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Posts Tagged ‘Bad Kitsch’

Velvet
It’s possible to go through one’s life and never encounter a velvet painting. If you live in a major city, or just not in the Midwest, it’s doubtful you will ever see one. Until one fateful day, that is, when you go to a garage sale and notice something odd sticking out of the corner of a wooden trunk, which you then open and discover a velvet painting of Ted Nugent with a halo smiling knowingly at the viewer. Not that the author has experience with anything like that, or the screams that reportedly followed.

The most common figure depicted on velvet paintings is Elvis Presley (more specifically, ‘Classic Elvis’, as opposed to ‘Fat Elvis’). You can also find paintings of John Wayne, Dale Earnhardt, Mr. T, and other heroic figures from American history. No matter the person, the presentation is always the same – bright colors on dark velvet, which helps to emphasize the angelic look that each one contains. It’s a testament to our culture – the TV and music icons are like holy figures, and so must be painted as such. That it’s done in such a kitschy and tacky fashion is a simple afterthought.

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dogs1
One of the truest and most classic examples of kitsch are the numerous paintings of Dogs Playing Poker. They’re pretty much what you’d expect: a group of dogs, usually a golden retriever, a bulldog, a cocker spaniel, and a poodle, are gathered together at a table playing high-stakes poker, and look – one of them is cheating! He has a card hidden behind his right ear! Oh, you adorable, lovable canine! Who needs a Van Gogh or Renoir for your personal collection when you can have a tacky piece of artwork that’s available at the local Wal-Mart for $2.99?

All of this ignores the main problem – the mere sight of these paintings has been proven to cause widespread madness. They are so mind numbingly kitschy and horrible that there is no choice but to go completely insane, and one unfortunate gallery viewing in Texas resulted in several hundred people being institutionalized. It therefore your patriotic duty to destroy these objects of the devil should you ever stumble upon one in your travels. But be warned – a simple glance at Fifi tossing a poker chip into the pot is all that is needed to send your mind tumbling off the deep end.

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Everyone wants a friend. They provide comfort in times of need, someone to play ping pong with, and can help you move into a new apartment if you’re too cheap to hire professionals. Everyone does not, however, want a friend that is made out of dried compost. This didn’t stop Zoodoo from releasing the Dung Buddy, a wholly unique approach to fertilizing one’s lawn. These friendly compost companions came in the shape of different animals (turtles/cats/birds) and were designed to sit in your front yard and slowly fall apart as hordes of filthy flies perched upon them.

While the environmental aspects of the product were to be lauded, it seems like the makers could have come up with a slightly better name. Dung buddy conjures up the worst images of accidental internet searches gone bad which are best left unmentioned. More than that, the item was unquestioningly an object of incredible kitsch, the nineties equivalent of dogs playing poker. It was even available as political figures, so you could have a dung Bill Clinton or George Bush decomposing in your garden if you wanted to. Truly, political commentary at its best.

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BAD KITSCH – Pet Rock


Gary Dahl was an ordinary man with an incredible vision. He knew that most people liked animals, but that modern living and go-go lifestyles had rendered many of the classic pet choices untenable. Dogs? You had to take them out for walks, plus they barked way too much in an urban environment. Cats? Notoriously fickle creatures who demanded constant attention. Ferrets? They were secretly Freemasons. But what about… a pet rock?

The idea was brilliant, if by brilliant you meant ‘horrible enough that it was destined by fate to succeed.’ He immediately patented the idea, which no one had amazingly thought up before, and began to sell common stones from the side of the road for $3.95. Each rock was nestled snugly in its own personal pet carrier (cardboard box), and a Pet Rock Trading Manual was included with the purchase that informed the buyer about how to punish them properly if it bit you on the leg.

Now, the fact that a person could just go outside, pick up a stone from off the ground, and place that in a box did nothing to stop people from buying the product by the handful. The tiny gray rocks were just so darn cute! (plus, they never did their business on the carpet.) Mercifully, the trend only lasted about six months, but by the end of that period Gary Dahl was a millionaire. Think about that the next time you’re sitting in your office cubicle and dreaming of a better life.

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Inflatable furniture was designed to serve as a cheap and simple alternative to ordinary home furnishings. No longer would people be forced to sit on a Chesterfield sofa or La-Z-Boy recliner with three separate layers of soft padding; now they could go down to the local party store and pick up a leopard print chair that would cause anyone who plopped upon it to inevitably sink into the super-futuristic, bubbly recesses. This was provided they managed to successfully spend the six hours necessary to blow it up without accidentally rupturing their lungs.

The main problem with inflatable furniture is its distinct vulnerability to sharp and pointy objects. Attempting to eat a delicious shish-kabob meal while sitting in one almost always results in a distressing “Whoooooshhh” sound as the sides are punctured and you slowly drift down to the floor. Duct tape can usually fix up most of the holes, though it’s probably better to just go out to the curb and find an old couch that one of your neighbors has thrown away. It might have a large metal spring sticking out of it, but that has slightly better connotations than bad 70’s kitsch.

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Home decoration can be something of a conundrum when you live in a trailer park. You don’t own the property, so you can’t make additions, and the weekly tornadoes mean you probably shouldn’t invest in anything too expensive. Pink flamingos are the perfect solution to situations like these. Their majestic appearance provides the stunning illusion of exotic wildlife for your front lawn, thereby hiding the fact that you’re living in a Winnebago and your neighbors were the original inspiration for those guys in Deliverance.

Pink flamingos can trace their origin back to the 1950’s. America was moving into the suburbs in large numbers, and needed a brightly colored lawn ornament to enforce conformity. Pink flamingos filled this void, and soon became the most common plastic wading bird in the nation. They could be seen in front of almost every house, in every neighborhood. Their grandiose fortunes would fall within a decade, though, as as people grew tired of them and the garden gnome industry took off, until they became the ultimate symbol of bad taste. Some housing communities have even banned their display, but you can still find them in many lower-middle class neighborhoods, a testament to a kitschier time.

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