06th Oct2011

Thrift Justice – The Case of the Three Jokers

by Will

 

So, last weekend the rain was too much of a nuisance for any of the local yard sales to take place, but I was still jonesing for a treasure hunt. That meant that I had to find someplace indoors, which led me to the Civitan Flea Market. Located in Arlington, VA, the Civitan Flea Market occurs on the first Saturday of each month, from the months of April to November. I checked it out for the first time a few months back, and I liked what I saw. Since it takes place in a multilevel parking garage, it’s open rain or shine. Basically, a vendor pays about $20 to set up in a parking space, and you’re left to just make the rounds. From what I could tell, vendors don’t seem to have “regular” spots, so I walked around to see if I noticed any of the good vendors from my first trip. But we know you’re not here for the words – you’re here for the haul!

Recently, I’ve been buying up all the cheap Calvin & Hobbes books I run across. Here’s a little confession: I really hated C&H up until about 2 months ago. I know most of my peers fondly look back on the series, but I just never “got” it. I think I had the misfortune of always tuning in when it was one of the, for lack of a better word, “preachier” strips, so I just always felt it was overrated. That said, as someone who had a myriad of imaginary friends, this series was pretty much right up my alley. So, I found a collection at a yard sale a few weeks back, which has led to the acquisition of 2 more collections.

As a fanboy, this is one of those things that I guess I’m expected to have read. I’d never really come across it, and it always seemed a little too much of a Sandman gateway book anyway. Since I’m neither a cutter, nor do I work at Hot Topic, I always shied away. Well, on this particular day, I guess I was kinda desperate to buy a comic, and this was the best I could do. The vendor wanted $3 for it, which I felt was kinda steep. Then, she told me that it was for her grandson’s college fund. I couldn’t let the guy suffer through student loans as I had. I forked over the three Georges. Then, I asked her where he was thinking of going for college. She replied, “Well, he’s only 16 months old right now.” Huh. All I could say was, “Well, I guess you’ve got a couple more sales ahead of you.”

I’d seen this book during one of the Borders liquidation sales, but couldn’t bring myself to pay what they were asking at 25% off. This, however, is not only an advance reader’s copy but it was also a quarter! I’m a sucker for preview and promo items, so this was just what the doctor ordered. The seller had placed a sticky note on it, saying it was “Perfect for fans of Family Guy and The Daily Show“. This might just be an oversell – kinda like how every comedy compared itself to The Hangover for a whole year.

If you dare claim there was a better game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, I will slap you in the face and kidnap your dog.

Stallone was supposed to be in Beverly Hills Cop. They decided they wanted to go in another, more comedic direction. He made this instead. And it was GLORIOUS. I love this movie for the odd product placement. Just imagine: Pepsi paid to have one of their soda fountains shot up in a standoff; a Christmas-themed Toys “R” Us commercial is playing in the background, as Stallone cleans his gun and eats cold pizza!

I wouldn’t buy season sets of this show, but I am sucker enough to fall for “The Mike Judge Collection”. Sure, it’s a best of collection, but it’s a multi-disc best of. Plus, I trust Mike Judge. The man went on to give us Office Space and King of the Hill. It’ll be worth it if “Teen Talk” is one of the episodes featured. “I’m Lolita, and this here’s Tanqueray. You boys wanna go back behind the bleachers and make out?”

And now we come to the reason for this post’s title. You may not be able to tell, but this is a deck of Batman Begins playing cards. It was purchased for three reasons:

1) I love Batman

2) I love shiny things/holograms

3) They were $0.25

Now, I knew what I was getting into. The seller told me that someone earlier in the day had counted the cards and that while the deck was missing an Ace, there were THREE Jokers. Now, I’m used to quirky merchandise, so I wondered if it was supposed to have 3 Jokers. I mean, “Joker” kinda means a little more in a Batman-themed card deck, so maybe that was the novelty. Still don’t know. I don’t even play cards!

This is Tri-Klops. He’s from He-Man. That is all.

 

This is Lothor – the “big bad” from Power Rangers Ninja Storm. While he was far from the most menacing villain, I always loved his aesthetic. It’s not everyday you see an evil alien ninja in a luchadore mask. The articulation sucks, like most Power Rangers villain figures, but he still looks cool standing around.

A Nightwing doll! How cool is that?! Yes, I’m calling it a “doll” because that’s basically what this is. Sure, his body is probably based on a G.I. Joe style body, but he’s got a cloth outfit and hard plastic head. He appears to have mustard or something on his chest, but I don’t care. Nightwing doll for $1!

I got this from my favorite vendor. Last time, she had some great Batman stuff, and this was just as cool. If you’re not a comic person, this is an unused cover from X-Men: Alpha, which kicked off The Age of Apocalypse. This event started just as I was getting into comics, and I haven’t experienced something that riveting since. A lot of comic crossovers are cyclical now, but this was actually a fresh idea. Anyway, this appeals to my love of comics, as well as my love of shiny thing/holograms. Oddly enough, I don’t remember this as having a holographic cover gimmick; it shipped with a foil cover gimmick, so I wonder if this was some sort of retailer exclusive.

These came from the same vendor as the X-Men cover. It may not be immediately apparent, but the “Vote DC” poster is actually a promotional item from the Marvel vs. DC event. You’ll notice Batman hiding Captain America’s shield in his cape, as Superman brandishes The Hulk’s pants. Below that is a poster for 1991’s X-Men #1. I collect comic promo items that are typically only available to retailers, so these 2 posters were great finds.

Well, that’s all she wrote for the flea market. Next month is the last one of the season, so I’m pretty sure I’ll go check it out one last time. In the meantime, I’ve got my hands full with the thrift stores. Tune in next time, where I’ll show ya some autographed stuff I came across!

20th Dec2010

RePlay: The Christmas Experiment

by Will

So, in the DC area, WASH (97.1) becomes the all-Christmas station at this time of year. In recent years, it’s been almost a race to see how soon they’ll make the format switch. It used to occur on Black Friday, but now it happens about a week before that. Many people hate this, and groan “Let’s take care of Thanksgiving first”, but I LOVE it. I love Christmas music. I love the season and everything about it.

Now, I’ve already discussed how there aren’t any modern Christmas classics being released, so I thought I would try a little experiment. I decided to just let WASH play, and then write up a little blurb about the feelings I got from the songs played during that stretch of music. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Any): Winter time Date Rape at its finest

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Jackson 5): Bitch better not let Joe catch her!

Last Christmas (Wham): A wonderful ’80s classic. I keep this in my rotation year round. I’m actually surprised Diddy never got around to sampling this beat.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid): Those poor savages. I’ll bet they don’t have calendars.

All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey): As far as I’m concerned, Love Actually Girl beat Mariah for the championship on this song. No, not really, but I love the Hell out of that movie.

White Christmas (Bing Crosby): If you listen closely, you’ll realize this used to be a Klan propaganda song. As Uncle Ruckus would say, “Look how perfect and white these nice folks is, smellin’ like lemon furniture polish!”

The Christmas Shoes (NewSong): This song takes on a whole new meaning when you realize the kid is just trying to con the store out of a fresh pair of Jordans.

Christmas Through Your Eyes (Gloria Estefan): You realize this is sung from the point of view of a Miami Sound Machine member who was blinded in one of Gloria’s bus accidents, right?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Any): Silly folks! You can’t make a yuletide gay…unless you send it to prison. Otherwise, it has to be born that way.

Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano): The definitive Latin stamp on Christmas. You know Spanish people were as siced about this as black people were when we created a new version of “Happy Birthday”. Still waiting on a remix with Pitbull and Daddy Yankee, though.

OK, enough rambling from me. Until next time, remember to keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.

15th Dec2010

RePlay: Oi to the World!

by Will

So, yesterday we covered La Bouche, and the voice behind the hits, Melanie Thornton. Well, around that same time period, I was also really into No Doubt. I guess it all came down to local radio: DC had just gotten a pop station with the arrival of Z104, but there were only so many times that Billy Bush could play that Ultimate Dance Party ’96 CD without you wanting to go on a killing spree. So, I’d switch over to the late, great WHFS (the good one, where the Spanish station is now) and get my “alternative” fix. Sure, No Doubt eventually made their way to the Z104s of the world, but for this moment in time, “Just A Girl” and the like were still confined to specific genre stations.

Now, I didn’t actually discover this song until many years after it came out. In fact, it was during my stint as a retail slave at H&M that I first heard it, as it was part of our “hip” holiday playlist. That playlist was a welcome change, as most of H&M’s music choices sounded like the soundtrack to a date rape at someone’s loft. Anyway, being all European and whatnot, the company’s Christmas music skewed towards the secular, especially when it came to groups with the words “Good” or “Charlotte” in their name. I remember not even really thinking it was a holiday song at first, as it was so…different. You know what first caught my ear? The mention of “nunchucks”! If you hear any reference to nunchucks, and your ears do not perk up, then you cannot call yourself a man. And then I was like, “Oh, shit! Haji just pulled a sword?!” Once you go back and listen to the thing from the beginning, then you realize the ska “Joy To The World” melody, and well as the “If God came down on Christmas day” reference.

I think I also like this song for the same reason that Tony Kanal probably liked it: it wasn’t about HIM. By this point, I’m surprised that Tony never stormed off stage with a “God, bitch! Fucking get over yourself!” Anyway, this was originally a song by The Vandals, but they were friendly with No Doubt, which paved this way for this cover. It’s not the kind of song that’s gonna make you reach for a cup of cocoa and turn on The Grinch, but it does prove that there’s no one way to make a holiday song.

13th Dec2010

RePlay: Santa Packs and the Wonderful Dream

by Will

So, the holidays tend to be a sentimental time, with memories triggered by the sights and sounds of the season. Now, I can be a sensitive guy, but I don’t really cry at many movies or TV shows. That’s why it was surprising to me when I found a lump in my throat from a particular commercial. In recent years, you may have seen this Coke commercial announcing that the “Holidays Are Coming!”, but it originally touted the arrival of Coca-Cola’s holiday Santa Packs:

I think the aspect that really appeals to me is that it really heralds the approach of the Christmas season, and makes it feel more epic that it already does. My birthday is actually December 23rd, so I always made a big deal counting down to that day and Christmas. To watch the commercial today, it almost seems as if the Coke trucks are the road crew for a big concert or circus coming to town. Sure, Coke got a lot of mileage out of the polar bears, but this was the commercial that I always anticipated. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I discovered that Melanie Thornton had recorded a full length version of the song in Europe.

No, I know you think you don’t know who Melanie Thronton, but trust me – you do. If you’ve ever hear the chick asking you to be her lover, or droning on about her sweet dreams of rhythm and dancing, then you’re already familiar. For most of the ’90s, Melanie Thornton was the singer for Eurodance act La Bouche. In 2001, she released her first solo album, which included the song “Wonderful Dream”:

While the studio version of the song is a bit more clear, I chose the version above for a particular reason. You see, only a few hours after that very performance, Melanie was killed in a plane crash near Zurich, Switzerland. Tragically, she never lived to release another single from her album, which was ironically titled Ready To Fly.

I was a fool for La Bouche, as I had all the studio AND remix albums. On top of that, I was, and still am, a fool for Christmas. Nowadays, when I hear that song, I still get a little choked up, but for other reasons. With Melanie’s passing, the Eurodance world lost an amazing voice, but she chose a magical song on which to go out. So, the “Holidays Are Coming” song still makes me long for Christmas, but I’ll always hear a little bit of Melanie in there.

08th Dec2009

All I Want For Christmas Is A New Christmas Song…And An End To Jason Derulo

by Will

“And there ain’t no nothin’ we can’t love each other through”

(The following is a post that I wrote for TGRIOnline.com, my friend, Marcus’s culture blog)

Christmas songs. I know this is a bit of a hipster blog, so y’all might not be into the Christmas thing so much, but it’s hard to ignore at this time of year. There’s a constant race to see which radio station flips to the all-Christmas format first. Locally, that honor always goes to 97.1 WASH. They used to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but it has gotten earlier and earlier in recent years. This year, WASH flipped formats on November 20th. At this rate, they’ll be flipping the day after Halloween by 2015 (that is, if the Mayan Armageddon doesn’t get us first).

When it comes to Christmas songs, I’m always surprised by how hard it is for new songs to gain acceptance. Sure, if you write a song about trees and family and snow, you can pretty much call it a “Christmas song”, but the public isn’t going to necessarily accept it. When you really break it down, there are really only about 25 different Christmas songs. The boyband du jour or some New Age artist might try to introduce something new, but when it comes down to it, people only want to hear those 25 prime songs (No, I’m not going to list them – you know the ones), which have been recorded and re-recorded by every artist under the sun. They’re mainly broken down into 2 categories: The Jesus Saga (Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, etc) and Secular Funnies (Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer, The 12 Days of Christmas, etc). That first category is pretty locked up – there are no more angles of The Jesus Saga left to explore, unless someone comes up with a song about aliens who watched the whole thing unfold. Even then, I think the Bible Belt would put that into the Secular Funnies category. If you want to break into the Christmas music scene, Secular Funnies is the category to aim for. The most recent Christmas song to really have any staying power is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, and that was in 1994. Do you realize how long ago that was? That was like 4 Cher Farewell Tours ago! THAT’s how hard it is to make your dent on the holiday season.

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Christmas songs. You see, growing up, I used to LOVE the season. My birthday is December 23rd, which was just far enough away from the 25th that I didn’t necessarily suffer from the 1-gift-for-2-occasions screwjob. I always considered my birthday to be the “day that we celebrated the magical birth of the baby Will”. And then, 2 days later, Jesus got his day, which also meant presents for the aforementioned Will. I milked that Santa train WAY longer than a sane person should, but my family thought it was cute, and it ensured maximum giftage. So, considering I felt the entire season was my own personal holiday, the soundtrack of carols and songs really contributed to the mood of things. Then, college happened.

In college, I was not what you might call a “model student”. Whenever pe
ople ask what I studied, I sometimes answer “I majored in a cappella”. That was what made me feel popular, and that’s where I had most of my friendships. So, I didn’t do the class/homework thing so well. I usually coasted along through a semester, and then not failing the class would hinge upon me not failing the final. I went to a competitive-ass school, so it’s not like there was a studying montage, and all of a sudden I had an A in the class. I usually gave up sleep, bathing, and my sanity for the better part of 2 weeks. I experienced stress I’d never felt before, because my entire future was hinging on this degree. How was I gonna be “not like all the others” if I didn’t graduate?! What would I do?!!! One year, I even pulled an all-weeker – I believe that we’re all given a set amount of all-nighters that we can endure in a lifetime, and I used up the balance of mine during a finals week. When the nosebleeds started for no reason, I knew that it was “Houston, we have a problem” time.


Anyway, throughout all of this uncivilized behavior, my soundtrack was Christmas music. I was trying to remind myself of the good aspects of the season, and all of the things I would experience after the finals, once I got back to Maryland. That stopped really working around Junior year. Then, a strange, Pavlovian thing took place – instead of helping me forget about the stress, the songs became synonymous with it. Now, when I hear those songs, it all comes rushing back. “Oh Holy Night” – walking home from the library, through the snow, at 1 AM. “The Grinch” – somehow tanking that Human Sexuality final (don’t worry, ladies – everything’s in order now *wink*). “Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer” – those aforementioned nosebleeds.

This is why I’m so interested in Christmas songs. I NEED new Christmas songs! Those old ones are tainted as Hell. I need something to come and take the pain away. I ca
n’t keep reliving that trauma every damn year for the rest of my life. The only thing that saved that Mariah Carey song is that I love the shit out of Love Actually. So, I’m appealing to you, the hipster crowd, to save my life and record a Christmas song! That’s what was missing on Wale’s album: It could’ve been called “Under The Tree in the DMV”. Somebody get his people on the phone for me!

I ran long this time around, so I’ve only got one pop thing on my mind at the moment: Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say”. First of all, I fucking HATE how he just liberally samples Imogen Heap’s “Hide & Seek”. It’s so much of a sample, that he might as well have released it as “Jason DeRulo, feat Imogen Heap”. The main thing that gets me, though, are the lyrics. Yeah, I know in the past that I said I wasn’t a lyrics guy, but these just hit me over the head with a club. So, let me get this straight: he cheated on his girl, and now he’s apologizing, and promising her that he’ll take care of her when his career blows up. REALLY?


Dear Mystery Girl In The Song (and for you teenyboppers
listening):
DO
NOT TAKE HIM BACK. Right now, he’s a nobody and he cheated on you. You know who it was? It was that bitch, Sharonda, who works at the CVS on Saturdays. You know, the one who’s always chewing the gum! You knew she was acting like a bitch when you went in there for your relaxer. That bitch is fucking yo’ man! But get this, that mu’fucka’s only sorry he got caught. You really think he’s gonna take care of you when he becomes a star? Do you realize what kinda pussy he’s gonna be able to get THEN? Run, gurl! I don’t think you got nothin’ to worry about, though, ’cause that nigga can’t even write a whole song of his own. You do you, gurl!

Peace, Love, and String Cheese,
Will

08th Dec2009

How To Avoid A Dollar Store Christmas

by Will

“…walking home from our house Christmas Eve.”

So, my office is doing the annual Adopt A Family drive for the holiday season. I usually participate, but this year, things are so tight that they should be adopting ME! In any case, my biggest pet peeve is that people just bring in the cheapest shit! It’s such an insult. These families have fallen on hard times, but they’re not BLIND.

When I’ve participated in the past, I bought toys for those kids as if they were my own kids. I took the time to match the most awesome, sought after stuff, paired with the appropriate age group. When I was still at Diamond, I adopted this kid named Tyquan. I swear, I gave Tyquan a kick ass Christmas.

When it comes to these office drives, I feel a lot of people operate under the assumption that “these kids will be happy to get anything”. While that might be true in some cases, I don’t believe it’s true in ALL cases. Sure, in terms of giftgiving, “it’s the thought that counts”. I feel that a lot of people in the office just aren’t putting a lot of thought in. They can’t possibly be that cheap. Sure, we’ve all got that old aunt who treats the Dollar General as a one stop shop. I just think it’s kind of messed up when these people are out chasing Zhu Zhu Pets (THAT reference is gonna sound dated a year from now) for their own kids, yet they throw a generic $5 “doll & dress set” or a game of “Line Up Four” into the cart for faceless little Shaniqua in Druid Hill. And don’t even get me started on the donated food!

I’m glad & thankful that there are people willing to help these families, but I feel like they could be doing more. Considering I didn’t contribute, I realize I’m like the guy who didn’t vote that’s criticizing the current administration. That said, from what I’ve seen, I’d rather not have my name attached to something so half-assed.

My grandmother used to have my mom write her checks out @ holiday time. She was always telling her to write the check for $11 or $13. My mother tried to explain that those were dumb increments; round them off. Give $10 or $15 – don’t give some random ass odd number. My grandmother thought “they should be happy to get anything”, but it still looks…off. That’s the case here: these people think they’re doing something good, but their contribution is a bit off.

So, what’s the takeaway message? If you’re gonna do something like this, make the effort to go all in. Don’t get them cheap stuff just because “they should be happy to get anything”. They could’ve bought that dollar store shit for their kids themselves. Don’t insult by not thinking things through. Not a sermon, just a thought.

25th Dec2008

Poor Robin…

by Will

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”

(Courtesy of Shortpacked)

14th Dec2007

Dirty Pokemon, Black Snake Eyes, New Knight Rider, and Tribute To Ike Turner

by Will

“I thought you made love like an ugly woman. So present, so grateful.”

Dear TNT,
There are other shows in the world than Charmed and Law & Order. I appreciate what you’re trying to do. You’re going for a whole theme thing. But, really? There’s a whole world of syndicated shows out there, just waiting to be mined. I don’t think anyone’s airing The Fall Guy right now. Or how about that old show, The Wizard, with the midget who made toys that helped him “MacGuyver” out of bad situations? Just a thought…

So, I’ve been losing my mind lately, as Toys “R” Us is now open until midnight for the whole holiday rush. For those of you new to these parts, I work evenings and weekends at Toys “R”Us, or as I like to call it, “my student loan job”. Staying open til midnight can be trying considering that’s just the time at which we start turning away customers. Actually leaving the store is a whole different matter. This past Wednesday, we didn’t get out until 2 AM. Keep in mind that the employees are high school students, mothers, and people with other jobs. It makes no sense to me, seeing as how we have a capable night crew, staffed with baby mama’s and ex convicts. Can’t they clean the store?! But I digress…

During this season, our minds start to wander, and the subject matter of our conversations isn’t exactly suited for our environment. For example, a few weeks back, one of my coworkers remarked that he’s both vulgar and nice. I told him that his Pokemon name would be “Vulgice”. Then, his evolutions would either be Vul-Va or VulGina. Yeah…

Recently, though, we’ve been having a lot of discussions/arguments regarding the upcoming G.I. Joe movie. The guys were remarking that, regardless of how Hollywood decides to fuck it up, the movie won’t be complete without Snake Eyes. Now, this is when one of the guys decided to say that there was a time when everyone thought Snake Eyes was Black, and how disappointed he was when he turned out to be some White guy. Now, first of all, this is a common Black thing to say, as we’re always trying to claim someone in the media. Mariah Carey? She’s ours. The Rock? Yeah, he’s ours, too. O.J.? He’s ours as long as he’s acquitted. Anyway, it was weird to hear this, though, as the assertion was now coming from a White guy.

So, I had to search long and hard and think if there was ever any indication that Snake Eyes was a Black guy. As far as G.I. Joe goes, all Black members have to carry a big ass gun. And rhyme. See: Roadblock; Cross-reference: Heavy Duty. Snake Eyes didn’t rhyme and he carried swords. Not a compelling case.

Then, there’s the fact that Snake Eyes dates Scarlett. Sure, in the cartoon, she was with Duke, but in every other form of media, he’s knockin’ those redheaded boots. Now, have you ever seen a Black guy with a redhead? Have you? For real? If you have, can you find out his secret for me?

Next, there’s the fact that he’s a ninja. I’ll admit that I was surprised he was just a blond cornhusker, myself, as he was a master ninja…who’d fought in Vietnam. This is the real clincher, as I realized there could never be a black ninja. Sure, a ninja might wear Black, but he could never be Black? Why? Because ninjas have to be quiet. There, I said it. You know you were thinking it, too!

A Black ninja would be flossin’ and shit, and would never pull off the element of surprise:
“I’m a ninja, son! Look at this big-ass sword, woadie! I’m ’bout to cut you, fool! You betta check yo self ’cause I’m ’bout to ninja. yo. ass!”

But, knowing Hollywood, if they want to be hip and edgy, movie Snake Eyes will probably be Black. And played by Chris Tucker. Thanks, assholes.

Speaking of Hollywood ruining cool, black concepts, I leave you with this: The other day, I was stalking a friend on facebook, and one of his friends is a page at NBC/Universal. Her status mentioned that she was watching the new K.I.T.T. models roll of the truck. For the uninformed, NBC’s filming a new Knight Rider movie which, if successful, will lead to a new series focusing on Michael Knight’s son. Well, when I saw this message, I almost wet myself. I wanted to send her a message. After all, this woman was like an angel to me; my link to my savior: a talking, condescending car. Just looking at my site, you’ve *got* to see the Knight Rider influence. Anyway, I held off, and decided to find more info on the project myself. And here’s what shattered my childhood memories:

HOW THE HELL CAN YOU CALL THIS K.I.T.T.?!!

I swear, every night when I say my prayers, I pray that someone would bring back Team Knight Rider. Or at least release it on DVD. On the bright side, at least these producers got The Hoff to agree to come back, which is something TKR never pulled off.

This post is dedicated to the late, great Ike Turner. I believe there are two sides to every story, and poor Ike never got his fair shake. So, I hope he’s in Heaven, slapping and beating up angels…

28th Dec2006

Christmas Crazies

by Will

“Honey, why you callin’ me so late?”

I love Christmas, but I hate Christmas retail. Here’s an exchange I had at “The ‘R Us” the other day.

Old Man: Excuse, me…um…I’m looking for…umm…what is it called?

Me: *eyeing him with annoyed look on my face*

Old Man: *fumbles with phone* Let me just call…I can’t remember what that thing is called…Can you wait just one second for me?

Me: Well, actually, I REALLY need to go to the bathroom.

Old Man: Good! Me, too!

Me: Yeah, let’s not continue this there…

The sad thing is, had I not said that, I’m pretty sure he would have carried the conversation into the bathroom. He DID follow me, but i went into a stall. We had a comedic moment at the sink as we both needed to wash our hands. Exited said bathroom, and the conversation continued as if the urinary interlude had never occurred. And it was just as awkward as it sounds…

20th Nov2006

Where The Bratz At?!

by Will

“Welcome to the layer cake, son.”

So, it’s been awhile. Not gonna talk about the main job yet, but I will say that I’ve gone back to Toys R Us for the holidays. Not sure if I’m going to stay on, but it’s certainly as surprising to me as it is to you. The other day, I was telling someone that I feel like an old, grizzled cop when I put on that uniform. The whole sense of, “You don’t know how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and said ‘Never Again!’.” But, as with any retail job, the crappiest part is the customers.

Back at my old TRU, it was pretty ghetto, and that sucked. But this TRU is in Columbia, known for is affluence. For those of you who read “Gatsby”, it’s very “new money”. But I’ll go a step further than that. It’s essentially White trash who have somehow come into money. You know, contractors who charge too much for work, or the final season of Roseanne where they won the lottery. Butterface trophy wives of Redskins and the lot. Yeah, by switching stores, I went from hair weaves to Nascar quicker than I thought humanly possible.

Well, every Christmas, regardless of store or location, I have the same archnemesis: the Black mother. And why is she my nemesis? Well, she’s upset because she can’t find the Black version of the hottest toy of the season. Be it Amazing Amanda, Cabbage Patch, or even Holiday Barbie, she wants the Black doll. Now, what Mrs. Black Mother doesn’t seem to understand is that she is chasing the niche of a niche. Not only does she want the hot toy, but she wants a variant of the hot toy. I’m sorry, sweetie, but they don’t allocate them equally.

Now, I can see her position, but I really just don’t care. Yes, I know that’s callous. And maybe my views will change if I have daughters. Sure, these women want their children to have toys that represent them. A toy to help solidify their sense of identity. Something to instill racial pride. And this is all admirable. This is also all bullshit.

Toys only have that effect if you reinforce it. If you point out to a child that this doll is different, and make that your sole focus, then they will manifest that and you have achieved your goal of racializing “play”. But if you just give them a toy, and let them sort it out, it ain’t that deep. IF the child asks, “Mommy, why doesn’t this doll have hair like me?” then you might even have the chance to establish a dialogue as to people’s differences. But just because you get Tashiba a white Barbie, it doesn’t mean that she’s gonna go out and join the Republican party and buy a Volvo.

I always hate these mothers because they take it out on ME. Like I was the one who ordered all of the White dolls. The other day, I told a chick to write a letter if she was so mad. What I’d love to see, though, is a White parent ask for a White doll of a predominantly Black line. I’d love for some soccer mom to come in and ask, “Do you have any…White Bratz?”(editor’s note: these DO exist, but people never really ask for them)

The funny thing to me, though, is the way that these encounters always play out. First of all, I will watch these mothers walk past several White employees just to get to me. And even after they’ve gone out of their way to find “a black guy”, a “brotha” a safe harbor of sorts, they still can’t be forthcoming with me. So, that’s when I have some fun.

They’ll approach me and ask, “Where are the Barbie’s?” And of course, this is while we’re IN the freakin’ Barbie aisle!

“Umm..they’re all around you, ma’am.”

And that’s when she’ll reply, “No, the other Barbies. You ain’t got no other dolls?”

Loving where this is going, I’ll ask, “Well, what kind of other dolls are you talking about?”

And this is the kicker, and they ALL do this, she’ll ask, “You ain’t got no ***** dolls?” Now, let me explain here. This is when she says “Black”, but she doesn’t actually say it. She mouths it. It’s kinda like those Cingular commercials about the dropped calls. As if to say that we can’t let The Man hear about our plaything plotting.

And at this point, I have a myriad of responses, ranging from the polite: “No, ma’am. Those are always the first to go.” to the obnoxious: “No ma’am, it seems that the toy companies just don’t really like Black people.” Yes, I HAVE said that. And I lived to tell about it.

At this point, regardless of what I say or how I say it, she erupts with, “I don’t want no White doll! Why they think I want a white doll?” And if I’m lucky, this tirade ends with a “Where the Bratz at?”

Now, don’t get me started on Bratz. Sure, these women are upset that there aren’t enough Black Barbie’s, but I feel it is a FAR worse crime to fill that hole with a Bratz doll. Sure, that shit is popular, but it’s the minstrel show of toys. If you’re afraid of toys giving your child a poor self image, then you sure as Hell shouldn’t be bying them Bratz. I mean, the name alone. It’s like they’re trying to reclaim the term or something. A “brat” is a BAD thing. Not something endearing. And there’s a reason there are no Black people in anime. You know why? Because they’d look like fucking Bratz! God, those dolls are HIDEOUS! And ignorant.

The other night, I saw a talking Bratz doll on the shelf, and just to test a theory, I pressed the button. Do you know what that plastic bitch said to me?

“Like, have you ever had a bad hair day?”

Huh? I HATE those trifling things, but they’re just as popular as ever. But the only people who buy them are ghetto Black people and ashamed White people. It’s true. I actually enjoy watching the disparity. As I said before, A Black family will come in, all, “Where the Bratz at?” And Woo! You get them to that aisle, and they can’t spend that welfare check quickly enough. But the White families approach me just like the Black mom looking for Barbie. I’ll get a White women who kinda looks down, or can’t really make eye contact. She’ll sheepishly ask to be pointed in the direction of the Bratz stuff. Yesterday, I had a dad who just looked exhausted. He said that their daughter was crazy about the stuff and she made them redo her bedroom in Bratz decor. First off, only a White guy would say “Our daughter made us do so-and-so.” And he looked so forlon and ashamed. All I could muster was a “I’m so sorry for you. Hopefully, she’ll grow out of that phase soon.”

So, in closing, if you want a Black doll, do the talking with your wallet. Don’t buy White Barbie, but don’t buy Bratz either. Hold out until something comes along to your liking, but don’t just jump on the first ethnic thing to come along. Buying your kid a Bratz doll is far more degrading than having to watch her as she combs Barbie’s long, blonde hair. And if you’re THAT mad about it, write a letter. Hell, start your own toy company. Maybe Michael Richards will even donate some of his Seinfeld money to help you get started (Man, that reference is gonna be SO dated when I re-read this in a year!). But don’t shoot the messenger because I actually know where the Black doll bodies are buried.

I don’t even know what that means, but I felt the need to go out on a strong note. And I think this exposition just killed any attempt at that. Seacrest, out!

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