Atlanta. I previously worked for a bunch of years in a bunch of roles at Cartoon Network, helping build digital experiences for brands including The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Chowder, Adventure Time and Regular Show.

 I’m originally from a suburb of Chicago and graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I’ve performed improv and stand-up comedy in Atlanta, and in addition to my TV Kitchen blog, I also write about television and comedy for Paste Magazine. In my spare time, I love cooking, baking, checking out Atlanta restaurants, spending time with my husband and preparing for the arrival of our first baby later this year! (Uh-oh, I sense another blog coming on…)

 

Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb’s a good friend of mine, and I’m a big fan of his writing.  His subject matter is usually about twenty shades darker than mine is, but we share an enthusiasm for the same what-ifs. His most recent book, Eight Black Offerings, is a collection of very grim what-ifs, indeed, and it’s fantastic and well worth your time.  Just don’t read it in bed.  Unless you sleep upon a bed of skulls.  But at that point you’re probably the type to do whatever you want to do, anyway.

Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction, but such are the trials of puberty. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster.

That’s it.  Check them out and if you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading.

-ds

 

 

 

 

Player's Guide Cover

Five Things – 07.14.14

1.  Puppy Pong/Doctor Pong - Here’s an interesting effort.  In Pong’s heyday, Atari pushed to get the game into doctors offices – both pediatricians and adults.  They modified the cabinets from Pong’s arcade presence accordingly and removed the coin slots, as the doctors would buy them outright.  Behold, Puppy Pong:

Puppy Pong

Apparently Snoopy was the original idea for this cabinet but the licensing was too costly.  Still adorable.  Here’s an illustration from the sales pamphlet feature Puppy Pong and the more grown up Doctor Pong, for adults.

Puppy Pong Pamphlet

Not gonna lie, Doctor Pong looks pretty slick. Here’s more:

Pong Ad

Continue reading

Five Things – 07.07.14

1. Atari Touch Me - Atari released this unconventional arcade cabinet in 1974, a screen-less game that held four circular lights.

Touch Me Cabinet

Players had to follow the pattern in which the lights lit up, getting three tries before the game was over.  It was stylish, but unpopular compared to the other, more engaging games out there.  The concept had merit, though, as Ralph Baer proved when he released essentially the same game in handheld form in 1977, coloring the lights and calling it “Simon”.  Atari saw the success Simon was enjoying and scrambled to develop a handheld version of Touch Me, which they released in 1978.  It was too late, though; Simon was the game that resonated with consumers and lives on as a cherished memory.

Terrible name aside, there was a lot of style to Touch Me.  Here’s a poster for it:

Touch Me Poster

And a magazine ad:

Touch Me Ad

Even the device itself is slightly more stylish than Simon, though it’s a tough call:

Touch Me

 

2.  Action Center U.S.A. - I grew up in Orlando, Florida and I can tell you, for certain, that it is not “Action Center, U.S.A.” That aside, this ’60s promotional film is a pretty great attempt to make it appear that way. It’s interesting to see the ‘moment-in-time”ness here: Disney World had been announced but not yet built, meaning that most of Florida and primarily Central Florida were considered backwoods by the rest of the country.  That would soon change once the Magic Kingdom came along but for the time being the film had to rely on the Minute Maid and Tupperware headquarters to really sell this hot town.

The housewife/shopping section is particularly of-the-era, and the nightlife section is just great.  Jai-Alai OR Dog Racing? The mind boggles.

 

3.  How to Beat Video Games - Before you could just go to YouTube and get tips on the specific game you wanted help on, you had to order a VHS tape that was an hour long and wait 6 to 8 weeks for it to arrive in the mail and then, assuming you were still stuck on the game that compelled you to order the tape in the first place, fast forward to that particular part.

How To Beat Video Games

I can’t imagine that this was a very successful business.  There were books that served a similar purpose, giving tips for dozens of games (Nintendo’s is a particularly good one), but the tapes just seemed to be a little bit before their time.

Nevertheless, they’re full of ’80s video toaster effects and music and the game footage is pretty fun to watch, so here’s volume one:


4.  1-900-MONSTER – Here’s an ad for a ’80s hotline that told you scary stories.  The local news special being promoted right after this thing sounds way scarier than the hotline could have possibly been, but the hotline was probably the bigger success. You paid out the nose in 900 number fees back then!

 

5.  Jollity Farm - A fantastic animation by Dave Stone to a fantastic 1967 version of Leslie Sarony’s “Jollity Farm” played by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. It’s just good!


-ds

 

Five Things – 6.30.14

1.  Circus World - Of all the lost theme parks, this is one that maybe deserved to be that way. In 1974, the then owners of Ringling Bros opened Circus World, a permanent circus-themed park in Orlando, Florida.

Circus World ad

The park was slow to get started, opening with only a big-top that housed an IMAX screen and a museum. And a model of what they wanted the park to look like.  Over the next 7 or 8 years it added a roller coaster, a carousel, a theater and, presumably, a bunch of unhappy animals.

Polar Bears

I’m not saying you can’t have polar bears in Florida, I’m just saying there’s a pretty high chance that they’re not happy polar bears.

Oddly enough, toy company Mattel got involved and ended up purchasing Circus World, then selling it back to Ringling at a loss.  That’s how popular this place was!

Circus World Sideshow

Unfortunately, America just wasn’t ready for an all-the-time circus and Circus World was turned into an Americana-styled theme park called Boardwalk and Baseball in 1987.  Apparently, America was even less interested in that idea and the entire complex was closed in 1990.  Here’s some home movie footage of the park, which was just about the only video memory of the place I could find:


And here’s a map of the park which, for all the park’s faults, has a pretty fab design.

Circus World Map

 

Continue reading