Wayning Interests

Random thoughts on and of the modern age

Month: March, 2012

DECORATING THE BATCAVE

From the ‘Weird stuff found on eBay’ department (link).

To coincide with the release of the 1989 Batman movie, some joker at Eurostudio allowed this to happen:



Whenever creepy licensed art like this pops up, the same questions arise: who was the artist? Who picked the images to use? Who bought this? Who did they think would want to decorate their room like this? Is it terrible or awesome?


There’s not much more I can say about this that the wallpaper doesn’t say itself. I do think it’s both considerate and telling that they made it spongeable, given that the first reaction of people to seeing a room covered in this would be to either explosively throw up or jizz.

1996: A SPACE ODDYSSEY

Back in 1996, a revolution occurred in Australia. Suddenly, when you bought a packet of chips you didn’t just get chips – you got a little plastic or cardboard piece of marketing fluff designed to make you feel like you didn’t just get a boring old packet of chips. Frito-Lay’s Tazos were first – little plastic disks designed to compete directly with POG. POG had landed in 1993 and even though most people didn’t know what the hell they were, they knew they had to have them. POG took off like wildfire, and it wasn’t long until the pretenders surfaced.

Most notable of these were Glo Caps, produced by Glow Zone, a company well known for making the little glow in the dark stars and planets you had stuck on your ceiling as a kid, and then couldn’t be bothered to remove when you grew up so they’re probably still there now. Glo Caps arrived in 1993 to directly compete with POG’s popularity, and with the added novelty of glow in the dark, they were a hit. Two series of the Glo Caps were produced at first, both sporting surreal, Mambo-esque artwork. The Glo Cap brand got a big boost when a series themed around the Simpsons was released in early 1994, and at this point some parent at Frito-Lay must have realised how criminal it was to have to pay $4-plus for a packet of caps to make their child happy.

The unlikeliest playground status symbol ever.

That person had the brilliant idea to include them FOR FREE with chips. This was a revelation, as every school canteen that stocked chips was instantly a way to get a fix. This meant it was no longer a matter of waiting for a trip to the newsagent and then subtly suggesting to whoever had the money that you needed a packet of POG – all you had to do was ask for a lousy $1 or so for a packet of chips at school. Bins at schools everywhere were suddenly filled with opened, but uneaten, packets of chips as the Tazo craze took over. Tazos even upped the ante by releasing a lenticular Simpsons range. It speaks volumes about the power and credibility The Simpsons had amongst ten year old kids in 1996 that their appearance on little trinkets could change the tide of a popularity war between novelty companies. Again, no one knew what exactly a Tazo was, or what language Tazo and POG came from, but you HAD TO HAVE THEM, even if you had to buy cheese and onion flavoured Thins to get them.

Glow Zone meanwhile were sitting around in warehouses full of unsold Casper Glo Caps, wondering what happened. Someone must have gone to the vending machine and found out, because in 1995, they released their own potato chip chaser cards – Oddbodz. Oddbodz were like an amalgamation of every pocket sized craze that had come along thus far; for one, these weren’t your daddy’s caps – they were full sized cards, designed to recall the basketball card fad of 1993. They glowed in the dark, just like your room’s solar system. They featured a variety of surreal, freaky monsters, just like Monsters in My Pocket, and best of all, they were free. I can’t overstate how much something glowing in the dark added to its playground value back then. These weren’t just pictures of Shaq and Pooh Richardson – they were Nerdy Neville and I.P. Freely, and they GLOWED IN THE DARK. When it was time to turn out the light, Mimi Screami didn’t disappear like Bugs Bunny’s Tazo did, she LIT UP THE ROOM. One Oddbod was worth two Tazos in a trade – it was as if they’d printed money.

Even better, some of the Oddbodz randomly included a HOT feature, which meant there was a small area somewhere on the card that was covered in a special ink that would disappear when vigorously rubbed. These were the playground equivalent of a dime bag of China white. On top of all that, they had all kinds of added features on the backs:

You could link stories together or attach Frogulox Bleeemo’s ass to Ghosti Girl’s torso, and you’d CALL IT ENTERTAINMENT. Glow Zone hadn’t stuck to kids’ ceilings for years by resting on their laurels, though. The fact that they released about 6000 Glo Cap sets stands as a testament.

In 1996, they released SPACE ODDBODZ, which took the bizarre characters from the first set along with many new ones, and unleashed them in space. If possible, these were even more popular than the first set. Let’s take a closer look at ten of the more out-there Space Oddbodz.

10. Skips of Meltania

It’s a little known fact that Skips of Meltania were actually Smith’s Chips’ new product launch for 1996. Skips were like prawn crackers, only tangier, and because marketing dudes don’t miss a beat, Space Oddbodz = free advertising space. The chips didn’t last though, and this card is the only reminder that they ever existed. Design-wise, the card is much like its snack namesake – Skip has a pretty bland, generic character design, and the gimmick is weak.

9. I.P. Forever

A lot has changed since 1996 – I don’t think that these days you could get away with marketing to kids a picture of an astronaut who has released such an astronomical load of piss in his spacesuit that it’s bursting at the seams and creating urinous ice cubes. Well, maybe you could, but you certainly couldn’t show him liking it. It doesn’t get much more gross than that…

8. Dogatello of Doggyworld

…unless you count an artist dog making sculptures out of his own scumber.

7. Plutonium Blonde

Back in primary school, nothing got you called ‘gay’ faster than getting this card in hot, and having to rub Plutonium Blonde’s chest to get the most out of the novelty. These days though…no, it’s still a bit creepy.

6. Gobbledok

Those marketing guys…Gobbledok was Smith’s Chips’ marketing mascot in the late 80s and early 90s. He was a phenomenon – trucks carried his likeness, his TV ads ran around the clock. I always thought he was pretty light on imagination though – he was like the love child of ALF and Doug Mulray.

5. Robot X

This card is the scatological equivalent of those pantomimes where the one you’re looking for is ‘BEHIND YOU!’

‘Wheeeeeerrrre?’

‘BEHIIIIND YOUUUUUUU!!!!’

4. Simon Starjumper/Daniiiii Spacehippy

They’re the same damn concept. And worse, they’re numbered right beside each other in the set. The iiiiimagination is just eye-popping.

3. Hypno-Puncher of Pluto

So this guy’s whole schtick is that he hypnotises ‘NUTSA’ astronauts long enough so he can punch them? What does he do now that Pluto’s no longer a planet and no one cares? And are those I.P. Forever’s piss-cubes there on the ground?

2. Unitwit of Uranus

At first it seems like the Oddbodz creators finally showed some restraint – there’s not a single anus gag to be found…on the front. Turn it over however, and every one of the linked tales has a terrible ‘your anus’ pun included. That aside, does he have a dick for a nose?

1. Rear Admiral HeadButt


This one was controversial in 1996 – apparently TOO controversial to go out as originally designed. At some point the more explicit art was pulled from circulation and replaced with a censored version.

The second version makes a lot less sense; yes, he still has a head for a butt. But where’s his head? Why did they censor this, but leave cards like Solar Wind Kid (just guess) and Inside Outa available to corrupt the minds of innocent children everywhere? We may never know.

What is known is that the Oddbodz series produced after these featured likenesses of contemporary AFL players. Oh those poor, innocent children…

HUNGER GAMES

An open letter to McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.

It’s over.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, and I’ve spent many sleepless nights deliberating. We’ve had it so good for so long, but I’ve finally mustered up the courage to walk away. I know this comes as a shock, and you’re probably wondering what you did wrong. It’s…it’s honestly one of those things that’s nobody’s fault. Things were said, mistakes were made…nobody knew when to say ‘when’. But I’m saying it now.

Sure, we had some good times. When we first met, you were young and I was even younger, maybe too young. You stood out in a crowd. Your colour, your shape, your charm. You sold yourself to me like I was the only one on the planet…and it worked. Mickey D, you promised me happiness wrapped up in a box. Colonel, you seduced me with your forwardness – the idea of licking fingers scandalised me…as much as it electrified me. Pizza Hut, you were just so selfless, and it won me over. You said I could have as much of you as I wanted. You promised so much…and you delivered.

There was chemistry from the get-go. I couldn’t help feeling guilty for entertaining all three of you at once, but I’m sure it worked both ways – you don’t serve over a billion in an exclusive relationship. Young love works in mysterious, yet not unwelcome ways. I started seeing you everywhere. Bus stops, cinemas, shopping centres. Even watching TV in the comfort of my home, you’d appear…and entice me with your wares. The honeymoon, it seemed, would never end.

We laughed together when I told you of the others, the failed suitors attempting to steal me away from you. You slyly asked why you had succeeded where they had failed, and I admit I got a buzz from telling you. Jack’s hunger came off as too desperate. Wendy didn’t offer the whole package, only dessert. Red was too quick to get his cock out. Simple things, really…but important ones.

But along the way, you started to get complacent. You let yourselves go in the way lovers so often do when they think they’ve got it made. You thought you had my love on tap, and that I would follow you wherever you went. Mickey, I know you tried hard for awhile; you showered me with gifts whenever we’d dine, you weren’t afraid to try new things…but somewhere along the way I think you lost track of who you were. You were too busy trying to attract the MILFs (yes, I noticed your eyes wandering) and clean up your act that you stopped being the one I fell in love with. Suddenly, you felt so distant. You weren’t there for me as I watched TV anymore. You listlessly offered me apples and juices, like you hadn’t spent years indulging my sweet tooth. I suddenly felt so anonymous. Then came the day where you stopped asking me if I wanted fries (that old in-joke of ours). You just gave me a salad without asking. I’m sorry, but you just don’t know me anymore. And I don’t know you.

Colonel, our encounters used to be so quick ‘n dirty, skin on skin. I’d end up with sticky fingers every time we hooked up. I know you gave me those moist towelettes, but I knew you liked it better without protection. If only I’d known how much you liked it, and how far you were willing to go. I started to notice how sick you were looking.  How your other lovers were catching illnesses they shouldn’t have…couldn’t have…if you’d been doing the right thing. Potato and gravy isn’t meant to look like that. I realised you were hopelessly addicted to taking risks, and as exciting as that was at first, it’s a new era. Disease is rampant, and I just can’t take those risks anymore. Please get yourself checked, you’re not being fair to the ones who will come after me.

Pizza Hut…your doors were always open to me. I’d ask “Your place or mine?” and both options were always on the table. I always felt I could call you, and you always inquired after my needs. I don’t know if you knew it then, but you were the only one brave enough to come to my place. But if I felt I needed something more than a one nighter, I knew the invitation was always there to visit you, to rest my head on your shoulder. Suddenly, that went away. Suddenly, you were always at my place. I asked you a few times why I could no longer visit you, why I could no longer have as much of you as I wanted, but you’d brush me off. That’s just how I felt: brushed off. I was always having to call you, and I don’t like to always have to do the work. Sometimes I liked to pop in on you and grab lunch, or those intimate dinners your place was so suited for. Obviously it wasn’t as good for you as you let on, and that realisation makes me feel like I can’t trust you anymore.

So this is goodbye. You must have known in your heart of hearts that it was young love, and that it couldn’t last forever. I know it may just sound like I can’t handle change, progression, maturity, but it’s not that simple. It’s not easy for me, believe me – I’ve thrown so much of my time and money into these relationships, trying to make them work…but it’s just so clear to me now that it can’t. Your actions, my wants and needs, your long term strategies…they’re just not as compatible as they once were.

I know I’ll still feel your eyes on my body as I walk past, but you need to know that you can’t have it anymore. I worked hard to keep myself in good shape while we were together, and that will be even easier now. I can’t help the way I look. You just never let me know if you appreciated it. Sometimes I felt you would have preferred me as a fat tub of lard. I caught you a few times eyeing the fatties, and it upset me. In the back of my mind I knew you preferred them, and at the same time I knew I could never be what you wanted me to be.

I hope you realise now why this has to end. I hope you understand.

All the best.

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER

Did you ever get the feeling that you’re not…cool? That you may in fact be a dork? A wimp? It could be that all you’re missing is the gift of the gab, a magnetic personality…and a heart of rock ‘n roll. Lemme tell ya a story…

It’s late 1994, and I’m bored. I’m bored because for the last few hours I’ve been staring out the car window at nothing but dry plains and fields. I yawn and stretch out to go to sleep on the back seat of the car as the radio blurts out an ad for KFC’s ‘Chicken Loopies’ for the millionth time so far. ‘KFC Chicken Loopies!’ repeats Dad, as if neither he, my brother or I had heard the ad six times this hour. We’ve passed about three KFCs on the way, and I’ve long since given up hope that I’d get to taste the loopies, but Dad’s continual quoting of the ad reassures me that the reason we’re not stopping isn’t because it’s annoying him. The road to Lake Burrinjuck was long and tedious, but that fact, and many others, hadn’t seemed to occur to Dad. He was happiest when he was behind the wheel in the country, tearing down the highway on cruise control while listening to AM radio. Of course, in this situation, and many others like it, he was in the minority.

It had been his idea to go away for a few days to Burrinjuck Dam, on the NSW south coast. Apparently there was a campground there, and he was keen to get some fishing in. We’d spent the day before at Bankstown Square, running around to the various shops that would provide us with the equipment we didn’t have when this idea seemed to good to him – a tent, sleeping bags, an esky. The incidentals. Unfortunately, going to the shopping centre with Dad was like going with Allie Fox; endless complaints that escalated from ‘I hate shopping centres,’ to ‘Let’s burn civilisation and laugh’ in the space of about half an hour, unreasonable haggling over plastic cutlery sets, and vitriolic haranguing of salespeople guilty of trying to upsell to the world’s worst shopper. “I’m going to take this to Gerry Harvey,” he’d scream at the Harvey Norman staff member who’d tried to give him a free mousepad. The open road offered no such annoyances, and the deep blue waters of the Murrumbidgee seemingly even fewer.

We reach the turnoff for Lake Burrinjuck, at which point the road goes from paved to something more akin to lunar surface. Perhaps Dad’s decision not to stop at the Colonel was wiser than we could have known, because to say the road was bumpy would be like saying KFC is greasy, with the car’s suspension analogous to the serviette turned clear with grease. The track stretches on forever, and being only one lane, any oncoming traffic forces both cars into an impromptu game of chicken. ‘You go’, ‘No! YOU go!’ goes the exchange each and every time, like young lovers trying to end a midnight phonecall. Given there was so much nothing surrounding us, I almost forget there’s a lake at the end of this rainbow.

That is, until we make it over the crest.

The Lake Burrinjuck Leisure Resort sits on the edge of the water. It’s mostly small cabins and cottages, and larger lots of land containing powered and unpowered sites for real camping. Despite the threat of the tent, we end up in the resort’s reception room haggling for a cabin. To my brother’s horror, we’re informed the cabin has no TV, but the words have no effect on me as something far more compelling catches my eye. Just there, off to the left…

The games room.

The rest of the trip – the surreal boat trip spent watching huge, unwanted carp flop around on the beaches, the mild case of conjunctivitis, the trip to the hospital – feels like a necessary evil, a chore to suffer through before it’s finally time to hit the GAMES ROOM. Even the name sounds fun. Say it now, GAMES ROOM. Doesn’t it make you want to go and find a…games room? But you’re sitting there thinking ‘But Michael, what games were in this room? What made it any more special than a corner shop with Street Fighter II?’

It was true that I was used to playing Street Fighter II or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the local supermarket or milk bar (remember those?), but this games room offered an experience I’d not yet had at the tender age of 9 – pinball.  On one of the hot afternoons we spent sweltering in the cabin, Dad gave me five dollars to waste in the games room. I knew what to do – my first stop is the guy at the front desk so that he may turn my galah into five gold coins, just like the tokens at a real arcade. Cashed up, I look around the room. There are several fat bikies playing pool on a banged up table that could have inspired The Accused. There’s a dead, ancient sit-down driving game. There’s Ninja Turt–wait. That’s not Ninja Turtles.


From Hardcore Gaming 101:

Vendetta can be played by up to four players. Each of the game’s four characters – Blood, Hawk, Boomer, and Sledge – are assigned to a specific controller, so you can’t change characters without inserting a credit into a different slot. Sledge has Mr T.’s hair stylings (facial hair included), and Hawk is pretty much Hulk Hogan in sprite art form. I’ve seen Boomer compared to Jean Claude Van Damme, but that’s only fair in that he’s a blond martial artist who kicks a lot. Blood is probably based on Mike Tyson. These four guys make up a gang called the Cobras, but they hardly look intimidating. The Final Fight knock-off plot is that their rivals, the Dead End Gang, have kidnapped Hawk’s sister. These guys obviously never saw Suburban Commando. As would be expected, Hawkamania ran wild on the Dead End Gang, and brought his Hawkamaniacs (ie. the other three guys) with him”

"Former professional wrestler."

I spend the next hour feeding coin after coin in to the 20c-a-go Vendetta. Hawk’s sister is as thankful the third time she’s saved as she was the first, but after awhile the appeal wears off, and I start to look around. And my eyes lock onto the wondrous machine over there in the back corner. How did I not see that immediately? Why didn’t you tell me?

DUDE!

I have never played a pinball machine seriously before this day. They always seemed a lot less interactive, less fun. Too reliant on the licences they displayed (I had played the Batman and TMNT pinball machines at the bowling alley in the past. Sue me, it was the early 1990s.) It was a game of luck, not a game of skill, something that really matters to a 9yo kid. But this one looks different. The bright, ultra-1990 Bally artwork looks so inviting. The sad tale of Dr. Dude himself seems so…relatable to a boy excited by a GAMES ROOM.

The rats tail - the haircut 1990 allowed.

As you can see, the premise is simple: you’re a dork, and you need to get cool. To do this, you need to achieve certain goals. Wait, whoa. Pinball machines have goals?? It’s not just flip the ball when it gets close to going down the hole so that it DOESN’T go down the hole and you have to put more tokens in? Tokens you could be spending on Vendetta? “No,” Dad explained. “Pinball is a game of skill.” Dad had come to join me after whatever it was he was doing before enraged him enough to leave it behind. Now he’s observing my pinball skills with mild amusement. “Catch the ball on the flipper, see?” He holds the flipper button down, and the flipper stays up, with the ball cradled in the crook of its arm. The flipper stays up! This alone has blown my mind. I thought you just tapped the flippers…the concept of cradling the ball was insane to me. He was holding the ball still. The game had come to a total standstill by his will. He really was in control of the game!

Timing and aiming shots turn out to be a not so precise a science. We spend the rest of the afternoon in the games room, sheltered from the late thunderstorm, trying our best to earn Dr. Dude the status of ‘Superdude’ in a father-son bonding experience only one half remembered a week later. To earn big points in Dr. Dude, you have to collect the “excellent ingredients of ultimate hipness” – a heart of rock’n roll, a magnetic personality and the gift-o-gab. Once you collect these, by making various shots, you launch the ball into the Mixmaster, whereby your elements of radness are blended. The whole time, a gruff voice insults you, “You’re a wimp! You’re a dork!” the results of what must have been the most satisfying voice recording session ever. If you can manage all that, simply get hit with a blast of the Excellent Ray to receive your new cool persona. Even though it’s 1994 and the game has been out for four years, it’s still a revelation. Pinball is…cool! And original IPs are…radical! For so long I had been biased toward any properties I recognised without giving generic names like The Getaway, Funhouse and Taxi a chance. Looking back now, most of the best pinball tables are original IPs. Eventually, we run out of coins and head back to the cabin. I never see Dr. Dude again, and clearly, I certainly didn’t get cool.

It’s been a long time since my Dad taught me how to play pinball properly, but I’m still learning. Sadly, the industry isn’t what it once was, with only one manufacturer, Stern, still making tables. Sydney’s pubs have a half-decent selection of classic tables from the 1980s and 1990s, but it’s not as easy as it used to be to get a fix of the beautiful game. Lake Burrinjuck isn’t what it once was either – a 2009 trip back, my first since 1994, resulted in heartbreak. The Doctor was out, and so was Vendetta. The games room was long since gone, and annoyingly, appeared to be the only difference in the entire facility. It didn’t stop me from buying a drink from the John Laws lookalike at the counter where I had once gotten the change. I asked him about the games room, and if he still had the machines. “Machines?” he repeated, confused. “This is the only machine we got round ‘ere,” he spluttered, gesturing to the soft drink fridge from which he had just pulled my can. I took a sip of the warm, flat drink and took him at his word. And then I was on my way, off back down that bumpy road, thankful I had opened my can of drink before I got back in the car.

Epilogue: last year, I went on a trip to the USA with a friend. While in New Hampshire, we heard we were close to the ‘World’s Biggest Arcade’, which allegedly had an extensive pinball section. Could it be possible? I volunteered to drive, because it was my odyssey. It took all morning, but the World’s Biggest Arcade turned out to be the World’s Oldest Arcade as well. None of the machines were newer than 1979. We went to leave when I noticed a brochure on one of the tables…’Pinball Wizard, the World’s Second Biggest Arcade’. And only an hour away! Internally, I mixmastered my heart of rock’n roll, my magnetic personality and my gift-o-gab and shot off towards my destination like an Excellent Ray. Was I in luck? After 17 years, was a dork about to get cool?

SUPERDUDE!

MUGSHOTS

MyHeritage.com has a fun application on their site which scans face pictures and, using some kind of futuristic facial recognition software, compares that face to a celebrity.

Pretty accurate! George Clooney is 97% George Clooney. But then again…

Clearly we shouldn’t question the site’s ability, so let’s give it a real test.

For many years I’ve owned this set of Batman Forever ceramic mugs. I have never used them for drinking, because that’d just be…weird. Their likenesses always bothered me – the only one who really looks decent is the Riddler. Two-Face looks more like Keanu Reeves than Tommy Lee Jones. If only there were some way of gee, I dunno…comparing the likenesses of the mugs to the actors themselves, but using faultless computer logic…

Let’s start with the Riddler. This should be an easy warm-up before things start getting freaky. In this way we should hope to flawlessly recast Batman Forever for its eventual remake.

Let’s see what happens when we feed the cup into the machine.

You know, I can pay that one. Not bad, MyHeritage, but what do you think about the Riddler himself?

Whoa! I can kinda see what you’re going for there, but it might be a bit confusing for the young’uns.

Next, let’s try Robin.

First, the cup…

With David Duchovny as Batman, MyHeritage? I’d never really considered the idea of an all-female recasting of BF before, but it seems to have been on MyHeritage’s mind for a while. Let’s try the character…

I’m actually surprised this didn’t end up happening for real at some point.

Now for Two-Face…
The mug:

So…you’re suggesting we cast an unknown as Two-Face? With a cast loaded with stars like MyHeritage’s BF is, this is a good idea.

How about the character?

Th-that’s not what I meant, MyHeritage! Again!

So it’s one of those instances of getting a white-hot sporting superstar in to guarantee asses on seats. Have you no confidence in the film’s quality, MyHeritage?

Finally, we move onto Batman himself.

I’m Batman?

Hmm, interesting, although I’m not exactly sure what face it found…

I’m Batman?

Try as I might, I was not able to get MyHeritage to recognise a picture of Val Kilmer as Batman. From this we can assume one of two things – either MyHeritage refuses to acknowledge anyone but Kilmer in the role, or MyHeritage is as much of a Clooney fan as we discovered earlier.

Aside from torpedoing the recasting of Kilmer-Batman, MyHeritage has provided us with some interesting choices, and managed to hit all the Hollywood casting cliches along the way – the non-actor sports star, gambling on an unknown, the Oscar winner, the hot young starlet. Perhaps when Christopher Nolan vacates the director’s chair, Warner Bros. should get MyHeritage on the payroll.

Wait, what’s that, MyHeritage?

Oh. Never mind.