Nov 30, 2020

Gobble It Up While You Can

The Gobbler
Wawa (2020)
This has become a Thanksgiving season tradition that I look forward to every year.  The Gobbler is a hot turkey hoagie with gravy, cranberry sauce and garlic aioli.  You can get it with either stuffing, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.

This year, I got one with sweet potatoes and it was delicious - like eating a thanksgiving dinner hoagie.  They probably won't be available for much longer, so if you want to try one, don't wait.

Nov 29, 2020

The Artwork of Don Ivan Punchatz

Automatic Transportation
Don Ivan Punchatz (undated)
This self-driving hovercar is making the rounds on Twitter.  The artist was credited, but the name of the piece and its origin was not.  It's called Automatic Transportation and it's an original 12" x 15.5" painting that was signed by artist Don Ivan Punchatz.  It was sold in a 2012 auction to a private collector for under $300, which is a steal.

Although the painting wasn't dated, the artist passed away in 2009 so the piece was completely science fiction when Mr. Punchatz thought it up.  I suppose it's still science fiction unless there's a working prototype for a hover car.  However, I think we're getting pretty close to a time in which self-driving cars are commonplace.  The steering wheel is a nice touch by the artist, showing that the transition to this new future car won't be absolute - at least not at first.

I wasn't too familiar with Don Ivan Punchatz before my research on Automatic Transportation, but it turns out that I've seen his work plenty of times before.  He illustrated the covers of quite a few science fiction and fantasy novels (including some of Isaac Asimov's work), and he is perhaps best known for creating the iconic box art for the 1993 classic first-person shooter, Doom.

I also discovered that some of his artwork was used on Pepsi cartons for their Monster Match promotion in 1991.  Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog did a nice write-up about those pieces in 2010.  They include Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy.  Pepsi also used artwork of The Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Invisible Man from around the same time, but I'm not sure of those two were done by Mr. Punchatz.

Nov 28, 2020

Land Of The Free, Home Of The Virus

Heights EZ Stop Express
Hazleton, PA
This poorly written temper tantrum was scotch taped to the door that leads into a small gas station convenience store in town.  They could have saved themselves a lot of redundant typing by just hanging up a sign that reads "Management reserve the right to be irresponsible douchebags".

Not surprisingly, when I walked up to the counter to pay, neither of the two employees that I saw were wearing masks.  One of them was stuffing a sandwich in his face at the register while working and handling money and change; true professionalism at its finest.

While the spelling errors are comical (the store has several aisles, but no "isles" that I could see), the most amusing part of the sign is the blatant hypocrisy.  Directly below the crybaby letter which taunts the customers for their "fear" of bringing a deadly virus home from the store to their family, there is another sign which presumably existed before Covid-19 - an underlined request for the customers to remove their hoods and sunglasses.

Funny... all that talk about freedom and the "land of the free" seems to go out the window with regard to the customer's clothes.  Unless I'm mistaken, the policy about hoods and sunglasses is born out of the management's fear of shoplifters or thieves who are trying to mask their identity.  Management is quick to say that "if you feel unsafe entering the building, maybe you should not do so".  Using that same logic, if you feel unsafe from customers wearing sunglasses or a hoodie, maybe you should not manage a retail establishment.  As for myself, I wear prescription sunglasses when it's sunny, and I put my hood up whenever I damn well please.  If that scares you, too bad.  My freedom doesn't end where your fear begins.  For more information, please see the asinine two page letter that's taped to the front door.

Nov 27, 2020

Make It A Blockbuster Black Friday Night

Blockbuster Video blanket
Hot Topic (2020)
The only Black Friday sale that caught my eye this year was a polyester blanket that looks like a Blockbuster Video tape case.  I guess they couldn't get the rights to use an actual movie title on the spine.  Either that or there's a Rated R horror flick out there called Movie Rental VHS Cassette.

Nov 26, 2020

Two Thirds Of The Earth Is Covered By Cornbread Dressing...

Roast Turkey with Cornbread Dressing
Acme (1978)
Sondra Maddox, wife of Phillies all-time great Garry Maddox, shared her roast turkey with cornbread stuffing recipe with Acme grocery stores in the late 70's.  Follow these instructions and you can eat Thanksgiving dinner like the Secretary of Defense.

Nov 25, 2020

Candy Corn With All Of The Trimmings

Turkey Dinner Candy Corn
Brach's (2020)
Just when you thought this year couldn't get any stranger, one of the oldest candy companies in the United States decides to tap into their inner Willy Wonka and release a bag of candy corn that's meant to taste like a full Thanksgiving dinner.

These are exclusive to Walgreens, which we don't have in my area, so I ordered two bags from eBay: one for myself and one for my dad.  Overall, they're actually pretty good.  It's not the kind of candy I could see myself buying on a regular basis, but as a seasonal novelty, they work pretty well.  Each flavor tastes like the food it's meant to be, and they're not bad at all.

Here are the flavors included in Brach's Turkey Dinner Candy Corn:

It's difficult to describe the experience of eating green bean flavored candy corn, but I'll do my best.  There is an unmistakable green vegetable flavor, that much is for sure, but it's mixed with a sweet candy flavor.  It's not a flavor combination I would choose, but it's better than you might expect.  It's not entirely accurate to say that it tastes like sweet butter on green beans, but that's as close of a description as I can get.  I suppose that calling it "shockingly not unpleasant" sounds as if I'm damning it with faint praise, but it's true.

This very much tastes like turkey gravy mixed with sugar.  I think this tastes more like turkey than the green bean flavor tasted like green beans, but the green bean one was a better tasting candy.  It's possible that a sweet flavor is slightly less jarring with vegetables than it is with meat.  I don't know.  Like the green bean ones, this isn't as bad as you're probably expecting it to be.

This was the first flavor in the bag that actually seemed like it should have been made into a piece of candy.  It was also in very short supply in my bag.  Out of a full 12 oz of candy, there were only three cranberry sauce flavored pieces of candy corn.  Out of all of them, it tastes the most like traditional candy, but it tasted the least like the thing it's meant to be.  I won't say that it didn't taste at all like cranberry sauce, but all of the other flavors were more realistic.

When I ate this, I was struck at first by a powerful ginger flavor, and then sort of a carrot aftertaste.  I would say that it had the strongest flavor out of the six.  It wasn't disgusting, but it was my least favorite compared to the rest.  I think if you're a fan of ginger candy, you might like this, but it's not my first choice.

Because pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie have such a similar flavor, I was expecting this to taste like pumpkin spice.  I was shocked to find that it's didn't taste a thing like pumpkin.  In fact, it;s an almost perfect candy representation of sweet potato pie.  This was my favorite flavor in the bag, and the only one that I think I would consider buying if they were going to offer it in a separate package.

You really get a strong flavor of stuffing spices with this one, like sage and pepper.  It doesn't blend especially well with the sweetness of candy corn, but it absolutely tastes like stuffing from a turkey on Thanksgiving.

So, that's it.  If you're interested in a bizarre experiment in seasonal confections, give these a try.

Nov 24, 2020

The Thanksgiving Tradition

The 7th Annual Survivor Series
World Wrestling Federation (November 24, 1993)
This event was broadcast on pay-per-view 27 years ago today.  I was 13 years old at the time, which is probably why it's still one of my favorite Survivor Series events.  The matches don't hold up too well in retrospect (particularly the atrocious Four Doinks match), but the posters almost make up for it.  They feature the teams that were scheduled to face off in the main event of the night: The All-Americans (Lex Luger, Tatanka and The Steiner Bros) vs the Foreign Fanatics (Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga and The Quebecers).

The little details make these posters ridiculous enough to use as a Thanksgiving decoration.  Jacques Rougeau is brandishing a butter knife.  Tatanka, Scott Steiner, Ludvig Borga, and Pierre Ouellet (the man who would go on to become ROH World Champion PCO) are holding forks and staring menacingly.  Yokozuna is preparing to eat a roast turkey with chopsticks, while Lex Luger is holding a knife and carving fork above his head as he's about to dive in to a bird that has been dressed up in a black mawashi.

These posters must have been drawn early in the planning stages for the pay-per-view because the teams that wrestled in the main event would be mixed up a bit.  Quebecer Pierre and Tatanka were written out of the match and replaced by Crush and The Undertaker.

Nov 23, 2020

You Can Eat Sonic's Rings

Life Savers
Nabisco (1993-94)
Sega cross-promoted with Nabisco several times during the initial Sonic The Hedgehog craze of the 90's.  The most memorable of these took place in 1994 when two exclusive flavors of Sonic branded Life Savers candy were released: Blue Rad and Hot Rings.
Blue Rad and Hot Rings wrappers from the collection of Jason Liebig

These flavors, in addition to specially marked packaged of Tangy Fruits Life Savers, were part of a promotion in which consumers could win a new Sega Genesis game console and a copy of Sonic The Hedgehog 3, which was released in February, 1994.

Nabisco released a lot of merchandise in conjunction with Sega, including hats and school textbook covers.  You can find them on eBay from time to time, but they tend to have ridiculously high asking prices.  One seller is asking over $100 for what they say is an unopened pack of Hot Rings.  The photos are sketchy at best, but quite frankly, it could come with a signed letter from the president of Sega and I still wouldn't pay a hundred bucks for it.  At least the ads are pretty easy to find.  If you leaf through a few comic books or video game magazines from the mid 90's, you're bound to find one before too long.

Nov 22, 2020

Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads

Back To The Future 2 Billboard
Hollywood, CA (1989)
This billboard was on corner of La Cienega and Sunset in Hollywood, California.  It counted down to the premier of Back To The Future 2, which first appeared in theaters 31 years ago today (source: Drew Struzan).

Nov 21, 2020

Ballistic Racing

Psygnosis (1995)
The launch of the original Playstation was a big deal for me.  I was 15 years old and I had a part-time job at Burger King.  For the first time in my life, I was earning a paycheck and was able to save up enough money to buy a console shortly after it launched.  Unfortunately, it took a bit longer before I was able to afford any games, so I played the hell out of the demo disc that came with the console.  As far as demos go, this one was pretty good.  More than a few of them were playable, including one lap from a racing game that would be released twenty-five years ago today, on November 21st, 1995.  That game was Wipeout.

Most of the demos on the disc were a lot of fun, but Wipeout was the one that blew me away.  It was a futuristic hovercraft racing game with a a techno soundtrack.  At the time, it reminded me a lot of F-Zero for SNES, but with graphics and music I had never experienced before on a home console.

My grandparents gave Wipeout to me as a Christmas present that year.  We exchange gifts in our family on Christmas Eve, and I remember staying up late that night to experience the full game for the first time.  In the wee hours of Christmas morning, I was steering my hovercraft through tracks that were more challenging than any racing game I had ever played up to that point.  I don't remember what time I finally got to sleep, but I do remember being awfully tired at Christmas dinner as I tried not to fall asleep in my lasagna.

I still have the game that I unwrapped on Christmas Eve 1995, and I still play it from time to time.  Although there have been many more advanced racing games that have been released over the past 25 years, none have captivated me as completely as that single lap from the purple Playstation Picks demo disc.

Nov 20, 2020

As A Bird On Wings

Anthology 1
The Beatles (1995)
This brilliant collection of rare recordings and live performances from The Beatles was released 25 years ago today.  Most of the material from Anthology 1 is from the time period of 1958 to 1964.  Some of the recordings feature original bassist Stu Sutcliffe and original drummer Pete Best.

Anthology 1 included Free As A Bird, which is a song that had never been heard before.  It was originally written and recorded by John Lennon in 1977.  Yoko Ono provided Lennon's demo recordings of the song (mostly vocals and piano) to Paul McCartney.  Paul brought it to his studio in Sussex where he, George Harrison and Ringo Starr worked with producer Jeff Lynne to add their vocals and musical contribution to the Lennon recordings to create a studio single.  The finished product was a beautiful song that could truly be called the first new Beatles song in 25 years.

Nov 19, 2020

Like Sleeping Inside A Cozy Turkey

Deep Fried Turkey Pillow
Arby's (2020)
If you're looking for a nice place to lay down and go into a tryptophan coma after you have Thanksgiving dinner, the Arby's Deep Fried Turkey Pillow may be for you.

This fluffy turkey hat is more than just an ordinary pillow.  Stick it on your noggin, pull down on the drumsticks and presto - you've got a basted fowl isolation chamber.  If you wear it out in public, the general public will be sure to give you six feet of distance as an added protection against Covid-19.

As much as I'd love to take a nap inside of my Thanksgiving dinner, $60 is a bit out of my price range.  However, if you've always wanted to stick your head inside of a bird, feel free to pay a visit to to order this lovely pillow.

Nov 18, 2020

The Guitar That Makes Time Travel Possible

The McFlybanez
Vladimiro Parmini - Guitar Migi 
If Doc Brown custom built an Ibanez guitar for Marty, it might look a bit like this incredible work from Vladimiro Parmini.  It's just begging to be used as the focal point for a Back To The Future fanfiction in which playing a chord progression activates the Flux Capacitor to send the musician back in time (photo source: Sir Picklehorn Guitars).

Nov 17, 2020

Just Listen To The Music Of The Traffic In The City

West Broad Street
Hazleton, PA (1940)
This postcard of downtown Hazleton had a postmark of 1940.  You can see the marquee of the old Capitol Theater on the right.  The theater closed in 1963, and the building burned down in 1982.

Nov 16, 2020

We Do Not Cross Against The Light

Night Of The Comet Billboard
Sunset Blvd - Los Angeles, CA (1984)
Actress Kelli Maroney shared this incredible photo earlier this month.  It shows the billboard that advertised Night Of The Comet when it was in theaters.  The iconic 80's horror flick opened nationwide 36 years ago today.

Nov 15, 2020

Have A Horrible Day

Castle Dracula

Wildwood, NJ
I don't remember seeing these when I was a kid, but I can imagine the folks behind Castle Dracula hiding these all over the boardwalk in Wildwood to trick folks into picking up an ad for the attraction.  Pretty clever!  This one belongs to Diane Brozowski Dockter.  She took these photos and shared them on the Castle Dracula Tribute Page.

Nov 14, 2020

Memories Of The Mall Bookstore

Vallco Fashion Park - Cupertino, CA (1978)
I really miss the days of being able to walk around the Laurel Mall and to spend some time browsing in Waldenbooks.  My local store closed ten years ago, and the rest of the chain followed in July 2011.  This photo was shared on Twitter by @WeAreTheMutants.

Nov 13, 2020

Cleanup Time

I promise, this isn't turning into a political blog, but this comic is too brilliant not to share.  There's so much going on here.  My favorite parts are the spray tan silhouette on the wall, the Mount Rushmore plans laying below the bust of Putin, and the view from the left window of the previous occupant being dragged off of the property (source: The Times UK).

Nov 12, 2020

Splash Wave Rolls In

Arcade 1Up (2020)
Alright, I really have to tip my cap to the folks at Arcade 1Up for this one.  This might be even cooler than the Star Wars one that came out last year.  This new driving cabinet includes OutRun, Turbo OutRun, Outrunners and Power Drift.

Nov 11, 2020

I Assume I Need No Introduction

Interview With The Vampire
Warner Bros (1994)
The mythology of vampires has existed for nearly 300 years.  It has evolved with each passing generation to the point where the Dracula written by Bram Stoker bears only a passing resemblance to many of the vampires that appear in modern works of fiction.  The watershed moment in my lifetime took place 26 years ago with the theatrical release of Interview With The Vampire.  Based on the 1976 novel by Anne Rice, this film redefined the genre.  Whether their creators and fans admit to it or not, nearly all of the films, literature and comics since 1994 that have anything to do with vampires are based on the modern template that was established with this movie.

Nov 10, 2020

It Beats Jim Palmer's Ad

Mike Schmidt
Lee Jeans (1983)
This is one of the many endorsements that Michael Jack Schmidt had back in the day.  It appears that Lee spent all of their money on celebrity endorsements and left nothing for the folks who come up with the slogan.  If they opened a chain of restaurants, I'd expect that they'd promote them by calling it "the food you chew".

Nov 9, 2020

The '86 Athletics Connection

Interesting observation by Christopher Kamka on Twitter.  On October 29th, the Chicago White Sox announced that they've hired 76 year old Hall Of Fame manager Tony LaRussa to manage the team in 2021.

Tony LaRussa made his debut as the Oakland Athletics manager on July 7th, 1986.  His first season as the A's manager was the final season of Dusty Baker's 18 year playing career.  The outfielder was 37 years old and would appear in 83 games for the Athletics in the 1986 season.

Mr. Baker would go on to make his managerial debut in 1993 and will manage the Houston Astros in 2021 at 71 years of age.  He will be the second oldest manager in the game next year - five years younger than his former manager, Mr. LaRussa.

Nov 8, 2020

The Leprechaun Or The Tiger

I know that Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes are made by two different companies, but come on!  They're the exact same thing!  They both have frosted flakes.  They both have marshmallows.  For god's sake, they're both in light blue boxes with their mascots looking up at the marshmallows!

Nov 7, 2020

You're Fired

The Slingshot
Vasco Gargalo (2020)
Congratulations to the 46th President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden, and the first female Vice President in the history of our nation, Ms. Kamala Harris.  They have a big job ahead of them to unite the country and to heal the damage done by a global pandemic and four disastrous years under his predecessor, but I believe they're up to the challenge.

And to that other guy... schedule your U-Haul and start packing.  You're fired.

Nov 6, 2020

Spicy Pink Frosted Goodness

Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut
Dunkin' Donuts (2020)
I've been a huge fan of Dunkin' Donuts for as long as I've been eating solid foods.  One of my happiest childhood memories is walking with my grandfather to the shop on Broad Street in West Hazleton.  It had a counter with bar stools, and a very cool aesthetic of pink, orange and grey on little micro tiles throughout the restaurant.  I've found photos of other Dunkin' Donuts restaurants from the 80's, but I've never come across one for this particular restaurant, or of any that looked like it on the inside.  As cool as it looked, it smelled even better, with the aroma of hot brewing coffee and fresh baked donuts.  If I close my eyes and focus, I can almost smell it.

Five years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Dunkin' Donuts Headquarters in Canton, MA.  I had just been promoted to trainer, and the Consumer Engagement Team at Nestle had loaned me out for a few weeks to create and deliver a training program for their rewards card program.  It was an awesome experience and an opportunity that I was very thankful to have had.

As a consumer, I left Canton with mixed feelings.  The impression I was left with was that donuts were quickly becoming an afterthought at Dunkin' Brands, and they were transitioning into a business model that focused entirely on coffee and breakfast sandwiches.  Don't get me wrong, I love Dunkin' coffee and their sandwiches are delicious, but there's something special about a Dunkin' Donut that you just can't get anywhere else.  I was concerned that the days of new and innovative flavors from the "time to make the donuts" brand were going to be a thing of the past.  I'm very happy to learn that I was wrong.

Photo Source:

The Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is truly remarkable.  The vast majority of hot and spicy foods I've tried over the years have been highly disappointing.  It seems as if most of their creators made little effort in making them enjoyable to eat.  It was just a cash grab gimmick where they'd make something that isn't typically spicy as punishingly hot as possible, then sit back and collect all the money while people dared each other to eat it.  I'm very happy to say that this isn't the case with the Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut.  When I took my first bite, I got a quick burst of the ghost pepper.  It's not the kind of spice that'll have you rushing for a drink, but it's there.  However, it doesn't last very long because the bread and the sweetness of the sugar beats it back almost immediately.  It's like starting a small fire, then tamping it out.  It's thankfully not the kind of thing that will result in thousands of "challenge" videos, but it makes for a delicious and unique snack.  I hope that it turns into an annual Halloween tradition at Dunkin'.

Nov 5, 2020

Fall Foliage

Over the past few weeks, the leaves have changed colors and fallen off of their trees in Northeast PA.  This one was in the back yard, and it's well over a foot in diameter.  It was joined by about 50,000 of its friends, all of which I need to rake up and bag.  Uggh!

Nov 4, 2020

It's The Great Pumpkin (Beer), Charlie Brown

Pumpking from Southern Tier Brewing Company was my favorite of the three.  According to their website, they also make a Pumpking Whiskey and Pumpking Cold Brew Coffee, but I wasn't able to find them.