Dinosaur Dracula!

Crazy ’90s Bubble Gum!

Before I drone on and on about old gum, some updates!

1. Join in Dino Drac’s Patchwork Project! Readers from around the globe are sending in extremely random images to be part of our virtual quilt, and judging from the submissions so far, this is going to be EPIC. There’s still time left to doodle, so get to it!

2. Dino Drac now has a slightly updated look, thanks to Cliffpro. Aside from some minor cosmetic changes, I hope we’ve addressed the cache issues that were keeping certain readers from seeing new posts. For more info, please see the first comment in this post!

Okay, now it’s gum time.

In today’s issue: Four strange brands of bubble gum from the ‘90s! (Actually, the assorted gums are all perfectly normal. It’s the containers that are weird.)

What looks like old candy is really so much more. These gum brands are windows into our collective past. The parts we liked, and the parts we’d rather forget. Mostly the latter. Let’s chew. Read More…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Chia Pet!

I normally pay attention to Chia Pets only around Christmas, but since I was so busy a few months ago, I didn’t get to keep up the tradition. Maybe this is why I’ve felt so hollow. Thank God for the Ninja Turtles.

Spotted just last night, it’s the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Chia Pet, which I think we can take as proof positive that Nickelodeon’s new series is doing pretty well.

I’ve barely paid attention to the new show. Don’t yell at me. I’ve already heard about how great it is, and about how it’s such a perfect balance of nostalgia and new hotness, and about the unlimited extra-vowel Krangs. I’ll get to it, and I’ll love it.

Still, I have to admit that the show’s success took me by surprise. This isn’t the first time TMNT has been brought back, and with all previous attempts, it never seemed to truly click. With the new series, you can’t say the same. I haven’t looked up the ratings or anything, but the fans are obviously there, and they’re not treating it like “just another show.”

How can I put this? The new series just seems so revered.

I have seen all of the toys, of course, and they’re great. You’ll never catch me admitting that the new figures are better than the ones I grew up with, even if my brain knows that they are. In particular, I’m impressed with how creative the new line has been. It’s anything but barebones, and anything but rushed. What could’ve been the simplest doodads were approached with such wacky gusto, and even from afar, from “show” to “stuff” and everything in between, it’s easy to see that the new Turtles are firing on all cylinders.

And yeah, now they have a Chia Pet. Read More…

Five Great Robots.

I like robots. We all do.

In my tween years, I made a sincere attempt at building one. Using an upside down goldfish bowl for the head, my robot was held together with ten rolls of masking tape, had five or six Micro Machines cars stuck to its bottom, and could only “speak” in Jackie Mason’s voice, thanks to a button-activated novelty keychain hidden on its back.

That ridiculous robot meant the world to me, but it fell short of my grander plans. I grew up on a steady diet of truly awesome robots on television and in movies, and I wanted one just like them. I wanted it to move by itself and think for itself. I wanted it to fetch me things from the kitchen. I wanted it to listen when nobody else would.

Basically, I wanted it to be like one of the dudes featured below. Behold, five great robots that rock my socks:

#1: The Honeycomb Robot!
Seen in: Various Honeycomb cereal commercials of the ’80s, like this one.

Back in the mid ‘80s, Post’s Honeycomb cereal commercials were things of beauty. Having very little to do with the cereal itself, they were thirty-second movies about kids in an amazing clubhouse, dealing with a variety of intruders. (Up to and including Andre the Giant!)

It was called Honeycomb Hideout. It’d been around since the ‘70s, but it wasn’t until I was a kid that the clubhouse got its grandest upgrade: A goddamned ROBOT who apparently lived there.

Mixing classic robot features with an outfit suitable for space aliens, Honeybot (not his official name, but I need to call him something) filled my seven-year-old head with insane, burning hot envy. It was bad enough that these kids had such an incredible clubhouse, but to go and add a robot to the mix?

It was the kind of clubhouse most of us could only dream about, being more like a miniature real house than a simple “shed.” But Honeybot just pushed it so far over the top. I would’ve given anything to be a member of this club.

Honeybot also had the ability to speak, and did so using an adorably mechanized inflection that forced me to love him even more.

Plus, he was covered in all sorts of lights! Vegas in robot form! I especially dug his eyes, which made him look something like an extremely trusting cyborg owl. Read More…

Awesomely Bad Bootleg Action Figures.

We went back to the Englishtown flea market this past Sunday.

Since it’s warmed up, it was much busier. There were countless vendors outside, running what could only be described as “junk tables.” It was as if hundreds of people banded together for an enormous yard sale, and as is always the case with those, the offerings were hit or miss. (I often wondered why certain sellers even bothered. Some set their prices 3-4 times more than the eBay norm, even if their wares were in terrible shape. Maybe they just like the atmosphere, or air that stinks of roasted corn.)

I couldn’t help noticing the insane amount of bootleg action figures for sale. If there were 400 vendors in all, it seemed like at least half of them were selling knockoff Power Rangers.

You know the kind. They’re cheap, shoddy figures sold in cheap, shoddy packaging, usually in sets of four or more. The figures in each set might have absolutely nothing to do with one another. (An example being a four-pack that included a Red Ranger, a White Ranger, Black Widow and Batman. Ship that, motherfucker.)

I’m not saying that it’s an “industry” deserving of support, because obviously, it’s not. The toymakers act like the properties they draw from are in the public domain, and besides, the figures are utterly bad. I don’t know much about paint and plastic, but I know enough to be wary about sending a six-year-old off to chew a Batman figure that came from one of these sets. Unless the plan was to kill him.

Still, I’d be lying if I said that these bootlegs didn’t have a certain charm. Just look at this set!

I had no plans of going home with shitty action figures of amoral origin, but how could I resist the Super Special Heroes seven-pack? It’s atrociously awesome, mixing characters from wildly different properties, with absolutely no running theme aside from “heroes kids kind of enjoy.” It’s even more bizarre than the similar set I found back in 2008!

Where else will you find Buzz Lightyear, Spider-Man and Batman teaming for the greater good? Read More…

Bloody Caesar.

I made a Bloody Caesar. For the uninitiated, that’s essentially a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato replacing tomato juice. (Don’t run.)

I’ve been inching my way towards this for years. While on a business trip in Toronto (in 2005, I think), some colleagues who became fast friends introduced me to the Caesar. At that point, I had no idea that it was such a thing in Canada. Boy, did I see the proof. Everyone at that bar seemed to be drinking them, and even if I played it safe with a Bloody Mary, I had to admit that their cocktails looked good. Maybe I’d been too hard on Clamato?

Actually, I’d been way too hard on Clamato. If you don’t know, Clamato is tomato juice with a hint of clam, but I have to stress the “hint” part. Clam broth is near the bottom of the ingredients list, and really, you’d never guess “clams” on a blind taste test. Clamato is also loaded with corn syrup, so if anything, it tastes more like a V8 Splash. It’s much sweeter, more watery and way less acidic than tomato juice, and while I wouldn’t say that I prefer it, there’s nothing at all gross about it.

And it does make for a much different cocktail than a Bloody Mary. It’s smoother, lighter, and I can see how those crazy Canucks drink it so often. (I love a good Bloody Mary, but they’re far too heavy to drink at the start of a long night out. It’s like getting to the bar and kicking things off with tomato soup.) Read More…

Survival Kit in a Sardine Can.

(NOTE: There’s a new feature up, recapping one of my favorite episodes of the classic anthology series, Amazing Stories. It’s about a scary mirror monster. Read it! Or at least, read it after you’ve read about this sardine can filled with razors and candy.)

I often daydream about extinction events, or at least something approaching them. I imagine a world where survivors live in crude bunkers and shelters, surviving on whatever they could grab before the comet hit, or before the zombies rose, or before the aliens invaded.

It sort of runs parallel to my other fantasy, where I live in dilapidated cabin in the middle of nowhere, totally cut off from society. What makes the extinction event scenario more attractive is that I wouldn’t be doing it by choice. That log cabin thing sounds fun, but after a few days, I know I’d crack and run back to society, begging for the camaraderie and conveniences I’ve grown so accustomed to. But man, if aliens poisoned the air supply, I’d have no choice! I could have fun in my little fallout shelter with no regrets!

Yes, I understand that this is weird.

A byproduct of these daydreams is my interest in survival goods. Specifically, survival kits. I just find them so alluring. I like to dream up my own survival kits, and since this is completely hypothetical and I don’t have to be at all practical about it, my imaginary survival kits rock. Coolers full of novels, notebooks, pretzels and playing cards.

When I browse through the many survival kits sold online, I always keep an eye out for the fun ones. I don’t care if they have compasses and water purification tablets. I just want them to be fun. I want them to be filled with astronaut ice cream and tiny-sized versions of Yahtzee.

Well, this one doesn’t exactly fit that bill, but it comes close. It’s definitely fun. It’s a survival kit in a goddamned sardine can.

Created by Whistle Creek, it’s a legit survival kit, in the sense that there’s stuff inside that really could save your life if, say, you found yourself impossibly lost in the woods for a few days. Still, there seems to be more of a “novelty” slant with this kit, both because of the goofier contents and because it all comes in a, you know, sardine can. Read More…

Gremlins Collectible Figures!

You know those little plastic “tables” that protect pizza cheese from cardboard boxes? They were invented in 1985.

And just as Carmela Vitale was securing the patent, I was in Atlantic City, watching Maw and Paw torch my future.

I often joke about how I grew up on the thinly-carpeted floors of Atlantic City casinos. In truth, my parents didn’t gamble that much – it’s just that the trips were so memorable for me.

The better ones would come later, when I was finally old enough to roam around unsupervised. But this was 1985. I was tiny, trusting and not to be left alone. In a rare switch from the norm, my father walked me around the boardwalk while my mother went for the jackpot.

We ended up at the boardwalk’s shopping mall, which was built to look like a huge cruise ship. Though that mall still stands, it’s since been remodeled and filled with “high class” stores. But back then? Forget it. It was a kid’s paradise. Giant arcade, food court full of everything, and of course, Kay-Bee Toys.

This was not a normal Kay-Bee. I mean, maybe it was in 1985, but by the ‘90s, holy shit. Those of you who remember Kay-Bee know that it wasn’t very good about getting “old stock” off of the racks. The toys may have been ten years old, but they’d still try to sell them, with drastic clearance prices hastily scribbled in red ink. This Kay-Bee was like that, but TO THE EXTREME. It was like an antique shop without the antique shop prices.

But that’s another story. If it was that way back in ’85, I didn’t notice.

What I did notice, was this. And since those Atlantic City trips made it so easy to bribe my parents, I got it. A few bucks for some Gremlins figures was certainly a fair trade for a kid who’d remain calm and patient in Atlantic City.

The Gremlins Collectible Figures set may have been the first “Gremlins thing” I ever owned. I still remember baking under the flashing lights of Caesar’s, totally oblivious to everything else as I fiddled with my little Mogwais.

I’ve put off this review for more than a year, believing that there wouldn’t be much to it beyond a couple of toy photos. Yesterday, I came across the set again, and started thinking about what each figure really meant to me. Turns out, they meant plenty. So let’s roll. Read More…