Friday, September 30, 2016

Grail Mail

Everyone who collects has their own "Holy Grail," the ONE item that's either rare or special that you search for years to find and you won't feel like your collection is complete without one. Ususally the term "holy grail" means that it's the rarest thing a collector can get, like a one-of-a-kind prototype or a rare issue of a comic book that was made 70 years ago or an autograph from a celebrity that died before you were born. These days, the term "grail" seems to have lost that meaning, now it's just something you really, REALLY want to get, but it keeps escaping your grasp. Spamalot illustrated this perfectly.

The past few months I've actually been getting lucky and managed to snag a few of my own.

This is my most recent acquisition. If you don't already know, I like to collect guidemaps from amusement parks. This is my personal grail of that kind: an authentic 1971 souvenir map of the Magic Kingdom, its opening year. Disney maps are pretty easy to come by...except early Magic Kingdom maps, especially a 1971. They're on eBay every once in a while, usually for an outrageous price. I managed to snag this one for $40. Sure, lots of people will claim to have one, but early maps lack two attractions: Space Mountain (opened in 1975) and the Swan Boats (1973). If your map has those, it's not from before then. Sorry. 

I got the urge to get it after seeing this one at New York Comic Con a few years back:

According to the guy running booth that had it, this was a 1971, complete with a spiffy frame. It cost $1000. "How much for just the map?" I asked. The guy laughed. Well, I showed him. For one, it's not even a 1971, due to seeing Space Mountain on there clear as day. I'm really glad I saved my money.

And now for another good one, my personal Transformers G1 grail, Reflector. For those not in the know, Reflector was a special mail-away Transformers figure, back when you had to send in a few proofs of purchase to get it. This was a three pack, where all three robots combined into a camera. Cumbersome, yes, but it was the only "big" G1 figure I didn't have. I was born after G1's heyday but in my time I already had a Soundwave, a Megatron, an Optimus Prime, a Shockwave, a Jetfire, but not Reflector. I also have an affinity for the Transformers that turned into the odd things, like the guns or the microscope (that was Perceptor, which I also have), and a weird looking camera was at the top of my list of gets.

Much like the William "the Refridgerator" Perry GI Joe figure, you couldn't get it in stores and they're not easy to come by, and the few you see on eBay were going for, yes, crazy amounts. I bought this one at NYCC last year after searching for a set that was as mint condition as possible. It didn't come with a box, so finding it in the original styrofoam is definitely the next best thing. Wasn't expecting that at all, and by god, this was as good as I was ever going to find it. It sey me back $120, but it now sits proudly on my shelf, collecting dust. My dust.

And if you've been reading these past few months, you know that I've been collecting those stupid Funko Pop figures. I've actually been slowing down on buying them, but then they keep making more to suck me back in. Case in point, I didn't buy this Conan O'Brien figure, I won it from a contest his show was running back during San Diego's Comic Con. I was just as surprised as you folks were when I found this in the mail. I entered that contest last year and came up empty, but this year it seemed like EVERYONE won at least one of these things. And I'm gonna make a confession: This is not the one I won. I actually won this one:

The Stormtrooper. Thankfully, the Funko fandom is large and diverse and I was able to find someone who wanted to unload a Ghostbuster on some poor schmoe that had the Stormtrooper.

My OTHER Funko Pop grails are any of these:

I'm a sucker for mascots, folks, especially the old Monster Cereals from General Mills. Now they made Dorbz, weird little chibi figures that look dumb but oh my god they made a two pack of Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy.

I needs them. Bad.

This is not exactly a grail, but something cool that I have. An authentic cel from Ren & Stimpy, specifically from "Stimpy's Invention," not only one of the best episodes of the series, but in my book it's one of the best cartoons EVER. I bought this at, yep, NYCC last year from Bob Camp, one of the animators and producers on the show. The guy had loads of cels, mostly from "A Visit to Anthony," an episode where Ren & Stimpy meet their biggest fan (and his giant lout of a father). But this was the only one he had of Ren in the iconic Happy Helmet, and I went with that one over, say, one with both Ren and Stimpy on it.

My dream is a cel from the Simpsons, but I haven't found a good one that I want yet. 

So folks, do YOU have any grails?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


A few weeks back I went on a long vacation to Boston! I'd never been before, and I gotta tell you, it was weird and exciting being in a city that wasn't Manhattan.

You see Manhattan's layout? That perfect grid, where directions go along an X and Y axis and include "if you hit water, you went too far?" 

Well, here's Boston.

Gigantic clusterfuck. It's like the streets are laid out like the spokes of a wheel. Overlapping with other wheels. Radiating a harbor. It was pretty confusing to drive around, but luckily I didn't do much driving that weekend. Hey, blame the colonials, they just paved over what trails were around at the time. Then again, Manhattan did that too, but like I said, it was all a grid, Broadway aside.

And while Manhattan's architecture is mostly either Art Deco or sleek modern, Boston's known for bricks.

Lots of brick, lots of red buildings and cobblestones. You really get a feeling that Boston is a working class city, with a few modern high rises here and there. Most of that brick is original, too. 

You read that right, that building has been here since 1755. Boston was where a good chunk of American history took place, and it doesn't let you forget it.

Pictures is a map of (among other points of interest) the Freedom Trail, a red brick line that goes through a good chunk of north Boston that guides people to famous revolutionary landmarks.

Like Faneuil Hall, a famous meeting place, now a gift shop and a museum.

Paul Revere's house.

The Old North Church where Paul Revere saw the lanterns that started his famous ride.

And Paul Revere's grave.

After Tom Brady, Larry Bird, and that Big Papi guy, Paul Revere is high on the list of people Boston holds in ungodly high esteem. He's also not the only famous person buried here.

Like Samuel Adams, of the famous beer (I got to visit the brewery, the beer is quite good)

And John Hancock.

Yeah, no shock that his tombstone was the biggest one there.

On a good day, you'll see lots of vendors and historians dressed in revolutionary-era garb, like this awesome guy:

I joked that he was a Team Fortess 2 cosplayer. Please don't make me explain that joke if you don't get it.

Boston's also known for being the final resting place of Cheers.

Of course this wasn't the real bar the one from the show was based on, that would be the Bull & Finch Pub, which is located in a different part of town that I didn't get to go to. This one was in Quincy Market, Boston's historic shopping district. But make no mistake, the bar was a pretty exact replica of the one from the show. If I actually watched an episode of it, I would've been impressed.

There's lots of old bars and pubs in Boston, and these things are EVERYWHERE in Old Boston, where I stayed.

See, here's the view from my hotel room. Around that one building there were at least five bars and pubs, not counting the one in the actual hotel.

Here's a pub I actually went to, the famous Bell in Hand Tavern, founded in 1795. Yes, you heard me, it's that old and it's one of the oldest pubs in the country. I don't think I sat in the original section of the bar, but drinking beer in a place that predates most of our ancestors was interesting enough.

Of course while I was in Boston I had to have some authentic "chowdah."

Or "shaudere" as certain characters from the Simpsons would say. It was quite good. 

Right next to it is the Union Oyster House, also one of the oldest bars/restaurants in the country.

1826. Damn. Sadly, I didn't go in because I wasn't in the mood for oysters, plus it was really tiny crowded and I kept hearing it was overrated.

Turns out I was in the historic pubs district, I knew this because I was seeing people on a bar crawl with "Historic Boston Pub Tour" pubs in them. I'm kinda jealous of those guys, that sounded like a fun tour.

That's not all the cool historical stuff I saw while I was there.

Like this old state house. Half of it is a museum, and do you know what the other half is used as? A subway station. I kid you not. That wouldn't fly in New York. I'm conflicted if that's a good thing or a bad one. At least the building's preserved?

It's also the site of the Boston Massacre:

Sorry for the awkward shot, but that was taken in the five seconds where there weren't a dozen feet on it. I've been imagining that ninja turtles would open that up like a manhole cover and crawl out of it, having Boston accents and everything.

This is only historical in the sense that I don't see 1980s fonts like that in signs these days. If I passed by that place when it was open there was no doubt I would've went inside to see if there were any other cools signs like that.

And I have to mention how much stuff there was to do in Pokemon Go while in Boston. I might not have blogged about it here, but I got into the game just as much as everyone else did, then lost most of my interest when Niantic fucked everything up. This just happened to be my favorite Pokestop. Yes, there were a bunch of bronze newspaper embedded into a road, and I was only able to get a picture of it via the game BECAUSE the road it was embedded in was covered in traffic.

And while typical towns like mine look like this: 

Boston looked like this: 

Pokestops and gyms were EVERYWHERE. This was only the tip of the iceberg. I went through level 18 just from going through Pokestops. There's that many. Hell, I was able to get to two just from sitting in my hotel room! And if I go to Manhattan again I know I'd encounter just as many. 

Back to the historical stuff, there was also a walkway that had markers for several odd events that happened in Boston over the years. This was my favorite:

A plaque commemorating the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. I can't believe there was a marker for that one, and as a lover of weird history that might've been my favorite thing I saw the whole trip.

All in all, I thoroughly recommend visiting Boston, I hope I can go back...eventually.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Leprechaun Man

A few days ago I was watching Let's Make A Deal on Buzzr and noticed a weird looking guy in the audience.

See him? Let's look closer.

Yeah, this guy. I thought to myself "is that Doctor Demento in the audience?"

It turns out that sadly it wasn't Doctor Demento at all. But it turned out this guy was even better. In the next episode he gets on screen and it turns out that he's a six and a half foot tall man dressed as a leprechaun.

Look how happy he is! He ended up winning a set of golf clubs and $500, which he traded away for the Big Deal, worth a couple thousand dollars. He made out well. That smile was infectious.

Out of all the weird people I've seen on Let's Make A Deal, Leprechaun Guy is definitely my favorite. You keep being you. You were better than the people dressed as Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Some Stuff I Saw

Hey folks, I saw a big duck the other day.

Yes, I'm probably the only person on the internet right now that typed in "big duck" on purpose. What is this, you might ask? Why, it's Long Island's famous Big Duck! I'll admit that I have a fondness for weird tourist traps, and I've been reading about this place my whole life and last Saturday I finally took a trip out to see it in person.

Its history is pretty much as follows: Duck farming used to be a big industry on Long Island and back in the thirties a local farmer wanted his farm stand to stand out from the others. A trip to California led the guy to see those awesome buildings that were shaped like things, like this one:

And he realized that maybe building a giant duck was the way to attract people to his duck farm. Well, it worked and it eventually became one of Long Island's local weird landmarks. The building's changed hands several times and moved around the island since it was originally built, but it currently resides back in its hometown, the small hamlet of Flanders, NY. Stupid Flanders.

Like most quirky roadside attractions, it's found an hour's drive from your home, sitting in a giant field in the middle of nowhere.

Impressive, right? You can't see it in the picture, but there's a giant field of nothing behind it. I'm assuming that's where an ancient duck farm used to be. It's no Wall Drug, but that doesn't make it any less special and weird. But what's inside of it these days? Why, a gift shop that doubles as a tiny museum.

There's not much wiggle room in there, but I found the place pretty interesting. The guy sitting down in there was pretty knowledgeable about all things duck, and history about the big duck. If something could have a duck on it, it was there. There were pictures of the duck throughout the years, especially how it's decorated for the holidays. There's a big witch hat on it during Halloween, and they have a lighting ceremony when it's Christmas time.

I even saw what was up the duck's head: Nothing, closed off by glass. It was neat, but it wouldn't have been an interesting picture.

It was a quirky way to spend a few hours, most of that time was spend traveling there and back. Like I said, a tiny room inside a giant duck isn't something you buy a season pass for, but I'm glad it's there and that I finally got to see some local history up close. It's free to go in, but I dare you to leave without a little something with a duck on it. You can even become a Friend of the Big Duck, so people in the future can appreciate this grand sybol of man's power over duck.

Maybe this will inspire you to find the weird landmarks where you live? That would be cool. I'd recommend browing the Weird U.S. site to find one near you!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Flea Market Finds - May 2016 Edition!

Flea Market season is upon us once again, so last week I went down to the Bellmore Train Station once again for their weekly flea market. This time, however, I ended up arriving around 12:30, a bit late in the day. It didn't help that it started to drizzle, which was a fine prompt for vendors starting to quickly pack up as soon as I got there. I thought all the good stuff would be gone, but I was wrong. I was so happy to be wrong.

I might be burying the lede here and I might be using hyperbole but this was by far one of the best things I have ever found at this flea market. The famous Rappin' Rodney album! Back in the day, rap was the new music thing, and old fogies that tried desperately to be hip to the kids attempted to insert raps whenever and wherever they could. The most well known of these fogies to dip their toes into this craze was Rodney Dangerfield.

Even in the rap game he gets no respect. If you've been following this blog, you'll know my weakness for silly novelty albums, and this is as novelty as they come. Here's the back.

As much as I'd like to find out what "Rodney Continues Rappin'" sounds like, I had to leave the album there. I don't collect vinyl and even if I did I don't have anything to play it on. You have my permission to act disappointed in me.

Oh crap, vintage cereal boxes! Just the boxes. If I were to pay the 35 bucks for the C-3PO's, I wanted to make sure the hideously stale cereal came with it.

Same goes for this fifty year old box of Variety cereal. I'm actually amazed that the little boy on the box was letting his sister play with that model racer. Seemed pretty progressive for its time.

Everyone was into the POG scene back in the day, and it seems that Michael Jordan was no exception. I was never a fan of officially licensed pogs, I was always more partial to random nameless ones like these: 

Like these. Sadly, this is not my personal collection. Hell, I don't even know what happened to all of mine. For all I know they're all in some storage bin in one of my closets. 

It's even lamer for some officially company (in this case Topps) to try their best to create their own rules out of the classic "stack them all up, then slam them with a slammer and you keep whichever ones land face up" game that nobody really played to begin with.

This was a cool looking wastebasket. If I didn't already own a wastebasket...

Own a set of old, plastic Mounties! Yeah, I don't know why I took a picture of these. Maybe because finding anything to related to Mounties in the states is enough to stick out?

A kid bed that doubles as a tiger cage! At least I think it's for kids. No matter who sleeps in that, I guarantee that they'll be uncomfortable in it.

This booth was full of cool, vintage Batman stuff. Unfortunately it all looks like it's seen better days. Such is the gamble of the flea market.

See, here are those political campaign buttons I keep telling you guys about! Losers and everything! I'm actually sad that I'm just now paying close attention to this set, because there's some pretty old ones here, like ones for Taft and Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson. And you can't forget famous losers like Goldwater, Dewey, but no Ben Carson just yet. Stay tuned.

Above those buttons were some pretty rare vintage buttons for old comic strip characters that no one remembers! Maybe Gasoline Alley? Dick Tracy? Thimble Theater? I know that I see Little Orphan Annie's style in a bunch of them. I'll admit I was drawn to that rebellious "Dracula Sucks" button.

That sane booth had loads of old vintage stuff that once again I'll admit to paying attention to the wrong items. I'm sure I was drawn to the awesome vintage Batman cards, but look at those funky rings! You gotta zoom in, but there's something for everyone: Three Stooges! Howdy Doody! Mickey Mouse Club! JFK! Elvis! I even spy ones for Soupy Sales (kids show host from back in the day), McDonalds, even something for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

Something that really caught my eye was in this picture. No, not the $30 Schmoo on the right. If you're wondering what that is, Schmoos are characters from an old comic strip called Lil Abner. They were white blobs that were meant to be "all purpose animals." They were docile so they could be kept as pets, but every part of their body was useful. They dropped dead when you looked at them with hunger (yeah), and being boneless you could cook it for a hearty meal. Or you could cut the skin to use for shoe leather, or use their eyes for buttons. And for some reason they were cute enough to become cultural sensations, essentially on the same level of fame as Snoopy or Garfield. This is all real folks. All from a comic strip about a simple hillbilly town.

What I was interested in was that set of little Marx figures of various Disney characters from what I'm assuming was the fifties (note the Sleeping Beauty castle in the corner). Not only are the character choices odd (The Master? From Dumbo? Seriously?), the colors are all off. Back then nobody really cared about screen accuracy, and you weren't gonna complain about having the only physical figure of Panchito from Three Caballeros (I know I would've). But at $125? I'm gonna say no to that.

Mr. Peanut stuff! All stuffed into a box for easy pickings! As far as food mascots go, Mr. Peanut is pretty far down my most wanted list, but all that merch in one place is interesting enough.

When your establishment had to get red of cigarette ads, I guess this Mr. Peanut light was a sufficient replacement.

If this wasn't already dead, I'd swear that it's giving me the kind if look that'd be begging me to put it out of its misery.

Propaganda from when Hitler was just the crazy German guy with the silly mustache and before we found out about all the atrocities was just plain silly. I honestly would've gotten it but it was too rusty. Yeah, that and I really don't want to explain owning that. This is coming from someone that has a signed print of Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic framed and hanging on their bedroom wall for all to see.

Let's move on.

Never even knew they made Heroclix of various SNL characters. Couldn't have been from no later than 1999, they have the Ladies Man and Mango there among the Coneheads and Land Shark.

Now here's one of the most unusual things I found that day. A windup sightseeing cart from the Wildwood Boardwalk. How a little thing from Wildwood New Jersey ended up in a box of old Hot Wheels at a flea market in New York is a mystery that I'm not gonna solve, all I do know is that it came home with me.

And here's the other things I bought. You folks are probably aware of my other weakness for weird Hot Wheels cars, and I couldn't turn down a toilet car. Every time I think I find the weirdest car Hot Wheels ever made, I come upon Hot Seat. It's from a few years ago, so the blister pack isn't in perfect condition but frankly I didn't care.

I also found a tiny bendable figure of one of my favorite advertising mascots ever: the 7Up Cool Spot! Yes, I hold this guy higher on my most wanted list higher than Mr. Peanut. Much higher. For one, I never thought I'd find a little figure of this guy. Now I imagine it coming to life Toy Story style to mess with my non-7UP sodas when I'm not around.

I love these guys. All in all this entire trip cost $3.50. Not too bad if I may say so.