Nov 27, 2021

So I've Got That Going For Me, Which Is Nice



Caddyshack Gopher Traxs
Serendipity Ice Cream (2021)
Earlier this year, I found Serendipity's ice cream flavor that was inspired by The Goonies.  It was called Sloth & Chunk's Rocky Rooooaad, which was a dark chocolate stuffed with almonds and marshmallow chunks.



This one was inspired by my favorite comedy film of all time, Caddyshack.  It's called Gopher Traxs, which is made up of vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and a salted caramel swirl.  Very tasty!

They've got one more movie flavor that I'd like to try.  It's called Oh Fudge Peppermint Cookie Fudge Sundae, and it's inspired by A Christmas Story.  So far, I've only been able to find Serendipity Ice Cream at Giant and Wawa, and neither of them had it yet.

Nov 26, 2021

It's The Biggest Shopping Day Of The Year, I Tell You...



Life Is Cruel socks
Tears For Fears (2021)
Who says socks can't be the perfect holiday gift?  Don't get me wrong, I love Tears For Fears.  I've been a fan of their music since I was five years old, I've been to see them in concert twice, and I'm going to see them again when they go on tour for their new album.  However, I've got to draw the line at $20 socks that say "life is tough" and "life is cruel".

It's not quite as strange as the Ropeless Jump Rope or the Harlem Globetrotters email that I got on Black Friday, but it's up there.

Nov 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving




Dad came over for Thanksgiving dinner, and Little Harvey has been glued to his side since he got here.

An Italian Thanksgiving



Aldi's stocks some pretty awesome seasonal goodies throughout the year.  Some of the things that I found earlier this month were Turkey Cranberry and Bourbon Sweet Potato Ravioli, and a jar of Pumpkin Chipotle pasta sauce.  They're not going to replace turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving day, but they made a delicious lunch earlier this week.



I'm looking forward to seeing if they have any interesting ravioli flavors for Christmas season.

Nov 24, 2021

The Return Of The Amish Comic



Raymond The Amish Comic
Cinema & Drafthouse - West Hazleton, PA
A few months before the pandemic began, we went to see Raymond The Amish Comic on the night before Thanksgiving.  It was only two years ago, but with all of the craziness that has happened in the world since that night, it feels like it could have been a hundred.  At the time, we had never heard of the phrase "social distancing", and if you had said coronavirus to me, I would have thought you caught something from a bottle of beer.



Raymond wasn't able to perform in Hazleton last year at this time when the world was still shut down, but I'm glad to say that he's back in 2021.  He was hysterically funny as always.  If you ever have a chance to see him, definitely don't miss it.



It was a very nice night out with the family, and a great kickoff to Thanksgiving weekend.  Hope to do it again next year!

Nov 23, 2021

Back To The Conyngham Brewing Company



I've been working my way through the draught list at the Conyngham Brewing CompanyLast time, I had the Grodziskie, the Jalapeno Lager and the Gruit.  Last Saturday, I tried three more.  From left to right, they are Ginger Lemongrass Saison, Into Darkness, and Shipwreck Stout II.



I enjoyed all of them, but the Ginger Lemongrass was by far my favorite of the three.  Into Darkness was very good, but it's also very sweet.  It would be perfect to have while sitting in front of a fireplace watching the snow fall on a cold winter night.

Nov 22, 2021

Admire As Much As You Can



Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
Tower Theater - Upper Darby, PA
We originally had tickets to see this exhibition on Halloween, but it got crossed up with our plans to go to the Mahoning Drive-In for Dee Wallace Night.  As luck would have it, my dad had tickets to the same show for the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so we just swapped tickets.



We got the VIP package, which includes a VR experience at the end of the exhibit and a poster print of The Starry Night from the gift shop.  We also got to skip the line, which was pretty cool since they were doing timed entries due to the Covid pandemic.



Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is being held in cities all over the world.  It has already finished its run in Brussels, Linz, Naples, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Hangzhou and Holon, and is currently being exhibited in New York, Boston, Houston, Miami, Seattle, London and Berlin, among other places.  Locally, it's being shown at the historic Tower Theater in Upper Darby, just outside of Philadelphia.




There were several rooms with displays, including a timeline of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, facts about his art, and lit displays of many of his most famous works.  These included my favorite of his paintings, Cafe Terrace At Night, which he finished in 1888.  There was also an app that you could download and use as you were going through the exhibition, but I couldn't get it to work on my phone.

It was pretty crowded, and the lighting made it difficult to take pictures without a reflection (especially for the written displays), but it was very nicely put together and a lot of fun to walk through.


This is a moment where I really wish I had headphones.  It was a beautiful three dimensional display of a vase with Van Gogh's artwork projected onto it, with peaceful music playing.  It was sort of nestled down a short, dark hallway with benches on the left and right hand side where you could sit and get lost for a while.  Well, you could have if not for the nonstop conversation from random strangers.  I get it.  This display is for everyone, and folks have the right to chit chat with each other, but I really do wish I could have sat here by myself for a little while.



This display was the centerpiece of the display that showed the influence that Japanese artwork had on Van Gogh's own work.  He never had the opportunity to travel to Japan in his short life, but in letters to his brother Theo, he admired the Ukiyo-e woodblock paintings.  Many of his works blend elements of this style with his own.
 


There was a three dimensional walk-in display of the three paintings that Van Gogh did of his bedroom.  This reminded me a lot of the Seward Johnson work that we saw at Grounds For Sculpture earlier this year.



The exhibit had a display that puts The Bedroom paintings into context.  Van Gogh lived in this room at 2 Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône in the South of France from 1888 - 1889, so when you look at these three works, you are seeing, through the artists eyes, the place where Van Gogh slept in the years that they were painted.
 


On May 8th, 1889, Van Gogh committed himself to the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum.  He had a studio space at the asylum where he finished 150 paintings and nearly 100 drawings in a single year.  Many of these works are of the asylum itself, including the entrance hall, which he painted in 1889.  It was represented at the exposition by a three dimensional display.  It wasn't quite as deep as the one of The Bedroom, but definitely very cool.



The main event of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience was a large sitting room with high definition projectors on all sides of the room.  It really is something that has to be experienced because a written description or a photo isn't going to do justice to how incredible it feels to lay back and surround yourself with the works of Vincent Van Gogh.  The projections have animated parts of his work and added voiceovers from letters that the artist wrote to his brother.

We stayed in this room for a long time.  I took a few video clips and stitched them together to a single file.


The video really doesn't capture how amazing this display is.  If you have the opportunity to see this exhibit in a city near you, please do so.  It's not very expensive, and it's definitely an experience worth having.
 


The next room in the exhibition was a studio area with pages to color your own Vincent Van Gogh masterpiece and share it with other art lovers.


I've scanned four of the coloring pages from the exhibit, just in case someone happens to stumble on this page who wasn't able to make it to the exhibit before it closes, or if it never runs in their area.  There were many more available, so if you go, you'll find a lot more than these.

Click on one of the images above to load a full size jpeg to print and color.



Last, but not least, there was a virtual reality experience at the end of the exhibition.  It's included if you get the VIP tickets, but it cost five dollars if you didn't, but it's definitely worth five bucks.  I fully acknowledge that I sound like an old man when it comes to VR, but this technology truly is amazing.  When I was growing up, the two things that pop culture always promised that the future would bring to us is virtual reality and flying cars.  While I don't expect flying cars any time soon, VR is just a few small steps away from creating high definition virtual worlds that are visually indistinguishable from the outside world.

The Van Gogh virtual experience was like walking through an animated world that resembled his paintings, with stops along the way of places and things that inspired his works, with the painting shown alongside these locations.  There was a narration that made it feel like Van Gogh himself was taking you through a tour of a part of his life, starting and ending at his bedroom.
 


The only thing that's a little tricky about coming to the Philadelphia exhibition is parking.  I'm not sure if The Tower Theater has a parking lot, but I couldn't find it if it does.  We just parked on the street about a block up from the theater.  The parking meters have a two hour time limit, so bring quarters and be ready to run out to your car if you need to feed the meter part way through the exhibit.

Nov 21, 2021

The Annual Thanksgiving Pre-Show Hoagie



The Gobbler
Wawa - Upper Darby, PA
Northeast PA is Sheetz country, so I have to go a bit out of my way if I want to pick up a Gobbler.  As luck would have it, I was in Philly for the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I was able to get my turkey hoagie.



Wawa makes a few different kinds of Gobbler, but the standard one is made up of chunks of hot turkey with stuffing and cranberry dressing on a classic hoagie roll.



It's a bit of a messy hoagie to eat in the car, but it's well worth it.  You're basically having a Thanksgiving dinner in a bun.  What's not to love about that?

Nov 20, 2021

Cinnamon From Mars



Snickers Cinnamon Bun
Mars (2021)
They've come up with a lot of different variations on the Snickers bar in recent years, but I haven't been overly impressed with any of them.  It's not that they weren't good, but the changes didn't really do to much to improve on the original bar, or even to have a significantly different flavor.  They all just kind of taste like Snickers bars with a very slightly different aftertaste or texture.



I'm glad to say that this isn't the case with Snickers Cinnamon Bun.  They definitely have a distinct flavor from the original Snickers bar.  The only thing that's slightly disappointing about them is the name.

This candy bar tastes like a Snickers with cinnamon sugar used in place of sugar.  They're very tasty and worth trying, but nothing about its flavor reminded me of a cinnamon bun.  My guess is that the marketing team found that the name "Cinnamon Bun" tested better with consumers than if they had just called it "Snickers Cinnamon", and I guess I can see their point if that was the case.

Nov 19, 2021

Nintendo's Birthday Week



The first two Nintendo consoles to use optical disc media have reached a milestone this week.  The Nintendo Gamecube was released in North America 20 years ago, on November 18th, 2001.  It was followed by the Nintendo Wii, which first became available in the United States exactly 15 years ago today, on November 19th, 2006.

I bought a Gamecube when I was living in Nebraska in the summer of 2002, but I didn't play it too much until many years later.  The Wii is kind of a bittersweet memory for me.  I didn't get the console when it first came out, and didn't even play one until 2010 when I saw a display at the Toys R Us on Times Square when we were in the city to see the A-ha Farewell Tour.  I enjoyed playing it at the store, and my grandparents never know what to get me for Christmas, so I asked for the Wii.  The thing that makes it bittersweet is that 2010 ended up being the last Christmas we all had together as a family when my grandfather was still alive.



Nintendo must really love to release consoles five weeks before Christmas, because in addition to the Gamecube, the Wii U console was also released in North America on November 18th.  It first appeared in 2012 and was the primary Nintendo home console until the Switch was introduced in March 2017.  The Wii U tablet controller is a bit of a hassle, and it doesn't do a great job of staying connected to Wifi, but it's still a pretty good system with a great library of virtual console games that I play often to this day.

Nov 18, 2021

MV3



Bryce Harper
2021 National League MVP
This season, the Phillies right fielder hit .309 with 35 homers, and a .429 on-base percentage, and he led all of Major League Baseball with a .615 slugging percentage and a 1.044 OPS.  He put the team on his back and kept the Phillies in the hunt for a playoff spot to the last week of the season.

Earlier today, he was named the NL MVP for the second time in his career, becoming only the fifth player in the history of the sport to win an MVP with two different teams.

Congratulations, Mr. Harper.

Tigers Will Do Anything For A Tuna Fish Sandwich



Calvin And Hobbes
Bill Watterson (1985)
Happy birthday to one of the greatest and most heartfelt works of comedy ever produced.  Calvin and Hobbes was first published in newspapers across the country on this date in 1985.  I don't think I've ever found a character in any work of fiction that I relate more closely to than Calvin, and my love for this comic and my respect for its creator, Mr. Bill Watterson, has only grown as I've gotten older.

Nov 17, 2021

Have You Overpaid For Nostalgia Today?



Atari XP Unreleased Edition Games
Atari (2021)
Earlier this week, Atari announced that they were releasing official Atari 2600 cartridges for games that never received an "official" physical release on the console.

The three games that are included in the initial AtariXP lineup are Aquaventure, Saboteur and Yars' Return.  Each of these games have been included in officially released products in the past, including Evercade, Atari Flashback plug-and-play consoles, and in compilations available for recent consoles, such as Atari Flashback Classics, which was released on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation Vita and Nintendo Switch.



Aquaventure is a game that I've never played before, but I've read a few highly complementary reviews.  Here is the description of the game from AtariXP:

The goal of Aquaventure is to dive to an undersea cavern and retrieve a treasure before running out of oxygen. As you make your way downward you must either avoid menacing sea creatures that harass and delay you, or kill them with your speargun. Killing them spawns replacements that are faster and stronger, so you need to pick your moments.

Sounds like fun.but hold on to your wallet until you get to the end of this post.



The second game is Saboteur, which was designed by the great Howard Scott Warshaw.  I first played this on the Atari Flashback, so I have a little experience with it, but I'm far from an expert on its gameplay.  I am told that the storyline takes place in the same universe as Yars' RevengeAtariXP had the following to say about it:

Saboteur is a creative, multi-level shooter developed by Howard Scott Warshaw in 1983 but never released. You play the game as a robot named Hotot. A strange race of blue aliens is using your planet to launch a galaxy-destroying warhead. With the help of a yellow birdlike race, you must destroy the rocket, disarm the warhead, and prevent your planets’ destruction.

To say that it was never released is a half-truth at best.  While it was not released as originally scheduled (in 1984, as The A-Team), a full cartridge release with box and instructions has been available for the past ten years on Atari Age with permission from its creator.  Frankly, the box art on the Atari Age release is much nicer, in my opinion.
  


Yars’ Return was created as an unofficial sequel to the Howard Scott Warshaw 2600 classic, Yars' Revenge.  It's the same style of game as its predecessor, but it significantly expands the playing field.



The official description on the AtariXP website currently describes the game as "invading alien insects that shoot at you from behind a barrier, and periodically dash across the barrier to nibble at your defensive shield".  The folks who wrote this are a little confused about the protagonist/antagonist relationship, because you're playing as the alien insect, and the object of the game is to nibble away at the defensive shield and destroy the ship inside.



Unfortunately, that's not the only thing that the website has gotten wrong.  They credit the design of Yars' Return to Howard Scott Warshaw and say that it was created and intended for release in 1983.  In fact, Mr. Warshaw confirmed that there was no Yars' Revenge sequel written or planned in 1983, and he had no role in the development of Yars' Return.  It was created two decades later by the late Curt Vendel as a rom hack of the original game, which was featured in the Atari Flashbacks consoles released as of 2005.  So, essentially, what AtariXP is doing here is slapping their logo on a rom hack from the 2000's with no credit to the person who did it and pretending that it's a long lost classic from the early 80's, while using the name of an iconic programmer to market it when he had nothing to do with it.

Each game is now available for pre-order on AtariXP.com.  There are two versions of each title: a standard edition for $49.99 and a Limited Edition for $149.99.  The website doesn't make it clear if the standard edition comes with anything other than the cartridge itself (no mention of box and instructions), but the Limited Edition will include a premium poster, a printed instructional manual with bonus material, a collectible pin and collectible badge, a certificate of authenticity, and a digital copy of the game playable on the Atari VCS.

Personally, while I loved Atari when I was growing up and still love the Atari games of the 70's, 80's and 90's to this day, I'm not at all a fan of the things that have been done under the Atari name over the past decade.  I will absolutely support the original designers of games who release cartridges of their work for vintage consoles, but I don't feel that this is what is going on here.  It feels to me like just another in a long line of shady practices from the current holders of the Atari IP to cash in on nostalgia.

As much as I love to play games on the original hardware, my recommendation is that you skip this entirely and get an Atari Flashbacks plug-and-play, or the Atari Flashbacks Classics on Switch (or whatever your primary console is).  Not only will you get all three of these games, but you'll get dozens more to play, and you won't break the bank on a "collectible" from a company that frankly doesn't deserve your money.

Nov 16, 2021

The Man Who Sprinted To A World Series Title



Herb Washington
Oakland Athletics (1974 - 1975)
Happy 70th birthday to a man who has had one of the most interesting careers in the history of Major League BaseballMr. Washington was a track and field runner who held records in both the 50 and 60 yard dash.  He was 22 years old and had no experience in pro baseball when he was signed by Charlie Finley to serve as the Oakland Athletics pinch runner for the 1974 season.  It is the first, and only time in the history of the sport that a member of a team's 40 man roster was used exclusively for pinch running appearances.

source: Baseball-Reference.com
In his career, which spanned from April 4th, 1974 to May 4th, 1975, Mr. Washington appeared in a total of 110 games, including five post-season games (two in the ALCS and three in the World Series).  In that time, he stole 31 bases and scored 33 runs without ever having a single plate appearance or inning played in the field.  His Oakland A's went on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1974 World Series, so in his one and only full season in Major League Baseball, Herb Washington earned a World Series championship ring without ever once having to pick up a bat or a glove for his team.

Nov 15, 2021

Dial Up, Doc



Space Jam
Warner Bros (1996)
The first Space Jam movie was released nationwide 25 years ago today.  To this day, I still haven't watched it.  This is partially because I'm not really a big basketball fan, but mostly because I can't get past anybody voicing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck except Mel Blanc.  Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and admiration for Billy West and the other voice actors, and I'm sure they did a fine job, but I find it very jarring when any other voice comes out of those two characters than the one that I've grown accustomed to through five decades worth of cartoons.



The main thing that I found interesting about this movie has nothing to do with the movie itself, but with the website that was used to promote it.  From 1996 through early 2021, the website remained completely unchanged.  It was like a time capsule of what the world wide web was like during the days of dial-up internet in the mid 90's.  They finally updated the site in April of this year to promote the sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy.  However, they have thankfully kept the original site intact.  You can access it by clicking on the Space Jam 1996 Site icon from the main page.