Category archives: Museum
Every so often, on charity shop hunts, one comes across a…thing that makes it hard to resist reaching for the acronym “WTF”. Today was one such occasion. Bought, for 50 cents, in the St. Vincent de Paul outlet on Thomas St., Limerick was…this.
Here’s a close-up…
Goggle-eyed, orange mouth askew, blonde locks shooting off at wild angles – it was obviously hand-made, by someone moved by a strange need to create this. My first thought was that it was some sort of crude/offensive take on a Golliwogg. Or some sort of crude/offensive spin on a Rastafarian/Jamaican stereotype. But the more I look, the more boggled my mind becomes.
Its colourful/ragged hot pants cling upsettlingly tightly to its woollen bum cheeks.
And, um, they’re removable…
As is the mega-crude, falling-to-bits, “Aran Jumper” thing it’s wearing. Throw in a little (non-removable) beanie hat and we’re left with a knitted melange that is hurting my brain.
When I was a child I had a fairly good nose for moralising that masqueraded as entertainment. I’d see it coming. I’d spot the signs. A tingly sensation warning me that the adult world was trying to insidiously slip one past me. Disguising their nasty medicines with a spoonful of sugar (see “Educational Board Games” for more of same).
Occasionally, however, I’d lower the guard and gobble up the goods without really checking what I was consuming. Only later, when I saw, say, Christians sniggering behind their hands and elbowing each other would I realise I’d been had. Such was the case with the Narnia books. It was a grim day when I discovered that Aslan was really just Jesus hiding inside a fancy-dress lion suit. Still, at least those swarthy, scimitar-wielding baddies were creatures of pure fantasy, and in no way, shape or form a baleful example of Orientalist demonising…
But, by and large, my instincts and suspicions were sound. My daughter, sadly, has yet to develop these deductive skills. In her defence, she is only two, and thus not to be judged too harshly for recently finding this in a second-hand book shop and insisting (in a way only toddlers can) that I buy it. Immediately.
After flicking past the yummy Battenberg-ian cover – and a title page telling us that this is Volume 43 (!) in series that has, apparently, sold 30 million copies – we arrive at “Uncle Arthur’s Letter”. A 2-page missive from the bespectacled and avuncular man himself. There, in the final paragraph, are words that would, and should, chill any lively and imaginative child’s heart.
“Readers may rest assured that every story is true to life, and that every one contains some uplifting, character-building lesson.”
True to life? Character-building? Noooooo! This fucking sucks!
Happily, the contents page lightens the mood slightly with a list of titles that are so transcendently banal they become the stuff of high hilarity. Who, for example, can resist the exotic lure of “The Boy with a Bag”? Who can fail to be seduced by “Peter’s Pyjamas”? Or the Hitchcock-ian thrills and intrigue of “The Unclipped Ticket”? Or “Daddy’s New Watch”? Or (gasp!) “How Barbara Went to Sleep”?
Though the text may be tedious (and stuffed with “Jesus is amazeballs!” platitudes), the images, throughout, are glorious. Especially if (like me) you don’t bother reading the associated tales and just view them as decontextualised things of creepy beauty. Enjoy.
Listen, for any length of time, to the likes of Joe Duffy (Ireland’s patron saint of reactionary hand-wringers) and you’ll come away a) outraged and dismayed, and, b) hopelessly misinformed about absolutely everything.
One misapprehension you might end up suffering from is that “culture” has become more saturated with in-your-face sex than ever before. If you’re trapped under that delusion then allow me to drag you out and haul your ass back to the 1970s – a decade when even the most innocent of paperbacks/LPs came drenched and dripping in a gooey porno veneer.
Consider the below for example, recently rescued from a (James Last-dominated) charity shop vinyl graveyard. It may (technically) hail from 1968 – but then the late 60s were really the early 70s, in terms of a loosening of restrictions and a tightening of trousers.
Those of you suffering quickened pulses and drying mouths may well be wondering what sort of pulsatingly sexual music could warrant so lurid a cover. Why Edelweiss and My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean of course! All banged out on a flaccid Hammond Organ. Have a quick listen:
And the Dutch sex-god behind these filthy arrangements? Step forward Stef Meeder – corrupter of the young, priapic defiler of the pure & innocent:
Though Stef was, no doubt, a lascivious & goatish old fornicator, others would soon take up his (sticky) baton and run faster, further and harder with it. Cut to 1977 and another recent purchase – Boney M’s jaw-dropping Love for Sale.
It’s Smell the Glove. Only real.
A week or two ago, while she sat diligently at her desk attending to her many labours, my wife’s gaze passed over an object that instantly made her think of me. What was this strange and captivating artefact? A leather-bound volume of Baudelaire’s poems? A misplaced Fabergé egg? A gnarled monkey’s paw doubling up as a paperweight?
No (to all three). It was the below…and she brought it home.
Yes folks, it’s a Sci-Fi comic about Switzerland.
The plot is far too laboured and Captain Planet-esque to warrant summarising in much detail here (four ethnically diverse Swiss youths come together to blah, blah, blither etc), but the below image should give you a representative (and slightly tummy-upsetting) taste.
For those who (like me) spent their teenage years frantically masturbating their way to chronic short-sightedness, some text reproduction might be in order.
To save the Galactic Synchrotron from disintegration, TIMEAGENT I.D. uses the holocom to go back one thousand years in Cyberspace to “21st Century Switzerland”. Here she hopes to find the rescuing formula, for the inhabitants of this small country are considered to be “Masters of Time”: they manufacture complex instruments called “watches”, amazingly precise forerunners of the Synchrotron…
Galactic Synchotron? Holocom? Going back one thousand years in Cyberspace?! Techno-babbling, Sci-Fi gobbledeegook of the highest (i.e. lowest) order. Also, describing someone’s watch as an “amazingly precise forerunner of the Synchrotron” is an almost guaranteed way of blowing one’s secret cover and exposing oneself as a 31st century Timeagent. Constant references to (for example) “your present time period” and the “5th Interstellar War” have much the same effect.
While In The Land That Invented the Future is essentially just a relentlessy tedious (and willfully banal) piece of thrown-together Sci-Fi muck, it shares the same crippling deficiencies found in most such “edutainment”. It’s preachy, it’s self-satisfied, and it’s keen to “improve” its readers’ grubby little minds. Three key ingredients for a “shit comic” pie. A pie that any young comic lover, worth her/his salt, would puke into the nearest bin.
Still better than Voyager though…
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from my numerous trips to charity shops (on both sides of the Irish sea) it is (alas) to expect the expected. For while such places hold out the slight promise of rare oddities and wonders, the stark reality is that there’s a tedious consistency to what people choose to donate.
Of course if you’re a James Last enthusiast, a collector of ornamental Flamenco dancers, or a devotee of the work of Jeffrey Archer, then this consistency is no bad thing. You’ll be spoiled for choice and skipping merrily out the door with three bags full. However if, like me, you live in hope of finding an inexpensive monkey’s paw (or a mint-condition Necronomicon) then you’re probably better off with eBay.
What keeps me doing the rounds is that every not-so-very-often I stumble across an object that makes me stop, stare and push prospective old lady buyers out of the way. Today’s donation to The Museum of Cultural Waste (snapped up in The Irish Cancer Society Shop, William St.) may not quite be worth abusing the elderly, but it does exude an undeniable strangeness. More importantly, it cost 50 cent.
Yes, it’s a manky Native American “Action Man” – standing proudly before an atmospheric backdrop of pasta, lentils and couscous. The woman who sold him to me confidently declared him an “Apache”, before pointing out (quite despondently) that his leg was hanging off. She was spot on about the damage to the leg (it got me a discount), but I’m not so sure about her swift assessment of his tribal affiliations. More research is required.
After getting him home and getting him nekkid I discovered the mark of “Kid Kore 1994″ stamped indistinctly on his arse. Though the name was new to me I hazarded an educated guess that “Kid Kore” was a) Chinese & b) unlikely to be one of Mattel and Hasbro’s main global competitors. As with almost all Manky Toy makers, “Kid Kore” don’t appear to have invested any of their profits in a company web site – leaving precise details hard to come by.
I can, however, confirm that they don’t just limit themselves to plastic “Apaches”. They also produce the “Little Ones” range of dolls – notable for being cute, colourful and (according to EU consumer affairs) stuffed to the gills with phenol.
The product poses a chemical risk because the shoes of the doll contain phenol at level of 980 mg/kg whereas the limit is 150 mg/kg. Phenol can cause various poisoning symptoms.
Yikes! From the look of the “Apache’s” head our cats may have spent most of this afternoon happily gnawing his hair…little realising it may have been dripping in life-threatening toxins. The EU rather vaguely refers to “various poisoning symptoms”. What are these exactly?
Listlessness? Ennui? Gassiness? Death?
For anyone who wants to try out their own chemical experiments the below “Kid Kore” doll is on sale at ioffer.com for a mere 50 cents (US).
The seller’s sales pitch seems aimed at a rather disturbed niche market:
This cute little red head measures approximately 5 inches tall.
She has no clothes and is looking for a good home.
One presumes that her (phenol-soaked) clothes were seized by EU agents and destroyed.
Before we finish, let’s briefly return to our Native American friend. There’s something both unsettling and enigmatic about his face.
A touch of the “John Cusack wearing a Michael Myers mask” perhaps? Certainly an intense melancholia. Could the (surprisingly sensitive) “Kid Kore” designers have deliberately set out to capture the ineffable sadness of a people’s loss and displacement?
P. S: By the time you read this I may have succumbed to phenol vapours and slipped into a coma.
Plain People of Ireland: (brightly) “Well”, as the divil once said, “That’s the Christmas over for another year thank God!”
Myself: Indeed. A bloated orgy of drink, turkey and ostentatious consumption…
Plain People of Ireland: (unsure) That’s right…
Myself:…a lurid festival of debauch where we sing the praises of Mammon to ward off the dark and drear of…
Plain People of Ireland: (interrupting) Er, c’mere and tell us this. Do you ever remember a fella called Bunny Carr at all?
Myself: Sure I do of course. “Quicksilver”…
Plain People of Ireland: (chuckling) Oh yes.
Myself: With 5p questions, Norman Metcalfe and his organ, Goosy Goosy Gandhi and so forth.
Plain People of Ireland: (slapping thighs) That’s the wan! Stop the Lights! Weren’t we awful innocent back then? What else?
Myself “Going Strong”…
Plain People of Ireland: Oh yes. All the ould biddies.
Myself: Ann O’Dwyer singing “We’ll Meet again”. Nostalgic tears flowing in the audience. Photographs of grandchildren being exchanged. An ambulance outside the door…
Plain People of Ireland: (doubled over with laughter) Oh Lord God! You’re an awful man. ‘Tis true though.
Myself: Not a word of a lie.
Plain People of Ireland: But c’mere, there’s a reason we mentioned Bunny. You know, out of the blue as it were.
Myself: Go on.
Plain People of Ireland: We’ve a late Christmas present for you. Here! (parcel shoved in my direction)
Myself: (unwrapping) Why it’s a used copy of the Quicksilver: Round-the-World Quiz Book. Thanks!
Plain People of Ireland: Not at all. (Leaning in to whisper) Of course…didn’t he do a legger off to Mexico with a Texaco bag full of Gorta money. Never seen since. Well…enjoy! (A puff of stale tobacco smoke fills the air. It clears. I am left alone)
Myself: Hmmm, let’s have a look…
Yes folks, after reading the other day (via Damien Mulley) about the thriving market for out of print, vintage Irish TV quiz books what do I have in my hands but a gem of the rarest sort. If “Where in the World” volumes are going for £201 (sterling) then what should I be insuring the above for?
Having worked in the antiquarian book business for a time, and become fairly literate when it comes to associated terminology, I’d describe the volume as “near fine” – a remarkable fact given its likely age and disposability. I say “likely” because the book is dateless. Research into “Canavaun Books” has proved similarly unrevealing…though I can confirm that (in addition to the above volume) they also published the intriguingly titled (63 page) Patrick Myler’s Celebrity Files.
I happily confess to being in the dark as to who Mr. Myler is/was, or what his celebrity files contained. I should also point collectors of the obscure (whose interests might now be piqued) in the direction of this sad Amazon message:
Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.
Distressing news, but this might cheer you all up. It’s Picture Quiz No. 5 (in glorious black and white) from the Quicksilver volume:
Who be he? Here are the clues.
This Irish singing star’s wardrobe is by now both varied and extensive. Here he wears the garb of Aladdin for an RTÉ pantomime; he has also donned Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. (p. 64)
First answer out of the hat will win a Manky Toy.
Before closing I should add that the “he ran off with a sack of charity money” slur that has attached itself to Bunny’s (unusual) name over the years is (from what I can tell) totally unfounded. Though he may have combined (in Horace Cantwell’s words) “Larry Gogan’s ‘Ah they didn’t suit you’ bonhomie with the sinister undertones of a high-ranking officer in the SS”, this particular pre-internet “urban myth” seems built on very shaky foundations.
I’ve always nurtured a sick and secret ambition to be a game-show host, so if anyone feels like answering a 5p, 10p, 50p, £1, or (in a moment of wild hubris) £5 question then let me know. My clip on bow-tie and sparkly jacket are at the ready.
The second entry to go on display in fustar.info‘s Museum of Cultural Waste is not (I admit) wholly dissimilar from the first entry. I’d intended to drift away from vintage Girls’ comics and discuss (say) the merits of James Last records, or Costa Del Sol knick-knacks, but the charms of these annuals are impossible to resist. I surrender willingly.
From Bunty for Girls 1983 (the contents of which this blog milked dry) we move on by moving back – ten years that is, to Mandy for Girls 1973.
While none of this volume’s stories manage to scale the bonkers heights of Bunty‘s classic “Flights of Flopear”, they do demonstrate the persistence/popularity of certain themes & scenarios – Girl with magical object (“Carol’s Cauldron”), Girl with exotic animal companion (“Elsie’s Elephant”, “Mona’s Monkey”) etc.
Also present and correct is the kind of single concept tale that Viz once routinely parodied – “Late Kate”…a high-larious narrative about the girl who’s “Never on Time!” (plenty of scope for development there).
None of the above, however, are to be the main focus of today. Instead I’d like to record for posterity a story so spectacularly ill-conceived (and offensive) that it simply leaps from the page demanding to be critiqued. Here’s a portion of panel one:
A young (somewhat overweight) girl arrives at a new boarding school with all the usual anxieties and concerns about fitting in or standing out. Are we to see a sensitively-handled yarn about bigotry and (ultimate) acceptance? Any confidence one might have about the progressiveness of the writer’s agenda must be tempered by the fact that the story’s title is (rather unbelievably) “Tessa Pulls Her Weight”. On we go:
I think you can guess where this is leading (hint: not to hand-shakes and pledges of undying friendship)…
And so it goes. Constant bullying. Constant ridicule. Until, though she can scarcely believe it, Tessa is picked for a school sport’s team. The sucker punch is duly delivered however, as a mortified Tessa realises she’s been lined up to “pull her weight” in the Tug-of-War. The results are (predictably) calamitous, with Tessa’s eagerness to please costing the school the competition. Cue universal scorn and derision.
Then, when all hope of acceptance seems long gone, a sea-side outing riding ponies (beside a cliff!) lurches suddenly towards tragedy. A pony bolts. Young Christine (the 4th form captain) can’t control it and off it goes on a mad dash for the cliff edge. Tessa springs into action, grabbing the reins before…being dragged, sickeningly, over rocky ground. Christine is saved, but Tessa is horribly wounded, as a disturbing panel gruesomely reveals:
So what’s the moral here? Well, since it is (presumably) Tessa’s weight that prevents the pony from flinging itself (and Christine) into the sea, one might imagine that it’s a muddled message about how everyone can make a difference (using those “talents” peculiar to themselves). Or how “Bravery and selflessness are not the preserve of the conventionally good-looking”.
At the very least you’d expect Tessa’s bullying class-mates to be whistling a different tune. As she arrives back from a five-month stay in hospital it seems that a new attitude is, indeed, in the air:
The ambulance door opens to reveal…a denouement of flabbergasting nastiness!
Splutter! A cynical and cowardly retreat by the Mandy hacks. The solution to bullying by body fascists is, it seems, to get dragged behind a horse, suffer terrible injuries, and spend 5 months at death’s door in hospital. It might sound drastic girls, but at least you’ll be skinny and popular!
Due to popular demand, or, more precisely, the demand of a single individual (“graylien”), I hereby present another offering from the Bunty Book for Girls 1983. “More Flopear content! More Flopear content!”, he begged. Wish granted.
“The Flights of Flopear”,
The introduction initially paints a vivid (and charming) picture of interplanetary adventure by informing us that “Tessa and Flopear were ‘planet-hopping’ from one strange world to the next”. In the same “breath”, however, we are reminded that Tessa is, in fact, “Stranded in outer-space…trying to track down a piece of the elusive fire-crystal which would provide them with the power to make the long journey back to Earth”. Suddenly it doesn’t sound like such a laugh…
Those who quickly grew tired of Star Trek‘s dreary fourth incarnation, Voyager, will no doubt see a familiar narrative structure at work. Our heroes/heroines are lost far from home. Their journey’s end is routinely promised but the means to secure this return is always just (by story’s end) out of their grasp. Next week they try again…and so it goes, ensuring an endlessly forestalled resolution.
A curious feature of “The Flights of Flopear” is that Flopear exists both as the ship itself…
…and as a sort of avatar of himself within the ship’s computer:
Mention should be made both of the above panel’s tasty bit of shorthand intertextuality (Dr. Who, TARDIS) and Flopear’s rather unimpressive array of in-flight entertainments. Space Invaders might be a seminal part of gaming history, but one might expect more from a rabbit who’d perfected the art of interstellar travel. Tessa is certainly not overly enthused, a point not lost on an increasingly disturbing (and disturbed) Flopear…
We’re heading into the dark territory of the abuser/abused relationship here. Wolfgang Priklopil and Natascha Kampusch (in space) come suddenly to mind.
The rest of the tale is straight out of The Odyssey‘s “Land of the Lotus Eaters”. Flopear detects a fire-crystal on the planet “Smarnia”. They land. Tessa meets a slave race (with noses) and a ruling class (without noses). She becomes intoxicated by the smell of the Smarnian flowers and soon forgets all about fire-crystals, choosing instead to stay on Smarnia and become a lackey to the nose-less ones. Flopear is not amused:
After overhearing Smarnia’s queen telling her cohorts “No visitor ever leaves Smarnia…The perfume makes them forget there are other worlds, beyond ours. They are content to remain here working for us”, Flopear decides, “Feck this”, and prepares to flee Smarnia leaving Tessa to her fate. However…
One enforced bout of sense-recovering hay fever later (long story) and Tessa is snapped out of her stupor. Back aboard Flopear she hops. But what of the precious fire-crystal?
So much for the (apparently) compassionate Flopear. Here he reverts to his established “I’ll always find excuses why you can never leave me” form.
And so the search continued, deep into the blackness of outer-space…