October 19th, 2013.

Late October reminds a lot of people of Halloween and dead leaves. It reminds me of those things, plus cake. I got married a year ago and will be trying very hard to top that day, probably forever.

As is probably obvious to anyone who knows me or who has followed this page, I love Halloween. My wife Caitlin loves it even more, which made the placement calendar-wise of our wedding day easy to narrow down. Once we had the day and the venue, attentions were turned to the decorations. We did pretty much everything ourselves, by which I of course mean Caitlin because I have the artistic capabilities of a kindergartener who also was raised by wolves. Wolves who have no artistic ability.

We also knew what we wanted out of our wedding reception. Here’s a hint; it involved plastic glow-in-the-dark fangs for all. Essentially, if it belonged in a cheesy haunted house, we wanted it. Our gifts bags contained witch fingers and wind-up skeletons. We had amazing centerpieces that Caitlin hand-made.

Those also featured bats and spiders.

Most importantly, we encouraged people to wear costumes. I was happy to see that about half the guests decided to go for it. We went with an open bar spanning the reception as well, because alcohol will greatly increase the likelihood of dancing monsters. I know I had my fair share of spirits. It helped accomplish our goal of having one big celebration. I am confident that our wedding has been the only one in history where a guy dressed as WWE superstar Goldust could be found dancing next to a great-aunt wearing a gorilla mask backwards on her head like a wig.

The DJ was excellent as well, playing the part with a mask and an endless supply of season-appropriate songs. Yes, of course Thriller was played. Monster Mash, obviously. We didn’t dance to the Ghostbuster theme, but only because that’s the song we cut our cake to. Love is beautiful.

Speaking of the cake, we defied the logic of every wedding-planning couple ever and agreed on the style and flavor in about four minutes flat. The below was what we chose, as it fit our cutlery and wedding topper perfectly.

I’d say that it was a wonderful-tasting cake as the obligatory cake-smash left it all over my face. However, Caitlin decided to skip my mouth entirely and go straight to the eyeball with a loooong, slow slide. I got her back, but not before having to clean frosting off of my contact.

Our friend Kelly Nason was our photographer, and she did an amazing job. No opportunity to get a shot of a dancing Peter Pan or flying monkey was wasted. She also set up some stellar photos outside.See, Caitlin and I can look classy and not awkward if we have a lot of help and computer image-editing technology!

As mentioned, I partook in a few beverages. It’s for that reason that I found myself on the dance floor. Let’s not get too crazy, I didn’t go crazy, but a handful of beers goes a long way in making a person like me comfortable enough to slow dance in front of people. We also were mobbed by the guests for the final song. It was just one giant hug which would normally be my worst enemy. But somehow, for this day it was perfect.

Our photos can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tk2pcc3o8b300k4/uRPk3-8Vci. You should check them out if you want to see how machetes can be used to illustrate true love.

I try not to end my posts with anything cliché or serious. I have to say, though, that our wedding day honestly turned out just how we wanted. It was a giant party where everyone seemed to legitimately have a good time. All you can ask for, no matter how traditional or costume-party your wedding may be, is that you’re surrounded by friends and family who are happy to be there and happy to help you celebrate a new chapter of life.

If you can do all that while dressed as a vampire, then buddy, you’ve really got something.

Happy anniversary, Caitlin. There’s no one else I’d rather bite with plastic fangs.

When You Get to My Door, Tell Them Boris Sent You

Halloween is a very visual holiday. Next to Christmas, it’s the event that stretches out the longest and overtakes the most store shelves. There’s no mistaking what day is fast-approaching when you see 17 versions of the same cheap hockey mask where the gardening tools used to be.

I am here today, however, to make a bold claim. As eye-catching as Halloween is, I’d argue that it’s equally ear-catching. That phrasing I unfortunately chose is incredibly stupid but it doesn’t lessen its validity. Science has proven that an individual’s Halloween spirit leaps by over 75% when exposed to a Halloween sound effects CD. You can cover your face in as much fake blood as you want, but it doesn’t mean as much as it would if done while listening to wind howling and doors creaking.

Or, even better, a crazy person singing about how well a werewolf dances.

You know the songs I’m talking about. Novelty hits like The Time Warp and Monster Mash. They’re so ingrained into pop culture that music experts the world over have studied their importance.

It’s probably not wise to include here a video that’s way funnier than anything else in the post will be. This is a decision I’ve made and will have to live with.

Of the many weird and wonderful things my grandfather left behind, fairly close to the top of the list would be a collection of Halloween novelty records from the 1960s. It’s true that between the eight records, there are many 10 songs total. There is a lot of crossover and it doesn’t matter in the slightest. While you listen to that handful of songs over and over, you can peruse the album art and pretend you are an art connoisseur, collecting pieces for the world’s greatest museum.

Let’s go through them one by one and figure out together what order to hang them in after picking them up from the frame shop.

Let’s start with this one because it emphasizes the song that basically all of these revolve around. If you haven’t heard Monster Mash, you’re purposely avoiding anything vaguely associated with Halloween. It’s an October staple and I love the confident look of the vampire guy on this cover. He realizes he’s backed by the most popular novelty song of all time. He’s got a fist raised in solidarity to his fellow monsters, knowing this is their hour. That dude is the first entry in my top three favorite things about this artwork. The second and third are Dracula seemingly trying to shoo his own bats away, and the idea that there’s also a Popeye who digs graves, respectively. Although as I type this, I think Dracula maybe deserves to be moved up a spot. It’s pretty hilarious to imagine a vampire with a fervent bat phobia.

Get used to seeing “Frankie Stein” because he basically did all of the albums featured here. This is particularly neat artwork because it features what appears to be a swamp monster with the head of a baboon in the background. As for the foreground, I have no idea what that thing is. If I had to put money on it, I’d maybe go with the ghost of a marshmallow dragon in the clutches of a sea giant. It would also appear that the swamp baboon is protesting this. Whether he’s angry at the lack of monster ethics or he wanted the kill himself is up to you, the viewer. If just trying to figure out what on earth the artist was going for requires a sentence that idiotic, you know you’ve got something special.

This was probably my favorite album cover. Look how interested that creature from the black lagoon-type guy is by the mummy’s spider accessory. He’s so entranced by it that he doesn’t even notice he’s sharing space with an ordinary gorilla. I’m not sure what business that gorilla has there, but you can bet there’s some sort of fantastic story behind it. I like to think that the mummy’s new jewelry has bridged the gap between almost-man and monster. Their differences are cast aside as countless demons and apes gather in awe. Can’t you picture the three of these guys going to a diner and exchanging bad Halloween puns before skipping out on the bill and eating their waiter?

“What did the ghost eat for dinner…..? MASHED BOO-TATOES”

*chomping noises and screams*

“Check please!”

*laugh track*

I will not rest until this is a sitcom.

Despite the relative lack of interesting characters, this cover has a lot to offer on its own. Namely, the B-movie blurbs at the top and a tarantula the size of a human head. I don’t think that snake is even trying to attack the spider. It seems more like its mouth is agape in shock. Despite the snake’s bad rap, he’s unable to stop himself from letting out an “oh shit!” at the sheer size of that thing. You also have to wonder if whoever formerly owned that skull became ensnared in the web and perished thusly, or if the spider found it in its wanderings before bringing it back home, or if the snake killed the person and is defending a prized souvenir. You have to respect an artist who doesn’t spoon-feed the audience all the answers.

I saved this for the last of the Frankie Stein offerings because I thought some might find it too gruesome and run away. Don’t be ashamed. The hand here that’s picking at this poor monster’s eye seems to be very similar to that of the speculated sea giant mentioned earlier. This is perhaps even the same scene. Having disposed of the marshmallow dragon’s ghost, the giant moves on to his next victim. I can’t help but think that if this giant had only seen the mummy’s spider brooch, he’d have relaxed a little. He could be hanging out with the creature and the random gorilla instead of committing senseless murders. Unless that creature was the same one who was in the swamp background, and that spider brooch is really the giant tarantula planning to off the mummy and his friends next. THIS POST IS GETTING TOO LONG AND ALSO STUPID.

To finish up here, let’s discuss these two sound effects records. There’s unfortunately not too much to write home about with the first. I do like the lightning in the background but that really only gets me past this first sentence. So moving on, the second album is a doozy! We have here a cemetery run by the world’s laziest employees, who don’t bother putting the tenants’ full names on their headstones. I don’t want to blame the ghosts, because they’re too darned cute. But then again, look at the grim reaper dude in front. He reads more like a sad uncle who wants to hang out with his cool nephews, popping into the photo at the last minute. I want to give him a hug, not condemn him for shoddy graveyard upkeep. Let’s just say it’s the owl’s fault.

So there you have it. Drink those beautiful colors in. Marvel at the art of twisted geniuses. These are the records you play when you want to drive your Halloween spirit through the roof while also alienating friends and loved ones. You break out Frankie Stein when you need a novelty pick-me-up and want to lose the respect of your children. You put on a record called “Night in a Graveyard” when you want to provide trick-or-treaters with appropriate background music while you hand out candy.

Just a heads up, though. One track on that record is literally just 10 minutes of a woman screaming, so don’t play it too loud. You’ll scare children and maybe get a visit from the police.

Happy Halloween!

The House Is Alive And The House Is Hungry

I’ve never really considered the Friday the 13th series to be Halloween movies. They seem to work better as late-night summer films. Obviously that’s due to the setting of a summer camp over-run by the dumbest and oldest “teenagers” ever put on screen. It’s more fun to watch that when it’s hot enough out that you feel you’d be tempted to jump into the lake, knowing full well you’ll end up with a machete through your face.

That said, it seems like the perfect time of year to tell you about the House of Death. We’ve reached September as the sun sets on another summer. It’s mid-transition, with the last outdoor activities being planned as stores fill with marshmallows shaped vaguely like ghosts. It’s a great mix of gross humidity and terror, as is this story.

Last summer, my mom and her cousins decided to rent a house in New Hampshire for a week of relaxation. Caitlin, my sister Jessica, brother-in-law Cliff and I were invited to stop up for a night or two. The house had a private beach! A finished basement!

It also nearly killed us.

Look at it. We should have known something was wrong in the first 40 seconds on the property. The four of us arrived before anyone else, having been told there was a key waiting. There was no key waiting. Very quickly we found ourselves in the middle of the woods, locked outside of a run-down house, surrounded by approaching darkness and 8,000 cobwebs.

This was the last we saw of Caitlin and Jessie.

Okay no,we didn’t get killed when investigating the grounds. YET. Attempting to walk and find the private beach, we only found more trees, including one blocking the path ahead. All of my instincts and horror movie expertise told me that this was a bad sign. Sure enough, we discovered the tell-tale Bad Omen; a weird leathery thing that looked sort of similar to a shriveled monkey paw, like in that short story The Monkey’s Paw.

[image missing but it would have been too scary anyway]

I guess as some point we also found this toad.

Once we managed to actually get into the house, things started to deviate a bit from the typical horror movie formula. Specifically, instead of a lunatic hacking at us with a screwdriver or something, a door fell off the hinges and almost landed on my mom. I realize that doesn’t sound so scary. However, if you are able to stand in an abandoned cabin and hear “AHH!” followed by a loud thud and NOT think “Jason is real and we are all dead,” then you’re the weird one. Not us.

Once we made sure my mom was okay, we started checking out the basement. We found some cool things, like a Beatles album and a Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye. Things were looking up for almost a whole minute, which is how long it took until we heard a really loud, really shrill screeching. That turned out to be the carbon monoxide sensor. Again, probably not the most terrifying of circumstances, but it was still unexpected.

I just want to recap that we’d been at this vacation house for all of an hour and had encountered a blocked off forest path, a MONKEY PAW MAYBE, a scream, a crash, and a piercing whistle that indicated there might be a deadly gas seeping into our lungs. But honestly, what was worse than all of that was that the Nintendo 64 ended up not working : (

Eventually we all ran to the package store and got some alcohol. I picked up some coffee brandy because I love coffee and I love brandy. Somehow, this stuff was pretty vile. I still drank it though. If I was going to be murdered, it wasn’t going to be while sober enough to realize it. We also got some stuff to make s’mores, and lacking an actual campfire we put the marshmallows in the microwave. Not recommended unless you want s’mores that look like airbags deployed in them.

Then night set in. The house seemed to infect us. In what was probably my favorite creepy moment, I awoke in the middle of the night. I sat up and squinted into the dark. My sister had gotten up from across the room to get another blanket, because it’d gotten pretty chilly. What I saw was her shadowy figure crouched down, slowly moving across the room. She then turned to me and silently put a finger up in a shushing gesture like a deranged Santa Claus. I was a little foggy from the brandy and a Xanax, but I know what I saw.

You might be noticing that I didn’t take many pictures of the actual house or things we encountered. Correct, but I didn’t think I’d be writing about it two years later and would need them, okay? Here, all I have left is these weird novelty teeth from a convenience store we stopped at on our way.

The morning light brought with it a reprieve from the previous evening’s hellish events. We awoke to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, which we almost revisited shortly thereafter. This is because we found a playground on our way down the mountain when we were heading home. Obviously we stopped and played on the carousel. I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I used my leftover fear and adrenaline to try and fling whoever was riding into space. Soon we were all nauseous and dizzy, and thus ready for the four-hour ride home.

But not before I took this really funny picture of a disoriented Jessie. It’s the photo I use for her as a contact on my phone currently.

It was a magical adventure, the kind you don’t get many of. Sometimes these things work out how you plan. Sometimes you have a super relaxing day at the beach and come inside to share memories with family. And then sometimes you eat mutant marshmallows before fighting mosquitoes for a sleeping spot on the floor. If you ask me, the latter can be just as fun.

Plus they had a ping pong table. I would go back in a heartbeat.

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!

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:

2014-08-02 10.38.52

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.

Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents: My Doomed Baseball Endeavor

If you were to ask most people what they look for in a sports video game, they’d probably say rich gameplay. Or maybe they prefer graphics, or depth of options.

The one thing I rarely see mentioned is the basis of games in general. “Fun.” And holy smokes, there’s one game that has all the rest beat. I’m going to take you through it.

Welcome to a long and wonder-awful journey, filled with dizzying highs and gut-wrenching lows. Welcome to “Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball.”

snes5 Here’s the deal: I’ve tried this several times before and never once finished, but if it’s chronicled here then at least I can go at my leisure and remember where we left off. It’s my intent to make it through an entire 162-game season on this A+ Super Nintendo baseball game from 1994. It’s going to be rough and it’s going to expose me as a truly terrible player. I once took a perfect game into the 8th inning before giving up two home runs and losing 2-1. The worst part is knowing that during the course of this season, I’ll top that somehow.

Just for a bit of background, the only licensed MLB player in this game is the titular Griffey. All of the team names are there, but the players have been changed. Fortunately, the publishers did that in the best possible way- by basing teams around specific pieces of pop culture. What I’m saying is, you could have Vincent Price pitching for the Rockies against Ernest Hemingway of the A’s. Yes, the Colorado Rockies are all named after horror icons, while the Oakland A’s are famous authors.

I am all for this change, 100%. Even better is that you can edit the names of the players yourself. So traditionalists can switch things to represent the true rosters, if they want. Although if people are that concerned with keeping things true to life, they probably should be playing a baseball game that came out this decade.

The gamplay is just plain fun. Very simplistic buttons and controls, and without all the newfangled loading screens and animations that this hula-hooping generation loves, games go by fast and frantic. Which is good because if I had to play 162 full games in, like, MLB The Show for the PS3 I’d kill myself. So I’m hoping I can get in a few games every couple of days. If not, it’s not like this page is going anywhere. I’ll update whenever I feel like it.

2029 World Series, here we come!

As I said, you can edit the names of the players on each team. So of course, I chose to select the San Francisco Giants and re-name all of the guys after myself and my friends. If I lose a game, I want to be able to point fingers at someone in person and blame it on his shitty fielding.

Let’s meet our team.

 Starting Pitchers Rotation

1)      Daniel Serra

2)      Sean Reynolds

3)      Young Jang

4)      Nick Byrne

5)      Mark Rodenhizer

Lineup

1B- Nick Orozco

2B- Chris Monroe

3B- Andrew Reif

SS- C-Dawg

C- Zack Havok

LF- Erick Wilson

CF- Scott Browne

RF- Eric Thomas

Bullpen

Steve Stairs

Sly Dogg

Cliff Huizenga

Mark Galloway

That’s what we have to work with. Without further delay, let’s jump into the first game. Kicking off the season vs the St Louis Cardinals!

Game 1- San Francisco Giants @ St Louis Cardinals (SF Serra vs SL Curly)

I started off with a heart attack as my own character hung the first pitch of the game over the plate, getting it got ripped to deep left, but Wilson made a crazy diving catch for the first out. I still knew we were in trouble. My fears were only confirmed by a bloop single and a grounder that rolled past my shortshop because I haven’t played this game on this controller in a year and made him dive four feet in the opposite direction of the ball. Long story short, a double cleared the bases and it’s 2-0 St Louis. I struck out the next two batters to get out without too much more damage.

That is, of course, until the bottom of the 5th when Buster freaking Keaton stepped up to the plate and hit a three run homer. This was the low point of the game for exactly 15 seconds, when Zeppo Marx followed up with a home run of his own to make it 7-0 : (

Things continued rolling downhill in the 7th inning when I hit a batter. I swear I didn’t even know you could do that in this game because it’s the first time in years of playing that I’ve seen it. But if there ever was a game for it to show up, it’s during this one. I suspected that the next animation would be me keeling over on the mound as tiny 2D paramedics rushed out with the crowd booing me.

Top of the 8th, Reif managed to sneak a single up the middle to score ME, the PITCHER. Yeah! Oh and then we lost.

snesI accidentally clicked a button on the controller before I could take a picture of the box score but the numbers were not pretty. 5 strikeouts for me in a 9-inning batting practice for the Cards. Luckily, I did get a little bit of my skill back in this game once it became obvious I was going to lose. Taking that lesson into game 2, I wanted revenge.

Game 2- San Francisco Giants @ St Louis Cardinals (SF Reynolds vs SL Larry)

Sean Reynolds vs the second and my favorite of the three stooges, Larry. I showed no remorse, however, and tried a different strategy to get on the board before my opponent. With Wilson on first, I went for the bunt with Thomas to advance him. Manufactured runs! Small-ball! It worked in that Wilson made it to second (Thomas was out by a hair) but not so much in that Browne then hit a line drive to the shortshop, who jumped seven feet into the air and snagged it for the third out.

Up through the second inning Reynolds had retired the first four batters on twelve straight strikes. In fact he managed to strike out eight of the first nine batters, a bloop single by the 8-spot jerkwad tarnishing things. I took advantage of that stellar start by FIRING UP my offense with a few singles to get Orozco and Monroe on third and first, respectively before Thomas dribbled a little grounder to score Nick.

Absolutely nothing interesting happens for four innings, until Reynolds decided to stop trying in the 7th and give up a single and a game-tying double. With runners on second third, two outs, Reynolds was out and “Mean” Mark Galloway came in. One pitch later, a pop-up got us out of a huge jam.

Top of the eighth we came back with a single by Browne, followed by not one but two successful bunts! Everyone safe! Orozco singled to score a run before Monroe grounded into a double play. We’re up 2-1 and I am sweating. It’s July and I get nervous over tightly-contested video game baseball simulations.

Galloway pulled a Reynolds and allowed a home run by Lou Costello in the bottom of the 8th to knot things up. The Cards put the pressure on by subbing in George Burns to hit. Good lord. Luckily he grounded out, because in 1994 he was 98 years old.

Bottom of the ninth, tie game, runners on second and third. Two outs. Galloway on the mound, for some reason huffing and puffing despite only working two innings so far. Recipe for disaster, sure. Ready to unload with profanities, you bet. But a light from above broke through the clouds as a sharp grounder to third was stopped by a diving Reif, who made a long throw across the field to get the out at first. It defied physics and I could not be happier. We’re going to extra innings, boys.

Obviously desperate, the Cards pulled out their ace in the hole- Bill Cosby. He rightfully stifled us in the top of the 10th, and disaster struck when Galloway allowed runners on the corners with two outs. I couldn’t believe how much he was panting. I took him out and called on Sly Dogg to get us home. He proceeded to deliver the sweetest strikeout I have ever seen. Tears form in my eyes.

Cosby was done. They had one trick left up their sleeves, and his name was Charlie Chaplin. The grandfather of comedy with a wicked 12-6 curve. And it was his first pitch that Monroe absolutely crushed for a 504 foot home run. That’s all we were able to do that inning, but it was enough to lift us to a 3-2 lead.

Sly Dogg worked the bottom of the 11th, getting a ground out but then giving up a double. One more pop up and we were one out away from victory. The next pitch was hit hard to third, where Reif grabbed it.

The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!

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14 K’s in less than seven innings! Dang son. I hope some people find this interesting. I don’t think I’ll be going into this much detail for every game because no one is going to want to read that, but I could give little recaps and mention any funny stuff. Let me know what you think.

And you know, I was planning on doing three games tonight but that second one was too mentally exhausting. I need to go lay down.

Vincent Kennedy McMahon

I feel like I need to defend professional wrestling before this post. There’s a stigma surrounding it as something only rednecks or unwashed teenagers enjoy. Sometimes, rightfully so. I’ve been to some indy wrestling shows that were not lacking in either. But there’s a whole group of people who understand it’s pre-determined, corny and, frankly, ridiculous, but love it anyway. I’m (semi-proud) to say that I am among those weirdos.

A lot of the fans who fit into this category watched wrestling while growing up, and thus appreciate how bad some of the characters and storylines can be. I started watching in 1998 when I was 11, right in the middle of the industry’s biggest boom. This was the beginning of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the nWo (with “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan), and a bunch of other stuff that even non-fans have heard about in passing. It was the cool thing to watch, and the weekly storylines just kept getting edgier and edgier. The very first show I watched was smack dab in the middle of one such story, but more on that in a bit.

I was definitely hooked, to the point where the next step seemed obvious: watch as many wrestling tapes as I could, as often as I could. Many a crucial Saturday night was spent going to Mad Mike’s videos and renting the same four early-to-mid 90s PPVs on VHS. It didn’t do much for my social standing outside of the handful of friends I’d watch with, but I had piledrivers and that’s all I needed. I also watched to hone my sense of humor, listening in awe as Jerry Lawler claimed to see Vince McMahon’s toupee scuttle off of his head when the house lights went down.

Which somehow brings me to my point, which is this: Vince McMahon is, bar none, one of the most entertaining media figures on the planet. Many things have been said about him, but you just can’t deny the man’s talent and vision. More importantly, you can’t deny that he is the king of hilarious facial expressions and awkward body movements.

This is an effort to celebrate that fact. It’s a testament to a man who sacrificed his own body and well-being for our entertainment.

“Examples?”, you ask? Oh I have examples.

Wherein Vince McMahon Receives His First Stone Cold Stunner

Vince started out his on-camera role in the company as a play-by play man, calling the action in the ring. I personally miss this, and think it was one of his greatest achievements. It never got old hearing, for every single near-fall, “ONE, TWO, THREE HE GOT HIM oh no, no he didn’t only two.”

But a man can only dominate the announce table for so long before wanting more. Following an incident involving a disagreement with a wrestler (google The Montreal Screw-Job, or else this article is going to be 15,000 words), Vince decided to go along with the whole “everyone in this arena hates me” thing and pit himself against the most rebellious and baldest of his rising stars- Stone Cold Steve Austin.

It upsets me a little that so many people missed out on their feud, just because of preconceived notions of wrestling. It was legitimately some of the funniest and over-the-top television I’ve ever seen. I think it was such a hot time for wrestling because fans were tuning in ever week just to see which of Vince’s 75 cars Stone Cold was going to fill with concrete next. And each act of destruction was inevitably followed up by Vince’s classic “gulp of fear”

But it all started here, in some month I don’t remember but quite possibly November of 1997. Or some other month of 1998. All we can be sure of it, at some point, Vince took this monumental first stunner from his soon-to-be rival. It set up everything that happened between the two in the future, and without it we would not have the rest of this article.

It’s also the first chance for Vince to show how incredibly uncoordinated he is.

You’ll have to watch the video, because I can’t really explain what the Stone Cold stunner is, or how creepy Vince looks after taking it. First off, it takes a bit longer to Austin to set up the move, thanks to Vince’s flailing limbs and spastic head jerks. Once he finally drops, though, is when the real magic happens.

The move appears to knock Vince out, but he’s not content to just lay there looking unconscious. Instead, his eyes are open wide, staring without seeing. It’s almost poetic, as if he’s looking to the heavens for answers. Why did Austin forsake him? Why are people cheering so loudly for this blatant physical abuse of authority?

With this, the character of Mr. McMahon was born.

Wherein The Undertaker and Kane Break Vince McMahon’s Ankle

As I started to mention earlier, this moment occurred on the very first show I started watching. I had no idea what was going on at the time, but it turned out that Vince was continuing his never-ending quest to make himself the most hated man in the WWF. On the previous night’s PPV, he had enlisted the help of two “brothers” named Undertaker and Kane to team up and destroy Stone Cold for the WWF title. They both pinned him, leading to a segment on RAW in which Vince was to present one of them with the belt. With the two men in the ring, he proceeds to yell that neither would get the title, and begins to berate them. For some reason, no one seems to question why Vince would go through the trouble of spreading a red carpet across the ring mat and lugging out a nice podium if he was just going to be a dick about things.

This was admittedly a pretty ballsy move, with Vince perhaps forgetting one of these men was 7 feet tall and named “The Undertaker.” Speaking of balls, if this was an article about Vince’s greatest interviews, here is where I was list the time he claimed his beanbags were the size of grapefruits. Also probably the time he referred to himself as a “genetic jackhammer” in response to doubts about his ability to sire more children.

ANYWAY Vince continues his tirade until the Undertaker justifiably punches him in the face. Taker and Kane eventually drag their boss over to the steel steps, propping his leg up on them before slamming the top half on his femur.

Just look at Vince’s reaction. His hands, shaking uncontrollably. His face, frozen in a silent scream.

I’m not going to go searching through past academy award-winning performances to compare them to Vince’s agony, proving his superiority in every way. But I just want you to know that I could.

Wherein Vince McMahon Grabs His Ear A Lot and Makes a Strange Face

I’m going to admit up front that I am not sure when this is from. I want to say 1998. Vince has just been given some bad news, and he responds with something really baffling.

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He gets this look on his face, a look that is equal parts confusion, sorrow, and insanity. Then he starts tugging on his ear. I’m going to guess this was meant to represent his descent into madness, as well as illustrate how the anguish was tugging at his tormented soul.

It’s also how I respond to all sources of stress and anxiety in my life from now on.

Wherein Vince McMahon Gets Hit so Hard with a Chair That the Caps Come Off of His Teeth

In another installment of the Vince/Austin saga, Vince decided that he himself would referee Stone Cold’s title defense against Dude Love.

Towards the end of the match, Dude goes to crack Stone Cold across the head with a chair. Of course, Austin ducks and poor Vince takes the full brunt of the blow. As Mick Foley says in his book, the shot is hard enough to completely separate his teeth from the caps covering them. I didn’t even know physics worked that way.

So Vince gets hit so hard with a solid steel chair that the caps are literally knocked out of his head. Look, I don’t care what you think of the man’s ethics, or what horror stories you’ve heard about him. He’s a billionaire that is willing to undo extensive dental work because he thinks it will be entertaining enough to make him even more money. You have to admire that kind of dedication, and to a certain extent the sheer talent it takes to make people hate you so much that they’ll pay out the ear to see it.

Wherein Vince McMahon Slides into the Ring and Both of His Legs Explode

This may very well sum up Vince’s complete lack of agility and athletic prowess. The scene was the Royal Rumble, an event where 30 wrestlers enter the ring, and are eliminated when thrown over the top rope with both feet hitting the floor. The final two men left, John Cena and Batista.

I’m not sure who was slated to win, but whoever it was, things did not go down that way. Instead, while setting up for the end of the match, both men tumbled over at the same time. Even more unbelievably, both of their feet hit the ground at the exact same moment. Clearly, they were going to have to find some way out of this.

Enter Vince, storming the ring with his classic arm-pumping walk (albeit a much angrier version than normal). He’s half in character as Mr. McMahon, pissed about the lack of a conclusive finish, and half out of character as Vince McMahon, pissed about the botched ending. His rage carries him all the way into an energetic slide under the bottom rope.

Now, I feel bad. I do. I’ve heard it’s extremely painful to tear one’s quadriceps muscle. A wrestler named Triple H tore one of his, and essentially had to re-learn how to walk. But when Vince stands up, ready to whoop on both Cena and Batista, his legs just give out and he crumples back to the mat. Since he still has to be in character, he just kinds of yells at them while sitting on his butt. Everyone watching at home and in the area stares at him in confusion.

Apparently, the mere act of sliding into the ring was enough to tear Vince’s quad. But Vince, being a true man’s man, refuses to acknowledge what his body has done to him. He tries to walk off a debilitating, horrific injury and ends of completely tearing his other quad, as well. Vince doesn’t do things halfway. And finally, it catches up to him as his spastic body turns rogue.

Wherein Vince McMahon Steps into His Limo and the Limo Blows Up and Vince Dies (But Not Really)

Probably the strangest segment on this list, it’s the only entry to showcase Vince’s supernatural powers. Following yet another storyline I can’t remember, since this happened after I stopped watching WWE, Vince is sad. Or mad, or something. It’s hard to tell, because the entire thing consists of him sloooowly walking past wrestlers who are lined up backstage. They stare at him like he’s lost his mind, but frankly it really seems like they should be used to this kind of thing from him by now.


After about 45 minutes of this, Vince finally reaches his limo. He casts one last look over his shoulder before stepping in and OH MY GOD the limo explodes into a fiery inferno of twisted metal and presumably various parts of Vince McMahon.

Alas, wrestling fans never got closure to this sordid tale. For a few weeks they started an in-depth plot to uncover who was behind the assault/murder, but then WWE wrestler Chris Benoit really did murder his family before killing himself, so that kind of put the kaibosh on any death storylines. Vince showed up good as new a little while later.

WWE fell under some pretty harsh criticisms for this storyline (amidst many, many others throughout their history), and to be fair they’ve often dealt with some controversial issues. But to reiterate my point from earlier, wrestling really needs to be taken with a grain of salt. You’re talking about an industry where clowns named Doink hit their opponents with car batteries. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. You’re meant to watch it, appreciate the athleticism, laugh at the impossible, and practice your Macho Man voice as you elbow drop your unsuspecting friends from the couch.

If that doesn’t convince you, here’s a bonus video of Vince getting hit in the face with a bedpan.

NEVER FORGET <3

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OH BABY

For those of you (all of you) who never played Earthbound, let me give you a quick summary. It’s an RPG that came out in the mid-90s for the Super Nintendo, and it’s since gained a big following. It has all the makings of a role-playing game; leveling up characters, item inventories, turn-based fighting system. But that’s pretty much where it stops being typical and starts getting weird.

I’ve never had patience for RPGs. They take a level of dedication that a person who plays video games on a one hour basis just can’t handle. Earthbound, though? Earthbound is different. You really have no problem going through the grind of gaining levels and fighting battles because everything is so ridiculously weird. All of the towns you roll through are a hodge-podge of pure 90s insanity. And the enemies! With names like “Annoying Old Party Man” and “Struttin’ Evil Mushroom,” it’s almost okay when you do end up losing. It’s one thing to get killed by a solider or warrior, but who’s going to be mad after getting mowed down by a Ranboob?

Thanks to my fiancee Caitlin, sister Jessica and brother-in-law Cliff, I recently came into possession of the actual game. It’s fairly rare, ranging in prices upwards of $200. After putting the cartridge into my SNES with the same care one normally reserves for venomous snakes, we were off and running. This is the kind of game that showers you in nostalgia, even if you didn’t play it in its heyday.

Despite adult life being fairly hectic, even limited time spent playing a game like this can bring you back to your favorite summers. Bike rides, all day football games that end in fistfights, and then inside for bouts of Mortal Kombat that also end in fistfights. I didn’t play Earthbound in the mid-90s, but every time I load it up now it feels like the world is wearing one giant pair of Zubaz.

One of the best things about the experience is the ambiance. From the non-playable characters to the unique towns, no area seems generic or a copy of another. One thing that’s crucial to any playthrough is the exploration of your surroundings. You really do need to talk to everybody you see- not just for hints and clues as to where you’re supposed to go next, but for the game’s much-lauded humor. This is an RPG that does not take itself seriously. You probably figured that out back at the Ranboob, but the speeches that the townsfolk give are just so weirdly wonderful. That’s the highest compliment I give to things, so you can take that to the BANK or whatever.

The story is great, too. Not going to go into any details, because it’s my hope that this convinces at least one other person to try it out. I will say, though, that it involves the classic story of a band of kids going up against an all-consuming evil. The fate of the world is in your hands, and you go about saving it by hitting things with yo-yos and eating cheeseburgers out of the trashcan. You ain’t accomplished nothin’ til you rescue humanity fueled by garbage.

I convinced one of my roommates, Chris, to start a game at the same time, so that we could see who got farther the quickest. As I also had an internet acquaintance and Caitlin racing me in separate games, I rapidly became in danger of losing to three people at once. My friends have a lot more gaming experience than me, and I regularly get trounced by ants in battles. The odds were not in my favor, but thanks to a marathon session yesterday, I now have a giant safety buffer on Chris’s game. Oh, and my online friend had to stop for now because his computer crapped out. I don’t know anything about that, and I defy you to find concrete evidence that I was involved

I think it’d be a lot of fun to chronicle my progress in this game, but I again don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. Also, there is the matter of pictures. There are so many amazing things to see in Earthbound- colorful and vibrate things. Great music to hear, dialogue to read, and drugged coffee to drink. You really need to experience it for yourself. And I’m just not going to crouch over the TV screen with my phone taking shitty photos for you.

Okay, just one