Feb 19, 2024

Wiz Whit

Whit Merrifield
Philadelphia Phillies (2024)
It was announced on Friday that the Phillies have signed a dude that they have been rumored to be interested in acquiring for a long time.  Super-utility veteran Whit Merrifield signed a one year, $7 million dollar contract with a team option for 2025.

This is exactly the kind of move that championship teams make.  Merrifield gives the Phillies depth at practically every position on the field.  He's a three time all-star (including last season) and has led the American League in stolen bases three times, the most recent of which was just three years ago.  He's 35 and past his peak seasons, but he's still one of the best utility players in the game.

Feb 17, 2024

The First Punch In Our Borg Nine Card

Mahoning Winter Meetup
Pocono Cinema & Cultural Center - East Stroudsburg, PA
A few weeks ago, it was announced to members and staff of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater that they would be hosting a winter gathering on February 16th at a small theater in East Stroudsburg where we could all get together to catch up with each other, hear some of the plans for the upcoming 2024 season, and enjoy a screening of a surprise film.

We didn't get any pictures of our front row crew.  Everybody was kind of bopping all over the theater meeting up and chatting with each other before and after the screening, so an opportunity really didn't present itself, but thanks to Kate, we did get a couple of selfies in.

This year will be the 75th year that the Mahoning Drive-In Theater has been in business, so the theme for the season will be "75 years of 35 mm".  There were a few announcements of films and double features that haven't been made public yet, as well as a pre-season 35mm road show, a new sponsor, and a partnership with a major film studio whose name I won't mention.  We don't yet know what movies will be screened on the lot as a result of this partnership, but the possibilities are pretty damn cool!

The title of the movie we were going to watch was not announced ahead of time, but we were given a clue that it was a PG film that they've wanted to screen at the drive-in for a long time, but after years of searching, they couldn't find a 35mm print.  It was the 1972 disaster flick: The Poseidon Adventure.  Virgil and Mark have often joked that they wanted to host a three day weekend of Ernest Borgnine movies at the Mahoning with triple features every night, and an event title of The Borg Nine.  I suggested that they spread it out over a season and give us something like the old Subway cards that you would get punched every time you got a hoagie.  Fill up your card with Borg Nine and your Borg Ten will be free!

The Poseidon Adventure is an amazing movie.  I always assumed that I had seen it before, but I realized at about five minutes in that nothing looked familiar to me at all, so either my memory has really taken a turn for the worse, or I was mistaking this for another disaster-on-the-sea movie that I've watched at some point in my life.  I'm pretty sure that it's the latter... at least I hope that's the case.  So, as luck would have it, my first time seeing this all-time classic was on the big screen with our friends from the drive-in, which was an awesome experience!

After watching The Poseidon Adventure on the big screen, we had a much less fun experience with The Mazda 3 Adventure on our drive home.  We knew that we were going to get some snow, but they were calling for it to start early Saturday morning and last through the afternoon.  It must have moved a little faster than expected because we hit a snow squall about halfway down I-80 which made it pretty damn hard to see and to keep the car from slipping.  It got even worse once we took the 309 exit and ended up stuck behind a car that didn't seem to know how to drive in the snow.  Not gonna lie, it was a bit scary at times, but we made it home safe and sound.

Feb 16, 2024

Pre-Show Crunch Wraps

Bite American Tacos
East Stroudsburg, PA
We found this groovy little restaurant next door to the Pocono Cinema & Cultural Center in East Stroudsburg which hosted an off-season gathering of the Mahoning Drive-In family.

My wife and I ordered Crunch Wraps for dinner, both of which came with a side of cornbread and tortilla chips.  I got the Porkland Street Crunch Wrap, which was filled with shredded pork, rice, fiesta corn, bourbon sauce, and cheddar cheese, while she had the American Dream Crunch Wrap, which was stuffed with ground beef, lettuce, cheddar, and queso.  The filling in hers was topped with a sauce that tasted like barbecue which she wasn't expecting and didn't really want, so we ended up trading after a few bites, which was perfectly fine with me because I thought both of them were delicious.

Feb 15, 2024

Small Talk At The Carving Station

Training Video
Old Country Buffet
I've watched quite a few cheesy training videos in my day, but this one takes the cake... or, in this case, the slab of roast beef.

Feb 13, 2024

A Bad Trailer Can Kill A Good Movie

Universal Pictures (2024)
This is a movie that I never would have cared about enough to see it on the big screen if not for our Regal Unlimited subscription.  When we waked into the theater yesterday, I expected this movie to be absolute crap.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's a fun action comedy with good performances all around, but the trailer really didn't do this picture any favors.

There's a pretty good chance that you've seen the trailer for Argylle before.  It has been included in the ads for various streaming services, and it was played before nearly every movie that I've watched at the Regal this year.  I thought that it seemed mildly amusing the first time that we saw it, but it made my eyes roll nearly every time after that.  The dialogue between Bryce Dallas Howard and Catherine O'Hara in this trailer sounds like it was lifted from a failed 90's sitcom, the action scenes look about as cheesy and cookie-cutter as you can get, and for as much as I love Samuel L. Jackson, his line of "It's time for you to meet the real Agent Argylle" may have been the corniest thing I've ever seen in the theatrical trailer of a big budget film.  Then there's the CGI cat, which had me picturing a room full of aging studio executives insisting that this movie have a cat because they saw their grandkids watching cat videos on their phones.  Also, no offense intended to the director, but adding "from the twisted mind of Matthew Vaughn" to the trailer is not the selling point that they think it is.  I barely knew who he was even after looking him up on Wikipedia, and I go to a hell of a lot of movies.

Argylle premiered across the United States on February 2nd.  It has bombed at the box office so far, and I think they have their marketing team and whoever cut together this trailer to blame for that.  Pushing even a good trailer as hard as they pushed this tends to make me sick of a movie before I even see it, but when you overplay a trailer makes a film look as lame as this, you're almost asking the public to ignore your movie.  If not for the fact that it didn't cost us anything extra to see it, the convenient start time for my work schedule, and the fact that we wanted to go see a movie before the big snowfall hit on Monday night, I wouldn't have bothered.

My only complaint about the movie itself is that they really overdid it with the scenes where Elly was watching Aidan fight someone, only to have Aidan turn into her Argylle character, then cut back to Elly to shake her head in disbelief.  I feel like they did that schtick at least a dozen times during the train scene.  I get it... she thinks she's seeing Argylle... can we please stop now.

Other than that, the movie was a hell of a lot of fun, and not at all the dumpster fire that the trailer make it seem like it was going to be.  I'm told that they planned for this to be a series, and I hope that those plans continue despite the movie not being the success that they hoped it would be... but for the love of god, please hire a different marketing team.

Feb 12, 2024

Taffy and Chick Peas and Dolphins, Oh My

My dad sends me home with the most random things when I visit him.  This weekend, it was a decanter filled with salt water taffy, a can of garbanzo beans, and a magnifying glass shaped like a dolphin.

Feb 11, 2024

More Discount Ice Cream

My experience with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream has been hit and miss.  They make a lot of unusual limited edition flavors that I'm interested in trying, but a lot of them that I've had the opportunity to try have ranged from pretty good (Hot Honey), to just ok (Pizza, Grey Poupon), to kinda lousy (Kraft Macaroni & Cheese), to an abomination of the grocers freezer aisle (Hidden Valley Ranch).  There's only one flavor of theirs that I really loved, and that was Cranberry Crumble.

I've had enough bad experiences with this brand that it would take something pretty remarkable for me to be willing to pay full price for one of their pints (except Cranberry Crumble, which is worth every penny).  I must not be the only person in town who feels this way because there's often an endcap freezer at my local Wal-Mart that's filled with pints that have been put on clearance.  That was the case with these four flavors, each of which were marked down to $1.50.

There are few foods in this world that I enjoy more than pickles, so I was tempted to buy this when I first saw it a few months ago.  The thing that stopped me was the memory of the Hidden Valley Ranch flavor.  I'm not a fussy eater but it was, in the words of Jules Winnfield, some fucked-up repugnant shit.  Thankfully, the Dill Pickle flavor was much better.  If anything, it could probably have used a bit more of the pickle flavoring.  This falls in the category of "just ok" because I wouldn't buy it again, but I'm glad that I got to try it.

Idaho Potato Malted Milkshake & Fries was the sleeper hit of the group for me.  I've actually had a very similar flavor a few years ago from a company called Coolhaus Ice Cream.  That one was quite good, and the Van Leeuwen version was even better.  Instead of little mini french fries, this one is made with potato flakes mixed in like the crisped rice in a Nestle Crunch bar.  This is one that I would buy again.

Kiwi Burst is the flavor that I was looking forward to trying the most out of these four because I love the fruit, but it was pretty underwhelming.  It tasted good, but the flavor was kind of weak and although kiwi puree was in the ingredients, I didn't think that it tasted like a kiwi.  Not bad, but this one is a one-and-done for me.

I saved Key Lime Pie for last because I was pretty sure that I was going to enjoy it, and I was right.  This one had a strong flavor and was loaded with graham crust pieces.  Cranberry Crumble is still my favorite Van Leeuwen flavor that I've tried, but this one is right up there too.

Feb 10, 2024

Introducing Gen Z To Retro Gaming

Timeline Arcade
Market Street - York, PA
My friend Ben is a gamer, but he hasn't played too many things that came out prior to Nintendo GameCube, so I spent the day introducing him to retro gaming in the place that best represents what it was like to play video games during the 80's and 90's, Timeline Arcade.

Before I talk about the arcade, I've got to mention the fact that it was 65 degrees... on February 10th... in Pennsylvania.  I'm not sure what the record high is for this time of year in this part of the country, but this has to be pretty close.

It's been six years since I last visited the Timeline Arcade.  Since that time, they've closed the original Hanover location and moved a lot of those games over to the arcade in York.  They knocked down the back wall of the York location to accommodate for all of the new games, so the place has nearly doubled in size since the last time I was here.

The place was pretty busy so I didn't take too many pictures inside the arcade, but I did want to make sure to get photos of a few machines.  The one on the left was a short Space Invaders cabinet that I've never had the opportunity to play until today.  The one in the middle is an old school snack machine that dispenses fun-size candy bars.  The machine on the right is Return Of The Jedi, which was one of my favorite arcade games when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, Return Of The Jedi wasn't working correctly.  The gun worked, and the flight yoke allowed you to move your land speeder and ship to the top and bottom of the screen, but you couldn't move forward and backward.  That pretty much makes the Endor level impossible because you can't speed ahead of the Storm Troopers and go through to activate the Ewok's traps.

This wasn't the only game that had issues.  The second player gun in Revolution X and a few other games that we came across didn't work, the Tapper cabinet was extremely glitchy (possibly because someone modded it to turn the bar patrons into Simpsons characters), and the Gorf machine didn't work at all.  In a way, this is a pretty authentic retro arcade experience because I remember that there were machines that were out-of-order or with controllers that were less than fully functional at pretty much every arcade that I've played at throughout the 80's and 90's, but it was still a bummer.

One of the games that worked perfectly was the 1998 Sega underwater shooting game: The Ocean Hunter.  I've never seen of or heard this game before, but it's a lot of fun and we played the entire game to the end credits.  The game doesn't really acknowledge this, but you're pretty much playing as the villain in this game.  There are hundreds of shark, squid, jellyfish, piranha, and other underwater creatures (both real and mythological), and the players characters are two humans who go down there to blow them to smithereens while collecting treasure boxes.  Yay humans!

The last game we played was Golden Tee Golf, and while it's a hell of a lot of fun to play, let's just say that neither Ben or I are going to be joining the PGA Tour any time soon.

Feb 9, 2024

Break Out The Kink-A-Rama Chart

Joe Bob's Very Violent Valentine
Shudder (2024)
The first Joe Bob Briggs special of 2024 will air at 9:00 pm tonight.  Here are the clues for tonight's double feature:
  • The first movie was so violent that the MPAA ordered 53 cuts before it could be released.
  • The second movie combined Andy Warhol's Factory with the sleaziest neighborhood in downtown El Lay.
It seems like a lot of folks are guessing My Bloody Valentine for the first feature and Vamp for the second.

UPDATE: Well, they had the second movie right, but the first movie was the 1996 Matthew Bright crime comedy: Freeway.  I haven't watched Freeway since I was a teenager, and I forgot that I had even seen it until about five minutes in, but I'm glad they reminded me of it tonight.  Damn, what a great flick!

Feb 7, 2024

Brown Sugar, How Come You Taste So Good?

Candied Bacon Whopper
Burger King (2024)
The most recent limited edition variation of the Whopper is available at Burger King restaurants in the United States as of January 29th.  It's topped with brown sugar candied bacon, bacon jam, crispy onions, and a creamy garlic aioli.

I'm not sure if the Candied Bacon Whopper has something to do with the Million Dollar Whopper contest or if they're using this wrapper for all of their burgers right now.  However, I am sure that this is a tasty burger!  The meat, veggies, brown sugar, jam, and garlic sauce blend together nicely to make a burger with a sweet and smokey flavor.

Feb 6, 2024

Stop Munching Grape Nuts And Go See This Movie

Regal Mystery Movie Monday
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
We've missed the past few Mystery Movie Monday screenings, but I'm glad that we were able to make it out for this one because we got to see a movie that we were both looking forward to since we saw the trailer for the first time.
Focus Features (2024)
Lisa Frankenstein was written by Diablo Cody and it's the feature-length directorial debut of Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin Williams), and for as insane as it looks in the trailer, this movie is way more twisted than I was expecting.

The story is set in 1989 Illinois and it's about a high school girl named Lisa (Kathryn Newton) who tends to the grave of a young man who is buried in an abandoned cemetery (Cole Sprouse) until his corpse comes back to life to be with her.  The cast includes Liza Soberano, who seems destined to be a mega star, as Lisa's well meaning stepsister Taffy, and Carla Gugino, who I'll probably always know best as the star of Son In Law, as Lisa's far less well meaning stepmother, Janet.

Since it hasn't even officially come out yet, I don't want to say too much more about it, but it's got an incredible soundtrack and it's every bit as campy and fun as I was expecting.  One of my favorite description was tweeted by @crazysexyghoul who said that it's "Encino Man for goth millennials who wish Edward Scissorhands was hornier", but I think that Matt Devine hit the nail on the head when he said that "it's like a mix of Valley Girl and Frankenhooker".

The official poster for Lisa Frankenstein shows that the movie will premier on Valentine's Day, but from everything that I read, it's going to be in theaters nationwide in three days, and I highly recommend it!

Feb 5, 2024

The Story Of Castle Dracula

The Story Of Castle Dracula
Dark In The Park (2024)
If I were to make a list of my top ten favorite places in the world, Castle Dracula in Wildwood, NJ would be very close to the top of that list.

A website dedicated to dark rides and attractions called Dark In The Park recently published this excellent short documentary film that is dedicated to the haunted attraction.  I've contributed some photos of the castle to this website quite a few years ago and I was happy to see that they included some of them throughout the video, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in the last few seconds.

At 26:53 in the video, there's a photograph of a little boy sitting in the boat of the Dungeon Moat Ride with a young man in a blue Rolling Rock t-shirt.  This photo was taken by my grandfather in the summer of 1987.  The man on the right is my dad, and the little boy is me.

Feb 4, 2024

Happy Birthday To Schnoo

My little buddy is 12 years old today.  Happy birthday, Harvey!

Feb 3, 2024

When Life Gives You Lemon Kit Kats...

Kit Kat Lemon Crisp
Hershey (2024)
It's the first week of February, so I guess that means that it's time for Easter candy to start hitting store shelves.  The Lemon Crisp Kit Kat bars are listed on the Hershey website as a seasonal product for Spring, but I think they should consider making these available all year long.  Very tasty!

Feb 2, 2024

Don't Forget Your Booties 'Cause It's Cold Out There

Groundhog Day
Shankweiler's Drive-In TheatreOrefield, PA
We were originally going to visit Shankweiler's Drive In Theater for the first time on New Years Eve for their planned Happy Keanu Year double feature of The Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic, but the event was cancelled due to issues that they were having with their projector.  Truth be told, we probably wouldn't have been able to make it down anyway because my wife and I were both very sick for the last week of 2023.  As it turned out, this delayed our visit by just over a month as they were having an event tonight that we cannot miss: a double feature of Groundhog Day and... Groundhog Day... on the night of Groundhog Day.

Shankweiler's Drive In Theater opened on April 15, 1934.  It was the second drive-in theater to open in the United States (the first one opened on June 6th, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey), and it's the oldest drive-in theater in the world that is still in operation today.  It's a single screen, digital projection theater on Route 309 in Orefield, Pennsylvania, which is roughly an hour away from where we live and about 20 minutes further away than the Mahoning.

Shankweiler's is now owned and operated by Matt McClanahan, who partnered with Virgil and Jeff to turn the Mahoning into what it is today.  Matt is heavily featured in the At The Drive In documentary about the Mahoning, and after I had seen it, I wondered why we never saw him there.  I'm not sure of the details, but at some point prior to my wife and I discovering the Mahoning, Matt struck out on his own.  He and his partner Lauren McChesney purchased Shankweiler's sometime around November 2022.  Since that time, they've shown a mix of first-run theatrical movies and older movies, sometimes on the same night.

We met up with our friends Kate, Mike (who is hiding in the back), Louie, Shannon, and Donnie (who wasn't there yet when the picture was taken), so the Mahoning front row mob was well-represented.  We even ended up parking our regular center-right spots in the front row.  It was pretty cold out so none of us brought our lawn chairs, but we had an opportunity to hang out and catch up before the show and during intermission.  February is right around the halfway point between the end of the Mahoning 2023 season and Opening Weekend 2024, so I'm thinking that a trip to Shankweiler's this time of year might become an annual tradition.

I've come to appreciate the charm of seeing movies from their original 35mm prints, but there's something to be said for the crisp picture from a digital projector, and it's nice to have a place to meet up with our drive-in friends during the winter when the Mahoning is closed... especially for the opportunity to see Groundhog Day at a drive-in on Groundhog Day.

The movie premiered in theaters in February 1993.  I was 12 years old at the time, and while I didn't see it on the big screen, it was something that I rented on VHS when it was still on the new release wall.  It was one of those movies that I'd pop in the VCR when I was a teenager, often times just as something to have on in the background while I was doing something else.  It's a very pleasant movie with a performance from Bill Murray that I don't think any other actor could have touched.  These days, it seems to universally be accepted as a modern classic, and it's become an annual tradition for my wife and I to watch it every February 2nd.... never thought I'd be able to do it at a drive-in though!

Feb 1, 2024

Let's Nuke The Bridge We Torched 2,000 Times Before

Green Day (1994)
An album that I listened to countless times when I was in junior high and high school is turning 30 years old today.  Dookie is Green Day's third album, but it's the first of their records that I heard.  I strongly suspect that this is true for the majority of their fans, although every kid I knew back in the mid 90's would swear that they had been listening to 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk for years.

Dookie is a catchy pop-punk album that seems in retrospect to have been tailor made for teenage boys in the 90's.  Many of its songs were played in heavy rotation on the radio and MTV, but none got more airtime than Basket Case.  This music video played at least four times an hour on MTV after it was released.  It's not my favorite song on the album, but it's definitely the one that I think of first.
Do you have the time to listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once?
I am one of those
Melodramatic fools
Neurotic to the bone
No doubt about it

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid?
Or am I just stoned?

I went to a shrink
To analyze my dreams
She says it's lack of sex that's bringing me down
I went to a whore
He said my life's a bore
So quit my whining 'cause it's bringing her down

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid?

Grasping to control
So I better hold on

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid?
Or am I just stoned?