The 1960s were a magical decade in the world of toys. Toy companies like Wham-O, Hasbro, Mattel and Kenner were churning out captivating toys faster than toy stores could keep them in stock. Toys like Lite-Brite, Etch A Sketch, Twister, Creepy Crawlers, Operation, Hippity Hop, Spirograph… and of course Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven (launched in 1963) were all the rage.
With an entertaining narrative, Light Bulb Baking explains how the miniature working oven got its start, dissects the oven, explains how a simple light bulb can bake a cake, and tells us loads of fun anecdotes and trivia about Easy Bake (such as the shelf life of Easy Bake mixes, the horrible burns caused by the 2006-2007 models, and the story of a 9-year-old Easy Bake Baker of the Year who won $5,000 for her Toffee Trifle Cake). The book, which is smartly designed with photos, diagrams and sidebars, ends with a bunch of award-winning recipes that make me want to dig out the old Easy Bake Oven I have somewhere in my garage.
Light Bulb Baking
by Todd Coopee
2013, 178 pages, 8.7 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches (paperback)
Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.
Australian filmmaker Danny Philippou brings a Nerf gun battle with your friends to a new cinematic level. (via Laughing Squid)
The $20 Zombie Striker Nerf Foam Machete is just what you need for your little monster-hunters.
This episode of Gweek is brought to you by Bombfell, the glorious clothing service for men that sends handpicked outfits to your door. Go to bombfell.com/gweek
to get $10 off your first purchase. And by Stamps.com
-- get a $110 sign-up bonus with the offer code GWEEK!Read the rest
The Lego Super Heroes model of Batman's Tumbler with Batman and Joker minifigs will be available September 1 for $200, or right now from scalpers for $850-$1150 (caveat emptor).
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Mouse Trap (1963) became a classic but its cousin Crazy Clock (1964) vanished into history's toy chest. Above, vintage TV commercials for both (via Strange Universe).
If you miss your Big Wheel, you might dig this $2,000 motorized Big Wheel Drift Trike. Below, video of trike drifters (via Laughing Squid).
$30 gets you printable STL files for three suits of Barbie armor -- you'll need your own printer (or use one at your local makerspace).
My wife (and kids) are big fans of the classic Slip 'N Slide on a summer day. The New York Times Magazine has the history of its invention which involved belly-flopping on a concrete driveway.
(Thanks, Tanya Schevitz!)
Like any concerned father with ready access to rugged, waterproof synthetic fabrics at work, Robert Carrier took home a 50-foot roll of beige Naugahyde in hopes of persuading his son to splash down on something safer. He unfurled it in the yard, hosed it down and watched as every kid in the neighborhood showed up and stayed to slide for hours.
Realizing he had a hit on his hands, Carrier used his sewing skills to refine his product. “He stitched a long tube along one side, sewn shut at one end, with spaces between the stitching so that when you attached the hose, the water pressure would build up and water would squirt out those openings and lubricate the surface of the material,” (explains Tim Walsh, author of "Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them.")
The Mr. Potato Head Star Wars R2D2 goes on sale on July 14 -- happy Bastille Day! Up the rebellion! (via Geekymerch)
Makies, the 3D printed toy and game company, has launched FabLab, its inaugural game! FabLab is a free game for people eight and up, through which you create and customize a character and its accessories, which you can also get as real-world, one-off, custom-fabbed objects. MakieLab, the company that created FabLab, was founded by my wife Alice Taylor, and so I've had an inside view into the process by which the game and its back-end -- which includes a remarkable toolchain for turning 3D game-objects into printable items -- came into being. The Makies here in London are fantastic, and they've done brilliantly with the game, if I do say so myself. Please give the game a try -- and tell your friends!
Makies FabLab! Out Now! | Makie.me
The 700th Undead Ted horror-toy was a face-removing, talking animatronic that sold for £420 on Ebay. I love that it can do more than one line; I like to think of it as the reincarnation of good ole Teddy Ruxpin.
The inimitable Liz McGrath created "Minerva," a recycled toy robot, for the "World's Greatest ONE of ONE Custom Toy Show" curated by KMNDZ opening tonight at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, California.
on how Playmobil's bold stereotyping can be a teachable moment with her 5-year-old, or not.Read the rest
In 2013, a group of Lego masters unveiled Cyberpocalypse, a spectacularly detailed, moody, neon-lit cyberpunk city. It's a triumph of EL wire and science fiction aesthetics, a kind of bricky Burning Man theme-camp in miniature.
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Over at Collectors Weekly, our pal Ben Marks talks to the co-inventor of the wonderful classic toy Colorforms, simply a pack of die-cut vinyl shapes and a board to stick them on, invented in 1951 and available to this day:
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I just spent ten delightful minutes watching this vlog in which Pixie Blossom unboxes her new, custom, 3D printed Makie doll. She ordered one of the last, limited run of green-skinned dolls, and specified that it be only lightly decorated so that she could give it a total makeover. The result, presented with contagious glee in the final act, is a great testament to her creativity and the idea of giving people toys that are intended to be remade by their owners.
The video was a hit in our household because my wife, Alice Taylor, is the CEO and founder of Makielab, where the Makie dolls come from.
Slawomir Kostrzewa, a priest in Wolsztyn, Poland, is concerned that certain LEGO minifigs are "about darkness and the world of death" and could "destroy (children's) souls and lead them to the dark side." More interesting is that Kostrzewa attempts to back up his argument with research by University of Canterbury professor Christoph Bartneck suggesting that the faces of LEGO figures have become angrier over the years. Kostrzewa's claim is on the heels of his revelation last year that My Little Pony is a "carrier of death."
"Lego the building blocks of Satan, warns priest citing NZ study" (New Zealand Herald)
Professor Bartneck's response to the matter is here: "LEGO is not a tool of Satan"
is available on Amazon. [via
Thinkgeek bills their $40 Blobfish Plush as a "Grumpy Cat of the sea." While its true that the "world's ugliest animal" is actually pretty unremarkable looking when it is compressed by the awesome high-pressure environment of the sea, there's no denying that it looks like a newspaper caricature of a sad, downtrodden shlub when brought to the surface, which makes it the perfect gift...for that someone special in your life.
Zack sez, "Submitted for your approval -- Bif Bang Pow! has a new line of action figures inspired by the classic TV series done in the scale and style of such 1980s figure lines as Star Wars. Personal favorites include the Invader from 'The Invaders' and Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis in 'Time Enough at Last,' who is getting a permanent space on my bookshelf where he can finally enjoy some good literature without worrying about breaking his glasses."
These are in addition to the existing line of Bif Bam Pow Twilight Zone toys which include some real standouts like the Mystic Seer bobble-head and the Eye of the Beholder Nurse.
Bif Bang Pow! Enters a New Dimension
"Wheels That Go," a gorgeous 1967 short film by Jim Henson, starring his son Brian, with music by pioneering jazz and electronic music composer Raymond Scott. You'd recognize Scott's big band music from hundreds of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Many of those familiar tunes are available on the compilation Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights. Scott's experimental electronic pieces, like the one in this film, can be heard on the collections Manhattan Research Inc. and the Soothing Sounds For Baby series. (via Experimental Music on Children's TV)
Jen from Cake Wrecks made this amazing AT-AT rocking-horse, documenting the build online (she's promised plans to follow). It will be auctioned for charity at Megacon by the Florida chapter of the 501st Legion.
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Nerf's Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (part of the wider Rebelle line of action toys marketed to girls) gets pretty high marks from its owners, and promises a dart-range of 75 feet. I confess that I'm conflicted about this -- there's nothing inherently masculine or feminine about Nerf toys, their gendering is already a synthetic creation of the company's marketing strategy.
That said, there are unquestionably girls who feel like action toys are not for them because of normative gender pressure (to which Nerf is a contributor, of course), and the existence of toys that are intended to allow them the space for imaginative play without worrying about appropriate gender norms is a good thing. Especially since the Rebelle toys are not just "girly" -- they're also cool, as well-built and well-designed as the "boy" versions, the perfect imaginative accessory for your little Hunger Games fan.
Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow
(via Super Punch)
Heather sez, "Schmancy is having their 10th annual Plush You show this year, and applications are now open.
Plus You is one of the only (if not THE only) juried shows for plush artists, so this is kind of a big deal for those of us who make our living selling our handmade dolls, toys and 'other.'"
There's nothing quite so cuddly as a giant isopod plush toy. It has been encutified to make it even more adorable than the real-life version, with big, round, loving eyes. As the product description notes, these are "passionately loved" by some in Japan and are regarded as "mysterious and cute" -- one in Toba Aquarium has (allegedly) eaten no food for over 4 years.
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An Easy-Bake Oven from the late 1960s, featuring Betty Crocker branding, faux-wood paneling, and the kitchen color du jour, avocado green. (Courtesy of Todd Coopee)
Ben Marks of Collector's Weekly says:
Our very own Lisa Hix just interviewed Todd Coupee, who is a collector of Easy-Bake Ovens and wrote the definitive work on the subject, Light Bulb Baking. In her article, Lisa recounts how she and her kid brother destroyed her childhood Easy-Bake Oven (they tried to cook a green plastic steak from a Mattel Tuff Stuff play set, which melted under the incandescent bulb's 350-degree heat), and explains how Kenner ignored the gender politics of the day by marketing the oven to both boys and girls (to have done otherwise would have excluded 50 percent of the toy's potential audience, so the reasons were purely financial).
Easy-Bake Evolution: 50 Years of Cakes, Cookies, and Gender Politics
Charlotte, who is seven, wrote this devastating letter to the Lego company over the way that girl characters and boy characters are handled in its increasingly gendered toys: "All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks."
She calls on Lego "to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!"
That's a pretty unassailable request. Thank you, Charlotte, for putting it so well.
7yo Charlotte writes an adorable and strongly worded letter to LEGO regarding the lack of adventures for girls.
Over at Collectors Weekly, BB pal Ben Marks interviews Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, but not about his music. Turns out, Schools is an avid collector of Hot Wheels, Wacky Packs, and vinyl records.
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