Jul 1, 2022

Forty Two


Yes, Loonquawl and Phouchg.  I'm 42.

I can't believe it either.  I still remember that when I was in the 9th grade, there were nights when I honestly didn't think I'd live long enough to get my drivers licence.  It's not because I'm a hypochondriac or anything like that.  It's just that I couldn't picture myself as anything other than what I was - a misfit kid that nobody seemed to understand, and that didn't seem to be able to understand anybody else.

If I'm being completely honest, that really hasn't changed all that much through my adult life.  I still don't really understand people or the world around me, and I can count on one hand the number of people who I truly believe understand me, but I've gotten much better at faking my way through social situations to the point where it's not as big of a problem as it used to be.  I am what I am, and I'm long past the point of feeling like I have to apologize for it.  There are still times when a memory from the past will bubble up to the surface and make me feel like crawling into a hole, but then an angel appears on my shoulder.  He looks disturbingly like Walter Sobchak, and he just shrugs his shoulders and says "Fuck it, dude.  Let's play Tetris".  He knows that I don't bowl.

I guess I've gone through the stages of grief and reached acceptance.  The world is what it is, and I am what I am.  Ozzy put it best - I don't want to change the world; I don't want the world to change me.  I'm heavily flawed, but I do my best to not let those flaws negatively affect anyone else, and I've managed to carve out a life of peace and happiness.  That's a hell of a lot further than I expected to get when I was an angry and scared 15 year old.  If the 42 year old me had a chance to go back and say anything to myself at that age, I think I'd say the following:  "Your story doesn't end here, kid.  You ain't dying today or for a long time, so surround yourself with the things in this world that make you happy, and do your best to ignore everything else unless you don't have a choice.  You don't have to live a life that anyone else approves of, because all this shit is completely meaningless.  Don't hurt anyone, but don't kiss their ass either, and that includes trying to impress people.  Why the fuck do you care what they think?  You don't even like them.  Now, dry your eyes and go see a movie.  The bullshit will sort itself out."

I wonder what the 84 year old me would have to say to me today.

Jun 30, 2022

The Golden Pineapple-Headed Trident Warrior



Baja Gold
Mountain Dew (2022)
There have been a lot of products from the past that have been so successful that they have branched out and become their own brand.  Take Cheerios for example.  When Cheerios first came out, there was one flavor - Cheerios.  For over 35 years, that was all there was.  In 1979, General Mills released Honey Nut Cheerios.  Then, about ten years later, they came out with Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.  Fast forward to 2022 and I can't even tell you how many different kinds of Cheerios there are.



Mountain Dew is another one of these brands.  When I was growing up, the only flavor was Mountain Dew.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite. It was my third choice behind Sprite and 7 Up when I was in the mood for a citrus based soda.  In 2004, they came out with Mountain Dew Baja Blast as an flavor that was exclusively available at Taco Bell.  It was pretty good - a lot better than regular Mountain Dew with a strong lime flavor.

These days the Baja line has extended to include all sorts of different tropical fruit flavors.  I recently had the opportunity to try the pineapple one, which is called Baja Gold.  It tastes pretty much like every other pineapple soda I've ever had - not great, but not bad either.  The real story, though, is this groovy little guy on the label.



I've seen a lot of horror movies in my life, but there haven't been too many things that could match a monster with a pineapple diving helmet for a head who's surrounded by gold and jewels and pointing a trident at you.  This dude is too good to be limited to the label off of a Mountain Dew side project.  At the very least, he should have his own comic book.

Jun 29, 2022

Pardon Me...



Grey Poupon Ice Cream
Van Leeuwen (2022)
One of the most well-known commercials throughout the 80's and early 90's was for a little glass jar of mustard.  It became a meme before anyone had ever heard the word meme.  Hell, it was a meme before most people had even heard of the internet.


The first of these Grey Poupon commercials aired in 1981, with different versions of it coming out in the years that followed.  The beginning and end vary slightly, but they all include a wealthy person in a fancy car pulling up next to another luxury automobile before rolling down their window to ask "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?".  The person in the other car always responds "but of course" before handing over a jar of the condiment, although in the later commercials, they drove away leaving their polite requester mustardless.


The commercial has been parodied countless times, with the most well-known example occurring in the 1992 comedy film Wayne's World.  The fact that the ad was still being referenced over a decade after it first aired speaks to the success that a 30 second mustard commercial had in establishing itself as a part of pop culture.  When I see this scene 30 years later, I wonder if younger audiences get the joke.

I would probably have thought you were joking if you told me back in the 80's that I'd eat a pint of Grey Poupon mustard flavored ice cream one day, but here we are.


Earlier this year, I wrote about some other Van Leeuwen ice cream flavors that I had tried, including Pizza and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  It seems that their business model is to create flavors that inspire those who try them to say "it's not as disgusting as you think".  If that is the case, they have once again succeeded.

The base of this product is a sweet ice cream (basically vanilla without the vanilla flavoring), with the sauce and the inclusions carrying most of the flavor.  It's got a sweet honey mustard variegate swirled throughout with chunks of salted soft pretzel pieces mixed in.  I don't think I'd buy it a second time, but it's not bad and I'm glad that I got to try it.  I also respect the fact that this company is willing to invest the time and money to put this flavor in stores, rather than to create something bizarre and make it available only to "influencers" and contest winners.  God only knows what these folks will come up with next, but as long as it's in stores and it's being sold for a reasonable price, I'll probably give it a try.

Jun 28, 2022

The 42nd Street Theaters At Night






John A. Mozzer has led an interesting life, which include two decades of his adult life spent behind a camera.  These photos of the theaters on 42nd Street in New York City were taken from his car on June 28th, 1986.  Here are the comedy, horror, adult and kung fu flicks on the marquees that I could make out.




Jun 27, 2022

A Half Century Of Atari



On June 29th, 1972, electrical engineers Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney incorporated Atari Inc.  The ownership of the company has changed hands quite a few times over the years, but there's are still products coming out under the Atari name today, including an upcoming microgame collection called Atari Mania.

I wasn't able to find any photos of the company from their first year.  The one above was taken at a trade show six years later.  The yellow pinball machine in the center is called Middle Earth and was released in February 1978 (photo source: New York Heritage Digital Collection).

Happy 50th birthday, Atari!

Jun 26, 2022

Every Child In The World Will Know His Name



Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
J.K. Rowling (1997)
Although I don't always agree with its author, I will always be grateful for the stories that she gave to the world.  The first of those stories, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was first published 25 years ago today.

Jun 25, 2022

The Light That Burns Twice As Bright Burns Half As Long



Blade Runner
Warner Bros (1982)
I was too young to understand and appreciate Blade Runner the first time that I saw it.  In the years since, it has come to be my favorite science fiction movie of all time.  The Ridley Scott classic film, which is based on the 1968 Phillip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, turns 40 years old today.

Jun 24, 2022

A Bowl Of Aloha



Spicy Bowl
Aloha Poke - Fogelsville, PA
I spend most of the first 40 years of my life believing that I was part Hawaiian, until I received the results of two DNA tests showed that my maternal grandfather isn't a blood relative.  If I'm being completely honest, the family part of it doesn't really affect me all that much.  I'm not at all close with my mother's side of the family, but even if I were, these results wouldn't have made me treat them any differently.  It did kind of rock my world a bit though.  Imagine having a culture that you thought was your own ripped out from under you.  Sorry guy, your grandmother was fooling around behind your grandfather's back, and as a result, your ethnicity is a lie.  Not cool.

So anyway, even in the days that I did think I was Hawaiian, I still had never heard of a Poke Bowl.  I spent about a month in Hawaii in the summer of 1988 and don't ever remember seeing one.  The main food that I remember from that trip is poi... lots and lots of poi.  That should have been my first clue that I might not be a real Hawaiian.  I thought poi was pretty terrible, but these poke bowls are the exact opposite.  I think I could live off of these!



If you've never had a poke bowl before, picture getting a bowl at Chipotle, but the protein and vegetables that you're choosing from are made up mostly of sushi ingredients instead of Mexican food.  I had the Spicy Bowl, which includes spicy tuna, spicy salmon, crab meat, kimchi, edamame, corn, cucumber, jalapeno, crispy onion and ginger with spicy mayo and sriracha sauce.  It was delicious!  If there was an Aloha Poke in my hometown, I'd probably eat there once a week at least.

Jun 23, 2022

Fifty Bucks To Fill Up



Sunoco Gas Station
Broad Street - Hazleton, PA
I hope that I can look back on this photo one day and remember that gas prices went crazy for a little while in 2022.  You know... instead of looking back and saying "remember when we thought five dollars a gallon was bad?".

Jun 22, 2022

Who's That Ghost Knocking At My Door



Garbage and Tears For Fears
The Tipping Point World Tour
Mann Center For The Performing Arts - Philadelphia, PA
Tears For Fears released their seventh studio album, The Tipping Point, earlier this year.  It's an excellent record that I had been looking forward to for a long time, but even more than that, I was looking forward to this show.  Both bands are absolutely phenomenal to see live in concert.  We had seen Garbage in concert when they opened for Blondie in 2017, and we saw Tears For Fears twice before.  The first time was in 2010 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, and the last time was in 2017 when they opened for Hall & Oates at the Prudential Center in Newark.  The opportunity to see both of them on this tour was too good to pass up!



There's a Trejo's Tacos stand at this venue, so I had to pick up a pre-show snack.  They could have done with a little hot sauce, but they were very tasty.
 


Our seats weren't the crazy expensive ones that were right in front of the stage, but they were still pretty good.  We were in Row BB towards the center of the stage with nothing obstructing our view.



Garbage took the stage at around 7:30 to a recording of Rosemary's Lullaby from the 1968 horror classic Rosemary's Baby, which is a pretty badass way to make an entrance.  They opened with Automatic Systematic Habit off of their 2012 album Not Your Kind Of People.  That was followed up by a song called The Men Who Rule The World, which is off of their latest album, No Gods No Masters, which was released just nine days earlier.  Later in the set, they played another song off of their new album called Wolves.  I haven't heard the new album yet, but if these two songs are any indication, I think I'm going to love it.   I'll definitely spend some time with it this weekend.  

Most of Garbage's set came from their first three albums.  They played Stupid Girl, Queer and Only Happy When It Rains from their self-titled debut album (1995), and four songs from their second album from 1998, Version 2.0: Special, Wicked Ways, Push It and their closer for the night, You Look So Fine.  They worked in parts of Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode) into Wicked Ways and Dreams (Fleetwood Mac) into You Look So Fine, and let me tell you, hearing Shirley Manson singing a Stevie Nicks song is a haunting and beautiful experience.

They did two other songs in the middle of the set that are among my favorites: Cherry Lips from their 2001 album Beautiful Garbage, and their 1999 James Bond theme song: The World Is Not Enough.  The band almost skipped over the 007 theme and went straight into Wolves before Shirley stopped them.  She seemed like she was having a lot of fun on stage last night, and she sounds as incredible as the first time I heard her when I was 15 years old.
 


I've been to two other Tears For Fears concerts and this one is my favorite of the three.  The new album is a big part of the reason why.  It's the band's first studio album in nearly 18 years, and it's absolutely amazing.  They started their set with the first two songs from the new album: No Small Thing and the title track, The Tipping Point.  Altogether, they played seven out of the ten songs from the new record, including, Long Long Long Time, Break The Man, My Demons, Rivers Of Mercy and End Of NightMy Demons is fast becoming one of my favorite Tears For Fears songs.



The rest of the 19 song set was a mixture that included many of their biggest hits from as far back as their 1983.  From their debut album, The Hurting, they played Mad World, Pale Shelter, Change and Suffer The Children, the latter of which was beautifully sung by Lauren Evans.  She also sang Woman In Chains with Roland and she sang backup throughout the rest of the show.  I cannot say enough positive things about this incredibly talented woman.  She added a new dimension to songs that I've loved for most of my life.

Speaking of Woman In Chains, they played it and two other songs off of the 1989 The Seeds Of Love album, including the title track and Badman's Song.  They also performed Secret World off of Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, and one of my all-time favorite songs, Break It Down Again off of Elemental.
 


Many of the biggest Tears For Fears hits are from their biggest album and one of the most successful records of the decade, Songs From The Big Chair.  The third song of the night was their #1 hit single from 1985, Everybody Wants To Rule The World.  It's an timeless new wave hit, and they play it with every bit of passion that I saw in records of the shows they performed when I was five years old.  Roland has more energy at 60 than I have at 41, and he belts out the lyrics in a way that is so powerful that is seems effortless.

The closer for the main part of the show before the introductions and encore was Head Over Heels.  It's a song I loved as a kid listening to my parents records when I was coloring.  I fell in love with it all over again when I watched Donnie Darko for the first time.  Again, the crowd went wild.

They performed a three song encore, starting with End Of Night from the new album and Change from their first album before closing out the night with the first song of Songs From The Big Chair - Shout.



Last night was an unforgettable night of music from two of my favorite bands, and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to experience it.  No matter how much chaos is going on in the world, music always makes things better.

Jun 21, 2022

Build A Time Machine And Save Money




Weis Market
Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (June 21, 1982)
I can't remember the last time I watched the news and didn't see at least one story about the supply chain, or shortages of goods and services, or the increase in prices for just about everything.  One of the places that inflation has hit the hardest over the past few years has been the grocery store.  With this in mind, I wanted to take a look back to see what the prices looked like at one of my local stores 40 years ago today.  Go ahead and compare these prices to what you're paying in 2022, but whatever you do, please, for the love of god, don't use Jell-o for salads.

Jun 20, 2022

They Abide And They Endure


Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Most of the time when we go to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, we're going to see a movie that we know and love.  It's often the first time that either of us are seeing it on the big screen, but we're familiar with it because we've watched it before on home video or on television when we were growing up.  On a few occasions, we've gotten to see a movie here for the first time, but that's usually because it's part of a double or triple feature that's being shown along with something that we know and love.  Those are some of my most treasured memories at the drive-in because I'm experiencing the film for the first time in the way that moviegoers saw it during its initial run.

Jim Thorpe Times News - Jim Thorpe, PA  (December 12, 1955)

The Night Of The Hunter premiered on July 26th, 1955 and was screened at the Classic Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania later that year.  As near as I can tell, last night marked the first time in over 60 years that this film is being shown at a theater anywhere in Northeast PA.


Not only had I never seen The Night Of The Hunters before, but I never even heard of it.  I wasn't even sure what it was about.  In fact, the only things I knew about this movie at all when we bought the tickets was that it's a black and white suspense film from the mid 50's, and that it has been called it one of the greatest movies of all time.  So, with this in mind, I bought the tickets and then forced myself to not look up anything about the movie or its plot.  How many chances in life do you get to go into a 67 year old film completely cold, with no expectations of what it's even going to be about, and to get to experience it for the first time at a drive-in theater?



I wasn't the only one who was excited for the opportunity to see The Night Of The Hunter at the drive-in.  The lot was pretty packed with folks, and among them was one of the funniest stand-up comedians I have ever seen, Raymond The Amish Comic.

Before the show, my wife and I were relaxing in our camping chairs enjoying the music and talking to our neighbors in the car next to us.  We got to talking about some of the other shows we had been to earlier that year, and I pulled out my phone to show the photo op that was set up for C.H.U.D. at Zombiefest a few weeks ago.  When I opened Instagram to get to the photo, I noticed a picture that was just posted a few moments ago by Raymond, who was having his own Night Of The Hunter during the pre-show by hunting for Pokemon in front of the Mahoning screen.  I went over to say hi and to let him know that my family and I go to his pre-Thanksgiving show in West Hazleton every year (well, in 2019 and 2021 - the pandemic put the kibosh to just about everything in 2020).  I didn't want to bug him because he wasn't there to perform or to do a meet-and-greet; so my intention was to literally stop for just a second and say hi and that we're big fans, but he was very awesome and took a few minutes to talk with me.  He also took a selfie with me on his phone to post on his Instagram page.  Seriously, if this man is performing anywhere in your area and you want to laugh your ass off, go see his show!
 


The poster for this show was designed by Tom Bifulco.  He's the same artist who created the poster for Enter The Dragon, the Sing-Along Weekend and the Remake Double-Take for The Fly, and that's just for the shows that we've been to this year so far.  He's done dozens of others in previous years for the Mahoning.  Check out his work on Instagram.
 


Before the start of the movie, there was a brief video introduction given by Preston Neal Jones, author of the book Heaven & Hell To Play With: The Filming Of Night Of The Hunter.  To be honest, I was pretty guarded about how much attention I was paying to this.  You never know what the folks who introduce a film are going to say, and I had gone out of my way to come into this experience with as little advanced knowledge of the plot as possible.  The last thing I wanted was for a major part of the movie to be spoiled just minutes before I finally got to see it on the big screen.  However, I'm happy to say that nothing about the story was spoiled.  Most of what he spoke about was how Charles Laughton came to direct this movie, as well as some of the casting choices and the unusual ways that Mr. Laughton went about making the one and only film he ever directed.



After the introduction, but before the trailers, they showed a 35mm print of one of the greatest Loony Tunes of all time, the 1955 Chuck Jones short: One Froggy Evening.  Even if you've never seen it before, I guarantee that you know something about it.  This cartoon was the debut of Michigan J. Frog, the little green frog who was the mascot for The WB.  He has a top hat and cane and he sings "hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal" (among other things) while dancing around.

If you like cartoons and you've never seen this one, I implore you to go on YouTube and check it out as soon as possible.  It was ranked at #5 in The 50 Greatest Cartoons list, and it is absolutely hysterical!



After the trailers, we watched The Night Of The Hunter, shown from a 35mm print that was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.  The print was absolutely gorgeous, and the movie itself is jaw dropping.  Earlier in the night, I spoke with Virgil at the snack bar and he said that he wouldn't hesitate to call this one of the top five movies of all time.  After seeing it, I can say that I completely agree with that assessment.  This is unlike anything I have ever seen before.  It is decades ahead of its time and presents its characters with a depth that no movie I have ever watched has surpassed.

The story takes place in West Virginia during The Great Depression and it stars Robert Mitchum as one of the greatest movie villains of all-time, Reverend Harry Powell.  I don't want to say too much about the plot just in case anyone reading this is like me and has never heard of this movie before.  If this is you, please trust me when I say that if you love movies, you really, really, really need to see this film.  It's available to stream for free on Tubi and PlutoTV, and it's available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime.



The list of incredible experiences we've had at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater has gotten ridiculously long, and the season is still young.  There's so many incredible movies already on the calendar, with many more of their annual events to go which haven't even been announced yet.  

Jun 19, 2022

Joanne Has A Big Mouth



Joanne Worley
Laugh-In - Topps Card #59 (1968)
I've been spending a lot more time with my dad since he retired.  We usually just sit in the kitchen and drink a few beers, listen to some tunes, and talk about the Phillies.  We often end up talking about old times, and once in a while, either he or I will say something that sparks a memory that we haven't thought of in years.  My dad tends to forget what stories he tells, so I end up hearing the same ones many times, but he mentioned one about a month ago that he hadn't told me before, and it was about this trading card.




My dad collected baseball cards when he was a kid, but sometimes he'd get a pack of whatever novelty cards were on store shelves.  One such set of cards was released by Topps in 1968 during the first season of a weekly sketch comedy television series that was sort of a 60's prototype to what Saturday Night Live would become: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

One of the cards that he got in this pack was a caricature of actress and comedian Joanne Worley.  The card had a perforated circle in the middle that was meant to be punched out, which would allow you to stick your thumb in the hole to make it look like Worley's tongue.



Dad mentioned this card to me because he said that when he showed it to his father (my grandfather), it was the hardest that he ever saw him laugh.  You see... my grandmother's name is Joanne, and she was a very loud and opinionated person.  She also had short black hair, so this card could just as easily have served as a caricature of her.  So, a few minutes after hearing this story, I excused myself to the bathroom and found one for sale on eBay, along with a stand-up frame from Amazon.

His reaction when I gave it to him this weekend was everything that I hoped it would be.



Happy Fathers Day, Pop!

Jun 18, 2022

We’re Racing Toward The Extinction Of Our Species



Jurassic World: Dominion
Universal Pictures (2022)
The first Jurassic Park was one of my favorite movies of the 90's, but I wasn't too crazy about the second or third movie.  They've grown on me over time, but they're a pretty big step down from the epic film that started it all.

Fourteen years after Jurassic Park III was released, the Jurassic World trilogy began.  We saw the first one at the Laurel Drive-In back in 2015, and while I thought the concept of the Indominus Rex was silly and unnecessary to the plot, it was an enjoyable movie... not as good as the first, but I enjoyed it more fun than the second or third.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hit theaters four years ago and although I liked it, I thought that the twist about Maisie Lockwood at the end was just plain ridiculous, and it set my expectations for Jurassic World: Dominion.  Instead of going into this movie hoping for a somewhat serious action sci-fi story, I came in with the expectation that I was going to see a campy monster movie like Son Of Godzilla.



I'm both surprised and happy to say that Jurassic World: Dominion wasn't a silly flick.  In fact, it told a story that salvaged the Maisie Lockwood character ark and merged the cast of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World in a way that was very satisfying.  I think it's the best movie of the Jurassic World trilogy, and a fitting end to the Jurassic Park universe.  Don't skip out on the opportunity to see this in theaters because it's the kind of movie that a cell phone screen or living room television just can't do proper justice to.

Jun 17, 2022

Is Shudder Preserving Drive-In Culture Or Competing With It?


The Last Drive-In
Shudder (2022)
There's only a few more weeks left in Season 4 of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.  I haven't kept up with the show too much in 2022, but it's not because I've lost interest.  Shudder decided to start their fourth season on Opening Day at the Mahoning Drive-In.  If the choice is between going out to the drive-in or sitting at home watching tv that I can stream at any time, the Mahoning is going to win that battle every time.

I can't help but to wonder why The Last Drive-In has to have their season run through the summer when they would be in direct competition with the few remaining drive-in theaters that are still in operation throughout the country.  Would it have been too much trouble for Shudder to begin airing new episodes The Last Drive-In in the fall and have the season carry through the winter and end in the spring?  It seems like it would be a pretty easy decision to make.  It would allow the show to preserve the drive-in culture instead of competing head-to-head with it, and would likely result in more folks seeking out their closest drive-in on a warm summer night.  I expect it would also result in higher numbers of folks who watch the show on its initial airing.  The MutantFam who spend their summer nights at their local drive-in theater (presumably the core audience of The Last Drive-In) are more likely to be home in the winter months to tune in.  Seems like a win/win scenario to me.

As it stands, I'm hoping to catch up on the Season 4 episodes of The Last Drive-In this November and December after the Mahoning has closed for the season - that is if Shudder hasn't lost the rights to the movies before then.

Jun 16, 2022

If We Can Sparkle, He May Land Tonight



The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
David Bowie (1972)
The fifth studio album from David Bowie was released 50 years ago today.  It wasn't meant to be a concept album, but it sort of became one accidentally when some of the songs that he was recording seemed to fit together.  The order of songs was then arranged to tell the story of an alien rock star who comes to save the world, but it doesn't quite work out that way.



The character of Ziggy Stardust became Bowie's alternate identity on stage in the early 70's, but it was based largely on 50's rock star Vince Taylor.