Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday Postcard - Mr Cool

Oh yeah, he's cool alright. Just call him Mister Freeeeze, chillaxing in his white suit, writing... what? Poetry? A love letter? His shopping list?

What on earth is this old postcard about? I mean, why would anyone...? Why is he...? Just WHY?

And to be totally honest, that does not look like the comfiest couch.  Nor the most practical lamp. And as soon he stands up, he's going to kick over that badly-placed plant, and there'll be John Innes No. 3 all over his carpet.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Beautify Your Home

Much as I love me a bit of kitsch art, I think they may have gone slightly overboard on this 1968 advert for the "exquisite reproduction" of the "dramatic painting" called 'Rock Pool Rendezvous'.

Apparently, in the opinion of their Managing Director, it's "the most tasteful and beautiful horse painting he has seen". Golly! "See what a dramatic change an expensive picture can make in your home....You'll be amazed at the wonderful change that takes place in your room the moment you hang this giant picture (forty one inches wide by twenty five inches deep)". Yep, I can see how it would make quite an impact...

Not that it's really expensive. Oh no. "Thanks to an international scoop", you could get this magnificent artwork for just 19/6, instead of the "nine or ten guineas" you could pay.

As these 1960s kitsch prints are getting more and more collectable, I thought I'd try to find a photo of one of these that might have survived all these years. Sadly, I couldn't find one. I tried various searches, and it made me laugh when I was scrolling through the results for 'kitsch horse painting' to find a couple of photos of mine, and one of Mr Kitsch's (none of which were horses). I think if you type 'kitsch' anything in Google, eventually you'll find something of mine...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Curious Friends - Pop Artist?

I make no apology for another appearance of my famous can of Jubilade. If you follow my Kitsch and Curious blog, you will already know the story of how it came to be featured in a Diamond Jubilee exhibition in London.

As well as the BBC website, and The Evening Standard, it has also appeared in Time Out, and the Guardian website. I also got a query about it appearing in the Sunday Mail Live magazine, but I don't know if that happened. This little pop can took on a life of its own.

The exhibition ended on Sunday, and the curator, Josh Knowles brought my motley collection back to me this week. But there was a wonderful surprise for me. He had got the can signed by Sir Peter Blake, no less!
When Josh picked up the Jubilee stuff from me, we had had a short conversation about collecting and the work of Peter Blake. Josh had been at the Art Car Boot Fair alongside Peter Blake, and I was pretty envious of that.

Being the lovely guy he is, Josh remembered that, and when he met up with Peter Blake again, at a radio interview about the Jubilee exhibition, he took my can along to get it signed. How bloody brilliant is that?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Man It's Cool!

Man it's cool! What can be so cool, that a man in a jaunty trilby hat calls anyone 'Man'? Of course, it's his crazy cigarette holder! It's a 'Beatnick' cigarette holder!
Not even able to spell 'Beatnik', the makers of this novelty item clearly have no idea what a beatnik looks like, either. A beret and a black polo neck sweater would have been more to the point, rather than that Madison Avenue square on the packet.

And did beatniks even use cigarette holders? Was it cool to smoke your Gauloises through 14 inches of plastic pipe? Whatever the case, I don't think this absurdly long holder was ever really cool. They can't even get the simplest bit of hipster talk right...
'Away out'?  Not surprising, as that woman looks more like Katie Boyle than a beatnik. Or even a beatnick.

I have had this... toy? for 30 years, and I think it's one of my all-time favourite things. Partly because of the whole insane concept, partly because the packet is both good and bad at the same time, and partly because it was one of the things that started off my 'toys in packets' collection.
Back in the 1980s, you could find quite a lot of stuff still being sold in the same packaging they had used in the 1960s. Joke shop novelties in particular. I wish I'd bought more at the time, but couldn't afford it.

But astonishingly, this one is still available in exactly the same packaging. I feel a bit cheated, having kept mine for thirty years. (They still can't spell 'beatnik', though.)

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Duel and Other Matches

Some examples of the fine work of The Western India Match Co. Ltd.. Matchbox labels and matchbooks are yet another thing I could easily start collecting. To be honest, by most people's standards, I've already got enough to call it a collection, but I don't go looking for them, so it doesn't count.

Anyway, I got these labels from Ebay not long ago. I love the graphics and the slightly off-kilter themes. They got me thinking as to why a match maker would bother to have so many different designs on their matchboxes.
Presumably there was no difference between the 'Deer and Tiger' matches and 'Three Monkeys' matches? Did they make the different labels because they knew people would collect them? 
I haven't been able to find the answer, but I have discovered that matchbox label collecting is called phillumeny. So now you know as much as I do.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday Postcards - Butlin's Bars

With the holiday season here (you can tell from all the rain), I thought some happy holiday postcards would be appropriate. And what could be better than jolly old Butlin's?

So we start off at the top with the Beachcomber Bar at Minehead. Obviously an attempt to follow the 1950s Tiki craze, it looks pretty fabulous! As well as the Pacific-style Tiki columns and bamboo furniture, they've mixed in a bit of Cornish fishing paraphenalia, including plastic fish suspended in the nets on the ceiling. Brilliant! (Click on the images to get a better view.)

Random stuff suspended from the ceiling was a mandatory feature of these Butlin's bars, it seems. The interior decorator at The Pig and Whistle seems to have gone beserk and chucked everything s/he could find up there...
And in The Blinking Owl Bar, the decor is... Tyrolean?  I'm not sure. I'm more than a little distracted by the ceiling decorations. this time, they've suspended two girls up there, in flowery seats!
 Looking at it closely, I think those strange seats are suspended from a rail, that disappears behind curtains. So, if I'm right, those girls were winched back and forth, high above the heads of the boozing patrons! How marvellously bizarre!

The next card is another Blinking Owl Bar, this time in Clacton. It's got the same lampshades and wooden beams as Minehead, but the ceiling looks a little low for girls on rails.
And last, but not least, we have The Crazy Horse Saloon in Clacton. Yee-ha! Clearly an authentic slice of the Wild West on the Essex coast. Note the two singing cowboys at the bar with guitars (entertainment all-in). It all looks like fun, although I'm a bit worried about the gun just lying on the rail in the foreground!
Obviously, I would have loved to visit all these super-kitsch venues! If only I had a time machine...

Mind you, I don't think I would have enjoyed everything back then. This is what's written on the back of that last postcard, (dated 1969)

Dear Jean, Doug and children
We are having a lovely time, with the sun out everyday, the wind has dropped today (tues) and its quite Hot. I went in for the Miss Pinta comp. and had to talk and say what was wrong with our husbands, I said mine nagged, the man said that was no good, and made me dance with a Redcoat in front of everyone. Still it was a laugh. I didn't win. Hope the cat is alright. See you Sunday.
Love Margaret, Tom and the Boys.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Ernie and Ernie

These ceramic ERNIE money boxes seem to have something of the stone idol about them. I can imagine offering them sacrifices in the hope of getting a good win on the Premium Bonds. I'm not sure what a robotic god would like as a sacrifice - some nuts and bolts and a giant size can of WD40, perhaps?

Well, I may make that experiment later, as I could certainly do with a million pound win right now, but as we only have an ancient £5 in Premium Bonds left, I doubt if we stand much chance.

I can't actually remember how I managed to acquire two of these beauties, but as I love retro robots and vintage ceramics, it's hardly surprising. You see quite a few of these around at vintage fairs and the like, so they must have made thousands of them. I imagine they were issued by the Post Office themselves - a little robot army, trying to collect up everyone's cash.

As you probably know, ERNIE (Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment) was first used in 1957 to pick the winning Premium Bond numbers. I think it's rather endearing that Ernie was anthropomorphised to such an extent. According to the Premium Bond website, he receives Christmas and Valentine's cards. I imagine they are mostly from the executives of NS&I, thankful they are still in a job.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Curious Friends - Sir Hiram Maxim's Pipe of Peace

This wonderful-looking contraption caught my eye in Stroud Museum last year. Its vaguely bong-like appearance, and elaborate name were enough to intrigue me, and I took this photo. Later on, when I posted it on Flickr, someone suggested this must be the same Sir Hiram Maxim, who created a tethered flying machine, even before the Wright Brothers.

I had never heard of him, so I looked him up, and discovered he was quite an inventor. Probably his most successful invention was the first portable automatic machine gun. Wikipedia says he also invented "a curling iron, an apparatus for demagnetizing watches, magno-electric machines, devices to prevent the rolling of ships, eyelet and riveting machines, aircraft artillery, an aerial torpedo gun, coffee substitutes, and various oil, steam, and gas engines".

His flying machine experiments resulted in a steam-powered flying machine, which was tested on rails in 1894. It sounds like a steampunk dream. It rose in the air, but was tethered for the experiment, so that it could be controlled. Unfortunately, it was probably not a viable design, as Sir Hiram gave up work on it.

In 1904, he tried to promote his investigation into flight by creating an amusement ride -"Sir Hiram Maxim's Captive Flying Machines". This was the sort of ride you still see today, with 'aeroplanes' flying outward from a central spinning rig. Despite the popularity of the ride, Sir Hiram lost interest, because he was not allowed to give the machines their own flying controls.

Amazingly, there is still one of these original rides working at Blackpool Pleasure Beach today. You can see it here. It's certainly a tribute to the man, that his invention is still being used, over 100 years later.

Unsurprisingly, the same cannot be said of the scary-looking 'Pipe of Peace', which he devised to relieve his bronchitis.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Baby-Faced Fisherman of Mevagissey

I wonder what a real Cornish fisherman would make of this doll? Even back in the 1960s, when this doll was probably made, it must have been galling to see your ailing industry portrayed as a holiday souvenir.

This one hasn't got much of a catch, has he? Just a couple of mackerel, by the look of it. But hey, he's a cutie, isn't he? And I'm impressed by how he manages to keep his red lipstick so beautifully applied, whilst piloting a fishing smack in all weathers.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Your Own Polaris Nuclear Sub!

I really, really wish I could send off for one of these. What on earth did you get when you bought a Polaris Nuclear Submarine for less than $7?

Well, according to the advert, "the most powerful weapon in the world!" and  "a giant of fun, adventure and science". Crikey!

Like last week's Atomic Age Rifle, this is another of those ads that used to appear regularly in American comics of the 1960s. You can only gasp at the sheer exploitation and blatant misinformation in this ad aimed at children. "What hours of imaginative play and fun as you and your friends dive, surface, maneuver, watch the enemy through the periscope and fire your nuclear missiles and torpedoes! What thrills as you play at hunting sunken treasures in pirate waters and exploring the strange and mysterious bottom of the deep ocean floor!".

Obviously, the key word here is imaginative. Yes kids, you will only do those things in your imagination. In reality, you will be sitting in a cardboard box. Because I think that's what they mean when they say it's "sturdily constructed of 200lb fibreboard".
That's a heck of a lot of imagination...

[Update: I found a picture!]

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday Postcards - Hey, Hey! We're the Monkeys

I love this series of postcards, but I do find them somewhat mysterious. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set up these homely scenes of monkey life, but what are they trying to portray?
What is the message? What do they symbolise? What is the relationship between them? Is Big Monkey a kind of Everyman, living out a dull and ultimately meaningless existence? Does it say we are all just apes, even if we wear a shirt and tie? Or are they trying to tell us, "Yes! There is jam on your daily bread. There is comfort to be found in the sharing of a simple meal. Yes! We have no bananas."? 

And is Little Monkey really a doctor?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vegetable Show

I've blogged about dolls with fruity hats before, but this one is unusual in that she has a crazy assortment of vegetables on her head. Despite her exotic appearance, I expect this doll was made in Britain, as one of those 'Dolls of the World' series, and basically they just picked up whatever plastic fruit and veg they had to hand.  So poor dolly is laden down with an enormous onion, pepper, carrot, chilli, and a very much not-to-scale bunch of bananas.

If she went in for the village show, I think she'd win a prize, as that carrot is bigger than her arm.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Rebel With a Cause

I have recently been unearthing some of my collection of book covers. Yes, just the covers, not the books. In my youth, I routinely just ripped off the cover, if I liked the graphics. To be honest, most of the books were themselves were not great, anyhow.

So I can't really comment on the content of 'Rebel With a Cause - A Teenage Edition of Mark from Living Gospels'. But really, I think the cover tells you what you need to know. Have you ever seen less rebellious looking teenagers? Look at that one in the waistcoat! Sixteen, going on forty-five. And the guy bottom right makes me think of Al Pacino in The Godfather.

It seems like the 1960s God Squad just appropriated the word 'Rebel', in the hope of attracting young people. "Hey, we're rebels, because we're not rebelling!". Yeah, that one's never rung true.
The back cover has a weird arrangement of more square teens in a variety of poses.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Buyer's Remorse

Sometimes, I think my appetite for curious objects takes me a bit too far.  Like these objects. Sigh.

I bought these from Ebay, mainly just because I thought they were very weird, and I wanted to see what they looked like in real life. Answer - they look hideous.

As if they weren't creepy enough with their pixie faces, skinny legs and long pointed feet, the one on the left has lost his sash and his golden robe falls open like a mystical flasher. Thankfully he has no genitals, but instead he is wielding a weird musical instrument, so the whole thing is still very unsettling.

What the heck are those costumes all about, anyway? Looking at them again, they make me think of members of a very badly-styled glam rock band. (I'm thinking of you now, Dave Hill from Slade...)

They're about 9 inches tall, and therefore too big to keep as humorous mascots or whimsical knick-knacks. Made of plastic, they're too light to use as bookends, and they're way too ugly to sell. All I can hope is that one day, I'll open my Museum of Strangeness, and I'll be glad I got them.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Look Kids!

Wow! An 'Atomic Age Air Rifle'! It 'measures a full 10"'! Or, to put it more prosaically, a small plastic pop-gun.

I think children might have been a bit confused by this ad from a 1960s comic, especially if they tried to understand the wonders of the 'Atomic Age' from it. 'No working parts to break', 'Completely safe and harmless'. It doesn't sound very 'atomic', does it?

But if the kids ('Look kids!') were disappointed when it arrived, just imagine how Mom must have felt once those ominous '25 missiles' started to get distributed about the place. If Junior didn't fire a bit of plastic in his sister's eye,  they would at least get trodden on, or trip up Granny, or choke the dog when he chewed it.
All for just one dollar, post paid!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday Postcards - Greetings from Poland

By a complete coincidence, I find that I am showing you postcards of Poland, just when the England football team are there for some sort of sporting event. But whilst they are staying in the picturesque city of Krakow, these postcards show us the slightly less picturesque city of Lukow.

I got these in a job lot of cards from Ebay, and was delighted by their grim banality. However, in the hope of discovering more about the city and its attractions, I have translated the back of these postcards, so I can share with you the full excitement of the sights of Lukow.

At the top, we have 'Lukow, Then and Now. Fragment of Chopin Street' (as before-and-after photos go, it's not the most convincing improvement), and below is ' An Insurance Firm General Building Inspectorate' (clearly the throbbing heart of the financial district). 
Above, we have 'Meat Plant, built 1970-1973', (who doesn't like to see a good meat plant?), and the next one is 'Leona Klimeckiego Housing Estate' (a fun place, if ever I saw one).
Wow! Holiday postcards always make you want to go there right now, don't they?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Chinese Lantern

Another strange musical Chinese thing with flashing lights.
With a rabbit on a swing.
(I have had a couple of goes at capturing the splendour of this thing, but they all end up as blurry and shaky as this - sorry!)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Women Who Made History

Finding a place in the history books for women's achievements has always been a struggle in our male-dominated culture.So I suppose we should be grateful for this attempt to redress the balance, which I found in a 1960s magazine.

Unfortunately, the focus of the ad is not really on the many great achievements made by women in history, but instead it promises to reveal 'their fabulous lives and loves, hatreds and scarifices'.  With a free gift of Lucrezia Borgia!

According to this ad, Catherine the Great 'changed lovers as easily as she changed the locks on her chamber doors!'.
Now, have you ever tried to change the lock on a door? By the time you've traipsed round B&Q, got home, had a cup of tea, found your tools, then looked all over the place for the right screwdriver, which seems to have somehow mysteriously disappeared, taken off the old lock, discovered the new lock doesn't fit, gone back to B&Q, discovered they don't do locks in that size any more, so you're going to have to make a bigger hole in the door and quite frankly you've had more than enough of locks for one day, thank you very much - Well, anyway, you get the idea. It takes quite a long time. Whereas I imagine changing lovers could be accomplished in under half an hour, if you're an empress, and you put your mind to it.

But I digress. Do click on the image above, if you'd like to read more of the drivel about 'Women who made History'.

I think in this case, you can judge a book by its cover, as these luxurious volumes are bound in 'leather-like green and ivory Skivertex'. Skivertex? Classy.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Friday Postcard - Oh What a Circus

I thought this card might be in keeping with the mood of festivities this weekend. It's certainly an odd little funfair/circus scene. Two china boys, with their china dogs, seem to be unaware that someone has left an elephant unattended nearby. A strange huddle of (cardboard?) spectators have arranged themselves in an orderly manner to watch - what?

An unusual card, I think, and I love its jolly scene, the odd mismatch of scales, the plastic lion and the soft colours.