Source: My childhood sadness.
When you are a kid (or, let's be honest, an adult), you will be getting toys. Some of them are amazingly timeless: the slinky, TMNT figures, and Star Wars vehicles. Some of them are undeniable trash heaps from the depths of toy hell. How do we sort the wheat for the chaff?
Well... toys are toys, and even the worst pieces of crap can be fun. You know it. I know it. Imagine the worst toy you ever got, and then remember how much fun it was. Either you ended up loving it or you had a blast blowing it up with a firecracker (Editor's Note: Kids, don't do that.). The point is, that pile of poop grew a pretty flower... or maybe just a decently enjoyable weed.
See what I did there? Snicker.
Plastic dinosaurs are garbage. I mean, think about it. You buy a bag of scientifically inaccurate reptiles that are mostly dinosaurs, but also contain a bunch of things that aren't dinosaurs, like pterodactyls, pleisiosaurs, and mammoths. It may be splitting hairs but when you buy plastic army men, you'd be pretty bummed if you were actually getting mostly army men and a few plastic insurance adjusters and maybe a plastic electrical engineer. At least a cool animal that isn't a dinosaur is still a cool animal. Sorry, plastic lunch lady. You're not nearly as much fun as the army guy with the mortar that came in every single package.
Why were these crappy? First off, they were about $1 for maybe 7 or 8 garishly colored dinosaurs that probably couldn't even stand. I distinctly remember something vaguely Tyrannosaurus rex-ish that immediately fell over, saddled with pathetically useless bent legs. I also had some magenta pterodactyl that (hey, A for effort) had feathers... Jagged, sharp feathers. They certainly had a hair-like covering, but not full on flight feathers found only on their backs.
These were, well, junk.
Awesome. Stupendous junk. The best part was that you could get a package of poorly made plastic dinosaurs that also came with a barely usable land mat, some broken palm trees, and a volcano made out of the same kind of plastic as bread ties. Now that, my friends, is childhood gold. You just know Grandma Nerdbot was going to agree to get you that crap for $4. I mean, c'mon, it's SCIENCE. Then you spend the afternoon stomping around in the dirt, eating bugs with the malformed mouths, and reliving a past that never quite happened that way.
And now, hell, you can line them up on your desk at work. Because dinosaurs.
THIS AWFUL DENNIS NEDRY FIGURE
It isn't just this picture, but there's an entire population of completely inaccurate movie figures. History lesson to anyone under 18: back in the 60's through 90's, people didn't give a crap how accurate toys were, as long as they sold. These entirely inaccurate hunks of junk are the pricier version of plastic dinosaurs.
Executive 1: "That character didn't have a gun. He was a computer systems... something... and..."
Executive 2: "Kids know dick. Give it an action feature and sell it for $7.99."
That's how we get Nedry, how a reasonably in shape fellow with a flamethrower and his own pet dinosaur. Having hit the gym since being eaten alive, he's gotten angry AND gotten a wacky sidekick. These kinds of "who cares?" moments happened all the time. Why does Robin Hood have a giant, unusable missile launcher? Why is Batman in hot pink shorts with a water gun? Who cares? Buy it. Have fun.
This lack of attention to even the closest thing to the word details thus makes childhood much better. Would anyone want, or remember, an action figure of an overweight fellow in a Hawaiian shirt best remembered for needing snacks and being a shit? No. But a dude in a classy turtle neck with a flame thrower and extreme sunglasses? Hell-to-the-yes.
AWFUL VIDEO GAMES BASED ON GOOD THINGS
I bet you never would've guess that piece of crap published by LGN for the NES was an X-Men game. That mutilated group if pixels in the top left corner is Cyclops. Maybe. I dare you to even understand what anything there is. Actually, find the game (or the ROM, you criminals) and play it for a while. After that, find The Wolverine game for NES. Then find almost every single movie game made before the Spider-Man movie game... Top Gun, Goonies 2 (don't ask), Gremlins...
There's a nearly universal feeling of awfulness about them. It's almost as if they just shoveled out badly made crap to make money off of parents who vaguely recalled their kid mentioning the words "I liked that movie" once. There was once a glorious, stranger time when anything that exised became shovelware. If it was a property, and kids would spend money on it, some console or PC let you play it. Most of these sucked.
Imagine spending your allowance to rent a game. "Can't wait to defear Magneto!" Then, bam! This nonsense is on your TV. You're mad. You and your friends are pissed. Then you laugh. Then you play. The controls are probably bad. The graphics are questionable. Somehow, someway, it was an enoyable weekend playing a game that was utter garbage. Now we are all nostalgic for this junk. Childhood!
THE WORST BOARD GAMES EVER MADE
Yes, that's Rodney Dangerfield board game and, yes, it's very real.
There are even worse games in existence. Trust me, I've played some of them. What matters isn't the quality of the game or even the logic of the game. What matters is the time spent playing the game with friends and family. Really, though, who even plays by the rules?
These kinds of games are designed for a laugh, a few drinks, and making up your own absurd rules. There are great games, fantastic games like Risk or Monopoly or Sorry. These kinds of games are not those. Those games are all fine achievements in humanities pursuit of fun but, hey, they aren't always as enjoyable as some weird, odd, confusing idea put onto a folding piece of cardboard.
Sometimes you just find a game at a garage sale that is so baffling, so weird, that you have to buy it and have a game night. I salute you, weird ass board games, and the pieces missing behind the couches of the mind. Let's all go to Goodwill or Savers and see if we can find one of those VHS games and a VCR, then had a retro game night!
BOOTLEG CRAP FROM THE DOLLAR STORE
Source: Probably the USSR.
Just look at this nonsense. Just. Look. At. It. It's a Royal Guard from Star Wars, carrying a hubcap off of a buick, with a regular sword, painted in black and gold, and hanging out on the moon. What isn't there to love about this?
Bootleg toys are sometimes the best toys because they are so cheap, so flimsy, and so weird that they become art. They are the Dada art and surrealist movements of Mexican drug stores and dollar stores everywhere.
Grandma: "What? Those Ninja Turtle toys cost $9?! Here. Have this Samurai Alligator. It's only $3 and it's hot pink!"
Me: "Thanks, Grandma. My disappointment is equal only to the emptiness that is this toy."
And a good laugh was had by all. The best ones, of course, come from the depths of Chinese enslavement and feature questionable quality, ripoff characters, AND ridiculous colors in packaging best described as Spanglish.
The only thing holding these together was hope. As a kid I had both the WW2-style prop planes that kind of looked like realistic things flattened by a cartoon newspaper machine. I also had weird monster foam planes. Those were even cooler. The coolest one of all was, naturally, a pterosaur.
Whenever I went to the corner drugstore with my mom, she'd be willing to share out the $1 for the one of these things. They were barely constructed from a foam-like-patented-substance best described as weaker than paper. Ah, but they were rad. You build them yourself from a couple of pieces following the instructions (or lack thereof). Then you were off to war with a P-51 Mustang being chased by a blue pterodactyl. That's a World War worth fighting, dammit.
At least until they were thrown out of a second story window and met their untimely demise in a thicket of thorny plants. Real war heroes die young, I suppose.
These things did. Not. Work. Ever. I don't even understand the concept of how they should've worked. I understand parachutes. I understand dropping objects. I understand that a parachute slows down an object falling. Yet, I have never seen one of these work properly ever in my life. I probably played with 20 or 30 of them, and each time they would drop like a lead weight pulled towards earth as if they were Icarus foolishly soaring too high on waxen wings.
So why were they fun? Why aren't they just on my list of Crappiest Crap (Sold to Idiot Kids)? Because...
I had a Spider-Man one.
And they were fun to drop on the heads of unsuspecting family members. I'm not saying I endorse getting one of these into someone's coffee on a summer morning. I'm just saying it's hilarious if you do.
TIGER ELECTRONICS HANDHELDS
This is a game based on the show Full House made on a handheld LCD screen about 1 step between a solar powered calculator you get from a bank and the uploaded version of Drug Cartel on your old graphic calculator. I never had this one thankfully. What I did have were equally as awful "video games". I had Mega Man one. I had some Conan ripoff one where you were a barbarian. They were all terrible, shoveled out crap that somehow managed to be less of a game than those stupid little race car games with the mini-steering wheel and back lit plastic screen that goes around in a circle.
The kicker, though, was that they were cheap, every single kid in school had one, and you could trade them around during lunch and recess. When you inevitably got sick of attempting to play a Mega Man game that had no buttons looking like an NES controller, you could, frustrated and defeated, trade it for an A-Team handheld game. Then pass that crappy game to a friend for his Tiger Electronics wristwatch TMNT game. The key here was not quality - of which there was none - but rather quantity.
No one wanted to play a single these for more than 15 minutes, and no one ever had to. You just kept switching, hoping in vein that the next one would be good.
It wasn't. Ever. But it was a social experience.
Source: The Mad Libs site.
This may be controversial, but these are pretty much garbage. Think about the idea of Mad Libs for a second. I mean really consider what they are. It's a booklit where you fill in wacky words and then read a story with, oh man, wacky answers! "I went to the POOP store." Ha! How hilarious!
Mad Libs are really OCTOPUS. They are in no way stupid or BUTT. Though they may BOOB a cheap laugh or 2, they aren't worth your hard-earned CHIA PET. Somehow, still, we all have BOOTY memories of these MUFFIN TOP books that our WALRUSES bought for us, stuffed in our POOP DAY basket behind old, crusty SELMA HAYEK and plastic eggs filled with POGS.
PENGUINS GOING UP A SLIGHT INCLINE
Source: Nerdbot Girl Deadly Z's childhood.
These are penguins. They go up a slight incline. They go down a slide. With all due respect to our childhood memories, these are terrible torture devices manufactured and sold at toys... And yet...
I giggled so hard every time I got to the Kay-Bee Toys in the mall where they had the table of demo "toys". It was full of crap like those barking, flipping dogs and those lavender weasel looking things being pulled by a ball. There was always, of course, a penguin slide set up. The penguins slid down. Gears crunched. The penguins climbed the stairs. Wee! Slide. Then the barking, flipping dog would kick them all over. I giggled as they scattered on the floor like so many forgotten moments of youth.
Haha. Stupid penguins.
No, really. These are a ton of fun even though they barely qualify as a toy or even an object created by humans. Just smack your friends and family in the face with them. I mean, I don't advocate it, but do it. It's funny. Grab paper from someone's hands. Cover them in dirt and hair, then thrown them at a girl. It's all in good fun.
Just imagine, though, the meeting at FUN CO AWESOME TOYS INC., LLC. where Donny Toy Maker came up with these.
Executive 1: "Sir, it's a hand on a string, made entirely out of something feeling like a booger mated with Gak, and them solidified."
Executive 2: "That sounds just awful."
Executive 1: "Well, my previous idea of a ball of suction cups that never actually sticks to anything but is supposed to walk down a wall sold ELEVENTY KAJILLION UNITS!"
Executive 2: "Great! Produce a billion of them. We need little boys getting them gross and swatting their sisters with them on long car rides. They'll keep us in business until we can get those stupid Homies toys out."
Ugh. Just, just ugh. But also, ooooo! So much oooo! It's garbage but also magic. Kind of like love or adulthood.
Garbage, but also magic.
ANYTHING FROM A CLAW MACHINE
In the history of mankind, no quality item of respectable lineage has ever been found in a claw machine. This is a known fact, like anthropogenic climate change and the earth's roundness. And, like those known facts, many folks still deny these truths in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Back in college there was a claw machine in Aladdin's Castle at Parma Town Mall in Parma, Ohio. My friends and I once nearly emptied that thing on a few dollars. As it turns out, you can actually have some skill at these stupid things. The result of our few dollars of hard work was each of us leaving with an armful of stuffed toys that looked not quite like the characters they represented, each from a show far outdated. I'm sure I had a Reptar missing an eye, an Eek! the Cat with a loose seem, and a Fry Guy, all won in 2006 far past their pop culture prime.
But it was all worth it to feel that sad, momentary adrenaline rush. "I beat the odds! I beat the Man! I am somebody!" I would shout, pumping my first in the air and forgetting the cold, lonely embrace of reality for a few seconds. Then I'd take my handful of stuff atrocities home, hand them to the young kids in my family, and watch them play with them until their poorly constructed arms fell off, loosing stuffing from it's mortal coil and letting those forgotten toys slip into the ages, alongside Hypercolor shirts and slap bracelets.
Now point me to the nearest damned claw machine. I need to get a Critic plushie!