Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wacky No D-Blog Days

Over the years, I have featured some postings which featured one of my favorite childhood memories: Wacky Packages. When I was a little kid in elementary school, kids plastered those stickers all over notebooks, school lockers and whatnot, much to the chagrin of adults who saw them as sewing the seeds of disrespect for authority.

"Anything that happens when you're eight years old can mark you for life -- just ask Sigmund Freud!" illustrator Art Spiegelman says in the introduction to a 2008 book on the subject of Wacky Packages. "Wackies were a young child's first exposure to subverting adult consumer culture.

"Now," he adds wickedly, "thirty-five years later, that generation has matured into adults who can afford to nostalgically consume a deluxe volume brimming with that subversion. Yessirree -- I am proud to have been a worker in the debased basement of the great temple of commerce that is America's popular culture."

As it turns out, the stickers/cards had collectible value in much the same way as some of Topps other products did, such as baseball cards, with list prices for some rare stickers selling for hundreds of dollars.

Wacky packages were, at their peak around 1973 or so, in the words of an article published in the October 1, 1973 edition of New York magazine calling them a "New Fad For Children of the Skeptical Seventies", and the article went on to report that Wacky Packages were "a new twist on the classic bubble gum card ... seedling skepticism in its purest form ... Wacky Packages are selling rampant with their put-downs of products that kids have had thrown at them and into them daily by TV and Mom. From air-ball breakfast cereals to dishwashing detergents that make ladies beautiful, familiarity seems finally to be breeding contempt - and a generation of gripers." That may be a slight exaggeration, but as the artists that created the original artwork have noted, they were parodies of widely-distributed consumer products sold in supermarkets across the country. In 1979, the producer even faced new competition (albiet, only briefly) when rival Fleer issued "Crazy Labels".

A few years ago, Wacky Packages (also known as Wacky Packs, Wackies, etc.) enjoyed something of a resurrection thanks, in part, to adults like myself who remembered trading them as kids and began writing about them and trading them online via eBay, creating websites dedicated to the topic (see here and here for a few of the better and more longstanding sites on this subject, and here for a blog posting about the subject), etc. Topps finally seized upon the newfound nostolgia, and in 2004, issued a brand new series. That was followed by a few other new series in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2008, Topps took a break and issued a "flashback" series and another "Flashback II" series of the original 1970's artwork on brand new sticker cards. Topps is also planning another new series due out in February 2010, and emergence of coffee-table books on the subject have been published (another one is due out in April 2010), and even the miscellaneous merchandising. For example, in November, I visited Ocean State Job Lot, and came across a Wacky Packages backpack for the extraordinary price of $6.99. I couldn't resist, and bought one (although I have yet to use it, maybe I'll bring it to the CWD Friends for Life Conference this summer).

On June 10, 2008, NPR featured a story entitled "Gagging on Products" about the resurrection (see here for a link to the story):

Below are two short but (I think, anyway) interesting video clips on the topic of Wacky Packages. The first one comes from the cable channel the Food Network, and talks about the product with a major collector from the Philadelphia area. You can catch that video here:

What, if anything, does any of this have to do with diabetes?

Well, people with diabetes are kind of expected to put up with what could arguably be called a pretty s#!tty treatment protocol that is embedded with guilt (both self-guilt, and guilt impoased by others), not to mention a LOT of uncertainty, constant changes as well socially condescending attitudes about the disease that people with almost no other diseases or conditions have to deal with. For that reason, I think diabetes, and the multi-billion diabetes "industry" are really ripe for this kind of parody.

In effect, this is a call for 2 specific items:

#1) Another No-D Blog Day. As George Simmons' No D-Blog Day (NDD) proved last October (see here for details), sometimes even if we can't really take a break from all the self-care that most others take for granted, we don't necessarily have to blog about it ALL the time, and it gets kind of boring to talk about it all the time. I'd like to suggest another no d-blog day -- perhaps in a few weeks, maybe early March? To George and the other diabetes bloggers, I'll ask you to help push this concept as well.

#2) A Call to create some diabetes-related Wacky Packs of our own! (For the record, during the lapse between the time Topps discontinued and later resurrected Wackies, there was a movement of a number of people to create their own product parodies and some even sold them online, check out this guy's website for some pretty good ones, and another guy's site here)! To all you graphic-design folks (or even would-be graphic designers, we can always give a sketeched concept to someone else to finish), I'd also like to suggest (you can reach me via here) that you parody all kinds diabetes products, ranging from insulin, insulin pens, glucose meters, test strips, glucose tablets, lancets and/or lancet devices. But, I would really encourage you to listen to the NPR story (see above) on the subject, and in particular, note the interview with one of the original Topps artists who discusses how those parody names were chosen -- for example, he notes how fellow Wacky Package artist Art Spiegelman created a kind of formula for creating them. He states: "Well, the book prints this chart, we figured out vowel combinations - Art [Spiegelman] figured out all the possible vowel combinations, so if you get something like Tide, you'd go ide (ph), bide, cide (ph), dide (ph), fide, gide (ph), all the way through the alphabet, and if you don't come up with anything, the second letter being an I, you only have to replace it with vowels, so it's tade (ph), tide, ted, ultimately, toad. And then it becomes Toad, the laundry detergent for frogs."

Also, have a look at this video from NY1, which is Time Warner's New York City cable news channel serving those of us in the 5 boroughs of NYC. We have access to that on, what else? Cable channel 1! That story can also be found here:

So what does anyone think? Any creative artists care to parody the products sold by the multi-billion "diabetes industry"? Please, do share!! Again, reach me via


Scott Strange said...

Wacky Packs!!! LOL, I remember those! That's a blast from the past

k2 said...

Me Likey!
All for Diabetes Wacky Packies & another "No D Day!"
My brain is thinking of all types of interesting things thanks to this post!

Kelly K

Ellen said...

Diabetes Wacky Packs - WONDERFUL it. I think there's room for a book in print.

Bob Hawkinson said...

Hey Scott, my wife surprised me with a full uncut framed page of 1973 wacky packages for Christmas a few years ago. What a woman!!!!
Those things still crack me up as they hang in my gameroom. I think its a great idea.....

Bennet said...

"sewing the seeds of disrespect for authority"

Yeah! Love it.

I am in for "No D Day"