Dec 31, 2022

There Is A Fifth Dimension...

The Twilight Zone Marathon
WPIX Channel 11
Well, it's that time of year again.  Congratulations on getting through another twelve months.  Have fun, stay safe, and if you're a great big nerd like me, you might want to set aside a few hours to lay back and relax with the Twilight Zone marathon.

It's airing on Syfy this year starting at 5:00 am today and will continue through New Years Day and January 2nd.  I watched a few episodes of it at my dad's house earlier today: Passage On The Lady Anne, The Masks, The Mighty Casey and King Nine Will Not Return.  These episodes are from the original black and white series, but they've included a few of the new Jordan Peele episodes in this year's marathon as well.

Here is a complete list of episodes in this year's marathon, courtesy of Den Of Geek.

Saturday, December 31

5:30  The Chaser
6:00  The Bard
11:30  The Shelter

1:00  The Masks
3:00  Dust
7:00  Back There
9:00  Elegy
10:00  Still Valley
10:30  The Jungle
11:30  Nick Of Time

Sunday, January 1

6:30  Static
9:00  Mute
10:30  Mr. Bevis

1:30  The Fear
2:00  Death Ship
3:30  The Dummy
5:00  Night Call
5:30  You Drive
7:30  The Gift
8:00  Meet In The Middle (2020)
9:00  The Wunderkind (2019)
9:57  The Who Of You (2020)
11:00  Living Doll
11:30  Uncle Simon

Monday, January 2

1:00  Twenty-Two
1:30  The Mirror
2:00  The Hunt
10:30  The Fever

4:00  Jess-Belle
10:00  The Grave
11:00  Mirror Image

Dec 30, 2022

This Is What Happens When You Don't Recycle Your Pizza Boxes

As a general rule, I avoid writing about things that could be considered political, but this story is just too good to pass up.  It all started three days ago when a 36 year old retired kickboxer named Andrew Tate wanted to brag about his car to a 19 year old Swedish girl.

Tate had an unremarkable career in combat sports and is perhaps best known for making homophobic and misogynistic comments on social media.  This behavior led to him being banned on most platforms, but since Elon Musk has recently reinstated many accounts that had previously been banned, Tate has been able to tweet once again.  He decided to use his newfound Twitter freedom to randomly taunt environmental activist Greta Thunberg... you know... because he's such a cool guy.

Ms. Thunberg tweeted out a response the next morning, which promptly made millions of people laugh their asses off.  That's no exaggeration.  It is now less than 48 hours after she published it and it has over 3.4 million likes.  It is currently the sixth most-liked post in the history of Twitter, just a few hundred thousand away from President Barack Obama eulogizing the late Kobe Bryant.

Once we all caught our breath from laughing at the fact that this big tough guy got his ass handed to him by a teenage girl as practically an afterthought, we took a moment to appreciate the fact that Andrew Tate wasn't satisfied to just take the loss and move on with his life.  He had to go out of his way to humiliate himself even further with this ridiculous response.

There's a video with this tweet, but it's even more asinine than what he wrote.  It's basically just him smoking a cigar and talking about how he's in trapped in the matrix and doesn't like to pay his taxes and some other rambling nonsense.  The only reason the video is relevant at all is because of the pizza boxes from Jerry's Pizza that are sitting on the table in front of him.

Jerry's Pizza is a chain restaurant that is found only in Romania.  I've never been there before, but I'm sure it's a lovely country with a thriving pizza scene, and there's no reason why anyone should't be proud to post a video which shows that they're enjoying a slice in the country that gave us Count Dracula.  Well... it might not be such a great idea if the Romanian police suspect you of human trafficking, rape and organized crime and they've been working to establish your whereabouts, but surely that isn't a problem for Andrew Tate, right?


Those 33 cars are going to come in handy when you're looking for things to sell to pay off your lawyers, court costs, fines, and civil lawsuits that your victims are going to file against you.  I'm thinking you're also going to be enjoying an extended stay in a Romanian prison.  If you're lucky, maybe they'll have you booked in before dinner time.  I hear that it's pizza night.

Before you think that this is where the story ends, Ms. Thunburg checked in with everyone to share some environmental words of wisdom... just to put a cherry on this ice cream sundae.

Flawless victory, Greta.

Dec 29, 2022

The Onslow Smoky Bacon Burger

Double Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder With Cheese
McDonald's (2022)
I want to say that this is going to be my last fast food burger and that I'm going to spend 2023 with a renewed focus on a healthy diet so that I can get into better shape.  That is my intention, but I've accepted the fact that I am a food addict, and I am subject to relapse just like anybody else who has ever battled with an addiction.  However, I've already gone into this in much greater detail in January and I have no intention of treating my blog as an Overeaters Anonymous session at the start of every new year.

McDonald's describes their new limited edition Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder With Cheese as "a 100% fresh beef quarter pound patty, two slices of melty American cheese, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, fresh roma tomatoes, shredded lettuce, smoky sauce and a toasted sesame seed bun".  My response to seeing a photo of this delightful fat and calorie bomb was to say "yes please, and make mine a double".

When you strip away the fancy copy, it's just a regular Quarter Pounder With Cheese with bacon added and a smoky sauce instead of ketchup.  It's not fancy, but damn is it tasty!  I'm not sure how long this will be available, but I'm guessing that your local golden arches will make you one as long as the smoky sauce holds out.  That's really the only ingredient that isn't available in their restaurants all the time, but it's a pretty damn good sauce, so if you're a fast food junkie like me, you're going to want to try this.

Last but not least, kudos to any of you who caught the reference in the title.  Smoky Bacon 4 Life!

Dec 28, 2022

Get To The Chopper

WNEP Skycam II Snap-Tite Model Kit
Monogram (1984)
We found this plastic model kit at the Warehouse Shoppes last month and couldn't resist picking it up.  

The Times Leader - Wilkes Barre, PA  (July 31, 1984)

These models were produced in 1984, which is the same year that WNEP first launched their Skycam II news helicopter.  It was a part of the WNEP news team for twenty five years until it was decommissioned in 2009.

Dec 27, 2022

Will Hollywood Come Back To Philadelphia

Cole Hamels
2008 Upper Deck World Series Champions Set - Card #PP-50
The Phillies 2008 World Series MVP is turning 39 years old today.  His last full season was with the 2019 Chicago Cubs, and his final appearance in a Major League game was a start for the Atlanta Braves against the Baltimore Orioles on September 16th, 2020.  It was the only Major League game that he has been a part of since the end of the 2019 season.  He gave up three earned runs and was pulled after 3 1⁄3 innings.  He latest attempt at a comeback was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, but injuries kept him out of action.

Earlier this month, Hamels told the Associated Press that he's attempting another comeback in the hopes that a team will invite him to Spring Training in February.  He also mentioned that he is open to pitching out of the bullpen, and he suggested that this would be his final attempt to return to the Major Leagues.

The Phillies have already made several major pitching additions to their 2023 roster.  On December 6th, they signed right handed starter Taijuan Walker to a four year deal, bolstering their rotation and at the same time taking away one of the Mets youngest starting pitchers.  We got to see Walker pitch for the Mets against Zack Wheeler and the Phillies in August 2021.  He was pretty good that night, so I'm looking forward to seeing him in our rotation.

Three days later, they signed left handed relief pitcher Matt Strahm to a two year contract, and on the night before Christmas Eve, it was reported that Craig Kimbrel signed a one year deal with the Phillies.  Hopefully there is still magic in the arm of the eight time All-Star closer with a career ERA of 2.31 and 394 saves.

When you factor in the addition of shortstop Trea Turner, this has already been one of the most encouraging off-seasons in the history of the Phillies franchise, but if they really want to put a cherry on top, I'd like to see them take a chance on bringing Cole Hamels back to the organization so that he can finish his career where it started.  I'm not expecting him to pitch out of the rotation, but the Phillies have had luck in the past with starters like Chan Ho Park and Jose Contreras having successful seasons at the end of their careers pitching out of the bullpen.  How incredible would it be to have our 2008 World Series MVP come back home to end his career as a setup man or a closer for a 2023 championship season?  Stranger things have happened.

Dec 26, 2022

Our Car Ate More Eggs Than Cool Hand Luke

A Christmas Story Christmas
Warner Bros Pictures (2022)
I'm usually pretty hesitant to watch a sequel to a movie that has come out many years after the original.  This is especially true when it's a sequel of a beloved treasure like the 1983 holiday classic: A Christmas Story.  However, I couldn't let the holiday season pass by without giving it a shot, so we made A Christmas Story Christmas our final Christmas movie of the holiday season last night.

We had the opportunity to meet one of the actor from this movie earlier this yearZack Ward played the bully, Scut Farkus, in both the original film and this one.  He was a hell of a nice guy, and he wasn't the only cast member from A Christmas Story to return for A Christmas Story ChristmasPeter Billingsley (Ralphie), Ian Petrella (Ralphie), Scott Schwartz (Flick), RD Robb (Schwartz), and Yano Anaya (Grover Dill) have all returned to reprise the roles that they played in the original film.

A Christmas Story was set in December 1940 when Ralphie was 9 years old.  A Christmas Story Christmas is set in December 1973.  Ralphie is 42 years old and living in Chicago with his wife and their two children.  The story is about he and his family going home to Indiana for Christmas to his childhood home on Cleveland Street.

Anything more that I could say would spoil parts of the movie, and this is a movie that is worth watching without spoilers.  A Christmas Story Christmas does everything right.  It doesn't try to copy the first movie, with the son obsessing over a present or someone getting their tongue stuck to a flagpole.  It also doesn't go over the top with a cheesy depiction of the early 70's.  It's a heartfelt story with moments that will bring a tear to your eye, but it also has a lot of laughs and moments that are sure to remind you of your own friends and family.  It's a wonderful movie and an absolutely worthy continuation of its source material.  If you're burned out on the holiday season, set yourself a reminder to watch it next December, but if you can stand adding one more Christmas movie to 2022 before you call it quits, this movie is a perfect way to extend the holiday season for just a few more hours.

Dec 25, 2022

The Angels Of The Yule Log

Yule Log
WPIX (1966 - 1989)
When I was a kid in the 80's, Channel 11 would broadcast a video of a fireplace with Christmas music playing in the background on December 25th.  It's called the Yule Log.  The original version of it dates back to 1966 and it has been redone since the original 16 mm recording, but the version in this video is the one that I remember.

Many of the songs that they play during the Yule Log broadcast are the best known versions of holiday classics that are frequently played on the radio, but there's one song in particular that I almost never hear except for here.  The song is called Christmas Is Christmas All Over The World and it was originally released in 1973 by a children's choir called The Singing Angels.

I can't really explain why, but something about this song hits me in just the right way to bring back happy memories of my family and holiday seasons gone by.  It's not the kind of song that I'd put on a playlist for guests during the holidays or jam out to in the car or anything like that.  It's assumption that everybody in the world celebrates Christmas has not aged well at all, but it's clearly not meant to offend anyone.  This was recorded in the early 70's after all, and the message here is that no one is better than anyone else, and when you strip away all of the bullshit that life molds us into, we're all basically the same - just looking for peace, happiness, love and safety.  It never fails to bring a tear to my eye when I hear it.  Click above to listen to it, or you can fast forward to 1:20:46 of the Yule Log video.

Dec 24, 2022

Christmas Eve In The Drunk Tank

Fairytale Of New York
The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl (1987)
Fairytale Of New York is one of the most well-known and loved Christmas songs ever recorded, but I didn't even know it existed until eight years ago.  I've never heard it on the radio or on television in the United States, but we spent the holidays in London back in 2014 and I heard it at least a dozen times while we were there.  It's not at all a typical Christmas song, which is why I have fallen in love with it and played it every year since I first heard it.

Dec 23, 2022

My Blowtorch Set His Wall On Fire... He Sure Gets Mad Easy

Snowball Express
Walt Disney Pictures (1972)
One of my wife's favorite movies from her childhood was released to theaters 50 years ago this week.  It stars Dean Jones, who starred in a ton of Disney live action films of the era, including the Herbie The Love Bug movies.  It co-stars Nancy Olson, who I know best from The Absent-Minded Professor, and also features Harry Morgan, who I will always remember as Officer Bill Gannon from the old Dragnet television series that I used to watch on Nick At Nite when I was a kid.

I had never even heard of Snowball Express before my wife showed it to me for the first time when I was in my late 20's, but it's something that she watched all the time when she was growing up.  Her mother worked at the public library and would bring movies home for her and her brother to watch.  It's a pretty cute movie about a man who inherits an old dying hotel in Colorado which he turns into a ski lodge.  It's just about as wholesome as a kids movie can be.

About ten years ago, we paid a visit to the library where my mother-in-law worked before she passed away.  As luck would have it, they were getting rid of their VHS tapes, and they still had the very same tape that my wife used to watch when she was a kid.  It is now proudly sitting in our collection where it is no doubt being corrupted by my collection of classic horror flicks on the next shelf.

Dec 22, 2022

Buddy The Elf... What's Your Favorite Color?

Elf: The Musical
Dutch Apple Dinner Theater - Lancaster, PA
Our family has had an annual tradition of visiting the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater for their Christmas show.  Over the past few years, we've gone to see A Christmas Carol, Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, and Miracle On 34th Street.  This year's show was a musical version of the 2003 Christmas comedy film, Elf.

There was a photo op set up in the lobby complete with signs that you could hold up.  That's my dad with the Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins one.

The story in the musical version of Elf has a few minor changes from the movie, but it follows closely to the plot of its source material.  There are a lot of laughs in the musical numbers, including Santa lamenting that he wishes that he were Jewish to escape all of the singing that the elves do at the North Pole, and Buddy referencing a new kind of "special hug" that he discovered when he and Jovie got married.  They did an excellent job with the show, as they have done every time we've been here since we first discovered the Dutch Apple back in the summer of 2009.  Everyone delivered a solid performance; particularly the actor who played Buddy The Elf.   Quite frankly, I think he did a better job in the role than Will Ferrell.

The food was also very good.  They have an all-you-can-eat buffet for a little over an hour before the show begins.  In addition to a full salad bar and a number of side dishes, the buffet included brown sugar honey ham, skirt steak topped with roasted red pepper pesto, apple cider glazed chicken, and spaghetti in tomato basil sauce.  The thing that I liked best though was the fish.  They had a garlic butter crumb cod on the buffet, and I skipped over the dessert table entirely just so I could have some more of it.

I'm very glad that we went to the show last night.  The roads were clear and it was smooth sailing on the way there and back.  That's not the case today.  It's been snowing pretty hard since I woke up this morning.  Dad and Trish stayed overnight at the hotel near the theater, and they're now stuck in traffic on the way home.  I just got off of the phone with them and they haven't moved in a half hour.  Hopefully they'll get home soon, safe and sound, but it's looking like we're in for one hell of a winter.

Dec 21, 2022

Christmas Season Sushi

West Broad Street - Hazleton, PA
We have an annual tradition of going out for sushi before going off to see Berwick Christmas Boulevard.  I had the Tiger Roll, which is made from salmon, eel, tuna and caviar with spicy may and eel sauce (front), the Spicy Scallop Roll, which is scallops and spicy mayo (middle), and the Spicy Naruto Roll, which is made from a cucumber roll instead of rice and filled with spicy tuna and avocado (back).  Everything was incredible, as it always is.

Dec 20, 2022

The Spice Wars

Dune II
Westwood Studios (1992)
One of the most influential computer games of all time was released for MS-DOS thirty years ago this month.  Whereas the first Dune game was a point-and-click adventure game in which the player took on the role of Paul Atreides to complete a rough approximation of Frank Herbert's story, Dune II is an early example of a real-time strategy game that begins with the player choosing which side they will fight for: the noble House Atreides, the sneaky House Ordos, and the evil House Harkonnen.  The object of the game is to complete each level by mining spice to build up your army base, then command that army into battle to destroy the enemy base.  Its mechanics and gameplay inspired a generation of RTS games that followed, including the Command & Conquer and Warcraft franchise.

Philadelphia Inquirer  (December 25, 1992)

It's difficult to pin down the exact release date of a game in the pre-Windows 95 era, but it's widely regarded to having been first available in stores for the 1992 holiday season.  The earliest advertisement I was able to find is this CompUSA ad that was published in newspapers across the United States during Christmas week.

Dune II sold over 250,000 copies worldwide in its first four years and received rave reviews, including being named the 1993 Strategy Game Of The Year by Computer Gaming World.  It was ported to numerous operating systems and one console, the Sega Genesis, which is where I discovered it in the summer of 1995.

The Sega Genesis version of Dune II was renamed as Dune: The Battle For Arrakis.  It was released in 1993 at around the same time that the first Dune game was released on Sega CD.  I didn't own a Sega CD at the time, but one of my friends did, and the original Dune game was one that we spent a lot of time playing at his house.

While I was at one of the video rental stores in my town, I saw Dune: The Battle For Arrakis for the Sega Genesis.  Because it was fairly common for Sega to release some of their games both on Genesis and Sega CD, I thought that the Genesis game was the same thing that I played over my friends house on Sega CD, but without the full motion video clips from the 1984 David Lynch movie.  After renting it, I was shocked to discover that it was a different game altogether, and one that was even more fun than the one that I enjoyed on Sega CD.

Not long after renting it on Genesis, I found a version of Dune II on PC CD-ROM that was bundled with three other games: Wayne's World, Grandmaster Chess, and Fighter Wing.  I installed it on the IBM Aptiva machine that I had in the mid 90's, and I played it quite a bit for the next few years.

Years later, I remembered that version of Dune II on Sega Genesis that I rented and went out in search of it.  I found it for sale on a website called McVan's Video Games.  They were a small chain of stores in Indiana, and they were also one of the few places on the web where you could order older video games in the late 90's and early 2000's.  This is the copy that I still have and play to this day. It's an excellent port overall.  My only complaint is that it's not compatible with the Sega Mouse, which is really a shame because it can be difficult to scroll through the map with a traditional Genesis controller.

Dec 19, 2022

Festive Goat Cheese

Goat Cheese
Emporium Selection (2022)
These goat cheese spreads are available in three flavors at Aldi during the holiday season: Gingerbread, Sweet Cranberry Stuffing and Eggnog.  All three of them are pretty good, but the Sweet Cranberry Stuffing one is by far the best of the three.

Dec 18, 2022

It's A Real Nice Surprise, Clark

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Double Crisp Bar
RM Palmer Company (2022)
Palmer has established themselves as a confections company that goes all-in during the holidays, but this one is a little different.  Most of the Christmas candy that they've sold over the years has been geared towards children, but this line of Double Crisp bars is marketed towards fans of the 1989 holiday classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  There are three different wrappers for this new product, each of which feature stills of Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold from the movie.

The movie references continue beyond the candy bar wrapper.  The bar that I purchased has an imprint of the Jelly Of The Month certificate that Clark receives instead of his Christmas bonus in the movie.  I only picked up one of these bars, so I'm not sure if there is a variety of different designs or if this is on all of them, but it's pretty awesome.

If you're looking for something to fill up a candy dish for the holiday season, you could opt for a bag of the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Double Crisp coins.  Each coin is in a foil wrapper with images from the movie, but the candy itself ins't embossed with anything festive.  They taste exactly the same as the candy bar.

Palmers chocolaty candy isn't for everybody.  The ingredients don't technically meet the FDA requirements to be called chocolate, and you'll see why this is the case as soon as you try it.  Double Crisps have a crispy texture like a Hershey Krackle or a Nestle Crunch bar, but the bar itself doesn't taste the same as either of them.  That's not to say that it's bad... it's just different.  Double Crisps are much sweeter than milk chocolate and they have a buttery flavor that is slightly stronger than the chocolate flavor.  This is alright in small doses, but it can become a bit unpleasant if you eat too much.  If not for the fun and festive packaging, I'd never pick this over a Hershey product, but I wouldn't turn it down if it was offered to me either.  There's plenty of room in the candy aisle for Palmers.

Dec 17, 2022

Prophets Don't Know Everything

The Dark Crystal
Universal Pictures (1982)
Forty years ago today, an incredible dark fantasy film was released in theaters at 858 theaters across North America.  The Dark Crystal was written my Jim Henson and co-directed by he and Frank Oz.

Citizens Voice - Wilkes Barre, PA  (December 24, 1982)

Many critics and fans didn't quite know what to make of it at the time, but that didn't stop it from becoming one of the highest-grossing puppet animated films of all time.  The film has gone on to be appreciated as a cult classic during the late 80's and 90's as it found even greater success on home video.

Pottsville Republican - Pottsville, PA  (December 17, 1982)

This is one of the many classics that I didn't discover until I worked at Blowout Video during the summer of 1999, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure if I have ever watched the movie in its entirety in the years since.  It's available to stream on Showtime, so if you're like me and can't get to sleep and you need a break from all of the holiday specials, set an hour and a half aside and take a trip into Planet Thra.