Summer Cleaning Crapstravaganza

      Back in May of 2005, I wrote an article called the Spring Cleaning Crapstravaganza. This year, I missed out on spring cleaning. Spring came and went and my house is still a total fucking mess. Instead of fixing the problem, I decided to bring several boxes down from the attic and dig through them for whatever random crap I could find. In the process, I turned my bedroom into a much bigger mess. However, I did find all sorts of entertaining junk, none of which could carry an article on its own. Rather than let these ghosts from childhood go to waste, I have decided to combine this amalgam of oddities into one spectacular article. I call it... the Summer Cleaning Crapstravaganza! Oh wait, I revealed the title in a big ass 18-point font. Whatever, just read the fucking thing.


Game Genie Code Update

      Before GameShark, Action Replay, and emulation save states, you needed Galoob's Game Genie if you want to cheat at your favorite video games. And in addition to that, you needed codes. The Game Genie came with a codebook, but since NES games were being released at a fantastic rate, it was out of date before it even hit shelves. So if you wanted to cheat at all the latest games, you could shell out $3.50 (plus $1.50 shipping) and Galoob would send you four quarterly code updates. Without them, you wouldn't be able to cheat at games like NES Play Action Football, Fire Hawk, and MiG 29 Soviet Fighter. You also wouldn't be able to cheat at games you might actually WANT to play, like Mega Man 4 and Tiny Toon Adventures. Back in the day, I thought Game Genie was the greatest thing ever; I now realize that it wasn't. Game Genie allowed you to beat video games without being any good at them. It facilitated laziness by dumbing games down to a point where they weren't even fun to play. Really, what's the point in playing Castlevania if you're completely invincible?

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1988 Olympics Cups From McDonald's

      I hate the Olympics. They serve no real purpose except to preempt better shows that I would rather watch. Depending on where they're taking place, the Olympics can preempt anything from The Price Is Right to the fucking news. That's right kids, the 11 o'clock news just isn't as important as synchronized swimming. The Olympics just seem like a big waste of time to me. Seriously, why the fuck do I care if the US can beat Brazil at women's beach volleyball? But in 1988, things were different. The Cold War was still looming, and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea marked the first time in 12 years that the United States and Soviet Russia would face each other in the Summer Games. The United States had boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the USSR boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics to get back at America for boycotting theirs. The Soviet-American Olympic feud had a level of genuine intensity and drama, a level that sparked national anticipation for an otherwise tepid event; a level that we may never see again. Excitement for the event was high enough that McDonald's replaced its large drink cups with hard plastic cups hyping the U.S. Olympic Team. For some reason, I still have two of them. Better promotional cups like Roger Rabbit and Larry Bird were tossed out over the years due to fading, but these somehow managed to survive. They're kinda cool, but I wish they commemorated events that I actually gave a shit about. And in the end, the '88 Olympics were a blowout. The Eastern Bloc absolutely destroyed America, with the USSR and East Germany netting a total of 92 gold medals to America's 36.


Canadian $1 Bill

      There are only three things in this world that Canada does better than America. The first one is hockey. The second one is professional wrestling. The third one is getting its citizens to use a dollar coin. For whatever reason, dollar coins never really caught on in the United States. The two most recent ones, Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea, were miserable failures. Perhaps if the U.S. coins would have done better if they hadn't opted to put minor historical figures on them. And as if it weren't bad enough that Susan B. Anthony looks like she's menstruating big time, her coin is octagonal. I mean, really, who the fuck did they hope to appeal with that coin? If the U.S. government wants a dollar coin that people will use, they should put Snake Plissken on it; he's way better than some stupid woman. Canada, on the other hand, has had much better luck with its dollar coin. The Canadian coin, which has been dubbed the Loonie, debuted on June 20, 1987. At that point, the Canadian one dollar bill was taken out of print and slowly dwindled out of circulation. When my paternal grandparents visited Canada in the late 80s, they brought me back a $1 and a Loonie among some other souvenirs. And being the type of guy who rarely throws anything away, I held on to them. So I have a Canadian dollar bill. The front features Queen Elizabeth II, the back features a piece called Paper And Politics by Malak Karsh. Most of the literature I have found indicates that Malak Karsh was of Armenian descent, but I am fairly certain he was actually Klingon. Like all Canadian money, I doubt this beat-up old bill is worth much, but it stands as a grim reminder that bilingual money is really, really gay. The fact that there's a queen on it doesn't help either.


First Men On The Moon Commemorative Coin

      On July 20th, 1989, The Republic of the Marshall Islands issued a collectible coin commemorating the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11's lunar landing. The front of the coin features Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon, the back features the official seal of the RMI. The coin is legal tender in the Marshall Islands and it is worth five dollars. Of course, you're not supposed to spend it. This coin was one of many coins put out by the Marshall Islands celebrating various historical figures and events. The coins were issued to generate revenue, so the production run was not particularly limited and the coins are almost completely worthless. When this coin was first issued, it was advertised pretty heavily on daytime TV. Being eight years old at the time, I thought space exploration was fascinating and I wanted the coin in the worst way. My grandfather was an engineer and he had helped to design the heat shield used in the Apollo 11 mission, so he was quite willing to encourage my interest by buying me the coin. The coin used to have a nice cardboard display case with various facts about the Moon mission, but I have since lost it.


Skeleton Halloween Costume circa 1985

      I had some pretty shitty Halloween costumes when I was a kid. You see, my mom didn't believe that a Halloween costume was a worthwhile investment. When I wanted to be The Joker on Halloween '89, I was given an improvised costume to wear that could only be described as fucking terrible. And as embarrassing as that situation was, it wasn't the worst Halloween costume I ever had. No, the worst Halloween costumes I ever had were the ones I was forced to endure before I was old enough to pick out a costume for myself. For instance, take this skeleton costume from when I was three or four years old. This wasn't so much an actual costume as it was a frock with a skeleton motif printed on it. To make matters worse, it didn't even come with a skull mask. No, instead it came with a gray skullcap with a skull face on it. I don't know how my mother or any seemingly rational human being could have thought the skullcap looked good. The skull face was too high up on my head to be noticed, especially since my real face was readily visible. Not only the skullcap an ill-conceived design, it was also an affront to the Jewish people. I am quite positive that they would not approve of their customary yarmulkes being used to celebrate a Christian holiday with Pagan roots. Then again, maybe some Jew was selling them to make a quick buck. Oh, don't look at me like that. You know you were thinking it. And while I do feel bad about making an obvious and offensive Jew joke, I'd feel a lot worse if I hadn't had to wear such a gay ass costume.


The 1993 WLVI Summer Cartoon Line-Up

      Back in the days before there were layers upon layers of cable channels, there were local UHF channels. In eastern Massachusetts, we had two main ones. One was WSBK, TV 38. The other was WLVI, Boston's Channel 56. These channels lacked network affiliates, so their programming consisted mainly of syndicated shows, reruns of classic tv shows, and whatever movies they managed to acquire. WSBK apparently had better financial backing, because it ran Red Sox and Bruins games as well. But WLVI had better cartoons, as evidenced by this programming schedule from the back of this WLVI Kids Club newsletter from the summer of 1993. While TV 38 was running The Disney Afternoon, WLVI was running The Jetsons, The Flintstones, The Adventures of T-Rex, and Stunt Dawgs. Actually, that's a pretty awful line-up. Oh well, at least WLVI had Ninja Turtles and Captain N.

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Day Of The Dinosaur T-Shirt

      If you didn't grow up in the 1980s, you missed out on all sorts of wacky gimmicky apparel: Generra Hypercolor t-shirts, Reebok Pumps, and slap bracelets immediately spring to mind. But my attic held a t-shirt that was way more 80s-tastic than all of that combined. My "Day Of The Dinosaur" had several key features that indicate it came from the 80s. I mean, fucking look at it, it has hot pink lettering and a bright orange dinosaur on it. This isn't just *any* dinosaur either; it's a Tyrannosaurus Rex with four fucking cars stuffed in his mouth. But more importantly, it has a holographic sticker embedded in it. The holographic sticker features Hylaeosaurus, which is the poor man's Ankylosaurus. The fact that some pansy ass herbivore made its way onto a shirt that features a T-Rex rampaging through a city block is rather indicative of the era. Dinosaurs were inexplicably popular in the 80s, and some dumbass corporate fuckwad must have figured that one dinosaur is as good as any other. WRONG. Hylaeosaurus sucks ass. In fact, Hylaeosaurus sucks worse than Pachycephalosaurus. Still, this is a pretty awesome t-shirt and not just because it's violent. Produced in 1988, this shirt harkens back to a time when parents made their kids dress like kids, a time before we put wife-beaters on little boys and "I Swallow" t-shirts on little girls.


Wade Figurines From Red Rose Tea

      Red Rose Tea may not be the #1 tea in the United States, but it is certainly the #1 tea among little old ladies. The reason? Each box of Red Rose Tea comes with a free collectible glass figurine. Old ladies love shit like that, and my maternal grandmother was no exception. Produced in England, Wade figurines first started appearing in Red Rose Tea in Canada in 1967. The figurines debuted in the United States in 1983, where one of 15 porcelain animal figurines was included in specially marked boxes of the tea. This set lasted until 1985, when it was replaced with a second animal set. This second set was probably the most popular of the American Red Rose Tea figurine sets, and it was certainly the longest running. U.S. Animal Series #2 was originally comprised of 15 figures: a koala, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, a polar bear, a monkey, an orangutan, a gorilla, a leopard, a tiger, a raccoon, a squirrel, a beaver, a kangaroo, a zebra, and a camel. Later in the set's run, five new figures were added: a pony, a rabbit, a kitten, a puppy, and a cockatoo. As a kid, I used to love these fucking things. Every time I went to my grandmother's house, she'd have eight new ones for me. I know they were just gay little porcelain animals, a free toy is still a free toy. Although a new set of figurines was introduced in 1994, the animal set wasn't completely phased out until 1996, bringing its total production run to eleven years. When this set was retired, the Red Rose Tea figurines took a severe dive in quality. The new set had a cheesy circus theme that lacked the style and common appeal of its predecessor. Everyone likes animals; not everyone likes the fucking circus. The circus set was followed by a pseudo-political set featuring endangered North American animals. As if the sad attempt at environmental activism wasn't bad enough, the set only had ten fucking pieces. The next set, Noah's Ark, did untold damage to Middle America. Now not only do those fuckwad Christian Fundamentalists believe that the Earth is only ten thousand years old, they also believe that God only created seven different pairs of animals. The current set, Pet Shop, completely sucks ass. It's comprised of ten pieces, almost all of which are just rehashes of past figurines.


Basic Training from 3-2-1 Contact Magazine

      3-2-1 Contact was an educational show for children that ran on PBS from 1980 to 1992. The first season was produced in 1980 and subsequent seasons were produced from 1983-1988. Along with Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Square One TV, and Mister Roger's Neighborhood, this show was a big part of my amazingly funtastic childhood. And by funtastic, I mean unspectacular. 3-2-1 Contact was popular enough to spawn its own magazine, which long outlasted the show. Although it was eventually renamed Contact Kids, 3-2-1 Contact Magazine survived until 2001, nine fucking years after the show stopped airing on PBS. Along with Sesame Street Magazine and The Electric Company Magazine, this was one of several successful kid-oriented magazines put out by the Children's Television Workshop. In addition to these, CTW had an ill-fated magazine called Enter which focused on computers and technology. When it failed to sell, it was assimilated into 3-2-1 Contact Magazine. One of the best things that came over from Enter was Basic Training, which featured a BASIC game submitted by a reader. As a kid, this section fascinated me. I was an avid video game player and it was my dream to learn computer programming so that I might one day make 8-bit games that were highly derivative of my favorite games. I didn't have a computer, but I diligently saved these programs in the hopes that someday I would. In my youthful naiveté, I assumed the squiggly pictures included alongside the code were actual screenshots of the games. Unfortunately, there were not; 95% of the games submitted to Basic Training were just shitty text adventures. One particularly retarded program I remember was called Robots Fight Back. In it, you'd ask robot servants to perform various housekeeping tasks for you, and they'd tell you to fuck off. The game had no real point, and some asshole got $25 and a free t-shirt for submitting it. My family didn't get a computer until December of 1992 and by that time, BASIC was dying off and Virtual Basic was taking its place. And while our Compudyne computer did come loaded with a BASIC variant called QBasic, all the Basic Training games were coded for the obsolete Apple II. Many of them only required minor code changes, but since I was unfamiliar with the differences between QBasic and Apple II BASIC, I was unable to implement them. It wouldn't be until 1994, when I was subjected to a mandatory and hilariously backward computer class in junior high school, that I would get to try out my old Basic Training pages on an actual Apple II. Needless to say, I was INCREDIBLY disappointed.

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Slide-A-Fax Instant Guide To The 50 States

      Imagine for a moment that it's 1988 and you're an elementary school student in dire need of information pertaining to all fifty states in the United States. You probably don't have a computer and even if you do, the World Wide Web won't exist for another five years. You could read a book, but who has time for that? In the 80s, we wanted things faster. So instead, we had Slide-A-Fax. Using super-advanced paper technology and population statistics collected during a July 1, 1987 census, Slide-A-Fax could help you memorize the population rank and official flowers of all 50 states in the Union. You know, in case, your social studies teacher suddenly decided to quiz you on state flowers. It did have state capitals and a map on it, and that's all you ever actually needed. Come to think of it, this gimmicky piece of shit isn't really any better than a plain old map. There were smaller versions of these slide cards that were given away as cereal prizes inside Rice Krispies one time. Instead of useless facts, they had riddles on them. Man, I wish I still had some of those instead of this.

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The Official Star Trek Tridimensional Chess Set

      If you're like me, you have an inexplicable attraction to needlessly expensive crap with no practical purpose. For instance, you might have told your grandparents that you wanted a replica of the chess set that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock used to play on Star Trek. And if the year was 1994, you may have actually gotten it. Issued by the Franklin Mint, The Official Star Trek tridimensional Chess Set was an official piece of crap. While it had the same number of squares as the board featured on Star Trek, it was a much smaller scale. The board was also made out of a very cheap plastic. So cheap, in fact, that it broke during my fourth game. I went to move one of the attack boards and a corner of the board broke, rendering it completely useless. So now it's just like any other item put out by the Franklin Mint: an overpriced piece of shit that serves as a tepid conversation piece. I should have known better than to trust a company that sells collectible plates in the back of The National Enquirer.


SOTA, The Creator

      There were a lot of toylines in the 80s. And while you probably remember Masters of the Universe, The Real Ghostbusters, and MASK, you might not remember Army Ants, Food Fighters, and StarCom. Another toyline that may or may not remember is Robo Force. Robo Force was a series of robots with suction cup feet and accordion hands that were made by Ideal in the early 80s. Although they never had their own cartoon, they were popular enough to spawn their own board game, their own telephone, a line of children's books, and plenty of other useless crap. Led by Maxx Steele, who should not be confused with that gaywad Max Steel, the heroic Robo Force squared off against an unnamed group of evil robots led by the generic Enemy. I only ever owned one Robo Force figure, State Of The Art, better known as SOTA. As you can see, I still have him. His decal is worn, his arms have seen better days and he's lost his detachable satellite dish, but he's in pretty good shape for a toy that was played with pretty heavily. According to his box, SOTA is the smartest member of Robo Force and he is Maxx Steele's most trusted advisor. Well if SOTA is so fucking smart, why the hell does he have a giant retractable target built into his head? Even as a kid, that shit really bugged me.

      Well, that's pretty much it. In fact, that's entirely it, unless you want to see my spelling tests from second grade. They're not particularly funny, so I bet you don't. I guess the moral of the story is this: never throw anything out, because you never know when you might decide to start a website. Well, I guess even then there's still some things you should throw out, such as used condoms and court summons. And on that note, I'm done.


Posted by: Syd Lexia