Stairway To Stardom

Starting in the late Seventies, public access cable television in New York experienced Stairway to Stardom,  a reality-TV program at its finest.  People wishing to make a stab at television stardom could write in, schedule themselves to appear, pay an appearance fee, and then show up in living rooms all across Staten Island.

It’s as if American Idol auditions left out all the super-talented people and the mentally ill hopefuls, and only accepted people with moderate talent and extreme enthusiasm.   (Via.)

Facehugger Skimask


Ah, it’s the time of year when the knitters in your life move from socks and blankets to scarves and headgear.   If they’re particularly creative, they’ve got something custom in the works, like this alien facehugger skimask.

knit-alien-facehugger-skimaskYou can only wear it for a few hours, because after that time you need to switch over to these guys:

alien_plushKnitters are an amazing folk: they can make almost anything you can imagine out of interlocking loops of string.   The crew of the Nostromo would have survived if only one of them could have knit an alien containment unit before things got ugly.

(Facehugger via, others via)



The Seeburg 1000

Seeburg was a jukebox maker who hit upon a novel idea:  let’s build a jukebox that plays special albums, 45min on a side, and make it peppy, instrumental music to play in stores and offices.  The Seeburg 1000 was born!   You can listen to this proto-Muzak now, as a constant online stream, plenty of music to make you feel like cleaning your whole house RIGHT NOW.



The Roof Is On Fire, Oh, And The IRS

We’ve been listing old Model Railroader magazines lately, and I loved my little model railroad when I was a kid.  I had all kinds of funky buildings and stuff, and I even threw in some Robotech stuff that was the right scale, and all sorts of things that were wildly not to scale. On one hand, realism is a goal, on the other hand having weird stuff is par for the course.  Hence, the existence of this:


Why the IRS?  Who cares!   Why not just a plain and austere IRS building for the train set?  Of course not – burn that sucker down!

You can still buy the set today from Model Power, complete with flashing fire lights and a tiny smoke machine, all of which you can see here, with a special appearance by King Kong.  Why not?  Model railroad guys are freakin’ crazy.

Professional Gianting Is Over

While researching old news, I stumbled across this story of economic hardship and the ever-changing employment market from 1917:


“There’s nothing in professional gianting any more, states R. E. Madson of Norfolk, Neb. , a 20-year-old youth who stands 7-1/2 feet in his stockings…”There isn’t enough money in the circus business any more to attract a real big man,” said young Madson.  “There’s no reason why a man who is a few inches, or a foot or two over the scale, should not use his brains and live like a man and not a freak.  I don’t find it hard to do.”

There’s a certain amount of naivete in Madson’s quote, and not just because he’s promoting his movie in North Dakota.  Here’s Ralph Madsen a couple years later:



The movie that Ralph Madsen was promoting in ND in 1917 doesn’t show up in his IMDB listing, but Madsen did have other plans to use his intellect and skills.   Madsen was an expert in livestock raising and veterinary care, and being a skilled rancher seemed to be his goal in life.  Based on the picture above and others,  young Mr. Madsen apparently discovered that you can take a giant out of the circus, but you won’t ever completely get the circus out of the giant.

Free 3D Mustache

It seems you can 3D print anything these days, from a bikini to a gum-chewer’s face to a gun —  but some people in Colorado are putting the technology to an even better use:  manufacturing fake mustaches in fancy colors!  If you live in Denver you can get one of your own this weekend, by attending the “Intro to 3D Printing” class at The Concoctory on Saturday.


Turtle Outfits

I refuse to believe these have any practical use.  The only explanation is that this Etsy shop is where turtle superheroes get all their outfits.  Supervillains, maybe, but I’ve never heard of a turtle supervillain before.  Turtles can’t be evil, can they?


(they’re so you can see your turtle when they wander away in your lawn.  Don’t worry, it’s a turtle, you still have several days to catch up with them before they’re out of eyeshot. )

Miss Beatnik 1959

Don’t they look like they’re enjoying themselves?  These perky, cheerful ladies were just a few of the candidates vying for Miss Beatnik 1959, in this photo from the LA Times.   The ladies are, from left to right, Michi Monteef, Sammy McCord, Patti McCrory, Shaunna Lea, and Inner Thigh McGee there in the back is Jan Vandaveer.  They won’t smile or acknowledge the camera (except for Jan, but that’s why they made her stand in the back) because they really want you to know how serious being a Beatnik is — so serious, in fact, that this Beatnik contest was disavowed by Lawrence Lipton and his Beatnik colony.  See, this Miss Beatnik contest was sponsored by the Venice Art Committee, started by John Gifford and Tony Landreau, who were seeking publicity for their organization — which means, in Lipton’s words, they were merely “hip squares…taking advantage of the Beatnik movement.”  Real beatniks don’t do publicity stills, see?  Well, unless you’re a Greenwich Village beatnik, because they held their own Miss Beatnik contests in 1959 and 1960, but they were mocking the Miss America contest so that makes it totally Beanik.   The 1960 news article even mentions Miss Chicago Beatnik, Gnomi Gross, who went all the way to Greenwich Village to Beatnik all over those hep cats the way only a Windy City Beatnik could.  Hopefully the four ladies in the Venice Beach Miss Beatnik contest were able to rise above their unBeatnik ways and truly become the disaffected postmodern iconoclasts each one hoped she could always be.

He’s a Brick….House

Some men spend all their lives trying to get a foot-hold in their industry, struggling up the ladder, trying in vain to be recognized for their creativity and ingenuity, then one day — one fine day — they will create something awe-inspiring, something stunning, something that makes the other members of the industry look upon it in awe and wonder.

And then you’ll go to a society ball and they’ll make you dress up like your creation:

This  is from the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects annual ball, 1931.  That guy in the middle, wearing a Hamburglar bathrobe?   He’s the actual, real architect who designed the Empire State Building.  He’s so awesome he doesn’t have to stoop to wearing a ten-story sundress like his compartiots — screw you, Mr. Waldorf-Astoria, let’s see you architect something remarkable next time!  If only Sid and Marty Krofft had ever seen this picture, we might have been raised watching a TV show about a town populated by an anthropomorphic town, which would have been so recursive people’s brains would have exploded.


**Update:  A sharp eyed reader has pointed out that the guy I called the Empire State Building actually looks like the Chrysler Building.   JDavis is correct – that’s architect William Van Alen wearing the tippy-top of the Chrysler Building on his head.  Apparently it’s a common mistake for rubes who have never been to New York before, which describes me accurately.