Absolutely Rose Street – 1994 SEGA 32X Infomercial

Just to get the obvious out there: I love old video game ads. I love infomercials. I love ’90s video techniques and effects.  I love terrible things that are trying to not be terrible.  All that said, this 30-minute infomercial for SEGA’s 32X add-on to their Genesis system is a confusing mess of objectives and styles and while i don’t really regret watching a single minute of it I kind of regret watching it at all. I’m confused, too.

“Absolutely Rose Street” takes the common infomercial form of a “dramatic” narrative that not-so-subtly sells you a product while telling a story involving somewhat complex characters.  The narrative is pretty wonky, though, and about 90% of the half-hour is spent on this effort. I’m still not sure I’ve got it straight, but here goes.

There’s a show being pitched to a cable station that’s created by a bunch of young, cool, twenty-something teenagers called “Game Beat”.   The station manager, an aging white dude, tells his subordinate, another aging white dude named Joe Whitehead, to fix up the show and make it better.  Joe’s got a side thing going with a host of a competing show, “Styling with Stella”, and tells the “Game Beat” crew that they’ll be cancelled unless they can come up with an amazing episode in a week.

The “Game Beat” crew takes to the streets, interviewing kids about SEGA stuff. They also get some intel from SEGA itself in a weird, matrix-like fashion through a Windows ’95 interface.

The majority of this segment (actually, the majority of the infomercial) is edited in quick, short bursts, which comes off like a battle sequence from a Transformers movie:

The team presents their video and are cancelled in favor of Stella’s show anyway.  The gang decides to throw a party (?) and shoot one last edgy episode of “Game Beat”, the name changed to “Absolutely Rose Street”.  Their skill at lighting a shot has decreased significantly by this point.

They sneak into the station and swap the edgy episode of “Game Beat” so it plays instead of Stella’s show. Stella and Joe are upset, but then Joe learns that his boss likes it! Wah-wah!

The “Game Beat” crew lives to fight another day. Oh, also, this whole thing was meant to sell kids on an adapter for their SEGA Genesis system.  It’s sort of an easter egg in this video. See if you can find that part in the middle of all of the compelling story that’s taking place.

For a more in-depth write-up on this video, check out Video Game Ephemera, who ripped, posted, and wrote-up this long-lost video in the first place. Thanks, VGE! What a find.

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The Game Is Very Simple – The Great American Telephone Trivia Game (1990)

The dawn of the cable infomercial and the pay-per-minute 1-900 telephone business opened up some pretty suspicious scam opportunities. TV psychics could tell your future, you could spend quality time with a pre-recorded Corey Feldman or a myriad other celebrities, and of course you could find some foxy company for the night – all delivered very slowly for an insane amount of money per minute.  I wasn’t aware of 1990’s The Great American Telephone Trivia Game until today, but this scam might really take the cake.

This “show” features original “Jeopardy!” host Art Fleming at the helm of what appears to be a standard trivia game show, but there’s an amazing futuristic twist. Thanks to the miracle of cable tv and telephone technology, viewers can now call in and play the trivia game as well.  If they answer 9 questions correctly, questions similar to the ones the contestants are answering, they win $100!

The scam is clear: the contestants on the screen are getting softball questions (“In what city does ‘Cheers’ take place?”) and the ones on the 1-900 number are much more difficult.  What’s more, I’m willing to bet that the questions are delivered very slowly and you don’t know whether you answered any of them correctly until all nine questions are completed.  At one-minute per question and $1.95 per minute, you’re in for at least $20 on this call – and that’s assuming there’s no lengthy intro or outro sucking more more time, which was another common 900-number tactic.  So best case scenario you’re up $80 assuming the questions are really just as easy as the ones on the screen. Which they’re not.

Fleming also rubs the prizes that the studio guests will win in the viewer’s face, amazing prizes that the viewer will never be able to win or afford. 

Spoiler: BOTH CONTESTANTS WIN. It’s beautiful in its terrible awfulness. Here it is, with some strange formatting that I can’t explain. What a find.

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1995 Philips CD-i Infomercial: A Pothole On The Information Superhighway

The Philips CD-i was a system slightly ahead of its time. It tried to do it all – play top-of-the-line games, play movies in the best quality available, use all of the CD-ROM resources a PC had at its disposal, and also provide casual internet access in the living room. In the early-to-mid ’90s, a device that could do all of this at a reasonable price was a pipe dream. That’s why this thing initially cost $700, with expensive add-ons if you wanted the full capabilities it promised. It was also a “jack of all trades, master of none” as a device, being outperformed in gaming by gaming consoles, outmatched in PC functions by PCs, and so on.

Spoiler alert: it ultimately failed.

Philips made a decent go of trying to get this thing off of the ground, though; a licensing deal with Nintendo (good move) led to the independent non-Nintendo development of some Zelda and Mario titles (bad move).

They banked on non-traiditional, digital media (good move) by developing unique interactive kids content (good move), game shows and workout videos (good move) and interactive music CDs that let you rearrange the music (bad move).

They also advertised on cable (good move) with a full length infomercial (good move) that creates a weird narrative and tries to humorously portray middle-class lifestyles and provide solutions to those exaggerated lifestyles (bad move).

It’s that last one that we’re talking about here, a 30-minute infomercial called “A Day with Sid, Ed and CD-i” that aired in late night cable in the mid 1990s.  There’s a rivalry between a CD-i representative and an electronics repairman that, for some reason that we’re not privy to, exists. Sid, the CD-i guy, listens in on Ed’s repair calls and poaches them, getting there first and giving them a CD-i and a full library of games and peripherals so that they don’t need Ed’s services by the time he gets there.

He gives them the CD-i’s.  Gives.

It’s a pretty clear way of breaking out the CD-i’s advantages in different multimedia scenarios. In the first of three segments, little Timmy’s destroyed the family PC and it’s unrecoverable.  Sid shows up and marches right in. Mom’s okay with this. He hooks a CD-i into the television, telling them they don’t need a computer anymore. Mom’s okay with this.  He suggests kid-friendly games to Timmy. Mom’s okay with this.

In a few short minutes, Sid’s sold Mom and Timmy on the CD-i. Well, not sold.  Again, they didn’t buy anything.  But they now have a CD-i, so I guess that’s a win in a future, attach rate, sense? 

Part two: some believably rad dudes hanging out together playing video games, reading comics, and dancing to rock music on headphones all at the same time, all independent of each other. Headphones dude trips over the video game cable, destroying the console.  A quick call to Ed’s repair results in Sid barging in and, again, giving a CD-i console to the dudes along with a run through of the amazing games available.

Burn:Cycle was a pretty solid game, as are Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, but the rest don’t even look that good by 1990s full-motion-video standards.  Sid hangs out and games with the dudes, then moves on.  Sid’s about $2500 in the hole at this point, considering that he’s given away two consoles and who knows how much software.

Part three: date night.  Peter and Gina are watching a “Forrest Gump” VHS in full daylight when the tape gets eaten by the machine.  Cue Sid and his free CD-i to extol the virtues of digital media.  It’s worth noting that Sid has used “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as a selling point of the CD-i to all three groups at this point. Peter and Gina get more of an overall taste than the other groups do, as a run through the system’s digital board games draws out Gina’s murderous tendencies. Hilarious! I’d be interested in checking that “Clue” title out, though.

The “Feature Presentation” screen, a direct lift of a VHS copy, is the real highlight of this segment.

Ed, throughly defeated at this point, gets on board with CD-i.  He and Sid team up, equal partners in Sid’s unprofitable nightmare of a business.

Each segment is punctuated by wonderful infomercial hard-sells, run-throughs of the system’s features, 800-numbers, and payment plans.

Here it is.  So bad, so good.

 

 

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Five Things – 3.6.17 – POWER PLUS

TurboGrafx 16 Infomercial

This 18-minute promotional video for the TurboGrafx 16 game system pulls a page or two from the Saved By The Bell book of video effects.

Most videos like this have a terrible-yet-fun narrative angle threading the game showcases together, but outside of an awkward little kid occasionally playing unseen games we get a rapid-fire tour through just about the entire TurboGrafx library.  From Bonk to Darkwing Duck to Super Adventure Island to…Riot City…well, there’s a lot to see here.

The tour through the extensive game library is broken up by accessory after accessory. The portable Turbo Express, the CD Player, and the 5-controller connectable Turbo Tap all make an appearance, promising to turn your slick TurboGrafx system into an expanded clunky mess.

The infomercial concludes with a hard sell on the Turbo , the PS4 Pro of its day boasting increased speed, better graphics, and a higher price point.  And a subscription to their Nintendo Power, called Turbo Force.

For what amounts to a relatively unremarkable informercial, it’s actually pretty great – the graphic treatment is insultingly ’90s, the voice-over treatment given to each game is genre-appropriate to the point of being offensive, and the ability to look at the excitement around the gaming technology in 20-year-retrospect gives one a pretty satisfying smug feeling. Definitely worth a look:

 

Moon Zero Two Pressbook

Speaking of worth a look, I’ve been a fan of Moon Zero Two since I saw it featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 1990s.  The set design, the costumes, the soundtrack, the goofy animated intro, the goofy live-action dance numbers, it’s all fantastic. Zombo’s Closet of Horror features a 12-page pressbook for the movie that’s just amazing in its depth of offerings to all members of a community. Hit the link for all of the scans, but here are some of my favorites:

 

MTV Spring Break 1993 Special

Is there anything more perfectly 1993 than this special concert during MTV’s legendary annual Spring Break stunt featuring Lenny Kravitz, Living Colour, the Black Crowes, and Stone Temple Pilots? If there is, it’s on you to show it to me.

Of particular note are those black and white MTV bumpers… I may break those out into their own thing at some point. Amazing stuff.

 

1980s Showtime Free Preview Weekend

I wore my VHS player out during the HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime free preview weekends. My family would take shifts recording as many movies as we could. Thanks to these weekends I can still recite Caddyshack 2 verbatim. This Showtime segment featuring Bill Harris hits that sweet spot.

For a bonus, check out the graphic design of this 1987 Showtime bumper. I want to live in it.

That bass line!

 

Safeway Supermarket Ad w/ Bob Weir

And to round things out, a stiff, muted Bob Weir championing a good cause in a 1980s Safeway ad. Just weird all around.

 

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Five Things – 1.9.17 – Nickel, Nickel

Hammerman

It should come as no surprise that MC Hammer, he of the pop charts and the parachute pants and the very-safe-edginess and the runaway early-90s success, had his own cartoon.  Hammerman ran on ABC in 1991, and only lasted one season.

(My computer keeps trying to correct Hammerman to Hamilton.  Guessing this is the only time those two shows have been compared.)

Hammerman follows the adventures of Stanley Burrell, a youth center worker who becomes the superhero Hammerman when he wears a pair of magic shoes passed along from aging superhero Soulman.

This is all explained in what is perhaps the laziest theme song ever rapped.  That includes the end credits of Leprechaun in the Hood.

Hammer hosts each episode with a live action intro and outro, and the episodes usually focus on some issue relevant to kids or a larger societal issue.  A villain pops up and Stanley has to turn into Hammerman to put the villain down.  The background music gets to dip into the MC Hammer library, which is probably the only standout feature of this series .

It’s a pretty lazy effort all around – this sort of thing should be right in my sweet spot, but it’s really tough to watch all the way through. It’s remarkable in its laziness, though, and maybe that goes to show both how iconic MC Hammer was in 1991 and also how eager TV Networks and (maybe) kids were for cartoons related to any already-existing-and-popular property.

Here’s an episode. It’s titled “Rap-oleon”.  Like Napoleon.  Shudder.

 

Cookie Monster IBM Film

Jim Henson was contracted to do a series of short films for IBM in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They’re all pretty great, but some of them in particular offer glimpses of the Muppets to come. Here’s one such glimpse – an early Cookie Monster with teeth and claws, eating a sentient computer.

A toothed Cookie Monster is a recipe for some real, lasting damage.

 

Lock’n Chase Ad

I’m in love with the illustrations in this ad for Data East/Taito’s 1981 Arcade Game Lock’n Chase.

 

Big Trak

A beautiful design for an awful toy.  Big Trak was a “programmable” utility vehicle that intelligently performed tasks that you told it to do.  I can only imagine how clunky and limited the interface must have been to ‘instruct’ Big Trak to do anything. Also, I’m sorry, but if you program Big Trak to bring me an apple and if Big Trak dumps that apple onto the floor in front of me, I’m not going to eat that apple.

 

1939 Pepsi Ad

As a Coca-Cola kid and a (now) soda-free grown-up, I can safely say that this 1939 animated ad is the best thing I will ever associate with Pepsi.

Now where’s my coffee?

 

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Five Things – 1.2.17 – Sure, Mac, Sure

Connections: AT&T’s Vision Of The Future

AT&T’s got a record of anticipating future trends and technologies that extends almost as far back as they do. They kind of have to; that’s their business.  This 1993 video, Connections, takes the emerging technologies of the internet and mobile phones and imagines a future that combines the two. And, despite a few silly overreaches, pretty much nails it.

Connections starts off with a trans-continental phone call between a woman, her fiancee, and the owner of the rug store in which the couple met.  This call auto-translates the three languages to suit each participant – a translation in the actual voice of the speaker. 

The next scene features (what we will find out later is) the girl’s Dad, a land developer using a tablet PC to imagine changes to a building project and then receiving a voice call. Look familiar?

Cut to the family’s Son, playing a VR game online with his buddies, during which he receives a video message from mom reminding him not to turn off the VR system but instead to switch over to the homework module.

Mom and Dad pick Daughter up at the airport, who rushes to a public phone booth to call her finance. Of course it’s a video call, with a voice-activated sign-in that can instantly access the caller’s contacts.

Mom, a doctor, then engages in a remote consultation for a patient.

She then shops for wedding dresses with Daughter, over the internet. The online store uses models of Daughter to explore different customization options.

There are two plotlines threaded through this showcase: the Daughter’s wedding plans and the Dad’s development plans.  The development plans are controversial as they would mean the loss of a community center. A concerned citizen appeals to Dad, showing him the appeals of the electronic classroom – a classroom filled with terminals that “connect to the Education Center in Washington” and provide virtual lessons customized to each student.

Speaking of, there’s a Siri/Alexa component that is apparently customizable. There’s a bit where Dad questions Mom’s use of a handsome digital personal assistant. Gulp!

Anyway, the education classroom visit forces Dad to grow a conscience and he confronts his boss in a futuristic office that belongs in an episode of 1995’s The Outer Limits reboot, in an episode that takes place on Coruscant.  No future tech in this scene, just some old guys arguing.

The storylines wrap up predictably in a way that makes everybody happy. The boss finds a way to make the development they want to make and incorporate a Community Center as well. Daughter gets married and has a baby. The rug salesman is conferenced in to meet the baby. The end.

It really is remarkable how right this video gets the application of the technology. It’s one thing to say that mobile communication and the internet will merge and define our lifestyles, but there are still dozens of ways that could happen.  Just about everything in this video exists now, 20-plus years later.  Except, I hope, that we’re a little less cheesy than these guys.  I don’t know.  Maybe we should be. There’s a lot of hope in this video.

K.C. Munchkin

The Odyssey 2’s answer to Pac-Man was, well, Pac-Man.

This ripoff of Pac-Man was actually available a year for home entertainment a year before any Pac-Man ports were, so in a sense it was actually the first to that specific market.  It was Pac-Man, though, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone arguing otherwise with a straight face.  That said, there were some interesting additions to the Pac-Man formula. On some levels the map would become invisible, forcing you to remember the layout. On others the box where the ghosts respawn would change location. Little things that, while not admissible in court as grounds for a unique product, do impact the gameplay experience significantly. Still, total ripoff.

The marketing was pretty good, though, and the box art is as on point as most video game box art was at the time.

Sure, Mac, Sure

This bizarre 1970s PSA dispels the myth that eating food makes it okay to drive drunk.  I think it also serves a secondary function as a cautionary tale about drinking seventeen different types of alcohol and then getting in a car.

 

John Berkey 1975 Otis Ad

This ad for the Otis Elevator Company, illustrated by famed Sci-Fi and Space artist John Berkey, depicts an indoor vertical storage solution. Maybe that sounds a little dry, but this is the future for me.

 

Sugar Free 7-Up

The illustration! The font! I love it!

 

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Five Things – 12.12.16 – Alphie Says I Got It Right

Mr. Ed’s Christmas Story

What holiday season would be complete without the ritual viewing of that one Christmas episode of that one show about the horse that can secretly talk and makes life miserable for the awkward suburban man who owns a horse that can secretly talk?

Mr. Ed’s Christmas Story opens with Ed and Wilbur hanging decorations in the barn. Ed asks Wilbur to buy some gifts for the other horses “at the stable”. (What stable? Where is Ed making these connections?) Wilbur balks at the idea and leaves.

On the way out, Wilbur bumps into Gordon, his neighbor. The two of them make a very modern agreement not to spend more than fifteen dollars on Christmas presents for themselves or their wives.  The pair purchase terrible cheap gifts to give to their wives and receive their expected wrath.

As Wilbur argues the value of thrift, there’s a knock on the door. It’s a delivery man, asking for a signature for all of the presents that Ed called the department store to buy for all his pals at the stable. Gulp!

The episode takes an awkward pivot at this point to Ed’s telling of how a horse saved Christmas by helping Santa Claus.  We cut to a really impressively decorated Santa’s Workshop, complete with two rotating clowns, where Santa (Wilbur) himself is stressing out over his ability to make enough toys.

The horse suggests he go to the bank to borrow money to make more toys (?), but the bank (run by Gordon) is pretty stingy about lending it. Santa makes a deal with the bank that if he will make all of the toy deliveries in one night, or else he’ll shut down his workshop for good.  This is a good four-to-five minute chunk of logic that makes absolutely no sense. Santa returns to the workshop with the money in hand to learn that the horse has taught the reindeer how to fly.  I give up.

Santa immediately gets in the sleigh and (presumably) makes his delivery, leaving unanswered the question of what exactly he needed the money for in the first place. The two couples get together for gift swapping, and the husbands deliver with the desired expensive gifts and… it doesn’t really matter at this point. The viewer’s brain is mush. Then this happens.

The eternal frustration of Mr. Ed, to me, is not that a horse can talk or that a man can find value in harboring a horse that can talk, it’s the continued instances of evidence of high levels of dexterity that a horse just isn’t capable of achieving – talking or not.  Ed removed Christmas decorations, dialed a telephone, and dressed himself up in a Santa costume on his own, amazing and impressive feats for a horse that completely outclass the ability to vocalize. That’s the crux of the story of Mr. Ed, and of Santa himself: we have to believe completely in this impossible magic, knowing that we’ll never see it for ourselves, and the entire thing falls apart if we don’t.

Here’s the episode.

Alphie

He’s no Chatbot, but Alphie – Playskool’s learning robot – was pretty cool in his own right.

 

Tunnels and Trolls Coleco Ad

A Coleco version of the popular RPG game Tunnels & Trolls was planned, and evidently made it far enough to Coleco to put together press materials for, but ultimately got scrapped.  Here’s the beautiful one-sheet for Tunnels & Trolls.

And the title screen. Not much else made it.

 

Sea Monkey How-To Video

This ultra-90s official video shows kids how to set up their new Sea Monkey tank.  This video would be watched mere hours before the disappointment sets in!

 

The Handle

Kodak’s handle-held instant camera is the perfect gift to immediately unwrap and then take pictures of all of your other gifts that are not The Handle!

 

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Five Things – 12.5.16 – I Can’t Sell It To You

Deck the Halls With Wacky Walls

Wacky Wall Walkers were a very popular toy for a brief period in the early 1980s.  They were these rubber octopi that were sticky; you threw them against the wall and they would slowly “walk” down until the adhesive gave out and they just fell to the floor.  Super popular for a while, then relegated to cereal prizes, then gone forever.

wacky-wall-walkers

(via Retroland)

In their brief heyday, though, they were huge.  In typical ’80s fashion, that meant that they just had to have a presence on television. That presence took the form of Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls, which aired on NBC in the Christmas season of 1983.

ww-title

Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls had the liberty and license to apply any backstory they wanted to these rubber octopi. Naturally, the writers decided that they came from a complex space civilization.

wall-walker-planet

A team of 7 Wall Walkers – Kling-Kling, Big Blue, Springette, Bouncing Baby Boo, Crazylegs, Stickum, and Wacko – are sent to Earth to investigate something their scientists have heard about called “Christmas”.  My eyes are rolling, too.

wall-walker-gang-2

(They’re on the ceiling because they can walk on things like walls and ceilings. Get it?)

The special quickly falls into the normal Christmas special routine – outsiders looking for clues on what Christmas is find that some like the decorations…

decorations

…others like the music…

wacky-wall-dancing

…and others like the presents and the shopping.

santa

There’s a storyline woven through about an ungrateful kid who gets introduced to the Wall Walkers when one is accidentally wrapped into a gift.

unwrapped

Together, they learn that the true meaning of Christmas is giving, and the typical cursory nod to Jesus is given right before they wrap up.

The only truly special thing about this special is that someone decided to create a lore and background for a bunch of fad toys.  The work that went into this special probably outshines any effort that went into the toys themselves…and the special still comes up so, so short.  Here it is. It’s a fascinating sort of awful. Bah. Humbug.

 

TOMY Bots

I’ve mentioned before that as a child I believed that robot servants were always just around the corner.  They never materialized in any useful form, but that didn’t stop the toy companies from  scratching our itch with several iterations of few-function rudimentary remote-control devices in the shape of robots. TOMY was the best at this game, with their Chatbot, Verbot, and Omnibot models. Here’s a roundup of the commercials for the various models.

The Omnibot ads are legit fantastic. We’re clearly the chimps in that last one.  It’s always great when a company can get sales by insulting the customers.

 

Sammy Davis, Jr Alka Seltzer Ad

Sammy was an odd choice for Alka Seltzer’s spokesman in the late 1970s and early 1980s. but not really the wrong choice.  Alka Seltzer’s primary job is to provide relief from last night’s party, and you probably can’t find a much better expert on partying.

The Santa get-up is weird, though. BUT THAT FONT.

to-all-a-good-night

 

1987 Sports Illustrated Christmas Commercial

Watch this salesman blow all of his 1987 holiday commission by letting these wives and mothers know about the existence of Sports Illustrated!

Bless Your Hearth!

I don’t claim to understand the appeal of Necco Wafers, but I don’t need to; somebody out there loves them and that’s enough for Necco.  They DID, however, have an awesome Holiday print ad in 1952, and that’s enough for me.

bless-your-hearth

 

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Five Things – 07.04.16 – You’re Weird Too, Then

Dollar a Second

This 1981 reboot of a 1950s game show seems centered around insulting and humiliating people while occasionally throwing them a few dollars, and also about confusing the rest of us.

Dollar A Second

Bob Eubanks conducts this train wreck in which contestants earn the titular Dollar A Second for as long as they’re on stage.  A counter overhead keeps track of how much they’ve earned.  The contestants are dressed ridiculously (by the show) from the get-go, putting them at an instant disadvantage.

DAS Contestant

They’re then given a string of “A or B” questions and tasks to perform in either case instead of just verbally answering.  Once a contestant gets an answer wrong they’re taken to the next level of humiliation, where they Pay the Penalty.

Penalty 2

Here they’re given a Russian Roulette sort of choice to make, where all but one choice could put them back into the game and the fourth embarrasingly knocks them out. There’s not really a final round – they count on the players quitting and taking their winnings or continuing and getting knocked out.  Pretty half baked.  The pilot didn’t get picked up, so we’ll never know if it would have evolved past a crude trivia show that got cheap, uncomfortable laughs from captive audience members.

Here’s an episode. Like I said, train wreck.  Hard to watch, hard not to watch.

 

My Weekly Reader

Dreams of Space has a couple of roundup posts for a weekly children’s publication called My Weekly Reader.  These editions predictably focus on our 1950s efforts to conquer space and because of this they’re right of my alley.  Hit the link for all of them, here are some of my favorites.

1960nov7weeklyreader

1965weeklyreader

1958nov10weeklyreader

 

The 1976 Travis 4th of July Parade

This Super 8 footage of Travis, RI’s Bicentennial Parade really gets me.

 

1991 Sizzler Promotional Video

This 4+ minute image piece for the Sizzler is the most dramatic, most nineties, most beautifully perfect image piece for a family-and-budget-friendly restaurant I’ve ever seen.  They don’t make image pieces for family-and-budget-friendly restaurants like this anymore!

 

Sony Super Walkman

It’s slightly smaller!

 

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Five Things – 06.20.13 – A Neon Sign Designer

Whew!

This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.

Whew!

Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered.  If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.

Blocks

The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.

25000

The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics.  It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.

Whew Set Lightning Final Round

Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980.  A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast.  Here’s an episode.

 

Home Alone (NES)

Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not  a game for the NES?

Home Alone Cover

Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives.  In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down.  It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.

Oh No

Here’s a longplay.

 

Pepper’s Ghost

I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster.  What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way.  I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.

Pepper's Ghost

 

What is Pippin?

A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin.  Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?

 

J’attendrai

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.

 

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