Sep 30, 2022

Last Look At The Bloomsburg Fair

The 2022 Bloomsburg Fair is beginning to wind down and will close for the year at 9:00 pm tomorrow.  With that in mind, here are a few non-food related photos taken at the fair this year.

I was a teenager the last time I went on one of the carnival rides at the Bloomsburg Fair, but I take a walk back to that part of the fairgrounds to see what they've got.  None of the rides really stood out to me this year, but it was pretty cool that they repurposed the seats from an old Scrambler ride to turn them into park bench seats.

There's a lot of history to be found throughout the fairgrounds.  Much of this has to do with the farming and manufacturing that takes place in central Pennsylvania.  It's pretty cool to be able to see an old piece of machinery like this steamroller.

There are hundreds of animals at the fair to see.  For some reason, I seem to have a special kinship with the goats, who run up to lick and nuzzle my hand every year that I see them.  Insert your own joke about me being the devil here.

There are also a lot of crafts and artwork for sale throughout the fairgrounds.  In previous years, we've gotten carved signs, animal statues for the back yard, and other crafts of various sizes.  The thing that really caught my eye this year were these adorable little wooden animals from artist Alexx Smith of ArtSmith Customs.  The animals are hand-drawn and then lazered into the wood to make them easy to color using a fine-tipped permanent marker.  Each one has a hole drilled in the top and comes with a keychain loop if you'd like to put it with your keys, although I'm sure it would be just as nice to hang from some string as a decoration or a child's necklace.

They had a series of Halloween keychains available, so I bought a set of them.  They're all nice, but my favorites are the ghost, the cute little bat, and the jack-o-lantern in the bottom left corner.  Instead of using them as keychains, I'm going to buy a little Halloween tree and some orange hooks and use them as tree decorations - after we color them, of course.

You can see more work from ArtSmith Customs on Facebook, and if you see their stand at an event, be sure to say hi to Ezra, a beautiful and very friendly German Shepard puppy who is training to be a service dog.

Sep 29, 2022

Into The Flood Again...

Two of my favorite rock albums ever recorded were released on the same day and are both turning thirty years old today.  I've listened to each of them from front to back countless times throughout middle school and high school, and in the years that followed.

When I was a kid, I used to roll my eyes when my family would tell me that time flies as you get older, but I'll be damned if it isn't true.  Although both of these albums remind me of when I was in high school, they don't feel old to me, but they are.  Hell, The White Album was only 24 years old when Core and Dirt were released, and The Beatles felt like ancient history to me at the time.  Now, I'm writing about two records that I bought when I was a teenager that were released 30 years ago and I'm thinking that they don't seem old.  Dude... time doesn't just fly... it's on a nuclear powered rocket sled, and you don't know that you're riding it until you've got the miles behind you to show how fast you're going.
Stone Temple Pilots (1992)
I was 12 years old when the debut album by Stone Temple Pilots was released.  At the time, I was living in South Florida with my dad, stepmom, and stepsister.  My stepsister, Steph, got me into a lot of hair metal and grunge rock mostly by making mixtapes for me from her collection.  If memory serves, the first Stone Temple Pilots song that she included on one of these mixtapes was Crackerman, but it's been 30 years so I can't say for sure.  I heard a few more songs on MTV and she ended up bootlegging the entire album for me by the end of the year.  When I got my first CD player, this was one of the first albums that I bought, and I still have that same copy to this day.  I can't even imagine how many miles that thing has traveled and how many times I've played it over the years, but both have got to be in the thousands by this point.

My favorite song from this album is Plush, but my favorite version isn't the one that appears on this record.  An acoustic version of the song that was recorded on Headbangers Ball in 1992 was included as the b-side on a few of their singles (including Crackerman).  That's the one that I sing along to in the car when I'm alone, but in the the years since, ScottishTeeVee has shared a 1993 recording from a television show called The Beat that aired on the ITV network at 2:00 am in the United Kingdom.  This clip includes an interview with Scott Weiland and Dean DeLeo that was recorded on a Soho Square park bench in London.  About halfway through the interview, they perform an acoustic version of Plush that is so pure and unrefined that it's become my favorite recording of the song.
Although they were released on the same day, I didn't discover the second studio album by Alice In Chains until I moved back to Pennsylvania in the mid 90's.  It was actually their follow-up EP, Jar Of Flies, that served as my introduction to the band.  It quickly became one of my favorite albums, which inspired me to go back and check out their previous work.  Dirt sticks out in my head because I found the disc without the case or liner notes at a pawn shop when I was a teenager.  I remember that I harvested a CD case from one of the sampler discs that was given away at Gallery Of Sound and printing up a black and white cover from my old dot matrix printer.  It looked like hell, but at least I knew what the album was when it was sitting on the shelf.

Every track on this album is a classic, but my favorite is the final song on the album.  It's called Would? and I originally discovered it on the soundtrack for the 1992 film Singles, which is a movie that I've still never seen to this day despite listening to the soundtrack thousands of times since I was a teenager.  The song was written by Jerry Cantrell as a tribute to his friend, Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in 1990 at just 24 years old.

Sep 28, 2022

More Food At The Fair

There's so much to see at the Bloomsburg Fair that it's not really possible to experience all of it in a single day.  With that in mind, we went back on Monday for a few hours and got to try some more food, so this is Part Two of food at the fair in 2022 (click here for part one).

Two things caught my attention about this stand.  The first was the fact that they're offering a "Huge Cheese Stuffed Deep Fred Meatball".  My hope was that the letter i in Fried had fallen off and that they're not serving something sweet that has come from deep within a man named Fred.  The second thing that jumped out at me was the drink tub out front.

Man, this thing is a blast from the past!  Pepsi came out with the 1 liter Big Slam bottles in the mid 90's, and they marketed the heck out of them.  I was a little too old to get into this fad, but I remember that there was a series of Pepsi Big Slam Pogs that were released in conjunction with the soda.  However, the thing I remember the most about Big Slam is all of the promotions they did with Shaquille O'Neal.

Shaq may have been a great basketball player, but in my opinion, his best skill is marketing.  This dude still appears in advertisements as the spokesperson for products and services to this day, eleven years after his retirement from the NBA.

Since I stood around taking pictures of this dude's stand, I would have been a pretty big jerk if I hadn't grabbed a bite to eat, so I went ahead and ordered one of his Fred Balls, which I'm going to have to refer to them as from this point forward.  I'm 42 years old, folks.  If I haven't matured by now, it's just not going to happen.

I didn't realize that this was an option until I ordered one, but you can your Fred Balls in regular or spicy, so I opted for the spicy one.  It was pretty huge, and it was loaded with cheese.  The spicy sauce tasted like Frank's RedHot, which is perfectly fine with me since it's what I tend to use at home.  I can't remember what I paid for it, but I remember feeling like I got my money's worth with this one.

The next thing I had to eat was Lasagna On A Stick from the Boppalouies Comfort Foods truck, which is three medium-sized stuffed puffed dough balls which are topped with sauce and cheese and impaled onto a stick.  Each of these balls are about three bites worth and tasted pretty good.  Ten bucks was a little steep of a price so I'm not sure if I'd get them again, but they definitely weren't bad.

This isn't the only place where you can get a cup of apple cider at the fair, but we pretty much always end up stopping at this one.  Something about the giant apple really draws you in.

There are so many great things to eat at the fair so it might seem odd that I got something as simple as a burger.  However, we were both pretty hungry and we both remembered that we enjoyed the Char Broiled Steak Burgers Truck when we stopped here back when the two of us first started dating, so we decided to stop here for dinner.

It's a little hard to see from the photo, but the truck is set up to have you take a tray and pick up your burger and bun at the window at the first window at the end of the truck.  You can get a quarter pound, half pound or one pound burger, which is what I got (it's actually two half-pound patties).  You then work your way down the row to add condiments, lettuce, tomato, onions, mushrooms, cheese and whatever else you want, and to pick up your drink.  You pay when you get to the end where the television and cash register are set up, and there's plenty of seating near the tv so you can watch while you eat.  It's a pretty good setup, and the burgers are delicious and very reasonably priced considering how much food you're getting.

It was time for a little snack after dinner, so we stopped by Uncle Nick's Candy game next.  This is a game that I've played every year that I've lived in Pennsylvania since I was four years old.  You place a quarter down on one (or more) of the numbers on the board.  Then they spin a wheel which determines which is the winning number and how many candy bars they win.  When I was growing up, you could win either 3 bars, 6 bars, or a full box of candy.  The amount of candy that you can win has decreased over the years to 1, 3, 4 or 6 bars, but the price to play has remained the same for all these years - just a quarter.

My grandparents loved this sort of game, so they always played it with me when I was a kid.  My grandmother always picked #2, so I've adopted that as my lucky number when we're at the Candy Game.  This is one of those parts of the Bloomsburg Fair that gives me a very warm and nostalgic feeling.

One of the snacks that we bring home every year is a tub of rice pudding from the Down Home Homemade Pudding stand.  I usually get pumpkin, but I got the banana cream flavor this time.  It wasn't bad, but I kind of wish I would have stuck with the pumpkin flavor.

There is way more food at the fair than I could ever eat even if I spent every day here from opening to closing time.  I can't think of a time where I ever had anything to eat here that I didn't enjoy, so you really can't go wrong no matter where you stop.

Sep 27, 2022

Nobody Trusts Anybody Now, And We're All Very Tired

The Thing
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
John Carpenter's 1982 adaptation of The Thing is a true masterpiece of science fiction/horror.  Getting to see it on the big screen at the Mahoning is an incredible experience on its own, but the fact that they waited until late September made it even better.  Seeing this  classic under the stars as the temperature starts to drop made for an immersive and chilling experience in more ways than one.

This is a movie that I was relatively late in seeing.  My grandfather wouldn't let me rent anything that was Rated R when I was a kid, so this is one of those movies that I didn't get to see until I worked at Blowout Video in my late teens.  I still remember watching it alone in my bedroom with a bowl of popcorn that I didn't touch until the end credits.  My eyes were glued to the tv and nothing in the real world was going to distract me from the story that was unfolding there.

Even if you aren't into science fiction or horror, I strongly recommend The Thing to everyone.  There are few movies that are more suspenseful and that give you a stronger feeling of distrust and paranoia than this John Carpenter classic.

Man, this year is really flying!  The summer is already over and there's only a month and a few days left in the 2022 season at the Mahoning, but there's still a lot of fun shows left on the calendar to look forward to.

Sep 26, 2022

Che Guevara And Debussy To A Disco Beat

The Unity Tour
New Order and Pet Shop Boys with special guest Paul Oakenfold
Mann Center For The Performing Arts - Philadelphia, PA
There are a lot of different styles of music that I listen to and enjoy, but there's nothing that makes me happier to listen to than new wave and synthpop.  It's something that I've loved for as long as I've known what music was.  In some other level of The Tower (or the multiverse, for those of you who aren't Stephen King readers), I'm sure that there is a version of me that has hit up every club on the east coast and spent the night dancing his ass off to these songs, but in this reality, it's the kind of music that makes me lay back on the sofa, close my eyes, and drift off to a happy place in my mind.

Over two and a half years ago, two of my favorite groups announced that they would be co-headlining a tour that would bring them to Philadelphia on September 11th, 2020.  I bought tickets to see New Order and the Pet Shop Boys on The Unity Tour as soon as they went on sale in February 2020.  Not long after that, the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the United States, and we were all on lockdown by Easter Sunday.  At first, there were reports that we would all shelter in place for maybe four weeks, and all of this would blow over.  Surely, things would be back to normal by September 2020, right?

In May 2020, it was announced that The Unity Tour would be postponed, and on June 11th, we were told that the concert was rescheduled for September 25th, 2021.  By June of the following year, the Covid variants caused the concert to be postponed a second time to September 25th, 2022.  

When the announcement was made with the 2022 tour dates, I had almost resigned myself to the concert never happening.  Between the challenges of international travel and the fact that the concert was being rescheduled for over two years, I thought that the chances were pretty good that the artists plans would change and the tour would end up getting scrapped as a result.  I'm very happy to say that this didn't end up being the case.

Unless something unexpected pops up, the Philadelphia stop of The Unity Tour last night was our last concert of 2022.  It was absolutely worth the wait!

The show opened with a DJ performance by Paul Oakenfold.  I'm not very knowledgeable about him or about trance in general, but I have liked what I heard and I enjoyed his set, which led directly into the start of the Pet Shop Boys.  The only thing that was less than awesome was the fact that his set was scheduled to begin at 6:30 and he didn't take the stage until nearly 7:00, so we missed out on hearing nearly a half hour of his set.

The Pet Shop Boys have been at the top of my list of groups that I've wanted to see for a long time, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with an incredible set.  They opened with Suburbia, followed by Can You Forgive Her, and Opportunities before launching into their mashup of U2 and Boys Town GangWhere the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You).  This was never one of my favorite songs when it would come on the radio, but seeing it performed live is a whole different experience, and it gave me a much greater appreciation for it.  When the crowd burst into song with Neil Tennant during the transition into the chorus of I Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You, I found myself singing and bopping along with everyone around me - absolutely incredible experience!

Next up came three of my favorite and most cynical songs from the group: the 1987 hit Rent, the first single from their 1999 album NightlifeI Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More, and the first single from their 1990 album Behaviour, So Hard

After that, they played a song from their third album, Introspective.  It's called Left To My Own Devices, and it's a song that I've come to love more and more as I get older.  It's a song about someone who just wants to live their life their way and approach the world on their own terms without concerning themselves with having to keep up with appearances for the acceptance of others.  I'm not sure if this was the intention, but my takeaway from this song is that if the people in my life would just back up and let me sort things out in my head and go about things in my own way, everything would be alright and I'll probably end up at the same place that these people want me to be in the first place.  However, if I've got someone breathing down my neck and forcing me to do things their way, I will resist with every fiber of my being.  This has been a consistent struggle throughout my life when dealing with other people, whether it be school, work, relationships, friendships or anything else.  It's a big part of why I was such a mess in high school and why I didn't go back to college until I was 27 years old.  When I did finally go back, I did very well.  I graduated Summa Cum Laude and didn't have anything less than a 4.0 in any of my courses until my Junior year, but this is because I was able to go back on my own and approach things in my own way without being forced to conform to someone else's opinion on the way that I ought to be doing things.

Wow, I really went off on a tangent there, didn't I?  Moving on...

The ninth and tenth songs of the set were two of their biggest hits and two of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs.  First came Domino Dancing, which was amazing, especially when the crowd erupted to sing the chorus.  Next was Love Comes Quickly, which began with the screen dropping down, with only the silhouette of Neil Tennant visible as he walked toward the center of the stage singing.

Losing My Mind came next in the setlist.  It's a song that was originally written for an early 70's musical that I'm not familiar with, but it was popularized by Liza Minnelli in the late 80's.  Her cover was produced by the Pet Shop Boys, who also recorded a version of the song which was released as a B-side to their single, Jealousy.

Next came another cover, but one that reached much greater heights than to be released as a B-side: Always On My Mind.  This song has been recorded by dozens of artists over the past fifty years.  The Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson covers are probably the most well known versions, but the one recorded in 1987 by the Pet Shop Boys will always be my favorite.  Seeing it performed live was simply incredible.

The show entered its fourth quarter with Dreamland, Heart, It's Alright and Vocal before closing out the main portion of the show with their 1987 hit single, It's A Sin.  Afterward, they took the stage for a two song encore that began with my favorite Pet Shop Boys song, and one of my favorite songs from any artist or genre: West End Girls.  It's one of those songs that I absolutely love to play when I'm driving alone at night.  It has a surreal quality that takes me out of whatever is going on in my mind and puts me in a happy and relaxed headspace.  They closed out their set with one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded: Being Boring.  It was a perfect end to a perfect set!

New Order began their set with two of my favorite songs: Regret, from the 1993 album Republic, and Age Of Consent, from the band's second studio album which was released ten years earlier, Power, Corruption & Lies.

Next up was a song called Restless that I was not familiar with.  It was released in 2015 as the first single from New Order's tenth studio album, Music Complete.  This was followed by one of my favorite songs, their 1981 debut single, Ceremony.  The lyrics were written by Ian Curtis for Joy Division, so this single is a bridge between the band that Joy Division was and the band that New Order would go on to become.

The fifth song of the set was Your Silent Face, which appeared on the cassette release of Power, Corruption & Lies, but was not on the record for some reason.  This was followed by two more recent songs that I am not very familiar with: Be A Rebel (2020) and Guilt Is A Useless Emotion (2005).

Bizarre Love Triangle was next, which is another one of my favorite songs of the 80's.  It's one of those songs that made me wish that I was born about 15 years earlier (minus the social anxiety) so that I could have been old enough to hit the clubs when this song was new.  If this song doesn't make you want to move, check your pulse.  Next up was Plastic, which is another song from 2015 off of Music Complete, which is a dance track that I've never heard before last night, and one that fit the flow.

The main setlist finished very strong with three of the biggest New Order hits ever recorded: True Faith, Blue Monday, and an incredible performance of Temptation that was one of the best moments of the night.

New Order came back to perform a two song encore of Joy Division songs.  First was Decades, which was the final song off of Joy Division's final album before the death of Ian Curtis.  They finished the night off with one of the most haunting and brilliant songs ever recorded: Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Here are the Pet Shop Boys and New Order setlists from the Philadelphia concert.

I was excited to see both groups when I bought tickets to this show, but if you had asked me at the time, I would have told you that I was more excited to see New Order, however I left this concert with the feeling that the Pet Shop Boys stole the show.  While I enjoy hearing a band's later work, it was a bit disappointing that some of New Order's most iconic songs were left out of the show entirely, including Thieves Like Us, Love Vigilantes, The Perfect Kiss, Round & Round, and Shellshock.  I get it... they can't play everything from their catalog, but I still think this show might have flowed better if New Order took the stage first with Pet Shop Boys going on second.