Leela- One Part Fuzzball and Two Parts Badass

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, please forgive this post. It’s going to be filled with pictures you’ve probably already seen. I’m sorry, but when you get a new kitten you’re required to take a photo every time it crosses its paws in a new way. Either way, I’ll try not to drag this out. Maybe I’ll be done writing by the time I finish this glass of wine.

This is the story of Leela. We picked her up on Saturday from the animal hospital where Caitlin’s aunt and mom work. Anyone who watches slightly nerdy animated shows about the future should understand how we chose her name very shortly:

You might be noticing that she only has one eye. It’s an astute observation, and accurate. She was found in a factory/power plant with her brother with a badly infected eye. Once she had it surgically removed, she was good as new. And obviously we decided to name her Leela, after the captain of the Planet Express ship in the hit animated tv show, Futurama!

It’s uncanny, isn’t it?

We quickly learned that the loss of half her vision wasn’t enough to slow her down. Leela was a good choice of name personality-wise, too. She’s definitely an explorer. She’s been running on what seems like 15 total minutes of sleep for the last five days. The rest of her time has been spent running upstairs, bolting back downstairs, carrying her toy ball around in her mouth for no reason, somersaulting, and doing that funny cat crab walk thing. It has truly been exhausting just to watch.

However, it’s also been rewarding. For the longest time, I’ve wanted a kid. It’s probably because I come from an Italian family. Having a kitten is sort of like caring for a baby, or at least must be good practice. A kitten is more resilient than a baby, sure: not many human infants I know would survive a serious eye infection in a power plant. At the same time, you don’t have to stop a baby from chewing on electrical cables. Or do you? I’m going to be the worst father.

We got Leela at the perfect time with Halloween just around the corner. When you have a black cat with one eye, the photo opportunities are infinite. I should have waited to write this so that I could have included a picture of a tiny cat pirate on top of a pumpkin. She’s got a built-in costume for life.

When my sister and brother-in-law got their kitten Curious six years ago, I watched him for a day. Of course, I had him sit and watch Mystery Science Theater with me. Unfortunately, Leela is too excitable and insane to sit through that. I hope that one day, though, I’ll convince her to watch a Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th marathon. It will be then that I can accurately claim to own the greatest cat of all time.

This experience has revealed what kind of parents we’ll be, too. Both Caitlin and I are over-protective and constantly worrying about Leela. I can only imagine how neurotic we’ll be when we actually have a kid. I’m anticipating an attempt to break the world’s record for most consecutive hours awake. Who can sleep when there’s a bay who might need attending to? And geez, we’re already giving Leela foot rubs because she likes to have her paws massaged. I have to remember to not let our child read this site, or he/she will own us.

She knows she has us right in her adorable clutches.

In the end, obviously it’s worth it to take in a kitten who needs you. Caitlin and I have had cats since we were children. Last year we had to put down Caitlin’s cat, and for the first time in 15 years we had no pets to take care of. We both decided that we were ready, and then immediately realize that no, we weren’t. Fourteen straight hours of watching a tiny black blur fly around the house can change your mind pretty quickly.

Just kidding. Leela’s energy is nuts and makes me want to take a nap, yes. But we wouldn’t trade it now. We get as much enjoyment from her as I’m sure she does from not being in a power pant with an injured eye. Any time two entities can make each other mutually happy, you can’t ask for more.

And any time a tough kitten from the streets lives to show off her gold and war wounds, the world shines just a little bit brighter.

I finished my wine over an hour ago, by the way. The Simpsons marathon was on and distracted me.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Comics, Movies, and Way Too Many Words About Both

It was only a matter of time before I posted about them. Easily the earliest obsession I had as a child, with the possible exception of dinosaurs, they were the greatest thing in my tiny toddler world.

I guess mentioning what I’m talking about in the post title kills any suspense I was trying to build. It’s the Ninja Turtles.

Some of the earliest home videos we have show me swinging socks around in a sad attempt at mimicking Michelangelo’s nunchuck prowess. Not that real nunchucks would have made me look any cooler when I was also two years old and had a mullet.

Hope you didn’t think I was exaggerating.

I had all the toys, carried around in an official TMNT suitcase, and the first movie I saw in the theaters was 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My grandparents took me to see it, and were a little concerned because I was three and had never had to sit still through a movie in public before. Their fears were allayed, however, as I remained motionlessly, hands clasped in lap, for the entire duration. Like I was going to miss a second of action or of Raphael yelling “DAAAAMN!”

And that’s really what this post is about. Not my weird hair or makeshift ninja weapons, but the Ninja Turtles movie. To this day I consider it to be a legitimately good movie that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t necessarily TMNT fans. It’s simply well-done. And of course, as a fan it remains in my top five movies to this day. One of the reasons a lot of people hold it in such high regard is the inclusion of various ideas from both the original comics and the 1980s cartoon series that started the giant Ninja Turtles craze.

The movie did a great job of combining the two. The general plot followed the first four issues of the comics, while the turtles had personalities and humor that were the main focal point of the cartoon. In the comics, they all wore red bandanas and killed an awful lot more people than you might imagine. In the cartoon, they donned the individually-colored bandanas that we’ve all come to associate them with, and they made really bad puns instead of murdering criminals.

As someone who grew up with the kid-friendly TV version, the darkness of the books seemed both insane and cool. With that in mind, I decided to detail some of my favorite scenes that crossed over from the comics into the movie. They may have changed a bit in the transfer, but it doesn’t make them any less amazing.


Rooftop Fight

Comics:

The Turtles really went for broke early on by including one of their coolest fights in the very first issue. It starts out with the introduction of the turtles and how they came to exist before moving on to their feud with the Shredder. It doesn’t take long (a few pages) before Splinter reveals the purpose in all the years of training: his sons are going to straight-up murder Shredder.

See?

I guess he has good reason. Shredder murdered his master, and now Splinter wants some good old-fashioned revenge.

Of course, he sends Raphael to give a message to the Shredder, Raph being the most angry and deranged of the four brothers. Raph tosses a note attached to his sai through Shredder’s window, calling him out. He seems to interrupt a business meeting, scaring off some of Shredder’s potential customers. It’s a bit odd that our first glimpse of the turtles’ greatest nemesis has him wearing a shirt and tie as opposed to pajamas covered in blades.

Shredder’s rightfully pissed over the deal gone south, and accepts Raphael’s challenge. You might be wondering why Raph didn’t just throw the sai through his chest cavity. It would have been a good idea, but the note explicitly mentions giving Shredder a chance to regain his honor. The turtles may be murderers, but they want to murder fairly.

Of course, he’s a bad guy so Shredder brings his Foot soldiers along to the death duel. Luckily for us readers, this leads to a Badass Rooftop Rumble.

The turtles dispatch of the ninjas, and it’s time to face the Shredder. It goes quite poorly for our heroes, until they realize there are four of them. After using teamwork and unfair advantages, they beat their rival to a pulp and politely ask him to commit seppuku. He declines, and extends a counter-offer in the form of a thermite grenade.

Unfortunately for him, Donatello isn’t having it.

He bonks Shredder in the face with his bo, sending him tumbling over the edge, grenade in hand. Then Shredder explodes.

And that’s the end of the first issue! Pretty brutal. I realize this is an abrupt ending, but I work with what I’m given. Let’s see how the movie compares.

Movie:

The movie really takes its time building up to the one of the finest pieces of cinematic gold ever committed to film. After fighting through waves of foot soldiers, the turtles finally battle their way up to the street and onto a nearby rooftop. After Raphael utters the immortal line, “Aww, no more?”, the time has come.

Shredder silently descends from the heavens, prepared to dine on turtle soup. And for the first several minutes of the fight, that’s exactly what he does. I don’t think I can do the intensity justice, so please just watch this video.

One by one, Shredder dispatches our heroes. It’s a great sequence, with minimal fast cuts. Just cool choreography and bitchin’ music. But we all know what’s coming. Shredder isn’t long for this world, only this time it’s Splinter who does the deed. The turtles’ master somehow scales to the roof, despite having the mobility of a dirty old rag up until this point. Shredder sees him and recognizes him as the rat who clawed his face off years prior.

Shredder takes leave of his senses as he charges Splinter like a psychopath. Of course, Splinter dodges and catches his arch enemy with one of Mikey’s nunchucks. One errant knife throw later, and Shredder is yet again falling to his doom.

The movie lacks the gore of the live grenade, but more than makes up for it by having Casey Jones crush Shredder’s body in a garbage truck. He tries a joking “Oops!”, but no amount of sarcasm can hide the blatant murder that’s just taken place.

Cowabunga!


Smashed Windows and Antique Store Brawls

Comics:

After falling off the roof while holding an exploding grenade, Shredder is obviously still alive. He announces his return in style by unceremoniously throwing Leonardo through April’s window. It’s the perfect way to get the turtles’ attention, as he goes on to lead his Foot soldiers in an attack on the apartment. The outnumbered brothers fight valiantly, but the sheer numbers and shock over Shredder apparently being a zombie overtake them. They’re in a bad way by the time the fight spills to the antique store below.

Shredder’s lax demeanor above comes back to haunt him, however. Hockey-masked vigilante CASEY JONES shows up to help out his pals, yelling strange things like “GOONGALA.” For some reason that works. He’s able to not only fight off the Foot, but Shredder himself.

With the aid of their insane new friend, the turtles survive the horrible attack and are able to escape.

Movie:

Here it’s Raph who sails through the skylight. He gets into one of his trademark arguments with Leonardo, this time over their lack of Splinter-searching. I think I forgot to mention that at this point of the movie, Splinter’s been taken by the Foot.

Raph storms away from his brothers, throwing angry kicks across the deserted roof of April’s apartment. Unfortunately for him, the Foot see this as an opportunity for an ambush. They attack, by which I mean I’m pretty sure they actually powerbomb him at one point.

After a loooong montage of Raph getting the shit kicked out of him, he’s tossed through the ceiling, landing at his brothers’ feet. He’s soon followed by a whole bunch of Foot soldiers, who come crashing through every window and doorway that the apartment has.

Also, the turtles haven’t even met Shredder yet at this point in the movie. I feel like they should have been a little more curious as to why ninjas keep showing up, but they seem to take it in stride.

After the floor collapses, the battle is continued in the antique store below, where the turtles are again saved by Casey Jones. Casey offers to cover their retreat, to which Leonardo bravely replies “Good idea,” before booking through a trap door to the alley that all antique stores have. To be fair, I would have done the same thing.

Casey manages to escape the dozens of highly-trained ninjas, holding them off with a hockey stick and an endless barrage of one-liners. Soon he joins his friends in April’s van, and they’re off to the setting of the next entry in this article!


The Farm That Time Forgot

Comics:

Everyone heads to a farm that Casey’s grandmother owns in upstate New York. The turtles have gotten their asses handed to them for the first time and seem pretty down. It’s hard to make pizza jokes with Leonardo still picking pieces of glass out of his face.

The brothers takes some time to themselves in order to regroup. Leo hunts some deer, Raph and Casey work on fixing up an old car, Donny tries to get the hot water working, and Mikey starts beating up some punching bags.

He gets really into it and pretty much destroys the barn. It’s a far cry from the TV show Mikey that kids know and love.

Movie:

This is one of my favorite scenes in the film. It does a great job of showing how each turtle handles the defeat differently. Leo is full of guilt, seeing as how his leadership leads Raphael straight through a window. Mikey is shown for a few brief seconds wailing away on a punching bag. It’s short, but serves the same purpose that the scene does in the comics. Even the perpetually-joking Michelangelo is affected by the loss. Story-telling and character development, people!

Also, in the movie version it’s Donatello who works on the truck with Casey, mostly because Raphael is unconscious. I support the change and the increased Corey Feldman presence it produces. Plus, this scene beats the comics by miles because it’s only in the film version that Casey and Don insult each other alphabetically. I love Raph, but he couldn’t have done that. He would have called Casey a dickbag four seconds in and ruined it.

I don’t know how this movie didn’t win every award possible, plus several ones that aren’t, once Casey calls a giant turtle “Dome Head.”

There are so many more scenes I could include, but this post is already about a thousand words more than most of you are willing to read. If it isn’t obvious by now, I love both the TMNT comics and movie. They both offer Ninja Turtles fans the things that we love, albeit in different ways. It’s equally satisfying seeing Leonardo telling Shredder to kill himself as it is seeing Leonardo slice a piece of pizza in mid-air, only to have it plop unceremoniously onto Splinter’s head. You need balance.

…. I forgot the first Casey Jones/Raphael encounter.

I’m going to bed and never writing again. See you all soon!

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Robot Monster Analysis (With Guest Adriana!)

Today is historic. It marks the first time that this site has featured a guest contributor. If you don’t like my writing, this could be the post for you!

I’m really hoping that this isn’t the first you’ve heard of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I fear that for many it is. On the bright side, I might get another person or two into the show. It’s undeniably huge with its cult following, but it deserves more mainstream recognition.

The unique premise alone should be enough intrigue you all; a man and two robots trapped in space, being forced to watch horrible films. Even those who have never seen an episode probably recognize the image of silhouettes in the corner of the screen, pointing up at and making fun of old movie scenes. Plus, everyone loves wooden dialogue and plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.

I should clarify for those who are unfamiliar. I’m not taking about bad movies like Sharknado. I’m talking about bad movies where the director was convinced he had cinematic gold on his hands. It’s am important distinction to make. Films made today that are on SyFy weekly, or go straight to DVD, are typically made with the intention of appealing to the B-movie audience. The real magic happens when a filmmaker gives it his best shot and fails to deliver his message with any coherency or grace.

MST3K was well aware of this, and focused on the latter. Over the course of their eleven years, they mocked monster movies, old black and white detective stories, spy films, and more. One of their staples, however, was classic 1950s science fiction.

As luck with have it, my friend Adriana posted a photo of the 1953 movie Robot Monster on Instagram, as part of her 100 Days of Robots campaign. Having watched MST3K with her before, I mentioned that Robot Monster was a Mystery Science Theater episode. Of course, we then immediately had to schedule a viewing, which came to fruition mere days later.

Since she has quite a way with words, I thought it’d be fun to document the watching of the movie and post our thoughts on certain aspects. As usual, I was right. We had a blast, and Adriana was kind enough to contribute her thoughts on the short before the movie, the movie itself, and the riff/joke quality put forth by the show.

Let’s dive into Robot Monster and see if we can’t make a believer out of you. If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Adriana. She’ll hit you if you don’t.

The Short- Commando Cody

Dan: These old serials are the best. A lot of times MST would riff on one of these weekly installments if the movie they were doing for the episode ran short. Robot Monster is barely over an hour so there were two Commando Cody episodes prior to the film. And boy, were they ever fraught with danger and heart-stopping thrills.

I’ll be upfront about this and admit that I didn’t follow the story at all. These were chapters four and five, so it was sort of impossible to jump into an analysis of the plot anyway. It was simple enough to understand that Cody was the good guy, fighting bad guys in classy suits and space people in bath robes. That was all we needed to know.

I was happy that one of the chapters included a fist fight. Something about fight scenes from the 1940s/50s films cheers me up, even when I’m not feeling particularly down. This one didn’t disappoint, as we were treated to punches missing by four feet and a spastic leap over the table. In the end, however, the good guy who wasn’t Cody got his face beat in by the two EVIL GOONS who then stole his lady friend. Cody showed up and wasn’t about to have that, so he took off on his jetpack. Literally, he flies like this:

He somehow catches up to the plane the bad guy’s got the woman in, but it foiled when the jerk pops the wheel off of the control panel and parachutes to safety. The woman is doomed! Also I didn’t know plane steering mechanisms just came off like that. I think there should at least be a screw holding it in place or something.

Cody enters the plane but it’s took late because instead of just carrying the lady to safety using the jetpack he clearly has, the plane straight-up nosedives into a mountain.

Here we reaped the full benefits of the serialized science fiction format. After that tense cliffhanger, we barreled right along to chapter five, where we discovered that our worry was for naught. See, Cody and his lady friend actually escaped moments before fiery impact, with a parachute that was on the plane all along. Huh. I guess Cody wasn’t really needed for this daring escape.

From there, it just got more confusing. Cody went searching for the bad guy, using a control system on his jetpack that included an “up/down” dial. So simple yet amazing. Cody ends up getting shot at and taking a header into a bush. Then something else happens, and somehow two guys go flying off of a cliff when another guy leaps out of a moving car, sending it into the other vehicle.

I realize that summary lost steam at the end, and that’s because I did too. I wanted to see a robot monster and was getting impatient. This blog is free, so you can’t complain.

Adriana: Commando Cody is actually somehow the first half of the movie, again because they took out the parts that made sense. He seems at first like I might want to bear his children-he’s a chiseled philanthropic rocket moon man who saves women from airplanes. But then I think that he might expect me to be a stay at home mother and wear pearls and know how to cook a meal so that all the components are finished cooking at the same time so they’ll all be served hot and I realize that it could never work between us.

Robot Monster Plot

Dan: In a nutshell, this movie is about a family of five, two random people, and one obnoxious man who survive an apocalypse brought on by a bubble-blowing gorilla wearing a space helmet. The two random folk are killed off almost immediately so I didn’t bother remembering their names or why they were in the movie. So it really just focuses on the family and the other guy, who’s an assistant to the archeologist dad guy. Actually like the entire family seem to be archeologists, from the really old parents to the roughly seven-year-old children.

The antagonist is Ro-Man, the aforementioned man-in-a-bad-gorilla-suit. He’s killed off everyone on earth, save for our heroes, with a combination of a machine that spews bubbles and montages stolen from other movies. Specifically, triceratops fighting and an alligator pretending to be a dinosaur.

Because film makers are required to include this, even in movies only an hour long, the stupid assistant guy falls in love with the middle child, a young women in her late teens or early twenties. They somehow managed to revolve a ton of scenes around them making out in the bushes. I feel as though their priorities could have used some re-evaluating, to be honest

The movie takes a dark turn when Ro-Man straight up murders a child by shaking her back and forth. It’s at worst a slightly too intense hug but it’s enough to kill her all the same.

It should come as a surprise to no one that they end the movie with the entire plot being a dream of the boy’s… or was it?? It doesn’t matter.

Adriana: Robot Monster plot is indubitably prolific. Monsters are classic and robots are classic. And this story was doing post apocalyptic theme before it was cool (clearly the robot monster is a hipster). So combine a kick ass end of times theme with a hybrid villain and you’ve got the foundation for a great story. The only thing it was missing was a budget over 20 dollars. Oh, and continuity.

Seems like due to lack of budget they removed about an hour of film. And I’m thinking they chose the hour that made any sense.
The movie was quite hilarious in spite of this. There was this family who was contaminated by a mutagen that caused them to grow into gigantic turt — wait wait wrong story. They were contaminated by a mutagen that made them really super healthy and I’ll be honest I don’t even know if they ate vegetables. Furthermore, the dad was like 60, the mom was 55, the oldest daughter was 36 and the youngest kids were just born a few minutes ago.

So the family in itself is comical. Add to that a robot monster with no face, a boss with no face, and the fact that THEY KILLED THE BABY FIRST and you can tell it is a first rate comedy.

So all in all, I like the movie. I especially loved the old lady hanging out at the top of the ravine wondering who these weird people were filming a movie in her back yard. I half expected her to rush down with a broom in her hand cackling for everyone to “stop H’whackin off in my garage.”

[Editor’s note: Yes, that is a random woman watching them film a movie wherein there are supposed to be only five people left in the world]

It made me want a bubble machine that looks like a radio so I’m not too happy about that because let’s face it- where in the sweet & salty fuck am I gonna find one of those? Ro-Man probably has it back on the moon or wherever the hell he was hangin’ out.

Joel and the Bots- The Riffs

Dan: I’ve always loved dry deliveries in comedy, and they don’t come much better than Joel’s. The later MST3K episodes might be a little more popular in the riff department, but Joel’s are always so innocent and wonderful. No exception here, as he made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions. Just a simple “Catch!” as the little boy was being handed carefully to his father over the stone wall of their shelter was enough to do it. It’s the simple things in life.

Plus, this episode gets bonus points because it featured a host segment where Joel breaks not one, but two chairs over Servo’s head, after Servo takes a page out of Ro-Man’s playbook and threatens to annihilate Joel.

Adriana: The riffs that Joel and the bots do are fun- the running joke about syrup has followed me in the days past and I keep questioning friends about the syrup choices and silently judging their answers. I also loved that Joel pointed out that the Robot Monster decided to rule the world from a fucking cave. There’s an entire empty city!! Or does the BUBBLE machine only work at the cave? And my favorite is when Servo says “That guy’s uglier than a mud fence”

Final Thoughts

Dan: What can I say? I’m a sucker for anything MST3K. I can watch an old movie or show and find plenty of entertainment just enjoying the absurdity with friends. When you factor in a hilarious comedian and two equally-hilarious robots, then you have a party. A small, some would say sad party. But I don’t care. The meaning of life can be found in kindred spirits laughing over cinema that misses its mark by a thousand miles.

I would watch this movie again, right now, and it’s 12:22 AM on a work night.

Adriana: WHO decided to put the glued up alligator in the mix? Like when Ro-Man and the monster killed the entire human race except the Waltons, did they simultaneously bring back the dinosaurs? And from the film they used I am inclined to believe that reptiles WERE harmed in the making of that movie. Shameful– that was a straight up death roll.

Phew. I hope you all enjoyed listening to Adriana and I babble on about a movie that few people would voluntarily watch. Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Adriana for agreeing to this.

Just because I don’t want to end on a picture of a poor reptile being abused, here’s Joel and the Bots wearing garbage bags.

That’s better.

Anxiety, Modest Mouse and Second-Hand Pot Smoke

I went to a concert on Wednesday. That alone isn’t post-worthy (especially the way I’m going to do it, without pictures.) It was an important night for me, though. After the last few years of getting steadily worse, I was able to pummel my social anxiety into submission long enough to actually have a really good time.

I don’t like referring to my issues as social anxiety, even though that seems like the easiest description. Recently, things as routine as surprise parties for other people have caused knots in my stomach. So concerts were out of the question, which is not the preferable way of letting your mind handle things when you love music.

So I turned to drugs!

It’s okay, they were from a guy wearing a collared shirt and a tie. I’d been sort of averse to the thought of being put on meds to deal with my problems. It turns out, though, that’s the wrong way to look at it. There are resources you can use to balance yourself while you overcome the issues at the root of the anxiety.

I did try a therapist briefly, and I’d recommend it before trying anything else. It did help, but I found that after the first session, I didn’t really have anything new to talk about. Yep, still nervous about driving to that restaurant because I don’t know what the parking will be like. Yes my stomach does start to hurt when I think about hanging out with a new person for the first time. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who, when asked to close my eyes and imagine a place of serenity, can’t keep from laughing for no reason other than that people don’t usually laugh when asked to do that.

Eventually I bit the bullet and went to see a psychiatrist. After giving him a half hour’s worth of embarrassing examples, he told me that obsessive thoughts seemed mostly to blame. Again, if you say that to people, a lot of them will imagine you having to wash your hands 30 times a day. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. My anxiety was far less when actually at whatever event I’d spend three weeks terrified of.The same way some people fixate on germs or routines, I  fixated on thinking about what terrible things could happen to me at a social occasion.

Enter Lexapro and my foray into the world of prescription drugs. I hope that I don’t end up coming off as some pill-crazed maniac who thinks they’re the only way to fix your mental health. I also hope I don’t give the impression that Lexapro is a series of tiny 20mg miracles, because that lesson to the contrary was learned in a hurry. Several days after my first dosage, I laid in bed for an entire Saturday watching 1980s wrestling. I love Dusty Rhodes, but I hate sitting still all day.

The side effects just killed any motivation that my mind or body had to stand up for anything other than going to the bathroom. I sucked it up and gave it a chance, though, and after a few weeks I noticed an improvement. I started to worry less about things that were happening in the future, which for me was about as foreign of a feeling as humanly possible.

I’ll spare you the boring details of my dose changes and skip to the part when I go and see Modest Mouse.

Right away I could see a difference, in that I didn’t feel like throwing up for three weeks when we bought the tickets. We showed up in a very tiny room with way more people than I would have previously been comfortable with, but this was Modest Mouse. I bought a shirt and prepared to not care about anything but having fun for the first time in forever.

I couldn’t have kept myself from “dancing” if I wanted to, but the more important thing is that I didn’t care. This despite me looking like one of those novelty birds bobbing up and down drinking from a glass of water. That meant I was free to enjoy some of my favorite songs, like Never-Ending Math Equation and Bury Me With It. In between, Isaac Brock chatted with the crowd, who had no idea what he was saying because of his lisp. It didn’t even matter. When you’re going crazy to music you love with that much pot smoke wafting around, coherence isn’t a priority.

Here’s a video that I didn’t take. I was somewhere in there and didn’t faint!

It was a great set, too. When they played Doin’ The Coackroach I could have backflipped. When their three-song encore included A Different City, I could have wept. When they busted out Dance Hall and The Good Times Are Killing Me, I couldn’t do anything but flail around and be thankful that everyone else was too engrossed by the band to see me.

During the song I Came As A Rat, there was one girl who started crowd-surfing. It was just such a cool moment that I’m sure millions of people look at as routine, but I’d never imagined I could be at a concert, so close to people, experiencing something like that. And I swear to you, it looked like she got dropped on her head no less than three times. I kept seeing her feet fly into the air, but then she’d just pop back up seconds later. Then, people I guess got tired of carrying her around so they just heaved her and took out a group of fans like bowling pins. A++

Because Caitlin and I are both secretly 70 years old, we were not prepared for standing up in one spot upwards of four hours. By the end of the night, my neck hurt, my back hurt, my ears were ringing and I couldn’t have been happier. It was the kind of satisfied exhaustion I imagine you might get from climbing a mountain, if listening to music was at all like that. I’m allowed to make that analogy because some stupid joke about climbing the mountain of my anxiety.

The experience was an important one, because it showed me that I can  do the sorts of things I always imagined were beyond my reach. In fact, I am probably going to see another one of my favorite artists, Astronautalis, in a month. The floodgates have opened!

I went to a concert, and I reached a turning point in my life. Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to accept that you need help. And a band you’re desperate enough to see.

Four days later my ears are still ringing, and it’s better than my stomach hurting.

Auctions for Old Things We Can’t Afford

This past Saturday, I was tipped off by my sources as to a pinball and arcade game auction happening a mere town over from me. By which I mean, my sister sent me a picture of their Facebook event page and I audibly said “ooh!”

I love pinball machines. Arcade cabinets too, but not quite the same level. All of my interests somehow fall into the category of “pinball themes.” There are machines based on Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park…those are three of my top five movies of all time. I understand that a Clerks pinball machine might not look as flashy as the others in black and white, but there’s no excuse why a Beetlejuice one was never made. Perfect timing of the late 80s, unique theme, so many quotes- argh!

Oh god it could have yelled “NICE FUCKING BONUS *honk honk*” at you : (

Regrets aside, I was pretty excited to go check out the auction. Since Caitlin was out with her family, I went with Jessie and Cliff. Since I am an awkward jellyfish of a man, I felt weird taking pictures of the machines. It seemed, I dunno, like the kind of thing the people in charge would be justified in tackling you over, until security came running. Luckily, Cliff had no such qualms and loves retro video games even more than me. He thus became the official/unofficial photographer for the trip.

The first thing we saw was that the auction was being held in a run-down parking lot with a bunch of truck-docking stations and warehouses. I was more than willing to overlook that, though, because I had neon pinball lights dancing in my eyes. We parked and headed in, where this greeted us:

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I want to climb that like a rock wall. It’s basically a giant pinball board. It looked pretty neat just standing there, but I imagine if it had been lit up in all its glory, I would have taken my sister’s suggestion; quit my job and become a carnival person, traveling the world with this modern marvel of human ingenuity.

The variety of “expensive home entertainment” displayed was impressive. They had pinball, arcade cabinets, those sit-down driving games, pool tables, jukeboxes, and more. We walked around the machines, trying really hard to look like people who had the money to buy one of them. I so very badly wanted to be 12 and made out of quarters. They even had one of those virtual skateboard games where the controller itself is a skateboard. I remember a skiing one from when we used to go to Burger King Castle as kids, and I can’t imagine how much cooler I would have felt skateboarding.

One section featured old touch-screen games. The only one we tried was a mini golf course, where Jessie missed the windmill but Cliff saved the day by sinking it in three strokes for par.

There were a lot of classics there, too, like NARC and, I guess arguably, Crazy Taxi.

We also noticed several machines that clearly were not displaying the games that their cabinets advertised.

Maybe those were just the cabinets being auctioned off, with placeholder screens inserted? I’m not sure how much I would pay for just the frame to an arcade game, but I’m kind of glad I’m in no position to find out. The answer would probably be regrettable, given the right cabinet.

An entire aisle was dedicated to the pinball machines. Sadly, my most-sought after ones were nowhere to be found. I say that as if I would have bought them had they been there, instead of just holding onto the sides and sobbing. But emotional damage be damned, I want to see and play Creature from the Black Lagoon in person.

They did have a Rocky & Bullwinkle, which I can get behind. I also just now realized that this is the second consecutive post to mention Rocky and Bullwinkle in some way. Maybe I’m a bigger fan than I thought. Even so, the main attraction for me by far was the Haunted House machine. Cliff obliged by taking my requested 45 pictures of it, and it is a sight to behold.

This is one of the pinball tables I’ve convinced myself I will one day own. I saved a bunch of pictures of said tables to my phone (not a joke) so I can look at them on a bad day. Or, so I can be ready if some shady guy says he’ll give me any pinball machine I can show him a photo of in the next ten seconds. Some might say that’s crazy, or sad. I say you need goals in life.

That backglass is going to be my kid’s nightlight until he’s twenty, and I will rest easy knowing I have done my job as a parent.

One of my favorite parts of this place was the weird games tucked away in the corner, behind the giant pinball table at the start. Some of them had auction stickers, most didn’t. They might have been broken, or being saved for some other event, or so odd that no one could conceive of a person exchanging currency for the right of ownership. Regardless, I thought they were great.

The best was called Radikal Bikers and it featured the creepiest character of all time, riding a scooter through traffic and plate glass windows and pedestrians.

Also, kicking cars and making them explode.

I couldn’t get a great screenshot off the video Cliff took, so I had to take some creative license, You can totally tell the dude is kicking though. How did this game not catch on? Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.

On the grim side of things was a seemingly abandoned Qbert cabinet. I hope it found a good home, but I do like how his reaction on the side art is so appropriate. Maybe it was meant to be this way.

All in all, there are far worse ways to spend an hour on a rainy Saturday morning. I suggest going to anything of this sort if you have a chance. Especially if you live in North Haven, Connecticut because then this one would be really close to you. Sometimes, you just need to surround yourself with things that remind you of your youth, and maybe  dirty arcades with ugly carpets.

Well said, party-planning alien. Well said.

Mario Kart Madness or My Worst Idea Ever

At first, I was worried that following up my Super Nintendo baseball woes with another video game entry would cement me as forever a nerd. Luckily, this post involves 75% more people than the last one, and 100% more alcohol.

In the name of science and being loud, we set out to determine the effects of repeated drinks on one’s video game-playing abilities. The most obvious choice of game seemed to be Mario Kart. You definitely need your hand-eye coordination and reflexes to be in top form, and there are 850 different things you can use as excuses to drink. We had four individuals, to ensure that our data was diverse and accurate. If nothing else, I pride myself on the integrity of the information I present.

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The players for the evening were my wife Caitlin, my sister-in-law Melissa, my brother-in-law Cliff, and myself.

Thinking ahead, I enlisted my sister, Jessica, to help keep track of everyone and make sure my notes for this post were in English. After much deliberation, we decided on the below rules:

1)      Two drinks if you are hit by a blue shell
2)      Drink for ten seconds if you are passed at the finish line at the last second
3)      Three drinks if you come in first (for each person/opponent you embarrassed)
4)      Drink for however many seconds match your placing (three seconds for 3rd place, four seconds for 4th place, etc)

[Writing this now, before we actually start playing, it seems like a good set of rules to make sure we don’t get absolutely annihilated, but still have fun. I may be reading this sentence back to myself tomorrow, cursing my name.]

I went with Iggy Koopa, my favorite of the Koopa kids. He’s an evil turtle who wears glasses and has what looks like the leafy part of a carrot sticking out of his head. Victory comes clad in many forms, and one of them is knowing that you are using by, far, the best possible character.

Here’s who we were all using.

Characters
Caitlin- Shy Guy
Melissa- Gold Pink Peach
Cliff- Baby Rosalina
Dan- Iggy Koopa

We regrettably selected the entire 32-race marathon, which meant we had to plug away for over two hours. It also took, without exaggeration, two races for the carefully-thought out rules to crumble apart. “Drink when hit by a blue shell” quickly became “drink when anything happens.” Added to the frenzied confusion was the fact that we were live-streaming this debacle on Cliff’s twitch.tv account. We pulled in a monster crowd of four people at our peak, I believe shattering the world record.

As expected, Caitlin took a lead early on, since she’s had the most experience playing this game. I was no slouch, but no matter what I did I’d end up in second, at best, for most of the first half. I also had the disadvantage of getting passed by Caitlin at the last second a few times, made even worse by the fact that each was preceded by me trash-talking. Oops.

Things started to get interesting around track 15. Tempers flared and the alcohol began to kick in. We were all arguing with each other, with the people chatting on the stream (including Melissa’s husband, Ori), and I know that I personally was taking offense to every banana peel and shell. It didn’t help that Caitlin continued to beat and taunt us. Melissa seemed to reach her breaking point as well, following several last place finishes.

All of these factors combined to give me my second ever video game-related injury.The first was when I tried to escape a submission move in a WWF game when I was 16 and tore the skin off of my thumb. And for all you naysayers thinking that wasn’t worth it- correct, I didn’t even escape the hold.

I want to say that it happened in slow motion, like a black and white movie with flashbulbs going off in the background, but the truth is I didn’t even see it coming. As was discovered afterwards, Melissa snapped and tried to yank the controller from Caitlin’s hand. She succeeded, and if the second part of her plan was “crack Dan in the face with the controller,” then that was a success as well.

My unfortunate position right behind the battling siblings put me right in the path of their rage. The controller hit me right in the orbital bone, sending me crumpling to the floor in a heap. My first immediate thought was “Ow,” and the second was “If I get a black eye, I’m going to have to lie about being in a bar fight.” Luckily, it didn’t come to that. I soldiered on and managed to come in second place on the very next race, from my position on the ground, peeking above the bed.

Don't cry for me. I'm a survivor.Don’t cry for me. I’m a survivor.

The worst part of the entire night was that Catlin won. She downed two huge bottles of cider, on top of drinking before we even started playing. At one point, she and Melissa switched controllers, and then Caitlin used both controllers at once to drive into the wall for an entire race. Meanwhile, the concussion that I definitely had at this point had awakened me. I started doing my best racing of the night, and Cliff and I still couldn’t even come close to Caitlin. The final score had her beating us by like 20 points.

At some point I also spilled a beer on the floor. Sorry, Jessie and Cliff.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. I’m glad Cliff was able to live stream it, that everyone had a good time, and that I took a hard piece of plastic to the face because it gave me an extra paragraph for this post. Congratulations to the winner and champion, Caitlin!

But truly, we’re all winners. Each and every one of us.

Check out the below video from Cliff’s Twitch channel. I hope to join him for more videos that I’ll probably cover here. We also hope to have a highlight video of the best moments up soon, so I’ll update with that when it’s ready.

Watch live video from Cliffpro on Twitch

I broke my face for you all. No one can ever accuse me of not giving my body for the art of writing.