Dec 22, 2007

Pac Tree

Pac Man LED Christmas Tree
Madrid, Spain

Dec 20, 2007

Now You're Playing With Power

Christmas Eve (1987)
I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember.  My dad and grandparents used to take me to Aladdin's Castle when I was three and four years old and had to stand on a stool to play the game.  At around the same time, my dad brought home an Atari 2600, and we played games like Pitfall, Taz and Adventure.  No matter what else was going on in life, games brought me a lot of joy.

My first experience with Nintendo was in the arcade, with games like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and the PlayChoice-10.  I don't remember when I first learned that Nintendo had a home console, but I'm sure that I talked about it constantly to whoever would listen.  I have a vague memory of an older woman who used to watch me after school until my mom got off of work asking me what I wanted for Christmas.  I told her I was hoping I would get a Nintendo.  She misheard me, and she knew that I liked He-Man, so she surprised me with an action figure called Extendar
It's no Nintendo, but I had fun creating adventures with this little guy.

I spent Christmas Eve at my grandparents house when I was seven years old.  My Dad came over and brought a huge, blue present.  I wasn't sure how big the console was, but I spent all of our Christmas dinner thinking about that box and hoping that a Nintendo was inside.  Sure enough, when we finished our Long John Silvers (a Christmas Eve tradition) and started opening presents, I found the Nintendo Entertainment System waiting for me, complete with R.O.B. The Robot, Gyromite and Duck Hunt.

It's been twenty years since the Christmas where I first became a Nintendo kid.  In the years that followed, I've had countless hours of fun playing Nintendo with friends, family and by myself.  To this day, playing an old school NES game never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Dec 19, 2007

The Ship That Made The Kessel Run Through Twelve Icebergs

Iain McCaig
Variety (March 18, 1998)
This incredible artwork by artist Iain McCaig was published as a full page ad in the March 18th, 1998 issue of Variety as a congratulatory message from George Lucas to James Cameron on Titanic passing Star Wars as the highest grossing film of all time.  Titanic premiered in theaters in the United States ten years ago today.  It went on to win eleven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and was the first film in motion picture history to earn over a billion dollars at the box office.

Dec 18, 2007

Homer, Homer Everywhere

The rental stores in my area have really pushing The Simpsons Movie, which comes out on DVD today.  The little magazine at Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery this month have had nearly identical covers promoting it.

Dec 16, 2007

Grandma's Power Outage Ordeal

The power went out at my grandparents' house for about an hour. My grandmother described this as "the worst thing that has ever happened to me." She wasn't too thrilled to learn that the camera was on either.

Dec 1, 2007

Elephants and Melting Clocks

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
Salvador DalĂ­ (1954)
This is my favorite painting from my favorite artist.  It's a follow-up to his 1931 work, The Persistence Of Memory, and it shows the original landscape after it has been flooded.  It is said to represent the potential of humanity to bring on our own destruction.  I think it's fascinating to compare these two works: one that was created between the World Wars in the same year that the Empire State Building first opened, and one that was created after World War II, during the atomic age.

I ordered a shirt of this panting from a seller in Thailand a couple months ago, and the stamp on the package had a cute family of elephants on it.  It cost 253 Baht to ship this shirt from Thailand to Pennsylvania, which converts to nearly $8 American dollars.

Nov 17, 2007

Four Second Fury

Attention deficit gaming and a rave remix of The Neverending Story score come together in Armor Games’ Four Second Fury.  Click the screen to play.

Nov 3, 2007

The Second Pillar Of Heaven

ROH Glory By Honor VI: Night One
PA National Guard Armory - Philadelphia, PA
A little over two years ago, I attended my first Ring of Honor show.  In a show that would be released on DVD as ROH Unforgettable, the main event featured Japanese legend Kenta Kobashi wrestling alongside Homicide in a tag team match against Samoa Joe and Low Ki.  I fell in love with the promotion on that night, and for the next year and a half, I bought tickets to nearly every ROH show in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.

Since returning to college this fall, I haven't had as much time and money to keep up with the shows the way that I used to.  However, I couldn't resist the opportunity to see the second of the AJPW "Four Pillars of Heaven" to wrestle in an ROH ring in Philadelphia: the great Mitsuharu Misawa.

The card was originally advertised to include Roderick Strong vs. "Lightning" Mike Quackenbush.  Roddy and Quack are two of my favorite wrestlers, so I was looking forward to this match, but it didn't happen.  Instead, Roderick and stablemate Rocky Romero wrestled The Briscoes for the tag team championship.  I'm not sure what happened that kept Quack off of the card.


Oct 14, 2007

Save A Buck On A Bucket Of Cluck

Kentucky Fried Chicken (1967)
Back in the late 60's, Kentucky Fried Chicken used these Colonel Sanders dollars to lure people in to enjoy their eleven herbs and spices.

Oct 2, 2007

Rollins Led The Way

Philadelphia Daily News
October 1, 2007
On January 24th, shortstop Jimmy Rollins boldly proclaimed the Phillies as "the team to beat" in the division.  In the final games of the regular season on Sunday, Jamie Moyer and the Phillies bullpen shut down the Washington Nationals to win 6-1.  Meanwhile, the last place Florida Marlins scored 7 runs off of Tom Glavine in the top of the 1st, knocking him out of the game after 1/3 of an inning.  The Marlins went on to defeat the Mets 8-1 to finish off their collapse and knock them out of the post season.  Rollins was right.  The Phillies are the team to beat, and they weren't beaten.  They are the 2007 National League East Champions.

Jimmy Rollins truly emerged as the team leader in 2007.  As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, the shortstop hit as many home runs as Ken Griffey Jr, as many doubles as Albert Pujols, as many stolen bases as Chone Figgins, and he had more hits than Derek Jeter.  He also led the National League in triples and runs scored.

The stat that I was most impressed by was that Rollins started in all 162 games this season, and in the process, he broke the record for at-bats (716) and plate appearances (778) in a single season.  When he set the record for plate appearances, he passed Dave Cash, who had 776 in 1975, and Lenny Dykstra, who had 773 in the Phillies 1993 NL Championship season.  As it stands today, three of the top five plate appearances in a single season were reached in a Phillies uniform.

When you consider all that he has achieved and all that he has meant to the Phillies, I don't see how anyone else in the National League deserves to be named the 2007 NL MVP than Jimmy Rollins.

Oct 1, 2007

Standing On The Edge

This illustration appeared in an issue of Readers Digest that was published in October 1987.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sep 21, 2007

Who Won This Trade?

Dickie Noles
1988 Topps - #768
Few photos have captured a moment in baseball as perfectly as the one that was used for this Dickie Noles card from the 1988 Topps set.

Dickie made his major league debut with the Phillies in 1979 and pitched out of the bullpen for the 1980 Phillies World Championship team.  At the end of the following season before he was traded to the Cubs.  He bounced around a bit in the mid 80's with the Rangers and Indians before returning to the Cubs as a free agent before the start of the 1987 season.

The Cubs traded Dickie Noles to the Detroit Tigers 20 years ago today.  The trade was took place with less than a month remaining in the 1987 season, and his 1988 Topps card was already in production at the time.  They were able to add a few lines to the front and back of the card at the last minute to indicate that the reliever was now a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Adding a "now with _____" line to the card of a player who has been traded late in the season was common practice for Topps at the time, and a player being traded for a "player to be named later" has been a routine occurrence throughout the history of the game.

A far less common occurrence is when a player is traded for himself, which is exactly what happened in 1987.  After the season was over, it was decided that the "player to be named later" who the Tigers would send to the Cubs in exchange for Dickie Noles would be... Dickie Noles.  It's a circumstance that has happened only four times in the history of the sport, but at no other time was the moment captured so perfectly on a baseball card, with the relief pitcher seemingly staring in disbelief at the announcement of his trade on the front of the card.

By the time collectors found this card, Dickie had moved on to the Baltimore Orioles.  He spent the '88 season in their organization, and the following year playing for the Columbus Clippers (then the Triple A affiliate of the Yankees) before returning to the Phillies in 1990 where he finished his career.

Aug 31, 2007

The Sun Sets On West Palm Beach

Municipal Stadium
West Palm Beach, FL
Ten years ago today, the West Palm Beach Expos played their last game in Municipal Stadium.  In front of over a thousand fans, the Class A affiliate of the Montreal Expos lost 4-1 to the Vero Beach Dodgers.

The team began in the spring of 1969 and won two Florida State League Championships in franchise history.  The second of those championships came in 1991 - the season that Dad brought me to my first WPB Expos game, which was also the first professional baseball game I ever attended.

After the 1997 season, the team moved 15 miles away to become the Jupiter Hammerheads.  They remained affiliated with the Montreal Expos through the end of the 2001 season.  Presently, the Hammerheads are the Class A team of the Miami Marlins.

Aug 27, 2007

Back To School

It took a bit longer that I expected, but after nine years, I'm going back to get my degree.  Here's to hoping that college turns out a little bit better than high school.

Aug 24, 2007

Hazleton's Pro Wrestling Mecca

World Wide Wrestling Alliance
St. Joseph's Gymnasium - Hazleton, PA
St. Joe's Gym had been a professional wrestling landmark in Northeast Pennsylvania since my dad was a kid.  Andre The Giant wrestled here, as did Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Paul Orndorff and Bob Backlund.

ECW had a couple of shows here in the 90's.  The first was on May 19th, 1995, which included Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko, Shane Douglas vs Tommy Dreamer, and an ECW Championship match between Cactus Jack and The SandmanECW's next show in Hazleton was the final wrestling show to be held at St. Joe's Gym.  It took place on May 30, 1997 and included The Dudley Boys in singles matches (Bubba Ray vs The Sandman and D-Von vs Tommy Dreamer), as well as Axl Rotten vs New Jack and The Eliminators vs Raven and Stevie Richards.

There hasn't been a professional wrestling show at St. Joe's Gym since that ECW event over ten years ago... until tonight.

I had never heard of the World Wide Wrestling Alliance promotion before this show was advertised, but I'm very familiar with several of the wrestlers that were booked to appear.  Samoa Joe and AJ Styles became two of my favorite wrestlers since I started following Ring Of Honor a few years ago, and although I know Larry Zbyszko mostly from his time as a WCW commentator, his matches against Bruno Sammartino in the 80's and his time as the AWA World Heavyweight Champion is well known to just about every wrestling fan.

In addition to the big names who were brought in, there were a few other familiar faces at tonight's WWWA show, but many of the others were wrestlers who I was seeing for the first time.

The first thing that struck me about this poster was the fact that there were five championship matches despite the fact that small indy promotion.  Does a company who rarely holds shows outside of Pennsylvania really need a United States and Intercontinental Champion?  I know they think that it gives the company a big league feel, but it just comes across as silly.  Sometimes less is more.

The wrestlers had merch tables set up before the show, and that is where I got to meet "The Living Legend" Larry Zbyszko.  I didn't really watch the NWA or AWA too much when I was a kid, so I know him best as the sarcastic good guy commentator alongside Tony Schiavone and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on WCW Monday Nitro.

Larry Zbyszko came into the show as the reigning WWWA United States Champion.  The only other reference to this title that I was able to find is from a show on April 1st of last year in Wellsboro, PA, and Larry came into that match as the defending US Champion.  That means unless he lost and regained the belt at some point in between, Larry Zbyszko has held the WWWA US Championship for well over a year... not bad for a 54 year old dude!

Unfortunately for Larry, his title reign came to an end at the hands of "The Beast" Glen OsbourneOsbourne has the distinction of being the second ECW Television Champion in that promotion's history after defeating The Sandman for the vacant title in September 1992.  He has also worked as enhancement talent for the World Wrestling Federation in the mid to late 90's, as well as for ECWA, where he held their Heavyweight Championship from November 1996 to March 1997.

Another familiar face at this show was Jak Molsonn.  These days, he seems to be going just by Molsonn, but when I first saw him wrestle in WXW, he both teamed and feuded with his Lumberjaks tag team partner, Jake MolsonnJak and Jake held the WXW Tag Team Championship in 1996 and 1997.  Jak also held the WXW World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions between 1998 - 2000, and he went on to win the WXW Tag Team Championship four more times, three of which were as one half of the Moondogs 2000.

Molsonn was scheduled to wrestle The Wolfman at this show, but he instead wrestled Demetrius Arion while The Wolfman watched on and interfered from ringside.  I couldn't tell you too much about either man, but from what I saw, The Wolfman is definitely a character!

If I'm being completely honest, the main event is the whole reason why I bought tickets to this show.  Samoa Joe and AJ Styles are two of my favorite wrestlers, so the chance to see them wrestle against each other in my hometown for just a few bucks was too good to pass up.  They had a great match that highlighted both of their strengths in the ring.  They didn't turn it up to 11 in the way that I've seen them do at ROH or TNA shows in the past, but I didn't expect them to.  It would be silly to risk an injury on high spots on a non-televised indy show that only a few hundred folks will ever see, but still, they had a match that brought the house down and was totally worth the price of admission for every fan in attendance.

Aug 23, 2007

August 22nd And Everything After

FirstEnergy Park - Lakewood, NJ
This is hands down the best time I have ever had at a concert - three of my favorite bands who I have been listening to since middle school performing in a ballpark where Ryan Howard once played.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Asbury Park Press - Asbury Park, NJ  (August 17, 2007)

The concert was held in the outfield of the ballpark.  All of the area around the stage in the outfield was general admission, so you were able to get as close to the stage as you wanted, as long as you got there and claimed your spot early enough.  We weren't right up against the stage, but we were only about three or four people back on the left hand side of the stage.

There was a very light, but persistent rain that started between Collective Soul and Live, but it didn't in any way detract from the event.  In fact, it made the show even better, and not just because it was cool and refreshing on a hot August night near the Jersey shore.

Collective Soul took the stage first, and they were fantastic!  My only complaint was that the set wasn't longer.  They started off with Listen off of their third album, Disciplined Breakdown.  This was followed by Heavy and Run (both from their fourth album, Dosage) and Better Now, from their most recent album, Youth.

The fifth song of their set was one I hadn't heard before.  It's a track called Hollywood that is a part of their upcoming album which is hitting stores on Tuesday.  If this song is any indication, it's going to be a great record!  This is kind of song you want to blast in your car when you're driving with the windows down on a warm summer day.

The next two songs were two of their biggest hits, The World I Know and December.  Midway through December, singer Ed Roland mixed in the refrain from The Killers 2004 single All These Things That I've Done by singing "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier".  Both The World I Know and December are from Collective Soul's self-titled second album from 1995.  I can't begin to guess how many times I played that CD when I was in high school.  Speaking of CDs, their set ended with first track off of the first album.  It was released in 1993, and it's the first CD that I ever purchased - Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.  The song was the band's first hit single from 1993 - Shine.

The second band of the night was Live, and this was the first time that the rain became a part of the show.  The steady light drizzle combined with the heat of the stage lights gave the effect of steam rising from the bald head of singer Ed Kowalczyk throughout the entire set.  It wasn't subtle either.  You couldn't have done a better job of making it look like the top of someone's head was emitting smoke if you

I'm less familiar with Live's music than I am with the other two bands.  I only had two of their albums back in high school: Throwing Copper (1994) and Secret Samadhi (1997).  I played Throwing Copper as much as I played any of the records released by Collective Soul or Counting Crows in the 90's, but I didn't listen to Secret Samadhi very often, and with the exception of a few of their singles that have been released in the years that followed, I really haven't followed them too closely, but it was a terrific set and I enjoyed even the songs that I wasn't familiar with.

The songs from their setlist that I knew were All Over You, Selling The Drama, I Alone and Lightning Crashes (off of Throwing Copper), Lakini's Juice (from Secret Samadhi) and The Dolphin's Cry (from their 1999 album The Distance To Here).  They also did an amazing cover of the 1956 Johnny Cash hit, I Walk The Line.  The songs I wasn't as familiar with included Mother Earth Is A Vicious Crowd and Mirror Song (from 1991's Mental Jewelry), They Stood Up For Love (from the same album as The Dolphin's Cry), Heaven (from 2003's Birds of Pray) and three songs off of their latest album, Songs From Black Mountain: The River, Where Do We Go From Here, and Wings.

Counting Crows have been one of my favorite bands since I first saw the music video for Mr. Jones on MTV when I was 13 years old.  It's the third track off of their debut album, August and Everything After.  It was one of the first CDs that I ever bought, and I played that thing from front to back so many times that I know every word to every song on the album.  The first song off of that album is Round Here.  It's one of my favorite songs of all-time, and it was the first song they performed at last night's show.  Adam sang it beautifully as a mashup with the second to last song off of the album, Raining In Baltimore.

I was extremely happy to hear Round Here, but not particularly surprised.  After all, it's one of the band's biggest hits.  However, I was pretty surprised when the next song they played was Omaha.  It's the second song off of August and Everything After, and although it's a wonderful song, it wasn't an especially big hit.  I'm pretty sure that it wasn't even released as a single.

The next song was their biggest hit, Mr. Jones.  The crowd went wild and so did I, but this is when the wheels really started to turn in my head.  Mr. Jones is the third song off of August and Everything After.  So far, every song they played was from their debut album, and they were played in the same order as the record.  I was still thinking it might be a coincidence, but when the next song was Perfect Blue Buildings, I knew that it wasn't.  They were playing one of my favorite albums of all time in its entirety!  It was followed by Anna Begins, Time And Time Again and Rain King.  In my wildest dreams, I never would have expected this.  It was as close to a magical experience as I've ever had at a concert!

Adam Duritz has an incredible stage presence.  It's difficult to describe if you haven't seen a Counting Crows show before, but he throws himself completely into every song as if he was performing it for God instead of for a crowd of fans in South Jersey.  A lot of his songs include lyrics about the rain (including Rain King), and every time one of those lines came up, Adam stretched his hand out to the light drizzle of rain that was falling on the stage.

The next song after Rain King (both on the album and at the concert) was a slow ballad called Sullivan Street, and that's where this concert went from amazing to surreal.  Thankfully, someone in the crowd recorded what happened and shared on YouTube, because it has to be seen to be believed.

Adam seemed a little off at the beginning of the song, and we soon found out why.  Apparently, two people were fighting in the crowd.  Adam took notice of this and stopped the song to break up the fight and to scold them for fighting during the sensitive song.  I wasn't close enough to see where the fight was, but it was pretty damn funny and the crowd roared with laughter and cheers at the whole situation.

After Sullivan Street, the band finished off the album by playing Ghost Train and A Murder Of One.  They skipped over Raining In Baltimore, which makes sense because they played pretty much the entire song in the middle of Round Here at the start of the set.

When the band had finished the August and Everything After album, there was a brief intermission, after which they played some new music from their upcoming album.  A photo of the setlist was floating around online this morning, but I remember them being played in a slightly different order than what is listed on this sheet.  They started off with two harder rock songs called Insignificant and Cowboys.  The next three were slower songs: Washington Square, When I Dream Of Michelangelo, and Come Around.  All five of the new songs were amazing!  The first two reminded me of the music from their second album, Recovering The Satellites, while the last three reminded me of some of the more mellow tracks from August and Everything After.

The new album is called Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings, and it's coming out on November 6th.  They're also releasing a Deluxe Edition of August and Everything After that's due out in less than a month.  I will definitely be getting both of them, but before I get into that, there was one last song.

Adam talked to the audience about the new album during the second half of the show.  He mentioned that half of the album will be harder rock songs (Saturday Night) and the other half would be mellow and relaxing (Sunday Mornings).  After they played the five songs off of the new album, Adam said that they were going to send us all home with a lullaby, and they then closed the show with one of my favorite songs ever recorded by any band.  It's the last song from their 2002 album, Hard Candy, and it's called Holiday In Spain.  If you've never heard it, seek it out, because it's an absolutely beautiful song and the perfect way to end a perfect show.