Thursday, September 19, 2013

Clearoutageddon Part Four: The Toy Show Has a Lot to Answer For

When I was a kid, back when we only had two television channels, one of the TV highlights of the year was The Late Late Toy Show: a two and a half hour orgy of toys being paraded in front of you and even better, you got to stay up late to watch it. One of the definite lowlights though was when the host would make an impassioned plea to parents to not forget the gift of reading come Christmas time, before subjecting us to a good fifteen minutes of nerdy kids reviewing the dullest-sounding books imaginable. (That and those stage school brats singing and dancing every half hour; fuck that bullshit.) While my eyes might have been glazing over this segment, that obviously wasn't the case for some of my relatives.

Without fail, I'd get a bunch of books every year. And that was cool, until I turned about ten, after which point I never got one that wasn't educational in some way ever again. As you can imagine, in the face of video games and Lego and the like, educational Christmas gifts (once said relatives were safely away) got tossed to the side and never thought of again. Fast forward fifteen years and most of these were still cluttering up my parents' place, gathering dust. But no more, for the time of Clearoutageddon was at hand!

So, out of the numerous books I got over the years, this DK Encyclopaedia was the only one I ever wanted beforehand, and the last one I enjoyed or got any use out of. I got it for Christmas '95, just in time for a schools quiz I was taking part in a few weeks later. Unfortunately, the questions there turned out to be more about pop culture and current events than science and history, and the weeks I spent swotting up on various subjects from the encyclopaedia went entirely to waste. But I did get a free pen.

The illustrated bible I got another year. It's actually quite nice, but I can't say I was particularly thrilled to unwrap it at the time.

Engendering a similar lack of excitement was this this illustrated history book. Well, at least until I had a look inside, and discovered that...


You know, I sometimes genuinely wonder how differently my life would have turned out if I focused more on the knowledge contained in this book than the nudity. :D

After I got to secondary school and started learning French, various European language books started showing up at Christmas. I remember getting one of these Usborne books in English when I was younger. I quite liked the art style and the hidden rubber ducks throughout, but even that couldn't get me to learn any French of my own free will, or German for that mater. It was tough enough getting to grips with a third language, I certainly didn't need to get started on a fourth.

Not that I could explain that to the gift-givers though.

Also, a Geography counterpart to the World History book that proved to be, sadly, boob-free.

This lot are a bit different, in that I bought most of them for myself. Hey, remember the Filofax? No? Me neither, but the bottom four books here all sought to cash in on that. They were designed to fit into a sort of Filofax for children: a "Fun Fax" if you will.

Possibly the dumbest idea ever.

Knowing nothing about faxes of any sort, I  picked these up on various school trips because I thought they looked promisingly funny/scary. Boy, did I get a lesson in judging a book by it's (detachable) cover.

At the time I leant the two horror ones to a buddy. I don't remember getting any feedback afterwards, but knowing him, there's no way on Earth he possibly enjoyed these, especially Burning Secret which I remember having a sappy friendship between two teenage girls at its core and a distinct lack of gratuitous gun violence.

While we're on the subject of horror, one book that did genuinely freak me out when I was younger was the one in the top right: a selection of (purportedly) real life tales of the supernatural that I bought at a school book fair in '96. Looking back now, I'm pretty sure everything in there was complete toss, but that didn't stop the story about the waxworks coming to life from scaring the shit out of me for weeks on end, and holy shit, that back cover...


Purchased in the same one-off book fair by my brother was Into the 21st Century, a collection of short stories by viewers of The Den (in it's lame, post Zig and Zag incarnation). Hearing the shitty stories my classmates and I would come up for English class week in/week out, I think I made the right choice in steering clear of this.

Finally here, we have a novelization of the first Ninja Turtles movie - a nice little gift my dad picked up given my obsession with the cartoon at the time. As crazy as I was about that though, I've never actually seen the movie, or any of the Turtles movies. Not that I had any opportunity at the time mind. Cinema trips were never something we did, we didn't have a VCR until later and, as far as I know, none of those movies got shown on TV over here. Just think: I went through my entire childhood totally unaware of the Ninja Rap. As for the book itself, I don't remember a bit of it now. I think a Blu-ray purchase might be in order.

More after the jump...

So, after loving Peter Jackson's trilogy and reading the Hobbit in 2005, I thought I'd ease gently into Tolkien's other writings and work my up to reading the LOTR trilogy with Unfinished Tales. I mean, that's basically a collection of short stories about Middle Earth. That should be easy enough to get into, right? Ho-ly shit, I could barley pronounce most of the words in there, let alone make sense of what was going on or how it related to the Middle Earth I knew of at the time. After a few failed attempts to get into it, I gave up. And well, by 2011 things hadn't really changed. I wasn't in any better position to tackle the book than I was in 2005, so I decided to send it off with the rest of this stuff.

Treasure Island, I did read though after I swiped a copy my dad picked up free with the Irish Independent. I wasn't going to be hanging onto an oddball children's hardback edition of it though, especially after I found it to be a bit of a let down.

As for the other stuff here, they're all freebies my parents had knocking around that they didn't want, so off they went.

Here we have a trio of books featured on the Leaving Cert course in the early aughts. I can't speak for Circle of Friends, that was my brother's, but after two years of comparing and contrasting the other two I never wanted to see either of them again. :D

Someone gave me these around when I was finishing college. A well-meaning gift I suppose, but lets be honest, I'm too much of an egotistical jerk to resort to self help books. How do you manage to make a book on writing a CV that big anyway? Is half of it an MS Word tutorial? Or does it assume no prior working knowledge of language?

And finally, yes there's a bit of redundancy here, but also a whopping great French dictionary. This wasn't a Christmas present though, someone gave it to me probably the year I was doing the Leaving Cert.. While I do appreciate the thought, especially given how much it must have cost, this size of a dictionary was total overkill for the LC French course and I don't think I ever even used it.

But then again, I've never needed to bludgeon a large man to death.

And that was it for the books. Our journey is finally nearing it's end.

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