I Love Junk

Okay, I think that last post got all the depressing, gushy stuff out of my system. In the immortal words of that weird Apollo dude on Star Trek: “NO SAD FACES!!” Yesterday was a historic day for reasons other than people dying. Why? Because Wil Wheaton fucking replied to me on Twitter, bitches. Lookie:

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That’s right, I’ve exchanged Simpsons quotes with a Star Trek actor over a website on which my username is derived from a D&D-related internet meme. I have truly arrived in the Land of Geek. It is less basement-like than I had been led to believe, though it does reek slightly of melted solder.

I also learned that random-ass motherfuckers will follow you in a heartbeat if they see your name on a famous person’s Twitter feed. If any of the, like, two of you who read this blog decide to follow me please let me know you saw me here, because otherwise I will assume you’re just some crazy person who wants to rape me and sell me a timeshare, not necessarily in that order. You’d be a pretty bad salesman if you tried to make your pitch after the rape.

Speaking of the two people who read my blog, DJ D gave me an award! He actually gave it to me nearly a month ago, but since I am a bad blog friend I did not know this until he told me on Facebook some 30 minutes ago. Quoth the DJ:

I randomly stumbled across her blog last year while at work and sat in the corner quietly shaking with the church giggles as I read her assessment of Babysitter Club books.

“Shaking with the church giggles” was not previously part of my phrasebook, but it totally is now. Few people are better at prodding me to write than DJ D, with his incredible Jewish mother guilt trip powers. (This is a good thing – there is no better motivator, for a writer, than knowing someone really would like you to please hurry up and write something already. Unless that someone is a professor.) You should go check out his blog, and all the other awesome people he gave awards to, most of whom will definitely be on my blogroll just as soon as I finally get around to making one. You can expect that around the time people stop making crackpot end of the world predictions involving Nostradamus (translation: holding your breath is not recommended).

So.

Posted on: June 26, 2009

Edit: A bunch of other random memories keep surfacing, and I feel like I want to post them somewhere, so I’m just adding them to the end of this as I think of them.

As someone who 1) writes about pop culture nostalgia, 2) is a fan of Michael Jackson, and 3) keeps promising to write more and then disappearing, I feel the need to post something now. Except this is usually a humorous blog, and Perez Hilton’s stupid ass notwithstanding, this is not an occasion for humor. So I’m a little stuck on how to approach this. But since the loss of a huge pop culture icon certainly lends itself to a lot of nostalgia, I’ll start there. Here’s a smattering of memories of a man who always seemed to be in the background of my life, in odd little ways.

“Dirty Diana” was the first song I can remember hearing. Not just the first pop song, or the first Michael Jackson song  – this is my earliest memory that involves music at all. I must have been just about three or four, and all I remember is hearing the line about “unlock the door because I forgot the key”, and thinking that didn’t sound very safe. I didn’t listen to the rest of the song at all, and I had no idea what song it was until I heard it many years later, as a teenager, and that line sent me hurtling back in time. Up until then I’d figured the line must be from some old country song, because that’s mostly what my parents listened to in the 80s. So that’s one memory, a rare one, from the only time in my life when I didn’t care all that much about music.

By the time I heard “Beat It” a year or so later, I cared a lot. I danced my little preschool ass off to that song every time it came on Alvin and the Chipmunks, which was my main source of music at that time. Together with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Material Girl”, “Beat It” completed my Holy Trinity of 80s Music. I’d still put it in my top five favorite songs of all time. The first time I actually heard Michael Jackson sing it was on a commercial for one of those “best of the decade” type CDs, so it must have been early 1990, and I remember wondering who the hell was this random black dude singing my favorite Chipmunks song.  To this day that’s probably my favorite “look how silly I was as a kid” story.

In the early 90s I didn’t care so much, because I spent that time immersed in music from when my mom was a kid – the Beatles, Elvis, Stevie Wonder, all that good stuff. But I remember my mom, a die-hard Elvis fan, obsessively collecting all the tabloids about Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley. Eventually she started collecting ones that were just about Michael Jackson, hoping they’d mention Lisa Marie too. We had nightstands with cabinets and she had one totally full of these things. I thought this Michael Jackson dude sounded pretty weird, and frankly I was sick of hearing about him, and I made absolutely no connection between this pale man and my beloved “Beat It”, which I knew a black guy sang.

Then came 1997. As a preteen, I had just recently eschewed my mom’s music for more recent stuff, and had started watching MTV, mostly for stupid shit like Beavis and Butthead and Singled Out. Don’t let this fool you into thinking I was in any way hip. I wore sweatpants and tie-dyed Tweety Bird t-shirts to school, I carried a teddy bear backpack, and I made up stories based on the Babysitters Club. I was the dork to end all dorks, and I got into MTV in an effort to impress another dork into being my friend. Yeah.

So anyway, I was trying to watch Singled Out one day, except it was supposed to come on at 7, I think, and 7 passed, and they were still showing videos, which I quickly realized were all Michael Jackson videos. So. Many. Stupid. Michael Jackson. Videos. Finally a veejay came on and said they were playing a marathon of his videos because he had just become a father. “Uh, good for him,” I thought, “now where’s my show?” But I didn’t turn the channel right away, because some of the songs were kinda catchy, and I didn’t have anything better to watch, and… holy shit is that “Beat It”?! It was, and a black guy was singing it, and that black guy was the same as the “white” guy I’d been whining about a few seconds before. That hurt my head a little, but I didn’t care, because hearing that song again was like running into an old friend. And then magic happened, because the video for “Thriller” came on. I had never seen it before, and I loved everything about it. From that point, I was a huge fan.

I was also really, really embarassed about that, because if you were going to become a squeeing MJ fangirl, the late 90s were not such a good time for it. At the time I didn’t know anything about the allegations against him, but I did know that kids at school made fun of him, and I was dorky enough without admitting to being a fan of his. So I kept the whole thing secret – even from my parents, for some reason that existed only in my head, because they never really said anything about him to make me think they’d disapprove. Occasionally other kids would hint at being fans – we were all born in the 80s, after all – but none of us directly admitted it. Being a fan of an extremely popular musician seems a strange thing to have as a dark secret, but peer pressure is weird like that. (Today, I find it much more embarassing to admit that I once watched Singled Out.)

It wasn’t until last year that I started freely admitting to listening to him a lot, even to my own friends. First I posted this, admitting I owned a copy of Thriller on vinyl. And then a couple months later I was at my mom’s cousin’s house in Arizona for a week, and she had Off the Wall on vinyl, and I played it while she was at work. And I was like “this is a fucking good album, and I am gonna fucking buy it, and I’m gonna put it on my computer, and then I’m gonna fucking listen to it.”  And I did, and I put Thriller and Bad on there too, and put some of the songs on my iPod. I don’t know why I thought my friends would care when they saw the songs on my “now playing” message on MSN, but of course they didn’t. That whole ridiculous fear was just in my head. Hell, many of my friends had some of the same songs.

And you know what else? I might not have most of those friends if I hadn’t been a Michael Jackson fan. It was because of him that I started watching music videos and stand-up comedy (because comedians often mentioned him), and those things are what made me who I am. All the humor and knowledge of pop culture I picked up from those sources is what made me actually become a social creature. I became a nostalgia geek because I spent 1997 wanting 1983 back (despite the fact that I hadn’t actually been born then). And without that first big music obsession I wouldn’t have gotten so interested in music or at all interested in dance, and I might not have ever picked up a clarinet or a guitar or a piano. (Okay, I’ve never picked up a piano, but you know.)

I don’t know anything, for sure, about what Jackson did or didn’t do in his personal life, and I don’t especially care. History is full of weirdos with seedy personal lives – Lewis Carroll, also accused of being a pedophile, comes immediately to mind – and that never changes the fact that they were brilliantly creative people who spread immeasurable amounts of joy through their work. I really hope history remembers Michael Jackson that way. I know I will.

A few more random memories:

-Driving home from work, the day after Election Day 2008, and hearing a remix of “Man in the Mirror” with Obama quotes added in. I was extremely emotional that day, and I don’t think anything could have hit me quite like that joyful gospel choir singing “make that change”. It just so perfectly captured everything I was feeling at that moment.

-Watching the “Ghosts” video, with Sabrina, when it first premiered on MTV.  It was pretty bizarre, and we mostly joked about it, but we had a great time.

-Seeing my cousin’s band play “Beat It” on my last night in Arizona. I’d been reluctant to dance all night, but one of my cousin’s friends insisted: “You have to dance to ‘Beat It’!” She was right, and so I did.

-Going to Walmart a lot late at night a couple years back, because I live in BFE and Walmart is the only activity sometimes, and I swear to God every single time I went in the store “Say, Say, Say” came on over the speaker system. It was surreal because I’m pretty sure I’m one of like, five or six people on Earth who even know what song that is. I have literally only ever heard it on Pop-Up Video and in Walmart and Kmart.

-The storm of insanity around 2002 or so when somebody leaked the Freddie Mercury/MJ version of “State of Shock” on the Queenzone forums. This was back when a rare track actually was rare, before you could just go to Youtube and listen to any song in the universe, so collectors were pissed that people were getting it without making any effort to track it down. (For the record – it sucks. I was thinking hearing two of my favorite singers on a song together would be mind-blowing, but really, their voices just sound terrible together.)

-And finally, on Inside Joke Theater, something only Sabrina and I knew: Michael Jackson did not live at Neverland, but in a pineapple under the sea.

You know, reading back over this post again I just realized none – not one single one – of these memories were actually dependent on him being alive. When someone dies the immediate sense is “shit, it’s all over”, but these memories are all based on stuff he did years or decades ago, so it’s not like they’ve come to an end now. I was curious to see what his comeback would’ve been like, and of course it’s still horrible for his friends and family. But the 80s kid within me feels a lot better knowing that Michael Jackson-as-an-icon is pretty much immortal.

On my way into Walmart today to get groceries, I noticed some adorable Star Trek dolls in the claw machine. I really wanted Spock, but predictably he was on the bottom and Kirk was on top. I take no responsibility for where that sentence takes your mind. There was a Sulu within reach, but Sulu isn’t really worth blowing 10 bucks in quarters on, and I didn’t want Kirk, because fuck Kirk. I still haven’t forgiven William Shatner for all my childhood phobias involving carbon monoxide and escalators. When other kids were scared of the dark or the boogeyman, I was lying awake convinced that somewhere in my house there was colorless, odorless poison gas seeping out, waiting to kill me while I slept.

So anyway, I decided to skip the claw machine. I suck at them anyway. But I did still manage to come away with something stupid and Star Trek-related:

The quality of these images suck because my camera was being a whore, but you see that? AN ACTUAL TOY IN A CEREAL BOX. Not something to send away for, not a stupid pedometer or some other lame health thing. An actual prize right there in the actual box. I didn’t notice this right away, because 85% of my brain was devoted to going “lol, frosted butts” and the other 15% was preoccupied with the fact that I really needed to pee. But eventually the words “beam up” finally penetrated into the geek lobe of my brain and I examined the box a little closer.

The dorkiness of the words “beam up badge” already had me convinced this thing sucked before I even opened the box. I was correct. The back of the box shows the five different badges you can get. Obviously the most badass ones to have would be either the Command or the Klingon one, but that was not my destiny. Instead I got a lousy redshirt badge, confirming something I’ve long suspected: Kelloggs wants me to die.

The quality of the badge is even less than what you’d expect from a cereal prize. It lights up as promised, but there’s no way to clip it on, and you have to hold the button down to keep it lit up, making it absolutely useless as anything other than a tool to annoy your parents and/or cats. Still, this is the first time in years I’ve seen a toy prize in a cereal box, let alone one that was relevant to my interests at the time, so I’m pretty happy. Especially since I have plenty of cats to annoy.

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that a few pretty awesome people have linked me on their blogs. And I’ve had a few of you hint very strongly that you’d like to see me writing again. So I feel pretty bad that I haven’t been blogging, and I figure at the very least I owe you an explanation.

I started this blog early in 2008, with a new digital camera and a dry-erase board full of awesome ideas for articles. And then I wrote, like, four or five before completely failing to update for most of the year. The problem was that 2008 turned out to be a pretty serious year for me. Oh, nothing bad happened or anything, but I spent the year going through a lot of philosophical and emotional changes. I got wrapped up in politics, and educational theory, and redefining my life choices. I even got into prog rock, which is not without its own special brand of hilarity, but is still a far cry from my usual diet of campy 60s and 80s pop. 2008 for me was kind of like spending a year meditating up on a mountain, except I was just here in my room. But in any case, while all of this contemplation and change was good for me personally, it wasn’t really conducive to blogging about toys and candy. Not that I wasn’t still into that stuff; it just wasn’t at the forefront of my mind like it is during more lighthearted times.

And it’s not like I never thought about this blog either. I planned lots of entries, but I’d get all perfectionist and either the appropriate timing or the inspiration would pass before I got anything much written down. Basically I had this model in my head of what I wanted the blog to be – pretty much X-E Lite – and anything that didn’t fit that model got scrapped. Short blog posts weren’t good enough, posts without pictures weren’t good enough, anything that I didn’t have to spend money on wasn’t good enough. So of course that meant if I couldn’t think of a thousand words about a topic, or if I was broke, or if what was really interesting to me at the time wasn’t the kind of stuff other XE-ers typically blog about, nothing got written at all.

Happily, my cocoon year is over and I’m ready to emerge as a glittery, Care Bear-toting, SNES-playing, synthpop-loving geek of a butterfly. And I’m going to write whatever the hell I feel like, because even if I write something that doesn’t totally resonate, that’s still way better than writing nothing at all.

And just so this post isn’t devoid of nostalgic fun, here’s a photo of me as a baby, with my parents in their hilarious 80s getups. I promise my father is not as creepy as he looks in this picture.

I’ve always wanted to do a proper “Christmas Fallout” post, so here it is! My 2008 Christmas, in pictures:

Pictured above is the stuff I opened on Christmas morning, less one shirt that needs to be exchanged and one visually uninteresting throw pillow.  This is all pretty self-explanatory, except that the bottle is vanilla bubble bath and (in case it’s not obvious) the purple stuff below that is lavender incense.  My mom has finally picked up on the trend that every scented thing in my life has to smell like lavender, vanilla, or lavender-vanilla.

With a couple of exceptions, everything here was something I specifically asked for. The Spiderman basketball hoop was kind of an odd gift; I asked for toys, hoping to get Legos, or Pokemon, or something nostalgic like a Barbie. You know, something I would’ve played with as a kid, which my mom should have a good handle on since she raised me and everything. Instead I got a random Spiderman basketball hoop. I actually like it more than I thought I would, because having an excuse to throw stuff in the house is pretty awesome. Plus if I really wanted to I could put it over my trash can and pretend to be a teenager in an 80s or 90s sitcom. Since I’ll never get my own phone booth this is a pretty good substitute.

The only other non-requested gift was the makeup. I’d never think to ask for makeup since I own tons of it, but as my mom pointed out this is because I never throw it away. She probably got tired of looking at my Pleistocene-era makeup in the bathroom, so she got me this neat little kit. It’s a pretty nice kit, where niceness is defined by how many of the eyeshadows are sparkly. At least four or five of them are!

I should also mention how nice it is to have season 1 of The Simpsons. Our local Fox channel doesn’t seem to run any episodes before season 8, probably figuring everyone has the early seasons on DVD by now. As a result it’s been YEARS since I’ve seen anything from the first seven seasons. Watching season one is like spending Christmas with a long-lost childhood friend.

There’s a semi-interesting story about the Scrabble game. I have a close friend who I used to share a dorm with, but who lives far away now, and we both love Scrabble. We spent a lot of nights this summer playing internet Literati but neither of us owned the actual board game. This year for Christmas, we BOTH got Scrabble. Totally unplanned. Not the most exciting coincidence ever, but I thought it was really cool.

And I got a waffle iron! I haven’t made homemade waffles since I was 15! WAFFLES!

And as for Rubber Soul, I was probably the last remaining Beatles fan on the planet who didn’t own it. Now that situation is rectified!

I also got some money, so I went out today and bought this stuff:

HELL YES. I’ve been wanting a new Pokemon game for years but have never kept up with the current handheld gaming technology, so this is my first version since Red. I chose Pearl over Diamond partly on a friend’s recommendation, and partly because it contains a Pokemon called Glameow. I don’t care if the actual Pokemon sucks, the name Glameow is just kickass. And after my recent disappointment with finishing New Super Mario Bros. in a week (still loved the game, but fuck), it’s nice to have a DS game that will occupy me for the next 400 years.

SingStar Legends is just totally badass. I already own SingStar 80s, but two of the four people willing to play it with me aren’t too familiar with 80s music, and the other two moved. Legends has a lot more variety – it’s got everything from Bowie to Elvis to Joy Division to the Jackson 5, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t find at least one song they know on here. I’m so in love with this game.

I already owned three different versions of Trivial Pursuit, and now I own four. This one is unique though – the questions are electronic instead of on a thousand little cards, and best of all, you can totally customize the categories. I’m planning on giving this game its own post once I’ve actually played it, but I’m thrilled to death that I can now live my dream of playing Trivial Pursuit without a damn sports category.

Not pictured is stuff I got from people at work. From coworkers, I got lots of candy, various scented candles, one of those mug-and-cocoa-mix sets, a nice hand soap and lotion set, and slippers. From parents of students, I got a little vanilla bath set (yay! vanilla!) and a set of fancy coasters that you can insert photos into.

For posterity, here’s a list of stuff I got my mom:

  • Elvis CD
  • Mr. Coffee iced tea maker (works just like a coffee maker, but makes pitchers of tea)
  • The Honeymooners DVD set
  • Electric blanket
  • Candlemaking supplies
  • Various hair accessories, bubble bath, and body powder
  • Giant collage photo frame
  • Calendar with pictures of puppies
  • Two pairs of slippers

I had a hard time getting in the spirit, but I think it was stress getting to me. Two weeks to relax, play, and get my bearings is my greatest gift this year, and I sure am enjoying it. I hope you all had a great Christmas, or whatever else you celebrate, if anything – and if nothing, I hope you had a great December anyway.

It’s that time of year again – the season to be greedy! Every year around October or November my mom starts bugging me to make a wishlist, and since she’s computer illiterate I can’t just direct her to Amazon. Part of me is glad for this, because it’s a lot more fun to make a list the old-fashioned way, but part of me is frustrated because the stuff I want is mostly obscure shit my mom can’t find. Much as I love Target, they consistently fail to carry Venture Bros. T-shirts and out-of-print prog rock albums. Each year I grow more and more tempted to just say fuck it and ask for toys, despite having reached the frightening stage of life where I’d actually prefer a bunch of kitchen gadgets that only do one thing. I swear I thought that stuff was stupid as recently as last year. Nobody warned me that 23 would be the age where I’d turn into Filburt and make a break for Kerplopitgoes Island, yet here I go doing just that. Help!

Still, the frustration of trying to figure out what the hell I want that my mom can actually figure out how to buy leaves me wishing I could just curl up with a big catalog to circle stuff in. And so, to keep feeling like a kid at Christmas, I’ve decided to browse and review this year’s…

Last year, I remember some people complaining that the Big Toy Book had dwindled to a thin, crappy insert. This year, TRU is boasting an 80-page wonderland as its “Biggest Toy Book Ever!” Unfortunately I can’t vouch for either of these claims, because I only got my grubby little meathooks on a BTB once in my entire childhood, when I was about six or seven. I nearly pissed myself with glee, only to have the experience spoiled five seconds later when my mom warned me that my grandpa’s shitty pickup truck wouldn’t make it all the way to Toys R Us and she did her shopping at Walmart. (My parents always went with the lame “we bring your presents and Santa just fills your stocking” version of Christmas.) Once you got tired of building forts in the woods, growing up in the sticks sucked.

Since my life is so empty without the Big Toy Book experience, I’ve decided to browse this year’s BTB with an eye for what I totally would have circled as a kid. And probably some stuff I’d still circle now. Toys R Us told me not to grow up, dammit.

#1: Dora Designer Dollhouse!

As much as I’d like to be all hardcore and insist that there is no way in fucking hell that I would have liked Dora the Explorer, the truth is I pretty much embraced anything Nickelodeon threw my way. Plus I was obsessed with learning other languages, so I probably would have been all over that shit. But the real reason I would have circled this is more basic: it’s the first true dollhouse in the catalog. Dollhouses were probably the only reason I played with dolls, and they made me the Sims addict I am today. It’s too bad I’m honest, or I could have a cushy job in real estate. Instead, I’m sure in 20 years I’ll be one of those women who watches HGTV all day and orders fake fireplaces from QVC.

Also, take note of that $79.99 pricetag. That’s going to be a recurring theme here, and from now on I totally forgive my parents for all the toys I begged for and never received. I can’t believe the video games and DVD sets I ask for now are actually less expensive than the piles of Chinese plastic I got as a kid.

#2: Imaginarium Marble Mania Genius!

You know those elaborate neon circulatory systems people set up for their hamsters to run around in? I used to be fascinated by those things, and I wanted a hamster just so I could have a series of tubes even before the internets were invented. Of course, the several thousand cats we already had prevented me from getting any rodents, so I was secretly bitter. All that angst could have been prevented if I’d had this marble thingy, because it’s the same basic idea, except that cats are less likely to eat the marbles and barf them all over the living room rug.

#3: Animal Planet Baby Jungle Fortress Playset! (Embiggen!)

At 30 bucks, this is one of the few items I might have actually had a shot at getting. I used to love those little playsets you buy at the zoo that consisted of a bunch of shitty plastic animals and for some reason a bunch of shitty plastic fences. This is like someone took those and moved them into the elaborate fantasy treehouse from the “kids stranded on an island” episode of the Simpsons. It even has little researchers you can have your lions maul, and a MONKEY ELEVATOR! What could be better than a monkey elevator?

#4: Imaginarium Creative Artist Easel!

I’m pretty sure stuff like this is the real reason my mom generally steered me away from toy catalogs. I was perfectly content to draw at the kitchen table as long as I didn’t know shit like this existed. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay 80 bucks for a glorified clipboard, but the catalog makes this look like the most sublimely awesome thing that has ever existed. To rub salt in the wound, there are two smaller, less expensive easels right next to this one on the page, but any child with taste is going to circle this impressive beast and possibly cry if they receive one of its cheaper cousins. Toys R Us likes to give parents high blood pressure.

#5: Play-Doh Creativity Center! (Embiggen!)

I loved Play-Doh, but I never considered it a toy, and certainly not a toy worth begging Santa for. It was more of a diversion you begged your grandma for in the dollar store as a reward for being quiet while she spent about a year shopping for oven mitts. This playset raises Play-Doh to something worth coveting. I’m not really sure what exactly all the extra stuff is, but it looks impressive, which is all it takes to land it on any little kid’s wishlist.

#6: Imaginarium Wooden Dollhouse! (Embiggen!)

I already had a very expensive and impressive Barbie house, so my request for this thing would have been completely ignored, but damn if I wouldn’t have asked for it anyway. There are two other equally impressive dollhouses on the page, but this one is the most colorful. I came into the world thinking the 80s were totally normal, so I liked my toys as neon and busy as possible. Plus, this house has the always-coveted doll elevator, plus a DISCO BALL! My adult self takes issue with the fact that the bathtub seems to be in the kitchen, but I highly doubt my child self would have given a shit.

#7: Mega Bloks King Arthur Battle Action Castle!

I was never really into castles and knights and princesses and shit, but if I was paying enough attention to notice this was a castle you build yourself, I would have been all over it. There’s also a good chance I would have circled it just because it’s the biggest thing on the page. I’d be more certain that I would have liked this if there wasn’t a boy in the picture. Boys have cooties, especially when you’re seven. Either way, this thing looks pretty awesome.

#8: Lincoln Logs Big L Ranch!

I’m kind of puzzled as to why these two items are combined, because they seem to have nothing to do with one another beyond being building toys. Anyway, I would have circled this because I loved the hell out of Lincoln Logs. We had them in my kindergarten class, and I only got to play with them ONCE. Lousy traumatic childhood.

#9: K’nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine!

SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP THIS THING IS BADASS. I want one now. I have absolutely no idea what this does once it’s built, but I want it anyway.

There’s several pages of Lego sets after this, but the shitty way they’re presented guarantees that there is no way in hell I would have asked for any of them. They’re mostly just pictures of the boxes, and the background is orange. Fuck orange.

#10: Pokemon Electronic Pokeball!

Technically I’m trying to write this about stuff I would have wanted as a kid young enough to still be browsing TRU catalogs without feeling the need to hide them under my mattress in shame, but since Pokemon didn’t come around until I was in middle school, I can’t really apply that here. I did totally love Pokemon when it finally did come out, so I can’t help thinking I would have loved it as a little kid too, especially given my love affair with all things Nintendo. So I’m gonna count this thing as something I would have dug, even though I have absolutely no clue as to what it does.

#11: Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Ultimate Stunt World!

I always wanted an elaborate car set and never had one. I generally suspected that this was because my mom wanted to subtly steer me away from “boyish” stuff, but on closer inspection I think it’s just because the interesting ones cost a bajillion dollars. This set is the mother of them all, including a crazyass loop-the-loop and several things that appear to be on fire. It’s Mouse Trap on steroids.

#12: Barbie Jammin’ Jeep!

This is one thing I KNOW I would have asked for, because I totally did. And instead of a Barbie Jeep I got… another, cheaper Jeep that did exactly the same thing but didn’t have pink flowers plastered all over it. Naturally, I threw a fit. I’m forever impressed that my parents never attempted to kill me. I did eventually grow to love my ugly blue Jeep, which I would happily crash into trees every five seconds because I sucked at steering. I drive better now, I promise.

#13: Moon Shoes!

I always, always wanted a pair of Moon Shoes. Every time I go into a toy store, I stare wistfully at the Moon Shoes, wonder if they would support my adult weight, and then remember that I have a trampoline at home and don’t need them. Still, they look like a shitload of fun.

The next several pages are a bunch of swingsets and trampolines and playhouses. I wasn’t stupid enough to ask for a $900 jungle gym for Christmas, but I sure as hell would have drooled over the page for a solid two minutes before moving on.

#14: Operation: Spongebob Squarepants Edition!

#15: Twister Hopscotch!

Spongebob wasn’t around when I was a kid, but Nicktoons were, and I was addicted to every last one of them. I’m 100% sure that if I were a kid now I’d be making plans to build my own pineapple house. And I always loved Operation, even though it gave me several heart attacks every time I screwed up. If I ever develop an aneurysm I’m totally blaming the combined effects of playing Operation and Perfection in my early years.

And I have no idea what Twister Hopscotch is, but it looks like a good way to get your friends to humiliate themselves. That always makes for a fun Saturday.

#16: FurReal Friends – Biscuit My Lovin’ Pup

I’ve always loved animals, and I doubt I could have passed up a life-size animatronic dog plush. Of course, my parents would have been awfully quick to remind me that I already had an actual dog, one that hadn’t cost $160. Take it from me, parents just don’t understand.

#17: Baby Alive Learns to Potty!

I’ve written about Baby Alive before, and I doubt I would have been able to pass up a variation of this sadistic doll that includes a potty. ‘Course, now that I have a job that involves changing diapers all day, this doll doesn’t seem nearly as cute. But as long as she still includes sugary slime food, I’d be happy.

#18: Little Tikes Deluxe Wooden Kitchen & Laundry Center!

I always loved play kitchens and play food, and would try to hog the little kitchen corner in kindergarten and run all the other kids out. Yet, somehow I grew into a person who would rather eat nasty microwave mystery food than spend 10 minutes cooking something more edible. Go figure. Anyway, this kitchen set is one of the really awesome ones, where “awesome” as defined as “the kind my parents couldn’t have bought without selling me and defeating the purpose of buying toys in the first place.” Plus, it has laundry! As an adult who has to do actual laundry, I have trouble getting excited over this feature, but I’m pretty sure as a little kid I would have wet my pants with joy at the idea. Then I’d have something to wash.

#19: Barbie Diamond Castle Princess Liana!

I always asked for at least one new Barbie for every Christmas and birthday, and this one is SPARKLY. I feel kinda sad for Barbie’s non-Aryan friends in the background though. Usually the “secondary character” Barbies are the same exact doll with a different color outfit, but this time their dresses are actually inferior to Barbie’s fancy hoop skirt number. There’s an eerie subtext to that which I’m not going to explore here. Barbie isn’t supposed to make me think.

After several pages of High School Musical shit I’m losing some steam here, but that’s realistic, because as a kid I probably would have gotten bored by now and wandered off to go watch Roundhouse. Still, I’m going to plod on through, because there’s still plenty more neat stuff in the pages to come.

#20: Project Runway Fashion Design Set!

I don’t give a rat’s ass about Project Runway and would be pretty satisfied if it fell off the earth so that people in all my LJ communities would stop bringing it up. But I’m intrigued by this toy because it’s like an artsier version of Fashion Plates: you get a little poseable anatomy mannequin, and based on that you draw women and then add clothes to them. This is a pretty impressive little kit, and as an adult I like the idea of little kids learning serious art skills from a toy based on a TV show that, as far as I can tell, revolves entirely around bitchfights. As a kid, I would have picked this entirely for the little mannequin thing.

#21: First Act iCarly Musical Instruments!

My executive adult opinion of iCarly is that it sucks, but as I mentioned previously, I always ate up whatever Nickelodeon fed me. Also, I was obsessed with music even as a little kid, and these are the first musical instruments in the catalog that don’t have Miley Cyrus plastered all over them. Plus, I used to love the color blue, until I hated it.

#22: iCarly Digital Camcorder!

I would have been totally convinced that owning this would get me on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if I was a kid now, I would have used it to put videos of my cats on Youtube. Either way, camcorders rock.

#23: First Act Electronic Drum Pad!

More music stuff. I should point out that there are several billion musical instruments in the ad and I would have wanted ALL OF THEM. And while I stick to melodic instruments now, as a kid I definitely would have gravitated toward drums, because they combined two things that I loved:

1) Music, and

2) Hitting things with a stick.

I’m pretty sure that second factor is why most real drummers chose the instrument they did.

#24: Guitar Hero World Tour!

Okay, seriously, I want this now. Can’t put it on my wishlist ’cause my mom would destroy Tokyo upon seeing the price, but in a perfect world I’d totally get this, despite already owning two real guitars, and despite the fact that for the price of this game, I could add a real drum kit to that. Christmas isn’t supposed to make sense.

#25: Nintendo R/C Mario Kart 2-Pack! (Embiggen!)

I’m skipping most of the video games because I would have wanted ALL OF THEM and I still do, but my love of Mario wouldn’t have allowed me to pass up on these little guys. Heck, I’d still buy those now, were it not for the little voice telling me all the stuff 30 bucks would buy that I would actually use. I hate that voice.

The incredible part of this little journey through the Big Toy Book is how much it really did make me feel like a kid again. I could picture myself sitting at the kitchen table circling all this stuff with a fat red Magic Marker and praying Santa would really deliver it, and it helped me recapture the spirit in which I begged for this stuff. A child’s request for loads of toys may seem like unbridled, selfish greed, but it’s really a dreamy sort of awe at all the great things there are to have and do in the world. Plus, who cares if a toy is 80 bucks if an old fat guy is supposed to make it with magic? Obviously those are the prices for people who don’t believe. Shun the unbeliever! Shuuuun!

While making the usual mid-week trip to buy milk and other crap we never buy enough of on grocery day, I spied something glorious in the soda cabinet by the checkout line. Something gloriously… blue. Mysterious comb liquid blue.

Could it be? Surely, it couldn’t be. They hadn’t… brought back Pepsi Blue?! My heart leapt at the prospect of a delicious Pepsi Blue float, which was the only reason I really miss the stuff much.

Sadly, it was not to be. What I did find, though, was almost as intriguing. And much weirder.

Not being one to pass up a weird soda flavor, and because they were marked down to 79 cents each, I grabbed all three. Apparently Mountain Dew is running a contest between these three flavors, all of which are user-created. If I was a better journalist I’d investigate the website further, but instead I’ll just tell you that you can vote for your favorite flavor here and skip right along to the fun part: Taste-testing!

Now, before I comment on the flavors, I should make my position on Mountain Dew clear. Original Mountain Dew, to my tongue, is like some combination of urine and stomach acid. It’s nasty, it burns, and it reminds me never to punish myself this way again because no human deserves that. Code Red and LiveWire, on the other hand, I’m okay with. I won’t reach for them first, but when presented with a soda machine that doesn’t have Dr. Pepper, they’re a good second choice. And I loved Pitch Black so much that I would probably lick some off the floor of a movie theater just to taste it again. With that in mind, I begin.

Round One: Mountain Dew Voltage

This is the flavor I had initially mistaken for Pepsi Blue. The description on the bottle says “Dew charged with raspberry citrus flavor and ginseng”. Adding ginseng to soda sounds completely fucking weird to me, and it should to you too. This flavor is actually somewhat reminiscent of Pepsi Blue, enough that if you’re one of the many people who thought PB resembled toilet cleaner in taste as well as color, you’ll want to avoid this. If, on the other hand, you likened Pepsi Blue to the sweet vaginal fluids of Aphrodite, this *might* be a decent replacement. Maybe. The ginseng gives it a weird, almost green tea-like aftertaste, but it’s definitely the closest you’ll get to Pepsi Blue without creating an elaborate basement soda lab.

Score: B-
I’d drink this again, but I ain’t gonna cry if it goes away forever. It would’ve been a C+, but it gets an extra point for coming *this close* to reviving the Crystal Pepsi of the 00’s.

Round Two: Mountain Dew Supernova

This one gets two immediate brownie points from me without even being opened yet. One for reminding me of DDR, and one for being an eerie pinkish-purple color, which my camera didn’t properly capture, that reminds me of what alien slime would look like if it was created by little girls. Description: “Dew with a blast of strawberry melon flavor and ginseng”. Oh okay, I get the gimmick now, they all have ginseng. I should really read before writing. Anyway, this stuff is pretty excellent. It tastes pretty much like your standard strawberry soda, but with a little less bite. Which I’m quite happy about, because I usually think strawberry soda has WAY too much bite.

Score: A-

Still not gonna win any awards, since it’s not terribly unique, but I will definitely be buying more of this stuff.

Round Three: Mountain Dew Revolution

The color of this one is… weird. It looks too watery to be soda, which is misleading since it’s not any healthier than the other two. Remember that “cornflower” crayon everyone hated because no child on Earth knows what the hell a cornflower looks like? And it was this weird off-shade of blue that didn’t remind you of corn *or* flowers? That’s what this reminds me of. The bottle blurb calls it “Dew infused with wild berry fruit flavor and ginseng”. The flavor is something I’m having trouble putting my finger on. It definitely also has a Pepsi Blue-ish flavor, but not as much as the Voltage. Actually, on second thought it tastes more like carbonated Vitamin Water. That makes the color make more sense, but carbonated Vitamin Water is not something I want in my life. Not at all. It’s not a terrible flavor, per se, but I want my junk food to be honest about its identity. If you’re going to be soda, be neon-colored and bad for me. Don’t pretend to be a health food. Mountain Dew Revolution needs to come out of the closet.

Score: C

Not impressed. I’ll finish the bottle I bought, but I’m going to scowl.

So there you have it. My pick of the three, obviously, is Supernova, but since my tastes are wildly unrelatable to anyone else’s, I’d definitely encourage you to try these for yourself, especially if you’re a connoisseur of peculiar sodas. Only one flavor will win, but I personally don’t think any of them are good enough to last. So try them soon or they will die alone.