The strange world of shaving

You know how when you were young and you wondered why your Dad had a big beard but other peoples’ Dads had no beard at all? (Ok, your Dad might not have been beardy – mine was, still is in fact.) Maybe you wondered what stopped hair growing on the chin? Maybe you were simply confused as to how men’s facial hair could vary so much? [Yes, I was a special child who wondered about a lot of things.]

It’s clear that what I needed to understand this tricky situation was none other than Shaving Fun Ken. Oh yes, I kid you not, a doll whose beard could be ‘shaved’ off and would then reappear. Confused as to how this might happen? Let this advert for Cool Shavin’ Ken from 1996 explain:

To be honest, this probably would have confused me more. There were no razors in the house until I started shaving my legs, so based on the Ken concept, I probably would have thought that shaving was a less than arduous activity. I guess I’m lucky we never owned a Ken doll. [We were a Sindy household – the only Barbie was one I was given after I’d run through someone’s front door. It now strikes me as odd that they gave me a present after I’d destroyed the entrance to their building…]

Anyway, Ken has been shave-able through the decades and now that he’s been brought back into Barbie’s life, a new version has arrived. Question is, which of the versions is the hottest?

Shaving Fun in the 21st Century:

Two versions from the 1990s – 95 & 96:

(Clearly 1995’s Ken wasn’t cool enough – I’d blame the stripes.) 

Or, Ken ready for everything the 1980s could throw at him:

That last one (from 1979) is shaving fun with an added bonus of sportiness. The blurb from the ad reads:
‘He’s athletic. He’s all man. He even “shaves”! …They [the kids playing with him] can pretend he’s a tennis star or marathon runner with or without a moustache.’
Tennis star or marathon runner, straight or gay…

Personally, I’m loving 1995 Ken (well, I’ve always had a soft spot for a guy with hair you can run your fingers through and who can wield a frisbee effectively). He comes with a matching backpack and visor – super cute! The ad for this one is also a favourite, particularly as it does absolutely nothing to remedy the confusion I might once have had about shaving:

At 0.18 the song tells us: “Only one guy’s beard grows back to shave again.” I may not have a beard and I may not have a significant other on who to test my beliefs, but I’m pretty sure most guys’ beards grow back if you shave them off. Bearded (or non-bearded) readers, can you confirm this?

Ahhh, if only life were as simple as Mattel makes it out to be.

This post was inspired by this one from the ever-wonderful The Hairpin.

And where are they now?

Do you have any idea where your beloved childhood companions are? The objects you spent hour upon hour with creating fantastical worlds, without whom you refused to sleep – insisting that they had to be tucked up alongside you…

Last night I slept with my rather threadbare ‘Big Ted’ (he is really not big at all, nor did I have a smaller version, so I have no idea how he got that name) for the first time in a good long while. Usually he lives in the airing cupboard (don’t ask) but I felt moved to rescue him after a rather traumatic evening.

Actually, it wasn’t overly traumatic – no one died. I had pleasant drinks with a friend recently returned from across the pond and then we watched Toy Story 3. This particular friend is my top film watching companion – not only have I watched more films with him than anyone else (probably into the 100s over the last 8 years) but I also generally trust his recommendations (unless it involves aliens or gore) – so when he mentioned that he was looking forward to watching me sob at its plot, I started to worry…

Toy Story 3 is not a children’s film. Sure, they might appreciate the general story line and some of the jokes, but most of it – the amazing animation, the nods to other films, the celebrity cast that you barely notice and adult plot – would go right over their heads. When I say ‘adult plot’ I obviously do not mean porn, more that a film about a child leaving for college is always going to have a particular resonance for those who have either left home, or had children who’ve left home. From the moment Andy’s mother began to instruct her son on how to pack, I knew the evening would end in tears.

It’s been too long since I watched the earlier two films to be able to compare them, but goodness me, this film is dark. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but the toys’ journey includes a 1984-esque daycare centre and a moment in which I genuinely believed that their end would be met (in a Terminator 2/Aliens 3 context). Oh, and a very scary clown doll (Don’t think clowns are scary? Watch Poltergeist.), not to mention a terrifying monkey with cymbals.

The last 15 minutes were heart wrenchingly painful. I defy anyone to watch the moment Andy’s mother enters her son’s now empty bedroom and not choke up. My friend had watched the film with his parents the night before and this was the point at which his mother completely lost it – and I’m not surprised, I’m not sure if my mother would be able to get through it in one piece. Imagine a screening with an audience consisting solely of fresher students’ parents? Horrific.

But back to my original question – where are your childhood toys now? The film is basically about what Andy decides to do with his one time favourite companions and without a doubt you’ll start getting misty-eyed about your old friends. When my friend asked me what I’d done with mine, he (and no doubt you) was unsurprised to hear that I’d had a logical system for what I kept and what I got rid of…

In my parent’s house is a wicker basket containing those that I kept. Specifically, these included toys with particular sentimental significance – like Pooh Bear who was my first every toy – and ‘toys of cultural importance’. Yes, I decided to keep toys which were particularly relevant to the 1980’s/early 1990’s. This means that the basket contains (amongst others) a Pound Puppy, Puzzle the Popple, a Gordon T Gopher puppet (still useful for freaking the Labrador out from time to time), my favourite My Little Pony (the rest of the collection & accessories made me a killing on eBay), a Sindy, a Rainbow Brite doll and my Care Bear.

You cannot watch Toy Story without having some kind of residual belief that your toys might actually be real and have feelings, so it’s rather unsurprising that I sought to liberate Big Ted from his exile in the airing cupboard. Perhaps all he’s been waiting for over the last few years is for me to realise how important he is in my life and bring him back to his rightful place on my bed…

Couldn’t find a photo of me & Big Ted, so this is me and ragdoll Jemima (also kept for sentimental reasons), which I think I’ve used before
Am fairly sure that I’m not actually naked in this photo, but it’s possible… 

Unlicensed toys, Cuteness & something a bit dodgy…

Apologies for the lack of Friday Fun last week. I wasn’t at work, so I didn’t feel a need for it! This week, there are three things to choose from, which should satisfy all tastes:

Sadly, it excludes some key characters (though the Fat Controller wouldn’t count anyway, being human not a machine) and I didn’t keep a record of the comedy sentence that accompanied the link when sent it by a friend.


It’s not a licensed toy, so it’s unlikely to appear in Toys R Us anytime soon, but the concept’s a great one. Incidentally, in my quest to discover which characters it was excluding, I discovered the breadth of random characters now included in the modern TV series, like the influx of female ones. This was following complaints in the 1970’s that the only women (Annie and Clarabelle) had a passive role – in that they were pulled along by engines. Interesting point…

(ii) Cuteness
Namely, Cute Overload. The sort of sickly-sweet website that only appeals to 7 year old girls or hormonal women, but oh so slightly addictive. Photos of baby animals – check. Videos of adorable animal antics – check. Animals in knitted clothing – check. What more could you want?

It even sub-divides posts into categories, meaning that if all you’re interested in is cute kittens, there’s a button just for you! I’m personally loving this photo

(iii) Dodginess
(As an aside, as I wrote ‘a bit dodgy’ in the title, I was reminded how hilarious a Californian friend of mine finds the way I say that phrase. Hadn’t thought about her for a while, so it made me smile!)

Often featured on Friday’s is Gizmodo’s photoshop contest. Last week’s was slightly risque, but I’m including it anyway, because it was the funniest yet. The mission was to use sex to sell otherwise unsexy gadgets. The many (predictable) references to the Palm Pre made me chuckle a lot. Others were just plain disturbing. Warning: Do not read at work!!

Ponies on the edge

I’m not ashamed to admit that my #1 toy in 1987 was a My Little Pony Dream Castle. I was a MLP devotee for a couple of years, owning several horses, the castle, grooming parlour and numberous accessories (including such gems as roller skates and a mackintosh).

Years later I made quite a bit of money flogging the lot (bar one – for posterity) on ebay – not all MLP collectors have grown up. Turns out my mid-80’s models were rather hard to track down.

Anyway, was highly amused to spot in today’s Guardian a gallery of MLP creations by Mari Kasurinen, who turns the sweet ponies into classic characters from film and music. The results are comic, impressive and often freakishly scary…

My favourites include:

My Little Pony Slave Princess Leia
[There’s also a StormTrooper, Chewy & Han Solo.]

My Little Pony Kill Bill Bride

My Little Pony Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Sparrow

I find the Alien version far to scary to look at, but check out the gallery for that and interpretations of Edward Scissorhands, charaters from HeMan & other classics.

And just think, for a mere £330 one of these could be yours!!

Barriers shall not divide us

When we first moved to our new offices at the start of November, I was very disorientated by the fact that we didn’t have desk screens. As a result, I campaigned strongly to get them…and today they arrived.

This means that at last I can put up inspiring images and words to keep me going during the working day, and not have to gaze at C’s ugly mug all the time. (Love him really!) Added bonus is that the people facing my back can’t now see my screens – always handy during those brief moments of non-work related internet activity.

The screens also mean that our personalities are now evident. C has a rather wonderful calendar of hot priests (moody black & white shots, my favourite is Father July), and whilst I’d like to emulate it with the Men on a Mission calendar, at the moment I’ve got to make do with a Hockney postcard and a drawing from Doris.

Plus, C has decided that the top of the screen is a great place for one of his Christmas presents – small creatures with interchangeable heads. Below is the view I had all day, followed by C’s view. I particularly dislike the baby-octopus. Freaky.

And here’s a shot of C’s desk – complete with Priest calendar. You might sense that it’s phenomenally tidy, much more so than my own.