Apr 30, 2022

Ultraviolet Radio Light To Your Solar System On A Beam Of Light

A Flock Of Seagulls
A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)
The first studio album from A Flock Of Seagulls was released 40 years ago today.  It has four of my favorite new wave songs of the decade - Modern Love Is Automatic, Telecommunication, Space Age Love Song and, of course, I Ran.

The biggest hit on the record by far is I Ran.  It's still one of my favorite songs to drive to, but if I had to pick a single favorite song on the album, it would be Space Age Love Song.  It's doesn't have deep, complex lyrics or anything.  It's just a declaration of a feeling that everybody can relate to, expressed in a way that feels like it came from a dance club on a lunar base.

I saw your eyes
And you made me smile
For a little while
I was falling in love

I saw your eyes
And you touched my mind
Although it took a while
I was falling in love

I saw your eyes
And you made me cry
And for a little while
I was falling in love

I was falling in love
Falling in love

Apr 29, 2022

I've Got A Golden Ticket On The Yellow Brick Road

Opening Weekend 2022
The Wizard Of Oz / Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Since the start of the pandemic, I've spent quite a few hours just laying around and thinking about things.  One of those things was to ask myself why I enjoy movies as much as I do.  I'm sure that most people love movies to some degree, but I don't think the majority of people spend as much time at a movie theater (traditional or drive-in) as I do.  Despite the number of hours I've spent watching movies, I really don't know very much about them.  I wouldn't call myself a cinephile.  If you come to the Mahoning on any given night, I will probably be the least knowledgeable person on the lot when it comes to the film industry or movie trivia.  The same could be said about me in an art gallery or at a concert - I love the experience as much as the most passionate devotees, but my knowledge is average at best.

So why do I love these things so much?  I think it goes back to being autistic.  I feel disconnected from other people; always have, and probably always will.  My experience in just about any social situation feels a bit like visiting a foreign country where you aren't fluent in the native language.  I can get by, and I can fake my way through well enough to successfully navigate the situation (as long as I don't talk too much), but I don't naturally melt in with the crowd the way that other people do.  I'm an observer who is separate from everything around me.  Feeling this way for nearly 42 years has made me somewhat cynical about human beings in general.  I don't trust people, not because I'm paranoid that they're out to get me, but because our species is inherently artificial.  Most of the things we say are not genuine - they're done either for show or out of pure habit.  Everything from the small talk between people at the gas station to a wedding ceremony with hundreds of people feels fake to me.  It's all just theater.  There are approved costumes and an approved script, and those things vary slightly by time and location.  However, most people stick to the script for the time and place that they happen to live in, and they play the part they're expected to.  They do what they're expected to do and say what they're expected to say.  The more daring among them will push the boundaries, usually in the fashion department (clothes, hair, makeup), but the human species as a whole tends to go through their days reenacting the theatrical performances of our lives.  I don't mean to suggest that I'm above any of this because I do it too.  It just doesn't feel right.  Please don't mistake any of this for arrogance, or that I somehow know better and refuse to accept social norms, and please believe me when I tell you that I wish that I could just plug into the world without feeling this way.  I've tried to for my entire life, but for as far back as I can remember into my childhood, I almost always feel like I'm faking my way through it all, and I wonder how many other people around me feel the same way.  I think that's really become the whole point of this blog over the years.  It's my attempt to connect with the world in a way that feels real to me.

Movies are an escape from everything that I have just described.  All of the things that we see on the big screen are just as fake and scripted as the social functions that make up our lives, but at least we're honest about it and we all recognize that this is the case.  However, unlike the mini-plays that we're all forced to go through on a daily basis, I am not expected to participate.  I can just sit there with my soda and my bowl of popcorn and relax as the story unfolds before me.  No anxiety.  no pressure.  For a person who constantly feels like they're an outsider and an observer, it's a liberating experience, and that feeling is at its absolute peak when I'm sitting in front of my car, under the stars, comfortable in my lawn chair at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  When the trailer reel begins, I know that for the next few hours, everything is going to be alright.

Since 2015, it has been a tradition at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater to start off every season with a double feature of The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  We didn't discover this place until a couple of weeks into the 2021 season, so this is our first Opening Day at the Mahoning, and it was perfect!  It's still a little too chilly for the lawn chairs, but it was a beautiful, clear night under the stars

The special food item at the concession stand was Munchkin Balls - harvested straight from members of The Lollipop Guild.

What could I possibly say about these two movies that hasn't been said a million times before.  They're two of the most beloved and iconic films of the past hundred years, and they have both stood the test of time.  It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 95, these movies are going to make you smile.  They are the warm blanket we wrap ourselves in for comfort.

The Wizard Of Oz was one of the movies my grandfather recorded off of tv that I watched a thousand times when I was a kid.  I usually alternated between this and Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom.  You can say that one is a lot darker of a film than the other, but keep in mind that when Mola Ram got killed, the whole town didn't immediately break out into song and have a parade.

After the intermission reel, they screened a 35mm print of an old Woody Woodpecker cartoon.  I love it when they show these old cartoons between films.  This one was called Smoked Hams from April 1947.  The red-headed bird just won't let this poor walrus-looking man sleep, and in the end, the mischievous woodpecker gets hooked up to the Tit For Tat Machine where he gets a taste of his own medicine.

We had giant Hershey bars in the car just waiting for the start of Willy Wonka, and we tore into them just as the opening credits started to roll with the ribbons of melted chocolate being poured behind the title.  I know I'm never going to lose weight at this rate, but the hell with it.  If I can't enjoy a chocolate bar while watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the drive-in, it's not worth being fit.

Apr 28, 2022

Art Is A Lie That Makes Us Realize Truth

TĂȘte de Taureau (Bull's Head)
Pablo Picasso (1942)

"We all know that art is not truth.  Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.  The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies...  I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art.  Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing.  Through art we express our conception of what nature is not."
- Pablo Picasso (May 1923) 

Apr 27, 2022

Blueberry Pizza

Blueberry Pizza
Four D's Pizza - Hometown Farmers Market - Tamaqua, PA
I thought that this was a dessert pizza at first glance, but it's not.  The Blueberry Pizza at Four D's is made with mozzarella and feta cheese, onions, garlic and blueberries, topped with a balsamic reduction.  It has a slightly sweet flavor, but it has a lot more in common with a traditional slice of pizza, and it's pretty great!

Four D's Pizza is set up at the Hometown Farmer's Market.  They're in the center aisle about halfway through the main building.  There's plenty of counter space to stop and have a coke and a slice.

Apr 26, 2022

A Place Where All Labels Were Left Behind

Studio 54
54th Street - New York, NY
The grand opening of Studio 54 took place 45 years ago today.  It may have been the best damned party the world had ever seen, but it didn't last forever.

Apr 25, 2022

Perfect Topping For A Drive-In Theater Cake

Solid Milk Chocolate Mini Cars
Madelaine Chocolate Company
Man, these things are a blast from the past!  My grandmother used to get these little foil wrapped chocolate cars for me when I was a kid.  Pretty much every year, I would find a few of them hiding in my Christmas stocking or Easter basket.  I forgot all about them until recently when I found these for sale at Victoria's Candies in the Laurel Mall.  I'm happy that they're still around.

Apr 24, 2022

Senators Down The Hot Dogs

Sunday, April 2, 2022
Pitching: Evan Lee vs Jack Perkins
Results: Senators defeated Fightin Phils, 5-3

It's been less than a full year since we were last at FirstEnergy Stadium to see a Reading Phillies game, but it feels like a completely different world.  This time last season, the team was only selling a limited number of tickets with socially distanced seating throughout the ballpark.  Yesterday, with the exception of maybe one or two people who I saw were wearing face masks, it felt as if the pandemic was completely over.  That wasn't the only difference from the last game I attended.

For the past few years, the Reading Fightin Phils have rebranded themselves for a few games every year.  During these games, they've called themselves the Reading Whoopie Pies, the Reading Luchadores and the Reading Pretzels.  Yesterday, the team was called the Reading Hot Dogs, and it wasn't just the name that they used over the loudspeaker.  They had special Hot Dogs uniforms and hats, and a ton of Hot Dogs merchandise available at the team store.

It's hard not to be a little cynical about the whole thing.  In the years since I've started going to Reading Phillies games, it feels less like I'm going to the ballpark to see a game and more like I'm visiting a children's fair where a baseball game happens to be taking place.  I get it - they have to make money, and to do that, they have to be able to attract families with children to the ballpark, not just middle-aged baseball fans like me.  I've been doing my best to be open minded and to just roll with it, but I can't pretend that it's the same minor league ballpark atmosphere that I fell in love with when my dad brought me to West Palm Beach Expos games when I was a kid.

I had the Triple Cheeseburger for dinner last time I was at FirstEnergy Stadium, but there's something even bigger on the menu this year.  The Grandslammer is listed on the menu as having two half-pound burgers with cheese whiz, special sauce and a pickle, but when I ordered it, they gave me what I believe was four quarter-pound burgers, with a bunch of french fries jammed in between.

They do have a slightly smaller burger on the menu called The Homerunner, which is made with two quarter-pound burgers and is stuffed with fries.  I'm guessing that they ran out of half-pound hamburger patties, so they told the concession stand crew that when someone ordered a Grandslammer, just make that same thing as the Homerunner but with two extra meat patties, and the added fries were a side-effect of those instructions.  Hey, I'm not complaining - free french fries!

The starting pitcher for the Harrisburg Senators is left hander Evan Lee, who is a Top 20 prospect in the Washington Nationals system.  The Reading... um... Hot Dogs had two players in their starting lineup who are among the Top 20 on the Phillies farm: right fielder Jhailyn Ortiz and catcher Logan O'Hoppe.

Ortiz didn't have a great night, going 0-4 with a walk, but O'Hoppe hit a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, which means that I'm getting some free drinks.

So, because O'Hoppe was picked as the Sheetz RBI Guy for the game, his home run gave everyone in attendance a coupon for a free specialty drink at Sheetz.  Those can run to four or five bucks depending on what you get, so that's not too shabby of a deal!

While we were walking out, Logan O'Hoppe was standing by the door of the clubhouse signing autographs for the kids.  It does my heart good when I see that.  It reminds me of when I was their age and guys like Rondell White and Tavo Alvarez would sign autographs for me and for the other kids at the ballpark when my dad took me to a game.  It made me even happier to see that there weren't any adult autograph hounds pushing and shoving to get something signed.

Madison Stokes came up to bat after the O'Hoppe home run, and he followed it up with a solo shot of his own to narrow the Senators lead to 4-3.  It was the only runs they'd score, and Reading would go on to lose to Harrisburg by a score of 5-3.

Stokes was playing center field, and he had a pretty awkward moment earlier in the game.  Senators right fielder Justin Connell hit a three run shot to center field.  Stokes jumped up at the wall, but he was at least three feet off to the right of where the ball went out of the park.  Aside from that, he was actually pretty good in the field, especially when you consider that he's been an infielder for most of his career.

You can't win 'em all, but it was still a beautiful day at the ballpark.  It was a perfect Spring afternoon, 70 degrees and sunny, and we were sitting in the shade for the whole game with a nice cool breeze blowing in from time to time.  You've really got to take a moment to appreciate a day like that.  We only get so many of them.

Apr 23, 2022

Cheesy French Ice Cream

Pizza, Hot Honey and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese French Ice Cream
Van Leeuwen (2022)
The slogan that appears on every carton of Van Leeuwen, or at least every carton that I bought on my last grocery shopping trip, is: A Life Without Anything Good Is Bad.  That's a hell of a strange thing to see printed on the side of a carton of ice cream, but it's still not as strange as what's under the lid.

Pizza?!  Hot Honey?!  Kraft Macaroni & Cheese?!  Diet or no diet, there's no way that I can pass up the opportunity to try something this weird.

About ten years ago, I found an Ice Cream Pizza.  It was basically a vanilla fudge sundae on a brownie that was shaped like a small pizza.  It wasn't meant to taste like pizza, and I didn't expect for a minute that it would.  Who the hell would ever want pizza flavored ice cream?  Evidently, the answer to that question is Van Leeuwen.

Believe it or not, this is delicious!  The ice cream is thick and it has sort of a sweet cheesecake custard flavor with chunks of basil cookies that I believe are meant to simulate the crust.  The fourth ingredient is tomatoes which appear in the form of a red swirl of jam that's mixed throughout the ice cream.  There is a strong tomato flavor when you hit on a pocket of this, and it sort of tasted like sweet Spaghetti O's when I got a spoonful that was equal parts ice cream and tomato swirl.  The other ingredients include cream cheese, cheese culture and mozzarella cheese powder.  It tastes a little like the square cut pizza that we used to get from the concession stand when I played Little League when I was a kid, but if I was served a bowl of it without seeing the carton, I don't think that I would have guessed that it's supposed to be pizza flavored.

The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ice cream doesn't have any noodles in it, but it tastes exactly like the cheese power that comes in the box.  In fact, Kraft Cheese Sauce Mix is the fifth ingredient, right behind cream, milk, cane sugar and egg yolks  It's interesting and it's worth trying for the sheer novelty of it, but I found the Pizza flavor to be much more enjoyable.

My favorite of the three that I tried was Hot Honey.  It an interesting flavor mix with honey flavored ice cream that has been mixed with chili pepper which creates a sweet flavor with a spicy aftertaste.  It may not have the same weird factor as the other two, but it's a damn fine combination.

Apr 22, 2022

Billy & Jimmy vs The World

Double Dragon
Taito (1987)
Although it wasn't the first beat-em-up to hit arcades, Double Dragon was one of the biggest games in the genre.  It first appeared in arcades throughout the United States and Japan 35 years ago and would go on to spawn dozens of home ports and sequels in the years that followed (photo source: PixelatedArcade.com).

Apr 21, 2022

Like Throwing Arms Round Yesterday

The Cure (1992)
The ninth studio album from The Cure was released thirty years ago today.  It would reach #1 in the UK and was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 35th Grammy Awards.

Robert Smith may be the only person who could write a beautiful and heartbreaking song of resignation like A Letter To Elise and include it on the same album as a song that reaches the pure joy of Friday I'm In Love.

A Letter To Elise
The Cure (1992)

Elise it doesn't matter what you say
I just can't stay here every yesterday
Like keep on acting out the same
The way we act out
Every way to smile, forget
And make believe we never needed
Any more than this

Elise it doesn't matter what you do
I know I'll never really get inside of you
To make your eyes catch fire
The way they should

The way the blue could pull me in
If they only would, if they only would
At least I'd lose this sense of sensing
Something else that hides away
From me and you, there are worlds to part
With aching looks and breaking hearts
And all the prayers your hands can make

I just take as much as you can throw
And then throw it all away
I'll throw it all away
Like throwing faces at the sky
Like throwing arms round yesterday

I stood and stared
Wide-eyed in front of you
And the face I saw looked back the way I wanted to
But I just can't hold my tears away the way you do

Elise, believe I never wanted this
I thought this time I'd keep all of my promises
I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about
But I let the dream go
And the promises broke and make-believe ran out

So, Elise it doesn't matter what you say
I just can't stay here every yesterday
Like keep on acting out the same
The way we act out
Every way to smile, forget
And make-believe we never needed
Any more than this

Every time I try to pick it up
Like falling sand
As fast as I pick it up
It runs away through my clutching hands
But there's nothing else I can really do
There's nothing else I can really do
There's nothing else I can really do
At all

Apr 20, 2022

It's Not Making Me Melt

Whopper Melts
Burger King (2022)
Burger King has always been my favorite fast food restaurant, so I had to give their newest menu item a try.  There are three different versions available: the standard Whopper Melt, the Bacon Whopper Melt, and the Spicy Whopper Melt.  I tried the one with bacon, and I regret to say that it's pretty underwhelming.

The website describes the new Whopper Melt burgers as "two slices of toast, layered with ¼. lb of flame-grilled beef, melty American cheese, caramelized onions and stacker sauce".  

I'm not sure why the Burger King marketing department thinks that two slices of toast are an improvement over a bun, but it isn't.  Two slices of toast are what I use at home when I want to make a cheeseburger, but I've run out of hamburger buns and I'm too lazy to run out to the store to buy a new pack.  To be honest, it didn't have a significantly different taste or texture than a regular Burger King bun, so the best I can say about them is that the only thing they do is to make the burger look ugly and thrown together.

It's supposed to be topped with caramelized onions and stacker sauce.  I'm not sure if they skimped on the toppings, but I didn't taste the onions or the sauce, and the "melty American cheese" is the same thing that's been on every Whopper with Cheese that I've eaten over the past four decades.  It's not a bad sandwich, but it isn't significantly different than any other Whopper I've ever had, and the few little differences that it does have are not an improvement over the original Whopper concept.  The only thing that made it different was the bacon, and you can pay the upcharge to have bacon added to anything.

Burger King's gimmick over the past few years has been to modify the bun, and I really wish they would give it a rest.  They tried sourdough last year, and now they've pretty much resorted to using toasted bread ends for this thing.  Folks... all you're going to do by changing the bun is to screw up the burger.  Just give us a regular bun and put something tasty inside, like maybe grilled onions and mushrooms or a fried egg.  Maybe try out different kinds of cheese like pepperjack or provolone, or maybe some unique condiments like an avocado sauce or pesto.  Even better, take the Rodeo Burger that's already on the menu and beef it up for the Whopper family.  There got to have been at least a dozen better ideas that y'all came up with in the meeting where this thing was pitched.  Go with one of those other ideas instead, whatever they are.

Apr 19, 2022

Playing The Villain

Dig Dug
Namco (1982)
After spending its first few months exclusively in Japan, the Namco classic Dig Dug was introduced to arcades throughout the United States and Europe forty years ago this month.

I've always felt that you were playing as the villain in this game.  There are little Pookas and Fygars living underground and minding their own business until you come along and invade their home.  Then, one at a time, you wipe them out by shooting them with a bicycle pump and inflating them until they explode.  Then to make matters worse, the little creatures try to reach the surface and run away, forcing you to chase after them and kill them while they're attempting to flee.  If that doesn't make you the bad guy in this game, what would?

Apr 18, 2022

The Power Of Plural Tacos

Del Tacos
Main Street - Stroudsburg, PA
I've heard of Del Taco before, but there aren't any locations in my neck of the woods and I've never stopped into one in any of my travels.  I thought that this had changed on Friday night when we went to see Fozzy in Stroudsburg, but I just learned as I started writing this that I did not.  The place we had dinner was not Del Taco, but Del Tacos.  I guess that pluralizing "tacos" is just enough to keep the Del Taco lawyers at bay.

I couldn't tell you how this place compares to its similarly-named competitor, but I will say that the food here is absolutely delicious!  I had the Del Tacos Special with steak, and they came loaded with lots of grilled onions, jalapenos and cheese.  I'll definitely be making this place a regular stop when we go to see a show at the Sherman Theater.

Apr 17, 2022

Dying Easter Eggs With Marcie

It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
CBS (1974)
One of my favorite parts of Easter is watching the Peanuts holiday special It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.  My favorite part is seeing how frustrated Peppermint Patty gets when she's trying to teach Marcie how to color eggs for Easter.

Apr 16, 2022

Good Friday Fozzy

The Nocturnal Affair / Gold Frankincense & Myrrh / Fozzy
Sherman Theater - Stroudsburg, PA
I missed out on the opportunity to see Fozzy perform at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre a few years ago, so I was very glad to have had a second chance to see them last night.  They're touring with three other band, but KrashKarma were unable to appear due to illness so this show had two opening acts.

The Nocturnal Affair were the first band to take the stage, and I was extremely impressed.  They describe their music as alternative dark rock, and it's fitting.  Listening to them reminded me of playing Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night when I was a teenager.  It's dark and spooky, but it has an elegance to it that sets it apart from other music of its kind.  Check them out on Spotify.

Gold Frankincense & Myrrh (or GFM, as they are more often known) are one of the most original acts I've seen in a long time.  The band is comprised of three sisters whose presentation is a blend of metal, punk and Lisa Frank - a style that they have described as Beautycore.  The music is pretty damn good with songs that are fun and empowering.  I especially enjoyed Smile, which could serve as an anthem to express the anger and frustration that I'm sure women feel when some clueless dipshit tells them to smile.

I think this band has a very bright future ahead of them.  There were a group of fans standing to my left who had been following this band since they started in 2016, and it seemed that they were just a just a sampling of the fanbase that GFM have cultivated.  Their catalog is on Spotify, and they have a new EP called Framing My Perception that's scheduled to be released on May 27th.  They played the title track off of this upcoming record last night, and it was excellent.  I'm looking forward to hearing more.

I've been a fan of Chris Jericho since I first saw him wrestle for WCW when I was 16 years old.  For as much as wrestling fans rave over guys like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, I think Jericho is the most talented wrestler of my lifetime.  Inside of the ring, his matches are second to none, and he has reinvented his character so many times that I've lost count.  Outside of the ring, he is the rock star and pop culture icon that many other wrestlers pretend to be, and this 15 song set was the perfect example of this.  It included a selection of music from across Fozzy's 22 year run, including Jericho's AEW entrance song, Judas.  They also performed an awesome cover of Relax (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) and ended the show with AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

Fozzy was originally started by Stuck Mojo guitarist Rich Ward in 1999.  Later that year, he was joined by Chris Jericho, who originally performed with the band under the name Mongoose McQueen.  The band is rounded out by bassist PJ Farley (who is also a member of Trixter and Rubix Kube), Billy Grey on guitar, and the band's newest member Grant Brooks on drums.

It was an awesome show, and the general admission tickets were very reasonably priced at $25.  This is more than fair for a night of live music, especially with how the cost of just about everything is going through the roof.  We managed to find a spot in the dead center right up against the stage.  There were private balcony boxes that cost a little more, but the view from up there just isn't the same to being down on the floor.

Here is the setlist for The Nocturnal Affair, GFM and Fozzy.