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John's Action Figure Column 06/15/97


     This shelf space problem is getting out of hand.  I mean,
it's been _years_ since I could fit all my figures out on
display, and I'm getting to the point where I don't even have any
_storage_ space left.  Which is a big problem, because it's not
like I've stopped collecting figures, or buying new ones,
although both are happening lately at a somewhat-reduced pace.
     So I look around my home, and instead of seeing the figures
I do have out, I'm starting more and more to see those I _don't_. 
In a haunting, disturbing way.  "Gee, where's the rest of the
FF...I know there are more than two Avengers...hmmm, a Scarecrow
but no Batman...buncha monsters, but no Spawn...."  You get the
     It's puzzling.  Because, taken one at a time, most figures
just aren't that _big_.  Five or seven vertical inches of bright,
delightful (or enchanting, or astonishing, or harrowing) plastic,
maybe three inches in circular diameter.  Nothing huge.
     But you get three or four _hundred_ of 'em together, and
suddenly there's definitely no room for daddy (and thank heavens
in this regard we have no kids... "honey...have you seen the
kids?"  "John, did you lose them _again_?!?  Alright, I'll check
the basement....").
     So what do I do?

     Well, this morning, as I sat pondering the problem on the
porcelain shrine, I had a thought (yes, an actual thought --
somebody write down the date!).  My shortfall is shelf space.  We
have lots of shelves, it's just that 44 of them are chock-full of
books, and another seven or eight are brimming with CDs (I know,
I know, I should get my priorities straight).  And a measley
three shelves suitable for figures ("suitable" in this instance
meaning "okay-wit-de-wife").  And yet, my woes aside, there are
places in this world with _lots_ of shelves, huge amounts of
display space.
     Like...toy stores.
     Well that's simple -- I just need to commandeer a toy store!
     Oh, not to get new toys -- they can abandon their shipments
as soon as my territorial coup is successful.  I just need the
     Of course, it can't just be any store.  For instance, I
ruled out Target, Walmart and K-Mart right from the start.  Just
_too_ big for my needs.  After all, I don't have _that_ many
toys, not such that I need acres and acres of room.  Though if I
pull this takeover off, I might just have to branch out
thereafter and snag a Super K-Mart for Kevin.  And maybe a
Walmart for Michael...and then a Target or two for Eric and
Jason.  Hey: a new hobby!
     Conversely, a Kaybee seems just a wee bit too small, as do
various and sundry "independent" toy stores.  I mean, what's the
point of preying on those worse off than _you_?  Bad, bad
     No, I need to get me a Toys 'R' Us.  A Tee-Arr-You of my

     You've no doubt been unable to avoid seeing and hearing that
vapid new "My McDonald's" ad campaign from one of our leading
proponents of deforestation (in the grand tradition of "guns for
oil," McD's brings you "trees for beef," now ravaging a
rainforest near you).
     Well I want a "My TRU."  And I want it _now_.
     I imagine a peaceful "coup d'etoy."  I saunter in with a few
friends wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles masks and carrying
Super-Soakers filled with WD40.  "Okay, nobody panic, and nobody
scream.  You all need to file out in an orderly fashion, or
there's gonna be a lot of slippin' and slidin', and probably a
few _bad_ bruises, maybe even a contusion -- we're not foolin'
around here...."  With the right tone of authority in our voices,
we'd have the place cleared out in minutes, making sure the
managers clean out the cash registers for themselves on their
way.  I'd also have the employees make sure they took all the
merchandise on a little convoy of flatbed carts -- who needs it? 
I'm not stealin' toys, fer Kenner's sake -- I just want the
     Once the place was cleared out, I'd have Tracey pull up in
back with the semi, and we'd begin unloading the cartons.  It
shouldn't take more than a day or two...
     ...and then I'd start emplacement.  I wouldn't rush it;
every figure on its peg, and every peg in its place.  Aw, heck,
with all those cleaned-out shelves available, I'd probably
dispense with pegs in most cases, and just lay the figures out
side by side, shelf by shelf.
     A few weeks later, when the process was nearing completion,
I'd want to take a break just to bask in the glorious array and
drink it all in.  Finally, room to display all my figures! 
     From that point, I'd move in the essentials -- comfy couch,
books, CD player.  My computer.  Maybe a telephone (maybe not). 
Oh yeah, a refrigerator, and a portable shower.
     Now _that's_ heaven.
     And I'd have at least six months before I ran out of room

     I spent last Saturday with Robert Anton Wilson (hey, that's
already weird!).
     Now, if you know who Wilson is, you're probably already
jumping up and down in exuberant, vicarious-delight (with maybe a
dash of envy -- heck, that's how I'd feel, if you said the same
to me).
     If you _don't_ know who Wilson is, then (a) sigh; (b) you're
reading the wrong words at this very moment -- you ought to be
reading _his_ deathless prose; and (c) okay, don't worry, I'll
clue you in.  Or at least point the way.
     Robert Anton Wilson is many things (among others the target
of no small amount of hatred and derision by sphincter-minded
philistines of the reactionary elements of the so-called
establishment), but first and foremost he is a writer.  That
said, he's also a wickedly funny humorist, a satisfyingly wicked
satirist (oh yeah, and there's _big_ money in that, let's not
forget), an incisive critic, and, not incidentally, someone who
has spent his decades since the 1950s in the thick of much that
pulled our world through a strange change machine of
unanticipatable cerebral meta-mutation and social
     The man is a living strange attractor -- and the great thing
is, he _shares_ it all with anyone who's makes the simple effort
to listen, to pull up a comfy chair and settle in to read about

     Wilson is probably best known as co-author of the monumental
"Illuminatus Trilogy," a marvelous, magical rollercoaster ride of
a story that begins with a psycho-conspiratorial bang in "The Eye
In The Pyramid," continues by pitting the century's most infamous
gangsters, plutocrats and hippies against nothing less than the
Elder Gods of the Cthulu Mythos in "The Golden Apple," and
concludes, with a hallucinogenic bang that makes the apocalypso
danced by Fat Man and Little Boy back in the 40s seem like a high
school sock hop, in "Leviathan."  All three have been available
for years now in a collected one-volume edition (the individual
volumes are out of print in the US) , and I really am not
overstating things when I tell you that if you have not read
these books, there is no better thing you can do for your mind
and soul -- and funnybone -- than run out right now and get them,
and read them (yes, you can leave the computer on, although if
you've got some kind of metered account it's probably a better
idea to log off first).
     I'm serious -- these books are *phenomenal*!  Written with
the late Robert Shea, they are the best mental adventure I've
ever had.  The most fun, with the deepest and richest humor.  And
the best non-actual acid trip I've ever taken.
     A few more words about Wilson's books, and then I'll tie
this in to toys (thought you'd stumbled onto the wrong newsgroup,
eh?  Have no fears) (Well, actually, be as afraid as you like --
but this _is_ still  If you've really
never heard of "Illuminatus," I can somewhat appropriately
describe it as an action-adventure novel about a conspiracy to
rule the world, that in passing explains most of the great
mysteries of the 20th century, and does so with a heady,
delightful mix of wit, wisdom, humor, sex, drugs, and, yes, rock
'n roll.  Admittedly, it is not for the faint of heart, nor for
those among us who have, whatever their age, already made the
fateful decision to stop thinking for themselves.  But if you
don't mind stretching those grey cells out a bit, you're
guaranteed a superlative time.
     Wilson is also the author of the "Schroedinger's Cat
Trilogy" ("The Trick Top Hat," "The Universe Next Door," and "The
Homing Pigeons," though he insists that they can be read in any
order for maximum effect) another wondrous carnival ride
masquerading as a novel.  I should probably warn people that
while the "Cat" series is also chock-full of brilliance and
delight, intrigue, revelation, revolution and drugs, it does
_not_ have much rock 'n roll.  However, it more than makes up for
the omission with what some might term an overabundance of sex,
that is, written descriptions of acts of intense physical
sexuality between consenting adults -- but some folks don't
consent to letting themselves learn that other folks not only
_do_ that stuff, but enjoy it so much that it is not only
healing, but transformative (and one WHOPPING amount of fun, at
least potentially).  So, er, you've been warned.
     Wilson's also written about a dozen books of essays, several
film scripts, and one or two uncategorizable books that are best
described as "User's Manuals for the Human Mind" (since the
manufacturers never thought to include one).  While as with any
author, not every book is pure gold (at least not the literary
kind), every Wilson book at least contains _some_ of the
informational equivalent of that valuable and precious substance,
especially his fiction.  So the basic idea is, reading Robert
Anton Wilson, you can't go wrong.  Unless you're an inveterate
info-phobe, in which case you really should not bother -- you'll
only hurt your head.

     I did promise to tie all this in to figures.  And so I
shall!  Because among his other claims to fame, Wilson was very
much in the thick of the various transformations that moved
through this country in the middle part of the century.  And
while perhaps not quite as "connected" as a Ginsberg or a Lennon,
he moved through circles that intersected those of the Beats,
William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and the Millbrook crew, various
and sundry other 60s heads like George Carlin, the Merry
Pranksters, assorted chaos theorists, social libertarians,
pharmacological visionaries, etc.  In addition, he's a scholar of
such widely varying artists as Orson Welles, James Joyce, and the
authors of the US Constitution.
     And incidentally, in person, he's charming and no less
brilliant than in his prose.  But that seems incidental....
     Well, since I basically can't keep figures out of my head no
matter where I end up, all this set me to thinking:  we've all
brainstormed about various unmade figures we'd love to see, but
rarely do we talk about figures based on actual occupants of this
our Planet earth.  (Mostly because they'd sell about as well as
frozen salads, or Slim Whitman baseball caps).  But since this is
only dreaming, forget about the cost of design, production, or
     I WANT 60s FIGURES!  Heck, I want 50s figures as well!
     Could you imagine a Timothy Leary figure?  With his mystical
con-man's grin and thinned-Beatle haircut, he could have a vial
of acid in one hand (not the kind that created Two-Face)
(well...not _that_ Two-Face) and a cocktail (Leary's predominant
drug of choice through the main part of this life, media
exaggerations to the contrary) in the other!  WOW!
     Then of course an Allen Ginsberg, unabashed poet laureate of
the New America, with his bald pate and scraggly beard, clutching
a volume of songs and wearing finger cymbals.  The Ginsberg
figure would clearly be the lead figure for a "Beat Assortment,"
including such luminaries as the aforementioned William
Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady (the latter of whom
would perforce come with a vehicle, either a big open Cadillac
convertible or...a big luridly repainted school bus with stereo
loudpspeaking coming out of the roof and the word "Furthur"
emblazoned on its destination plate, heh heh heh).
     Which would of course lead naturally into the "Merry
Pranksters" set -- a day-glo repaint Cassady along with a Ken
Kesey figure, a Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams figure, a couple of
generic Hell's Angels figures (sure, with bikes), and a Tom Wolfe
shortpack for posing on the edges of the fun, scribbling madly.
     This would naturally lead to a complete set of Grateful Dead
figures -- Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzman and
Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan (along with later-comers Mickey Hart, TC,
the Godchauxes, Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick).  Okay, so
they're a bit less glamorous than KISS, so what?  Throw in 1,968
Bill Graham figures to "honor" the 30th anniversary of that
halcyon year, and we're cookin'!
     We'd need an FAO exclusive "Chicago Seven" set, along with
various other "lipstick rebels," maybe the Diggers, the Panthers,
and perhaps even a McFarlanesque "Manson Family Values" set.
     Then there'd be the "visionaries of science" line -- Bucky
Fuller, Willy Reich, Stan Grof, Steve Hawking, Rupert Sheldrake,
Ilya Prigogine, Alfred Koestler, Terence McKenna, Riane Eisler,
and what the heck, Don Juan Matus.
     Oh, sure, these things will never get made, not ever! 
Although we do already have the Doonesbury Company's "Uncle Duke"
figure, ever-so-loosely modelled on Hunter S. Thompson, who
feared and loathed in many of the same circles through the 60s
and who knows?
     It's a helluva lot of fun just thinking about 'em.
     Plus, it beats scrounging around in a San Francisco Toys 'R'
Us, fated to find nothing more than a couple of fresh hot cases
of X-Men 2099 and "Batman: I'm Nauseous" figures.
     Hail Eris!  All Hail Discordia!
     And to all a good night.
Copyright (c) 1997 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.

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