Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Race Set Mania

Recently I found a great old photo from December 25th, 1967. It's a photo of my father and myself with a super neato racing set! I was just two months old at the time. I wonder if the race set was for me, or for dad?
Then, if you go back to yesterdays blog and click to enlarge the photo of me with my train set you can see on the left is a smaller table with a racing set on it. So that was race set number two, some time in early to mid 70's.

Then in 1979, I got my third and final racing set, the Ideal TCR Total Control Racing, Lighted Blazers Jam Car Special. This set came with two cars that two players could control, and a third card, a slotless jam car that would drive around by itself and get in your way. The race track did not have slots like the average set, so you could flip a switch on the controller to change lanes to pass your competition. And to make things even more exciting, the cars had working headlights and glowed in the dark! It didn't get much better than that for a 12 year old!

Much like the train set, I am sure that at some point, Kaden and I will drag this out of the basement and set it up for some "Slotless track-real passing" racing action!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Train Scale HO

One of the coolest Christmas presents I ever remember receiving was my first train set. I don't remember the exact year, but I would guess it was some time in the mid 70's. It had a green engine, about 3 box cars, a flat bed with 3 removable tractors, an oil tanker, a caboose, and enough track to make an oval, and of course an electic power pack to make the thing run. I remember going out to a lumber yard somewhere to buy a large piece of plywood to nail the track to and setting it up on a table in my room (see photo below).

I remember a Christmas or two later, I received a second train set. This one was the ultra cool "US Army" edition which was all camo green and came with a flatbed with a removable tank on it, a car with a large cannon, a box car with doors that flipped down to revel two swiveling guns, etc. In 1980 we moved into a townhouse which had a basement, and I decided to set up my train in a large way. By this time I have collected all sorts of engines, cars, lots of track, buildings etc. My friend Lew and I started working on building the layout, including sculpted mountains and a complete town (see the accompanying colour photos of the layout as it was being dismantled). When we moved 3 years ago, I had to tear down my train diorama, as there was no way to move it. I took a few photos of the set up before I began dismantling it. I thought a few of the photos looked kinda cool in black and white.

The entire train set now sits in boxes in the basement of our new house, waiting the day my son Kaden asks about it and we can dig it out once again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

iCOS = Comics On Sale

If you have OS 10.4 Tiger on your Mac, then you have Dashboard. If you have Dashboard, and you collect comics, then you need to get iCOS! I don't find myself promoting software very often, but his is an amazing little FREE Dashboard Widget that all comic book fans should have! And for those of you using Windows, they have a Windows Beta version available at their site. What iCOS does, is allow you to easily browse and search which comic books are being released that week (info comes from Diamond Previews), and you can set up a subscription(s) tab that will show you exactly which of your favorite titles are showing up at your local comic shop that week. Once you install it, you will find yourself waiting for it to be updated each week, as you can't wait to see what new comics are hitting the shelves.
They have a new version coming out very soon which will have even more great features. Check it out by clicking on the iCOS link above, or simply go to the Apple web site and do a search for iCOS.

Monday, August 28, 2006

They're at the Post!

Remember when playing games meant getting the family and friends together and sitting down at the kitchen table to play a board game, and not sitting in front of the TV playing yet another repetitive video game.
In keeping with yesterdays Vinyl theme, today I present "They're at the Post". As I said yesterday I love collecting records, and I also enjoy collecting old board games. They're at the Post (1975) is both a record (well actually 4 records to be exact), and a game. Let the front of the box explain further: "The exciting new game that captures all the fun and suspense of a day at the track. 8 complete races on 4 LP records computerized for over 190 different finishes. The records are specially designed so no one can pre-determine the race results."

The game play is just like being at the race track. It includes racing programs, bet chits, banker's records and cash. Any number of players can bet on the various horses for each race. When the betting window is closed the LP is put on and the needle dropped and on comes the racing voice, excitingly giving a entire race breakdown. Each record has more then one spiral on them, so when the needle is placed, no one knows the outcome of the race, as the needle can skip from groove to groove, providing endless outcomes for each of the 8 races.

I have dragged this out at more than a few parties over the past 20 years, and it always gets a great response. You could even make it a little bit more exciting by playing with real money instead of the play money provided.
I guess we won't see an updated version of this game any time soon though, as they would have to find a way to get your mp3 player to skip (on purpose) for the game to work.

PS: Again, referring to yesterdays post, I think I'll take Bert's Wish in the 2nd!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Two More Thrift Store Finds

Here are two more items I picked up at the thrift store yesterday. I found a great Ernie & Bert 45 record and a Disney 45 from the movie Aristocats.
The Ernie & Bert record comes in a very thick cardboard gatefold, something I have not seen much with 45 records. There is also some great artwork on the inside of the gatefold. I find it a little funny that is says "Ernie & Bert" on the album, but only Ernie is seen on the cover and heard in both stories. I guess if it just said "Ernie" we might not know they meant Ernie, as in Ernie & Bert!
The second 45 is the single for the song "Everybody wants to be a cat" from The Aristocats, the twentieth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon, released in 1970 from the Walt Disney studio, Of all my collections, my Disney record collection is one of my favorites. I would love to own a copy of every single vinyl album that Disney released, and therefore, even an item as beat up as this one, is worth picking up and adding to my collection.
A great resource for anyone interested in collecting Disney vinyl is The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records 1933-1988: Murray's Collectors' Price Guide and Discography : Lps/45 Rpm/78 Rpm/Eps.
And for anyone interested in the history of Walt Disney Records, there is a great new book out called MOUSE TRACKS: The Story of Walt Disney Records.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Caroline at the Ranch

I ended up at a thrift store today and bought a few books for my son. Most of them were 50 cents each, but there was one, "Caroline at the Ranch" (1961), which was $1.99. It was a large hard cover children's book and I really liked the art on the cover as well as inside. I waffled back and forth on whether I should buy this one, as it was a little more expensive than the rest. I ended up buying it. When I got home, I tossed all the other books into the book bin in Kaden's play room, but this one I decided to check out. Kaden came over to see what I had and asked me to read it to him, so we sat down and read it together. We loved it. The story was charming, and the artwork absolutely captivating. I was now very interested in finding some more of Pierre Probst's books. A few minutes online and I came up with very little about Mr. Probst, or the book. What I did find was a short bio of the author Pierre Probst, and a few sites with mentions of his books. Turns out that the English Caroline books fetch a hefty price on eBay, and if you look on Amazon, you can find 5 pages worth of Caroline books, all in French. I also found a site with a few other Caroline book covers and some comments from other readers regarding the Caroline books. Seems many of the original readers of these books are looking for them today.
Here is the info I could find on Mr. Probst: "Pierre Probst is a French gentleman that began writing and illustrating children's stories in the 1950s. According to a web page from Librarie Hachette, he was born in 1913, entered the art schools of Mulhouse, France, and began drawing paperboards for the silk trade before moving into the press and publicity business. In 1953 he proposed to Hachette a series of small animal characters: Youpi the cocker spaniel, Pipo, Bobi... They were soon joined by a little girl with fair hair named Caroline.
Later in the decade the books were deemed popular enough to be exported and translated. Several of these were translated into English and sold in both the United States and Britain. Some were also translated into German, and, according to the page, languages from Japanese to Swedish. He evidently now still lives in France and produces two new adventures per year. He has also done illustrations for other educational books in his home country.
The Caroline stories are rather straightforward, mostly following Caroline and her friends as they travel and have simple adventures. They are quite cute, and seem to have captured the fancy of many of those that own (or owned and are looking for more of) the books. This, along with an evident low volume of production, has resulted in the fact that on Ebay they garner extremely high bids and (the English versions) are at times among the most valued children's books up for auction. This was especially true during the "high times" between 1999 and 2001; the bid amounts have come down substantially since that time, but are still quite high for the most-desired versions."
I loved the artwork so much that I decided to share a few of the pages here on my blog. Shown here you will see the cover, the inside title page and the first 4 pages of the story. (Click pictures to make them larger)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Formerly know as Mighty

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are no longer Mighty. They are now simply the Anaheim Ducks. The club announced the name change January 26, 2006 and formally changed its name on June 22nd, 2006.
When founded in 1993, the Mighty Ducks were owned by The Walt Disney Company, and played their inaugural season in 1993-94. The team's original name was chosen from the Disney movie The Mighty Ducks, about a group of misfit teens who turn their losing youth hockey team into a winner. Disney subsequently made an animated series called The Mighty Ducks, featuring a fictional Mighty Ducks of Anaheim team that consists of anthropomorphized ducks.
In 2005, Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli of Irvine, California and his wife, Susan, bought the Ducks from the Walt Disney Company for a reported $75 million (USD). The Samuelis have pledged to keep the team in Anaheim.
On January 26, 2006 the owners announced, effective with the 2006-07 season, that the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim would change their name to the Anaheim Ducks. This included a logo and team color changes which were unveiled at a special ceremony on June 22nd. Many Ducks fans successfully petitioned the Samuelis to keep Wildwing as the current mascot because of the team's recent success and as a link to the past.
Along with the team's new name, its home ice, Arrowhead Pond, will also be renamed to Honda Center effective October as Arrowhead Water's naming rights have expired.
Printed above is the cover of the 93/94 Mighty Ducks inaugural Season Catalog displaying what I think is one of the best hockey logos in the NHL. Printed below is the ad that the Ducks ran in the Hockey News to announce the new name and logo. Pretty lame logo if you ask me. In the past, the Ducks have always been one of the biggest sellers of jerseys and other merchandise for the NHL. I wonder how well this new logo will do sales wise? Luckily I already own a MIGHTY Ducks jersey!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Green Machine

Continuing with a transportation theme, today I present the Green Machine. As a young kid in the '70s I had a Big Wheel, but I really wanted the Green Machine. I only knew one kid in my neighborhood that had a Green Machine, and I would hang out with him as much as possible - just hoping he might say, "Wanna try it out?" Well after almost 20 years, the Green Machine is back.

THE GREEN MACHINE! It's not easy being green, and that is just the way we like it. Only Huffy Could create a machine that will define a whole new generation of cool. The NEW 2006 Green Machine Tri-Wheel by Huffy Bikes has a sleek and stable low profile design with strong steel construction. This next-generation tri-wheel will capture the imagination of a slightly older, more experienced rider for the ultimate in spin-out action. The all new Huffy Green Machine is designed and engineered for today's kids. The new version of this old favorite Green Machine is high tech, durable and cool with features such as: Sleek and stable low-profile design for maximum control and fun. The Huffy Green Machine's adjustable seat fits a wide variety of kids. Super wide rear slick tires spin-out through turns. Strong steel construction keeps it all together. Low riding spin-out tricycle - Defines low riding pedal spin-out excitement!
Below is the original 1976 Marx Toys Green Machine.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Return to Autopia

As a follow up to my August 5th entry Ronnie @ Disneyland 1977, here is a picture of the Autopia Driver License I received 23 years after my first Autopia experience. This is a great little ephemera item that cast members were giving away to 'young' Autopia drivers in 2000 when the Disneyland Autopia reopened with its newly updated track, cars and Cheveron sponsorship.
The accompanying photos are of the collectable Cheveron Cars Autopia edition which was for sale at most Cheveron stations in 2000 to promote their sponsorship of the newly remodeled Disneyland Autopia attraction.

Check out a great 1959 photo of the Disneyland Mark V Autopia Cars, over at Stuff From the Park.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Coke Side of Life

I found this posted on the Cartoon Brew web site.
"A couple weeks ago Coke unveiled the second CG ad in their new "Coke Side of Life" campaign, which is essentially a parody of the videogame GRAND THEFT AUTO. It's directed by British duo Smith & Foulkes of Nexus Productions. These guys have one of the best track records in recent years and possess an uncanny ability to take simple, even mundane, agency concepts and execute them to perfection. Take for example their Abba to Zappa spot for the Observer Music Monthly, the 'black ink' obstacle course for the VW Touareg, or Motorola's "Grand Classics" spot—conceptually, none of these ideas is particularly special yet Smith & Foulkes somehow make each one work. The same can be said of their current Coke spot which manages to turn video game parody into great art."
It's a very clever ad. Check it out here

Monday, August 21, 2006

What It's Like Being Alone

What It's Like Being Alone is a stop-motion animation series about a group of odd ball orphans who are desperately trying to get adopted. Sprung from the mind of Brad Peyton (creator of the multi-award-winning Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl), the 13-part series debut on CBC Television, Monday, June 26 at 9:30 p.m.
What It's Like Being Alone combines its Simpsons snarky style / meets The Munsters lovable goofiness / meets South Park's irreverence / with a Tim Burton-esk visual style.
The series uses stop-motion animated figurines, miniatures, CG (computer graphics) animation, and a number of low-tech animation styles to create the half hour late night CBC comedy.
I was really looking forward to this, being a big fan of stop motion animation and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, which this looked to be more that just a little bit similar too.

After watching the first episode, I thought the show looked gorgeous, but the writing sure didn't match the high quality of the visuals. I guess there isn't much going on Monday nights during the summer, because I have tuned in to each Monday night since the first episode. Slowly but surly the show is growing on me. Episode #9 airs tonight, and I am actually looking forward to it, so I guess its either getting better each episode, or I'm just desperate for some NEW television viewing during the summer.
Check it out, if you have noting better to do tonight.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ewoks Vs. Jar Jar Binks

When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was a teenager and I hated the Ewoks. I didn't really like the Jedi movie because I thought the Ewoks took up way to much screen time in the movie, and the 1984 Ewok TV movie and mid 80's cartoons were just awful. But when we needed an idea for a costume for Kaden last Halloween, a bear costume ended up being transformed into an Ewok costume so that Kaden could go out with some neighborhood kids who were dressing as Star Wars characters to go out trick or treating. We pulled the cute bear face off of the costume and Sara made a little Ewok vest and voila Kaden's Ewok costume was ready. I guess next year we could dress Kaden up as Jar Jar Binks to continue the tradition of "Star Wars characters I don't like, that Kaden has trick or treated as."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bert Collects Bottle Caps Too

Question: What brand of bottle caps does Bert from Seasame Street like to collect? Check out the answer below.

One of the very first collections I can remember starting was my bottle cap collection. It started innocently enough. One day when I missed the bus on the way home from school (this was a routine occurrence), my friends and I had some time to kill while we waited for the next bus. While waiting, I found a few bottle caps on the ground and before we knew it, we had started a competition to see who could find the most bottle caps. I won the contest and got to keep all the caps we had collected. Although most people would have probably tossed them all way, I brought them home and found a nice shoe box to keep them in, and continued to add to the collection over the next 10 or so years.

I can remember when I used to go to the drug store for a Coke, the bottles would be in a cooler with a lift up lid. You would have to look down at the caps and find the drink of your choice by the cap, so I guess that made the caps pretty important. And of course the first thing you would do when you popped off the cap was to dig out that grey rubber cap liner to see if you were a winner. Unfortunetly, more offten than not you would see something along the lines of "Please try again".
Whenever someone we knew would go on vacation, I would always ask them to bring me back some exotic bottle caps for my collection. Everyone always thought this was a strange request, but most brought home a few choice additions to my collection.
To this day, if a bottle has a metal bottle cap, I have to save it and add it to my bottle cap collection, which is now in a couple of large ice cream buckets.

Answer: Bert collects Figgy Fizz soda bottle caps. To date, he has
an amazing 368 caps in his collection!

Friday, August 18, 2006

75 Years of Disney Comics

Earlier this month, gemstone Publishing released Walt Disney Treasures. Subtitled Disney Comics: 75 Years of Innovation. This first Walt Disney Treasures TPB is a chronological 160-page retrospective of the form in general, with an emphasis on material that's never been reprinted before. From their birth in 1930 through a 75-year evolution, Disney comics have entertained us with imaginative stories, exceptional artwork, and a family of outrageous characters memorable enough to withstand the test of time. Walt Disney Treasures is a collection of stories carrying us through the generations of an artform, presenting tales by the greatest writers and artists the comics industry has to offer.
I have loved comics as long as I can remember and still visit my local comic shop every week to pick up my favorites including; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Scooby Doo, Patty Cake, The Tick, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and many more. When I saw the solicitation in Previews for Walt Disney Treasures, I was immediately drawn to the cover which looked like the Walt Disney Treasures DVD tins that I have been collecting for many years now, and the idea of a comic TPB with rare comics and special features (much like the DVDs of the same name), it seemed like a great idea. When it finally arrived at my local comic shop, I was not disappointed. This collection is 160 pages of comics and features. It starts off with a quick 2 page history of Disney in comics, and then jumps right into some of the earliest printed Disney comics, starting with a 1930 King Features Syndicate comic strip, and ending with the 2003 Mickey Mouse comic "With Friends Like These", and there is a little bit of just about everything else in between.
As for the look of the comics themselves, they are amazingly sharp and colourful, especially when you consider the age of some of the material. There is a great interview with David Gertein of Gemstone Publishing where he talks about the work that went into restoring the source material for this collection. The work was certainly worth it, as this is a great package and well worth the $12.99 cover price.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Negadon: The Monster From Mars

After reading about Negadon: The Monster From Mars in the Summer 2006 #76 issue of G-Fan magazine, I jumped at the change to purchase a copy of the DVD when I found it on the shelf of my local Wal-Mart. After plunking my $20 bucks down, I rushed home to pop some popcorn and settle back to enjoy Negadon, the world's first completely computer generated monster movie.
The back of the DVD says: "In the year 2025, the world population explodes to over 10 billion. In search for a new place to live, mankind initiates a space exploration program entitled the Mars Terraforming Project. Step by step, mankind successfully transforms Mars into a habitable planet. But when a Japanese spaceship returning from Mars crashes on the streets of Tokyo, it unleashes a giant and vicious monster. Only Dr. Narasaki and his long-abandoned robot Miroku can save Earth and mankind."
I dimmed the lights and started the movie. I chose to watch the movie in English. The movie looked amazing, and it didn't take long (just 11 minute in) to get the first glimpse Negadon. Unlike many recent monster movies where it takes at least 50 minutes to catch a glimpse of anything remotely large and dangerous, in Negadon: The Monster From Mars, we get our first all out battle at just the 19 minute mark. With such a climactic battle, I started to wonder what could possibly happen next? I was totally shocked when the words "The End" appeared on the screen. I quickly looked at the time counter to see that the movie was only at 24 minutes. By the time all the credits had finished, the total running time of the movie was 27:21. I grabbed the box and found that nowhere on the packaging did it list the length of the movie - something that most other DVDs list. I had not finished my popcorn when it ended, so I decided to watch all the DVD extras which included an interview with the director (with English subtitles), the making of Negadon (with English subtitles), and two film shorts: Magara: The Giant Monster & Magara: The Final Showdown, plus a few other odds and ends.
I really enjoyed the movie, but did feel a little cheated that I bought it expecting a full length movie, but only got 70 minutes of content, including the movie and all the extras.
If you get the change to rent or buy this movie, I would recommend checking it out, but be sure to pop a much smaller bowl of popcorn!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

TV Dinner

Just a quick entry tonight. A photo of my son Kaden at about 4 months old, when he was still eating anything he could get his hands on! Recently we got some photos developed at a local fotomat and used their computer kiosk to crop photos, add frames, change to black and white etc. Here is one of my favorites titled TV Dinner!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hillcrest Drive In 1953-2003

The last remaining local Drive In, the Hillcrest, closed in 2003. I made it a point to be there for the last night, when they showed 4 movies into the early hours of the morning to a packed field of patrons who wanted to say goodbye to a landmark. The Hillcrest was located in Surrey, on the surrey/Langley border and the once farm land, was quickly becoming developed. The land where the Hillcrest sat is now a condo development and a shopping mall. The owner of the Hillcrest has since built a brand new, from scratch, Drive In (named the Twilight Drive In) just 20 minutes away from the old Hillcrest site. I spent many nights at the Hillcrest, as I designed the original web site for the owner, and because of that, I got in free anytime I wanted!

When the Hillcrest closed, I took a few pictures. Above is a photo of the Hillcrest marquee, and a couple of photos of the speaker polls as they were being removed. I love the black and white photo of the speaker polls as they had been dug up that morning and piled up at the front of the field, ready to be hauled away. The photo has a kind of erie feel to it don't you think!?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The TMNT are resurfacing in '07

Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I am thrilled to hear that they are resurfacing on the big screen in an all new movie next year. I have been a turtle fan since the first comics came out in the late 80's. I collected all the comics, the toys, watched the cartoons. I loved it all... Except for the movies; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993). I found all three movies to be pretty lame, and geared for a very young audience. I don't think I ever bothered to see the third movie. But the upcoming movie looks very promising. Watch the teaser trailer for yourself.
The Turtles' fourth feature film, entitled simply TMNT, is currently in post-productions, with a theatrical release date scheduled for March 30th, 2007. Unlike the previous films which were 'guys in turtle suits', it will utilize 100% computer-generated imagery, produced by Imagi Animation Studios and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. According to the press release "the PG-rated movie will derive its tone from the original comic-book series and will be slightly grittier than the previous live-action pictures." I can't wait for this flick to hit my local megaplex!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

More cereal please!

Here are a few more of my favorite cereal boxes. The first two are Quaker Oat Life cereal. The first box featuring the Tick, and offered The Tick milkcaps mail-in offer, which sadly I did not cash in on. The second features Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs - which incidentally just showed up on DVD last week. The second two boxes are the Kellogg's Powerpuff Girls cereal and General Mills Pac-Man cereal. I especially liked the Powerpuff Girls cereal which was a "crisp rice cereal with power-packed clusters that fizz in your mouth". Sounds yummy doesn't it! Luckily the Pac-Man cereal was a source of 5 essential nutrients.