Something for the Weakened

Archive for November, 2004


November 29th, 2004 by

Ordinarily I spend most of my day listening to a discman. With the nature of my job primarily involving me wandering about a building on my tod, the pleasures of my extensive music collection help to wile away the hours. Today I managed to remember to bring the discman, the ten discs that could last me the day, batteries, even the case that straps it to my belt. But I forgot the belt. Twat. This led to the unfortunate thing that always happens when I don’t have music playing in my ears; I started making it myself. Found myself humming the rocking out part of the A Team theme in front of one of the more attractive members of staff. Maybe she was impressed, but I have my doubts. A History of Collecting is resting and will return when I can think of something that doesn’t involve jumping forward five years. Listen to Johnny Trunk. He fun. Is.

Where do the weaks go?

November 27th, 2004 by

Sincere apologies to you, my regular reader. I’ve been laxer than a kilo of liquorice this week and without any real reasons either. I did have something written and ready to post on Wednesday, but my computer ate it. No, seriously. I swear it has some sort of a vendetta against me. If it’s left alone for too long, long enough for the screen to switch itself off, it picks that moment to devour everything and then refuse to spit it back out again. I managed to stop it from doing it when the screensaver came on (by disabling the screensaver, obviously), but I’m damned if I can work out how to change the screen settings. I am something of a Luddite in the whole worldwide inter web net thing, as you’ve probably realised. It’s probably really simple, but it would take time to do it. Time I could better spend, err, well, doing other things. And that. Don’t really have any excuses for the rest of the week, except for imbibing heroic quantities of booze on Thursday night, which I have the bruises from to prove to any unbelievers amongst you. Must stop drinking on an empty stomach. Still don’t feel altogether well, though that might just be the internal haemorrhaging. Anyway, things to do today, so I will leave you be, pausing only to recommend Coco Rosie’s album to you. Two estranged sisters coming back together to produce some of the most wonderfully odd music one could manage in a small Paris flat. With your own sister.

A History of Collecting – Part Fifteen – Forced Out

November 22nd, 2004 by

It’s only a day late, which is better than some of my weaker attempts I’m sure you’ll agree. Nyer na na na memoir, diddly dee diddly dee inventory. Blah blah comics, toys et cetera. Understand? Good, then I’ll continue (and hopefully finish this week – I’d forgotten how much I loved the little bastards) with my Action Force digression. God help you all.

I can’t pinpoint a specific point when the Action Force collecting bug left me. In all my born days as collector, those little figures are the only things I’ve obsessed over for only a finite period. It was sometime during the third wave of figures after the revamp. Having succeeded in completing the first two sets with little to no hassle, I inevitably launched into the new challenge with gusto. Money was saved, trips to Toon Town were made, the numbers grew. But not as quickly as before. I had gotten well past the halfway point approximately a year later, when the death knell sounded. Arriving in Giles’ hallowed halls, I was both surprised and annoyed to see that an all-new fourth line had been released. Hasbro, having not realised the voracious appetite of the Collector gene at this time, had discontinued the old line. No more would be sold on proper toyshop shelves. I was destined never to complete line three.

Of course I carried on collecting the new fourth line, but my heart wasn’t really in it any more. It had become something done more out of habit than hobby anymore. It wasn’t as if I really played with them any more. Not that I did a great deal any way. At some point while collecting the first lie, it became more about possessing the characters than having fun with them. As my collection grew, rather than having games, fights or anything else of that nature with them, the new figures would become part of an ever-expanding diorama in the corner of my bedroom. Every figure was placed on one of the vehicles I would have received for a birthday or some such occasion. No figures were to touch the ground. All characters would be on vehicles of their own allegiance and, wherever possible, the little nodules that fitted into the soles of their feet would also be utilised. All characters would be holding or near to all weapons that had come in the box with them. And there they would sit, gathering a thin film of dust until the next time I acquired a figure or vehicle and the whole lot would have to be reorganised all over again. No one was to touch them but me.

I was an officious little shit. A couple of incidents stick out in my mind (not including the numerous occasions my father managed to tread on it opening the curtains). Once, returning from a friends house (how I had any is beyond me), discovering to my horror that my brother had come into my room and reorganised all of the characters. This was bad enough, but the fact that he had used the abnormally high number of points of articulation to leave them all holding their crotches caused me to really fly off the handle. I don’t recall my actual reactions, but I can only imagine it involved some degree of pummelling.

The other major incident was the one time I actually played with the figures with someone else. Neill (with two Ls), my best friend, had been badgering me to play some sort of war thing with them for months, possibly even years, on end. Eventually, after much cajoling, I buckled. And play we did. Using my bedroom, my brother’s bedroom and the landing in between, we spent an enjoyable afternoon battling out a little military campaign together. I don’t think that either of us took a side, we both played Action Force and Cobra parts having set up who was going to fight who before hand. I almost wish that there was some horror story behind this, but sadly there’s not. Nothing was irreparably damaged leading me to cast Neill (with two Ls) out into the streets. It was a fun afternoon with my best mate. There’s just one thing that’s always stuck with me and that might be the key to the whole thing.

At one point during the game Neill (with two Ls) killed the evil Cobra femme fatale Baroness. Not killed in a smashed to pieces sort of a way, just shot by one of the other figures (could have been Footloose, but I’m uncertain). And I told him he couldn’t do that. Seems an odd thing to say, but there was a reason. I had become so ingrained in the whole mythos – the toys, the comics, videos, hell I was in the fan club – that these characters had to some extent become real to me. There was no way that the Baroness or any other character for that matter could be dead, unless it had come to me through the proper channels. Even if it was just in a game with my bestest buddy in the whole wide world. My belief in the world that had been created allowed me some flexibility in terms of imagination, but always within strict guidelines.

On another occasion, probably while I was still embroiled in collecting the third line, my brother and I were arguing as we did on a near daily basis. At one point he mockingly asked me if I believed that Action Force was real. In the context of the argument, I forget how, I could only argue that I did and still win. And of course winning was far more important than any silly belief system I may have had. But I remember how hollow the words felt. I didn’t know it then, but my heart was dropping out of the Action Force world.

My obsession didn’t end there and then. It slowly fizzled to a halt. I got quite a few figures from the third line; fewer still from fourth, maybe a couple from the fifth. The tactile pleasure I had derived from the toys had deserted me. The comics were still being produced and I continued with those until the bitter end, but Hasbro had lost a valued customer.

Postscript. Many years later I was chatting to a bloke known as Ginge. His real name eludes me (unlike his hair colour), but he had been in the year above me at school. We had known of one another’s existence, but never paid any attention to it. A mutual friend led us to spending a little time together when I was in my early twenties. At some point the subject of Action Force was brought up. My face fell, even seven or eight years after I had kicked my habit. I could barely believe my ears as it was explained to me that the figures were actually being produced in Witney. On a trading estate I cycled through on an almost daily basis. And out the back of the factory (oh horror of horrors), many of the local kids had found a skip. And can you guess what lay within?


November 21st, 2004 by

Bloody Sunday. It’s been sort of productive, but not in many ways. Managed to read every issue of 100 Bullets published so far, something I hadn’t done since I started collecting the series almost five years ago. Wish I had sooner, as many of the intricacies of the plot had completely passed me by – particularly the sections that are only referred to once a year or so. I’d highly recommend the collected editions to you all, Azarello’s script is really top notch and, despite the fact they’ve supposedly never even spoken, perfectly complemented by Eduardo Risso’s artwork. Just finished watching the Director’s Commentary on Herzog’s Nosferatu. And that’s been my Sunday. And that’s why A History of Collecting hasn’t been written. If I started now I’d never get to sleep tonight. So I shan’t. You don’t really care do you? Can’t say that I particularly blame you. Eaten too much cheese this weekend. Can’t help but worry that there will be consequences . . .


November 20th, 2004 by

Saturday. Celebrate. Go on you bastards. Conscious and moving before midday, which is something of a novelty for me at the weekend. Not really certain what else to do though. Now that I’m out of the various worlds of pain that the first cold of the season inevitably brings, I’m sort of up for doing something. This meanwhile is prevented by the fact that I’ve only got seven pounds to my name and some minor (and hopefully cheap) engagements next week. So I’m really in need of some free entertainment. No, I’ve done that twice already this morning. Could go for a walk, but it looks chilly out there and I’ve not been able to afford to buy a scarf due to the aforementioned reasons. My neck gets cold. There’s always the possibility of wandering about window-shopping, but then I’m faced with the horrific prospect of my seeing something that I really, really want. That’s my problem you see. I have got access to further cash, but if I use it my perpetual debt will spiral even further out of my own control than it spirals now. I could stay in and read. Maybe watch a film or two. Perhaps even chat to my housemates. Thinking about it though, I haven’t been down to the second-hand record shop for a couple of months . . .


November 18th, 2004 by

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Too Late For Weds

November 18th, 2004 by

Right, finally some action. For some reason my computer is refusing to allow me to type anything on Word, so I’ve been forced to rely on the old (yet strangely evil) faithful that is Lotus Smartsuite. Don’t blame me – my Dad installed it all and didn’t give me any say in the matter. I was young and brow beaten into buying the PC I didn’t particularly with a cheerful tax payoff, because it had a modem. I could be writing this all on a horribly outdated laptop, while having an even more astronomical overdraft now, if it weren’t for that decision. Not to mention the Internet porn obsession, but let’s not get into that now. Look at me, I’m typing any old shite just so I can try and get this up before midnight. Earlier on today I actually had things to say, but that’s all gone by the wayside now. Quantity = quality, eh ladies. I’m just guilty about not putting anything up yesterday, but I will try and say some of my more constructive things (should they exist) tomorrow. Until then, I should point out that Head by The Monkees is the best album in the world ever. No, it really is.

In The Court Of The Crimson King – Track Three

November 15th, 2004 by

What is one supposed to feel when a vague acquaintance dies? It’s something that I’ve thankfully been spared throughout most of my life, but is starting to happen with more frequency as time goes by. It’s not that I’ve had a lot of experience with people I’m close to dying either (touch wood), but when it’s someone you may exchanged maybe a thousand words with it’s hard to know what to do. Obviously sadness should be expressed and funerals possibly attended, but when it’s someone that had no dramatic effect on your life it seems hard to get really worked up. First time it happened to me was when someone I went to school with got knocked off their motorbike about half a mile from my house. First we knew of anything was the road being closed, but it took a couple of days before I actually found out what had happened. It was a kid who I had sort of got on with – he was legendarily popular in the first year solely for, as far as I can make out, his ability to moonwalk (never understood it myself). This seemed to have become stale with the really popular kids by the third year at least. But I had always got on with him. And now he was dead. And though I was sad, I was even more indifferent. Am I a bad unfeeling psychotic bastard or is this just something everyone goes through and has the good sense not to bring up? I don’t know. I didn’t go to his funeral.

Good bye Sally.

A History of Collecting – Part Fourteen – Border Forces

November 14th, 2004 by

Welcome back my fiends, to the show that never eends! Hmm, needs work. Anyway, here we are again with the fourteenth ‘gripping’ instalment of A History of Collecting. Part confessional, semi-boastful, and all of next to no interest to man or beast, somehow I’ve managed to bang on about my obsession with collecting stuff for over a quarter of a year now. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of this most painful addiction. Why my parents couldn’t have just weaned me onto the horse at an early age is beyond me. They didn’t have the foresight to realise that shooting up twice a day would have led to far less anguish than my continual quest for the twenty-third issue of Action Force weekly. But enough of tedious introductions, let us move into this week’s essay. Let’s put the comics to one side again and try to put the Action Force obsession to bed for the time being shall we. Onward!

As mentioned last week (there’s an archive – use it, mofo!), my need for Action Force figures was not entirely motivated by greed. It was the first time I had encountered scarcity in a hobby, something that confused my collecting genes at first. I had endured; the hard to find figures had eventually come my way, by hook or by crook, and I had managed to acquire an entire line. That was easy, thought my tiny mind. Surely it’ll be as easy as that to recreate this past success, is probably not how I would have worded it, but you get the idea. And to begin with, easy it was. About a year or so down the line the second line came out and once again within the year, all were mine.

This time there were a couple of unusual diversions. My first trip abroad occurred that summer – a family holiday to France in (oh my God, no) the caravan. The holiday was good fun and opened new horizons in an overseas “Mummy, why are they talking funny?” kind of a way. One of these horizons was the difference borderlines made to which toys one could buy. I had had some second hand knowledge of the existence of these borders at an earlier age, when someone at school had come in with a Transformer of the character Shockwave. Though he had appeared in the cartoon and the comic, the figure was never made available in the UK as anyone who had looked at the little catalogue in their Optimus Prime boxes knew. But here it was, plain as day, brought in from some exotic continental clime to mock those of us whose parents could only afford to take them to Wales for the summer. Actually it was probably bought off some dodgy market trader who was importing them on the cheap, but I can’t remember which kid actually had it. I seem to remember it was one of the scruffier boys whose Mum and Dad could never have afforded to buy a full price Transformer, let alone go abroad.

Anyway, France. Here I finally saw first hand these boundaries that separated us from the continent. Having convinced our parents of the necessity of going into a toyshop in a French city (I forget which), I was most chuffed to find that it possessed a large G. I. Joe section. I fear a further digression is needed at this point. G. I. Joe had been the original name for Action Force and for Action Man for that matter. The original designs had originated in the States, and had slowly been marketed out to various other nations. How many actually changed the name is a mystery to me – the French might have had L’Action Homme, but by the time that the figures had shrunk and become a Force, they had reverted to the American name. Back in dear old Blighty meanwhile, possibly we were still reacting as a nation to them coming over here, stealing our women and winning our war for us, so rather than taint the name of a good toy with Yanqui overtones, the Action Man licence was born. It still lives on today, albeit following a couple of name changes in it’s recent past – the most obvious being the switch to Force when the figures became more diminutive, the other we will come to another day.

So there I stood, surrounded by what appeared to be a full collection of everything available in that second line of toys. What wonders to behold – it had only been available for a few months, so there were many holes in my collection to fill and the usual scarceness factor of Toon Town didn’t seem to be applicable here. I made the obvious choice to buy the two figures I’d not seen before and, though I did see them again, attempt to spurn the evil Gods of Scarcity. Unlike the Bath incident I had judged my money wisely this time and could comfortably part with that much to get my Storm Shadow and the other one whose name I’ve forgotten. Then something caught my eye. A large boring looking unillustrated cardboard box. Yet it seemed to be central to the display. I decided to investigate further. I was in for a shock.

The U. S. S. Flagg had appeared in a number of comic stories, but I had never imagined that it would be available in toy form. I mean, it was an aircraft carrier. An aircraft carrier, for fuck’s sake. The Skystriker jet fighter was pretty damned big, so how large a box would you need to put an aircraft carrier in? The answer towered before me. Printed onto the boring cardboard in dull brown letters was the outline of a large ship and the inscription ‘U. S. S. Flagg’. I was gobsmacked. What could I do with this information? Had we been on a day out, it would have been impossible to carry, but this time we had a caravan! I wouldn’t have minded sleeping out in the awning if we could try and smuggle it through Customs. If I turned on the waterworks would I be able to convince my parents to fork out the ludicrous number of Francs to buy it? An early Christmas present perhaps?

But no, dear reader. A year or more had passed since the Snake Eyes incident and I had in some small way matured. It was a wonderful thing to behold, but I was resigned to the fact that it would never be mine. It had never featured on the catalogues I had got with any of the UK vehicles, so as it had only just honed onto my radar, it’s blip was obscured by the larger target; my need to complete another line of figures. And before the year was out, I had succeeded a second time. It was becoming almost too easy. I had yet to offend the Gods of Scarcity . . .

Sick End

November 12th, 2004 by

I’ve been in a deep, deep rut for the past couple of days. Not sure if I’ve come down with something, just feel miserable or if it’s because I’ve stopped smoking again. Never the less, I almost feel properly human again this evening. Why does my throat always end up feeling more painful when I’m off the fags? It makes no sense to me, but that’s how it always seems to work out. Ahh well, I’ll probably only end up starting again when it feels better anyway. It is the first time I’ve managed to go without lozenges while poorly for years now. Not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, but at least I don’t smell menthol. I just smell.