Cujo said:Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.
Now that is just wrong
Some holiday shoppers prefer bizarre gifts
By Joseph Cress, November 28, 2004
No child would want a Charlie in the Box or a squirt gun that shoots jelly.
So went the sad tale of rejected gifts stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys in that classic holiday special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
But a tree ornament or plush toy version of the beloved characters could cost a pretty penny on eBay this Christmas season.
So if a market exists for misfits, why not offbeat toys such as wind-up hopping lederhosen?
A plastic model of a Bavarian folk costume, this pair of pants jumps up and down across any flat surface and is a popular item this year for Archie McPhee, a Seattle-based novelty and toy company.
Another hot item is the cat-a-pult which shoots . . . what else . . . tiny plastic cats.
In keeping with the theme, the best seller this year is the Crazy Cat Lady action figure of a spinster dressed in a bath robe living with a pack of felines, says David Wahl, company spokesman.
He believes customers either buy it to make fun of themselves or tease a person who fits the stereotype.
Adults go for absurd
But a joke can backfire. A librarian action figure, introduced last year, caused a stir among people in that profession upset about how the toy shushes people for being too loud, Wahl says.
Wahl says the trend in the mainstream toy market is almost exclusively toward licensing from movies and TV shows. "You do not have to pay for advertising character people are already familiar with."
He adds other companies find it difficult to market strangeness, preferring instead to follow fads that disappear with changes in popular culture. "There is a constant need for the new and unusual."
In response to the popular Hello Kitty product line, Archie McPhee introduced its own merchandise called Parasite Pals," including "Tickle the Tapeworm" and "Dig-Dig the Head Louse."
Wahl says his company does not really market toys for children. Its customer base are people age 35 to 55 "with a real good sense of the absurd" and earning more than $100,000 a year.
John Reilly, spokesman for K-B Toys, sees it differently. "The same rules apply to the offbeat as apply to mainstream. If a toy is unique or fun... if it has play value or collectible value ... it is going to move."
For the most part, K-B Toys sells mainstream items but occasionally scores success with unusual toys, Reilly says. Last year, the hot item was the George W. Bush elite force naval aviator action figure.
That toy came out just months after the president made his controversial "mission accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier shortly after the fall of Baghdad.
The most unusual item this year is a dog translator called Bow Lingual in which a transmitting device clipped on a dog collar sends out a signal to a hand-held walkie-talkie.
On a tiny display, the receiver prints out the meaning or the bark as "I'm hungry," "I need a hug" or other such messages. "It's a little something out of the box," Reilly says.
Other examples of offbeat toys and gifts include:
* Tellmi, the interactive electronic hedgehog with blinking lights and moving limbs. He illustrates his emotions by making the lights in his body blink in strange patterns.
* Root-Vue Farm, a glass enclosure where children can watch seeds grow into vegetables.
* Wind-up walking rubber Sushi in realistic colors and textures.
* A rock-em, sock-em President Bush toy that punches out likenesses of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
* What's In Ned's Head, a plush toy head containing fake vomit, bugs, moldy cheese, rats and worms.
* A dancing hamster toy dressed in a Godzilla costume and "I Love Tokyo" T-shirt which sings its rendition of the classic Blue Oyster Cult tune about the rampaging monster.
* The Talking and Singing Mona Lisa — a motion-activated 3-D version of the famous painting that sings "I Wanna Be Loved by You" and . . . of course . . . "Mona Lisa."
* The singing Bible keychain — press the cross and it plays the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.
* The John Kerry punching bag.
* The Mr. T chia.
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Net just the place for bizarre Christmas gifts
A Christmas Day ritual in our family involves a gathering around the Christmas tree while one of the elder members is dragooned into playing Santa helped by a throng of willing elves.
The room quickly becomes a wonderful chaos of wrapping paper and presents mixed with oohs and ahs, and look-what-I-gots.
Usually the whole thing breaks down when elves abandon their duties to open their own stash. Much sport can also be had in the responses to gift choices - especially if they're a bit weird or unusual.
So, that's what I set out to find this year - bizarre gifts that will add a new dimension to our tribal rite around the tree.
That vast untapped junkyard that is the net provides an unending supply of weirdness - not to mention source material for anyone wishing to do a thesis on the anatomy of bad taste.
I'm thinking ties for the brother-in-law. Josh Bach does a nice range. But which motif will get the best reaction - Muscle Man, Hula Girls, or Mammoths?
In the end I settle for the postmodern How to Tie a Tie pattern.
Carolyn Forsman conversation jewellery is an excellent hunting ground for the nieces. Are they too young to appreciate the Wizard of Oz? Never mind - Dorothy Lives (rhinestone ruby shoe, silver toned with wand) will be a good cultural history lesson.
Everyone loves to get music for Christmas - but is my brother ready for Readymade Digs Disney? The Disney songbook meets frenetic Japanese pop.
My particular favourite - Bibbity Bobbity Boo from Cinderella as sung by a Japanese Betty Boop.
Ebay Exclusives is a must-visit too - the only place on the net where you can get a Sponge Bob Square Pants 3D movie masterpiece figurine (pricey at US$100) and a Giant-Sized Crystal Cookie Monster PEZ Dispenser (a steal at US$30). I think my sister will appreciate the latter - especially when I tell her how collectable they are, and that the world record price paid for a PEZ is US$6000. I'll put the PEZheads Online web site on her card (www.pezlist.com).
The 12 Days of Kitschmas - "the best bad taste religious gifts" - has plenty to offend. But I think with all the fuss about the Civil Union Bill this year the Jesus Fairy Christmas tree topper is entirely appropriate.
One of the nephews may also appreciate the Frisbee of Faith - a Gospel presentation "that will get tossed, but never into the garbage!". Featuring on the flipside is a lot of small print about "making your life fly right".
Sadly many of the younger generation never heard of Monty Python, but I'll fix that by giving two of them the Mini Live Parrot (Sleeping) and the Black Knight (with Removable Limbs) - which may be found at the Toy Vault website.
I'm sure they'll be fascinated and before long begging me to sing the Lumberjack song. A junior family member is getting the Turbospoke for his bike. It attaches to the rear chain stay and makes an "amazing variable engine sound just like the real thing" - an update on the playing-card-in-your-spokes trick, and guaranteed to make him popular with the neighbours.
The young relly who does stuff with computers will, I'm sure, appreciate the mince-pie shaped 512MB USB storage device from the USB Mince Pies website - "the Ultimate in Yuletide Technology that brings together the world's favourite festive food and our patented 'no limits' USB technology."
I'm also buying several Glow in the Dark Banana Guards for some of the school-aged members. Who can forget the disappointment of taking a banana to school only to find it bruised and squashed? With this nifty container their troubles will be over.
As a finale I'll download JFK Reloaded for some group fun - although I am a little concerned how the American sister-in-law may react.
The game re-creates the assassination of JFK, letting players take the role of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and fire three shots at Kennedy's motorcade from a digitally recreated sixth-floor perch in the Texas School Book Depository. It's apparently designed to prove that Oswald acted alone. You lose points if shoot Jackie by mistake. Creepy.
So barring a mass walkout, these gifts should make for a fascinating Christmas Day. And give new meaning to "it's the thought that counts". Merry Kitschmas!
Anarchists' fund-raising project a radical exposure
By Dave Ranney, Journal-World
Thursday, December 16, 2004
It started out as an offhand jab at recent calendars featuring Kansas University students in various stages of undress.
Now it's a naked look at Lawrence anarchists.
"We were all broke, but we needed money," said Vanessa Hays, a member of Lawrence's anarchist community.
"Somebody -- as a joke -- said we should do a naked calendar like the one at KU," she said. "It wasn't taken seriously at first, but the more we thought about it, the more we liked the idea."
The group's first calendar, featuring nude photographs of Lawrence-area radicals, men and women, came out last year. The 2005 edition came out a couple of weeks ago.
"We had 500 printed up last year and had some left over," Hays said. "So this year, we had 400 printed."
Hays, a 23-year-old senior at KU, is in two of the calendar's 19 black and white photographs.
"It's all in good humor," Hays said. "But it's serious in that it's art, and it's not pornographic or sexually exploitative. We're serious about raising money for things we believe in, but still, it's meant to be light-hearted."
The $1,500 raised by 2004 calendar sales was used to support the group's Solidarity! Revolutionary Center and Radical Library, 1119 Mass., and to buy typewriters for inmates in federal prisons.
Hays said the anarchists had no trouble finding people willing to pose.
"The biggest problem," she said, "was getting schedules to mesh."
Calendars sell for $8 and are available by calling 865-1374 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Calendars also are for sale at Wildman Vintage, 936 Mass.
Images in the 2005 calendar include a Dumpster-diving "Cajungrrl," a nude pair playing a board game; a young man holding on to a strategically placed cowboy hat on the boardwalk at the Baker Wetlands, and a woman named Kat doing a chin-up.
Two of the photographs include Claven Snow, a Lawrence transsexual.
"This is a celebration of different people's bodies," Hays said. "There's nothing inherently dirty or bad about your body. And being naked is not necessarily sexual."
© Copyright 2004 The Lawrence Journal-World.
Veruca Salt said:I saw a chrystal radio on Hawkin's Bazaar website and now I want one. Any idea if they sell them in Hamley's or elsewhere in London (since I'll be visting London quite soon)??
I repeat: I want a chrystal radio. Don't know why, I'm possessed.