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Christmas 2012: Four Generations of Family, A Mummified Banana and the Promise of a Dry Diaper

January 2nd, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

My family all loves each other, and gets along pretty well. Which means that my holidays are usually pretty great, but rarely make for much in the way of great material. Four generations of people that love and respect each other kind of puts me at a disadvantage for a career in the arts. I try to work around it, though.

What follows isn’t really a story with conflict and an arc and surprises and stuff. But this chapter in my family’s history is so magnificent that it needs to be recorded somewhere. So I’m annotating a series of photos that sum it all up.

In-law jokes were for hacks back in the ’60s. Everyone knows that. But one of the things that nobody ever tells you about getting married is that if you get lucky and pick it right, you actually get to join a whole new awesome family in addition to your own. And if yours sucks a little, you kind of get another shot.

I started the holidays with Maggie’s family in suburban Maryland – here we are, opening some gifts early. My soon-to-be father-in-law gave me the entire run of Battlestar Galactica, which I’ve actually never seen – pretty solid!


For those of you that don’t know, my aunt and uncle own and operate a Christmas store in Smithfield, Virginia. It’s open year-round, and it’s not one of those chintzy chain stores you see at your more pathetic shopping malls. Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Elaine have an entire wardrobe of Christmas-themed clothing, and wear this stuff all the time, like it’s completely normal. They also usually have a little glitter or fake snow from a shedding ornament stuck to their sweater, glasses or something the way that other people might wear cat hair.

Here are a few shots of the shop:

At Christmas:



At Halloween:

Christmas Store, Halloween
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See-Through Jukebox at the Black Cat

November 11th, 2011 by Jeff Simmermon

I love jukeboxes – pack ‘em right and everyone in the bar’s a pretty good DJ, all night long.

The jukebox at Washington DC’s Black Cat is out of order. Or, it’s out of order as a jukebox – it works just fine as a multi-disc CD player, stuck on shuffle. Someone took the protective covering out from under the glass on the front, and you can see right into its guts. It’s pretty beautiful, I think.

I took this photo with TrueHDR via a wide-angle lens stuck to the front of my iPhone 4, then ran it through the Photoshop app and some other stuff to get this image:

Filed under And I Am Not Lying - Live, Found, Jeff Simmermon, Toys, Travel having Comments Off

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Harryhausen’s Outback Showdown: Deliver or Die, Skippy

January 20th, 2011 by Jeff Simmermon
Harryhausen's Outback Showdown

I’ve been writing and editing and re-writing my story for this Monday’s Moth GrandSLAM, just scribbling it over and over on a legal pad to make sure I’ve got it. The theme is “Into the Wild,” which poses a challenge. I’ve pretty much told and re-told what I like to think is a pretty solid story on that theme. I’ve told that thing right into the red dirt, to be honest. I’m sure my friends, family, and the odd person I am totally trying to impress is sick to their guts of it. I think I’ve worn a track in my brain from repeating it so damn much.

I got one of the best passive-aggressive guilt trips about this that I’ve ever had from anyone that wasn’t my own mother recently. She’s a great friend I met through the Moth, and when I suggested I wanted to visit that old incarnation of that story for the theme, she said “Yeah, I mean, you could do that. But if you won with it, I think you’d feel pretty cheap.”

She’s right. So I’m working on it, but brother, you never know you’ve got something until it’s over and done with. The challenge here is to find other material in that experience, stuff that didn’t make the first cut and massaging it into something brand-new.
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The Sense of Right Alliance

December 17th, 2010 by D.Billy

Last night in a “discount store” in Prospect Heights, I came across an amazing little item. See, not only have factories in China been producing unauthorized knockoffs of popular toys (which is nothing new)… it seems like they’re hitting the “shuffle” button with whatever figures they have left in stock, and coming up with new super-teams too! Case in point: the SENSE OF RIGHT ALLIANCE!

Apparently, a robot-armed Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, the yellow Power Ranger, The Thing, and a redheaded Reed Richards and have teamed up…


And on top of this already delicious ridiculousness, when I took a closer look at their approximation of Superman:

…I immediately made this association:

God, I love this stuff.
PREVIOUSLY IN FOREIGN PLAYTIME ODDITIES: Coming to America Wrapped in Plastic and Cardboard


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Nelson Lugo at Standard Issues

December 2nd, 2010 by Brad Lawrence

In preparation for the upcoming live show, I have decided to post something you won’t see from someone you will see. Because I take the direct route to nothing. Which is probably why my high school career went the way it did.

So at the live show, you will see a very talented magician and burlesque host. He will be performing magic. In this video I am posting, he is not. He is telling a story. His name is Nelson Lugo.

As part of Cyndi’s neverending quest to make burlesque performers tell a story and storytellers strip, we had Nelson over at Standard Issues in October.

He did a great job, because he is a charming man. However he did wear that hat. So this is more radio than video, in certain ways.

Oh, and you should drop by Because I am a brilliant literary mind who could desperately use the traffic bump.

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The Longing for Lost Toys

July 22nd, 2010 by D.Billy

This little tableau was one of the first photographs that I ever took — maybe around age 12 — with my very first camera, a cheap plastic Vivitar 110:

Skeletor Crew

It shows three Masters of the Universe figures that belonged to my brother and I — Jitsu, Tung Lashor (in the Land Shark) and Battle-Damage Skeletor — lined up against the wood panel & linoleum backdrop of the trailer-with-added-rooms that we grew up in, and I f*cking LOVE IT.

I remember the spot where this photo was taken, and I remember that just down the hall under our bunk beds, and under the desk in my father’s “office” there were plastic tubs and wooden boxes of other action figures and vehicles… Transformers, G.I. Joe, Hot Wheels, Marvel Secret Wars, DC Super Powers, M.A.S.K., M.U.S.C.L.E., Battle Beasts, Centurions, and probably others that I’m forgetting. We also had a giant-sized bin of LEGO blocks, all jumbled in together like an 8-bit plastic gumbo. I can remember the feel of the blocks’ corners and the shooshing, tinkling sound as I rummaged through them looking for just one more clear red dot to cap off the wing of my spaceship.

We still have a few of these things in a closet at my mother’s house. (Or we will until I steal them this summer. Heads up, Mom.) But the bulk of them were given away to our nephews or other kids-of-friends-of-the-family, and from what I hear, many were promptly broken. (*single tear*)

So in pining for my lost clumps of cast plastic and rubber, I decided to fire up the group nostalgia engines. I asked my fellow contributors Jeff, Brad and Cyndi if they had any thoughts along these lines to share, and indeed they did…

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Fire in the Hole: Typography Born of Nostalgia and Noxious Fumes

May 23rd, 2010 by D.Billy

“Fire in the Hole”, a melted toy soldier alphabet by DC-based designer Oliver Munday:

(click the image for a zoom-able larger version on Munday’s own site.)

Filed under Art & Design, D.Billy, Toys having 2 Comments »

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The Battle: G.I. Joe Tribute Shirt from Nerduo

July 30th, 2009 by D.Billy

Those of us who grew up watching the G.I. Joe cartoon series and its associated public service announcements in the 1980s — many of whom are dying a little on the inside every time we see another preview trailer for G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra — are well aware that “Knowing Is Half The Battle”.  But what about the other half?  Well, design team Nerduo (my pal Mike Essl and his pal Robb Irrgang) have taken the liberty of breaking down “The Battle” for us in its statistical entirety with this easy-to read pie chart, and slapped that nugget of knowledge on a limited edition t-shirt, which is available on their website:

The Battle