I'm reading Matt Alt's fantastic new book, Pure Invention: How Japan's Pop Culture Conquered the World. Early on in the book, he points to Sony's TR-63 transistor radio (introduced in 1957) as the beginning of Japan's gargantuan influence on the world through consumer electronics, toys, entertainment, and other aspects of popular culture.
I was curious about this transistor radio so I looked it up online and learned that IFixIt did a teardown of the radio back in 2009.
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The TR-63 was introduced in 1957 - it was the first "pocket-sized" transistor radio ever made and the first Sony-branded product exported to North America, by the then-named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo company (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation). It became a huge commercial success, over 100,000 units were sold.
It seems "pocket-sized" was a bit of a marketing gimmick at the time - although smaller than any competing product, the TR-63 was a bit too big to fit into a standard shirt pocket. So story has it that company salesmen wore custom-made shirts with slightly bigger pockets to show off the TR-63's small size. But unlike desktop radios of the day which were promoted under the idea of "a radio in every home", the TR-63 was uniquely marketed as something each person could own and carry with them. A foreshadowing of the Walkman and iPod, perhaps?
The TR-63 contains a whopping 6 transistors. By comparison, the Cell processor chip in the PS3 contains two to three hundred million transistors. That's an indication of the progress made in the electronics industry in the past 50 years.
My pal Jake has been taking regular "cigar walks" (as he calls them) here in our lovely island city of Alameda, California. On those walks, he started spotting some creative flyers...
(I saved the best two for last...)
photos by Jake Schaffer, used with permission
Thanks, Susie! Read the rest
To mark last week's release of the new Trolls World Tour movie, Smithsonian's Michelle Delgado tells the origin story of Troll Dolls, from their birth following World War II their modern day big screen revival. The tale begins in Gjøl, Denmark, home to baker Thomas Dam (1915-1989) who could no longer work when the local flour factory went out of business. From Smithsonian
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Dam would sit near the fireplace, carving bits of wood while he thought. He often carved funny creatures to entertain his children, and eventually, his wife persuaded him to try selling the figurines. Dam packed up as many as he could carry and traveled to Aalborg, the nearest city, where he planned to knock on doors. He came home empty-handed, having successfully sold them all.
As Dam’s figurines found fans in Aalborg, customers began commissioning bigger projects. Before long, Dam became a working sculptor whose reputation eventually exceeded Denmark’s borders. In 1956, a Swedish department store hired him to create a large sculpture of Santa Claus, kicking off the chain of events that nudged Dam to fully embrace toy making.
When he finished installing the Santa Claus sculpture, Dam realized that it wasn’t completely visible from the street. He proposed an accompanying window display with a clever design. First, he sculpted tiny figures of Christmas elves—designed in a similar style to his soon-to-be-famous troll dolls—and dismantled a mattress, hiding a spring in each figurine’s body. Next, Dam built a display with a mechanism that lifted and dropped a long piece of wood.
Remember 'Friday,' the internet-propelled pop hit everyone loved to mock in 2011? Yeah. Rebecca Black became a star overnight, and she says it sucked.
Oh, and: She's back, and she's not 13 anymore. Read the rest
It's a little corny but William-Sonoma's R2-D2 Popcorn Maker will probably appeal to most fans of POP culture, even at its $100 price tag. Something fun: Its head doubles as a serving bowl. Read the rest
Pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix (previously) has been busy this year. He's written a book:
Holiday Jubilee is loaded with original eye-popping “test kitchen” recipes and over 500 vintage images, serving up an intoxicating, action-packed extravaganza of America’s favorite seasonal traditions past, present, and future. Your imagination will be inspired and your spirit will soar!
And he's created this hilarious and kitschy "Raw" Turkey Tiki Meatloaf Mug ($80). This "meatloaf pan-shaped Moai" is inspired by his Tiki Turkey Dinner, an alt-Thanksgiving recipe found in the book.
Hey! Charles will be at Soap Plant WACKO in Los Angeles this Sunday, September 15, signing that new coffee table book of his from 2 to 4 p.m. This line alone, from the event page, makes me want to hop down to LA this weekend: "LIFE ALTERING SNACK and ARTIFICIALLY COLORED AND FLAVORED REFRESHMENTS will be served." Read the rest
So, get this. For many years now, NASA has been putting out some really fun posters to bring awareness to their space missions. They reference everything from Star Trek to Star Wars and lots in-between.
Bored Panda writes:
Since the very first International Space Station mission in 2000, NASA has been creating expedition posters usually featuring a group photo of the crew. These posters were used to advertise expeditions and were also hung in NASA facilities and other government organizations. However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit.
They call them "cringy" but I love them. I think they're fun and creative.
Here's a few of them (more here):
images via NASA, lead image cropped to fit Read the rest
Rapper 50 Cent says he bought 200 front seats to an upcoming Ja Rule concert just to keep them empty and psych out his longtime arch-enemy. Read the rest
French illustrator Linda Bouderbala did a fun exercise where she gathered some of her favorite characters from geek and pop culture and organized them by color. Read the rest
The house at Klump Ave. and Dilling St. in Studio City, also known as the Brady Bunch house, has been put on the market for $1.885 million.
The Brady Bunch house, a Traditional-style residence near the Colfax Meadows neighborhood, was used for outdoor representations of the beloved television family’s abode. That included the show’s opening and closing scenes as well as numerous interludes to denote the time of day. Interior scenes for “The Brady Bunch” were filmed in studio.
Violet and George McCallister bought the two-bedroom, three-bathroom house in 1973 for $61,000, records show. The series ran from September 1969 to March 1974 before moving into reruns in syndication.
Ernie Carswell, a Douglas Elliman agent who is listing the property, said the split-level house has been updated and upgraded but retains almost the exact interior decor from that era, though the layout does not resemble the TV show home.
The article reports that Carswell is expecting many lookie-loos and to thwart the masses, he will not be holding any open houses. Interested buyers will need to book an appointment to see the "never-ending attraction." There's also a chance that its new owners will tear it down as it "sits in an area that has been ripe for tear-downs and new development." Caswell says the sellers would prefer to sell it to someone who will preserve it.
So, I have a funny story about this property. A few years ago I had the opportunity to ride in a Wienermobile. Read the rest
YouTuber thepeterson makes video montages that pull together clips from pop culture days of yore, highlighting what movies and TV shows the masses were watching, what they were listening to on the radio, and what video games they were playing. In the latest one, June 1998 is put into the spotlight. Prepare to take a (possibly nostalgic) trip down memory lane to see what was "in" twenty years ago this month.
(Tastefully Offensive) Read the rest
I spy (a brand new junk portrait of) Pee-wee Herman at the :29 mark
Exciting news: Jason Mecier, the artist who makes celebrity mosaic portraits in junk (or other objects like candy or cereal) has announced his first book. It's called Pop Trash: The Amazing Art of Jason Mecier and it's due out July 17, 2018.
...Here is Amy Sedaris assembled from her own trash, David Bowie made out of cosmetics and feathers, Snoop Dogg sculpted out of weed, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus crafted out of candy, Kevin Bacon bespoke in bacon, and many, many more. Fun process shots offer behind-the-scenes insights into the meticulous work required to create these candy-colored—and literally trashy—spotlights (how much licorice does it take to make Harry Potter?). With mesmerizing tributes to icons ranging from Stevie Nicks to Farrah Fawcett to Honey Boo Boo, this gallery of the famous and infamous is a visual treat for fans of pop culture and pop art alike.
You can pre-order it now for $29.95.
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Based in Barcelona, DJ and music producer Eclectic Method has pulled in the Star Wars universe once again for his newest remix, "Han Solo Song."
With the Han Solo movie on the horizon and The Last Jedi in the rear view mirror I thought it was time to remix everyone's favorite space rogue pirate smuggler war hero. Han Solo Song is a rhyming remix through the 4 movies of Han so far. Rhymed mostly by Han himself with a Han Solo solo on laser blaster. This is my 10th Star Wars Remix.
You can check out all 10 of those remixes here. Read the rest
Before he contributed his writing talents to Animal House and Caddyshack, National Lampoon's co-founder Doug Kenney spoke at UCLA in March 1972. He talked, in a sort of stream of consciousness, about the popular publication and his half-finished comic novel, Teenage Commies from Outer Space.
Kenney had taken a year off from the magazine to write that manuscript and, as the story goes, threw it in the waste basket when his Lampoon partner Henry Beard indicated that it sucked. Beard clarified, "What he was trying to do was capture this global inanity of the American experience... What it turned into was the high school yearbook parody. It was just a question of finding the right format."
I came across this nearly-hour long interview last night after watching Netflix's new biopic on Kenney, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, and wanting to learn more about him.
Kenney was found dead at the age of 32 in August 1980 at the bottom of Hawaii's Hanapepe Lookout. It was deemed an accidental death by the police but as Harold Ramis once quipped, "He probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump." Read the rest
Pop culture historian Charles Phoenix, the culinary kitsch king behind the Cherpumple, accidentally created this Astro-Weenie Roast Tom Turkey Dog in his test kitchen a few years back.
His space-agey "bird" is made of "turkey meatloaf skewered and studded with turkey wieners, turkey kielbasa, ‘lil turkey smokies and fresh cranberries."
He writes, "I didn’t mean to do this, it just happened. I didn’t think about it, I just did it."
Previously: 'Addicted to Americana,' Charles Phoenix's new book on 'classic & kitschy American life & style' Read the rest
Stranger Things is a huge pop culture phenomenon, no matter how you look at it. Case in point, Newsweek is reporting that thousands of the show's fans crashed the Science Museum of Minnesota's website on Tuesday morning trying to score a purple Brontosaurus hoodie. The sweatshirt, a replica of a retired one the museum sold in the 1980s, was worn in the first episode of Season 2 by one of the main characters, Dustin Henderson.
...The St. Paul-based museum noticed the costume choice right away, calling attention to the sweatshirt on its Facebook page: "Stranger Things fans: Check out what Dustin is wearing in Season 2, episode 1! Yes, we want one too. Working on it!"
The hoodie finally went on sale Tuesday morning on the museum's website. But museum staffers underestimated demand: It wasn't long before the influx of web traffic crashed the website, leaving disappointed fans shut out.
But the site's back up and more than 80,000 purple hoodies have already been sold, at $36.95 a pop.
In addition to the hoodie, tee-shirts and sweatshirts with the "Thunder Lizard" art are now also available.
The museum stated in a Facebook post that proceeds from the sales of the line will support their educational outreach programs. Read the rest
Creator of the Cherpumple (and other retro-fabulous foods) Charles Phoenix has a new book that celebrates "classic & kitschy American life & style." It's titled Addicted to Americana and it looks amazing!
Here's a look inside the book (click on image to embiggen):
The book is available for $22.32 on Amazon.
Charles is also on a book signing and comedy slide show tour (mostly in California). If you've never seen him perform, please do yourself a favor and get thee to one of his shows. They are a hoot. Read the rest