Upon Death’s Purple Altar: The 2009 Manky Toy Show – Live!
(Curtain draws back to reveal…not a stage, but bare concrete walls atop a bare concrete floor. On this floor are two bins. In Bin A sits “The Man” – an emaciated figure sporting a sick-stained tailcoat, a battered top-hat, and a cracked monocle (also sick-stained). In Bin B sits Gorgothogohnx – bringer of despair. A bipedal, demonic reptoid from the the 14th Orbiton of Balthodox.)
The Man: Well, it's been a big year for death & suffering, hasn't it Gorgothogohnx?
The Man: To reflect this, tonight's show will be dominated by themes of doom, pain and dejection.
Gorgothogohnx: And Transformers.
The Man: Yes, and Transformers. You like Transformers, don't you Gorgothogohnx?
The Man: (Rolls eyes and exhales wearily. Becomes conscious of own breath) You wouldn't have a mint, would you Gorgothogohnx?
Gorgothogohnx: No. No mint.
The Man: (Gazes at stained tailcoat) Or a Dettol wipe?
Gorgothogohnx: No. No mint.
The Man: (mutters) …for fuck's sake…
The Man: Nothing…
Gorgothogohnx: Nothing. No mint.
The Man: (affecting a breezy air) Would you like to see some toys, Gorgothogohnx?
The Man: Yes…I know. We'll get to those in a while. Anything else?
The Man: …well strictly speaking they're not actually toys…
The Man: (gnawing on his own fist) OK! Let's just start, shall we?! Gaze into that puddle on the floor there, Gorgothogohnx. You'll see some mad shit.
(Gorgothogohnx does as instructed. Stares intently. Shapes begin to form and coalesce from the swirling fogs therein. A terraced house. A man. A woman. Two cats. A baby [sleeping, hopefully]. Some cheap alcohol. And, yes, many “Transformers”.)
9.00: Welcome, earthlings. Welcome, mortals & immortals. Welcome, Gorgothogohnx. Welcome, one and all – to the third annual Manky Toy Show. Assuming you have very limited experiences (and have lived, all your lives, in secret cellars – like Kaspar Hauser or Natascha Kampusch) then tonight's extrava-manka will be the greatest, thrillingest thing ever. Ok? Let's boogie.
9.03: I haven't paced myself. I'm half a bottle of plonk in already. And we haven't even really begun. I'll be on the floor by 10. Background tunes? The murderous loveliness of Phil Spector's Christmas Album.
9.05: Music. Yes. That's the thing to get our cockles warmed and imagination bones erect. Take it away The Hal Bradley Orchestra and Space Age Santa Claus.
9.10: Some of the fucked up shit Santa's up to in space?
He’ll loop tinsel around through the stars
Light up Christmas trees all over Mars
He’ll take the dark clouds out of the air
And hang up fluffs of angel hair
Surely the universe is a delicate and finely balanced thing. A gargantuan and sensitive "ecosystem". Going around hanging up " fluffs of angel hair" all over the place is highly irresponsible.
He’ll start a gift shop on the moon
The brazen capitalist bastard. Leave the moon alone you fat cunt!
9.16: OK, before the punters start getting restless we'd best whip some toys out of this Lidl bin-liner on the ground before us. First up? An item that flies gleefully in the face of the contemporary fad for fair trade/organic produce. Y'know, for evil kids.
9.19: Before I open it. What the fuck's going on with the font?! Is that a serpent's tongue licking the "A" in "Farm". This thing gets more diabolic by the second. Jess cracking into the box…
9.23: Box proved tricky to demolish. Favourite detail at first glance? Trailer that proclaims it to be "The Auto Speedy". Would never have associated speediness with tractor trailers, but there you go. Box assures us that it comes with "authentic working functions". This appears to mean "wheels that turn". And nothing else.
9.27: Conclusion? A solidly made and stolidly boring piece of mank. No Mexicans inside (sorry, Fiona). Not much of anything really…but an alarming amount of relative quality. You've got to hand it to these Farm Exploiters.
9.31: Right. Taking it sideways a notch, we'll go for…Champion Fastro! Yes, that's his name. CHAMPION FASTRO! Alright!
9.33: They're brimming with confidence, these Champion Fastro makers. They're so sure they're on to a winner (with Fastro and his pals) that they boldly declare "Every Styles Fully Wonderful". Not just "Partly Wonderful" – which is the best most mainstream toy makers could ever hope for.
9.37: Champion Fastro is one of those toys that you just feel like smelling. Both Jess and myself have done this…and the odour is almost indescribable. The closest we can get to it (with words) is "stale biscuit" meets "community hall".
9.41: Champion Fastro – despite being a toy whose name you can't say without imagining multiple exclamation points – is designed to disappoint. Why? Because you obviously expect him to be a bootlegged "Transformer". Look at him! "Yay", you think, "I wonder what he'll morph into?!". And then it turns out that he morphs from Champion Fastro into…Champion Fastro. Balls.
9.45: Hang on. He's just got 3.5% less boring. He has a red – Sacred Heart-tastic – light in the middle of his chest. We've seen this with manky toys before. It's the last desperate throw of the dice when you know you've got a doomed piece of shit on your hands. "Gentlemen, put a fucking light on that thing and get it the fuck out of my office".
9.49: Time to pause for breath and locate my bottle of bog-standard Cab Sauv (as shiny and detestable people in radio ads no doubt say). Lets go to the ads. This thing ain't gonna pay for itself.
9.55: Gaylord's emergence from the pipe – trailing in the wake of the most over-reacting cat of all time – is quite possibly the lamest entrance in toy history. I am underwhelmed. Damn you, GAYLORD!
9.58: Look, stop bitching you whingers. I told you this year was going to be about death and pain! Gaylord's life is one of constant humiliation and agony. "Climb, Gaylord!". There's no respite.
10.03: Girls in the audience. Prepare to squeal with girly glee. Boys in the audience. Prepare to get aroused by plastic.
22.08: Jordan meets Bratz meets The Mystical Lands of Faery. The genius of this yoke is the amount of time and effort put into creating a back-story. Building a fantasy universe for a toy that will never be the subject of fan-fiction, daytime cartoons, or…anything much at all. Except ridicule. Check this out.
10.12: I'm sure the above was scripted by whoever George "Fat-neck" Lucas got to do the scrolling text about trade federations at the start of Phantom Menace. If anything, his/her work has developed and matured since then. "People lived in a horrific life" – George would be floored by prose like that.
10.16: Oh sweet lords and ladies of Atlantis! I need to wash my eyeballs. With Atlantean brandy. She's…um. She's…er. She's got pubes! Or at least "pube texture". It's like "pube braille". Fuck!
10.21: It's a good night for fans of "Legend of Atlantis Empire". The box is a practical novelization.
10.24: Multiple elemental powers. The usual Captain Planet shit. It looks like we lucked out with our choice. Evasoul! She of the "Sprite Power"! "Sprite Power" is just another word for "Heart Power", or "Love Power". Neither of which are proper powers at all. Not like "Gun Power". Or "Jump High Power". Or "Fist of Rage Power". If Atlantis is attacked by even a remotely competent professional army then the continent is borked. Try stopping bullets and shells with "Sprite", Evasoul.
10.30: Frantically thumbing through my volume of Plato's collected works here. He mentions Atlantis, but (curiously) nothing of Jaybreeze and Ellafrost – and their scantily clad battles against the dark side that forced people to live in "a horrific life". A huge oversight and a massive stain (phnarr) on his reputation.
10.35: Time to rock an ad-break. Jesus, I'm fading fast here. Need some…brandy and Spar imitation Pringles! Slurp!
10.42: This is deeply sad…and possibly deeply racist. The Great Garloo was once a behemoth that stalked Titan-like through our cities. Smashing things to bits. Having the craic. Drinking with Godzilla. And now? He's a fucking servant to little WASP bastards! A little "oriental" servant.
10.48: At least King Kong went out in a blaze of ape-y glory. Shot down in flames. No such honour for Garloo.
WASP Dad: "Oh Garloo! Did you clean my jocks?"
10.52: Emergency forces toys. Civil servant toys. Kids love 'em! Yay! Bin collectors. Council workers. Traffic wardens. Who needs Han Solo? Eh, Kids? Kids? Er…
I give you – "Mission Force"!
10.56: Point 1 – "Mission Force" is one of those nonsense, but powerful-sounding, names. Like "Team Squad". Or "Group Punch". Or "Effort Men".
Point 2 – Though these lads may look pretty cool – all facial hair, shades and guns – they're actually called "Police Guy" and "Police Hugh". And they're but a part of the bigger "Mission Force" (w)hole.
11.02: Yes, the four arms of the forces that protect us are: a) Soldier guys. b) Er…other soldier guys. Or possibly armed-to-the-teeth police guys. c) Firemen (steady, ladies). And, d) Ninjas.
Ninjas with names like Felix, Adrian, Bill and Ted.
Has the budget affected Ninjas? I wouldn't fancy being the one to mention pay cuts.
11.11: I'm beginning to doubt the integrity of Hugh and Guy, and their devotion to civic/civil duty. They come packed with a can of petrol and a bloody Molotov cocktail! They're obviously servants of some Warlord Oligarch who rules the lands of "Mission Force" with an iron fist of ultraviolence. Message? Give them shit and they'll set you on fire. Twice!
11.17: Moving onward and downward (*hic!*). Kids love mobile phones? Check. Kids like Barbie? Check. Kids don't like malignant cancers? Check. Fuck all these elements into a manky toy blender and this is what dribbles out the other end.
11.23: If anyone asked me how I'd like to be remembered, what adjective I'd most like used to describe me after I'm gone, what one goddam word I'd want used (repeatedly) during my funeral oration….it'd be benign. No doubt about it.
11.29: The "Try Me! Press Button" arrow promise is misleading. By "misleading", of course, I mean "amounting to gross and outlandish fraud". There's no button. Only a vast-ish expanse of pink cardboard.
11.35: Quick mention of Benign Girl's sound FX before we move on (Gorgothogohnx is going mental. He likes not girls. Or girls' toys. Only Transformers. And crayons).
Old school readers who remember the ("Nighttime is a bankable actor") Spidey telephone will know the drill. A bit of unintelligible, interrogative Chinese ("Wah dah byu?") followed by some crazed Chinese techno pop.
This may be an accurate facsimile of a Chinese phone of course. I've never been, so don't know. Not sure what network I'm on either…
11.44: Time for a new Manky Toy Show segment (brought on by repetitive strain injury from plastic manipulation). I call it…um…"Toys You Can Get In China But Can't Sadly Get Here. Unless You've Got A Credit Card. And Want to Order 700 Units". Let me present: Roking Ride On Plush Dog Amusement Toy.
11.49: Selling point 1.
Attractive appearance. The ride on toy is a well-designed work of art, exquisite lovely shape to meet the needs of the children's favorite animals and pets, and close to the psychological.
11.54: Selling point 2.
Entertaining. It can let children have fun, meet the children's hope and desire: Riding like adults, or riding like roles in cartoon who ride animals around. Also we add more entertaining function in the product. It not only could walk around, also has music box and the function of ears swaying, water spraying or boxing.
11.56: All I ever wanted, as a child was an AT-AT (which I got, thanks mum) and to once (just once) ride like the "roles in cartoon who ride animals around".
11.59: Oops. Forgot to mention the items I treasured above all else. Cartoon Character Aubergine…
…and…Plush Vegetable Cauliflower (the coolest of all Brassica oleracea)…
12.05: Fuck! Look at the time. More wine.
Blurb advertising the aubergine reads as follows:
We offer all kinds of lovely and cute cartoon character toy for the Movie & TV company, from classical duck, bear, micky, to our design special series like series vegetable, fruit. Character Doll, animals etc.
If someone gets me a "classical duck" for Christmas I will immediately divorce Jess and marry them. Male, female, cauliflower – it matters not.
12.09: Commenter "Urchinette" says this:
Jaysus, that cauliflower is like something out of H. P. Lovecraft.
She doesn't know the half of it. From the same company (or…China at least) comes this!
Yes, horror fans. It's a beanie baby Cthulhu! Tragically undersold, in the company's literature, as "Eccentric Toy". I'm both filled with dread and deeply happy.
12.15: Cut to words from our sponsors. Then back with faux-Transformer action.
12.24: Just returned from a "Willow bonks her head on bars of cot and needs comforting" mission. I'm sure Chuck Connors would approve.
Tin-Can Alley was something I coveted, dearly, as a child. Guns always seemed very American, back then. Exotic. Wild western. Desirable. Little did we realise that Tin-Can Alley was actually a home-training tool for bloody high school massacres. Something Chuck singularly failed to mention.
And who's the "Nice shooting, Chuck!" fella. Has he been in anything else or was that his 0.05 seconds of fame? Off to IMDB with you, willing slaves!
12.31: Tiredness washing over me like a tsunami of Calgon-infected 7-Up. Must push on. Must satisfy the demands of the ever-staring, ever-watchful, ever-whispering Gorgothogohnx (and his biggest fan, Fergal Crehan).
Transformers! Or, rather, Interchange!
11.38: Now to follow the crystal clear and nothing-but-helpful instructions.
Not a problem. It dismantled itself as soon as I removed it from the box.
I've just bent his knees. He's in a sitting position. Like Optimus Prime watching telly. Is this what the merger and upward accepting is about?
For fuck's sake. I'm exhausted. And drunk. And the headlight area has just fallen off. We're getting further and further from our goal.
12.48: Wait! Hold! Commenter "Shoeymcshoe" has spotted something with eagle (i.e. "ordinary") eyes.
Your instructions do not resemble your product
No. They really don't. And that's because…they're the instructions for a completely different toy. China! What's the story?
12.54: Interchange presents children (and me) with an unsolvable puzzle. Instructions and toy are randomly shuffled. To spread confusion and (I guess) lateral thinking. Here's one of the final bits of the mind-fuck.
12.59: "Head to hereafter"? Is that some sort of coded command to crawl to bed? Or, as I suspect (given our theme of the night), an imperative demanding I press the Tin-Can Alley shotgun to my temple? Silver Shamrock, how are ya?
1.08: OK. We're into overtime. We're into the time beyond overtime. We're into tomorrow. We're into the day after tomorrow. Hardy hangers-on – can you take one more toy?
1.14: Cock! My rabble-rousing pleadings were based on flim-flam and hot air. And, more importantly, not having the right batteries. Wanted to finish with this…
…but all I've got is AA when it thirsts for AAA. Oh cursed fate! Oh wretched destiny! I was gagging to see what the four enclosed "cartridges" actually did. I love cartridges. Nintendo's never been the same since they embraced charmless discs. Boo!
Er…in the absence of a blow-out and go-out (and go to bed) toy, let's go to an ad before we fade into the warm darkness of a winter's night.
1.25: Right. So "The Game of Life" taught children all about craven ambition, consumerist longing, acceptance of prescribed gender roles, and the harsh brutalities of (safety-net-less) capitalism, but it always left a final act unsaid and unspoken.
You'd reach the end and there would be Millionaire's Mansion, or Lovely Acres Retirement Community, or whatever the fuck. And that would be it. Game over. The end. You win.
But even the most chipper and boundlessly optimistic of freckled children must have wondered what rolling the dice one more time would entail. What was beyond that finishing line?
Nothing but stinky, nasty, everlasting death. Yes, kids – DEATH! DEAAAAAATTTHHHHH!!!
December 11, 2009