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Archive for May, 2008

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Magic Drawing Slates

Posted by Big Boo on May 22nd, 2008

Magic Drawing SlateOK, so there’s obviously nothing that magical about the Magic Drawing Slate, but they are a lot of fun to play with just the same. I fondly remember these toys from my childhood, although they were clearly around for many years before the 1980’s had begun, dating back to at least the 1950’s and possibly even further. They are such simple toys, and fairly inexpensive, so most kids have probably owned one at some point in their life.

The Magic Slate consists of a piece of grey acetate like sheet laid on top of another darker layer of a more rubbery construction. Using the tip of a plastic stylus on the acetate, it was possible to draw pictures, as the stylus would cause the acetate to gently stick to the underlying layer only where the stylus had been used. The sticking together of the two materials meant it was now easier to see the under layer through the acetate, thus giving the impression you had drawn something.

When you had finished drawing your picture it could then be erased simply by separating the acetate from the rubbery layer, thus stopping the two layers sticking together and yielding a blank sheet again. On some magic slates this was simply a case of peeling the acetate up and laying it flat again, whilst others encased the whole lot in a frame and provided a plastic slider that could be slid from one side of the slate to the other to separate the two layers.

Obviously the magic slate was limited to only being able to draw in one colour, but I believe there were some that had a rainbow effect applied to the rubbery layer so your lines changed colour depending on where they were drawn on the slate. I also remember seeing a similar idea where the acetate was replaced by a piece of neon pink plastic, which allowed bright pink coloured lines to be drawn on a slightly lighter pink coloured background.

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Posted by Big Boo on May 21st, 2008

AirwolfA particularly popular style of US TV show in the 1980’s were the “big black high-tech vehicle” shows. Initially popularised by Knight Rider, the largest form of transport to follow this pattern was the helicopter, represented by Airwolf.

Airwolf was an experimental helicopter built by a company called The F.I.R.M, who were actually a branch of the CIA. The aircraft was heavily armed and capable of flying at supersonic speeds (its maximum speed was MACH 2 apparently, twice the speed of sound, and theoretically impossible for a helicopter to achieve). It was also endowed with some stealth capabilities, such as near silent running

The story of Airwolf starts to unfold when it is stolen back by its creator. The F.I.R.M, represented by a man codenamed Archangel, turn to Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent), a now retired test pilot who was originally involved in the testing of Airwolf, to try and get the helicopter back. Hawke is content to live in his remote lakeside home, playing his cello, but agrees to help in exchange for The F.I.R.M tracking down his brother Saint John, who has been missing in action since Vietnam.

Stringfellow and his older friend Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine) manage to track down and recover Airwolf, or “The Lady” as the helicopter was sometimes referred to, but since The F.I.R.M have not managed to find Stringfellow’s brother he decides to keep Airwolf himself, hiding it away in the crater of a dormant volcano. The F.I.R.M aren’t happy about this, but come to an agreement with Stringfellow whereby they get him to run missions for them in Airwolf in return for a guarantee of protection from other agencies who also want to get their hands on the helicopter.

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Marble Solitaire

Posted by Big Boo on May 20th, 2008

Marble SolitaireMy uncle had one of these when I was a child and I remember that I used to always love playing with it whenever we went to visit. As the name of the game suggests it is a single player game, and is one that is incredibly simple to learn but incredibly hard to complete. You start with a cross shaped arrangement of marbles, with the middle marble missing. You can then remove marbles from the board by jumping other marbles over them horizontally or vertically. To complete the game you should end up with a single marble left on the board, occupying the central space.

I must have played this game hundreds of times, and I don’t think I ever completed it perfectly once. I certainly got down to having two or three marbles left on the board several times, and maybe even a single marble in the wrong position once or twice. This didn’t matter though because the game took such a short amount of time to play that you could always have another go really quickly.

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Posted by Big Boo on May 19th, 2008

a-ha Take on MeNorwegian band a-ha formed in 1982 and comprised lead vocalist Morten Harket, guitarist Paul Waaktaar and keyboard player Magne Furuholmen. The band are still together today, and have been throughout apart from a period of four years between 1994 and 1998. The band took their name from the exclamation a-ha, like you say when you suddenly realise the solution to a problem.

It was in 1985 that the band really hit the big time with the release of their biggest hit, Take On Me. Not only was it a great song but it also had an exceptional video to go along with it. The video centred around a young girl reading a comic in a cafe. She ends up being literally pulled into the comic, and the video then becomes a mix of live action and animation. There’s one particularly memorable part where there is a kind of window in the comic book world. When the animated version of Harket moves behind this window he becomes real. It’s hard to explain, but check out the video at the end of this post to see what I mean.

Take On Me topped the charts in several countries including the US, Australia, Japan and the bands home Norway. It only managed to get to number 2 in the UK charts on it’s original release, which given the amount it was played at the time I’m really surprised about.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Were you a Barbie-Girl or a Sindy-Girl?

Posted by Big Boo on May 17th, 2008

Firstly I’m not going to bother detailing the winner of our previous survey as it turns out I misunderstood the way the survey plug-in I’m using works! I thought only a single survey could be active at any one time, but it seems this is not the case. This is good though, since it means the surveys can carry on indefinitely, which seems like much more fun to me.

This week I’m interested to find out from all the girls whether they consider themselves a fan of those two arch rivals in the dress up doll department, Barbie and Sindy. If you’re a boy then you can always get your better half to vote, or vote for your sister or something.

Of course, if you’re a boy and you happened to have your own Sindy or Barbie doll, then vote for your own particular preference… 😉

Were you a Barbie-girl or a Sindy-girl?
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Posted by Big Boo on May 16th, 2008

CrackerjackIt’s Friday, it’s five to five, it’s…

Love it or hate it, Crackerjack (Crackerjack!) managed to notch up almost 30 years on the old goggle box. It originally started way back in 1955 in glorious monochrome, hosted by none other than the late Eamonn Andrews, who you will more likely remember as the man with the red book who surprised celebrities on This Is Your Life. Perhaps your parents watched it too?

Crackerjack (Crackerjack!) was a kids variety show featuring comedy sketches, music and competitions. As the years went by it featured many stars who became household names in the UK. Max Bygraves, Leslie Crowther, Michael Aspel and Ed “Stewpot” Stewart all hosted, whilst comedians such as Don Maclean (no, not the singer), Ronnie Corbett and Bernie Clifton (the guy who was always “riding” a fake ostrich) plied their trade in front of the kids. Most of these names featured before the 1980’s, but I felt they were worth a mention in order to demonstrate the long history of the show.

In the 1980’s we were treated (if that is the right word) to the hosting skills of Stu Francis, a slightly camp comedian who seemed to have come straight from being a children’s entertainer at a holiday camp. Stu played on his general lack of butchness with his seemingly endless stream of catchphrases ranging from “Ooh! I could wrestle an Action Man!” through to the most famous example of “Ooh! I could crush a grape!“. Catchphrases were always a big part of Crackerjack’s (Crackerjack!) appeal though, as all the kids in the studio audience were expected to shout out the name of the show whenever anybody said it. OK, I know it’s a lame joke to do this in the written word, but that’s not going to stop me!

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The Fraggle Rock Movie

Posted by Big Boo on May 15th, 2008

Funny, it was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about Fraggle Rock, and what should I spy today in the paper but news that there’s a Fraggle Rock movie in production!

There wasn’t much revealed about the film but it sounds as if the Fraggles may be leaving the safety of their caves to follow Uncle Travelling Matt into the world of the Silly Creatures of Outer Space, or our normal everyday world as we know it.

I’m not sure what to make of this really.  It’s not like today’s kids will probably have much of a clue as to what a Fraggle is, and if the above plot is true then I have some concerns.  What about the Gorgs, the Doozers and the Trash Heap?  Will they come along for the ride too?  I hope so because I always liked those characters more than the Fraggles themselves.  My other fear is that the Fraggles end up befriending some annoying bowl cutted child actor who explains the world of the humans to them.  Please God!  Anything but that.

One thing that will be interesting to see is if they bother to film different bits for different countries, given that the caves connected to a lighthouse in the UK version, but an inventors workshop in the US version of the series, for example.  My money is on it being none of these, with the Fraggles finding a new entrance to our world.

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Posted by Big Boo on May 15th, 2008

Gameboy TetrisThere can’t be many people who haven’t played or at least heard of Tetris. The game is such a simple idea that anybody can play it, even if they might not be very good at it.

The premise is simple. Starting with an empty screen, different shaped blocks fall from the top one at a time. The player can move the blocks from side to side as the fall, and also rotate them through 90 degree turns. When the block reaches the bottom of the screen, or lands atop a previously dropped block it stops moving. The idea is to slot the pieces together in order to build an unbroken horizontal line, which will then disappear causing all blocks above it to move down a line. The player must continually perform this task with the blocks gradually falling faster down the screen, not allowing the screen to become filled to the top. If this occurs the game is over.

Tetris originated in Russia, created by Alexey Pajitnov, and whilst it isn’t the only game to have emerged from there it sure does feel like it sometimes. Over the years the various versions of the game have capitalised on the games origins by using Russian imagery such as pointy domed buildings and Cossack dancers, and by featuring music with a Soviet feel. Whilst it certainly wasn’t the first version of the game, the original Nintendo Gameboy version is often held up as being the perfect version of Tetris, and is surely the reason why Nintendo’s handheld gaming device was initially so popular, given that it shipped with a copy of the game.

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