Jan 31, 2021

The Consolized Game Gear

Consolized Sega Game Gear
MGS (2021)
This impressive modification of a Sega Game Gear console was made by hobbyist MGS.  The project transformed the early 90's Sega handheld into a console that resembles a Sega Master System and can be hooked up to a television to play Game Gear cartridges on a much larger screen.  Unfortunately, he is not producing them on a large scale, so there are none available for sale.

Jan 30, 2021

Didi's Back, And We Have Moore Reason To Be Optimistic

photo source: Yong Kim (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Didi Gregorius
Shortstop - Philadelphia Phillies
It's official - the Phillies are getting the gang back together.  A few days after signing catcher J.T. Realmuto to a 5 year, $115.5 million dollar contract, it was announced that shortstop Didi Gregorius will return to the Phillies on a 2 year, $28 million dollar deal.

When the season ended, John Middleton was talking like an owner who had no intention of spending this winter.  My expectations that they'd bring back either Realmuto or Gregorius were pretty low.  The fact that they've brought both of them back on multi-year deals is a very pleasant surprise.

Matt Moore
Left Handed Pitcher - Philadelphia Phillies
There was another signing this week that flew under the radar as a result of the Realmuto deal.  Southpaw Matt Moore signed a one year contract for $3 million (plus incentives) to compete for a spot in the back end of the Phillies rotation with Spencer Howard, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suarez and Ivan Nova.

I believe this deal could end up being one of the most important acquisitions the Phillies make for the 2021 season.  Moore was a very effective starter for the Rays after his call-up in 2011.  He was an All-Star in 2013 and finished the season with a 17-4 record and a 3.29 ERA.  He ran into a roadblock in 2014 when a torn ligament took him out of action for over a year.  His comeback after Tommy John surgery had a few moments of brilliance, including a game he started for the Giants on August 25th, 2016 where he came within one out of a no-hitting a stacked Dodgers team.  Later in the 2016 post-season, he threw 8 innings against the Cubs in Game 4 of the LDS in which gave up only 2 hits and struck out 10 batters.

Moore had a difficult stretch in 2017-2019, including a freak knee injury after fielding a bunt, but he came back strong in 2020 pitching for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan.  He went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA and threw 7 innings of no-hit ball in Game 3 of the Japan World Series.  His season in Japan also suggests that he will be entering the 2021 season fully healthy.  When you include his rehab and post-season starts, Moore threw a total of 85 innings last year - more than any pitcher in Major League Baseball during the Covid-shortened 2020 season.  Whether he can replicate this level of success pitching for the Phillies in 2021 remains to be seen, but I expect that he'll be a significant upgrade over Jake Arrieta and is likely to win the 4th spot in the rotation.

Jan 29, 2021

The Wrestling Peacock

WWE Network
2014 - 2021
When I was a kid, the WWF television shows used to have a segment with Sean Mooney speaking to the fans from the Event Center.  It was presented sort of like a news broadcast, where Mooney would briefly discuss one of the feuds that was going on, then cut to a prerecorded interview, then back to Mooney to set up another feud, then cut to another interview, and so on until the segment was over.  Usually it concluded with a plug for whatever big show was coming up in which these feuds would be settled in the ring.

The interviews were typical 80's and early 90's WWF material: funny, over-the-top rants from dudes in strange costumes talking about god only knows what.  Seriously, go back and watch some of the Ultimate Warrior interviews from these shows and you'll think that you're having a fever dream.  However, for as entertaining as the interviews were, the part that fascinated me the most was that wall of television monitors that Sean Mooney was sitting in front of.  I used to think of how awesome it would be to spend a day in the Event Center with the ability to watch any match from the WWF archives on these screens.

Fast forward to February 24th, 2014 and the wish I had as an 8 year old kid was granted to a 33 year old man in the form of the WWE Network.  Thousands of hours of archived WWF and WWE matches, and current events that once cost up to $50 each on pay-per-view were made instantly available for $9.99 per month.  It was a deal that almost seemed too good to be true for a fan of professional wrestling.

I subscribed to this service for a number of years, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I especially enjoyed the old WWF Saturday Night's Main Event shows, the Coliseum Home Video archive, the weekly WWF shows from the late 70's through the early 90's, and the years of ECW, WCW Nitro and Thunder episodes (although with a lot of the music edited out).  I had lost interest in keeping up with the weekly WWE Raw and Smackdown programs years ago.  They're horribly long and dull, and the writing is so poor that it's become embarrassing to sit through.  However, for a few years, I watched their weekly NXT show and the monthly pay per view events.  Unfortunately, the product devolved into such a ridiculous mess that I've given up on those too, and I ended up cancelling the service about a year ago, but I can't deny that for a few years in the mid 2010's, the WWE Network was a childhood dream that had come true.

photo source: NBC / Getty Images

Now after seven years, the WWE Network is coming to an end.  On Monday, it was announced that NBC Universal has acquired the rights to the entire catalog of WWE content, and that its streaming network would be absorbed into their new Peacock service.  They have a free tier, but to have access to the WWE content, subscribers will need to pay $4.99 a month for Peacock Premium (with limited commercials) or $9.99 for Peacock Premium Plus (with no commercials).  They're still pretty new, so they have a modest amount of content.  Right now, they seem to be pretty heavily focused on The Office, Law & Order and Two & A Half Men, which I couldn't possibly care less about.  Frankly, I wouldn't agree to watch any of those three programs if they paid me $4.99 a month; however, if they bring Seinfeld on board someday, I might have to give Peacock a try.

Jan 28, 2021

What Part Of Maui Wowie Don't You Understand?

Ferdinand's Family Restaurant
15th Street - Hazleton, PA
Ferdinand's opened in 1983 and was a fixture in Hazleton for a good portion of my life until it closed in 2010.  We only ate here a couple of times over the years (our family's spot was always The Blue Comet), but the food was always good every time we were there.  I can't remember what I ate when we were there, but I'll never forget that they served homemade ravioli because of the commercials they used to run on tv.

The commercial that burned this place into my memory forever featured a little girl, probably around 9 or 10 years old.  She was sitting at a booth, and she looked into the camera and calmly said "I want ravioli".  The camera then cut away to a montage of the different dinners that you could order at the restaurant, with a narrator listing them off.  It then cut back to the little girl, who repeated "I want ravioli" in a grumpier voice than she had the first time.  The narrators voice responded "yes, we have ravioli, but we also have..." and then the camera once again showed a montage of foods while the narrator read out more of the menu.  Finally, it cut back to a closeup of the little girl's face where she looked angrily into the camera and shouted "What part of ravioli don't you understand!"  The commercial ended with the child being served a big plate of ravioli with her family at Ferdinand's.

They aired this commercial in Hazleton a lot in the late 90's, and every time my grandmother saw it, she would say something along the lines of "I would smack that kid right in the mouth".  It must have been a common sentiment in the area, because I remember eating at the restaurant and mentioning the commercial to the waitress, and she immediately rolled her eyes and told me how many angry phone calls the restaurant got because people hated seeing the bratty kid demand ravioli.  People get really touchy about the dumbest things.

After Ferdinand's closed in 2010, it sat vacant for a number of years before it was sold and reopened in 2015 as Eddie's American Diner.  We went there for breakfast once and it was very good - one of the few places that not only serve scrapple, but who cooked it right.  I definitely would have been a regular customer if they had stayed open.  I couldn't tell you how long Eddie's was in business, but it seemed like it was only a couple of months after the grand opening that the building once again sat vacant.

On Thursday of last week, Franklin BioScience secured zoning approval from the city to turn the old Ferdinand's Restaurant property into a medical marijuana dispensary.  There are still a few hurdles to jump over, but if they are successful, they will turn the property from a place where people came to eat pasta to a place that may give folks an intense craving for it.

I'm not a smoker, but I'm rooting for these guys.  I'm also not sure what the laws are for advertising such a business, but I would love to see them reach out to that little girl from the old Ferdinand's commercial.  She's got to be at least 30 by now.  They could film a commercial where she comes out of the dispensary wearing a tie dyed shirt, looks dead into the camera and says "I could really go for some ravioli right about now".

Jan 27, 2021

Happy Birthday, Joe Bob

Happy 68th birthday to the world's greatest host, Mr. Joe Bob Briggs.  This photo was taken and shared by Darcy at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.  According to the heart of The Last Drive In and the Mutant Fam, his favorites include Grandma's Sampler for breakfast and the Country Fried Steak for lunch and dinner.  Extra shout out to Christina Ricci, who appears to have time traveled from the late 90's while dressed as a waitress to land this photobomb appearance.

Jan 26, 2021

He's Back

When the off-season began, I had all but written off the possibility of the Phillies re-signing J.T. Realmuto.  It had been reported that he was asking for a seven year contract in excess of $200 million dollars, which is a figure that I found to be ridiculous for a catcher entering his age 30 season - particularly on a team with so many other needs.  I was also skeptical of a lot of the hype that has followed Realmuto through these contract negotiations.  I definitely agree that he's the best hitting catcher in baseball, but I find all the talk about his superior ability to work with the pitchers to be a tad overblown.  I didn't see anything to suggest that he has that dramatic of an effect on his pitcher in 2019 or 2020 when anyone from the bullpen took the mound, including several relievers who were successful before they were acquired by the Phillies.  It was nowhere to be found with Velasquez, or Pivetta either, or pretty much anyone not named Nola or Wheeler.  I'm certainly not suggesting that he's the cause of anyone's struggles, but with the exception of Zack Wheeler, the evidence of his time in Philly doesn't support the belief that Realmuto has a measurable positive impact on the pitcher who is throwing to him.

All skepticism aside, I'm glad to have him back.  The Phillies got him on a five-year deal for $115 million, which is more than fair for the best hitting catcher in baseball.  It'll keep him in Philadelphia through the end of his age 35 season, and it gives the Phillies the financial flexibility to lock down Didi Gregorius and to continue to add pitching and make additional moves after the 2021 season.  This was a win for the team - no question about it.

Speaking of pitching, the Phillies have added six new arms.  The standout is reliever Archie Bradley who signed for 1 year at $6 million and wasted no time in endearing himself to Phillies fans on Twitter.  Some dudes come to Philadelphia and just get it immediately, and Archie seems like one of them.

Jose Alvardo was acquired in a three team trade with the Rays and Dodgers that saw Garrett Cleavinger go to Los Angeles.  He's coming back from injury, but he was a very effective reliever who racked up a lot of strikeouts and can hit 100 mph on the radar - definitely an intriguing pickup.

Ivan Nova is the face that I recognize most from this group.  He was once a highly effective starter for the Yankees.  He's had a rough few seasons for the White Sox and Tigers since 2018, but there's reason to hope that he still has some left in the tank.  There's a possibility that he could win the 5th starter spot from Vince Velasquez, but I see this more of a move along the lines of when the Phillies brought in Chan Ho Park and Jose Contreras, with most of his work coming out of the bullpen and the occasional spot start.

I know nothing at all about Bryan Mitchell, Michael Ynoa or Sam Coonrod, so I have some video to watch and some reading to do before pitchers and catchers report, but I'm encouraged by the bulk of the moves they've made to improve what was one of the worst bullpens of all time.

Meanwhile in the American League, former Phillies infielders Freddy Galvis and Caesar Hernandez were locked up.  Hernandez re-signed with the Indians for 1 year at $5 million with a club option for 2022, and the Orioles got an absolute steal by signing Galvis for 1 year at $1.5 million.  Both are among the best defensive infielders in baseball.  I would have been happy to have either of them back in Philadelphia - particularly Galvis, who was one of my favorite Phillies of the past ten years.  He has overperformed expectations at every step in his career and plays the game with heart.  Baltimore is lucky to have him.

Jan 25, 2021

Purple Cheese

Purple Moon Cheddar Cheese
Fiscalini Farmstead
This cheese is soaked in red wine before it's packaged, which is where the purple color and tangy flavor comes from.  It's pretty good, and at around $3, it wasn't too expensive.

Jan 24, 2021

Gwyneth Paltrow's Exploding Vagina Candle

This Smells Like My Vagina
Goop (2020)
In all of the craziness that was the year 2020, the fact that an Oscar winning actress is selling a candle that gives off the fragrance of her genitals somehow got lost in the shuffle.

As the story goes, Gwyneth Paltrow was working on a new fragrance for her side business, Goop.  In one of the meetings, the actress was sampling some of the new scents that were developed by her team, and when she smelled this one, she blurted out the thing that it reminder her of.  In case you were curious, the candle has the scent of geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed.  I'm not quite sure what the star of Sliding Doors has going on downstairs to generate such a combination, but there you have it.

If you would like your living room to come alive with the aroma of Ms. Paltrow's, uhhh, "sophisticated warmth", it will set you back $75.  If that's too steep of a price to pay all at once, fear not!  You can pay off your candle in four easy installments of $18.75.

However, if you do choose to throw away your money on this nonsense, you might want to pay special attention to the safety instructions.

The New York Post reported that 50 year old British woman named Jody Thompson won the candle in a quiz contest, which I suppose must have included a prize basket of products inspired by celebrity genitalia.  She reported that shortly after lighting the candle it "exploded and emitted huge flames with bits flying everywhere” and  "an inferno in the room" prompted her to throw the still flaming candle out the front door.  Stand back, Mr. Postman - flaming explosive vagina coming through.

I think I'm going to go ahead and stick with Sun & Sand.

Jan 23, 2021

The Greatest Ballplayer Who Ever Lived

Hank Aaron
1934 - 2021
We have lost many of the all-time baseball greats over the past twelve months, but this one hurts worst of all.  The greatest ballplayer who ever lived died yesterday.  He was 86 years old.

If I could pick anyone in the history of baseball to have been a member of the Phillies, it would have been Mr. Aaron.  It is not at all an exaggeration to say that he is the greatest who ever played the game.  In fact, I don't think a legitimate argument can be made that anyone else is even close.

His 755 career home runs that moved him past Babe Ruth for #1 on the career home run list has gotten most of the media attention over the years, but it tells only a fraction of the story.  Mr. Aaron retired as a career .305 hitter.  He has more career hits than any right-handed batter in the history of baseball, and his career 3,771 hits are behind only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose for the most hits of all-time.  He has the most career extra base hits (1,467), the most career RBI (2,297), most career total bases (6,856), most seasons with 100 or more runs scored (15), most consecutive seasons with 150 or more hits (17), and the most seasons as a member of the All-Star team (21).  Because he played during an era in which there were two All-Star Games played per season (from 1959 to 1962), he is a 25 time All-Star.  Only Willie Mays and Stan Musial managed to crack twenty (24 each).

When we visited the Hall of Fame in 2013, the part of the museum that fascinated me the most was the Chasing The Dream wing dedicated to Mr. Aaron.

The fact that Mr. Aaron was able to persevere and have the most remarkable career anyone has ever seen in baseball the face of vile hatred and bigotry is nothing short of heroic.  He retired as an active player after the 1976 season.  He went on to work as an executive in the Atlanta Braves organization, and he remained an ambassador of the game for the rest of his life.

The world will never forget the life, the career and the legacy of Mr. Henry Aaron - the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.  Rest in peace, sir, and thank you for everything that you are to the game of baseball, to America, and to humanity.

Jan 22, 2021

This Picture Has Never Been Seen Before

Airborne Photographic Exposure Calculator - Mark 5
Science Museum Group
This is a tool that was used on reconnaissance aircraft missions to help them to take clear photographs of the target.  What makes it special to me, however, is the fact that I am the first person to see it on the web.

When you have over a quarter million photos on your website, there are going to be quite a few that get overlooked.  With that in mind, the Science Museum Group has set up this portal that will load a photo from their archive that has zero page views.  Click on this link, then click on the Object Number at the top of the page to see a photo of a museum artifact that has never been seen since it was uploaded to their archive.

Jan 21, 2021

Exotic Dancer Discrimination At The Deli

Hometown Farmers Market
Tamaqua, PA
Let that be a lesson to you.  Take your money out of your underwear and shoes before you get up to the deli counter.  However, this sign begs the question: what if you aren't wearing any undergarments?

Jan 20, 2021

Happy Inauguration Day

This awesome photo of the man who is being inaugurated today as the 46th President of the United States was shared on Twitter by Ruben Amaro Jr shortly after the election.  It was taken during the 2009 World Series, and it includes Charlie Manuel and Milt Thompson with the President and First Lady.

Jan 19, 2021

Say Goodbye To The Circus

Nellie The Elephant
Toy Dolls (1983)
In honor of tomorrow's eviction of a certain clown who shall remain nameless, I present to you this cover of a 1956 children's song that was performed in the early 80's by British punk band, Toy DollsClick here to listen.

To Bombay
A travelling circus came
They brought an intelligent elephant
And Nellie was her name
One dark night
She slipped her iron chain, and off she ran
To Hindustan and was never seen again 
Nellie the elephant pack her trunk and
Said goodbye to the circus
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump
Nellie the elephant packed her trunk
And trundled off to the jungle
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump 
Night by night she danced to the circus band
When Nellie was leading the big parade she looked
So proud and grand
No more tricks for Nellie to perform
They taught her how to take a bow and she took
The crowd by storm 
Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and
Said goodbye to the circus
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump
Nellie the elephant packed her trunk
And trundled off to the jungle
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump 
The head of the herd was calling far far away
They meet one night in silver light
On the road to Mandalay 
Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and
Said goodbye to the circus
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump
Nellie the elephant packed her trunk
And trundled of to the jungle
Off she road with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump

Jan 18, 2021

Dig Those Groovy 7-Eleven Colors

7-Eleven (1973)
Between the clothes and the color scheme, this marketing photo from 7-Eleven looks surreal.  I wasn't around in 1973, but there were still remnants of this style in the mid 80's, particularly in drug stores and convenient stores that hadn't been remodeled before I was old enough to buy my own Slim Jims and baseball cards.

One thing that jumped out at me from this photo is the gum rack at the bottom left corner; specifically the ones labeled "Ice Cream Flavors" on the second shelf from the top.  I hadn't heard of these before, so I did a little digging.  It turns out they were made by the Adams Gum Company.  Their founder, Thomas Adams, was the first to sell his product in vending machines in the United States.

Seeing these old packages raises another question: what was it with the mid-20th century and clowns?  Did the children of the 50's, 60's and 70's really love clowns as much as the marketing would lead us to believe, and if so, when did they go from being fun and entertaining to creepy and annoying?

Jan 17, 2021

I'll Trade You Steve Jeltz For Dan Quayle

Operation Desert Storm cards
Topps (1991)
The Gen-X kids like myself who were born in the late 70's and early 80's grew up in a really strange and transitional time.  For the first ten years of my life, we were still in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.  You know those old Duck and Cover educational videos from the 50's and 60's we all laugh about on YouTube?  They were still teaching that in school when I was a kid.  My first grade class did a duck and cover drill where we all practiced getting under our desk.  However, the Cold War wasn't my strangest experience with war when I was a kid.  That honor goes to Topps Trading Cards.

Thirty years ago today, Operation Desert Storm began in Iraq.  I was in fifth grade at Heights Terrace Elementary School at the time, and I remember that they brought televisions on wheel carts into our classrooms where we watched the live news footage as it happened.  Our teachers discussed it with us in class, but the information we were given was pretty vague.  It pretty much boiled down to two things: Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and the American military was headed to the Middle East to liberate them.  Come to think of it, that's pretty much my extent of knowledge about the war today.

In the months that followed, we were saturated with information about the Gulf War.  I heard about it from teachers, from other kids, from my grandparents at home (I was living with my mom's parents at the time), and from television and radio.  It was literally everywhere - even at the baseball card shops.  Topps released not one, not two, but three different series of trading cards for the war.  If you went through my baseball cards back then, you would have found cards of General Norman Schwarzkopf and the Patriot Missile right between the Cal Ripken and Mike Schmidt cards.  If the idea of Topps trading cards for a war isn't weird enough, they weren't the only ones making them.  Football card manufacturer Pro Set came out with their own series to compete with Topps, and the Pacific Trading Card Company beat them both to the punch with their own Operation Desert Shield card series, before the conflict escalated to a full scale war.  I remember some of the adults in my life buying them and putting them away with the expectation that they'd be worth money someday.  In reality, they're barely worth the cardboard they're printed on.  You can still find hundreds of packs in unopened boxes for sale on eBay.  The asking price seems to be around $5 for a box of 36 packs - a fraction of the 50 cents per pack that they sold for in every gas station and grocery store in the country back in 1991.

When I started Kindergarten, we were still doing Duck and Cover drills.  By the time I graduated high school, we had 28.8k dial up internet, and in the years between, we had trading cards for a war halfway across the world.  What can I say; it was a weird time to grow up.

Jan 16, 2021

Oculus Orbus Meets Jay Decay

Madballs vs GPK
Cloudco Entertainment / Topps (2021)
Veteran illustrators from the iconic Madballs and Garbage Pail Kids brands are teaming up to create new 80's inspired crossover artwork that will be featured on trading cards and other merchandise.  If this happened when I was a kid, I think my head might have exploded like Adam Bomb.

Look at that crazy little six year old bastard in the GPK shirt!

Garbage Pail Kids was one of my favorite things in the world when I was a kid, and I had at least 3 or 4 Madballs.  I remember I stuffed one into the dryer vent at my grandparents house when I was a kid.  My grandfather had to disconnect the dryer hose to shake it loose while my grandmother sat me down at the kitchen table and explained why I shouldn't stick my balls in the dryer vent (I'm pretty sure she used those exact words).  I got to hand it to you Grandma - that was some good advice right there.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with for the new crossover artwork.  It should be a lot of fun.

Jan 15, 2021

The Little Mall That Could

Planet Fitness and Hobby Lobby
Laurel Mall - Hazleton, PA
Today is Friday.  I will be spending this evening like I've spent pretty much every Friday since the pandemic began.  However, if you were to take a trip in a time machine to a random Friday 25 years ago, you would have probably found me at the Laurel Mall.  There wasn't really a lot to do in town.  The kids who were into cars usually hung out at the "The Lot" (the parking lot for Blockbuster video), and the dorks like me spent the evening in the mall - meeting friends, eating pizza at Dino's, playing a few video games at Boardwalk Blvd, listening to music at Camelot and The Wall, looking at rock shirts from Nirvana's Closet, and walking around trying to look like we had any intention of buying things to avoid the wrath of Intrepid Security.  When the place closed, the next stop would be Perkins, where about 100 teenagers would spend as long as we could with a bottomless cup of coffee before getting kicked out.  Many of the malls that were around back in the mid 90's are gone today, but this is yet another instance in which Hazleton is the exception to the rule.

You really have to hand it to the management of the Laurel Mall.  At a time when malls across the country have been dying a slow death even before the start of the pandemic, they're finding ways to not only stay open, but to fill their vacancies with new businesses.  Sadly, one of these new business is a place I will absolutely never spend a dime (hint: it's not the one with the treadmills), but I'm still happy that the small town mall that I grew up with is continuing to defy the odds.

Planet Fitness and Hobby Lobby have split the old K-Mart anchor store, which used to be the old Ames anchor store, which used to be the old Zayre's anchor store, which used to be... well, a town swimming pool, I think.  I'm not completely sure, but Zayre's was there when the mall opened in 1973.

There are still a couple of visual clues of the previous mall occupant.  For example, members of Planet Fitness might wonder why the gym has what appears to be a concrete prison on the left hand side of the building.  It was once the outside portion of the Lawn & Garden department of the Hazleton K-Mart where plants were kept with automatic sprinklers to keep them healthy in the open air during the spring and summer months.  It looked perfectly normal back then.

You can also see the outline of the old "Big K" sign that was removed from the back of the building.

Jan 14, 2021

Let's Bake-a-roo

Dunkaroos Sugar Cookie Dough
Betty Crocker (2021)
Sweet baby Jesus on a bicycle!  Within the past few years, they've brought back Crystal Pepsi, Ecto Cooler, Purplesaurus Rex, The Chipwich, a virtual clone of the Alpine White, and every damn thing you can think of made in a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavor.  Now, they've not only brought back Dunkaroos, but they've turned them into a refrigerated dough with packets of icing.  If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pies make a comeback, I'm getting a CAT Scan to find the listening device that the consumer packaged goods industry must have implanted in my brain.

If I had any artistic talent at all, I would have drawn a picture of the lead singer of Nirvana dressed in jelly shoes and a track suit with a pager on his hip, which is what I envisioned when I read this.  Incidentally, I totally had a beeper when I was a high school freshman in the mid 90's.  It didn't have service, and I used to turn it off and on in my pocket so people thought I was getting paged.  Needless to say, I was not elected prom king, but at least I didn't wear a track suit.

The package contains six little hockey puck cookies and two packs of frosting in a metallic package with the helpful advice to not microwave it.  There are two ways to prepare these.  You can either bake six big cookies or two dozen mini cookies.

Let's see.  To make 24 mini cookies, cut each cookie round into quarters and roll into balls.  Hmmm... I don't like the sound of that.  It sounds painful, and nobody wants cookie stains in their boxer shorts.  Besides, what's with the extra step.  What do I look like, Emeril Lagasse?  Six big cookies it is.

On the left is one of the six big cookies that were baked from this package, and the frosting from one of two packets that were included.  Let me assure you, it's a much more generous amount of frosting that it appears to be in this photo.  I was dunk-a-rooing the hell out of these and still had leftover frosting after all of the cookies were eaten.

As far as them being "big" cookies, keep in mind that the size is in comparison to the mini Dunkaroos cookies that you get in the little snack packs.  Each one was about the circumference of seven regular Dunkaroos, and as thick as two stacked on top of one another.

Back in the 90's, if you had told the teenage me that as a 40 year old man, he would be sheltered at home to avoid a global pandemic while domestic terrorists lay siege to our Capitol, and that he would be spending this time taking pictures of big Dunkaroos next to little Dunkaroos to give an accurate Dunkaroo size comparison to total strangers, I think he'd be alright with it.  I mean, how bad could it really be if I still have Dunkaroos?

Jan 13, 2021

Can Watermelon Soda Change Your Life?

Mountain Dew - Major Melon
PepsiCo (2021)
Not bad, but a little too sweet.  I think it might be better if it had a bit more tang.

These Televisions Have A Snowy Picture

One month later, the stray CRT televisions are still sitting on the side of the road.  The NEPA winter has taken its toll on them.  I'm starting to suspect that they'll be sitting here long after the snow thaws.

Jan 12, 2021

Her Life Is In Your Hands, Dude

John Lennon (1981)
It was forty years ago today that the second single off of John Lennon's Double Fantasy album was released.  He recorded it just a few months before his death.

It's one of the most beautiful love songs ever recorded, and I'll be damned if it doesn't make me laugh unintentionally every time that I hear it, because when Lennon sings "please remember, my life is in your hands", all I can think of is Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Jan 11, 2021

The Cheetah Kid Has Been Discovered

The Cheetah Kid
WWF Monday Night Raw - January 11, 1993
One of the dark matches on the first ever episode of Monday Night Raw was The Cheetah Kid vs. Johnny Rotten.  At the time, they were independent wrestlers who were largely unknown.  Later that year, these opponents made their debut as a tag team at ECW Ultraclash in Philadelphia using the personas that they would use for the rest of their pro wrestling career.  The Cheetah Kid became "Flyboy" Rocco Rock and Johnny Rotten became Johnny Grunge.  Together as The Public Enemy, they were four time ECW Tag Team Champions.  They also won the WCW and NWA tag team championships 

I don't know if video footage exists of this dark mach from the first Monday Night Raw, but at least one photo of Rocco Rock as The Cheetah Kid is out there.  It was shared last October by Richard Land (@maskedwrestlers on Twitter and editor of The History Of WWE).

Jan 10, 2021

It Hasn't Got A Leg To Stand On

My toughest night as a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies was October 7th, 2011.  It was Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals - an elimination game.  The winner moves on in the playoffs and the loser goes home.

The Cardinals scored in the top of the 1st inning.  It ended up being their only run of the game, but it was enough.  Of course, I had no way of knowing that would be the case.  When I watched the Phillies bat in the bottom of the first, I had all the hope in the world, and every reason to believe the Fightin's would pull through.  After all, this was a team that won 102 games during the regular season.  We had Roy Halladay on the mound and a lineup that included Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.  Surely they could come back from a one run deficit with 27 outs to work with.  However, the situation grew more tense as each inning passed without the Phillies scoring a run.  The torture continued for over two hours.  It finally ended in the bottom of the 9th when Ryan Howard hit a weak ground ball up the middle and then collapsed with a torn Achilles tendon.  The Phillies lost the game, and they haven't been back to the post season since.

There are nine innings in a ballgame, and there are nine episodes in The Stand miniseries on CBS All Access.  After four episodes, I can say that this show feels a lot like that game in 2011.  With each passing episode of bungled, clunky storytelling, there's less time and fewer opportunities for this to end in a win.

I was truly excited for this miniseriesThe Stand is not only my favorite book; it's my favorite work of fiction in any medium.  To say that it has been a disappointment so far would be a massive understatement.  It's a sloppy mess with character development that has been so poor that it's almost non-existent.  It's not quite as horrible as The Dark Tower movie, but it doesn't even live up to the standards of the 1994 ABC miniseries, let alone do justice to the novel.

Part of the reason for this is that the show's creators decided to try to get cute with the flow of the story.  Rather than tell it as a linear story from start to finish, it jumps all over the place in time.  It seems like the gimmick was used to give the writers an opportunity to gloss over the pandemic and get to the Boulder Free Zone as soon as possible, but that does a great disservice to the story.  The first 230 pages of the novel - nearly 1/5th of the story - is the Captain Trips plague and its effects on the world.  It is the foundation upon which the rest of the story is built.  We are introduced to Stu, Nick, Larry, Frannie and Harold as the pandemic ends the world around them in just under a span of two weeks.  The miniseries hints at this with stunning visual effects and a few clips told in flashback, but it seems like it purposely doesn't tell the full story of the plague.  They decided to skip over the end of the world, and in so doing, they've made the rest of the story far less meaningful.

I'm sure that when the series is over, there will be fan edits that tell the story chronologically, but instead of improving the overall product, I think it will expose the CBS All Access miniseries for what it is: a version of The Stand that has been hacked to pieces, with more holes than a chunk of Swiss cheese, and with characters who were written with very little concern for the source material.

First of all, the Mother Abagail of the novel is a bad ass.  She is 108 years old and still makes her own biscuits in her farmhouse.  She also pumps her own water from the well, and kills her own chickens for her supper.  She is not a helpless old lady in a Colorado nursing home who is waiting for Nick to rescue her before she runs out of her pills, as this new miniseries would have you believe.  She also did not crave power and would never have been so arrogant as to refuse to speak to her neighbors in Boulder, insisting that they go through Nick.

Likewise, Fran Goldsmith is not the damsel in distress that she has been portrayed to be in this miniseries.  The Frannie in the novel would never attempt suicide, especially knowing that she is pregnant.  She may be intimidated by her mother in the parlor, but she is a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and stands her ground to make sure that she gets it, or at least that her voice is heard, loudly and clearly.

The worst injustice so far has been what this miniseries has done to Larry Underwood.  I'm left to wonder why they even bothered to include Rita Blakemoor in this adaptation.  The whole point of her character is to show Larry's growth from a selfish boy in a man's body into an honorable man who has come out the other side as a father to Leo, a husband to Lucy, and a leader to the Boulder Free Zone.  The Larry Underwood of the novel may have showed off by playing the Star Spangled Banner on guitar from the roof of his house in the world before Captain Trips, but that Larry was gone by the time they got to Boulder.

Like most of the others, the characters of Glen Bateman and Stu Redman have been cut down to the bone.  The 1994 ABC miniseries may not have been a perfect adaptation of the book, but it does a good job of capturing the bond of friendship between the old bald-headed sociologist and the good ol' boy from a dying East Texas town.  The 2020-21 miniseries barely does enough to make them acquaintances.

They started off by short changing the story of who Stu was in Arnette, Texas.  They then included a friendship between Stu and one of the plague center doctors, which was actually a pretty good addition to the story.  However, since that time, the character has been flat out boring and bears only a faint resemblance to the Stu of the novel.  He has no chemistry with Glen, or Fran, or anybody else.  He's just a generic guy in charge.

Glen is my favorite character of the novel, and while the 1994 miniseries cuts out quite a bit of what made him special in the novel (such as his theories about how society would come together after Captain Trips), the new miniseries seems like it wrote a brand new character from the ground up and just decided to call him Glen Bateman.  Frankly, if they were going to play him like this, they might as well have cut the character from the story altogether.

The only character that has been given any significant depth after four episodes is Harold Lauder.  In fact, if you've started watching this miniseries without ever reading the book or seeing the 1994 miniseries, you might think that he was the main character of the story.  In all fairness, Owen Teague has done a fantastic job in the role.

In fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with any of the acting performances so far.  They're just written so badly and so far from the source material that it has killed much of what makes The Stand such a fantastic story.  There's nothing to connect to with most of these characters.  There's no depth, no heart, no connections to each other or to the viewer.  Take Ralph Brentner: in the novel, he's a middle-aged, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth guy with a heart of gold who loves Mother Abagail like she was his own mother.  That character was replaced by "Ray" Brentner, who has had maybe a dozen words of dialogue total, and whose entire role thus far has been reduced to Queen's Guard to Mother Abagail - an extra who could just have easily appeared in the credits as "doorwoman with gun".

There are things that have been done well.  The choice of music has been excellent (though I do miss the haunting score of W.G. Snuffy Walden), and the visual effects have been quite good.  They didn't cheap out, that's for sure.  However, the writing and the story structure have made this really difficult to enjoy.  This is not The Stand.  It's some guy monkeying around with The Stand, and trying to add his own little twist on it, and screwing it up royally in the process.  It's such a shame.  This could have been great.