Dinosaur Dracula!

Identifying Garfield’s Christmas Presents.

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Yeah, I’m really doing this. It’s too late to stop me.

A Garfield Christmas is one of my favorite holiday specials. During its run on CBS, I watched it every year. To me, it was every bit as important as Charlie Brown’s thing, and for a time, I liked it even more.

The bulk of the special is set on the old Arbuckle farm, where Jon reconnects with his little-seen family. (Most notably Grandma Arbuckle, in a breakthrough performance!) It’s 22 minutes of pure holiday happiness, and it kills me that nobody airs it anymore. A Garfield Christmas just isn’t the same on DVD. I need commercial breaks with special messages from McDonald’s and Radio Shack.

Of course, pitching you the special isn’t why I’m here. Frankly, only those who are already fans have any shot of making it through this post. I mean it. This one is NOT going viral.

Now let’s get down to business. Remember Garfield’s dream sequence from the start of the special? The one with the ROBOT SANTA GIFT-GIVING MACHINE? Read More…

More Ancient Holiday Appetizers!

Every holiday season, I’m inspired to dig through my ancient recipe books, searching for meals and appetizers that haven’t been in fashion since before I was born. Why? I DON’T KNOW.

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No matter how this odd passion took form, it’s been a part of my holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember. These recipe books, mainly of the Betty Crocker variety, were always in the kitchen cabinet when I was growing up. As an adult, they still squeak their way in, because I can’t remember the last yard sale I went to that didn’t have a dozen hardbound Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks laying on the grass. I always buy them. I’m adequately armed to build a fort out of those books.

The recipes inside are rarely seasonally specific, but I always associate them with this time of year. I’m never satisfied with a holiday meal unless it includes at least one dish that hasn’t been popular since 1973. Many of these recipes are weird by today’s standards; others have fallen out of favor as the world’s grown more nutritionally conscious. Still, back then, food looked like so much fun. Like something you’d make out of Play-Doh or LEGO bricks.

So, in continuation of something I’ve done before, below are four more holiday-appropriate appetizers, plucked from some of my oldest cookbooks. None of them are too strange, but that won’t stop you from telling me how you’d never eat them, in great detail. And that’s fine! Read More…

The M.U.S.C.L.E. Battlin’ Belt!

M.U.S.C.L.E. — that’s Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere — is one of my favorite toy lines ever. Imported from Japan where they had a more richly defined story, I prefer the simplified version we got in the States: They were just piles of wacky, nameless wrestlers, nearly as inexpensive to collect as Garbage Pail Kids, but 800 times more fun.

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Most typically sold in 4-packs, M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were also sold in 10-pack cans and 28-pack boxed sets. Barely more than an inch tall, they were essentially super detailed vending machine toys. The toys were made cheap and sold cheap, so any kid who collected M.U.S.C.L.E. figures didn’t just “have a few.” We all had tons of them. That was partly the point.

Raise your hand if you ever commandeered a giant LEGO bucket for your M.U.S.C.L.E. toys. Actually, don’t bother. Didn’t we all?

M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were originally sold in a fleshy pink color, but after the line took off and Mattel saw an opening, all of the wrestlers were re-released in various neon colors. (I don’t think any kid preferred the wild colors, and to this day, the flesh-colored M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are far more popular.)

In Japan, most if not all of the characters had names, allegiances and explanations. In the States, their identities were pretty much up to us. We knew that the main good guy was “Muscle Man” and that the main bad guy was “Terri-Bull,” but beyond that, all we could do was look at the figures and decide for ourselves what they were about.

That was no easy task! The beauty of the line was in how absolutely bizarre it was. Some of the figures appeared roughly human, but most didn’t. One M.U.S.C.L.E. guy looked like a building; another resembled a giant claw. Then there was the one who appeared to have a teacup for a head. Since the three I just mentioned were some of the most popular, “nonsensicality” was one of the line’s biggest draws.

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Most people who collected the figures only collected the figures, ignoring Mattel’s few attempts to branch out beyond them. I’ve already covered the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring, where two M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers squared off in a miniaturized, extra weird version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots.

Today, I want to focus on Mattel’s other big extra. A little thing called the Battlin’ Belt.

Remembering that M.U.S.C.L.E. was about wrestling at heart, most of the accessories played into that. The Battlin’ Belt was essentially a carrying case, but it was made to look like an honest-to-goodness championship belt. Specifically, the one Ric Flair wore in the NWA. Sure, his was a lot bigger, but his didn’t come with little plastic pockets full of tiny pink monsters. Nor did you have to take headbutts from Harley Race to get it. Read More…

10 things KB Toys sold in 1998!

kbrightI don’t think many of us realized just how wonderful KB Toys was until it went kaput. In fact, things that once seemed annoying about the chain became somehow charming in its wake. (The disorganized clutter! The reliance on old stock that hadn’t been in production for years! The six different price stickers on every single item!)

When KB stores were doing those firesales prior to shutting down, it wasn’t that much different from how they’d been operating all along.

KB had new stuff and even its share of exclusives, but the overall ambiance was that of a discount center. People like me rushed past anything resembling a “current” item for the glories of the back aisles, where comparatively ancient toys begged to be adopted. It was glorious!

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…which leads me to today’s topic, which I guess falls under a category of Deadsites.

KB Toys didn’t go out of business until 2009, so it’s no surprise that they had a major internet presence prior to that. Its online identity wasn’t far apart from the real world version. When looking for new things, it always seemed to be our last resort. (Hell, I’ve been buying Christmas presents online for around 15 years now, and not once can I remember doing it through KB Toys.)

Still, its web presence had the same charm as the actual stores, with wild discounts, loose categories and an overall lack of polish.

What you’re looking at up above is a screenshot of KB Toys’ website from 1998, when they were first getting their feet wet with online selling. Actually, that isn’t even true, because the whole point of the site was to drive people to their brick-and-mortar locations. There were no virtual shopping carts, nor any way to order anything online. What remained was essentially a virtual circular, and my God, did I ever enjoy flipping clicking through its pages!

Below are ten toys promoted on KB’s website back in 1998. May they fill you with as much nostalgic joy as they did me.

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#1: Aliens Figures!

Nothing screams “KB Toys” quite like Kenner’s Aliens figures marked down to goofy prices. Certainly many of you will remember seeing these beauts scattered around the store, usually in dented packaging. I’ve only recently begun to appreciate how awesome that line was, so I’m retroactively mad at myself for skipping these sales. Three Aliens figures for ten bucks? Even by 1998 standards, that was INSANE. Read More…

HALLOWEEN, 2014!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

For once in my life, I actually have plans tonight, so you’ll forgive me if this post has six more typos than usual.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Dinosaur Dracula’s 2014 Halloween Countdown! To tell you the truth, I’m not at all ready for it to end. Even with over 40 reviews in the can, I’d collected enough goodies for at least 15 more. I mean, I didn’t even get to write about the most ‘80s Halloween commercial ever!

(Thanks, Larry P., for donating that one. I cannot unsee it.)

But I guess the finiteness is part of what makes this season so special, right? If we were surrounded by Halloween all year, maybe its shine would dim. Maybe we’d stop being excited about plastic pails and dead leaves and little packets of Peanut M&M’s. I guess what I’m saying is… PLEASE GOD, GIVE US ONE MORE MONTH.

I came into this season wondering if it could ever top 2013’s, and while I’m not sure that is has, it’s come pretty damn close. Ghostbusters Donuts! Cheetos shaped like bones! Chia Zombies! And that’s just for starters! A solid 9 out of 10 for the 2014 Halloween season, and the only reason it isn’t a 10 is because I want people to think I put thought into the number.

Of course, Halloween is about more than the stuff you find in stores. It’s also about all of the little moments you create. I hope your season was full of chilly walks, pumpkin carving, scary movies on stormy nights, cocktails colored to resemble blood, and maybe a few solid hours with paper and crayons.

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I’ve had a blast with this year’s Countdown. I always leave it wishing I’d done more, but, all told, I’m pretty happy with this year’s “website haul.” I hope you are, too. These are some of the site’s busiest months, but what makes the Countdown so special to me is that a fair number of you look to it for your “Halloween fix.” I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this, because your patronage justified me devoting two entire months to nothing but Halloween. Which, if you think about it, was reward enough in itself.

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Poor Shrunken Apple Head is getting the shaft this year. Longtime readers know that it’s his birthday. I typically devote an entire post to the celebration, but there just wasn’t time. Sorry, buddy. I’ll make it up to you in November. I’ll take you to Costco and let you sample everything twice.

And speaking of narrowly missed marks, there are a few things I gotta plug before October ends!

#1: You can hear me on the Nerd Lunch Podcast’s Halloween episode. It’s me and three other guys. More accurately, it’s three guys with a fourth guy who’d very obviously never done a podcast before. Hear us talk about everything from Halloween costumes to Halloween candy! Thanks, Nerd Lunch, for like, letting me ramble like incoherently like.

#2: I spent most of the season watching familiar movies that I’ve already seen ten billion times, but Meet Me There was a new one. And a great one. I’m biased since my friend Brandon wrote it, but still! Meet Me There is sort of a psychological thriller mashed with a out-of-our-element horror movie, and as an added bonus, it features Dustin Runnels of WWE fame. It’s not available just yet, but I recommend putting it on your radar!

#3: I’ve plugged this before, but one last blast before it’s passé: I played a tiny part in The Sexy Armpit’s 2014 Halloween special, which is hilarious and also features cameos from some of my favorite internet people. Go check it out!

#4: Not really a “plug,” but just a catchall “thank you” to all of the people who helped promote the site during the Countdown, whether through retweets or Facebook shares or blog posts or high-priced skywriting. Super appreciated!

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I’ve been running giveaways for those Dinosaur Dracula trading cards, but it looks like fell short of my goal of 15. Let’s make up for that with this post. Today, I’m giving away FOUR sets! All you have to do is comment to enter. (Sorry, “n/t” or bullshit comments aren’t counted!) I’ll randomly select four winners on November 1st at 3PM. If you want to enter but don’t know what to talk about, just tell the world what you’re doing for Halloween.

(And thank you again, Magic Steve and friends, for doing such a terrific job on these!)

Halloween falling on a Friday is just so weird. Not weird in a bad way, but… weird. Will we successfully extend it into a weekend-long celebration, or will reading “November 1” on the calendar tomorrow effectively kill our spirit? I think you should play it safe and do as many Halloweeny things as possible, TODAY.

Even if you curl up on the couch with the lights off to watch the excessively trimmed network airing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, that’s good enough for me. Just don’t waste a day like this. You only get a day like this once a year.

Dinosaur Dracula will soon move onto its next season, but before it does, let’s raise our glasses to Halloween. The greatest time of year. I can’t wait to buy so much spooky shit for 75% off tomorrow.

Have an excellent Halloween!

Worried about the post-Halloween blues? Subscribing to Dino Drac’s monthly Funpacks could be the solution! Sign up now, and you’ll start with the November 2014 Funpack! Just a few days left to subscribe!

Five Ghoulish Ghostbusters Goodies!

Thanks largely to the media blitz surrounding its 30th anniversary, Ghostbusters seems hotter than ever. You know how I’m always saying that every Halloween season has “one thing” that ultimately sets it apart from every other Halloween season? In 2014, it’s gotta be Ghostbusters.

Let’s review. The movie returned to theaters. Krispy Kreme made some legendary donuts. There’s more GB merchandise now than ever before, since “doodad makers” have the luxury of catering both to kids and to old idiots like me. Tack on the confirmation of a new movie, and yeah, it’s been a great few months for GB fans.

All of the buzz inspired me to do one last Ghostbusters post before Halloween, so here are five random GB items from my collection. I’ve had some of these things for years, but most were recent pickups. You reading about them justifies me buying them, so thanks in advance!

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#1: Stay Puft Glow Mask! (1986)

I admit that I paid too much for this mostly-broken Halloween mask, but how could I resist? It’s Stay Puft! And, to the best of my knowledge, it’s pretty rare.

Cheap, plastic masks remind me of my earliest Halloweens, back when the ol’ mask-and-smock combo was the In Thing. (You know the kind. You’d get a crude plastic mask based on your favorite cartoon character, along with what was essentially an enormous lobster bib.) Had I spotted this Stay Puft gear back in ‘86, I most definitely would’ve been a Marshmallow Man for Halloween.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a face this mask would fit. Even imagining myself with the head of a four-year-old, there’s just no way. I think it was sold less on the basis of “hey wear this” and more on the basis of “hey buy this because it’s a glow-in-the-dark Stay Puft head.” Challenge accepted, albeit 28 years late.

I can’t envision a scenario wherein I’d ever have a taxidermied deer head in my house, but I’m going to hang this mask in exactly the same fashion. It’s a trophy I can be proud of, and when I get up in the middle of the night to eat half a brick’s worth of Cracker Barrel cheese, Stay Puft’s faint glow will keep me from stubbing my toes on table legs. Read More…