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Archive for August, 2008

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Best Blue Peter Presenter

Posted by Big Boo on August 30th, 2008

Amazingly Blue Peter has been running for 50 years come October this year, and whilst I haven’t seen it recently I can’t imagine it has changed a whole lot – I just hope it still has the same theme song! Anyway, this weeks survey is to find out who was the most popular Blue Peter presenter during the 1980’s. The list below should be a complete list of all the presenters who were on the show during this period, and I find it surprising how many of them are still well known today, although not always for good reasons.

Caron Keating died of cancer in 2004, whilst John Leslie has had some pretty severe allegations levelled against him for rape. Peter Duncan is currently leader of the Boy Scouts, whilst Yvette Fielding is now better known for trying to track down ghosts in Most Haunted. If you know what any of the others have been up to recently (maybe you are one of them!) then feel free to post a comment below to let us all know!

The best Blue Peter presenter from the 1980s was?
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Posted by Big Boo on August 29th, 2008

ALF - Gordon ShumwayWise cracking alien ALF hit our screens in 1986, and to this day is one of my favourite US sitcoms. It ran for four series and also spawned a film entitled Project ALF, and told the story of an alien who’s home planet Melmac had been destroyed and was now living on Earth, hiding out with an average American family called the Tanners.

ALF was of course a puppet, though an extremely well made and believable one. He was created by Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco, and indeed Fusco was also main puppeteer. Ocassionally, as on the title sequence, a full body shot was required which was achieved by having a dwarf actor in a suit.

The name ALF wasn’t actually the name of our alien chum, instead it was an abbreviation for Alien Life Form. Whilst the Tanners insisted on calling him ALF, his real name was actually the rather more ordinary sounding Gordon Shumway. After Melmac had been destroyed ALF found his way to Earth by tracking a radio signal. Willie Tanner (played by Max Wright) was the head of the Tanner clan, and he had a HAM radio setup which was what ALF had detected and followed to Earth.

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Jaws The Game

Posted by Big Boo on August 28th, 2008

Jaws GameOK, this game predates the 1980’s a little, but I remember having it as a child and enjoyed it immensely, so I’m going to tell you about it anyway. The game was a licensed game to accompany the classic movie Jaws, but instead of the aim of being to catch a killer shark, it was actually more like a playful approach to shark dentistry.

Probably the closest comparison to the Jaws game is Buckaroo, although it’s kind of a reverse Buckaroo as your trying to remove items instead of add them. The game consisted of a cool plastic shark with a flappy mouth that snapped shut thanks to a couple of elastic bands, and a variety of different objects such as a bone, a gun, a broken wheel, an anchor and various other martime related items.

To play the game you pulled the sharks mouth open and dumped all the items inside, which weighed it down enough to remain open. Players then took it in turns to carefully remove an item from the sharks gaping maw using a plastic hook, that did look surprisingly like one of those pointy tools that dentists use to scrape the plaque of your teeth. If you weren’t careful the sharks mouth would suddenly snap shut, trapping the hook and making all the players jump out of their skins!

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Crocodile Dundee

Posted by Big Boo on August 27th, 2008

Crocodile DundeeCrocodile Dundee was a box office smash when it was released in 1986, taking the entire world by storm with the tale of Australian Outback bushman brought to New York to experience city life. It was originally created as an attempt to make an Australian film that would be popular in the US, and was made with less than $10 million dollars, a tiny budget in film terms. It went on to be the highest grossing film of that year!

The film starts with journalist Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) travelling to Australia to meet with Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee (Paul Hogan), a heroic bushman who has supposedly survived an attack by a crocodile, losing a leg in the process. Somewhere along the line she has been misled, as it turns out that Mick Dundee has not actually lost a leg, although he does have a rather large bite mark instead. He also doesn’t seem to be all that heroic, as he gets into a fight soon after meeting her.

Hoping to make a story out of Mick, Sue gets him and his employer Wally, owner of a tour company, to take her on a tour of the bush. Mick initially impresses her by telling the time of day by looking at the position of the sun (although he actually looked at Wally’s watch before saying anything) and by hypnotising a buffalo blocking the road by waving his hand in front of its face and make a strange noise. He also saves her from death when she is attacked by a crocodile whilst standing rather too close to a lake.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The Littlest Hobo

Posted by Big Boo on August 26th, 2008

The Littlest HoboThe Littlest Hobo is a well remembered show from the early 1980’s that follows the adventures of a stray german shepherd dog as it travels across America making friends with different humans with problems that the dog somehow manages to help them sort out. Once that weeks adoptive owner had been helped, off the dog went to find another needy human to help.

In the average episode it seemed that the human being helped would normally choose a name for the dog, which always seemed to be something like “lucky” or “champ”, usually chosen because the dog just happened to turn up at a time of need and would help the human achieve some goal they were struggling with. The real name of the dog actor (for want of a better phrase) that portrayed The Littlest Hobo was actually London however.

Whilst there were obvious similarities to that other famous dog star Lassie, I always preferred The Littlest Hobo. Lassie always bored me, as it seemed to just be about some stupid kid getting into trouble every week and the dog coming to the rescue. I also always thought Lassie sounded really sad when she whined. The Littlest Hobo may have been similar in so far as the dog helped a human out of some scrape each week, but at least it was a different human each week, so the storylines seemed less repetitive than Lassie.

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Pogo Ball

Posted by Big Boo on August 25th, 2008

Pogo ball or lolo ball?No, that isn’t a deformed and brightly coloured picture of the planet Saturn accompanying this post, but instead one of the most ridiculous toy crazes to hit during the 1980’s. Take a disc of thick durable plastic and stick two rubber footballs that have been joined together through the middle to produce the Pogo Ball, or Lolo Ball as it was original called I believe.

To use a Pogo Ball you had to balance on the plastic foot stand, grip the top ball between your ankles, and then jump up and down in order to travel about. Sounds simple in theory, but in practice getting started was the hard part, whilst keeping going was the very hard part. All that jumping was extremely tiring, so the Pogo Ball was never going to become a major form of transport.

I guess the Pogo Ball could be considered as being part Pogo Stick and part Space Hopper. Personally I found the Space Hopper easy and therefore more fun to play with. My skill level with the Pogo Stick could probably be described as pre-beginner, and I didn’t do much better with the Pogo Ball either, in fact probably worse. On a pogo stick you at least had a handle to hold on to, but with the Pogo Ball you had to hold on with just your ankles. Now, hands are infinitely better at holding on to things than ankles. Its what hands were designed to do. Ankles on the other hand are merely boney lumps with little gripping power, so I usually found myself becoming separated from the Pogo Ball in mid-air, and therefore came crashing down fairly often.

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Can YOU Do The Cube?

Posted by Big Boo on August 23rd, 2008

The Rubik’s Cube was one of the most popular toys of the 1980’s, and whilst it may have been simple to play with, it was damn near impossible for most of us to solve without either resorting to a solution book, peeling off stickers or prising it apart and reassembling. What I want to know is was there anyone out there reading this who was actually able to solve the thing unaided?

Did you ever manage to complete the Rubik's Cube (without cheating)?
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Mystic Drawing

Posted by Big Boo on August 22nd, 2008

Mystic Drawing BooksFirstly, apologies for my poor artwork but hopefully you’ll recognise what I’m writing about today from the accompanying image. Mystic Drawing books were a close relative of the Magic Painting books, except instead of using a paintbrush and water you used a bog standard pencil.

Each page initially appeared blank, but when you rubbed a pencil softly over the page lines would magically appear on the paper. By covering the entire page in this way you eventually revealed a cartoon like picture. You did have to be gentle with your colouring though, as pressing too hard meant the revealed lines and your shading would be too similar and the effect wouldn’t work quite so well.

I’m not exactly sure how Mystic Drawing worked, but the pages were very shiny and if you caught the line on them right you could actually see where the lines would appear when you coloured over it. I think it may have been as simple as the lines being “printed” as a slightly rougher surface, so when your pencil strayed across more graphite was left behind and the line was therefore revealed. The shiny surface of the paper did mean it was kind of difficult to colour in the picture after you had revealed it all, but one option (if you cheated and looked sideways at the page to see the final picture) was to use coloured pencils to fill in different lines in different colours.

I guess the modern equivalent of this would be those mini games you get in some games on the Nintendo DS, where you wiggle the stylus across the screen to reveal a picture or brush dust out of the way. Games such as Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, Wario Ware Touched and Another Code spring to mind has having sections which reminded me of the many happy hours I spent completing a Mystic Drawing book.