Dec 23, 2011

Have A Smurfy Christmas

Christmas Boulevard
Berwick, PA

Dec 15, 2011

Phillies Sign Dontrelle Willis

The Phillies made an interesting move today by signing Dontrelle Willis to a non-guaranteed contract for 1 year at 1 million dollars.  The plan is to use the former Marlins ace and 2003 Rookie of the Year out of the bullpen, much like they've done with Jose Contreras.

It's a savvy move.  Dontrelle won't turn 30 until next month.  He's a two time All-Star, a 22 game winner in 2005, and a World Series champion.  He's had a rough few seasons for the Tigers followed by a brief time with the Diamondbacks and Reds, but he was used as a starter.  He wouldn't be the first pitcher to reinvent himself in the bullpen.  He wouldn't even be the first Phillie on the current roster to do so if he makes the team.  I always liked Dontrelle, and I'm excited to see how this season goes.

Nov 1, 2011

He Must Like Sausages

Noel Gallagher interview
by Ryan Dombal
5-10-15-20 series
Since 2009, Pitchfork has published a series of interviews with artists talking about their favorite albums starting when they were five years old and every five years after that.  Noel Gallagher of Oasis talked about Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Smiths and Nirvana (among others).  It's a brilliant interview, but the best bit was when he reflected on what he was thinking at 20 years old when he listened to Meat Is Murder.

Oct 31, 2011

The Boy On The Motley Carryall Ain't Right

Funny Monsters To Color
Treasure Books Inc (1965)
This coloring book was shared on Monster Brains and on Flickr by Aeron Alfrey.  The entire book is available to download and print so that you can color all of the monsters this Halloween.

My favorite monster in this book is called the Motley Carryall.  The little dude riding on its back sort of reminds me of Bobby Hill.

Oct 17, 2011

Giving Up The Ghost

Casper Ghosts
Pioneer League (2001 - 2011)
The Colorado Rockies Rookie Advanced minor league team has made their home in Casper, Wyoming since the start of the 2001 season.  Prior to the start of the 2008 season, the franchise took advantage of its hometown and rebranded the team as the Casper Ghosts.  The new uniforms included a cap with glow-in-the-dark stitching around the team logo.  Sadly, the Ghosts will not return as the team has been sold and will relocate to Grand Junction, Colorado for the start of the 2012 season.

Oct 3, 2011

Cliff and The Mad Dog

Sports Illustrated
October 3rd issue
The Phillies finished with the best record in baseball for the second consecutive season.  Sports Illustrated have put Cliff Lee and Ryan Madson on the cover of this month's issue to commemorate the Fightin's playoff run.

While Mad Dog pitched a scoreless 9th last night, Lee didn't have the greatest showing in Game 2 of the NLDS, but some of the blame goes to Charlie Manuel who has a habit of leaving his starter in until he gives up the lead.

Oct 1, 2011

Turbo Turns 30

Sega (1981)
Years before they dominated the arcade racing scene with Hang On, OutRun, Virtua Racing and the siren song of Daytona USA, Sega published one of my favorite racing games of all time - Turbo.

That's me in the photo above.  It was taken in the summer of 1985 at an arcade on the boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ.  Going to these arcades and playing games like Turbo are some of my happiest childhood memories.  Turbo was released thirty years ago this month.  Time to fire up Mame and play a few games in honor of a true arcade classic.

Sep 30, 2011

Do It Rockapella!

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego
PBS (1991 - 1995)
You may not think that an educational children's game show that's based on a computer game from 1985 would have been a big hit, but it was and it was a hell of a lot of fun!  Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego premiered on PBS twenty years ago today.  The show was hosted by Greg Lee and featured Lynne Thigpen (the radio DJ from The Warriors) as The Chief, and the musical group Rockapella who sang the show's opening and closing theme song as well as several other times throughout each episode.

Each episode would have three middle-school aged children who competed against each other in geography trivia games for the opportunity to win a trip to anywhere that they wanted to go in the continental US.

Sep 26, 2011

I Hope That You Have Found Peace

Megan Elizabeth Jais
1983 - 2011
I met Megan a few weeks before the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.  I was working third shift at Unimart on Rt. 924 outside of Hazleton.  She came into the store with one of her friends, and she and I struck up a conversation and hit it off pretty well.  As it turned out, she was friends with a girl named Margie with whom I was once involved and parted on very good terms with.  Things moved pretty quickly between Megan and I, and before the end of the year, we were living together.

We stayed in a second floor apartment on Poplar Street for the first couple of months, but we moved to Brandonville when the end of a row home became available to rent.  Margie and her boyfriend Brad lived in the center apartment of that row home, so it was a comfortable arrangement.  The rent was cheap, we had friends next door, and life was pretty good... some of the time.  Both she and I were dealing with mental health issues that were never properly diagnosed or treated, and it led to a lot of conflict between us.  Those mental health issues also led to a lot of impulsive behavior, including a courthouse wedding that absolutely no one else (other than maybe Brad and Margie) thought was a good idea.

The marriage didn't last long.  Megan and I split up in July 2002, and it was not a pretty scene.  I ended up leaving the state and living in Omaha, Nebraska for a short time.  When I came back to Pennsylvania, I had completely lost touch with her, but as fate would have it, she returned to college at the same time that I did, and we had a class together in 2007.  By this point, her name was Megan Morgan.  She married a man named John who I never met, and she had a son and a daughter who I did get to meet.  I forget the name of her son, but I know her daughter's name was Athena Lilliona.  The reason I remember that so clearly is that when she and I were married, we talked about what we would name our children if we had them, and she always had her heart set on Athena Lilliona.  Megan was Wiccan and the name had something to do with her faith, but I was far too arrogant and self-absorbed to ever really learn what that connection was.

When Megan and I met again in college, there was zero romantic interest on either side.  She was married.  I was in a happy relationship to a woman that I am now married to, but even if the two of us were single, we knew better.  We had been down that road together before and there was absolutely no misunderstanding - we were not at all a good match for one another.  However, one thing we did have was a very similar sense of humor.  It's more than that, but it's hard to explain.  Sometimes you meet someone who you can just play off of perfectly.  Our conversations went to weird places, and goofy ideas and banter would bounce back and forth between us effortlessly.  Even back in 2001 and 2002 when we were together, we were pretty much either laughing or fighting.  There was seldom anything in between.

I lost touch with her again after I transferred to Wilkes University, but before that point, I knew that things weren't going well with her husband, or for her life in general.  I don't know all of the details, and out of respect for everyone involved, I won't share the thing that I am aware of.  I will say that she lived through many very bad things in a short span of time that would be devastating to anyone.  Those things combined with her mental health were more than she could overcome, and as a result, she is no longer with us.  Megan died on September 8th, 2011.

source: Standard Speaker (5/15/2001) - Megan is in the back row, second from the right.
In both my own life and the lives of others that I've known, it's been my experience that someone's mental health is rarely taken seriously by the friends and family of the sufferer unless the side effects of their mental illness become an inconvenience for others.  I've heard many people over the years say in a snide and dismissive tone that someone "needs help".  The phrase itself has become a form of insult.  I'm sure everyone has heard it before - with phrases like "You're sick, you know that?  You need mental help!" said in anger.  Could you imagine someone taking that same angry tone with someone who is suffering from cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, or any other form of illness?

The sad truth is that even if it's said sincerely, getting "help" for a mental health concern isn't always possible.  Even if it wasn't cost prohibitive for millions of sufferers, the "help" that is available isn't always helpful.  There are medications, but they don't always work.  In some cases, they make the problem worse.  There's counseling and therapy, but that's far from a cure.  Under the best of circumstances, a person seeking help is lucky enough to find a therapist or psychologist that they trust, and who they can connect with, and who gives a damn, but that doesn't mean they've got the ability to articulate their feelings in a way that will lead to the help that they need.  Far too often, a person suffering from a mental health issue finds themselves facing their demons alone, and those stories usually don't have a happy ending.

I don't have any answers.  I wish that I did.  Megan was a good person underneath it all, and she deserved a better life than the one she had.  She deserved better people in her life than I was to her.  Her story should not have ended at 28 years old.  I'm sorry, Megan.

Sep 24, 2011

Bloomsburg Fair In The 80's

Bloomsburg Fair (1980s)
This aerial shot of the Bloomsburg Fair was taken by Ralph E. Menne in the 80's.  Since that time, the fairgrounds have expanded well into the parking lot.  I'm pretty sure that the entrance to the Fair today is where the bus parking ends in this photo.

Unfortunately, due to flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, photos like these are the only way to experience the Bloomsburg Fair this year.  It's only the sixth time since 1854 that the Fair has been cancelled.  The previous cancellations were due to World War I (1917-1918) and World War II (1942-1944).

Sep 18, 2011

Sep 15, 2011

Memories Light Corners Of His Mind

Georgie Brehm article by Phil Sarno
Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (February 23, 1976)
This article was written in 1976 about my great-great uncle George Michael Brehm, who passed away 30 years ago today.  He and my grandfather were very close, and although Mr. Brehm passed away just a few months after I turned one year old, I've heard so many stories about him that I feel like I knew him.  If anybody ever writes a biography about him, it would be one hell of a good read, but this article by Phil Sarno is probably going to be as close to that as we're likely to get (click here to enlarge).

Sep 9, 2011

Gamer Next Door

Jo Garcia 
Playboy's Gamer Next Door
Photos by Jared Ryder - Illustrations by Nigel Dennis
Last month, shared a photo of model Jo Garcia posing with a massive collection of vintage video games, and a photo shoot where she wore cutoff t-shirts of video game shirts.  She has followed these up in September with three wallpapers that reflect her love of vintage video games - specifically Space Invaders, Duck Hunt and Mario Kart 64.

Sep 4, 2011

Batman The Lion Tamer

Batman backpack
Pocono Market Fair - Hazleton, PA
Hey kids, remember when the Dark Knight took that side job at the circus?

Aug 31, 2011

Jo Garcia Nerds Out

Jo Garcia 
Playboy's Gamer Next Door
Photos by Jared Ryder - Illustrations by Nigel Dennis
Jo Garcia is at it again, sharing her love of classic video games in this adorably nerdy photo shoot.  Between these and her photo in the pile of classic gaming consoles and controllers from earlier this month, she seems like she'd be a pretty awesome gaming buddy.

Aug 24, 2011

Wrapped Up In Games

Jo Garcia
Playboy's Gamer Next Door
Photos by Jared Ryder - Illustrations by Nigel Dennis
If you can pry your eyes away from the beautiful woman wearing the Power Glove, count how many vintage video games and consoles are in this photo.  You have to admire the level of detail in this shoot.

Aug 22, 2011

Rosie Does Dishes

Rosie Tin
Electrasol (2004)
Over the summer, we came across this limited edition Jetsons tin at a yard sale in Wilkes-Barre.  I bought it for a quarter in the hopes that we would one day be able to buy a house with a dishwasher, and this could be used to store the pods.  I never thought I'd be able to use it so quickly.

Aug 12, 2011

Missed Opportunities: The Big Unit on Macho Row

Randy Johnson
Mariners Magazine: Volume 4, Issue 2 (1993)
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Phillies legend John Kruk reminded fans that the Phillies almost acquired the best left handed pitcher of his generation at the 1993 trade deadline.

I remember the buzz about this very well.  I had just turned 13, and the rumors circulating in late July were centered around Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners.  The newspapers at the time had narrowed down the Mariners most likely trade partners to be the Yankees and the Phillies.  The Yankees were reported to have offered pitcher Bob Wickman and a prospect, and the Mariners were said to have been asking for Curt Schilling from the Phillies.

If the Mariners really were demanding Curt Schilling, I can understand the Phillies not making the trade.  The Phillies ace was 26 years old (three years younger than Randy Johnson) and in the middle of a dominant season that would lead the Phillies to the World Series.  Meanwhile, Randy Johnson was getting roughed up before the trade deadline with a record of 0-3 and a 7.36 ERA in five starts in July 1993.  In hindsight, Johnson is unquestionably the better pitcher and had a better 1993 season than Schilling, but in the context of the moment, it's understandable that the Phillies would pass on the opportunity to trade one ace for another.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News - August 11, 2011
If John Kruk's recollection is correct, the Phillies could have had The Big Unit for Mike Lieberthal and/or Tyler Green, but Phillies GM Lee Thomas wouldn't part with them to make the deal.  If this is true, it's heartbreaking news.  A Phillies rotation of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Terry Mulholland would have mowed down the Blue Jays in the '93 World Series to give the Phillies their second World Championship season.  However, the Associated Press reported a different side to the story in August 1993.  According to Mariners manager Lou Piniella, the team had trade offers on the table from both the Yankees and the Phillies, but the Mariners chose not to make the deal.  Piniella didn't mention names, so it's possible that the Phillies were unwilling to offer up their young pitching and catching prospect, or it's possible that they were offered, but the Mariners didn't bite.  The fact that Seattle didn't come to an arrangement with either club, and that they didn't end up trading him until five years later, leads me to believe that it was the Mariners, not the Phillies, who decided not to pull the trigger on a trade and chose to hang on to their ace.

Source: The Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) - August 2, 1993
We'll probably never know for sure what offer the Phillies made for Randy Johnson in the summer of '93, or what it would have taken for the trade to happen, but the dream of having Johnson and Schilling hoisting up the World Series trophy for the '93 Phillies will be talked about in Philadelphia for generations to come.

Aug 1, 2011

Praise The Imperium

Blaine The Mono
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
My favorite book of The Dark Tower series was first published twenty years ago

Jul 28, 2011

Flying Home From Vegas

Heading back to Pennsylvania after our wedding and honeymoon.

Jul 26, 2011

Chihuly At City Center

Dale Chihuly Exhibition At CityCenter
3730 Las Vegas Blvd S - Las Vegas, NV
There is an incredible gallery of Dale Chihuly's glass art on display in his gallery at CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip.  It's just outside of the Aria Casino.

Below are some scans of the visitors guide and a few of the photos from our visit.