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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Personal Philosophy - Misanthropy

The trouble with being me is that I prefer to be alone; I am a jaded misanthrope and an irrepressible cynic. However, my wit, humor and charm usually lead me to spontaneously form small, close-knit groups of like-minded people who tend to really like me for who and what I am. It never fails and it’s rather frustrating sometimes, given my disdain for the human race and human nature as a whole. However this ongoing experience has taught me one thing and that is that the human race is surprisingly tolerable, in very small doses from time to time. In other words, it’s hard to be a misanthrope when you have a rather large fan club.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mystery Toy from the early '70's

I remember a toy from a long time ago ... I don't know who made it but it was available sometime in the early 1970's and if I had to narrow it down I'd say that I remember it from 1973 to 1974. As toys go it was an awesome toy and my next door neighbor had one (though I never did). I'll tell you what I know (or rather remember) about it ... (and this is from a memory drawn on almost 4 decades ago). The toy in question was an aircraft carrier, a huge one, made out of pressed foam or Styrofoam or some similar material. I remember it being a modern (at that time) aircraft carrier and somewhat detailed. It may have been the USS Enterprise since that nuclear powered carrier was a big media queen back then. It didn't hurt that the Vietnam War was still going strong so there was a big market for military toys.

The toy I remember was a giant aircraft carrier, maybe four to five feet in length and it had a single F4 Phantom jet which you controlled to fly off the carrier deck on a guide / control line and return to land on the deck via the same line. The end of the lines were secured either to the ground with stakes or maybe some kind of tower you set up. I've searched the Internet for years to find any information on this and I've not been able to. Maybe it was made by Ideal ... or Mattel but I can't find any info on toys by those companies that match and no, it wasn't the Mattel "Flying Aces" aircraft carrier either.

So, if you know what this toy was called, who made it, if you've got pics of it or you once had it then drop me a line and let me know. It's worth nothing more than a shared memory and maybe some email correspondence from someone else old enough to remember when toys were powered by imagination rather than disposable batteries.

Update - 4/15/2012 - a clue and a lead ...

Hi

On your blog entry (about the mystery toy) could it be the Airfix Flight Deck, http://www.stuffwelove.co.uk/flightdeck.htm that you are thinking of?  I wasn't old enough to see one myself but saw it on James May's Top Toys (UK tv programme).

from David

Thanks for the lead, David.  That could be the toy I was thinking about but I swear that it took off and landed on a three to five foot long styrofoam aircraft carrier ... maybe that was an American version of the toy ... at least I'm closer to finding an answer with a new direction to explore.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rayline Tracer Guns

Like I said in my previous post, I'm going to use this blog to talk about things that matter (or mattered) to me. I've got several series of posts lined up in the old thought cache but one I've been meaning to kick off for a while now is a look back at the toys I remember the most from my misspent youth. I thought I'd post a new series ... Childhood Revisited or things that I remember from a long time ago that once made me smile. So much has changed since my childhood and not necessarily for the better. However, ignoring that, I'm going to look back on several instances of my childhood ... mostly toys that I had or wanted (but never got) and share my memories and thoughts on those items.

For those who might be wondering, I had a happy childhood. No, scratch that, I had one hell of an effing great childhood and here's a glimpse into it.

-Rayline Tracer Guns-


One of the best memories of my young childhood was playing a game that we simply called “guns.” The battlefield was the whole suburban neighborhood … every yard, half-built new house, vacant lot and wooded lot … and we’d play for hours at a time. Liberals and other peace nits are going to send me hate mail now. Yes, I grew up playing with toy guns, pretending to “kill” my friends and … surprise! I’ve never shot or killed anyone in real life, I’ve never robbed a liquor store with a toy gun and I don’t have the urge to wail and cry my heart out over a tree that’s just been cut down so I believe that I grew up (reasonably) normal.

Chiggers, grass stains, dirty clothes, sweat, the occasional broken toy, the occasional scraped knee or skinned elbow, a bruise or two and maybe a few salty tears were all childhood occupational hazards and just part of the price that we willingly paid to wage war on each other and have hours of fun and friendship.

Now, when it came time to play guns one of my favorite weapons of choice was the Tracer Gun series of toy gun from Rayline (Ray Plastics) of Winchendon Springs, MA. I’m not sure of the whole history of this toy weapon series but I do know that it was offered in both pistol and rifle form, in several colors (
each) and that it was sold as both a Star Trek (the original television series) tie-in as well as a stand-alone product.
I never had any of the Star Trek licensed editions of the Tracer Guns (and these guns never appeared in the original television series). Except for maybe some basic coloration changes the Star Trek edition Tracer Guns seemed to be identical to the non-Star Trek licensed editions.
I personally remember having both a blue and a gold edition of the pistol (both black grips) and a white with blue grips edition of the rifle which I think I got as a birthday present in ’77 or ‘78.
This toy gun, in either pistol or rifle format, was simply … awesome … and whoever designed this particular toy gun series deserves a multitude of thanks from an entire generation of kids who were lucky enough to grow up playing with these wonderful toys.

The Tracer Gun was a simple though novel idea, load a toy gun with twenty flat aerodynamic plastic discs, squeeze the trigger and a spring loaded flicker arm (kind of like a clay pigeon thrower) would be pulled back to a certain point and then released with a violence all of its own. This flicker arm would be flung forward striking the first plastic aerodynamic disc off the top of the spring loaded 20 disc magazine. When the spring arm made contact with the aerodynamic disc, it would send it spinning down the flat tracks inside the round barrel. The aerodynamic disc was basically an air foil and would leave the barrel like a Frisbee, buzzing towards your intended target and floating through the air at a speed that was, generally, a little faster than any but the fastest kids could outrun or dodge. Fat kids went down without a hitch and you didn’t have to lead them as much as you did the quicker, more agile skinny kids.

With 20 or so discs per load, you could afford to be … liberal … in firing at your target but you had to be careful outside because attrition among discs was high if you didn’t stop to pick up the discs that you just fired and generally, as a rule, you often went home a few discs shy of what you brought with you but that was okay. I’m pretty sure that losing discs was part of the design of this toy gun because the company used to sell boxes of spare discs as well. Remember, kids; product attrition due to customer use is tantamount to corporate profit.

I remember the trigger was a little hard to pull but you never forgot the sound that this toy made when it fired … a solid plastic click, distinct and easily recognized by anyone who ever had one of these toys. The fling arm snapped forward with such force that you felt sure that if you could somehow get your finger into the chamber and pull the trigger that it would pinch you good.

The tracer gun wasn’t very accurate under rapid fire due to the short barrel (the slotted barrel was only an inch, maybe two inches long) and because the simple act of pulling the trigger often amounted to a very real case of “Buck Fever” resulting in a wide cone of fire. As for being harmful, you could hardly feel the discs if they actually did hit you but you definitely saw them coming … at least if you were being shot at from the front.

You could dual wield the pistol (I had two) but the excessive trigger pull worked hard to make the off-hand pistol even more inaccurate. Dual wielding a set of Tracer Gun pistols really saturated the air around your target with discs but trying to pick up forty colored discs after emptying both magazines took a real chunk out of the fun factor … especially when knew that you had fired forty jet discs, you counted up your discs and you could only find thirty-six. Like I said, it was a really good thing that the company sold extra packs of jet discs.
The rifle version, strangely called a “Jet Disc Tracer Scope” or something like that, had an advantage over the pistol version in that it had a larger magazine (though it still only held the same number of discs as the pistol, IIRC) and the size of the magazine lent the magazine itself to be used as a handy foregrip / handgrip for the rifle thus adding to the stability, the accuracy and the ability to fire faster. The trigger pull was just as harsh as the pistol version (and just as loud) but using the rifle’s magazine as a handgrip, you could really squeeze out some volleys with the rifle, literally filling the air with flying jet discs. The large see-through thread spool sized scope on top was there only for decoration and served very little, if any function thus the name of the toy rifle was somewhat misleading.

All in all, the Rayline Tracer Guns are toys that have many cherished memories from my childhood and I long for those carefree days of my youth when the summer lasted three full months and seemed just as endless as the imaginary suburban battlefield.
And to close on a bit of weirdness ... I found this picture one night on one of the artsy sites that I frequent. Look at the little boy in the foreground ... yep, he's walking the streets of New York City with a Rayline Jet Disc Tracer Scope rifle.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I am the ape-man


So here I sit, feeling like that ape-man in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey when it was standing before the ominous Monolith. This time, the Monolith is called a "blog" and I have one. In fact, I've had one ... since 2005 and like the ape-man in 2001: ASO I guess I just didn't know how to use it ... or care to use it.

You see, I'm 42 years old (near enough to the truth) and I really don't have much to say to anyone. To pull a lyric from one of my favorite bands, The Drive-By Truckers; "ain't got no message for the youth of America." No, I made it this far on my own and if you're anything like me then I'm sure you'll do fine in finding your own way as well. If not, shrug my shoulders, the truth is that you're disposable, everybody is, and there are plenty more coming up from behind you to take your place.

Life is a wave, a big forward rushing tsunami of learning and experience and joy and grief and the key is that you have to ride it all the way to the end. If you wipe out ... chances are your ride's over so wax up your board and hang ten because that's all that anyone is going to give you ... at best, so take it for what it's worth and hold on to it with both hands. Tight.


I am the ape-man.
I am the walrus.
Coo-coo-ca-choo.

So what does a jaded misanthrope do with a blog? My guess is that I do what the ape-man learned to do ... I pick it up and bash the brains of my fellow ape-men out with it and in doing so I somehow become better than them ... and survive to breed and spread my superior genes on to the next generation. Oops, it seems I've already done that, twice, with the same woman that I've been married to now for ... God ... coming up on sixteen years. Knew her for almost three years before that so that means that I have been in a monogamous relationship, a stable marriage, a loving, family based unity for almost the better part of two decades now (or almost half of my life).

I never saw that coming ... never thought I'd get married, never thought I'd be a father, never thought I'd be a good husband or a good father but surprisingly I'm both ... or so I'm told not just by my wife and kids but by other people who know me as well. Maybe I have them fooled or maybe I'm just not willing to believe the truth. I live my life by one old quote:

"I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am." ~Joseph Baretti

Yep. That pretty much sums up my outlook on the human race. So, if there's hope for the human race, and there's hope for me ...
Hell, I'm not an ape-man; I'm an anachronism ... a dusty old American artifact powered by an outdated code of honor and a pseudo-ridiculous belief system from an era that is long gone and forgotten. An era when things weren't disposable, when life was sacred, when you didn't push a button to get what you want, when you waited for the good stuff in life and worked hard for it rather than pitch a fit when it wasn't given to you and when life didn't change every damn day. It was an era when bad was punished, good was rewarded, phones were phones and music was music and things meant ... something or at least they meant something that lasted and could be counted on.

So I have a blog.

Big hairy deal.

Apparently I've had a blog since 2005 ... I just forgot that I had it mainly because I really didn't have much to say. Imagine my surprise when I found a link to my blog, blew the dust off of it and saw the date stamp. I think I must have had the same expression that George Taylor had in that scene from Planet of the Apes when he reads the ship time chronometer and finds out that so many years have passed.

It's been almost six years since I last did a blog.

So much has happened in that time.

So much has changed.

One thing I'm not going to do is get on here and murder a bunch of "1" and "0" bytes by whining about how my life sucks or something isn't fair. I don't think that I ever went through any kind of phase like that in my life mainly because I came from pretty hardy stock. I'm more a stoic than an Epicurean though I do like me some delights every now and then. Leisure, I've found out the hard way, is a corrosive that etches away the structure of discipline. Leisure is a trap.

The Spartans had it right. It's a good bet that no Spartan ever drowned in pop culture.

So, with all that said, I'm going to post here things that are important to me. I'm not going to post things that are important to the world, things like that pseudo-religious gobbly gook called "global warming" or any green issues because I just don't care. I stopped being active, an activist, if I ever was one, a long time ago and now I'm just content to watch all the idiots thunder by on their useless crusade. No. From now on, it's all about me and if you want to ride along then be my guest ... here's your ticket. Find a seat because the show's about to start.

When the ape-man touched the Monolith, he was changed forever into a different creature. I'm not sure that a blog will or won't change me ... or you. Time, and critics, but more so time, will tell.

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong.

Maybe stuff that I post here won't change me but it just might change others. I know from all the thousands of emails that I've received over the years that my website has changed the lives of others ... in fact, my websites have awakened quite a few ape-men and made them walk upright again.

That's good.

I think.

The truth is that I never intended my websites to do that but if they did, well, maybe that's something more than the next person has done for the world. Maybe if I just keep on doing what I've always done then this blog will turn out all right and if someone, out there, some where, some when, reads something on here or my websites that makes them rethink their self or makes them take a new look at life then ... good.

But I'm drawn back to that nagging question.

If I'm not changing because of what I post but people who read what I post, what I create sometimes change then what does that make me? Some kind of catalyst for change?

Hmmm.

If I'm a catalyst for change then that must mean ...

I'm not the ape-man.
I'm not the walrus.
I am the Monolith.
Coo-coo-ca-choo.

Indeed.