Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Denali Death... Die! Die!

This is a photo of my car. At the Raedeke household we have several names for it. The kids call it "Car-eee" (don't ask). I call it the mid-life crisis mobile, but it is also known as "Black Beauty" on craigslist. We bought this car shortly after my daughter was born for the following reasons:

  1. I had just recently sold my tiny bright blue VW Beetle which provided several same-sex proposals at stop lights. I've never been hit on so many times in my life - male or female - could be that I was also a bespectacled elementary school librarian at the time. All the signs were there... regardless, I needed a new car.

  2. I wanted a Ford Supercrew pickup, and Christy wasn't buying my crew cab logic. So a large SUV seemed like a good compromise so that we could stay married.

  3. It was large enough for family outings, skiing, surfing, mountain climbing, vert skateboarding, parkour, motocross, and all those other extreme sports in which I partake on a regular basis.

  4. It was black, shiny, and had pimpin' dubs on it! It represented a lifestyle away from dirty diapers, mid-life flab, and the oncoming responsibility of life as a father. It was the kind of car that the bros from "Entourage" would use to carouse.
Many years later this rolling hunk of junk continues to vex me. It's like a constant reminder of consumer foolishness. Today I cleaned and re-oiled the K&N filter, removed the carbon build-up from the throttle body and repaired the broken power window on the driver side. My reward for all this? A dead battery! I can't tell you how many problems we've had with this rig. Before leasing the Beetle, I had not purchased nor driven a car built after 1980. After spending the day trying to fix this piece of shite I have vowed to return that practice! Scooby, though art perfect in every way.

If you'd like to buy a 1999 GMC Denali, I am starting the bidding at fitty cent. Go Shawty... it's your Birthday...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Retro 70's Christmas Toy Spectacular

Unlike my wife, I believe that the 70's were a magical time for our society. This time period represents the golden era for toy marketing/consumerism, and at the Raedeke household we were drinking the Kool-Aid(tm) in a big way. The 70's brought us the birth of skateboarding, sugar-focused breakfast cereal, punk rock, and many other piles of awesomeness. However, those topics are for future posts. Today, I want to talk about the greatest toys of the 70's! For nostalgia purposes, I've tried to find links to toy commercial on youtube. Let's get started...

Big Jim - If G.I. Joe represented the heroism and manliness of WWII, then Big Jim is the penultimate man of the seventies with his mod hair and sporting lifestyle. Looking back, he's a bit sexually ambigous. But what's wrong with a little camping with your friend Big Josh!?! Big Jim reflected the importance of knowing Kung Fu as a life skill, and his karate-action arm unleashed its fury on all sorts of fake wood and fauna. Mom, you completed me when I got his Rescue Rig for Christmas. YOU MUST watch the commercial (apologies for the youtuber's comments in the title screens, but it's the only way to view it). Me thinks the toy designers had a different agenda...

Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces - This is not the kind of toy you should show to a child before bed time! I never owned one of these, but my neighbor did. It's creepiness was overshadowed by the curiousity with "disguises" in the seventies. No video for this one, thank God.

Hot Wheels - These little metal cars have made a huge impact on almost every male in American society. I was lucky to be around when they first hit the scene. Sixteen little cars with mag wheels, and spectraflame paint jobs, in all their glorified muscle car style. How many of you remember the Mongoose and Snake drag race set! Plus, the orange tracks made an excellent whip-like weapon when you were in a fight with your brother. Click here for a slew of Hot Wheels commercials from 1970.

Bing Bang Boing - I didn't know this until I started doing this post, but Marvin Glass and Associates invented many of my favorite toys. He created this awesome Rube Goldberg-style toy, called Bing Bang Boing. The problem with it was you had to have a doctorate in physics to recreate what's happening in the commercial. You gotta love the use of heavy steel ball bearings in a toy - would never happen today.

Vertibird - I'm amazed how many time this toy has been re-launched by different toy companies under different product names. Sorry no youtube for this one.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle - This toy made young boys epileptic when it arrived on the Christmas scene. I know that Evel (R.I.P.) is now seen as a drunken, mafia-connected mess, but in the 70's he was a huge star and his motorcycle stunts were major TV events watched by millions. Watching this video makes me want to ride!

AFX Racing - Slot cars and electric track racing were huge in my childhood, and nobody did it better than Aurora's AFX line of products. Later as teens we would apply WD-40 to the tracks for a drifting effect on the cars which required much more skill. The cars from these sets are still highly collectible. Check out this sweet "Smokey and the Bandit" style AFX commercial.

Mattel Electronics Football - Never have tiny LED blits been so captivating for so long! We played with this for hours at a time. I'm sure it caused early carpal tunnel syndrome in many young men. I can still hear the piercing chirp of the touchdown song in my mind. If you'll recall, Coleco's head to head version blew this out of the water shortly after it was introduced - but it was a great ride while it lasted. Here's a youtuber's video about the toy.

Major Matt Mason - OK, purists will note that this was really a hit in the late 60's but I don't care. One of the coolest sets of toys ever made, I still have the space crawler somewhere in a box. I think I'll give it to Hank for Christmas. I like the set design on this commercial - as if every child has a moon-like back patio for space play.

Happy holidays from the Raedeke's!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Holiday Rhythmic Automaton

What do geeks do when it gets cold and snowy outside? They make robots, silly! Or silly robots, for that matter. Hank wanted to make a robot on Saturday, so we pulled out the Vex Robotics System and created a melamine bowl carrying server-bot. It was okay. It delivered cheesy popcorn to its five year old creator, but it lacked something. I was staring at the round rim of steel that held the popcorn bowl, and tapping my fingers on a table when it hit me - let's make a drumming robot! Well, it ain't pretty... but I'm hacky like that.

At least it made my wife and kids laugh out loud. Mission accomplished. Oh, and Hank, I owe you a new Wal-Mart drum set.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pixelart OCD

I'm sitting here with Digital God Miles Inada at a conference table in the art building at SOU. Like two ancient greeks we've been posing and pontificating about the nature of digital art. He's doing some really cool comics based on his "Arms & Ether" series. I just showed him something that made him say, "You're insane!" I think he might be right... here's a tiny, poorly-scaled version of our house in pixelart format.

I don't know why I am lured by the pixel. A few weeks back I did a post about my obsession with isometric pixelart. Turns out I have some friends in low-rez places. There are several pixelart communities on the web - neighborhoods plotted in obsessively small blocks of color. I was inspired to attempt some of my own cookin' based on the following cool sites:

I'm going to submit my little GIF file to one of these neighborhoods, even if I'm the most boring house on the pixelblock! Yes, I'm obviously OCD at some level to do this much pixel pushing. This must be why I enjoy doing wood trim work, programming, making guitars, unloading the dishwasher, shutting open cabinet doors, typing too much in my blog...