Jul 31, 2021

Mid-season Upgrade

It's been a strange trade deadline, even by the Phillies standards.  This graphic from NBC Sports only tells part of the story.  Pitching is the team's #1 priority, both in the bullpen and the back end of the rotation, but they also have a hole in center field and they have one of the worst defensive infields I have ever seen in my life.

The chatter among Phillies fans and members of the local sports media throughout the month has been that this may be the year that the team may finally go over the luxury tax threshold this summer.  Their argument is that even though the 2021 Phillies are heavily flawed, they may have lucked into a potential playoff spot as a result of the injury plagued Braves, Mets and Nationals.  My response to this is the same that it is every year - When John Middleton goes over the luxury tax once, I will concede the point that he may do so again in the future.  Until then, I don't believe for a second that they will budge over the threshold by a single dime.  Once again, they have lived up (or down) to my expectations, and they still have yet to go over the luxury tax since the it was implemented 24 years ago.

The Phillies have been hovering at or around .500 throughout the season, and they have more needs than they could possibly fill at the trade deadline, even if they weren't as weak on the farm as they are.  A good case could be made that they should have written off the 2021 season entirely and traded Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura for the best prospects they could get.  McCutchen is in the last year of his 3 year deal, and Segura is signed through 2022 with a team option for 2023.  Both are having a great season and probably could have injected some much needed young talent into our farm system.  I don't want to see either of them go - particularly Andrew McCutchen, who has been my favorite member of the team since he came to Philadelphia in 2019.  However, the team's chances of making the playoffs this year is slim, and even if they did manage to take advantage of an unusually weak NL East division and sneak into the post-season, they would almost certainly be knocked out in the first round.

As it turned out, the Phillies weren't sellers at the deadline, but they didn't go crazy in acquiring talent either.

A reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke the news on Tuesday that the Phillies and Pirates agreed to a deal to send 31 year old left handed starter Tyler Anderson to Philadelphia in exchange for two young players from Clearwater that I have never heard of before this week: 20 year old pitcher Cristian Hernandez and 21 year old catcher Abrahán Gutiérrez..  It's not the kind of trade that sets the world on fire.  Anderson is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA this season - definitely an upgrade over our current options at the band end of the rotation, but not a superstar by any means.  Still, I was happy to hear that the trade happened.  It was an upgrade in the rotation that wouldn't cost too much in the way of top level prospects.  Well, not so fast because the trade didn't happen.  Evidently, the Pirates found something in Cristian's medical reports that they didn't like, so they pulled out of the deal and traded Anderson to the Mariners instead.  I swear, this could only happen to the Phillies.  Even the bland, unexciting trades fall through.  Sheesh!

We did end up making a trade with Pittsburgh after all.  On Friday morning, the Phillies acquired a 24 year old lefty named Braeden Ogle in exchange for Abrahán Gutiérrez (the Clearwater catcher from the previous trade proposal).  I've never heard of him before this week either, but who knows, maybe he'll contribute.  He has spent the season with the Triple A Indianapolis Indians and has yet to make his Major League debut.  I haven't really done any research on Ogle yet, but I suppose having a lefty starter to stash away in Allentown and maybe compete for a spot on the big league roster next spring can't be a bad thing.

The big trade of the deadline for the Phillies came a few hours later when the we acquired a starter, a closer and a pitching prospect from the Texas Rangers.  But before I start talking about the new faces in town, let's discuss the three young pitchers who are leaving Philadelphia: the Phillies have sent Josh Gessner, Kevin Gowdy and former top prospect Spencer Howard to the Rangers.

Right off the bat, I'm not at all worried about the loss of Gessner and Gowdy.  Neither of them have progressed with the organization, and quite frankly, they're longshots to reach the big leagues at all.  Gessner was signed out of Australia and hasn't gotten past rookie league.  Gowdy is held in a big higher regard since he was the Phillies second round draft pick in 2016, but he's going to be 24 this year and has had control issues.  The fact that he hasn't made it past Single A in nearly five years with the organization says it all.

The loss of Spencer Howard is the real news here, and if I'm being completely honest, I think a lot of the hand wringing that Phillies fans are doing over his inclusion in this deal is overblown.  He's had a handful of good innings at the Major League level, but they've been followed by a complete meltdown in nearly every appearance with his velocity falling off of a cliff by the third inning.  Unfortunately, he wasn't much better out of the bullpen either.  It's clear that the kid has stuff, but nothing I have seen out of him suggests that he has the physical conditioning to succeed at the big league level.  I'm sorry, if you can't pitch into the third inning, you're not going to make it.  I think there's an outside chance that the Rangers might be able to work with him and convert him into an effective closer.  Hell, he might even be able to develop into a great closer.  However, the odds are that he's a heck of a lot closer to being the next Kyle Drabek than the next Cole Hamels.  I think the Phillies did the right thing by getting something of value for him in a trade while they still can.  By this time in 2022 or 2023, I don't think he'll be more likely to switch teams in a waiver claim than as the centerpiece of a package at the trade deadline.

Frankly, I'm of the opinion that if the Phillies get any production out of Gibson and Kennedy at all, they will have robbed the Rangers blind.

Speaking of which, the Phillies are getting three pitchers plus $4 million in cash from the Rangers, which will keep them under the luxury tax threshold (surprise, surprise).  Kyle Gibson is the centerpiece.  He was an All-Star this season and comes to Philadelphia with a 6-3 record and a 2.87 ERA this season.  He's 33 years old and has been an average mid-rotation starter throughout his career, but if we're being completely honest about the 2021 Phillies, he is coming into this team as it's second best starter behind Zack Wheeler.  Yes, I know Aaron Nola has been very impressive in some starts, but he's been pretty bad in a few others.  With more than half of the season in the books, Gibson has a 2.5 WAR to Nola's 2.0, so if you're a believer in stats over hype, Kyle Gibson has been a significantly better pitcher than Aaron Nola in 2021.  He's also signed through the end of next year, which gives the Phillies fewer gaps to fill in the rotation this winter.

The Phillies are also getting a pretty good closer in the deal.  Ian Kennedy has 16 saves with the Rangers and a 2.51 ERA in over 31 innings.  He's only signed through the end of this season, but at 36 years old, that's a good thing.  Maybe they bring him back in 2022 on a one-year deal or maybe they look elsewhere.  Either way, this trade brings a highly effective closer to the Phillies bullpen without putting them on the hook for an outrageous mult-year contract to an aging veteran.

Finally, the Phillies are getting a pitching prospect of their own named Hans Crouse in the deal.  The Rangers took the right hander in the second round of the 2017 draft.  He's pitched in Double-A this year in his age 22 season and has an ERA of 3.35 over 51 innings, striking out over 27% of the batters he's faced while walking 9.7%.  I don't know enough about him to guess what his ceiling might be, but he was considered a top 10 prospect in the Rangers organization, and has been reported to be the 4th highest ranked prospect when slotted into the Phillies farm system.  I'm not saying that Crouse will have more success at the big league level than Spencer Howard, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.  Even if he doesn't make it, we can already thank him for Twitter gems such as this:

It's facts like this that you just can't get on Phantavision.  Thanks Rob!

Last, but not least, there was one feel-good story that came out of this whole mess.  It was announced right at the 4 pm deadline that Freddy Galvis was coming back home.  The Phillies traded 23 year old Clearwater pitcher Tyler Burch to the Orioles to reacquire our shortstop.

Freddy Galvis is truly one of my favorite Phillies players of all time.  At one time, he was the best defensive shortstop in the game, and even at 31 years old, he has the fifth best fielding percentage among all MLB shortstops.  He's not the strongest bat in the lineup and he never has been, but the dude plays the game like he enjoys it, and like he has something to prove every time he steps foot on the diamond.  Since he was a young kid in Reading, he has exceeded expectations at every level and carved out a respectable career in the big leagues for nearly ten years, including time spent with the Padres, Blue Jays, Reds and Orioles.  He will definitely bring a much needed defensive upgrade to our middle infield when he comes off the injured list in early August.  I hope to see Girardi give the bulk of the playing time to Ronald Torreyes, Jean Segura and Freddy Galvis with Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius spending a little more time on the bench for the rest of the season.

So, to summarize, I think the Phillies made short and long-term improvements without costing them anything that they're likely to miss.  Are they massive improvements?  No - but they are improvements.  If I'm being objective, I don't think they did enough to win the NL East this year, but I don't think they necessarily should have.  They're not a strong enough team in 2021 to justify blowing through all of their top prospects and going all-in this year.  However, I suspect that these are the first steps in Dave Dombrowski's plan for the franchise, and I think they were steps in the right direction.

Jul 30, 2021

A Jar Jarring Experience

Brick City by Warren Elsmore
Reading Public Museum - Reading, PA
For the past nine years, Warren Elsmore has been building large and intricate models out of Lego bricks.  Some of these are part of an art display at the Reading Public Museum called Brick City.  It will be exhibited through September 6th.

We got to see many of his models yesterday, including a massive one of the London Underground.  I'll write more about those and the other exhibits at the museum at another time.  However, there was an easter egg in the Las Vegas exhibit that I wanted to share right now.

My wife and I got married and had our honeymoon in Las Vegas ten years ago.  We stayed at The Luxor, which is the giant black pyramid on the Vegas Strip, so I was curious to see how it looked in Lego form.  There's the pyramid right where it's supposed to be, and the obelisk standing tall.  And look, there's the Sphinx sitting in front of the... wait a minute...

Is that... could it be... it is!  It's Jar Jar Sphinx!

Mesa guarding the slot machines and the blackjack tables.

Jul 29, 2021

I'm Suddenly Hungry For A Big Bucket Of Chicken

This photo is from the Harold Mayer Collection, which is now archived in the American Geographical Society Library.  It was recently shared on Twitter by Kodachrome Forever.  It was taken in the summer of 1973 and shows a section of Virginia Avenue near the Atlanta airport.

Jul 28, 2021

One Bourbon, One Burger, One Meal

Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger
Wendy's (2021)
This is the best bacon cheeseburger I've had from a fast food restaurant in a long time.  It's a quarter pound burger topped with Applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, onions and a smoky bourbon bacon sauce.  It's definitely worth picking up.

Jul 27, 2021

Shot Full Of Diamonds

Smashing Pumpkins Screen Raver
Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
Siamese Dream was released 28 years ago.  It's one of my favorite albums of all time, and I played it constantly throughout high school.  When the album was released, the band also released these floppy discs that contained a "screen raver".  It was basically just a light show that was programmed to play in time with Geek USA when you put Siamese Dream in the CD Rom tray.

I never had the computer disc, but I downloaded the screen raver back in the 28.8 dial up days in the mid 90's.  The program has long since been lost, but Saint Marie Records uploaded it as a video on YouTube.  If you want to experience 5 minutes and 13 seconds of my freshman year in high school, go find an old IBM Aptiva with a CRT monitor and a set of cheap speakers, hook it up on an old beat desk in a room with dark wood paneling, turn off all of the lights except a blacklight bar from Spencer's and click the video below.

Jul 26, 2021

Shooting The Cheep Cheeps

Nintendo Entertainment System ad
Hills (1986)
This advertisement for the NES and its peripherals was published in a Hills Back To School sales flyer in the summer of 1986 and was shared earlier this year on Twitter by @HillsDeptStores.  When I first saw it, I thought that the date was wrong because I don't remember the system being sold independently of R.O.B. and the Zapper back in 1986, but it is accurate.  The entire flyer has been archived on Newspapers.com which shows that it was published on July 26th, 1986.

That's a pretty good price for the NES and its games 35 years ago, even if the person in the ad is trying to play World 2-2 of Super Mario Bros. with a light gun.

Jul 25, 2021

Does This Count As Breakfast?

Fruity Pebbles Candy Bar
Frankford Candy Company (2021)
This is a product that delivers exactly what you're expecting.  The creamy white chocolate mixed with crunchy cereal makes this bar taste like you're eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal with milk.  I wouldn't be too surprised to see more partnerships between confectioners and cereal producers for cross-branded products like this.  I'll bet Apple Jacks would be pretty good as a candy bar too.

Jul 24, 2021

A Tale As Old As Time

Beauty And The Beast
Dutch Apple Dinner Theater - Lancaster, PA
Today is our 10th wedding anniversary and 15th anniversary as a couple.  My wife has always been a big Disney fan, so we're spending the day in Lancaster and seeing the musical production of Beauty & The Beast at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater.

My wife is the kindest and most supportive and loving person I have ever known.  I'll never know what she sees in me, but I'm glad that she sees it.

Our first trip to the Dutch Apple was back in 2009 when we went to see The Wedding Singer: the Musical.  It was a great show, and we've been back many times over the past 12 years.  For a little while, it became a Christmas tradition that we shared with my Dad and stepmom.  No matter what show they were doing, we always had an excellent time.  I'm not really a big fan of musical theater in general, but I have enjoyed every show I've ever seen here.

The food at Dutch Apple always very good.  Today, they had prime rib at the carving station with baked fish, cherry glazed ham and fried chicken on the buffet.  For dessert, they had ice cream and a bunch of different kinds of cake and pie.

This is actually the first time I've ever seen any version of Disney's Beauty & The Beast.  I never saw the 1991 animated film or the 2017 live action adaptation.  In fact, the only version of Beauty & The Beast that I ever remember seeing is the television series from the 80's starring Linda Hamilton, and that's only because my mother used to watch it when I was a kid.  I've had so little exposure to this in my life that I didn't know the song "Be Our Guest" was from this movie.  I thought it was just an old Disney song from the 60's that they used in commercials for Disney World (and parodied by Mr. Burns in The Simpsons).

I knew I was going to enjoy the show because Dutch Apple always does a fantastic job, but their production of Beauty & The Beast was exceptional.  The actress who played Belle had a beautiful voice, and the actor who played Gaston was hysterically funny.  He reminded me of Jim Carey because he had that rubber face quality when he laughed.  It's only going to be in Lancaster through the end of July, but I'd highly recommend it to anyone, whether they're a fan of Disney, or a fan of musicals, or if they're like me and just like to see a great show.

Jul 23, 2021

A Horror Christmas In July

I wouldn't blame any newcomers to this blog if they believed that I was a paid advertiser of the Mahoning Drive-In, but I promise that this is not the case.  The fact that it has become a glorified love letter to the theater throughout this summer is purely a result of my actually falling in love with the place.  The only place in the world that has given me this many wonderful nights and happy memories is the boardwalk at Wildwood in the 80's.

There were a few vendor tables set up near the concession building, including an awesome seller of horror themed bath products, candles and home decor called Ice Cream & Gore.  We brought home an awesome Killer Klowns From Outer Space ice cream cup.  They were selling one that light up, but I opted for the no-light version because this isn't going to be a display piece. I fully intend to make this my drive-in cup.  It holds 49 oz and it fits in the cup holder in my camping.  It's perfect!  We also got this sign which will be hanging up in our kitchen very soon.

The vehicle that pulled up next to us in the lot was The Mutant Mom Menu family.  They had an awesome snack bar set up at the Jamboree last weekend that was an attraction in and of itself.  It was themed as a cannibal delicatessen, and they were selling all kinds of goodies, including seasoning blends, meatballs and beef jerky.  I didn't take many pictures of it because they incorporated their children in the act, and I try to avoid taking pictures of kids that I don't know.  It's a crazy world, and I don't ever want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  Anyway, we talked with them throughout the night and they're very cool and incredibly talented and creative folks.  They shared some of their root beer beef jerky with us.  I never would have thought to combine these flavors, but it was delicious!

The special themed meal of the day at the concession stand was Naughty Or Nice Nuggies, which were very tasty.  They had a little kick, but they weren't nearly as spicy as the VHS Zest Nuggets from VHS Fest.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  I love spicy foods, but my stomach isn't the cast iron Sarlacc Pit that it used to be.

The first half of tonight's double feature was the 1984 slasher classic; Silent Night, Deadly Night.  When I was a kid, I would hover around the horror section at Blockbuster Video and stare at the VHS box for this movie, hoping that this would be the day that my grandfather would let me rent a Rated R movie.  It was one of the first movies I rented when I was old enough to go to the video store by myself, and I absolutely loved it!  Now, at 41 years old, I got to see an original 35mm print of it at the drive in.

If you want to know why I praise this place so much, consider this:  When the movie got to the part where the police are out hunting for Billy Chapman after he had just killed a bunch of folks while dressed as Santa, the production manager at the Mahoning wandered the lot in a full Santa costume while carrying an axe.  This wasn't a toy axe, by the way.  It was a god damned axe!  He snuck up on cars and folks who were sitting out in lawn chairs to scare the hell out of them and take pictures with them.  There was also a woman cosplaying Linnea Quigley after she was impaled by deer antlers.  Seriously, name one other place in the world whose team does this many awesome and unexpected things to make a visit even more fun and memorable.

It got a little chilly when the sun went down, so it was a perfect night to pick up some chips and hot nacho cheese during intermission.  Since I started coming to the Mahoning, I have fallen head over heels in love with Rico and Pepe.  This is going to end up being my first cosplay at the drive-in if I ever get the motivation to put it together.

The second movie of the night was Christmas Evil.  It's a 1980 holiday slasher that was originally released under the title You Better Watch Out, and it stars Brandon Maggart, who is the father of singer Fiona Apple.  It's a good movie, but the beginning of it does drag on for a bit, so you have to be patient for the first 30 minutes to fully appreciate it.  Unfortunately, the owner of the only known 35mm print of this film had hurt his shoulder and wasn't able to ship it to the Mahoning in time for the show, so this was a digital screening.  Seriously, I have the utmost respect for Virgil and the team, not only for their efforts to screen the original 35mm prints of films, but for having a backup plan and for being forthcoming with the audience when things like this happen.

Horror Christmas In July will continue on Saturday with Silent Night Deadly Night: Part 2 and Black Christmas, but we won't be in attendance for that one.  As awesome as that double feature sounds, tomorrow is our 10th wedding anniversary, so we will be in Lancaster to see a musical production of Beauty And The Beast.  It's good to fill your weekend with a night of axe murders and a musical love story.  It brings balance to The Force.

Jul 22, 2021

Who Can Turn The World On With His Prostate

A Man and His Prostate starring Ed Asner
Majestic Theater - Pottsville, PA
When my dad mentioned to me that he and my stepmom were going to see a one man play featuring Ed Asner, my reaction probably wasn't as graceful as it could have been.  I looked up and said "holy shit, he's still alive".  When I was a kid, I used to watch him as Lou Grant on reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that aired on Nick At Nite.  The series ran from 1970 to 1977 and he was an older man back then, before I was born.  I was surprised to see that he was still acting when I saw Elf in theaters back in 2003.  He was 74 years old at the time and it was awesome to see him as Santa Claus, but I thought for sure that he must have just come out of retirement for one role.  Evidently, that wasn't the case.  Not only is Mr. Asner still very much alive (he'll be 92 years old this November), but he's touring small theaters across the United States to talk about his prostate.

I'm not sure what I was expecting this to be, but it was a very funny show.  Mr. Asner performed as himself and told a fictitious account of a cruise that he and his wife took to Italy that took a slight detour when he was rushed to the hospital with prostate trouble.  His wit and comedic timing are as sharp as ever, and his trademark gruff voice has barely changed from his days as Lou Grant.

This is definitely a show worth seeing if it comes to your area.  You'll laugh.  You'll cry.  Well, you probably won't cry, but you'll come out of the show with a brand new appreciation of your prostate and the difficulties a man can have while trying to test his sexual equipment when he's alone in Rome on Easter Sunday.

Jul 21, 2021

For Your Cheesy Wardrobe

There are enough people in this world who would pay $14.99 to wear the prep instructions for Kraft Mac & Cheese to warrant a t-shirt. (source: @ItsThatJunkman)

Jul 20, 2021

Godzilla Conquers Lehighton

Godzilla vs Gigan
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
When I was seven years old, my mother and I lived in an apartment on First Street in Hazleton.  Our neighbors were the Zapotocky family, and we spent a lot of time hanging out with them.  Their son, Dominic, was a few years older than me and he taught me a lot about baseball and baseball cards.  His father (who everyone called "Zap") introduced me to Godzilla.  There was a shelf on his entertainment center below the VCR where he must have had a dozen Godzilla tapes which he would watch from time to time, and from the moment I first saw the King Of The Monsters, I was hooked.  This was awesome!

The screening of Godzilla vs. Gigan at the Mahoning Drive-in was a surreal experience for me.  It was very well attended, but it felt almost empty after the thousands of members of the Mutant Fam that were here for Joe Bob's Jamboree last weekend.  We didn't bring Harvey to the Jamboree because he tends to get restless around big groups of people, but Tunnel Vision Tuesdays are great to bring my furry little friend to the drive-in.  It's a single feature night, so he doesn't mind curling up on my lap for a few hours - especially when he gets to steal the occasional chicken finger or spoonful of mac n' cheese.

As usual, the Mahoning was screening an original 35mm of the movie.  Tonight's feature was the English language version of Godzilla vs. Gigan, which went by the title Godzilla On Monster Island.  It's a strange name for the American release because the plot really doesn't have anything to do with Monster Island.  However, it is the setting of a hilarious conversation - in English - between Godzilla and Anguirus.  Yes friends, Godzilla speaks in this film, and it is glorious!

This is one of my favorite Godzilla flicks.  The story centers around World Children's Land, a theme park that has been built by cockroaches from outer space who have come to our planet disguised as humans.  Their mission is to lure Gigan and King Ghidorah to Earth so they can destroy civilization and move their species here to rise from its ashes.  Another weapon in their arsenal is Godzilla Tower, an office building that has a giant Godzilla statue clinging to its side.  Little do our heroes know that this Godzilla statue shoots lasers from its eyes.  Thankfully for the Earthlings, Godzilla and Anguirus swim in from their home on Monster Island and send the evil monsters packing while our human heroes, led by an intrepid Manga artist, take on the diabolical cockroaches in disguise.

Godzilla vs. Gigan was released in Japan in 1972, and made it to American theaters in 1977.  It is the last Godzilla film in which the title character was played by Haruo Nakajima, the actor who donned the Godzilla costume in the original 1954 film.

Before the feature, Virgil took a moment to thank the fans of the Mahoning Drive-in for their efforts to save the theater and oppose the project that would have seen it torn down to build a solar energy farm.  I know it may seem a little silly, but I wanted to preserve that moment here, just as a reminder of how close we came to losing this incredible place, and how important it is that we appreciate the things in our life that bring us joy and happiness. 

And since I recorded the intro to the film, I figured I might as well record the message that sent us all home at the end of the night.  That's pretty much what this blog is about - preserving the memories that get lost in the shuffle of our daily lives.  Some of them are big things.  Some of them are ordinary things that I have learned to not take for granted.  I know as I sit here today that I'm going to experience this theater many more times in my life.  Hell, I'll be back on Friday!  But life has a way of pulling the rug out from under us, or changing so gradually over time that you don't realize how different the world around you has become until it is unrecognizable to the one you once knew.  We rarely recognize when we're experiencing something for the very last time.  So, before that happens, I like to preserve those ordinary, everyday things while we're still in the moment, just in case.

Jul 19, 2021

Dude, There's No Way I Can Possibly Do Infinity Push-ups

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures (1991)
My grandfather took me to the theater to see both of the Bill & Ted movies when I was a kid.  The first one was no trouble - it was showing at the Church Hill Cinema on Rt. 309 in Hazleton, which was our local movie theater before it was turned into an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

The sequel, which debuted in theaters 30 years ago today, was not as easy to track down.

This is purely speculation on my part, but here's what I think happened.  When it was still in production, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey was called "Bill & Ted Go To Hell".  This wasn't some obscure piece of movie trivia either - it was common knowledge at the time.  I remember my friends and I talking about it in school when I was in fifth grade in the spring before it was released.

My guess is that when the Church Hill Cinema got the list of movies to choose from, they took one look at "Go To Hell" in the title and decided that it wasn't family-friendly enough to order.  The late 80's and early 90's were a very different time.  It was a time when parents and teachers absolutely lost their minds at a t-shirt that showed Bart Simpson with a speech bubble that said "I'm Bart Simpson.  Who the hell are you?"  The name of the film was changed to Bogus Journey, but I'm thinking the theater had already placed their orders and planned out their summer schedule, so they told Bill & Ted to go to hell and passed on the film altogether, despite the name change.

I don't remember if we saw it at the drive-in or if we went up to Wilkes-Barre to see it at the theater in the Wyoming Valley Mall.  What I do remember is that my grandfather loved the character of the Grim Reaper, played by William Sadler.  He especially loved the line "You might be a king or a street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper" from the end of the movie.  We both really enjoyed the movie.  If I had to choose a favorite, I'd pick Excellent Adventure over Bogus Journey, but this movie is a hell of a lot of fun (no pun intended), so if you haven't seen it yet, you can enjoy it tonight for the first time on its 30th birthday.

Jul 18, 2021

The Night Of The Living Hogenstein

Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree
Sunday, July 18th, 2021
Mahoning Drive In - Tamaqua, PA
This has been one of the most fun and incredible events that I have ever had the privilege of being a part of.  I can't begin to express how thankful I am that this happened and that it was so close to my home.  Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  Here are some memories of the last day of the first annual Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree.

This groovy coffin car was made by Jonathan Miksch and The Haunted Forestry Service.  It was set up outside of the concession building with lights and smoke and was a big hit.

There were quite a few horror-themed vehicles on the lot, but one of my favorites was this one which was parked near the concession stand.  My old Nestle brain kicked in when I saw the Eye Scream Sundae on the menu.  That would probably sell if they did it right - a vanilla or chocolate base with mini chocolate eyeballs as the inclusion and a cherry or strawberry syrup as the variegate.  Sign me up!

Jow shared this photo of The Kilted Creature, who was the first of the musical performances of the day.  This is a dude who plays guitar and bagpipes while dressed as the punk rock incarnation of The Creature From The Black Lagoon.  Unfortunately, I missed his set, and I'm pretty bummed out about it because I was looking forward to seeing him and I heard he was incredible.  The highlight was when he played Purple Rain on the bagpipes which was shared on Twitter by T. Denton.

The first group I was able to see was a Philadelphia-based duo called A Piano and a Cocktail Murderess, which is comprised of Liz Zimmerman on vocals and Matthew Stevenson on keyboard.  They were damn good!  I'm not sure if the absinthe parlor in Jim Thorpe is still open, but they had a vibe that would fit right in there.  The highlight of their set for me was an excellent cover of Satan Gave Me A Taco - a Beck tune that definitely belongs in the playlist of any Mutant gathering.

The next band that took the stage was called Ghoul Friends.  This wasn't my cup of tea, but having said all that, keep in mind that I'm a dude in my early 40's whose musical taste skews to the thirty year period of 1965 to 1995.  They had a few spoken word in between their songs where the lead singer talked about the band's appreciation of squares (the geometric shape - not square people) which reminded me a bit of the story elements of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday by Phish

Timmy's Creep Show was the next band.  I'm not sure if it's Creep Show or Creepshow (I've seen it written both ways) but they were one of my favorite groups that performed this weekend.  I especially enjoyed their spot-on cover of Love Buzz.  The lead singer was wearing the tiger shirt that Nicholas Cage wore in Mandy, and the cosplay progressed to the bathroom scene when he performed the second half of his set with a blood stained face in his tighty whities.

There was an impromptu encore performance by John Brennan & The Bigfeet.  They did a set on Saturday night, but they wanted to tape some footage, so we got to hear The Drive-In Oath, Tearing The Heart Out Of Saturday Night, and an awesome cover of the second half of Metallica's OneJohn invited folks up on stage with the band.  That's Gerald in the Aloha shirt standing next to him.

The last band that performed was Lords Of October, and they weren't at all what I was expecting.  I'm going to go ahead and blame Psychopathic Records for this, but I've been conditioned to expect horrorcore when I see musicians in black clothes and white facepaint.  No disrespect intended to ICP and Twiztid, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that these guys have a very different sound.  They're a damn good hard rock band.  The website describes their music as "a mix between The Misfits, Anthrax and Goblin" and that's fair, but truth be told, I think they have a sound that's pretty unique and awesome in and of itself.

The paper that had the setlist blew away during the show, so they either had a good memory or they winged it for the rest of the set.  I'm not familiar with their own material, but they did rock covers of the Monster Mash and the theme song from Scooby Doo which were awesome.  I'm going to spend some time digging through their Spotify this week.

Before the movies began, Angie wanted to get a selfie with Ernie the Bearded Dragon who appears in every episode of The Last Drive-In.  He belongs to the show's producer, Austin Jennings, and was riding around on his shoulder throughout the Jamboree.

When the sun starts to set, it's time to hit up the concession stand for a bucket of popcorn and some Rico's Nachos (sí).  They were sold out of the Jamboree Burger, but the regular cheeseburgers are pretty darn tasty too.  Then, all that's left to do is get settled in to a good spot and enjoy the show!

The highlight of the night was Joe Bob's Drive-In Of Dread, which is one of the most unique and fun concepts that I have ever seen.  It was a Joe Bob hosted movie event with two classic horror films, similar to Monstervision on TNT and The Last Drive-In on Shudder.  However, the segments were filmed in the projection booth at the Mahoning, and they had an ongoing story in which mutant redneck zombies had taken over the drive-in and were terrorizing the audience who were outside watching the movie.

While this was happening on the screen, mutant redneck zombies were roaming the property, sneaking up behind folks who were watching the movie from their camping chairs on the lawn, and invading the vehicles of the fans who were watching from their cars.

To fully appreciate this, keep in mind two important things: it was pitch black outside, with the only light coming from the screen and the occasional radio or cell phone on the lot, and the costumes and makeup of the mutant redneck zombies was outstanding.  This wasn't just a couple of people in Spirit Store costumes saying boo; this was a combination of costumes, masks, makeup and props that must have taken a hell of a lot of time and love to put together.  Also, the people who were playing the mutant redneck zombies were committed to their role.  One dude took off running after people at top speed, like something out of 28 Days Later.  Another one was literally crawling on the ground and would lay flat behind your chair before bursting up to scare the hell out of you.  The main zombie was called Hogenstein, who was a ridiculously large dude in a costume that served as a throwback to Hogzilla.  It was incredible!

The story that played out during Joe Bob and Darcy's segments that took place throughout the two movies was awesome!  Joe Bob was doing what he does - talking about the movie that we're watching, share facts and stories, and going on the occasional rant that goes way off topic.  Meanwhile, Darcy was trying to get him to recognize that there was a zombie attack on the lot.  Naturally, Joe Bob no-sold this for as long as he could, downplaying the fact that there was anything out of the ordinary going on.

Eventually, Joe Bob began to take the threat seriously, and he attempted to educate the audience on the creatures who were waging war with is and with each other.  They fall into one of three groups: the Stankens, the Strankens and the Shankens, with one massive mutant that everyone was afraid of: Hogenstein.

John Brennan played the Lon Chaney role throughout the night.  He appeared as a variety of characters, including The Hooded Harbinger Of Doom and a gun toting member of the Shankens.

The first movie of Joe Bob's Drive-In Of Dread was the original 1953 classic House Of Wax, starring the great Vincent Price.  It's an incredible horror classic that was made that much better with the random screams from other folks in the audience as they were scared by the mutant zombie rednecks who were roaming the lot.  There was a group sitting behind me on my left hand side that they kept going back to scare.  They were great screamers!

The second feature was the 1954 creature feature - Them! - in which giant nuclear ants pose a threat to the future of humanity.  This is one of my wife's favorite movies because she watched it with her grandmother when she was a little girl.

This is the last few seconds of Joe Bob's Drive-In Of Dread.  I didn't really capture any video recordings of the event except for some of the performances on the music stage, but I wanted to preserve the end of the Jamboree.  What I didn't expect is that after Joe Bob and Darcy said good night to the crowd and the screen went dark, there was one more awesome moment to come.  One of the mutant zombie rednecks who had been scaring the group sitting behind us throughout the night was hiding and waiting for the perfect moment to scare them one last time when they least expected it.  What a perfect end to an incredible event!

I can't begin to express how great this whole experience was.  I'm an awkward dude, and I have a difficult time making friends with people sometimes.  When I'm in big crowds or with people that I just met, I tend to second guess the things I say and assume that I don't belong and that people would rather not have me around.  It's something I've dealt with for many years, and I recognize that most of it is in my head.  I'm not gonna lie - those feelings popped up in my head during the Jamboree too, but it was such an overwhelmingly fun and supportive environment that I was able to quickly overcome them and have a great time.  I can't wait for the Jamboree next year!