I'm disappointed with the latest Archie McPhee catalog, and can't quite figure out why. Archie McPhee bills itself as an "outfitter of popular culture," and I used to grab the catalog when it showed up in the mail. I didn't always order, but it was always fun to look through, and the apartment is littered with oddities we got there, including plastic tree frogs and a quart of random small toys and charms.

Maybe it's me--maybe I just have enough wind-up plastic elephants, stick-on eyeballs, and toy white mice. But I don't think so. They've gone from black-and-white on newsprint to glossy color, but that's only a symptom. There are also fewer items, but if they were good items, that would be okay. Some of the stuff they sell has been in the catalog forever, from the boxing nuns to the fallout shelter signs, but the tone is different. The closest I can come is that they used to sell more cultural leftovers, things like action figures from unsuccessful movies, magic eight-balls, and yellow warning tape; now they're emphasizing deliberate weirdness, like insect lollipops and brain-shaped jello molds. I think I liked it better when they sold more things that someone, somewhere had taken seriously, and had thought they could sell through wider channels than this catalog of oddities. Not because I was laughing at the person who thought that this would be a good product, or even because I liked the implicit recycling. It just seemed to make for more interesting products: "what will people like enough to buy?" seems to produce weirder stuff than "what will people laugh at enough to buy?"

Somewhere out there, I hope, another company is filling a warehouse with the stuff that interests me; with any luck, it will take a few years before they decide that what I really want is a mug or t-shirt with their own logo on it.

Forward to a few thoughts about TAFF.

Back to my Orycon report.

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Copyright 1997 Vicki Rosenzweig.

Last modified 28 December 1997.