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Convenience Store Treasures: Suburban Edition

3 Jul

The key hitting the old toy conienience store goldmine is to find a store that has been open for a long time, and which has not been renovated or sold between too many different owners, as these provide opportunities to rid the shelves of old, dusty merchandise.  Usually these types of stores are to be found in the city, where the neighbourhoods and commercial areas have been established much earlier than in the suburbs.  But sometimes, the suburban convenience store should not be discounted, as its presence in cultural hell can virtually guarantee that anything cool that they may have put on their shelves will still be there when you happen upon the store.  And with that in mind, I ventured into a Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto, Ontario) variety store looking for treasures, and I was not disappointed.  Here’s what I found:

Show Off Barrettes

There were a few different kinds of these” Show Offs” barrettes, each of which I purchased.  I love the ‘funky’ early 90s font used for the brand name.  This was the only type of barrette that was packaged in a way where you could see both the girls printed on the cardboard, showing off their barrette overkill hairdos.  In all the other packages, the white girl gets the shaft, her face obscured by the moulded plastic.  These were awesome barrettes too, they are like baby barrettes, but they have metal backings which make them much easier to use than the more common, all plastic baby barrettes, which only hold, like 5 hairs.  All the riot grrls out there know what I’m talking about.  But alas, despite the awesomeness of all of the Show Offs barrettes I bought, I cannot bring myself to open any of the packages, and ruin what I see as installative, readymade pieces of art.  And, due to the short-sighted thoughtlessness of the designers, the moulded plastic tray that holds the barrettes to the cardboard is glued across the innocent face of the little blond girl on the other packages, making the opening of the package fraught with anxiety and guilt, as the barrettes can only be accessed by tearing through her tiny, barrette decorated head.  But seriously though, it would toatally ruin the package.

Are you insane enough to rip the cardboard right through this girl’s face?

These are the other packages, where the blond girl has plastic glued to her face.  The barrettes are pretty sweet though.  Good colours.

Little plastic “‘jaw” clips with heart shaped grips.  And see?  Little blond girl: denied.

More heart gripped jaw clips. Note how the glue is so old it’s turned yellow.  This hasn’t happened on the above package, where both girls’ faces are visible.  Isn’t that facinating?  It could be…I guess if you…are a boring person or something.

There was also a couple of other sets of barrettes that I thought were cool, but lacked the flair and dramatic tension of the Show Offs.

Red and white bows

Colourful Flowers

I guess these are actually hair elastics with little plastic things glued to them.  The one on the left has the same jazzy-party-confetti early 90s look of the Show Offs barrettes, while the flowered elastics try for a more refined, fancy script logo look, an aspiration further hinted at, yet also confused by its brand name “Choice & Toy” a pairing of words that both fail to describe the quality and category of item contained within.  So close though.

And speaking of hair, they also had a number of hair nets, all of which I bought, which came in these great envelopes.  I loved the bold colours and the image of the woman, but the shape of the envelope, including the familiar back flaps, and the clear window in the front which could reveal an address, make them totally usable as mailing envelopes, plus they give the sender the added option to include the two old, totally useless hair nets already enclosed within!

Mirage Stretch Fashioned Hair Nets. You can see the hair net through the window in the centre.  Pretty gross eh?

The back of the hair net envelopes; just like a regular mailing envelope.

Despite the wonderful aesthetic of these hair net envelopes, I must say they are a tad misleading.  The woman on the package is meant to represent the invisible control of the hair net, and the confidence and poise that come with it, but there’s no way she’s wearing one of these hair nets over that hairdo.  When I tried one on all it did was flatten whatever volume I had while leaving the elastic fully visible around the hairline.  Plus, the hairnets are not even big enough to be lightly fitting around hair as long as hers, nor would they allow her hair retain that volume or shape.  This is what would really happen if she wore one of the hairnets:

I also picked out these things, which are apparently called “Balloon Squawkers”.  I’m not really sure what that means, but they appear to be plastic straws with feathers at one end.  I mostly just got them because I’m a sucker for things that are installed/packaged under clear plastic, not to mention easily pleased by pretty colours.

The pretty pretty colours of the Balloon Squawkers

Plus, I was also into this little guy, who appears on top of the “Fun Fair” logo:

Seems like a pretty chill guy overall.

The store had a few cute little pins.  The yellow rabbit kind of reminded me of the above balloon.  The stick pins were really tiny, like an inch long with animals on them not much larger than an apple seed.

The super tiny stick pins; from left: a butterfly, a seagull and two bunnies

And lastly, I found these awesome puffy glitter stickers that were very much like the “Happy Sticker” robot sets that I wrote about in my post “Convenience Store Treasures: Stickers”.  But these sets were even better, not just because they were glittery and had a better cardboard package tops, but also because the robots were even cooler!

I love the cardboard tops; the black background with the word “Glitter” in rainbow letters is just so great.

These sets had a mix of some of the same stickers as in the “Happy Sticker” sets, and some different ones.

Here’s the glitter version of an odd pink jester-like robot face, which I highlighted in my previous post:

Pictured here is the glitter pink jester-bot. He is next to his best friend.

This was my favorite from the set; its a big flying, pink and purple dragon kazoo. With a sparkly yellow belly.

The colours and geometric shapes of these robots make them very enjoyable. I like that this one has a green sword and a bent pipe or hockey stick or something.

I feel this spaceship is pretty cool.

I was pretty happy with my haul.  It was a good, colourful assortment of things, and I’m satisfied I got everything cool they had.  Yes, it was a good day in suburbia.  So be on the lookout for convenience store treasures when you are out in the middle of nowhere, it might be the only thing to do out there anyways.

All items purchased at Southdown Convenience, 1375 Southdown Road, Suite 7. Mississauga, Ontario

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Stickers: Backstreet’s Back, Alright!

19 Jun

I came across my old Backstreet Boys “Official Sticker Album” the other day and I was delighted.  It was one of those cheap, quick to market sticker books with pictures and info of the band interspersed with spaces to put specifically numbered, square stickers, which you could buy in packages of 10 or so, at convenience stores.  When I was actively buying stickers for this album I was about 12 or 13, and everyone at my school loved the Backstreet Boys and a lot of other girls had this album.  Because it was an all girls school we were afforded more opportunity  to obsess over teen heart-throbs, because there were no boys to be embarrassed in front of about it, and there were no boys to be…anything…in front…of.

And while we’re on the topic of embarrassment, have you ever seen someone or of photo of someone doing something that is so embarrassing and cringe-inducing that it makes you feel embarrassed yourself, like by witnessing that awful scene you are now covered in what should be that person’s shame?  These stickers have that type of quality to them, they just…these stickers are dignity destroyers.

When I was looking through the book I thought “Has enough time passed that this album is now ironically cool and I can show it to people?  Or has it not yet passed into “good” territory,  as in, “so bad it’s…,” especially considering I had pretty much all the stickers and had taped one of the card wrappers on to the last page as an envelope to put in duplicate stickers to trade with others?”

Well I will let you, my dear readers decide.  I was shocked at just how ugly these guys really were, and you will be too.  All of the pictures are horrifyingly cheesy in their own way, but they do provide more than 50 ideas on what to do with your arms and hands while posing for photos.

The cover of the Backstreet Boys “Official Sticker Album” What does it mean when something is “Official”?  You see that a lot in commercials, especially things to do with the Olympics, I notice. Like at the end of the ad the voice over narration will say something like “Davidson’s Hose Clamps; the official hose clamps of the 2012 winter Olympic games” like that’s supposed to mean something to me.

From the introduction on the inside cover, from “Your Backstreet Boys team”

Apparently, at the time the sticker album came out, (1997) the Backstreet Boys had just come off a “huge tour as DJ Bobo’s supporting act.”  Wow, can you imagine getting to open for the DJ Bobo?!  Never heard of him.

Each member got his own 2 page spread with a “Bio.” For example, on the Brian Littrel page one of the lines reads:  “Hobbies: Sports, reading, music, movies.”  And from the Howie Dorough page:  “Hobbies: Music, movies, television, reading.” Fascinating, no? You couldn’t make that stuff up, even if you had to rush some merchandise of a flash-in-the-pan band to market, as quickly and cheaply as possible.

First up in the 2 page spreads was Brian Littrel, who was my favorite at the time, though now I’m not really sure why exactly, but, the heart wants what it wants, I guess.

My 7th grade dream boy

There was one of these weird balloon heart stickers with a Backstreet Boys (BSB) member’s photo on it for each guy. I think the designers had some trouble with coming up with more than 160 different types of stickers for this book.

The second spread was of Kevin Richardson, the oldest member of the group.  He pretty much had the least personality of all of them and it shows in his photos:

After Kevin came Nick Carter’s profile, the favorite of most of the girls at my school, who is now most well known for dating Paris Hilton, his DUI’s and rehab stints, and for being such a loser that Paris Hilton decided that his younger brother Aaron was a more suitable man to date (his brother was like, 10 years younger than Nick and Paris at the time.)  He wins the prize for the most smouldering picture in the album, but in most of his pictures, he just looks…pretty.

What an awful, awful haircut.

Nick, in his “sexy, smouldering” pose

I guess it’s easy to see why Nick was the most popular with the young girls; he’s the most non-threatening, being so young and so pretty. Someone like Kevin, who was like 45 years old and who’s nickname, according to this album, was “Train,” was just too much man for us to fathom.

More androgenous Nick!

But I must say, Nick must have being doing something right, because I think Kevin took a few cues from him on how to look attractive in that non-sexual teeny-bopper way:

Kevin posing a-la-Nick

Howie Dorough’s 2 page spread came after Nick’s.  Most people liked Brian and Nick, but there were a few girls that liked Howie, and I thought they were masochists.  But looking at this album now, I think we pretty much all were.  Which Backstreet Boy you liked was a big part of your identity at my school at the time, and I always thought that the girls who liked Howie, many of whom were secret Howie lovers who publicly professed love to another Boy, were somehow “off” in some way.  I thought the only way they could possibly like Howie was if they had let their pity of him as being the grossest, ugliest and biggest loser member of the group, overtake them in some way, like a kind of Florence Nightingale syndrome type thing.

Have a look at Howie’s stickers.  It may actually be a close call between him and AJ (the 5th member of BSB, of which you will see many pictures of soon) as to who is the most off-putting.

Ewww, under “Distinctive Traits” it says “He loves to Flirt!” Barf

Howie’s heart balloon sticker. Barf

And then lastly there was AJ, who started off being sort of clownish, as evidenced by the following photos, but who later went on to find his identity within the group as the tattooed bad boy who wears a lot of heavy jewelry.  This guy did the same god-damned “looking over my sunglasses” pose in every picture.  Please also note that he had both his ears pierced, and for some reason her wore matching giant, thick hoop earrings all the time, like some sort of pirate.

AJ’s smouldering “over the glasses” look

AJ’s smiling “over the glasses” look

AJ”s head tilted to the side “over the glasses” look

AJ”s is-this-photo-shoot-done-yet “over the glasses” look

AJ”S my-heart’s-not-really-into-it “over the glasses” look

AJ”s Christmas time “over the glasses” look

AJ”s curl on the forehead “over the glasses” look

AJ’s smirking to the right “over the glasses” look

AJ would sometimes change it up by doing a few “sunglasses on the forehead” poses:

AJ”s pouting, “glasses on forehead” look. According to the makers of this album, this is a “romantic” sticker

AJ”s confused ape “glasses on the forehead” look

Here’s a few of those “dignity destroying” stickers I was talking about earlier.

Unfortunately,  I was missing the sticker for the upper left corner of this “Mega-puzzle.” There’s nothing like dressing up like Santa for a sexy photo-shoot with four other guys to leave your dignity in tatters.  And I must say, whenever an artist does a Christmas album I lose any and all respect I might have had for them. (Usually the type of “artists” who do that are hacks anyways, but I see it as a lame excuse for a cash grab and high billboard numbers when stores and people are looking for holiday music to play.)

Also in the “holiday themed no-dignity photo-ops” repertoire is the hideous matching sweaters option.

Pretty much any matching outfits will do, when you’re looking to diminish the dignity of grown men:

Matching vests for a German album cover

OOOH! Hockey Jerseys, and Kevin has gone wild and worn a hat!

I was also a little bit sickened by some of the photos, which were aimed at a very young fan base, in which the “Boys” were shirtless and all greased up:

A greasy Kevin.

An even greasier Howie. Gross.

But I guess the above photos were nothing compared to the “Quit playing Games With My Heart,”music video, a hit for the BSB that this sticker album miss-identifies as “Quit Playing Games With My Heat.”  In the video, the boys stand around in a park singing, and when it starts to pour rain, they passionately rip their shirts off in lovelorn anger, then writhe around in the rain sensually touching their chests and hair while pouting at the camera and waggling their hips around.

And now, as promised, here are some ideas, courtesy of the Backstreet Boys, on how to avoid looking awkward in photos by finding something natural and comfortable to do with one’s hands:

Idea: Flash gang symbols of gangs you are not affiliated with. They totally don’t mind

Idea: Make one “gun” with each hand, and point them at the camera.

Idea: Make one “gun” with your hand, stretch your arm towards the camera, and point it down

Idea: Cross your arms but squeeze one bicep with the opposite hand

Idea: Reach one hand out towards the camera, low in the frame.

Idea: Reach out with one hand towards the camera, a little higher this time

Those are just a few ideas to get you started, but there were many more.  If you get stuck, contact me and I’ll email you some more Backstreet Boys approved ideas for hand and arm gestures in photos.

I would love to know what you guys think.  Did any of you out there have this sticker book, or one of the many others like it?  I know that they had sticker books of this type for all sorts of things, animals, cars, Barbie.

Were any of you BSB fans who are still willing to admit it?  If so, who was your favorite?  I’d especially like to hear from you Howie or AJ fans out there.  What allowed you to see past their many obvious flaws, to find them a place in your heart?  Is this sticker album finally so bad it’s good or should I lock it away somewhere for another 15 years?

P.S, does anyone out there have doubles of sticker numbers, 77, 93, or 135?  A friend of mine needs them to complete her album.

Lady Heart’s Portfolio: Period Pin-Ups

18 Jun

I recently created a painting series/installation that juxtaposed the products, messages and imagery of both the pad/tampon companies, and the pornography industry in order to make a comment on the ridiculous, misguided, sanitized and patently false ideas that both have marketed to the public in regards to women’s bodies, sexuality and real experiences.  Though this is a serious topic, my intention was to use humour to highlight the common absurdity in what these two industries have created.  The following is a bit long, but I think the paintings need a bit of explanation in order for you, my dear readers, to see what a good artist I am.  No, seriously though, you should read it.

My work consisted of five paintings of pin-up type photographs of women painted onto the colourful,  and wonderfully smooth and matte  surfaces of menstrual pad wrappers.

This project was inspired by a few, seemingly unrelated things.  The paintings were inspired by and created in reference to a deck of  nudie cards I had that is from the 80s.  The pictures on the deck were laughable, consisting of  preposterous scenarios, (like taking a naked sponge bath while sitting bare assed on a bale of hay) and sexual cliches that have little to nothing to do with the true nature of women’s sexuality (laying on the ground in ecstasy while spraying one’s naked body with a hose, standing or sitting around topless squeezing one breast between thumb and fingers, and just awkwardly posing with no bra or panties, but wearing long gloves, pearls and/or brimmed hats.)

Let’s all take a look at what I mean here for a sec.  And keep in mind these are here for artistic purposes only, and I will not be posting anymore nudity or pornography.   I’ve already attracted some wierdies with that post about pantyhose packages I did a while back that gets multiple views everyday and is always in my Google search terms stats, which show the keywords people have used to get to this blog.

There’s really nothing more relaxing, or sensual that sitting naked in some hay, am I right? Ladies, I know you must be nodding your heads in agreement out there. Plus, the immaculate environment provided by animal bedding and feed creates an excellent opportunity to bathe, obviously.

How did she even hold that pose? Look at it, its a semi-squat in high-heels, each foot on a different stair, and you know that water is making the ground slick.

The cards weren’t really sexy, they were more just…confusing than anything.  Anyways, I got thinking about how the tampon and pad companies also portray women’s bodies and reproduction and sexuality in a distorted way.  I think we’ve all seen the commercials that have women cartwheeling around in white pants, or the ones where the whole message and design of the product is based around concealing one’s use of pads and tampons, and by extension, the occurrence and existence of one’s menstrual cycle.

I decided that the pad wrappers as a canvas would be a good way to bring together the two industries, the tampon/pad companies, and the pornography world.  The name of the product says it all, “Sanitary Napkins” , a product that is meant to sanitize, for the wearer, and the public, the realities of female reproduction, an issue that is also “sanitized” in pornography and the like, where birth-control, pregnancy and menstruation are completely out of the picture. I also liked the pad wrappers because the way they open, in three sections, is very much like the centre-folds in adult magazines like Playboy.

So many of the pad and tampon advertisements focus on cleanliness, freshness, like the white bleached cotton of the pads and tampons and the clean looking mystery blue liquid stand-in for blood, two things that don’t exactly match women’s experiences I’ll bet.

Another element that helped gel this whole concept was the following.  I laughed out loud when I saw this sticker on a truck stop bathroom tampon machine, which succinctly summed up the gist of the marketing message the companies try to sell women about the freedom and benefits of their products:

Large sticker from truck stop bathroom tampon dispenser. Are you seeing the hilarity?

The image at the bottom is of a woman in an old fashioned long dress with a scarf, standing on the edge of a cliff in front of the ocean, the breeze whipping at her face and through her scarf, the sea spray misting her face; the freshness must just be unbelievable for this woman.

Isn’t the sticker relatable ladies?  I mean, a new tampon while on pit-stop from a long car ride is about as refreshing as the ocean breeze, no?  I presented this sticker along with the series of paintings, to punctuate the disparity between tampon marketing and reality.

And now, finally, here are the paintings, which range in size from 5 to 12 inches:

“The Hose Pose” Girls: have any of you done this in an attempt to seduce someone? If you’ve answered “yes,”  I don’t believe you.

I always thought cold showers brought the sensuality down to zero, but perhaps this is some sort of hot water hosing.

I love that it looks like her skirt just blew forward.

“Ooops! Tee hee!”

I thought the card that the painting below was based upon, depicted a very odd pose.  I guess it was supposed to be sexy, the woman touching her breast in a come-hither kind of way, but it just looks stupid to me, like she’s squeezing her breast like “honk, honk!”

honk honk!

And this next one, check out the “outfit,” and why is she posing like that?  The only time a person might do that pose in their life, is with a bat in one hand while posing in the front row for the baseball team group photo.

She didn’t even co-ordinate her shoes to her clothes. God!

And lastly, there’s this one, which I guess is the least absurd conceptually:

I hope you have enjoyed another look at my eclectic art portfolio, and that you are pleased with these paintings and the accompanying sticker.   Laughs aside, I think we’ve all learned a lot today about the false images of female sexuality, bodies and reproduction.  This is a series that I hope to expand upon with more paintings.  The pad wrappers are a wonderful surface to paint on.  I love the smooth, velvety texture, and the white tabs at the top are perfect to hang them.  Try making some of your own feminist, political art today!  I think you’ll find feminism is a popular topic that everyone is always eager to hear more about!  Menstruation too.

Tip for budding artists: Take a picture of your work while it is installed in the gallery.

Bonus:  Two pictures of public art (ie: vandalism) found in the same public bathroom, weeks apart:

The bathroom tampon machine: A veritable roundtable for relevant political discourse

And here’s a statement I think we can all enjoy

Stickers: Famous Monsters

15 May

As I mentioned in the post “Princess Lovely’s Doctor Beautiful Dream Bride Pretty Set” there is a wonderful store on Church Street here in Toronto called Ontario Specialty Co. that has an awesome selection of vintage toys, sunglasses key-chains, purses, stickers and more, from what must be a large hoard of deadstock merchandise.  I buy many thinks from this store, and though the items are vintage, the stock changes regularly, so you must snap up the things that catch your fancy quick or you’ll be disappointed.  I got a taste of this a little while ago when I bought just one set of these amazing horror stickers, foolishly thinking that I could come back for more later.  But alas I was not the only one who fell in love with these retro monster “puff” style stickers, so they’ll be no”‘tradesies” for these awesome ghouls, not for “Mello Smello” scratch-n-sniffs or anything!

The Mummy

Wolfman

The Skull

Frankenstein

I feel like there must have been a fifth sticker of Dracula, but if there was, I guess I must have lost it.

I found this great cheap paperback from the 1970s at Value Village thrift store called “Great Monsters of the Movies”.  It had cool pictures and information on many classic horror films and the monsters that were their stars.   These stickers looked a lot like some of the monsters in these films:

Cheap paperback book entitled “Great Monsters of the Movies, By Robert K. Davidson. This edition copyrighted 1977

Frankenstein’s monster, from the 1931 film Frankenstein

Compare that to the Frankenstein sticker; same scar on forehead and jawline, but sticker has poutier lips for some reason.

Mummy from “The 1942 film “The Mummy’s Tomb”

The Mummy sticker looks like the Mummy monsters from “The Mummy’s Tomb” and “The Mummy’s Hand”, which was released two years later,  in its similar wrinkled and dry appearing face.

The skull-looking monster from 1973’s “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”

There’s no movie in the book with “The Skull” in the title, but this gross thing from “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” sure looks like the sticker.

From “The Wolf Man”, 1941

I don’t know, the wolfman sticker kind of seems more like a cross between this incarnation of a canine-man monster, and the giant ape in King Kong (1933)

Is it just me, or are these old monsters way freakier than the new CGI crap they churn out now?  To punctuate this point, check out these horrifying creatures from two other classic films:

Monster from “The Phantome of the Opera”, 1925

Gah! Isn’t that way scarier than the stupid asymmetrical white mask wearing goon made famous by the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical?

And look at the weird visage of the murderous snake in “The reptile”, who, despite the obvious phallic association and symbolism, is a woman:

From “The Reptile”, 1966

Frightening, no?

Monster stickers purchased at Ontario Specialty Co., 133 Church St., Toronto

Great Monsters book purchased at Value Vullage, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Street Art:More Newspaper Box Fun

27 Apr

Newspaper boxes seem to be a favorite spot for public art (see my last Street Art post “Street Art: Monster Box”).  Many boxes have simple (and sometimes poorly done) tags and printed stickers on them, but the newspaper reading public are often treated to awesome colourful,  handmade stickers with imaginative lettering.  Recently I spotted a really cool sticker on a NOW magazine  box ( a local weekly alternative paper) which I was so compelled to share with you that, finding myself without my camera, I unscrewed the bolts holding the plastic sheet that the sticker was affixed to and took it with me.  Though it’s probably bad art karma to take public art and hoard it for oneself, I will bravely accept the consequences so that we may all bask in the glory of this sticker:

The sticker was on the plastic sheet that displays a paper against the box window, which I was able to remove with my trusty 6-in-1 folding plier tool, something every self respecting artist and DIY-er should never be without.

Isn’t it great?  I am a sucker for bold colours.  At first I thought it said ‘ruler’ but know I’m really not sure. I am terrible at reading graffiti lettering.  Can anyone help me out here?

A Now Magazine paper box in Toronto

On another day, camera in hand I spotted this sticker, which I left so everyone could enjoy it, only to see that it had been removed by the next day.  As a fellow artist I would be sad to have something beautiful I put out into the world removed and discarded so quickly.  So maybe the right thing to do is remove the plastic sheet to save the sticker.  Maybe people could start collecting them like giant sports cards, trying to acquire all the local artists’ work, trading with other collectors and such, just like the pantyhose package collections I was advocating for! (see ‘Random Collections: Pantyhose!’)

This beautiful sticker has been lost to the ages

This one says “Ruin”, right? I think it’s great, the colours, the shape… it’s a shame that the newspapers move so fast to get rid of them.  So I’m going to get started on my ‘plastic news box sheets with stickers’ collection today!