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Archive for April, 2011

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Space Harrier

Posted by Big Boo on April 29th, 2011

Space HarrierI always looked forward to our family summer holidays at the seaside. One of the big highlights for me was being let loose to go around the amusement arcades that litter most British coastal towns, as it was one of the only chances I got each year to see the latest arcade videogames, which in those days were soooo much better than anything you could play at home (at least graphically).

One year my jaw dropped immediately when I saw Sega’s Space Harrier. There was a big crowd around the machine and rightly so, as Space Harrier was certainly a game to behold, not just because of it’s then amazing graphics, but more because of the hydraulic chair that you had to sit in to play the game.

At the time those simulator rides where you sit in a capsule and get tipped about whilst watching a piece of video (usually of a rollercoaster or a high speed car chase) and Space Harrier was basically that kind of idea scaled down to accommodate just one person.

Once strapped into the game’s chair, you had a big aircraft style joystick between your knees to grab hold of. Pulling the stick unsurprisingly moved your on screen character (a cool looking dude in red shirt and blue trousers and armed with a huge gun that also somehow enabled him to fly) but it also tipped the chair you were sitting in up, down, left and right, thus putting you off your game in the process.

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Only Fools and Horses

Posted by Big Boo on April 27th, 2011

Only Fools And HorsesWith the news that writer John Sullivan passed away on April 23rd, I thought I would today look at his most famous piece of work, Only Fools and Horses.

First airing in 1981, Only Fools And Horses probably needs no introduction. Charting the misadventures of “entrepreneur” Derek “Del Boy” Trotter (David Jason) and his long suffering brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst), seven series of the sitcom were made, the last being shown in 1991. This was then followed with several Christmas special episodes, with the last of those airing in 2003.

The show and it’s characters have become somewhat of a British institution, and even if you’ve never watched the show in your life you are sure to recognise the names of Trotters Independent Trading Del Boy and “plonker” Rodney, and if you ever happen to see one of those three wheeler Reliant Robin cars you’ll no doubt first think of Only Fools And Horses.

When the show first aired Del Boy and Rodney shared their flat in Nelson Mandela House with their Grandad (Lennard Pearce), a bit of an old moaner who used to sit glued to his armchair watching TV most of the time. He came out with some great one liners though. When Lennard Pearce died the next series wanted to keep the generation gap comedy, so Grandad’s brother, Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield) came to stay with the Trotter boys. He had been in the merchant Navy, and often bored everyone who would listen with some story from “in the war”.

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Elisabeth Sladen 1946-2011

Posted by Big Boo on April 21st, 2011

Elisabeth SladenIt is with a degree of shock that I’m writing this, as when I first read that Elisabeth Sladen had died of cancer I thought I must have been reading it wrong. How could this possibly be the case when The Sarah Jane Adventures has just won an award for best Children’s drama at the Royal Television Society Awards.

But true it sadly is. One of Doctor Who’s best loved assistants (perhaps even the best loved), when Elisabeth Sladen reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the rebooted Doctor Who it was almost as if she had just travelled forward in time in the TARDIS herself. She looked almost exactly how you remembered her looking back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, and certainly not like a woman in her Sixties!

Elisabeth first appeared as Sarah Jane in 1973, alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, when previous assistant Jo Grant (Katy Manning) decided to leave the series. Sarah Jane Smith was an uncompromising journalist who gave the Doctor a good run for his money, putting him in his place on occasion.

Amazingly she was only on Doctor Who for three years, leaving in 1976 with Tom Baker now playing the timelord. This apparently made front page news, something which was usual reserved for the regenerating Doctor. I guess it feels like she was on the show for so much longer partly because they made a lot more episodes per season back then, but also because she was such a good assistant.

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Posted by Big Boo on April 20th, 2011

BarbapapaYou’ll need to be an older Child of the 1980’s to remember this one (i.e. you were actually born in the Seventies), but I’m including it because it was one of those things I have very fond memories of from my childhood, even though those memories are lacking in any real clarity of details. All I really remember is that at the time, I loved it!

Barbapapa was a series of originally French language books, and later a cartoon series (which is how I mainly remember it), created by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor. The first book was published in 1970, whilst the most recent appeared as recently as 2005!

So who is this Barbapapa then? Well, he’s a big pink blob, who’s natural shape appears to be something like a pear. I say natural shape as he has the ability to squish and mould himself into any shape he chooses (a bit like The New Shmoo, another obscure reference for you there).

Whilst something big, pink and amorphous might seem terrifying, Barbapapa was anything but. He was a friendly sort who liked to help out people with problems however he could, which usually meant he would transform himself into some object or other that would prove particularly useful for the situation at hand.

He may well of started off on his own, but it wasn’t long before he got himself a family. First he met Barbamama, a female blob who was jet black in colour, and with curves that suggested a more feminine form. I guess the writers probably regretted their choice of colour for Barbapapa at this point, as pink might have made more sense for a female of the species, but there you go. However along with her shape, she also wore a ring of flowers around the top of her head, to make her look just a little more girl like.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Hubba Bubba

Posted by Big Boo on April 18th, 2011

Hubba BubbaI’ve never been good at blowing bubbles with bubble gum. It’s just something I can’t seem to do, no matter how hard I try. My only explanation for this is that I’m one of those people who can’t curl their tongue up at the sides, which I seem to recall was used as an example of genetics when I did Biology at school.

However, bubble blower or not, I still enjoyed the odd piece of bubble gum to chew on now and again, and Hubba Bubba was most definitely one of the nicer varieties available. A lot of bubble gum either tasted bad or was very hard to get chewing (or both), a good example of this being Bazooka.

Hubba Bubba was different, in that it was fairly soft from the very first chew, and all the different varieties of it had a pleasant and long lasting taste. Each packet contained five pieces, which were of a fairly decent chunky size. It was also supposed to be really good for blowing bubbles (not that I can vouch for that) since it’s slogan was “Big bubbles, no troubles“.

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Commodore 64 Relaunched

Posted by Big Boo on April 15th, 2011

New Commodore 64Given that we’ve just had April Fools Day, my immediate reaction on reading the news that the Commodore 64 was about to be relaunched was that it must have been a joke that was just slow in getting to me. But no, apparently it is no joke and the good old Commodore 64 is indeed coming back.

Except of course it isn’t. Not really. Sure Commodore are bringing back something that looks like a Commodore 64, right down to the little red power LED at the top right of the machine, but look closer and you’ll notice the keyboard isn’t quite right (four cursor keys and five function keys – I remember having to use shift to move the cursor up and left) and the ports on the side and back of the machine look distinctly PC like.

Yep, it is of course modern PC components somehow squeezed into a C64 shaped shell. That said, it isn’t quite as clean cut as being a Windows based PC. I’ve read that it presumably can run Windows, but when you buy it you get a version of the Linux operating system, whilst we’re waiting for Commodore OS to turn up.

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Sylvanian Families

Posted by Big Boo on April 13th, 2011

Sylvanian FamiliesBefore I go to far I have to admit I always thought of Sylvanian Families as a toy from the Nineties, but no, it is indeed a product of the Eighties. I think the reason I think this is because it did enjoy a period of high popularity at around the same time as things like the Ty Beanie Babies, mainly due to adults starting to collect toys proactively.

The Sylvanian Families range of toys harks originally from Japan, and comprises a number of sets of animal families, all anthropomorphised to look more human. For the most part the animals are of the woodland variety, so there are bears, squirrels and hedgehogs, but you can also get dogs, cats and even penguins.

The dolls stand at around 10cm high, and are covered in a very short flock material to make them feel furry. Unusually for this sort of toy, though in keeping with it’s name, you buy the dolls in family sets usually consisting of mother, father, son and daughter. They are even given a family surname.

However, whilst the animal families are a big part of the appeal of Sylvanian Families, the big draw for many is the huge range of additional things you can get to go with the dolls. The concept behind these toys actually owes more to old fashioned dolls houses then to collectable figures.

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What Happened On The Day You Were Born?

Posted by Big Boo on April 11th, 2011

historic newspapersWhat do you get for the Child of the 1980’s that has everything? A 3D TV? Too expensive! Some new socks? Come on, no one enjoys getting socks for their birthday. How about a newspaper from the day they were born?

A great idea, but it’s not like you can just pop down to the newsagents, pop your money on the counter and ask for a copy of The Mirror from 1983 is it? They don’t tend to keep newspapers in stock for more than, let me see, a day?

Never fear, for Historic Newspapers are on hand to provide exactly this service. They have a vast archive of just about every big UK newspaper you can think of, dating back in some instances to 1810, so even if you’re buying for a Child of the 1880’s (unlikely I know) then you are probably still in luck.

It’s a great idea for a present, not just for birthdays but also for anniversaries of special occasions, or simply something to buy for yourself so you can find out what was happening in the world on the day you were born. I certainly have no idea what the big news was on my birthday, and I think it would be fascinating to find out.

And don’t go thinking that all you’re getting is a copy. No, Historic Newspapers sell original copies, so you can be sure that you really are buying some pages from history! With a range of presentation options, you really are sure to find something to suit that person who has everything.