Aug 31, 2015
Troll Book Club
Troll Book Club (1985)
Book club catalogs used to be handed out in my elementary school when I was a kid. I think I might still have a book or two in the attic that was ordered through a flyer like this.
Aug 21, 2015
That's Some Big Hat, Billy
William Penn Statue
City Hall - Philadelphia, PA (1993)
During the 1993 World Series, the statue of William Penn at the top of City Hall in Philadelphia was given a massive seven foot tall Phillies hat. A year later, a local sports memorabilia dealer named Glen Spence found the hat in a dumpster outside of Veterans Stadium and put it on the roof of his shop on Oregon Avenue. The shop eventually closed and the hat was kept in storage until a few weeks ago when Mr. Spence put it up on eBay. If you've got ten grand to spare, it can be yours.
Aug 19, 2015
Q*Bert Comes Alive On Paper
Presto Magix Transfers
American Publishing Corporation (1983)
I found this last month at Black Diamond Antiques & Collectibles in the Schuylkill Mall. When this was available for sale at stores in 1983, Q*Bert was a cultural phenomenon. It was one of the hottest games at the arcade, and the character was marketed like crazy with countless toys, games, and other merchandise. The game characters even became television stars on the Saturday Supercade cartoon series on CBS.
Presto Magix was kind of like a disposable Colorforms toy. Like Colorforms, it came with a set of objects and characters that could be placed on a themed background. The difference is that Colorforms were made up of vinyl clings that could be stuck onto and peeled off of a shiny background whereas Presto Magix were more like a temporary tattoo that was permanently transferred onto a paper background.
The toy folded out like a pamphlet to make a two foot long background with two Q*Bert pyramids set on a field of starts. Artwork of the game characters are placed around the pyramids with the star of the game riding on his flying disc at the center. The bottom left hand corner has a box where the little boy or girl could sign their artwork. This one was mostly unused except for one Q*Bert and one Coily that had been transferred to the pyramid on the right hand side.
The transfer sheet of characters was included. As expected, the Q*Bert and Coily characters that were transferred to the background were missing from the sheet, but all of the others were there, including Slick, Wrongway, Sam, Ugg, duplicates of Coily, and a generous amount of Q*Bert in various poses. There were also a few Q*Bert logos and, for some reason, a couple of miniature pyramids, which I'm not sure where they were supposed to fit into the background. I wish they made a little Q*Bert arcade machine for the transfer sheet, but it's still a really cool collection of characters.
Aug 14, 2015
The Red Monochrome Headache Machine
The first attempt at a 3-D gaming console from Nintendo was introduced in North America 20 years ago today. Sadly, it flopped pretty hard. There were only 22 Virtual Boy games released in the United States before it was discontinued just over six months later.
I had one and I thought it was a lot of fun, but I also wasn't one of the suckers who paid $179.95 for it. I found it on clearance at Electronics Boutique for $30 sometime in 1996, and I picked up a handful of games (both American and Japanese imports) for $5 each. My favorite games were Mario Tennis (which came packed in), V-Tetris, Vertical Force and Wario Land.
Aug 6, 2015
Wild Boys At The Steel Stacks
Musikfest - Steel Stacks - Bethlehem, PA
I have loved Duran Duran for nearly as long as I've known what music was, so this concert is a dream come true for me. It was held at the Sands Steel Stage at PNC Plaza, which is known around here as the Steel Stacks. The stage is in front of the five blast furnaces that once were part of the Bethlehem Steel plant, which makes for a pretty incredible atmosphere for a rock concert.
Musikfest is a music festival in Bethlehem that takes place over several miles around the Steel Stacks. Although the major acts who perform at the festival sell tickets to their shows, there is no charge to get into the festival itself, and there are plenty of concerts on free stages. There's also plenty to eat and drink, and lots of things do see and do.
This photo shows the blast furnaces (aka: the Steel Stacks) from outside of the concert venue. It really is a pretty gnarly backdrop for a rock concert.
Although there was lots of things set up, today is technically considered "Preview Night". Musikfest officially starts tomorrow and runs through August 16'th.
Rubix Kube was one of the acts that was playing on a free stage tonight. We caught the second half of their set after Duran Duran, and they were awesome as always.
Our seats were pretty far back, so I really wasn't able to take photos, but they weren't bad seats. We were close enough to see the stage, and we were sitting near some pretty cool folks who were just as obsessed with the music as we were.
The show had a good mix of their classics from the 80's and 90's with a few newer hits sprinkled throughout. They performed one song from their upcoming album, Paper Gods (Pressure Off), two songs from their 2010 album (Girl Panic and All You Need Is Now), and one song off of 2004's Astronaut (Reach Up For The Sunrise) with the rest coming from their vintage catalog. They kicked off the set with Wild Boys and followed that up with their classic 007 theme, A View To A Kill (one of the best Bond songs of all time). I was extremely happy to get to hear Come Undone and Ordinary World - two of my favorite Duran Duran songs. Toward the end of the regular setlist, they played Notorious, Planet Earth and Hungry Like The Wolf. They began the encore with their 1995 cover of White Lines before finishing the night off with Rio.
Aug 3, 2015
Atari 2600 Action Pack: Volume 1, 2 and 3
These days, it's common to see game companies release their classic games. There are virtual consoles, plug-and-play consoles and collections of retro games available for dozens, if not hundreds of titles from the past. However, back in the summer of 1995, the term "retro gaming" didn't exist. The 16-bit war between the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo in its final year. The release of the Sega Saturn on May 11th and the Sony Playstation on September 9th had gamers dreaming of 32 bit games on CD-Rom as the future of the industry. Few were thinking back to the days of the 80's and the Atari 2600, but for those who were, Activision had the Atari 2600 Action Pack.
It's funny to look back on this series today. They were released 20 years ago for Windows 95 and Macintosh computers, and they were available on CD-Rom and 3.5" floppy discs. These discs are older today than these Atari games were when they were re-released in 1995. The retro compilations have become retro themselves.
I had Volume 1 for my IBM Aptiva when I was 15 years old. I remember being amazed to be able to play games like Pitfall, River Raid and Frostbite on my Gravis Gamepad with Z-Rock playing from the boombox on the top shelf of my computer desk. It was the moment that I first realized that gaming isn't all about the latest graphics and CD quality sound, and a game that was fun in 1985 is just as fun in 1995. Twenty years later, I still play these games because they're just as fun in 2015.
Aug 2, 2015
Schweitzer's Wildwood Vacation
Nana, Dad and Grandma
The Boardwalk - Wildwood, NJ
My grandfather took this photo of my great-grandfather, my dad and my grandmother in August, 1985 on the Wildwood boardwalk. In the background, the theater marquee is shown. National Lampoon's European Vacation was playing.
Aug 1, 2015
Tree in Solid Rock
Tree in Solid Rock
Interstate 80 - Buford, WY
Not long after my 10th birthday, I went on a cross-country trip with my family to visit my uncle in Provo, Utah. On the way home, we stopped in Wyoming and saw this tree growing out of a rock. According to the sign, they diverted the path of the Union Pacific Railroad when they were building it so that they could preserve this tree.
I later learned that this tree is in a small Wyoming town called Buford. In 1990 when I saw this tree, the town had a population of three residents. By 2007, the population of Buford was down to one.
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