I AM PROGRAMMED TO RESPOND TO THE NAME ROBBY

It’s your 24th wedding anniversary and you want to get something for your spouse. What do you buy when you’ve been married such a long time and the only things either of you need are things you can’t afford?

Easy! You buy something no one needs, but which will make you laugh. Because fun is always with a few bucks!

I created his and hers Serendipity sweatshirts and they got here a few days ago. Cool. But weeks before I designed the sweatshirts, I had found Robby. Blame the Daily Prompt. While writing about Roomba, the vacuuming robot that couldn’t, I found a website on which someone was selling a near-mint 12″ original Robby the Robot. The one and only original toy robot who is a perfect miniature of Robby in Forbidden Planet.

Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet In box

He walks. Well, more like he stumbles, then falls over. He talks. His voice is the voice of Robby from the movie.

Note: The falling over is not from the movie, but seems to be unique to the miniature.

He says:

“How may I help you?”

“That is correct!”

“I am programmed to respond to the name Robby.”

Unlike modern robotic toys, he is wired to his remote control and what he does best, other than speak — he sounds like Walter Pidgeon — is to stand on the coffee table looking collectible.

Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet unboxed

I am, in case you haven’t noticed, very “into” collectibles. I not only have a lot of them, I used to have an online business selling them. A lot of dolls, but anything old and interesting. Lots of antique, cast-iron doorstops and bookends. I actually did pretty well for three years, until the economy crashed and that discretionary income people used to have disappeared … and my customers with it.

Today, Garry was introduced to Robby. Every time he walked and fell over backwards, we laughed. Now, standing proudly on the coffee table, he is a member of the household. We needed an entertaining, 20-year-old toy robot. Sometimes, a toy is exactly what we need. We are, after all, still children.

If a 12-inch reproduction doesn’t do it for you, you’ll be glad to know that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is offering a full-size reproduction for $17,515.00. Shipping, at $990.00 is a bit pricey, but in for a penny, in for a pound.

robby-TCM

THE DOLLS HAVE IT

Soulful Machines — Machines, appliances, and gadgets sometimes feel like they have their own personalities — from quirky cars to dignified food processors. What’s the most “human” machine you own?


I’m looking around me house at the many machines that keep our life running more or less smoothly. I like some better than others. Use some more than others. Some are quirkier, require more coddling and even an occasional good talking to. But soulful?

72-two-girls

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in this morning … but nothing seems to quite fit the bill. It all seems like plastic and metal and wires today. Except the dolls. They aren’t machines. They are toys, representation of people, mostly young girls. Dressed in pretty outfits. They are souls, I think, in a plastic smiley sort of way. Each a little different from the other.

Dolls and dulcimer

The dolls are everywhere in this house. In every room but the bathrooms and the kitchen. They line shelves, bookcases, any place a dolls might stand and they watch, their sweet faces forever set in a glassy-eyes look of happiness.

BEDROOM SOUTH 10

Not glee. I wouldn’t stand for a gleeful doll. Too “Bride of Chucky” for me. No, my girls — and some Action Figure Guys — are pleased with themselves, but nothing morbid. Nothing frightening. They are my plastic pals. I talk to them and at night, they whisper amongst themselves, making plans for their future.

I can hear them.

BEDROOM SOUTH 14

 

PLASTIC SMILES – YESTERYEAR’S DOLLS

Not Los Angeles. Nor old movie stars full of Botox to make them “look younger” (really makes them look like corpses, but I digress). It could be a metaphor of that West Coast city and many of its inhabitants.

Margaret O'Brian by Three

I’m talking about My World. A small, form-fitting world populated by beautifully dressed, if slightly dusty hard plastic people. Mostly girls, a few men and boys. The girls are my favorites because they take me back in time and spirit as effectively as any wormhole in the fabric of time. When I hold one of my dolls, I’m young again …and it is a time and place when my best friends were dolls.

You must not blame the girls for their plasticity. They are not plastic by choice, after all. I wonder, had they been given their druthers, if they would have preferred living flesh. I don’t know. As it is, they have stayed young long after time would have ravaged their beauty. You never know. So many “real” people choose to emulate my plastic pals, perhaps they are the model for women of the future as the world drifts to them. They become iconic images of past and future.

I have an awful lot of dolls. When I start taking pictures of them, I inevitably find myself concentrating on those I can most easily access, the dolls on easy-to-reach shelves. Others are high above my head, often crowded together and difficult to photograph in situ.

My collection is mostly hard plastic dolls from the 1950s. Some are from the 1960s and a very few from later, the early 1970s. I also have quite a few older composition dolls. These were made of sawdust, glue and paint and typically come from the 1930s and early 1940s.

It’s interesting to see how the concept of dolls changes through the decades. It’s a reflection of how girls and childhood are viewed by society as a whole. From the grownup, almost motherly dolls of the teens and twenties, to all the pretty long-haired girl dolls who dominated the industry from the 1940s through the early 1960s — you can tell what people thought of girls by the dolls with which they played.

Suddenly, in the mid 1960s, dolls looked either as if they’d taken bad acid or became fashion dolls resembling Hollywood stars. The dolls industry has always been in love with Hollywood, of course. Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Sonja Henie were just a few of many dolls based on movie stars. Book characters have been a long time favorites too as well as historical characters. Today’s American Girl dolls come with books of their own and the tradition continues.

The trend to fashion dolls moved from Hollywood to the ubiquitous Barbie … probably the longest lasting fad in doll history. I don’t understand it having never liked Barbie. Maybe it’s an age thing. By the time Barbie appeared, my doll-playing days were over and my collecting days were long in the future.

Today’s dolls range from very weird to traditional, soft-bodied girl dolls. Despite endless attempts to turn dolls electronic, dolls have stubbornly resisted. They have remained toys requiring imagination, not batteries. Everything else appears to have fallen to some version of computerization, but dolls are still silent little plastic people to whom little girls can talk when no one else will listen.

Are they spooky, my silent friends? Not to me. To me they are merely peaceful and quiet, lacking any mechanism for speech. Yet they are also eloquent. They watch. They see. All the decades through which they have survived are captured in their oddly expressive glass eyes. Their sweet, sometimes sad smiles.

Do dolls covet and yearn? I think they want only to be cuddled by some little girl. A little girl enchanted by having finally found a friend who listens and never interrupts.

And will in stillness dwell.

AT HOME – INWARD AND INSIDE

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DAILY PROMPT: CONFIDENTLY RESTORING ANA MCGUFFEY

Ana McGuffey 4

I collected dolls for years, but collecting is easy. Restoring is more of a challenge and before I gave up collecting, I learned to restore old dolls.

Composition was the material favored by quality dollmakers such as American Character and Madame Alexander before the 1940s when hard plastic became the material of choice. The changeover from composition to hard plastic was gradual. Some composition dolls were produced as late as the 1950s, though not many.

ANA MCGUFFEY 1

Composition is basically sawdust, glue, varnish and paint.  It is a very good molding material, but it disintegrates over time. Dampness rots it. Excessive heat will destroy it. Time will have its way with it. Many dolls I love are old composition dolls. Finding these dolls in pristine condition can be impossible. If available, they are costly. Lacking money, I decided to learn to fix them. Old composition dolls in a state of deterioration are not difficult to acquire. If you can repair them yourself, you can get rare dolls for short money … but you will invest many long hours of yourself.

Ana McGuffey (of the reader of the same name) was one of Madame Alexander’s most popular character dolls for decades, from the 1910s through the 1940s. Although her face changed with the times, she always had her hair in braids. She wore a pinafore with a floral print dress. Stocking and buttoned shoes.

I finally got a 20″ Ana McGuffey. Half of each foot was rotted away. The paint on her face was chipped and faded and her wig and clothing were gone. She was in pieces and needed restringing.

I replaced her feet by modeling them using a clay-like epoxy material. This stuff is used for modeling all kinds of stuff. It’s difficult to use, but forms a very hard, resin-like substance when it dries.

I restrung her, repainted her face — many failed attempts before I got it sort of right. I found a wig that looked like her original, though not the same material.

ana mcguffey 2

Her original wig was made of mohair. While you can get mohair wigs for restoring dolls, they are frightfully expensive and not particularly durable. I also don’t like the way they look, so I went with modern polyurethane. I made the dress and the pinafore. This is not an area in which I excel, but no one was making clothing for this doll. It was me or no dress. I could easily get dresses that would fit her, but they wouldn’t look like her original clothing. I wanted Ana to look close to her original.

ana mcguffey 3

She also needed a flowery straw hat and I’d gotten pretty good at buying plain hats and decorating them. I found the stocking and shoes that sufficed, though they weren’t quite what I wanted. I haven’t mastered making shoes, but all things considered I’m proud of this piece of work.

This is Ana McGuffey, Madame Alexander, circa 1930 – 1940. Restored by me.

SMALL WORLDS

girls in my office

It gets dark so early this time of year. After the ubiquitous “they” take away Daylight Savings Time, it’s dark by 4:30. Dawn is late too as the days shorten. I don’t understand the time change. I don’t see a purpose. Pick a time. Stay with it. I prefer DST because 5 o’clock is much too early for night. Makes us feel like mole people.

My office is dark much of the time anyway. It faces northwest, so it’s dark in the morning, bright for a few  afternoon hours, then dark again. Even in summertime, it’s shadowy.  I like it that way. Using a big monitor is difficult in sunlight. Too much reflection, eyestrain city. My world, my office — junk,  cameras, dolls, books, pens, papers and software — is dim and dusty. Full of lounging dogs hanging around in case I need to pet someone. Or just happen to drop a piece of food. Ever ready they are to make sure nothing edible escapes notice.

Garry’s office is next door. Brighter. He has two windows and the room is bigger — but there’s more in it. Huge bookcases and the futon for guests we never seem to have any more. Messy, like mine, though less of a paper storm. I do the bills, so a lot of rubble lands on my desk. Good it’s such a big desk.

Our offices are the most personal spaces in the house. Garry’s office is his turf. Occasionally we have a guest or two, then he has to clear the futon. But it’s rare. Still, having the bed there is important. I need to know we can welcome friends, that we have a special space for them. The welcome mat is still there, if infrequently used.

It’s a small world getting smaller with each added paper, camera, book and whatnot. Oddly, I don’t mind. It fits us. Eventually I’ll reorganize, put things in different places so it will seem less crowded, but really it’s life surrounding us. Papers you never need until you really need them. Papers you have to keep but don’t know why. Books you can’t bear to be without though you’ll never read them again.

We are surrounded by our memories. The lives we’ve lived, people we’ve known, places we’ve seen, work we’ve done. Photos and paintings and all the stuff over in the corner. I’m not sure what it is. It’s buried.

I’ll get to it. No, really. I will. Just not today.

Garry in his office

Daily Prompt: FRIGHT WITH SCREAMING AND HOTDOGS

75-Cyclone-NK-066

I don’t like horror movies, except the old ones which are more funny than scary. I thought Jurassic Park and Jaws were scary enough. Life is plenty full of thrills and chills without seeking out more. But then, there are roller coasters. Especially our hometown favorite — the Cyclone at Coney Island.

CYCLONE-a