Dec 31, 2023

Counting Down The Last Hours Of 2023

Well, another year is coming to a close.  My wife and I haven't been feeling too great for the past week, but it seems like we've both turned the corner, so with any luck, we'll be entering the new year healthy and ready for whatever 2024 will bring.

Our original plan was to take a road trip and meet up with some friends at Shankweiler's Drive In.  We've never been there before, but they scheduled a double feature of The Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic for an event called Happy Keanu Year that looked like a fun way to ring in 2024.  Unfortunately, they had some problems with their projector which caused it to be cancelled, so we're probably just going to relax at home this year.

Dec 29, 2023

Mmmmm.... Donut

Kit-Kat Chocolate Frosted Donut
Hershey (2023)
I sort of expected this to taste like a regular chocolate Kit Kat, but somehow they managed to make it taste like an actual chocolate donut.

Dec 28, 2023

Fun With AI: Phillies Edition

Artificial Intelligence Art
Fotor (2023)
I spent a little time seeing what bizarre images I could get the Fotor AI software to come up with for the Philadelphia Phillies.  This one was created using the prompt "Philadelphia Phillies as demons from hell".

Here are some of other things that it came up with.

Space alien playing baseball for the Phillies
The Phillies as an army of zombies
Bryce Harper eating a cheesesteak

I got a little sidetracked trying to create an image that combined the Phillies and the Ghostbusters.  I wasn't sure if it was going to make characters from the movie as members of the team or players on the team as if they worked as Ghostbusters during the off-season.  It sort of tried to do both at the same time with bizarre results.

Um... well, it got the Ghostbusters logo right for the most part, but I'm not sure how it came up with that header.  I'm also not sure what's going on with those team uniforms, but it looks like some of the Phiiliveebrs have put on a few pounds.  The guy standing to the left hand side of the pitchers mound looks to be about 8 foot tall with a fanny pack under his beer gut.  If someone like that did break into the game, it'd be in Philadelphia.

Well, that's a little bit closer to some of the folks that we've had on the team.  Looks like the guys on the end have graduated from the John Kruk school of weight conditioning.  I'm digging the team logo, which appears to be a fist in a red circle, and it did a halfway decent job of merging aspects of the Ghostbusters since there are four of them and they're all wearing proton packs.  I'm not sure if the purple cyclops monster is the team mascot or their version of Slimer, but I'll take it.

Last but not least, we have this group of "Phililes" huddled together in front of what looks like the team ghost ship.  The guy on the right looks like Egon Spengler if he was played by Chevy Chase.  I'm guessing that the AI was trying to draw Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins in the front... and is that Will Ferrell on the left?  Your guess is as good as mine as to who the goober in the center is, and why he appears to be holding a lightsaber.

Dec 26, 2023

The Cinema Is Truth Twenty-Four Times Per Second

New York Movie
Edward Hopper (1939)
The American Realist painter Edward Hopper began work on New York Movie 85 years ago this month.  It was completed in January 1939 and is now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Dec 25, 2023

Dec 24, 2023

Sea You Next Year, Matey

Long John Silver's
Edwardsville, PA
My grandmother had a tradition of getting fish from Long John Silver's for our Christmas Eve dinner that goes back as long as I can remember.  I thought that this tradition would come to an end when the one in my hometown closed earlier this year, but we were happy to learn that there's a restaurant in operation about 30 miles away.

Naturally, we ordered way too much.  There were about six boxes in total, so we're going to be eating leftover fish and hush puppies for the rest of 2023.

I couldn't resist scanning the QR code on the lock.  It leads to a part of their website that has a printable coloring page with a crossword puzzle, conversation starters, and jokes such as this gem:

Why don't pirates take showers before they walk the plank? 
Because they'll wash up on shore later!

It doesn't seem like Long John Silver's is doing great as a company, but their food is as tasty as it ever was.  We'll keep this tradition going as long as there's a franchise within a reasonable driving distance.

Dec 23, 2023

I Wonder If They Believed In The Joy Of Gifting

One of the many things that has drastically changed in my lifetime is shopping for Christmas presents.  Of course, shopping in general has changed in many ways, but those changes become a lot more apparent to me this time of year.  When I was growing up, my family and I would go to the mall in November and December.  All of the stores had Christmas music playing and massive displays of merchandise and signage about how it would be the perfect gift for someone in your life.  People still do some of their holiday shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, but it's just not the same as it was, and it probably never will be again.

It's funny... the things that surround you in the world that you grow up in... the things that you just take for granted as a permanent part of the world that you live in...  Not only are they not permanent, but they barely register a blip on the timeline.

Dec 22, 2023

The Curse Of The Von Erichs

The Iron Claw
A24 (2023)
This was a fantastic movie.  I'm tempted to say that it's the best wrestling movie that I've ever seen, but this is much more than a movie about pro wrestling.  It's the true story of the Von Erich family and the tragedies that they've endured.

The movie does take some creative liberties, the most obvious of which is the omission of Chris Von Erich, but it tells the story of the Von Erich family with heart.  Everyone gives a great performance, but I was especially impressed with Stanley Simons who played Mike Von Erich.  I was also very happy to see that Kevin Von Erich praised Zac Efron's portrayal of him and the movie in general.

This is a movie that I would recommend to everyone, whether they're a fan of pro wrestling or not.

Dec 21, 2023

The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Mohegan Sun Arena - Wilkes Barre, PA
We kicked off our 2023 Christmas Vacation with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  We've gotten to see them a few times over the years, but I think that this might have been their best performance that I've ever seen.

Dec 20, 2023

It Was A Banner Year At The Old Bender Family

L&M / Chesterfield / Oasis sign
I saw this sign over the summer at The Slatington Marketplace and immediately thought of the scene in The Breakfast Club when Judd Nelson describing his last Christmas to Emilio Estevez.  Smoke up, Johnny!

Dec 19, 2023

Santa Doesn't Bring Batteries

Christmas Battery Advertisement
Eveready Battery Company (1980's)
We saw this sign being sold at a stand at Weil Antique Center and I got a kick out of the implication that Santa will bring you all of the toy robots, calculators, cameras and flashlights that your heart desires, but you're on your own when it comes to the power to run them.  "Ho, ho, ho... Merry Christmas!  And remember, children, batteries are not included!"

Dec 18, 2023

Santa Has Had One Too Many Margaritas

La Tolteca
Wilkes Barre, PA
We stopped at La Tolteca for dinner before National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Sunday.  The restaurant was all decorated for Christmas, but it was very windy and rainy all day and the inflatable Santa had taken a belly flop in the parking lot.

The Christmas tree in the front lobby was especially nice.  It had a train going around about it a few feet from the top, but it must have needed a new set of batteries because it was staying put on its tracks.

I had the Burrito Hawaiiano, which is a flour tortilla filled with shrimp, pineapple, onions, and rice, and it's topped with a cheese sauce and mango pico de gallo.  Very tasty, and very filling!

Dec 17, 2023

The Jolliest Bunch Of Assholes This Side Of The Nuthouse

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
FM Kirby Center - Wilkes Barre, PA
It's not every day that an opportunity comes along to see a true comedy legend.  Tonight, the great Chevy Chase was in attendance at the Kirby Center for a screening of my favorite Christmas movie of all time: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

There was a presentation on the big screen prior to the start of the movie which was a collection of facts about the movie and the career of Chevy Chase along with trivia questions that fans in attendance answered on their cell phones.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation premiered in theaters on December 1st, 1989.  I didn't see it in theaters at the time, but I've watched it at home every December for as long as I can remember.  I can't think of any movie, holiday or otherwise, that makes me laugh as hard or as often as this.

Chevy Chase and his wife Jayni took the stage after the credits rolled on the film for an hour of stories, questions and answers, and Chevy just being Chevy.  The man is 80 years old and just as quick-witted and funny as ever, and getting to see him in person is an experience I won't forget.

Dec 16, 2023

The Berwick Lights

Christmas Boulevard
Berwick, PA (2023)
The borough of Berwick has been decorating the median on North Market Street with Christmas lights, animatronics, and displays every December since 1946.  Angie and I have visited every year since 2005, even during years that I was out of the state for work during most of the month.

Here are some of the displays from this season.