Jan 26, 2020

Eight Bits Of Caffeine

Game Boy Heat Change Mug
Paladone Products Ltd.
This Game Boy coffee mug was a Christmas present.  It shows the rescue screen from Super Mario Land when it's filled with hot coffee (or presumably any other hot liquids).

Jan 25, 2020

The Longer You Stare, The Stranger It Gets

Love Hotel
Freddo Sacaro (2014)
This painting was found at a flea market and was shared on Twitter by @GeekWithThat.  There's so much going on here, I don't know where to begin.  Why do Snow White and The Incredible Hulk have an IV drip of Coca Cola?  Why is there a steaming hot cup of Nespresso sitting on the monitor?  Why is Dopey taking a photo of George Clooney's butt?  Why is there a Van Gogh Sunflowers painting on a hospital room wall?  And, oh yeah, by the way, what the hell is on in general?

The original painting was done by French artist Freddo Sacaro, and it'll set you back about $10k to have this astounding piece of artwork shipped from France to hang on your very own wall.

Jan 24, 2020

Available For Children's Birthday Parties

This makes me love Gritty even more than I did before.

Jan 23, 2020

The Loss Of A Legume

The Citizens Voice
Wilkes-Barre, PA (2020)
This was front page news in Northeast PA today.

Jan 22, 2020

I See A Quesarito Rising

Creedence Clearwater Revival at Taco Bell
San Luis Obispo, CA (1968)
Back in the days when they had a chili burger on the menu.

Jan 21, 2020

Times Square At Night

Times Square
New York, NY (1970)
This photo was taken fifty years ago in the fall by James Wolcott.

Jan 20, 2020

The Alien And The Rocketship

Morning Scribbles
Chris Ryniak
You can find coloring pages, stickers, t-shirts, pins, and lots of other merchandise and examples of his awesome monster artwork and on Facebook and on the Bindlewood Shop.

Jan 19, 2020

Advance Token To Paris

Alec Monopoly art
Aqua Leather Shop (2015)
Rue Du Vertbois and Rue Volta - Paris, France
This street art is from five years ago, but I just came across it recently.  If I ever hit Powerball or come into an ungodly amount of money at some point in my life, I want to find a group of people with an equally ridiculous amount of money and play a game of Monopoly using real cash.  The total amount of Monopoly money in the board game is $15,140, which means that a five player game would have a buy-in of $3,028.

Jan 18, 2020

Nighttime At Wilkes

Wilkes University
Wilkes-Barre, PA
From the 2019 Wilkes University calendar.

Jan 17, 2020

The Greatest Record Player

As cool as this is, how in the world do you keep the record from skipping?  Also, I can't imagine that having a pile of 45s on the passenger seat and swapping out a new record for every song is an easy thing to do.  Source: @Super70sSports

Jan 16, 2020

MLB: Where Cheaters Prosper

Major League Baseball issued the lightest possible slap on the wrist to the Houston Astros for three years of blatant cheating and sign stealing.  They'll lose a first and second round draft pick for the 2020 and 2021 draft, a $5 million dollar fine, and a one year suspension for manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.  The Astros quickly responded by firing their manager and general manager.  None of the players who cheated will be punished in any way.

So, from an organizational perspective, the franchise was able to trade four lottery tickets and the cost of one season of a league average middle reliever for the 2017 World Series Championship and a 2019 American League Championship.  The penalty is so laughably weak that I almost wouldn't blame the Astros for leaning into it.  Go ahead and throw Doug on the big screen and play "Banging On A Trash Can" during the 7th inning stretch.

Five million dollars sounds like a lot, but it's a small fraction of the added revenue earned by the Astros as a result of cheating their way to the World Series.  To put this in perspective, consider that the Astros were awarded over $30 million dollars in postseason bonus money for the 2017 season alone.  That doesn't include the additional revenue from parking, merchandise and concession sales throughout the post-season.  Is this going to deter future cheating?  I doubt that many teams would pass up the opportunity to trade four draft picks and $5 million bucks for a title.  Apparently, cheating is good business even if you do get caught, and there's always the chance that you get away with it.

The fact that no players are being punished is another problem as the league has set a prescient that players can freely violate the rules of the game with impunity.  The Astros sign stealing scandal was a collaborative effort with many people involved in the scheme.  What's to stop individual players from engaging in the same behavior, even if their team is clean?  Surely, it wouldn't take a whole lot of creativity for a single player to hire someone to purchase season tickets, steal signs at home games, and signal him when a fastball is coming.  There's plenty of cheap technology available to make it happen.  Hell, the Astros did it with a few cameras and a guy banging on a trash can.  Sure, they might get caught, but the players union can argue (and rightfully so) that since no players from the 2017 - 2019 Houston Astros were punished, their client should also get off with a warning.

Several high profile players and members of the media have spoken out to say that the Astros should have their World Championship vacated.  Frankly, I don't feel that this goes far enough.  The bare minimum punishment should have been a fine equal to the estimated added revenue for the Astros post-season appearances over the past three seasons, a one year ban for each member of the team (including pitchers and the entire coaching staff), and a lifetime ban for the manager and general manager, in addition to the loss of draft picks and a ruling to vacate the 2017 World Series and to strip José Altuve, Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez of their MVP, Cy Young and Rookie Of The Year awards respectively.  That would be the minimum appropriate punishment.  If it were my decision, I would add to that list a one year ban for the Houston Astros franchise.  The season schedule would be reconfigured, and the Houston Astros would be eliminated from the 2020 season altogether.

The punishment should be enough to cripple the franchise to the point where no team or player would dare risk this behavior.  With the punishment being as light as it is, I assure you that we have not seen the last stolen World Series.  The potential rewards are too great, and the deterrent is insignificant.

Jan 15, 2020

The Champion Of Philadelphia

The greatest manager in Phillies history is in recovery.  He posted this tweet to share his progress.

Get well soon, coach.

Jan 14, 2020

Happy Birthday Pop Pop

My maternal grandfather was born in Honolulu 90 years ago.  Happy birthday, Pop Pop.

Jan 13, 2020

Hungry For Nostalgia

Burger King
Times Square - New York, NY
This newspaper photo is from December 19th, 1988.

Jan 12, 2020

Gute Nacht

1001 Naucht
Knoebels Amusement Resort - Elysburg, PA
Newswatch 16 reported that the 1001 Naucht magic carpet ride at Knoebels has been retired and will not return for the 2020 season.  I wrote a little bit about this ride in the past because it's always been one of my favorites.  It takes you up pretty high so that you can see a lot of the park, and it was one of those rare amusement park rides that give you the thrill ride butterflies while still being a relaxing and mellow experience.

Click here for more photos of the ride.

Jan 11, 2020

The Beast Of Braddock

Over the holidays, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf & Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman read a few of the mean Tweets that they received in 2019.  I'm not sure this one qualifies as mean though.  The former mayor of Braddock is 6'8" tall and covered in tattoos, so he'd fit right in at Wrestlemania.

Jan 10, 2020

Thursday, I Don't Care About You. It's...

Fried Egg I'm In Love
Hawthorne Blvd - Portland, OR
I've never been to Oregon, but I know where I'm going for breakfast if I ever get there.  Happy Friday!

Jan 9, 2020

CM Punk Got His Wish

WWE Superstars Cookie Sandwiches
Good Humor (2020)
This week, it was confirmed on Twitter that Vince McMahon is getting back into the ice cream business.  These aren't exactly the same as the old WWF Ice Cream Bars that I grew up with (no stick or chocolate coating on the inside of the cookie), but they still look very yummy.

This time around, it seems that they're going with wrestlers from the past and present.  The box features "Macho Man" Randy Savage, John Cena and Becky Lynch, and one of the cookie sandwiches has Roman Reigns on it.  No mention of whether or not there will be a trading card in every box like they used to have.

Jan 8, 2020

Fast Food Finale

Bacon Bourbon BBQ Burger
This was my dinner on New Years Eve.  I'm taking a break from fast food in 2020 to lose some of the weight I've put on over the past two years.  The barbecue sauce they use is delicious.  I hope they're still making this when I stumble back into Mickey Dees.

Jan 7, 2020

Wilkes In the Winter

John Wilkes statue
Wilkes University - Wilkes-Barre, PA
I know that college isn't necessary for everyone, but it really was for me.  Wilkes was where I was able to prove to myself that I could set my mind to something and accomplish it.  This photo of the statue of John Wilkes on the greenway after a snowfall was in the 2019 university calendar.

Jan 6, 2020

Camel Man In The 60s

Hotel Claridge (1960s)
Times Square - New York, NY
Camel Man blew smoke rings over the traffic on Times Square for 25 years.  The image of Camel Man changed over the years (compare this to the photo of the same billboard from 1948) until it taken down in 1966.  The Hotel Claridge was torn in 1972 and a 33 story building was built in its place. which is now home to ABC Studios where Good Morning America is filmed.

Jan 5, 2020

Camel Man In The 40s

Hotel Claridge (1948)
Times Square - New York, NY
This is the famous Camel billboard on the Hotel Claridge on the southeast corner of Broadway and 44th Street in New York City.  The billboard was designed by Douglas Leigh and it was mounted on the hotel in 1941.  It included a steam generator so that the "Camel Man" blew smoke rings into the city.

Jan 4, 2020

Crazy Big Burrito

Carnitas Burrito Loco
Taqueria J. Zapata
Laurel Mall - Hazleton, PA
This burrito is as large as it is delicious.  Seriously, this thing was almost a foot long, as thick as the barrel of a baseball bat, and it was packed with good things to eat. I got mine with pulled pork and no sour cream.

Jan 3, 2020

It's Got Electrolytes

Trace Of Tea
Turkey Hill (2020)
Have you ever had a glass of iced tea and then forgot to wash it when you were finished?  Then, later in the day, have you ever used that same unwashed glass to get a drink of water and wonder why it tastes a little funny?  I'm guessing that this must have happened to someone who works on the product development team at Turkey Hill.  However, instead of learning from their mistake like a sensible person, they decided to bottle a whole line of pointless beverages called Trace Of Tea.

So, if you're dying for an iced tea that's been watered down to the point where it's unrecognizable as tea, and you don't want to go through the tedious effort of adding an eyedropper full of iced tea to a gallon jug of water, this ridiculous drink is just for you.

Be on the lookout for their new frozen desert called Hint of Cream.  It's a solid block of ice with the "essence" of vanilla ice cream.  Grab your sharpest spoon and dig in!

Jan 2, 2020

Car Crash

The Fast And The Furious
Raw Thrills (2004)
No matter how fast and furious you are, you can't outrace the blue screen of death.

Jan 1, 2020

You Unlock This Door With The Key Of Imagination

The Twilight Zone
CBS (1959-1964)
I first discovered The Twilight Zone when I was eleven years old and living in South Florida.  I used to stay up until midnight on Friday nights to watch it on WPTV.  It came on right after Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler.  I used to record every episode on VHS and I ended up filling several six hour tapes that I watched countless times since.

When I came back to Pennsylvania, I found that WPIX hosted an 11 year Twilight Zone marathon every year on New Years Day.  Over the past decade or so, this annual tradition has been continued by the Sci-Fi Channel

Every episode is available on Netflix, and I've had the collection on DVD since it was first released (they were a Christmas present from my Dad back in 2002).  Even though I can binge the series whenever I want, I make it a point to watch at least a few episodes every year on New Years Day.  Traditions are funny that way.

Happy New Year.  May 2020 bring you happiness, good health, and spooky moments from the fifth dimension.

Dec 31, 2019

The Right Way To End A Decade

The Super Fogeys
Artwork by Marc Lapierre
I'm not sure who's performing in Times Square this year, but they ought to cover I Wanna Be Sedated.

Dec 30, 2019

Arcade Candy Eyeballs

Pac-Man Candy Faces
Fleer (1982)
Back in the 80's, we ate candy out of the eyes of our video game stars and wore their heads around our neck.

Dec 29, 2019

He Has A Toy Whether He Wants To Or Not

British Bulldog Fan Toy
The fifth annual WWF SummerSlam took place at Wembley Stadium in London on August 29th 1992.  Bret "The Hitman" Hart defended the Intercontinental Championship against "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith in the main the main event.  Not only was it one of the greatest matches of the decade, but it inspired one of the most memorable fan moments ever captured by WWF cameras.

Prior to the start of most major shows, the WWF crew interviews fans outside of the venue.  These are usually forgettable clips of excited fans talking about or imitating their favorite wrestlers or talking about how far they had to travel to get to the show.  A kid dressed in a Bret Hart jacket and a Big Bossman hat raised the bar with a comment that has had wrestling fans scratching their head for nearly three decades.

I have no idea who this kid is, but he now has his own action figure.

Dec 28, 2019

Buen Provecho

Beef Quesadilla
Taqueria J. Zapata
Laurel Mall - Hazleton, PA
I spent a few months in El Paso a couple years ago.  I gained about 50 pounds and an appreciation for authentic Mexican food while I was there.  I'm happy to find that the same delicious food I enjoyed while I was there is in my hometown.  It's also nice to see new businesses doing well in our local mall.  Between Cafe Europa and Taqueria J. Zapata, we have tasty Italian and Mexican food.  It's a good thing they're putting a Planet Fitness in the old K-Mart building.  I'm going to need it.

Dec 27, 2019

Alaskan Dinosaur Artifacts

Abandoned McDonald's Restaurant
Adak, Alaska
A user on Imgur named Jarrod Allen Smith has recently shared a few photos of an old McDonald's on the remote island town of Adak, Alaska.  Judging by the drive-in menu signs for the Bobby's World Happy Meal and the Jurassic Park themed Dino-Sized soda and fries (which later became "Super Size"), this restaurant went out of business in March 1994 and has been abandoned ever since.

Dec 26, 2019

Dec 25, 2019

Dec 24, 2019

The Collected Cookies

The Big Book Of Christmas Cookies
Harry & David
For as long as I can remember, my dad has ordered things from Harry & David to give to the family as Christmas presents.  He would get my grandfather a box of gold foil wrapped Royal Riviera pears, and I would get these.  When I was little, it was called "The Collected Cookies by Harry and David" and the box made it look more like a book.  My favorite are the raspberry shortbread cookies.

Dec 23, 2019

Tribbles and Smartphones

Smart Reseller Magazine
December 20, 1999
Writer David Gerrold really nailed it with this prediction.  It was written 20 years ago when the most complicated thing our cell phones could do would be to play Snake and keep a signal long enough to finish your call before it dropped.

This article is making the rounds on Twitter, but without a whole lot of discussion about its author.  David Gerrold isn't just a magazine columnist who predicted the smartphone and the death of personal privacy with shocking detail and accuracy.  He's a sci-fi author whose first professional writing was the Star Trek script for the 1967 episode The Trouble With Tribbles, arguably the most well-known episode of any Star Trek series of all time.  He also wrote episodes of Land Of The Lost, Sliders, Babylon 5, and the 80's Twilight Zone series.  He even wrote two episodes of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series.  That's a pretty cool resume.

Seeing things like this make me want to dig through the predictions that are being made today about what the world will look like 20 years from now.

Dec 22, 2019

The Final Chapter

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
The story is now complete.  Reviews have been mixed, as is often the case with Star Wars films.  I've now seen it twice and enjoyed it.  I'll always wonder how the sequel trilogy that George Lucas had in mind would have compared to the Disney sequel trilogy that we have, but at the end of the day, these are the movies that we have and I'm very happy that we have them.  There are most certainly things about this movie that I think could have been handled much better.  For example, the Rose Tico character was almost completely disregarded.  She was a breath of fresh air in The Last Jedi, and it's both sad and unfortunate to see her get the Jar Jar Binks treatment in the final chapter of the saga.  Still, I enjoyed this movie for what it was.

Now that the entire story has been told, fans have taken to the internet to rank the Star Wars Universe in order of most to least favorite movies in the series.  I've been watching Star Wars for my entire life, so I have a love and appreciation for all of these films.  With that in mind, here is my ranking after seeing the final chapter.
  1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    • This is a perfect movie in every way.  Yes, even the part where Leia kisses Luke.  Neither of them knew they were siblings, and it's obvious that she did it just to spite Han Solo, so all of the hand wringing about this scene over the past 40 years has been pointless.
  2. Episode IV: A New Hope
    • The only reason that this sits at #2 is because of the incredible ending of Empire.  Like Episode V, this is a perfect movie in every way... as long as you're watching the original theatrical release, before George Lucas made his ridiculous edits and additions.
  3. Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi
    • This was my favorite Star Wars movie when I was a child.  It came out shortly before my third birthday, and it's the film of the original trilogy that I've seen the most often.  Once again, I refer to the original theatrical release, not the one in which George Lucas destroyed the music and dropped in a bunch of unnecessary and pointless CGI additions.
  4. Rogue One
    • I cannot say enough positive things about this film.  As much as I enjoy the rest of the movies on this list, Rogue One is by far my favorite Star Wars film that came after the original trilogy.  It has a magical and adventurous spirit and fantastic characters which blend perfectly with the time period in which it's set in the universe.  Also, Chirrut Imwe and K-2SO are among my favorite characters in the series.  It's a shame they're only in one movie.
  5. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
    • This was the dark movie of the prequel trilogy much in the same way that The Empire Strikes Back was the dark part of the original trilogy.  It's far from perfect, but it is by far the best movie in the prequels and does as good of a job as possible to show the transition from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and the rise of the Empire.
  6. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
    • This was a great film in and of itself, and Rose Tico is one of my favorite characters in any Star Wars film.  I also love the idea that Rey is just a regular girl, not someone's daughter or clone in hiding, and that there is a potential for anyone to be a Jedi.  However, it's hard to ignore the power struggle in the sequel trilogy.  The Force Awakens set a story in motion, then The Last Jedi felt as if it attempted to undo the framework and tell a different story.  Then, the most recent film disregarded and re-wrote the plot points of The Last Jedi.  It's as if each movie in the new trilogy is part sequel and part reboot, and while they're all enjoyable on their own, they don't flow together and they make for a disconnected overall story.
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
    • It's difficult to rank this one.  There are parts of this movie that I absolutely love, including most of the new characters - particularly Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and BB-8.  I especially love how Kylo's conflict is the reverse of his uncle and grandfather - where he feels the temptation of the light, but fights against it to remain with the Dark Side.  However, the overall plot of the First Order was pretty lame.  They could have gone with mind control, a killer virus, some sort of enslavement like The Borg, or anything else.  Instead, they created a bootleg Death Star called Starkiller Base and had it destroy five random planets in a soulless copy of Alderaan.  Additionally, Captain Phasma came across to me as just plain silly and not an intimidating villain in the slightest.  I really do enjoy Episode VII because it brought the Star Wars universe back to life, but they got lazy with the overall story of the First Order vs. The Resistance and it turned what could have been a great film into a pretty good film.
  8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
    • I can understand why this wasn't as big of a hit at the box office as it was expected to be.  The prequel trilogy left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of Star Wars fans, and it's easy to understand how a spinoff movie that takes place before the original trilogy in the timeline could be unfairly associated with them.  Also, it's not easy to accept someone other than Harrison Ford in the titular role.  However, this was a very enjoyable story, and it's unfortunate that it's poor reception has probably killed off any chance at a sequel to see how the story plays out.
  9. Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker
    • The latest film in the series moves very quickly and wraps up most of the stories in the sequel trilogy.  I don't want to give any spoilers so I'm going to keep this short, but I will say that it's not perfect, but most of its problems are a result of the fact that the sequel trilogy isn't a single story, but three disconnected stories that conflict with each other.
  10. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    • It's impossible to overstate the negative effect that Jar Jar Binks and the other Gungan characters have on this movie.  Binks and Boss Nass drag down every scene that they are a part of with juvenile attempts at humor that stick out like a sore thumb.  Every second they're on the screen yanks me out of the Star Wars universe and into a late 90's Nickelodeon kids show that needlessly panders to the children in the audience.  Despite this, it's a solid foundation of the Anakin Skywalker story and it features one of the most brilliant villains in the universe.  As much as I enjoy the pod race and the battle with Darth Maul, my favorite scene is when Qui-Gon Jinn is sitting outside at night on Tatooine and speaking with Obi-Wan on the communicator about Anakin's midichlorian count.  I wish I could have seen how that part of the story would turn out.
  11. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
    • I have a hard time ranking this at the bottom because Attack Of The Clones has some of my favorite scenes in the Star Wars universe - particularly those in which Obi-Wan travels around the galaxy as a detective who uncovers the existence of the clone army and Sifo-Dyas.  However, it also has some of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the series and one of the most awkward and poorly written love stories ever told.  There is no reason in the world that Padmé Amidala would fall for those lines or the dork who fed them to her.

Dec 21, 2019

Return To The Toy Store

Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Toys
Kenner (1983)
I was a huge Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember.  My earliest memory of the movies is playing with these toys and watching Return Of The Jedi on VHS.

When Episode VI came out in theaters in May 1983, stores put old stock of toys from the previous films alongside the new Return Of The Jedi toys, so I had a mixture of action figures and playsets from all three films when I was a kid.  I remember that I had the Jabba The Hutt and Rancor toys, and a few of the other action figures in these photos.

Dec 20, 2019

The Toy Aisle Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Toys
Kenner (1980)
The toy explosion really hit full force with the release of The Empire Strikes Back.  The movie first hit theaters a few months after I was born, so I missed out on the craze, but there was plenty of action figures still on store shelves by the time I was a toddler... missed out on that Millennium Falcon toy though.

Dec 19, 2019

I Find Your Lack Of Toys Disturbing

Star Wars Toys
Kenner (1978)
The original Star Wars action figures weren't ready for the Christmas shopping season in 1977 when the movie was first released.  Because of this, Kenner famously shipped over a half million empty boxes to stores that came with a mail-in certificate for action figures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca.

The first Star Wars movie was such a massive success that kids didn't mind getting an empty box for Christmas.  The full toy line was ready and shipped to stores in 1978, and it set the standard for merchandising a major motion picture.