May 31, 2020

So Meaty, It's Savage

Slim Jim: Savage Size
Conagra Foods (2020)
I'd like to believe that somewhere in a parallel universe, the "Macho Man" Randy Savage title win at Wrestlemania IV and the subsequent Mega Powers Explode storyline led to Hulk Hogan turning heel and adopting his "Hollywood" persona 7 years sooner than he did when he wrestled for WCW.  Imagine how cool that would have been.  We would have had Savage as the hero of the company with Hogan as the villain.  Their WWF Championship match at Wrestlemania V took place exactly two months before No Holds Barred debuted in theaters, so the company could have leaned into this to make "Hollywood" Hogan into an arrogant bad guy who felt he was bigger than the WWF.  They could have even booked a rematch with Savage at SummerSlam with "Hollywood" Hogan bringing No Holds Barred co-star Zeus into the company to be in Hogan's corner.  Zeus could have interfered in the match or gone after Miss Elizabeth to distract Randy Savage and cost him the title.

As any wrestling fan of the era can tell you, it didn't go down that way, and I can understand why.  Hulk Hogan was the golden goose of the WWF and they didn't want to handicap his drawing power and merchandise sales by turning him from a hero to a villain, but I still argue that they could have put that same marketing muscle behind Savage as the hero champion and extended he and Hogan's popularity in the WWF well into the 90's.  Instead, both performers and the WWF as a brand had a sharp decline in the 90's as the company tried and failed to recapture the Hulkamania magic until he finally left the company.

Although Hogan was the bigger star in the 80's, it could be argued that the legacy of Randy Savage has eclipsed that of the Hulkster in 2020.  Even before his separation from the WWE in 2015 over his controversial statements, Hulk Hogan was a name from the past whose days of celebrity endorsements were far behind him.  Compare that to the Macho Man whose smiling face is on WWE Ice Cream Sandwiches and Slim Jim snacks nine years after his death.

This new "Savage Size" Slim Jim isn't your ordinary meat snack.  It tastes just like a regular Slim Jim, but if this thing were any thicker, you could put it in a bun.  I'm not joking; the package lists it as three times larger than a Giant Slim Jim with a net weight of 3 oz.  Compare that to a Nathan's Hot Dog, which is 3.5 oz.  The photos don't do it justice, but consider that the gap in the middle of the bottom photo is there because I couldn't fit the whole thing on my scanner.  I found it at a Sheetz gas station.  I can't remember the exact price, but it wasn't too expensive - maybe two bucks and change.  Not bad for a snack that's equal in size to a whole box of the ones I ate when I was a kid.

May 30, 2020

Collecting Mario Coins In The Real World

Super Mario Wonderball
Frankford Candy Company (2018)
When I was growing up, the premiums given away to children by food companies were pretty sturdy.  It's not uncommon to see a box at a flea market filled with toys from the 80's or 90's that were included with Happy Meals or in cereal boxes.  Most of the ones I've come across are still in good enough condition to be fun for kids to play with decades later.  The premiums given away by companies these days usually involve a mobile app, but some still have tangible goodies packaged in with their product.  Not too many of them are as cool as what Frankford has packaged with the Wonderball.

The Super Mario Plus Prize Wonderball comes with one out of a set of 18 collector coins.  Each coin features one of the characters from the Super Mario Bros or Donkey Kong video game series.  The artwork on the coin is embossed and in full color.  Mine came with Yoshi.

This is one of the nicest collectors coins I've ever seen.  I was expecting aluminum or something like an arcade token at best, but it's quite a bit thicker and heavier than that.  It felt like an actual piece of currency and had ridges along the edge.  These coins have roughly the same weight and feel of a .50 cent coin or the kind of collectible coins that can be found in the gift shops of museums or amusement parks.

In addition to the coin, the Wonderball comes with two stickers.  My stickers were Toad and Princess Peach.

I think I paid $2.99 for this at Weis Market.  Not too bad for a nice Super Mario Bros coin, a couple of stickers, a piece of chocolate and some fruit candy.

May 29, 2020

The Legacy Of Doc

Roy Halladay
Philadelphia Phillies (2010 - 2013)
It's been ten years since Doc pitched the 20th perfect game in baseball history.  It was the most incredible pitching performance I have ever seen.

Over the winter, the Phillies announced that the team will retire his #34 at a pregame ceremony to honor his memory and career on the 10th anniversary of this remarkable accomplishment.  The Hall of Fame ace will be only the 6th member of the Phillies to have his number retired, joining Richie Ashburn, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, and the only other Phillie to have ever thrown a perfect game, Jim Bunning.  Additionally, Halladay is the 13th person in MLB history to have his number retired by two teams (the Phillies and Blue Jays).

I got tickets to the game where the ceremony was scheduled to take place as soon as it was announced by the team.  Obviously, this is not happening today as Major League Baseball and just about everything else in the United States remains up in the air due to the pandemic.  Hopefully when everything gets back to normal, they'll announce a new date for the number retirement ceremony.  Until then, we'll have to settle for recordings of the game on YouTube to remember this game and the incredible legacy of Roy Halladay.

May 28, 2020

Snack Food That's Older Than Bryce Harper

Areas Abandoned shared this photo of an old, abandoned vending machine on Twitter.  They didn't cite a source, so I'm not sure where or when this photo was taken, however there are clues to help date when the machine was last filled.  Matt from Dinosaur Dracula spotted packs of Spicy Baken-Ets and Monterey Jack flavored Ruffles potato chips and determined that the machine was stocked for the last time in 1989.  I don't remember if I ever tried either of those as a kid, but I will attest that Munchos are an underrated piece of greatness in the snack aisle.  I think I'd have to pass on the ones in this machine though.

May 27, 2020

Forty Years Of Munching Power Pellets

Pac-Man 40th Anniversary Cabinet
Arcade 1-Up (2020)
With everyone trapped at home since the second week of March, Arcade 1-Up has been selling more of their multi-game cabinet replicas than ever before.  The latest one is a re-issue of Pac-Man to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic game.  The cabinet has awesome 80's woodgrain color on the side and the riser, and it includes the original Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus, Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania and Galaga.

I have the same constructive criticism for this that I have for most of the Arcade 1-Up machines.  It looks very cool, but the riser should be adjustable to make the machine taller, and the game logos on the front of the cabinet below the joystick are a bit too busy and take away from the aesthetic.  Still, if I had an extra $400 bucks laying around, I would have spent part of Memorial Day moving furniture around to make room for it.

May 26, 2020

Drink Spite And Meet The Voice Of Winston

Sprite Night With Arsenio Hall
The Coca-Cola Company (1990)
Thirty years ago, the Coca-Cola Company held a sweepstakes in which the winner was flown to Los Angeles to attend Sprite Night with Arsenio Hall and an invitation to the after party at the Paramount Studio lot.  Arsenio was a hugely popular talk show host in the late 80's and early 90's, but to me, he'll always be fondly remembered as the voice of Winston Zeddemore in The Real Ghostbusters.

May 25, 2020

Remembering Uncle Herman

Sgt. Herman Schweitzer
US Army Air Forces
Over the past few months, I've been doing some research on members of my family.  Since today is Memorial Day, I think a very good place to begin is with my Great Great-Uncle.

Herman Schweitzer was born in 1919 and was my Great Grandfather's younger brother.  He joined the service to fight in World War II in December of 1943 and was trained as an aerial gunner.

On August 5th, 1944, he flew overseas and joined the Fifteenth Air Force.  He was fighting as a top turret gunner on a B-24 Bomber when he was shot down over Treviso, Italy on September 13th, 1944.  He survived, but was taken as a prisoner of war by Nazi Germany.

The Nazi's transferred Uncle Herm at Stalag Luft IV in Mühlberg, Germany where he was imprisoned alongside author Kurt Vonnegut.  With the Soviet Army advancing, Hitler ordered that the POWs be forced to march west.  The March began on February 6th, 1945 and continued until he was liberated by the British Army near  Lübeck, Germany.

After the war, he returned to the United States and ran the Schweitzer's Service Station with his brothers on Winters Avenue in West Hazleton.  He was living in Bluffton, South Carolina when he passed away in 2010 at the age of 91.

May 24, 2020

Remembering My Family

Mountain View Cemetery
North St - West Hazleton, PA
From time to time, my daily walk with little Harvey takes a detour through the cemetery to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  We've walked through just about every part of the cemetery over the past eight years, and I've found quite a few other family members in the process.  They're not all buried in the same section, so it's very likely that there are others that I haven't found yet.

I'm going to look through some of my old photos and do a little research so that I can write more about each of them later on.  For right now, here are the photos of the headstones that I was able to find.

Great-Great Grandfather - Frederick Schweitzer
Great-Great Grandmother - Ida Rohde Schweitzer
Great Grandfather - William J. Schweitzer
Great Grandmother - Margaret Letcher Schweitzer (Granny)
Great Aunt - Margaret Elizabeth Schweitzer (Aunt Margie)
Great-Great Uncle - Herman Schweitzer
Great-Great Aunt - Marjorie Burke Schweitzer
Uncle Herman's military headstone.  He was a US Air Force pilot and POW in World War II.
Great-Great Uncle - Dick Schweitzer
Great-Great Aunt - Marjorie Brown Schweitzer (Dick's wife)
Great Uncle - George Schweitzer (Uncle Georgie)
Great Aunt - Donna Petrole Schweitzer
Great Uncle - George Mikula (Uncle Mix)
Great Aunt - Ida Schweitzer Mikula
Grandpa - William F. Schweitzer
Grandma - Joanne Scambia Schweitzer
Grandpa's military headstone.  He enlisted in the US Navy five days before the end of the Korean War.  He wasn't sent into combat and was nowhere near Korea, but they still identified him as a Korean War veteran.

May 23, 2020

At Least I Don't Have A Giant Anvil Embedded In My Face

Cartoon Lost And Found
Nick At Nite (1989)
Like most children, I loved watching cartoons when I was growing up.  Every week, I looked forward to Saturday morning when I'd have a big bowl of cereal, my coloring books, and hours of awesome cartoons to enjoy.  When I was nine years old, I saw a show that made me truly appreciate the history of animation, and I knew that I would be a fan of this art form for the rest of my life.  It was a special called Cartoon Lost And Found that aired on Nick At Nite.

Cartoon Lost And Found stars Adam West in a button down shirt, tie and sweater vest as himself.  To say this is campy doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.  He is at his Adam Westiest.  Within minutes, he reflects on his childhood love of cartoons with a line that you don't often hear on television:
"Puberty hit me like a backstage clown hits a circus pony - repeatedly, and with a big red shoe - but no matter how bad it got, cartoons were a sure cure."
In this show, West runs a lost and found for old cartoons that have been forgotten.  It's part batcave and part dog pound for cartoons.  At one point, he is joined by a young boy who is dressed as his favorite cartoon superhero: The Adapter.  I've never done cosplay before, but if I ever have the opportunity to go to an animation convention, the temptation to show up as The Adapter might be too strong to resist.

Jimmy, your shoulder toaster is burning.

Throughout the show, West uses his Series 10 Cartoon Computer, which appears to be hooked up to a modified Commodore 64 keyboard, to play film strips of old cartoons.  This is what truly opened the door for me into a larger world of animation.  Prior to this show, if a cartoon wasn't on television or available to rent at Blockbuster Video, I didn't know it existed.  Keep in mind that this aired in 1989, years before the internet and over a decade before YouTube and streaming video made it possible to find a cartoon from the past in a matter of seconds.  It was the first time I ever saw George of the Jungle, Super Chicken, Tom Slick, Cool McCool, The Mighty Hercules and Courageous Cat, and it was one of the first times I was ever exposed to anime like Astro Boy, Gigantor and Speed Racer.

You can see a commercial for Cartoon Lost And Found and the first half of the show on YouTube.  The person who shared this video has it listed as "part one".  Unfortunately, part two either hasn't been uploaded or was taken down.  Since the show is made up largely of miscellaneous cartoon footage, I'm guessing that the owners of one of the properties featured in the second half had the video flagged for a copyright violation.  Hopefully the full show surfaces one of these days.  Until then, we can at least enjoy some of the cheesy joy that Adam West brought to life back in 1989.

Click to watch the first half of the show

May 22, 2020

Mr. Dealer Gets 35 Cents From Adolf

Things To Do Magnetic Board
Pepsi-Cola (1983)
This dry-erase board was purchased for a quarter at a flea market.  At the time, it was in a plastic bag and looked as if it had never been used.  It came with a magic marker on a string that attached to the back of the board, and a tear off pad of shopping lists with a coupon on the bottom of each page.

Over the years, I've gotten so used to seeing this hanging on the refrigerator that having coupons that expired when Billie Jean was still on the charts no longer seems unusual to me.  I'm shocked by how many of these products are still being produced today - even Adolph's Meat Tenderizer, which spells the name of the product differently on the list than the coupon, the latter of which includes fine print addressed to "Mr. Dealer".

May 21, 2020

Never Tell Me The Odds

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
CBS Fox Video (1984)
The greatest movie in the Star Wars franchise was released to theaters 40 years ago today.  This advertisement to pre-order a copy on VHS came out four and a half years later on November 15th, 1984.  Back in the 80's, there was a much longer delay between the theatrical release and the home video release of a major film.

It was re-released in just about every format known to man over the past four decades, so I think it's pretty safe to say that tomorrow wasn't too late for anyone who saw this back in '84.

May 20, 2020

Kay, Dis One’s For Gabby

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
One of the most beautiful musical performances ever recorded almost didn't happen.  It was 1988 and Iz was at club called Sparky's in Honolulu hanging out with a guy who had done business with a nearby studio called Audio Resource Honolulu.  The two men went out to a pay phone at 2:30 am and spoke to Milan Bertosa, who ran the studio on the second floor of the Century Center.  He was closing up shop and told the caller to come in tomorrow.  Iz took the phone and asked "Please, can I come in?  I've got these ideas and I don't want to lose them."  Mr. Bertosa was touched by the singer's politeness and told him that he could have a half hour of recording time if he came to the studio right away.

Iz arrived in time with his ukulele in, sat down at the microphone, said "kay, dis one's for Gabby" and recorded a soft reggae medley of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World in a single take.  It was beautifully flawed - he mixed up some of the lyrics and chords, but the imperfections made it perfect because it came from his heart.  The recording was released on a single in 1990 and on his 1993 album, Facing Future.  Both the single and the album would go platinum, and Facing Future became the best selling album of all time by a Hawaiian artist.  According to EMI, his rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is by far the most requested version of the song.

Today, on what would have been his 61st birthday, Google has honored the Hawaiian legend with a doodle.  Please take a moment to listen to his song.  It's been a dark year so far, but for just a few minutes, close your eyes and try to imagine Iz at the studio on the islands in the middle of the night sharing an idea that came to him in a bar, which went on to bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye of millions in the years since.

Sources: The Honolulu Advertiser (6/24/2007), Newsweek (5/20/2020), NPR (12/06/2010), Pro Sound Network (3/11/2010)

May 19, 2020

Start Your Career As A Post-Pandemic Pirate

Wilkes University Face Mask
If anyone out there would like to donate $10 to my alma mater, they will send you this snazzy face mask.  However, you are responsible for your own gold sunglasses and hipster haircut if you are interested in completing the look depicted in their flyer.

At this point in the apocalypse, you may be asking yourself what on earth you're going to do with all of these commemorative face masks if and when we can ever leave the house.  Not to worry!  Wilkes has helpfully provided you with this handy dandy chart of a dozen things you can do with this multi-purpose fabric.  I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to my future career as a Colonel Pirate.

May 18, 2020

Listen To The Silence. Let It Ring On.

Ian Curtis
Joy Division
It has been 40 years since the death of Joy Division lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis at age 23.  If the image below has only ever presented itself to you as a t-shirt or a poster in the background of a television show or movie, do yourself a favor and spend 38 minutes of today listening to one of the most beautiful and iconic albums ever recorded.

Unknown Pleasures (1979) - Click here to listen

May 17, 2020

Silent Bob Of The Mounties

Kevin Smith and Dudley Do-Right
Dudley Do-Right Emporium - West Hollywood, CA (1986)
Director Kevin Smith shared this photo of a visit to the Dudley Do-Right Emporium that he took with his mom.  The 16 year old kid in the Bullwinkle shirt would go on to film Clerks seven years later, which I have a hunch Jay Ward would have loved.

May 16, 2020

Nintendo's Colorful Past

Game Boy Color store display
Toys R Us - June 29, 2000
These photos from a store display are also from the @pori64 collection that I wrote about last week.  It shows the way that Toys R Us marketed the Game Boy Color roughly a year and a half after the upgrade to the console was introduced in North America.  The original purple Game Boy Color that I still have can be seen on display in the center photo (bottom shelf) and the right photo (the bottom three shelves).  The handheld was marketed in other colors, some of which are represented in the signage that was used on this display.

The Pokemon phenomenon was running strong in 2000.  The original Red and Blue games were released in the United States less than two months before the Game Boy Color hit store shelves, so they were frequently marketed together.  Quite a bit of the Game Boy merchandise of the era featured Ash, Pikachu or other Pokemon characters and logos, including the storage pouch for the system that were for sale at this Toys R Us.

One last photo from the @pori64 collection that I would like to share is this display of N64 controllersNintendo 64 is the first console that the company sold with only one controller packed in with the system.  It's also the first Nintendo system that allowed for four players without a multitap extension, like the NES Four Score.  Nintendo took advantage of the circumstance by marketing extra base controllers in a wide variety of colors.  The price seems to have come down on them in recent months, but there was a time not long ago when the yellow controller was selling on eBay for over a hundred bucks.

May 15, 2020

Blake Snell Is Right

MLB uniform manufacturer Fanatics have converted their factory in Easton to make masks and gowns for PA hospitals.

The latest development in the saga of the 2020 Major League Baseball season is the owner's attempts to renege on the deal they made with the players at the start of the pandemic.

On March 26th, the league came to an agreement with the MLBPA to pay the players a prorated portion of their 2020 salary based on how many games are played this season.  In exchange, the players union agreed not to sue the teams for their full salary that is guaranteed in their contracts.

Suddenly, billionaire team owners are announcing that they may lose money (heaven forbid) if the season starts in July without the revenue that fans in attendance bring to the team.  They now want to renegotiate and pay the players a percentage of revenue earned during the 2020 season.  It's a shady deal that players aren't willing to accept, nor should they.  Keep in mind, the players already agreed to a pay cut that would give them less than half of their salary for an 80 game season in 2020.  It hasn't even been two months since that agreement before the owners cried poverty to pay the players even less.

If Major League Baseball cannot be trusted to honor the agreement that they made with the players a mere 50 days ago, how can they be trusted to not take further advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to slice a larger piece of the pie off for themselves?  If the players agreed to this 2020 salary cap, it opens the door for it to become permanent, or to withhold a portion of a player's contract for time lost to sickness or injury.

Players are being asked to accept a fraction of their salary to put themselves and their families at risk so that billionaires can make a profit and remain quarantined behind the gates of their mansion.  If anything, they should receive hazard pay for putting themselves at a drastically increased risk of an infection that has taken more American lives in two months than the Vietnam War cost in 11 years combined.

Throughout the pandemic, Blake Snell has been a pretty good sport.  In an effort to keep interest in the game alive, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner has worked with Major League Baseball and Sony to play MLB: The Show in a live stream tournament against other players.  Sadly, some fans have turned against him after a recent Twitch stream in which he said that he would not consider playing in 2020 for even less money than the prorated salary that the Player's Association agreed to.

It's hard to understand why fans are so quick to take the side of the owners every time there is a dispute over money with the players.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that a player's salary is public knowledge.  Many Rays fans can tell you that their left handed ace signed a contract extension that granted him a $3 million dollar signing bonus and a $1 million dollar salary for the 2019 season.  Those same fans probably wouldn't be able to tell you how much of the fans money Wall Street investor and Rays team owner Stuart Sternberg pocketed in 2019 to be able to sign a paycheck of that size.  The owner's money is out of sight, out of mind, so when the players refuse to risk their health and health of their families for a fraction of their paycheck, somehow they come across as the greedy villain while a 60 year old billionaire who hasn't thrown a baseball since grade school gets a free pass.  What is wrong with this picture?

Even if the player wasn't afraid for his life or for the lives of his wife and children, playing during the pandemic is a risky proposition.  Studies have found that a high percentage of Covid-19 survivors suffer from ground glass opacity and scarring of the lungs that could permanently affect their breathing.  Being able to breathe is kinda important if you make your living as a professional athlete.  Even if a player has no family and a low risk of death if they caught the virus, why would they jeopardize their future earning potential to make pennies on the dollar for playing an abbreviated 2020 season for fans who spent the past two months debating whether or not this seasons World Series Championship would be legitimate?

I don't blame Blake Snell one bit.  As much as I love and miss baseball, it's not worth it.  The owners claim that they'll lose money by playing an 80 game season and paying their players a prorated salary?  Fine.  There's only one sensible decision remaining: cancel the 2020 MLB season and start working and planning for a safe start to the 2021 season.